Putting out the Welcome Mat

Welcome mat

I read a post today, over on Christina L. Rivers’ blog that really got my thinking. She likened finding one’s target audience to the elusive search for Big Foot. I laughed at the analogy but ended up going over her reflection list a few times, the furrows on my brow deepening with each reading. As Christina writes, is it simply happenstance? Or is it all about creating the right habitat, setting out the appropriate welcome mat?

As a self-published author trying to attract readers to my work, this blog is my prime real estate corner in the cyber-world. This is the place where I unfurl that welcome mat. A reader who has never heard of me can get curious about my books right here.

From the beginning of its inception, my blog has been eclectic. Writing about writing is writing about life. I have sought to create posts that give readers an insight into the living that occurs in the background of my books. Not to say my writing is autobiographical, but all fiction authors are (to a degree) spinning out their own experiences through various creative lenses. I am fortunate enough to have access to a huge archive of photographs taken my both myself and my husband, Bruce. I use these to illustrate (often in obscurely, artistic ways) the posts I write.

The right hand sidebar serves as a low-key means of alerting readers to the various social media sites where we can interact as well as highlights my books and, with a simple click, a means to purchase. The top photo bar hints at the setting for my work. My author photo brands me to this blog. Tabs lead to more details.

In approximately three and a half years of blogging, I’ve posted 418 times. That averages out to a bit more than two posts per week. In my opinion, when it comes to blogging, more isn’t always better. It is easy to overwhelm committed followers by over posting.

So, that is what I have been doing. What do you think of this welcome mat? Does it invite interaction? Am I creating a habitat that invites readers to jump on board? Suggestions, feedback, critique – feel free to weigh-in with whatever occurs to you.

The Inner Circle - Bruce Witzel photo

Indie authors like Francis Guenette producing stellar work

Pleased to share Stuart’s wonderful post describing his take on the first novel in the Crater Lake Series – Disappearing in Plain Sight.

Stuart Campbell author

Francis Guenette - author photo (1) Francis Guenette

These days I seem to divide my reading between carefully selected indie authors and a long backlist of classics. A week or two back I found myself reading Canadian indie author Francis Guenette’s Disappearing in Plain Sight alongside Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, which stormed the literary world in 1962.

The comparison was instructive: Both novels are driven by strong characters, and both immerse the reader in compelling settings. At the same time, there was a complementarity between the books: Porter’s scathingly critical analysis of the hapless passengers on a pre-war journey from Mexico to Europe; Guenette’s insistence on redemption for her damaged and difficult characters in rural British Columbia.

I haven’t reviewed Porter; after all, she did get a Pulitzer decades before the Kindle was a gleam in anyone’s eye. But  I did give Disappearing in Plain Sight five stars here

I’d love to…

View original post 535 more words

Content Editor, Anyone?

Storyboard - Guenette photo

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. – Arthur Plotnik

Since I self-published and began to read widely across genres in the self-publishing world, I cannot count the number of times I’ve said, “I wish I could have had a crack at this book before the author published it.” I realize that sounds egotistical but I cannot help myself.

You see, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with a gifted content editor in my own writing. After taking apart four novels and reconstructing them to be as sleek as I ever thought my writing could be. Comments such as – jarring, unnecessary, redundant, unclear, doesn’t make sense, loose construction etc. etc. – have pushed me to more hours of rewriting than I care to count. But thank goodness!

I suppose the number one piece of advice that should be written in huge letters on a poster over a writer’s desk, is this: DO NOT PISS OFF THE READER.

Here is just a short list of the things that get my reading goat:

Jarring point-of-view (POV) shifting among characters. Many call this head-hopping. Once I’m firmly in the head of the POV character, don’t dump me into the head of another character without clear cut signage. I’m not against multiple points of view – far from it. Just beware of confusing the reader because that very quickly leads to pissing the reader off.

Being placed in the head of a character that I have not been adequately introduced to. Come on – we’ve barely met. I don’t want to know his or her thoughts. Not yet, anyway. At least let us get acquainted first.

Stretching my suspension of reality far beyond the breaking point. Entering into any story, regardless of form (a novel, a movie, a TV show, a theatre production), requires pushing back the real world to a certain extent. But don’t ask me to give up common sense and believe things that simply could not happen – not in this world or any other. Once you have lost credibility with a reader, it will take quite a herculean effort to get it back.

Taking the easy way out. You’ve written yourself into a corner and there doesn’t seem to be any way that your good guy (or gal) is going to come out on top. We’ve all been there. So, go back and rewrite. Don’t take the easy way out by having the bad guy up and drop dead or any of the other equally hack ways of getting out of a jam.

Don’t make me think your main character is a shallow fool. We all have human foibles and letting the reader see your characters as fully formed, capable of good and bad, smart thoughts and the occasional off-base notion – all that is great. What gets to me are the characters that continually spout off judgements about others and the world that indicate said character is a one-dimensional idiot who dwells in a world of stereotypes and ill-thought out ideas. Now, if this is your objective – to have your reader think ill of your main character – I advise caution. Readers want to bond with main characters. No one wants to bond with a fool. I’ll take a serial killer over a fool any day.

An out of the blue, drop into the voice of an omniscient narrator. This is so jarring as to be a deal breaker. Let me explain. I am reading your book and understanding the story through the eyes of the various POV characters. I know what they know. Then suddenly, a character say something like, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Think about the implications of this little throw away comment. All dramatic tension disappears. I now know this particular character will survive whatever is to come as the telling of this story is taking place after the fact. I am no longer moving along with the characters. A huge distance has been created between the reader and the story. The writer who decides to plunk this voice on the reader without warning does so at his or her own risk.

Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. Don’t get me wrong, I love dialogue. The things people say to one another reveal worlds an author could never adequately describe. Beware of wasting this valuable tool on going nowhere, adding-nothing-to-the-story drivel. The same could be said of endless descriptions of what characters are doing or wearing. Broad brush strokes work so much more effectively. Remember the wise words of Dr. Seuss.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

So, there you have it – my rant on the need for thorough and effective content editing. If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know I go on a rant like this about once a year. Maybe I should hang out a shingle.

Let me at your work before you publish. I can help you. Fee negotiable.

I’m only half joking.

Statues near Mt. Shasta, CA - Bruce Witzel photo

Tennessee Whiskey

Chris-Stapleton-Traveller2

I’ve fallen in love with Chris Stapleton’s song, Tennessee Whiskey. Oh my gosh, talk about smooth. I could listen to this guy sing all night.

“Tennessee Whiskey”

I used to spend my nights out in a barroom

Liquor was the only love I’ve known

But you rescued me from reachin’ for the bottom

And brought me back from being too far gone

[Chorus:]

You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey

You’re as sweet as strawberry wine

You’re as warm as a glass of brandy

And honey, I stay stoned on your love all the time

I’ve looked for love in all the same old places

Found the bottom of a bottle always dry

But when you poured out your heart I didn’t waste it

‘Cause there’s nothing like your love to get me high

[Chorus x3]

Well, I stayed stoned on your love all the time.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song that made me think so strongly of a character from one of my own novels. Myhetta, from my recent release, Maelstrom, is this song. He’s a whiskey drinking, hard around the edges, soft-on-the-inside, tortured sort of guy just looking for the love of a good woman to pull him out of the bottom of a bottle.

That particular myth has fuelled many a great country and western song but believe me, it can also make for a mighty endearing novel character, too. If you’ve read Maelstrom, follow the link to the You-Tube video, listen to this song and let me know if you agree. Follow the link at any rate and maybe this song will get you interested in reading my book.

Cowboy Trail off Highway 22 Alberta - Francis Guenette photo

Tuesday Book Blog–An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

Cover - An Englishman's Guide to Infidelity

Title: An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity by Stuart Campbell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense and more than a bit of wry humour

11 Amazon.com Reviews with an average rating of 4.9

My Five-Star Amazon Review: A highly enjoyable mystery that plumbs the depths of human foibles

People see the world through very personal and often flawed lenses. A good author gently leads the reader into a character’s thoughts and actions. At some point, the reader is forced to question the character’s take on what’s happening. In, An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity, Stuart Campbell proves himself to be particularly deft in his ability to create unreliable narrators.

The book opens with Jack and Thea, busy parents, a typical couple, as they prepare for a dinner out to celebrate their wedding anniversary. It isn’t long before it is patently obvious that dark currents lurk beneath the surface of both these people. By the end of the first chapter any illusions of normalcy are long gone. Thea is an ethics professor who lacks ethics and Jack is relating that there are ten university degrees among his fellow group of inmates awaiting trial at the Remand Center.

And so the reader enters a roller-coaster ride as the author moves deftly from Jack’s perspective, to that of a young police woman who struggles with her own issues when she is pulled into a murder investigation, to Thea’s. It isn’t long before the reader comes to see that not one of these characters can be trusted.

The writing is smooth and delicious. A couple of old people move like a pair of flapping galleons; a father speaks like a piece of stainless steel medical equipment, when he speaks at all; an apartment is sparsely furnished with desperately modern pieces and abstract paintings that veered between the decorative and the sadomasochistic.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, a mystery that unfurls with just enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing right to the closing pages.

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity on Amazon.com – why not give Stuart Campbell’s book a go. You won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t!

Review Joy

DPS - BoxCover & E-Book - Francis Guenette

Amazon book reviews are vitally important for self-published authors. This cannot be stressed enough. A review of one’s work means, first and foremost, that someone has read it. Yippee. Without a large promotion budget or the ability to get featured in print or televised media, Amazon reviews become the gold standard of how one’s work is being received. A large number of reviews gets noticed and opens the door to high level promotion opportunities.

Disappearing in Plain Sight has received approximately thirty-five reviews across all Amazon sites. I have heard that fifty is some kind of magical number.

Today, I received a review that lifted my spirits and made me feel that all the time and effort expended to bring the Crater Lake Series to the reading world had been worthwhile.

5 out of 5 stars A beautifully written, evocative novel.

January 17, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

A few pages into Disappearing in Plain Sight, I knew I was in the hands of a masterful story teller. This book is extremely well written; the pacing, semantics, setting, dialogue, and characterization are all spot on, and the effect is quite powerful. I consider this novel a strong example of literary fiction. It’s definitely head and shoulders above typical genre fiction.
I was drawn into emotional depth of the characters, as their personal dramas played out during their interactions with each other. The setting is a perfect backdrop, and in fact seems like a character itself. This book is sad, funny, deep, and meaningful. Overall, an excellent study of human nature. It resonates with joy and torment. For readers who like their fiction deep and meaningful, I highly recommend Disappearing in Plain Sight.

I would love to promote my work as literary fiction. The truth is, I often hold back. I’ve been told by people in the know that even mentioning such words in a world dominated by the love of genre fiction can be a sales killer. More than that, I feel like I’d be blasting my own horn a bit too much. Which is crazy – I don’t believe literary fiction occupies a higher plane than genre fiction. Heck, I read as much genre stuff as the next person. The reviewer has captured well what the differences are – emotional depth of characterization and drama that reaches beneath the surface to explore situations that don’t lend themselves to easy answers. Life is complex. This is exactly what I hope my books will convey.

Those who follow my blog know the emphasis I put on location. When someone reviews a novel of mine and says the setting was like a character itself – wow. Pure joy.

Many thanks for this latest review of Disappearing in Plain Sight.

Tuesday Book Blog–Binnacle Bay

Cover for Binnacle Bay

Title: Binnacle Bay by Sue Harker

Genre: Seaside Suspense, Action, Crime, Thriller

25 Amazon Reviews with a 4.3 average – not bad!

My Four-Star Amazon Review

A prominent architect is dead in the kitchen of his stunning seaside home. His wife is missing. Police Chief Patrick Fitzlaff is landed with an investigation that will stretch to the limit his personal relationships and professional boundaries.

Author Sue Harker has hit on a winning formula with her debut novel, Binnacle Bay – mysteries to unravel, a lively cast of characters and a lazy, little seaside town that jumps off the pages due to her lavish attention to detail. There were times when I simply closed my eyes to savour the smell of an offshore breeze, the sound of breaking waves or the atmosphere of a meal in a picturesque café. This author makes the canning of peaches a sensuous a read!

I was left wanting more. By the end of the book I still hadn’t a firm grip on some of the characters I thought I should know better. It wasn’t that loose ends weren’t adequately tied up. Perhaps some of the attention to location detail could have been applied to the characters. It is not necessarily a bad thing to leave a reader wanting more. I will definitely put the second book in this series on my reading list.

Binnacle Bay on Amazon.com – check it out, read the Look Inside preview chapters and if a cozy, little, seaside thriller suits you, consider putting this book on your to-be-read list.

A Granddaughter’s First Library Card

Brit's first library card - Guenette photo

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life. (Henry Ward Beecher)

When I was growing up, a trip to the library was the high point of my week. Dropped off in front of the Civic Center where the library was located, my heart would start to thump as I moved quickly up the stairs to the door. As I stepped into the quiet building, I stared around me for a moment. Taking a deep breath, I savoured the smell of books. Then I would plunge into the racks to fill my arms with anything that took my fancy.

The other day my four-year-old granddaughter took a special trip to her local library. She signed up for her first library card and checked out two books. Brit proudly showed me the card and explained how she had written her own name on the front. She held up her two books and told me in a serious voice that she had to bring them back in two weeks.

In this fast-paced world of iPads, apps and e-readers, I often wonder if the public library has outlived its usefulness. The look on Britney’s face as she waved her newly acquired library card in the air tells me we are in no danger of losing such a valuable resource.

Brit's library books - Guenette photo

Once You’ve Mastered the TV Remote, the World is at Your Fingertips!

Sunset in the city - Guenette photo

Exile is more than a geographical concept. You can be an exile in your homeland, in your own house, in a room. (Mahmoud Darwish)

I had envisioned a post entitled, Exile in a Foreign Land, to describe the experience of being a guest in the home of an adult child. Before you conjure up images of me travelling abroad or ending up locked in the guest room, let me explain.

My general approach to life is that the worlds inhabited by other generations, both older and younger, represent something akin to a foreign land. And being away from the lake for an extended period, regardless of where I am, always has the feeling of exile. That’s just me.

On the other hand, consider this. A modern household in the city has any number of schedules, routines and appliances that can easily trip up a person such as I – dishwasher, stove, washer and dryer – all come with unique ways of operation. Even the ways people dispose of their garbage is unique to where they live. Thank the powers that be my granddaughters survived the years of having to be strapped into various devices. Had I been in charge of the complicated process of getting a child into a car seat, I’m not sure what may have occurred.

But all these challenges have nothing on the complications that ensue when I am left in charge of the TV remote. On prior visits this situation usually occurred when the kids asked me to put on a certain program and I could not manage the request even if they had roasted my toes over the gas range. Lately, at the ripe, old ages of four and seven, they manage on their own.

For the record, let me state that I am a highly educated individual – twelve years of school, a bachelor’s degree, a year of specialization after my degree, time in the workforce and several subsequent years of graduate work. There is no justification for my continual failure to master the handling of the TV remote when staying as a guest in my daughter’s home. I have had my excuses. After all, we aren’t talking about the simple turn-the-TV-on-and-off situation that I mastered in my early twenties. TV’s today are multiple use platforms. The options are legion – cable TV channels, shows taped on the PVR, programming available on-demand, X-box games, Netflix choices. Each requiring what seems to me to be a complex set of unique, TV remote actions.

For 2016, I have resolved to conquer the demon remote. My accomplishments over the past two weeks are impressive, if I don’t say so myself. I can now properly turn on and off the TV without randomly hitting buttons that end up shutting down all devices and ensuring that turning anything back on will be impossible for me. I can access the list of PVR choices, I can check out on-demand options and best of all – wait for it folks – I can access and use Netflix. This requires manipulating no less than two devices – the remote and the X-box controller.

Remotes - Guenette photo

Not that I have a ton of time or inclination to watch TV, but oh what a world has opened up to me when I do. More than any of that is the sheer sense of accomplishment.

For my next foray into foreign land, I might just figure out how to use my granddaughter’s iPad. The sky is the limit.

Snow on the moutaintops - Guenette photo

Older and Wiser for 2016

Winter scene at the lake - francis guenette photo

Okay – this post didn’t make it out last night – not as much time on my hands as I thought. But I’ll send it along anyway with New Year’s Day Best wishes.

I find myself with the miracle of time on my hands tonight as I usher out the old year. No fancy New Year’s Eve parties to attend, you ask? Well, as a matter of fact, no. Can’t even remember the last time I gussied up for such an event. Usually, this night is spent in quiet reflection. Bruce and I ponder and digest the accomplishments of the past year and, of course, the inevitable disappointments. We end up counting our blessings and planning for the year to come.

I’m far from Bruce this New Year’s Eve, staying in the big city with kids and grandkids. Most of my days and evenings are filled with anything but reflection. But tonight I’m off duty. Friends with kids are expected and I will fade to the background of my guest room for a time.

So, it’s you and me, blog community. Let the reflection begin. What has 2015 meant for me as an author? I brought out two books this year – in May, Chasing Down the Night, the third book in the Crater Lake Series, and in November, a standalone novel, Maelstrom. For most of 2015, I was rewriting, editing or formatting. With Maelstrom, I tackled e-book formatting for the first time. Like so many things, it was much easier in actual practice than I had anticipated. The trick seems to be in having an absolutely clean Word document to load up to Kindle Direct Publishing.

Though I’ve learned the hard way that most of what I can afford in the way of book marketing on the internet is generally not worth the effort, I tried a couple of promos with the release of Maelstrom. Well – as the title of this blog says – older and wiser for 2016. For those of you at the beginning of the learning curve on ebook promotion, marketing and sales, all I can suggest is that you spend serious time thinking about how many books you need to sell to break even on any type of promotion you consider. Blog tours, bulk email promotion, contests, paying to move up the line for a book review – all the sites that offer such services are clear when they tell you they do not guarantee sales. You’ll hear that it isn’t really about sales. It’s about recognition and getting your name and your books out there. Do your homework. If the sites where your name and book appear do not generate a lot of traffic – well, what can I say? And read the fine print before you pay for anything. I’ve learned that most of the reasonably priced services don’t amount to much. I admit it has taken more than once burned, twice shy to do the trick for me. More like eight times burned but I think I’ve finally got the message.

I had a five year plan when Disappearing in Plain Sight started down the road to publication in 2012. I would build the social media network the way all the sage advice of the day insisted, I would write a book a year and I would be in the business of self-publishing for the long haul. If you write it, they will come and all of that. Well, I built the network and I’m four books and over halfway down the road of that five year plan but nothing happens simply because the supposed experts say it will.

I have resolved that 2016 will usher in an era of facing up to the reality of self-publishing. There are no shortcuts, no magic methods and no guarantees. You can do everything right and it won’t dictate success any more than buying a lottery ticket ensures a jackpot win. If you enjoy social media (and I’ve discovered that there are things about the vast endeavour that I really do enjoy) – go for it but don’t expect it to sell books. It doesn’t. Books are sold based on what readers have to say to one another about what they’ve read.

What I want in 2016 is real connection with readers and fellow writers. I know I haven’t found a means of maximizing on that desire via social media but I’m determined to keep on trying. And I want to write another book.

To those of you who’ve connected with me – thank you. I love the engagement. I appreciate the time it takes out of a busy schedule to read a blog post, make a comment or offer a word of encouragement. To all of the readers who’ve taken the time to review one of my books or let me know what they thought of my work – I am eternally grateful. The validation means a lot.

Happy New Year and here’s hoping we are all a bit wiser in 2016.

North Island Ice Sculpture - Francis L. Guenette