Writer’s Quote Wednesday–Ernest Hemingway

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

This picture combines two things I love – my beautiful granddaughter, Britney (carrying my book)  and the inspiring words of Ernest Hemingway. Some truths are better expressed in fiction – right? And who among us won’t sink so low as to use a cute child to promote our own work?

For this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday, (that amazing blog brainchild of Colleen over at Silver Threading) I have to go with Hemingway. I’ve just finished reading an excellent novel that features the often enigmatic author – Crook Factory by Dan Simmons. The book plunges the reader back in time to 1942 Cuba as Hemingway sets up an amateur espionage ring to ferret out information on Nazi spies and makes use of his own boat, the Pilar, to search for German submarines. Enter FBI Special Agent, Joe Lucas who has been sent to keep an eye on the aging author. Through twists and turns and endless intrigue, Joe and Hemingway develop a unique relationship and Joe is the recipient of more than a few tidbits of life advice – Hemingway style.


This photo comes from a trip Bruce and I took back in 2010 – before I wisely succumbed to the newest wisdom that states grey is the new blonde. We ended up, by fluke, staying at a place in Idaho where Hemingway had often taken up residence during hunting and fishing trips.

If you are a fan of Hemingway, the war years, 1940’s Cuba, or the in-fighting between what would become the CIA and J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI, you might love this novel. I sure did.

Crook Factory Cover

Just a final note on author inspiration. It is said of Hemingway that he read all the time – newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction, draft works of other authors, letters. Stephen King has emphasized that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Naturally one should want to read Hemingway. But do read Dan Simmons. I would rate his book, Terror (all about the Franklin Expedition) among the top ten books I’ve ever read when it comes to a satisfying ending. Simmons tromps across genre boundaries as if the very idea of such divisions are ludicrous. He has written sci-fi, horror, hard-boiled crime and my personal favourite – the artfully blended, historical fact and fiction novel. He plays it loose when it comes to various writing conventions, making up the rules as he goes. I don’t always approve but I love to be along for the ride.

Jack London’s Writer’s Philosophy

  Jack London's Beauty Ranch - Bruce Witzel photo

The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept. (Jack London)

In the summer of 1897, Jack London, author of books such as Call of the Wild and White Fang set sail to join the Klondike Gold Rush. He would  develop scurvy and lose his front teeth in the harsh conditions, but the experience would also inspire him to write the first of his successful fiction. (Goodreads Quote of the Day for July 25, 2015)

Jack London's Writing Cottage - Guenette photo

Seeing Jack London highlighted on Goodreads a couple of days ago had me remembering our trip in 2010 to Jack London State Historic Park in Northern California. This park encompasses what London called, Beauty Ranch, and contains the cottage in which the author wrote.

Jack London's writing room - Bruce Witzel photo

Jack London's sleeping porch - Guenette photo

Jack London had a strong work ethic and writing philosophy. He saw his craft as a profitable chore. The products of his lively imagination were a means to an end.

“I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”

I found this quote disconcerting. It seemed such a calculated attitude to take towards the craft of writing. I couldn’t square London’s somewhat utilitarian attitude with my own memories of how his work had moved me. Call of the Wild broke my heart and not just as a youngster. I had the same tear-filled-eyes experience when reading it to students years later.

Jack London's clothes peg line of notes - Guenette photo (1)

Once again, I am reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s thoughts on interpretation as the realm of the reader. Whatever impetus brought Jack London to the act of writing matters not when it comes to how his work made me feel.

Andy Warhol said this well.

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Jack London quote - Guenette photo

Garden Friday–Summer’s Stars

Montbrecia - Guenette photo

Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of colour before me. Who could ask for more? (Bev Adams – Mountain Gardening.)

Our garden star this week is Montbrecia. We were given bulbs for this plant a few years ago and had retained no memory of what it was or how it would bloom. (Though I’m sure we were told.) Last year, these amazing fronds appeared drooping with gorgeous, flute-shaped, brilliant, orangey-red blossoms. This summer, the plant is even more of a show-off. The hummingbirds are in love with it and the whole patch is like a war zone as the buzzing little creatures zoom in and out.

I resolved to find out what the heck we had growing out by our bean trellis. Many thanks to Maggie Flostrand. She gave us the bulbs as well as reminding me of the name. Lovely in flower arrangements but invasive. Her words – I was always very brutal with keeping them cut back. Lucky for us, we have the space to push bits and pieces of invasive plants to the edges. Point in fact – our hearty little (so far) patch of bamboo growing on the cliff.

And here’s another tidbit that I picked up from a Facebook contact. Montbrecia is considered quite a pest in Australia. Maybe their version of Broom? Thus proving the point that any blooming thing can take on weed status when it grows where it shouldn’t.

pattypan squash

Sharing the spotlight with the Montbrecia, is the Patty Pan squash. (I got this picture from Google because we ate ours too fast to photograph.) These little summer squash had Bruce and I reflecting and lamenting on lost gardening knowledge. We have one plant that is filled with patty pans. A few had fallen off and we wondered if they could be eaten that small. Going off to trusty old Google, I discovered that one is supposed to pick Patty Pan Squash when it is between one to four inches in diameter or in other words – small. Dah … our parents and grandparents would have been well aware of how to deal with this colourful vegetable. Thank you Grandma Google.

Last night we had steamed Patty Pan Squash with butter and fresh, chopped basil. In a word – delicious.

Yearlling bear - Guenette photo

And, of course, what would a Friday garden blog be without a picture of our regular visitor. She (arbitrary gender assignment since I referred to last year’s bear as he) is a newly independent bear, fairly small and innocent looking, but still managed to tromp on a small rhodo the other day in her relentless pursuit of salal berries. Wow betide us when the blackberries and apples ripen.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday–A Sufi Proverb

Monument Valley with Sufi Proverb text

Newbie alert – I’m participating, for the first time, in Writer’s Quote Wednesday a feature over on Silver Threading Blog.

For years, I’ve kept a journal where I pen down meaningful bits of this and that. The cover is faded now but was once a colourful mix of pastel flowers. I have chosen this little Sufi gem from that journal because I’ve often found myself coming back to this quote. For writers, the truism in these few words imparts a necessary imperative.

At every single stage of the writing process, there are no signs saying do this or do that.

Sage advice abounds and writers worth their salt certainly read and study those posts, articles and books with avid interest.

Pantster, plotter or planner, point-of-view purist or head-hopper, cut your darlings or write a Game of Thrones type saga, shelve the first draft for months or go from start to finish without taking a breath – we take it all in and on some days the conflicting nature of the advice can drive us nuts.

When I face the blank page with my fingers poised over the keyboard, I’m on my own with the characters I’ve created. There is no rule that says they shall not eat stones. Only I can hear their voices and be true to the various stories they inhabit.

We owe our characters something that no one else can give them. So, learn the rules, read the advice and then throw it all away and listen to those voices in your head.

What I Love About Twitter – following George @Strombo

George at CBC FoodBank Day

Call me shallow, but I love a twitter interaction with someone famous. I’m a huge fan of George Stroumboulopoulos – Twitter handle: @Strombo. George first appeared on my radar when he was doing The Hour on CBC television. I was living in the city, working at the university and I never missed his show. The guy is a phenomenal interviewer. Check out his interview with Jake Gyellenhaal – George got this guy down to the emotional core with so much style and finesse it will blow you away.

Toronto Island - Bruce Witzel photo

The Hour - Guenette photo (2)On a trip to Toronto in 2008, Bruce and I were fortunate enough to sit-in on a live broadcast of The Hour at the downtown CBC Building. After the taping, George spent time taking questions and interacting with the studio audience. I remember George’s response to a group of journalist students who had all kinds of questions about getting to where he now stood. His said something like – be a decent person through every part of your career. (I think he actually said don’t be a dickhead.) That was sage advice that a few at the CBC could have heeded.

The Hour - Guenette photo (1)

George was the first person I followed on Twitter. One day, about a week later, I read a tweet of his – he was at an airport somewhere waiting for a plane. I gather this is something he does on a regular basis. I tweeted that he could follow me if he liked. I said I was a big fan, I didn’t over tweet and I wasn’t hard core into selling anything. And he did follow me. Wow!

As an interesting sideline to a diverse career (from Much Music, to The Hour, to George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight to NHL hockey commentator), and I suspect this sideline could be his major love, George hosts a three-hour radio show on Sunday evenings on CBC Radio2 called The Strombo Show.  This broadcast is an eclectic mix of music, some great interview segments and insightful snippets into how music radically shapes who we are.

Strombo Show tweet

Both the show @TheStromboShow and George, follow the twitter stream on show day and during broadcast so they can interact with fans. It’s great fun to try and tweet out something of note that relates to a piece of music or an interview and have that picked up and spread to others. To me, that is the type of dialogue that twitter should be about.

One Sunday evening last summer while I was making dinner and listening to The Strombo Show on the radio (the show airs at 8:00 pm in Toronto – so I live stream on the internet out in BC at 5:00), George was in conversation with Jeremy Taggart (drummer for the Canadian band, Our Lady Peace) about a cause close to Jeremy’s heart – youth suicide. The conversation side-stepped into music, as most conversations should, when mention was made of the Neil Young song – Needle and the Damage Done. Someone said, that was written about … and they blanked on the name. I ran outside, screamed the question to Bruce (a died-in-the-wool Neil Young fan, I often say Neil is his man-crush) and he answered, Danny Whitten. I came back in the house and tweeted the name and got a thank you twitter response from Jeremy Taggart a few minutes later. Now that was sort of cool – right?

George tweet motorcycles

Through my Twitter relationship with George, I have followed him on a few motorcycle trips (awesome pics), got tuned into a number of causes (love those causes) and I’ve been introduced to a few things that were not in my common lexicon of knowledge – I just discovered today that when George types Fugazi he probably means the post-hardcore Washington band that formed in 1987 and he doesn’t need autocorrect to mess with that.

George retweet

Now and then, I spread my George groupie status (that’s what my daughter calls it) to others. I read an interview where George talked about the good wolf and the bad wolf and the idea of spreading good in the world rather than adding to the negative energy out there. He said; feed the good wolf, my friends. I used this analogy to end an email I sent to parents who asked for feedback in dealing with some news about their son that could have profound implications for the boy’s future. Later, I heard that these parents spread my email message around and it was George’s analogy about the good wolf /bad wolf that stuck with people. (So glad the academic in me attributed the thoughts to him.)

George - Amnesty

George is a strong proponent of human rights, he cares about the causes I care about; he’s a famous guy who is actually, from all that I can see, what he appears to be – nice. What I love about Twitter is that it allows me a window into the life of a person I admire that I wouldn’t normally have.

George in the red chair


I’ll tag George on this post and maybe I’ll get a response. Who knows? The Twitter universe is a wide pool, my friends.

Hummingbird Magic

Hummingbird in action - Guenette photo

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.”
(Mira Bartok from The Memory Place)

I’ve wandered my garden for weeks with my camera at the ready in the hope that I might capture a hummingbird in the wild photo. This morning I was in the right place at the right time. I hope you take as much pleasure from these two photos as I have.

Hummingbird - Guenette photo

The Power of Water

A tree - Matthew Keeley - photo

A couple of months ago, I was featured on Linda Hall’s blog as part of a series entitled – Water Blogs. Linda invited authors to describe how bodies of water had influenced their writing. I’m pleased to share my answers with all of you, today.

What are my stories about?

Lives are shaped by the places in which they are lived. My novels are set in a rural landscape and they focus on the vagaries of human relationships. I write fiction to explore the many ways people deal with loss and the challenges of remaking their lives, to delve into the inevitable complications that come about when someone takes the risk of moving forward and to emphasize that rebuilding a life occurs in starts and stops.

My body of water …

I live perched above the shores of a beautiful lake. The body of water in my novels has the fictitious name of Crater Lake. I chose a lakeside setting because as a beginning novelist, I felt it would be useful to have a vivid sense of where my characters lived. After twenty plus years beside my lake, I know it well.

The Lake 2 - Bruce Witzel photo

Does water or bodies of water have any personal significance for you?

Living near water has always been a given in my life. I grew up within a stone’s throw of a mighty river. The fishing fleet chugged up and down and a small ferry made its way across the deceivingly sluggish, brown water. I spent significant holiday time on the shores of a pristine lake. As an adult, I raised my children in a seaside town with the waves of the Pacific Ocean rolling in just beyond the backyard; high and low tides, storms, wharfs, boats, seaplanes and freshly caught fish were everyday occurrences, sights and pleasures. Now, my home is on a cliff above a lake. Always, bodies of water have pervaded my days and nights. I agree with Henry David Thoreau who wrote, “The lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and impressive feature. It is the earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his [or her] own nature.”

If asked to give a Ted Talk, what would mine be about?

The Evolution of a Novel Writer. I have always been a person who wrote – journals, letters and academic articles. My mother wrote as well, but she was a writer of stories. It was as if we had staked out different claims in the world of writing – my mother to create from the heart in the realms of the imaginary and I to write from the head in the real world. Over time, I came to understand the close relationship between our two worlds. The type of nonfiction writing I did was rife with heart and it was obvious my mother’s stories required more than a fair dose of headwork. Even so, I didn’t feel the call to write fiction until my mother had been dead for several years. During my long walks on paths near our home, always within sight of the lake, the small seed of a story began to take root. The leaves on its tender stalk were characters, clustered together and taking shape. Deeply curious, I wanted to know more about them. I started to jot down answers to my questions and from those random musings came my first novel. Everything in my past and present life has become a well to draw upon. I write fiction informed by a lived reality – it is head and heart and soul and I think my mother would be proud.

View of the Cabin - Guenette photo

The Crater Lake Series–Box Set

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

Okay, folks, here’s your chance to grab all three Crater Lake novels in one swoop. The Crater Lake Series: Box Set has just been released on Amazon. Great summer reading!

“The Crater Lake Series Box Set contains three full-length novels. Readers will encounter characters who quickly become friends and family. Youth issues, family dynamics and relationships are explored while challenging stereotypes of right and wrong. Emotional landscapes are laid bare and yet, life is so much more than problems to be faced. Everyday rural realities leave readers chuckling. These are character-driven novels in the genre of contemporary literary fiction with a splash of romance and a superbly crafted setting.”

Disappearing in Plain Sight
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.

The Light Never Lies
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.

Chasing Down the Night
One might be excused for assuming that an idyllic life unfolds for those who have chosen to live and work near the shores of Crater Lake. Nothing could be further from the truth. Long-time resident, Izzy Montgomery juggles the stress of a new job with her burgeoning home life. Family dynamics go into overdrive when Alexander and Cynthia launch plans to build a home nearby and Liam’s sister, Fiona shows up to do an internship with the local doctor. Lisa-Marie and Justin are back for the summer and sparks fly. While crusty, old Reg keeps sawmill production booming, Beulah runs the organic bakery and plans the First Annual Caleb Jenkins Memorial Ball Tournament. Bethany discovers her own hidden talents working with young people at Micah Camp. As a nine-year-old’s dreams reflect a dangerous reality, many encounter issues from the past. This is a novel for all those who work at building family ties by strengthening the traditional and creating the new. Chasing Down the Night explores a wide-ranging emotional landscape while highlighting many aspects of day-to-day, rural life. Tears and laughter are inevitable.

Enjoy Smile

Happy Canada Day Catch Up

Canada day flags - google images

Happy Canada Day. To go along with the celebrations, we are having a heat-wave. I took my first swim of the year a couple of days ago and the lake felt as warm as it usually does in August. With the advent of warmer, longer summers our tried and true gardening knowledge has to play catch-up. We are already eating tomatoes, basil and fresh cilantro. A veggie and chip dip made from cilantro, pressed garlic, plain yogurt and a bit of Helman’s for smooth, richness is the order of the day. Even a confirmed anti-cilantro person like Bruce is hooked.

Tomato on the vine - Guenette photo

We do worry about the lack of snow-cover on the mountains and what these hotter summer months mean in the grand scheme of things. In the meantime, we adjust, plant and harvest. 

Watering Timers - Guenette photo

Oh, and speaking of the garden – the automatic-timer watering system is driving me crazy. Wonderful in theory but we are having a devil of a time making sure each one works the way we programed it. Last night one of the sprinklers didn’t come on. This morning the water pressure was way down. I discovered that the reason one hadn’t worked was because another hadn’t turned off. The pressure was too low for all those sprinklers at once. That has resulted in going back to manual override on a couple. Never a dull moment.

I want to update everyone on the blog contest I ran last week. The winner of a softcover copy of Chasing Down the Night is Geralyn who blogs over at Where My Feet Are. Her copy is on the way to her as I type. Congratulations, Geralyn and many thanks for commenting on my blog post. I hope you enjoy the book.

Just a quick plug – if you’ve read Chasing Down the Night, how about posting a review on Amazon? You may not realize how much reviews matter as a part of the whole mysterious way in which Amazon promotes books, but they do.

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

My second publishing project of 2015 is soon coming to fruition – The Crater Lake Series: Box Set One. This newest offering is part of my five-year marketing plan – get as many writing products out and about as I can. I will set the price for the box set competitively and hope that this will be an economical way for readers to start at the beginning and enjoy all three books. My idea for the cover came from browsing through several examples of other box sets on Amazon. I popped over to Fiverr and found someone who makes 3-D cover images for a song and I’m using the service of Doug Heatherly at Lighthouse24 for e-book formatting. Viola – another e-book soon to be selling on Amazon.

Before company descends on us for summer fun, I will be dedicating myself to a line-by-line edit of Maelstrom. It is amazing what some distance from a manuscript can lead to. When I left this book in the drawer back in early April, I thought it couldn’t be cut anymore. It seemed the story was wound so tightly together that no string could be tugged without unravelling the whole. Not true. I now see a number of things that must go. I’m looking specifically for my crutch words (you know what I mean – those words and phrases that we can’t seem to live without – I have people hopping out of vehicles so often it seems like I’m writing a novel about kangaroos!), clichés, redundancies, overly florid or wordy descriptions, awkward dialogue and explanations where none are necessary.

Many of you know that I began this novel by building onto a scaffold provided by a lengthy, old manuscript that my mother had written years ago. Many cuts, revisions and new sections later, I am editing my fifth draft of the work. What I see are layers of words, mine and my mom’s, especially when it comes to dialogue. At times, I took her idea of what the character would say and then added an additional line of my own to explain the same thing. I must now decide which line stays and which line goes because these characters are far too wordy for their own good.

Once again, many well wishes to fellow Canadians as we celebrate this great country we call home and a shout out to American followers with their big day just around the corner. Let’s enjoy the parades, the flags, the cakes, the fireworks and the pride we take in the places we call home.

Canada day fireworks - google images