Release Day! No Compass to Right

NO COMPASS TO RIGHT corrected version with corner alignment grid (original Jpeg )

Well – the big day has arrived. No Compass to Right – the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – is live on Amazon in ebook and softcover format.

Rejoin all your favourite characters two years down the road from where you left them at the end of Chasing Down the Night. Sophie is now a delightfully vocal toddler. Izzy is busy building a private counselling practice and working part time at Micah Camp. Lisa-Marie has been avoiding Crater Lake and Justin but she is now coming home. Reg has more motivation than ever for driving production at the sawmill.

Amid laughter and tears, people discover that in the search for identity, acceptance and belonging, the compass that points true leads to the most unlikely of spots.

Amazon.com link

Amazon.co.uk link

Amazon.ca link

Enjoy Smile

Compass extra clear less shadow ( Filtered & cropped with added clarity)

No Compass to Right–Cover Reveal

NO COMPASS TO RIGHT- 6x9 corrected version - front cover

Drum roll, please. I am thrilled to officially reveal the cover for the latest offering in the Crater Lake Series – Book four: No Compass to Right. Tentative release date: June 1, 2017!

NO COMPASS TO RIGHT - 6x9 corrected version - back cover (jpeg)

Photographs and design by Bruce Witzel.

3-D back and front NCR

I can’t wait to hold this one in my hands Smile

The Hermeneutic Circle and My Writing Process

Snow day - Guenette photo

(View from my writing desk this morning – stunning!)

Definition: The hermeneutic circle (German: hermeneutischer Zirkel) describes the process of understanding a text hermeneutically. It refers to the idea that one’s understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one’s understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole.

As I write furiously on the first draft of the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – 43,000 words so far and going strong – I am struck by how appropriate the above definition of the hermeneutic circle is to my writing process.

I can list many of the parts: character and setting sketches, research notes, outlining, storyboarding, scene blocking, quiet time for visioning and listening to character voices, to name just a few.

A description of the whole is a more slippery. At some point in the process, the parts begin to coalesce. Waiting for that moment, a moment I have never been able to plan for or anticipate, is agonizing. Embarking on this journey for the fifth time doesn’t mean it’s any less agonizing. But I have learned this – when the moment comes there is no stopping the story from moving forward.

It’s the moving forward that fits the definition of the hermeneutic circle. All the parts are in my head and I work and work for hours on end; the words pile up; the page count rises and it all seems unstoppable. But it isn’t. I reach a saturation point. I jump from my chair, leave the computer and run out the door for a walk or a ride on the stationary bike.

When I return, I pick up at a different spot on the circle. It is time for the whole to feed back into the parts. I might write snippet setting descriptions, review character sketches, update my chapter-by-chapter outline, revisit my storyboard. Then I reread everything I have of the first draft. Only then am I ready to move forward with the parts all tuned up to inform the whole.

So it goes. I must say, I do love what I’m doing. Let me know if any of this resonates. Maybe you have a completely different take on nailing that all important first draft. Feel free to share. I’m always open to tweaking my process.

Snowy Feb Hellebore

The Johari Window for Writers

Johari Window 2 - google image

I’m dusting off an older post today, folks. The Johari Window is a model of self-disclosure that I have used for character development in the past and am in the process of using again.

Study the model for a moment and you will notice that it represents four distinct quadrants of knowledge. The analogy of windows is used to stress the fact that for each individual, at any given time, the various windows are opened or closed to certain degrees.

Let’s relate these four quadrants to how our characters develop:

Upper left-hand quadrant: What everyone knows about the character including the reader. If a character reveals a bit more about self, then this window opens wider.

Lower left-hand quadrant: What a character knows about self and doesn’t reveal to anyone else. This quadrant can significantly drive a plot forward and be a wonderful means of creating dramatic tension. When a reader is inside the head of a particular character, knowing that character’s secrets creates a powerful connection.

Upper right-hand quadrant: What another knows about a character but the character doesn’t know. When one character reveals a blind-spot to another all kinds of sparks can fly. We know how this feels in real life so it is easy to imagine how our characters will react.

Lower right-hand quadrant: What no one knows about a character. This quadrant becomes a ripe area for insights, epiphany moments and revelations – not only for the character in question but for other characters and the reader.

In the course of any book worth reading, characters are emotionally transformed in a way that is significant to the plot by dramatic action in the story.

No action – no transformation – no story.

The Johari Window is a valuable model for developing your character’s unique point-of-view and pushing your plotlines along.

Let’s take Lisa-Marie, one of the significant characters from my Crater Lake Series. We will use this model to study her transformation. When Lisa-Marie is first introduced, everyone knows she is Bethany’s niece who has come to stay at Crater Lake for the summer. She is sixteen, she’s witty and she has a bit of an edge. These characteristics are obvious to everyone. But Lisa-Marie definitely has her secrets and though the reader is in her point-of-view often, these are not revealed all at once. Through the literary device of her diary, Lisa-Marie reveals her past to the reader and opens wider her own window of self-knowledge. Justin, the young man that Lisa-Marie has set her sights on, sees things in her that she hasn’t yet discovered about herself. When he reveals some of those blind-spots to her, dramatic tension ramps up. But ultimately, these revelations contribute to Lisa-Marie’s self-knowledge and she is transformed.

Suggestions for using this model:

Take one of your main characters and list in point form what types of knowledge would go in each quadrant. Estimate the degree to which each window is open or closed. If you are in the planning stage, do this exercise for that character at the beginning of the story and for the place you expect that character to be at the end. If you are in a rewriting stage, do the exercise based on how your character actually developed.

Has transformation occurred?

What action (taken by a character, driven by character interactions, coming from outside the character) will (or should have) driven the movement of these windows?

Let me know if using this model would lead to character development in your own work?

Prayer Flags - Guenette photo

Unshod–A book of Short Stories

Unshod twitter

“Short stories consume you faster. They’re connected to brevity. With the short story, you are up against mortality. I know how tough they are as a form, but they’re also a total joy.” – Ali Smith

A couple of months ago, I was invited to contribute a story to an anthology being put together by eight, talented women authors – Jan Morrill, Pamela Foster, Staci Troilo, Joan Hall, P.C. Zick, Michele Jones and Lorna Faith. I would be number nine. The theme was western stories. That stopped me in my tracks. What came to mind was the old west, gunfights and cowboys. I certainly had nothing along that line. Upon further inquiry, I discovered the organizers were looking for an out west theme – era open. West coast got me in the door and my short story Helplessness made the cut.

Here’s what the reader can look forward to in this book of short stories …

An anthology of traditional and contemporary western short stories where the characters are lain bare. Nine female authors pen western tales that you’ll want to retell around a campfire. These aren’t your granddaddy’s westerns. They’re the next generation’s, and they’re darn good.

  • Feel the pain of a young Japanese girl who comes home from an internment camp after World War II and learns it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight the current.
  • Struggle with an expectant mother on the cold winter prairie while she waits for her husband to come home from a hunting trip.
  • Journey with a young woman to the Four Corners as she tries to connect with her Navajo ancestors.
  • Try not to believe in the superstition of the blue moon—if one dies, three more will follow.
  • Know that one way or another, life will change inalterably that day.
  • Walk in the footsteps of an old cowpoke who thought he made the deal of a lifetime.
  • Suffer the torments of a young lady who wants desperately to marry but seems destined never to wed.
  • Walk the wild western paths and run from unimaginable dangers.
  • Choose between an unhappy life of luxury or a happy life of simplicity.

Unshod is free for your reading enjoyment through the following e-book vendors:

Amazon.com       Barnes & Noble      iTunes      Kobo      Inktera      Scribd  

I hope you’ll download this free book, enjoy the read and maybe even feel inclined to write a short review.

85. Helpless

(An original piece of art work drawn by Xiaonan Gao for my short story Helplessness when it appeared on StoryShack)

DIY Book Formatting – A Cautionary Tale

Highway 40 bridge washout from 2013 Calgary floods - Bruce Witzel photo

This post has been sometime in the construction because I needed to see the end of the journey before I could share.

When I began formatting the softcover edition of Maelstrom, I had previous experience handling the task for The Light Never Lies (LNL) and Chasing Down the Night (CDN). It was a huge learning curve with LNL but I persevered and when it came time to do CDN, things went off with nary a hitch. I did not anticipate any problems with Maelstrom.

All I can say, in retrospect, is do not go cocky into that good night.

P1060886                                    P1060885

For Maelstrom, I made one change. Instead of the floral wingding that acts as a separation marker between chapter sections in LNL and CDN, I wanted something different. The idea of a gate suited Maelstrom. This single change was to haunt me.

Using the same specifications employed or the other books (size, spacing and font), I formatted Maelstrom, loaded the finished PDF file up to CreateSpace and waited for approval. The electronic files looked great, so I ordered a proof.

When it arrived, I was surprised and disappointed to note that on certain pages, the type was washed out. I emailed CreateSpace, included photos and explained that I had only made the one change – those gates. Could this be the problem? Without answering the question of why, they promised another proof free of charge.

Bang head - Google image

You know that old adage – you can’t keep banging your head against the same wall and expect a different outcome? What happened next was something like that. Four free proof copies later and still no adequate response to my steadily lengthening emails about getting to the bottom of the problem of the washed out print.

 

It was clear that further email exchanges could not solve this problem. I got on the phone. A polite fellow informed me that CreateSpace cannot guarantee the font I had been using – Baskerville Old Face – at the size I was using – 10.5 pt. I was incredulous because I have used this font and this size on two other books and ordered boxes of said books without ever noticing any washed out print. But ours is not to question why. He suggested a switch to Georgia 10.5 pt. This formatting change added eighty pages to the finished book!

Concurrent with all the above printing issues, I had two trips to the city planned and holidays were fast approaching. Add in the keen desire to have the softcover out in time for Christmas sales and I’m sure you can see disaster lurking right over the horizon.

Northern Vancouver Island Storm Dec. 9, 2014 - bruce witzel

The longer book required that the cover be tweaked for a thicker spine. Amid the hustle and bustle and outright agony of the process, an earlier cover file was accidently chosen and duly tweaked. With so much attention being paid to the interior file, the cover got no proofing at all. We simply assumed it was fine because the cover was the one thing about all the proofs that had met with our complete approval. The new interior file was uploaded to CreateSpace and a proof copy was ordered.

The latest proof arrived right before Christmas and a quick glance told me Georgia font was the cat’s meow – clear, dark and easy to read. Go ahead and order fifty copies we decided. Did we proof the cover? No – why would we? The cover had never been the problem. Did we carefully go over each page of the interior? No – why would we? The only problem had been the washed out print and the new font had solved that nicely. Or at least, so it seemed upon first glance.

I’m sure you can guess what comes next. When I had time to really examine the book, my first discovery was two typos on the back cover in the book description. I thought my heart might stop beating. Seriously – I simply could not believe my eyes or get my breath. Next, a reader mentioned some odd gaps in the print. A careful perusal revealed no less than a dozen incidents where the print skipped down a line for no reason. Another reader wondered if something might be wrong with his eyes because, lo and behold, the print is slightly lighter on the pages with the gate wingdings. You are now invited to picture me bursting into tears.

Emma newborn - 2008

It was back to the drawing board, yet again. I wish I could say I went with a smile but I cannot. Georgia is a darker font and even though the pages with the gates are somewhat lighter compared to the ones without, the overall quality is acceptable. I decided to keep the gates. I had become quite attached.

The cover was corrected, the interior file totally proofed and both resubmitted for approval through CreateSpace. The online proof was carefully checked and a softcover ordered. It has arrived, to much fanfare. The cover is perfect and the print, even on pages with the gate wingding, is clear. Finally, I hold this book in my hands and let out a sigh of satisfaction.

Holding Maelstrom - Bruce Witzel photo              Maelstrom interior - Bruce Witzel photo

The lesson I have learned is this – format in haste, repent in leisure. Why the rush? No longer will I impose arbitrary deadlines on myself. If a book isn’t ready for Christmas sales one year, it will definitely be ready the next. And no events planned until the books are in hand. Making life less stressful is bound to result.

Footbridge - Bruce Witzel photo

Have you any formatting nightmares to share? Please wade in and we can all wail together. Misery does so love company.