Brushing Up and Reinventing–It’s All Good

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Home from my travels in the frigid lands of Southern Alberta. All I can say is that not everyone can live in the paradise that is the West Coast with wind, rain and stunning bursts of sun – all within the space of one rambling walk! Such is the diversity of Canadian weather. My first week of being home usually entails a process of orientation. I am not the best at moving seamlessly from one environment to another. It takes time for me to settle. I’m like an old dog that must circle and circle her bed before she can lay down.

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Back to solitary walks watching for bears. It is that time of year. Back to stationary bike rides while the rain pounds down beyond the covered deck. Back to thinking about where to go with my next book. I made a choice in January not to plunge into the writing of book five in the Crater Lake series. I have scads of starting notes and a gripping story board. I was perched on the edge when planning becomes doing. But I stepped back.

Naturally, I now question that decision. Such is life. There is an alchemy to the process of writing that is slippery to explain. I’ve always known when the moment is right, and it wasn’t. As lame as that sounds even to my own ears, I know it to be true.

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But I’m missing the Crater Lake setting, the characters and their conversations. I need a way back into that world. I read a great post the other day on Writers Helping Writers that suggested authors of books in sequence would be wise to have a series bible to help them avoid making errors. No one wants a reader noticing glaring inconsistencies. Like character A having a peanut butter allergy in book two and then gladly chowing down on a PB and J sandwich in book three. Things that simple and things more complex. Character sketches, important dates, timelines and storylines, setting details – they all need to be consistent across books.

So – here is my plan. I’ll create such a bible for the Crater Lake series. Most of this stuff is already written. I will pull all the stands together into a single document that I can reference and add to as I move forward.

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My second way back to Crater Lake is my intention to move all the softcover books from CreateSpace to the Kindle Direct platform. When I first contemplated this shift, it seemed like a wise move. The process of transfer looked easy and the benefit of having all sale information in one place appealed to me. Real life is seldom as smooth as one hopes.

I ran into a snag with Disappearing in Plain Sight. Kindle Direct rejected the book saying my author name disappears into the black on the front cover. Ironic – right? My name disappearing on the cover of Disappearing in Plain Sight. Oh well. In 2015 when I took the book back from Friesen Press, they provided me with the cover jpeg. When I reissued the book under my own imprint of Huckleberry Haven Publishing, I made use of the original cover with a major tweak – removing the Friesen Press logo and inserting my own. But it seems Kindle Direct has different standards than CreateSpace.

While my husband Bruce works out the glitches with the cover, I have decided – with the cooperation of my wonderful editor – to do a fresh grammatical edit on Disappearing in Plain Sight. The manuscript has gone through a number of revisions since our original editing work and now seems like a good time to shake it out like a crumbled quilt. Soon I must replenish my bulk supply of the softcover and it will be great to have pristine, updated copies to put on display. I’m also hoping for a BookBub feature sometime in the coming months and I want my flagship ebook to shine.

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So, there you have it – at Crater Lake but not quite onto new material. A few quick questions: Series authors – do you keep a series bible? How did you go about creating this resource? Waste of time (get writing!) or good idea? Is anyone else moving softcover books from CreateSpace to Kindle Direct? Have you run into any glitches with the process?

Release Day! No Compass to Right

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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

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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!

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Photographs and design by Bruce Witzel.

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

The Hermeneutic Circle and My Writing Process

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(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

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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?

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Unshod–A book of Short Stories

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“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)