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.

Tuesday Book Blog – Stone Eater

cover of Stone Eater

Title: Stone Eater by D.F. Bailey (2nd book in the Will Finch Mystery Thriller series)

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, financial crime

Amazon Reviews: 7 reviews on Amazon.com with an average of 4.7

My Four Star Review

D.F. Bailey has hit his stride with this second Will Finch Thriller!

I read the first book in this series – Bone Maker – and the ending stirred my curiosity. Moving into the second Will Finch novel, the author answered many of the questions I had leftover from the first book while spinning a fine stand-alone story. Will Finch, main character and intrepid journalist, is a more fleshed out character in this second offering. The author ties the action of the series opener (Bone Maker) to the second book with seamless brush strokes that never weigh the reader down. No mean feat!

I enjoyed seeing the world through Will’s somewhat cynical perspective. His work cubicle is a “… doleful mix of neglect and oppression.” His exercise regime consists of making it up and down the three flights of stairs to his office. His huffing and puffing upon arrival is a condition many of us can identify with. There is also phrases that delight – sailboats slip back and forth playing the invisible breeze and a man’s life is described as running along a track that is narrow, flat and gray. These few words stand in for so much that need never be said. A gruesome scene is described thus – the girl collapsed on the lawn like a sack of snakes. This metaphor brings the horror of the character’s situation to graphic life.

Bring on book three! I’m ready to read Lonesome Hunter and to see what Will Finch will do next.

cover of Bonemaker                       cover of lone hunter

Before I leave you to trot off to the Amazon site of your choice and check out D.F. Bailey’s books, I want to add a note about the titles and the covers. Superb. The two word titles all link the series wonderfully and each of them packs a punch. The covers are visually attractive, consistent and guaranteed to catch the eye. Well done D.F. Bailey.

The Process of Preparing to Write

4th Crater Lake Book - Storyboard - Guenette photo

You might well ask – what does that headline mean – the process of preparing? This phase must have as many variations as there are writers practicing their craft. For me, it looks something like this: I work on a storyboard, I do research, take notes and draft up scene post-it-notes to stick on bits of paper. I do interviews with each of the characters who will be coming back along with detailed character sketches for all the new characters.

Scene post-it-notes - Guenette photoOne day I will tip over from all this preparation to actually writing the book. This is the fifth time I embark on this adventure and I have no reason to expect anything different.

I thought it might be fun to share Justin’s interview. He’s been a pivotal character in all the Crater Lake books and no one will be surprised to see him return in the fourth novel.

Where Are You Now, Justin Roberts?

What have you been doing over the last two years?

It’s mostly been school and coming back to Crater Lake in the breaks. I’ve just finished my undergrad degree at UBC and I’m working at the sawmill again. Reg is like some kind of a whirlwind this year. He’s on and on about production and racking in the money before he retires. Mike brushes it all off because he’s so happy about him and Wynter, he probably wouldn’t notice if a tsunami slammed its way right up from Brookes Peninsula and swamped the sawmill. I don’t find the job as great as it used to be but that could be because I’ve got my sights on full-time work somewhere else. I want to stay in the North Island and use what I learned at university. I’ve got applications out to a few of the independent logging operations.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Finishing my degree was a huge accomplishment.

Your biggest disappointment?

My relationship with Lauren – it continues to be up and down, on and off and now we’re in a constant state of sniping at each over me wanting to work up here. She insists I would do better in the city and refuses to even consider joining me in the middle of nowhere.

What issues from the past still haunt you?

I’ve never really been able to get Lisa-Marie out of my head though I’ve hardly seen her in the last two years. I’m pretty sure she’s avoiding me and I can’t say I blame her.

Out of the blue, my mom is back in my life and writing to me. The first letter totally freaked me out. Her psychiatrist wrote as well. She said not to rush to my mom’s side. She seemed to know that would be my first reaction. She said that my mother has made some radical progress in the last year – coming out of an almost catatonic depression. They’ve stabilized her on a new medication. She may move to a group home in a few months. She can only handle writing for now. I’m working to accept this without getting my hopes up for some kind of miracle reunion in the future.

How do you rate your various relationships?

The people at Crater Lake are family and I cling to that. I want to love Lauren but sometimes I wonder if I really do. There are so many things about my life that I can’t bring myself to share. I could never see myself telling her about my mom. We’ve been in this relationship for three years and I want to make it work but in my heart I’m not sure we have what it takes. She says I am too hooked into every one at Crater Lake. She thinks my commitments here are a way of distancing myself from her. But where would I be without Izzy and Liam and Robbie and Sophie?

Mike Sampson is a solid friend. I stay in touch with Dylan and Jesse. These guys know more about me than Lauren ever will.

I was going to say they know more about me than anyone but that wouldn’t be true. Lisa-Marie is the person who knows the most about me and I doubt there will ever be anyone else in my life that I could be so open with. I miss her. I ruined our friendship and that haunts me. It’s like I told her that first summer when she was sixteen – you can’t have sex without repercussions. After the cougar thing and all of that – I could have easily changed my mind about choosing Lauren. I wanted to. Liam urged me to tell Lauren I was in love with someone else. But LM wouldn’t let me. She wanted me to let her go. I had hurt her way too much to go and do a 180 degree turn.

What are your current goals?

I want a good job in the forest industry – maybe an engineer working on road development or something like that. Eventually, I want to be a forester. I want to make some money, have a nice place of my own and a truck that runs well – it doesn’t have to be fancy. I want to kick back now and then. Maybe take up a hobby like hiking or kayaking. Now that I’m back at Crater Lake and connecting with the Dearborn community, I’m thinking of studying to be a part-time paramedic. I’ve always been good in a crisis. I’ve also got some plans to renovate Liam’s old cabin. At one time, I would have thought every one of these goals was pie-in-the-sky crazy. But I’ve already come so far in the last five years. Why shouldn’t I just keep going? Go big or go home – right?

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

Here I go on the next trilogy Smile Hope this little glimpse into where Justin’s at now whets your appetite to carry on with the series.