February–Love of Reading Month

Love of Reading Month

Special offer in honour of a special month:

Get all three of the Crater Lake novels in one box set for only $5.00

Here’s what one reviewer thought:

Have you ever read a book or a series where you become emotionally bonded to the characters? This is what I did with Francis Guenette’s Crater Lake series. At the end of the last book, I was heartbroken that I would not encounter the beauty that surrounds Crater Lake and the cast of characters anymore.

Yes, I was going to miss my new friends and their lives. In fact, I had to stop reading for a few days so that I could adjust to my life without them. I had a book hangover, one of which I have not experienced in a long time! The complexity of the characters and the realistic relationships shared between them are what propel this saga forward. Pair that with the beautiful descriptions of the surrounding area and Crater Lake comes alive in magnificent colors much like a rainbow which spreads hope in the darkest times.

There is something here for everyone. Love, sex, lust, greed, spirituality, sacrifice, death, murder, life… the list goes on and on. Each book in the series leads you on to a different life lesson much like the lessons you learn within your own family unit.

There was a kinship found within these pages where I as the reader was drawn along, all the while given permission to become part of the family. I feel my life has been enriched for having shared their lives. I will reread these books numerous times because it will feel like coming home.

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The Crater Lake Series – Boxed Set $5.00

The Crater Lake Series–Box Set

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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

What Author Doesn’t Love a Captive Audience?

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“Success in not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

(Winston Churchill)

I’ll tell you a little secret – I don’t love public speaking and I suspect I’m not alone. That being said, having the opportunity to speak to a small group of people who are avid to hear me talk about my books does make getting over the whole not craving the spotlight thing, not only doable but, highly enjoyable.

Last week, I was invited for my fourth appearance at yet another of our local North Island libraries. I think I’m getting the hang of these author gigs. Over the years of not loving public speaking, I have figured out a few strategies that make the events go well.

I don’t like to begin an event by standing before a group of people and going straight into a long block of talking. To me, this is the cold-call of public appearances, to be avoided like the plague. When called upon to perform in this way, I am apt to plunge down into a well of self-consciousness and discover, somewhere there in the inky darkness, that my breath is short and my voice is shaky. Confidence takes a dive and it’s hard to carry on. Not impossible – I’ve been in situations where I did claw my way out of the well. Then of course there were situations like Colin Firth found himself portraying in the opening scenes of the movie, The King’s Speech. Just as an aside, I highly recommend this movie for anyone who struggles with public speaking. To see what poor George VI went through is to put all our own experiences in perspective.

Whenever possible, I am proactive and plan my center stage moments so they work for me. For my presentation the other night at the library, I started off with an ice breaker activity which I introduced in the following way.

When I meet people, I’m often asked – what do you do or what are you doing now? This is probably because I’ve had a few different careers. When I say, I’ve written a book, well, now two books, people will invariable get this look on their face and then tell me – oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book or I’ve always thought I had a book in me. I think this happens because the telling of stories is so essential to being human – it makes our lives and experiences real.

I’m going to pass around paper and pencils. Please jot down a few words that describe what the book in you would be about. At the end of the evening, I’ll draw one of these slips of paper and the lucky author-to-be will have their choice of either one of my books as a prize.

As people participated in this activity, there was laughter, chatter and positive energy circulating through the group. An atmosphere like that is contagious.

The next part of the event involved reading from my book, Disappearing in Plain Sight. Reading passages from one’s own work is both terrifying and exciting. Another method I employ is to have my husband Bruce share the first reading with me, specifically choosing a portion of my book that lends itself to two voices. Again, this allows me breathing room and gets me right over my self-consciousness about sharing my work.

After that – the library event was clear sailing. I did the next reading on my own, broke for questions and comments and when those wound down, I did a couple more readings. There was a casual, easy feel to the evening that I believe the audience liked as much as I did. I was able to wrap up with a passage from The Light Never Lies and that was really exciting. I pinch myself sometimes to believe I wrote one novel. To have written a second is beyond the beyond as the Irish so aptly put such things.

For me, careful planning of a public speaking event is always the key to success. I’m no pantser, for sure. I create a written breakdown of each thing that will happen with time frames and notes about what I want to say. And I practice.

I highly recommend that self-published authors get out in their local communities and share their work. For me, holding my book in my hands and reading from that book to a group of people is very rewarding. I watch the look on people’s faces as they pick up my book, admire the cover, flip it over to read the back and leaf through it – those are priceless moments, indeed.

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Thinking about the movie, The King’s Speech, got me thinking about this statue of Winston Churchill we took in Queen’s Park, Toronto a few years ago – ever the statesman and quite the public speaker.

The Lull that Follows the Marathon Race

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I’ve been wandering around the cabin the last couple of days in a strange state – something between dazzled and terrified. Part of me wants to hide under the covers until this exposed feeling passes. I’ve just published The Light Never Lies up to Amazon in its Kindle format and it seems as though I’ve launched a piece of myself into cyberspace. I remember this experience from a year ago when Disappearing in Plain Sight made its way into the public realm.

I’m thinking this never gets easier – one book, two books, or a dozen books down the road. They’ll always feel like my own children set to run free in the great, big world. Are they ready? Did I prepare them well enough? What will people think of them? What will people think of me? And on and on it goes.

Took some time from obsessing yesterday (okay, seriously, how many checks of your sales report on Amazon per day does make you obsessive?) to read Chuck Wendig’s lengthy take on how self-published authors are destroying the universe. Okay, he didn’t exactly say that and he does make some good points. No doubt my sense of exposure after just thrusting my own self-published work into the public realm effected my thoughts.

Wendig’s (sometimes profane but always in a chuck-ling fashion) premise states that the sheer volume and sometimes poor quality of self-published work out on Amazon (and other sites) does have an effect on all self-published authors, whether we realize it or not. The poor quality of self-published work is what keeps doors closed to the self-published authors who produce good stuff – review sites, brick and mortar, independent book stores and trade publications. If you have time, do go over and give his post a read. Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords) gets in on the debate via the comment section and his thoughts are always worth tuning into.

Went to search out the link on Wendig’s piece and realized fellow blogger Kevin Brennan has also written about Chuck’s post. Check out what Kevin has to say over on What the Hell blog.

Time for that blatant old plug – pop over to Amazon and give my latest novel, The Light Never Lies, consideration. If you’re in the Kindle book buying mood – maybe a bit curious, like George in the picture below – the cost is less than a fancy latte and will hopefully provide more sustenance. Though one should never knock the power of a good latte!

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The Value of Courage – “42” A Movie about Jackie Robinson

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The value of courage, my 200th post, the last day of 2013, baseball and a little taste from my upcoming novel – I have an eclectic mix of thoughts to share today.

When my kids were little, we had a set of books entitled, The Value Tales. These books featured people whose achievements fit the criteria of many important values – Believing in Yourself: Louis Pasteur, Helping: Harriet Tubman, Determination: Helen Keller, Kindness: Elizabeth Fry, Giving: Beethoven and many others. The book that was requested the most in our home was, The Value of Courage – The Story of Jackie Robinson.

Over the holidays, my husband Bruce and I had the opportunity to watch the movie “42” – The Jackie Robinson story. For the baseball lover, “42” is right up there with, The Natural and Field of Dreams.

That children’s book from long ago came to life for me as Branch Rickey, the Methodist, curmudgeon-like baseball executive (played brilliantly by Harrison Ford) devised a plan to break the colour barrier in Major League baseball by signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s courage in the face of rampant racism is vividly displayed in his ability to turn the other cheek. He holds his anger in check, refusing to retaliate in kind. This is grace under pressure at its finest.

At more than one dramatic point in the movie, Robinson asks Rickey why he’s so relentless in his plan to open the Major League to coloured players. The last time he asks this question, Robinson presses for more than a pat answer related to profit margins. Rickey shares his desire to return baseball to a pristine and idyllic state – the perfect thing it should always be.

The subject of baseball comes up in my debut novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight and its soon to be published sequel, The Light Never Lies. In the sequel, the characters discuss W.B. Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe and how the game of baseball is a metaphor for life – a form of perfection to be strived for, not only on the field of dreams but also in the course of the day-to-day.

“Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple . . .” (W.B Kinsella – Shoeless Joe)

In the following scenes from, The Light Never Lies, Beulah has been convinced to help coach a team of kids and the Crater Lake Timber Wolves have been revived to play an exhibition game against Beulah’s team.

“Liam tells me you have some enthusiasm for baseball. I’ve got a proposition for you.”

Beulah leaned back against the solid weight of the bakery’s long wooden table and folded her arms across her white-aproned chest. She nodded at Alex to continue.

“There’s this bunch of kids from the reserve over at Cedar Falls. They’d like to go to a baseball tournament down in Courtenay on the August long weekend. I’m looking for a coach.”

“Doesn’t a proposition mean you do something for me and I’ll do something for you? I’m not hearing the part about what’s in this for me. Do these kids even know how to play baseball?”

“Let’s say they are long on enthusiasm and short on skills.”

“Ya right . . . still not hearing what’s in it for me.”

****

Robbie changed the subject, “I’ll tell you what I think about that Trickster ball team. Those kids don’t know jack shit about baseball and they aren’t getting better, even though this is their fourth practice.”

Alex pointed his can of Coke at Robbie, “Watch your language; what the hell will people think . . . a kid your age talking like that.”

Beulah laughed, “I hear you, Robbie. We’re still a long, long way from moulding that crowd into any kind of team. I’ll tell you this, though – we might just be at the end of the beginning.” Beulah narrowed her eyes thoughtfully, her attention caught for a moment by the boats in the harbour. The riggings made a steady thwacking sound as they flapped in the wind that swooped over the breakwater and tossed the tops of the masts to and fro.

She remembered her first sight of the kids as they stumbled off the bus – black and grey hoodies pulled tight around scowling faces, a couple of the guys wearing leather jackets and stomping boots, one girl dressed like maybe she thought she would be trying out for a Much Music video. The sneering, adolescent attitude had not fooled Beulah. It didn’t begin to hide the aching need the kids had to be part of something none of them could even name. Alex was right about that – helping a kid find out what that something could be, was a project worth taking on.

She was brought out of her reverie when Alex hopped up from the bench. He eyed Beulah with a knowing look, “You are a woman who enjoys a challenge. I could tell that from the first day we met.”

****

Beulah ran over to the Tricksters dugout. She snapped at Alex, “You’re supposed to be giving these kids a pep talk . . . you could hear a pin drop in here.” Beulah pulled the kids into a huddle and got them raising their heads and cawing loudly. She stood back and studied her team. Alex had gotten the band to spring for uniforms, black with white trim. She hoped they wouldn’t be mistaken for magpies.

Beulah turned to see several members of the Timber Wolves glaring at her. She whacked hands with a few kids and ran back to the other side of the field.

Jillian walked out from the backstop fence where she had been chatting with Roland and stood behind the plate. She shouted, “Play ball,” and the game began.

Beulah kept Robbie busy running back and forth with messages for Alex about what he should be doing to coach her team. At one point, she was seen urging one of the Trickster players to head for home. The Timber Wolves howled for real when that happened but Beulah just laughed at them. At the end of the fifth inning, with the Tricksters down by two runs, she announced, “That’s that. I’m jumping ship.” She trotted off to the sound of loud boos from one side and rousing cheers from the other.

So there you have it – my 200th post and the last post of the year 2013. It seems auspicious to talk about courage. Challenges are always just around the corner. Grace under pressure is most often required. But life is a bit like baseball isn’t it? I’ll let Caleb have the last word with another sneak peek from, The Light Never Lies.

Beulah narrowed her eyes at Liam and frowned, “Are you going to sit there and make me give myself a good, stiff kick in the butt? You’re a great friend, you are.”

“Tell me what Caleb would have said. You saw a side of him that I never did.”

Beulah snorted, “Ya, a drinking side.” She was thoughtful as she answered, “Caleb would have said . . . What we have here, Beulah, best case scenario, is a temporary setback; worst case, a game changer. But there are still a few innings to play. Life is like a game of baseball. You never know when a grand slam is going to change the whole damn outcome. Then he’d have offered me that lucky watch.” She nodded her head towards the watch on Liam’s wrist.

Our passive solar home with photovoltaic solar electric array and solar hot water tank

Happy New Year from Fran – the day is bright and sunny on the West Coast of BC. Hope you have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and best wishes for 2014.

Don’t Let Anyone Think You Published Your First-Draft

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I was zooming along with my first round of hardcopy edits on The Light Never Lies, feeling OK – when wham – the boom was lowered. I ran up against a couple of chapters that were so poorly written, they are headed right back to the drawing board. I found inappropriate conversation, passive voice, description details that dragged the story down like a loaf of bread that fell flat.

How did this hackneyed piece of prose get woven into my book? Here’s the thing I’ve discovered. A writer has to expect to see crap in the first draft of any piece of work.

The first draft is entirely in the service of getting the story down. Sometimes that’s done with finesse and sometimes not. That’s why we rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite.

I’m a self-published author. I have joined a growing rank of people who have decided they will not query agents, wait around endlessly for rejections, and then start the whole process again. We won’t allow gatekeeper traditional publishers to say that our work is not sellable.

With this stance, comes considerable responsibility to the craft of writing. If the traditional publisher is not going to narrow the eye of the needle through which we must pass our work, then who will? We have taken on this burden ourselves, and as we all know, policing ourselves is not an easy task.

I have made a commitment to go out of my way to support the work of other self-published authors. I upload your books to my Kindle, and I read them (and not only when those books are offered for free.)

If, in good conscience, I can give your book a 4 or 5 star rating on Amazon, then I sit down when I’ve finished the book, and I write a review. I’m new to this whole thing, so I don’t have five hundred reviews out there, but I’ve read a lot of your work and I’ve done reviews. (A caveat here – I’ve read a few wonderful novels that have tons of reviews already. In the interest of my own use of time, I’ve skimped there on writing one myself. I’m rethinking that position. Every review is helpful.)

There’s no easy way to say this – some of what I’ve read has not been good.

When I do a review I don’t focus on comparing your book with every other book I’ve ever read. I read each book on its own merits. Did I feel drawn into the story, did I like the characters, did you make me care enough to want to keep on reading?

Here’s a news flash. Readers don’t want to be insulted. If I’ve taken the time to read your book, then I’d like it to make sense. I don’t want to run into plot holes I could drive a semi through, or characters that change personality in mid-stream, or dialogue that sounds patently ridiculous given the situation the characters find themselves in, or the crap you’ve decided to throw into the story for no reason that I can see, or one of my all-time pet peeve – storylines that dried up instead of getting tied up before the last page. I don’t want to read through your entire book only to discover that you got lazy at the end.

It matters not to me if the genre of your book is my thing. If a book is clearly in a certain genre (romance, or crime, or mystery, or fantasy, or paranormal urban trash vampire – I made that last one up), then it isn’t OK for me to evaluate that book harshly for remaining true to what it is. I plan to respect that. But I still hold your book accountable to the points I made earlier.

Naturally, poor formatting, lack of editing for the basics of correct grammar and sentence structure, is a turn off – but I’ll put up with that if the story is compelling. I’ll probably mention that there were some issues, but if the story got to me, I’m forgiving of those points.

I will spend months of my life rewriting and editing The Light Never Lies. When this book is self-published, and you spend $3.99 to buy it and invest your time reading it – I want you to know that I have done everything in my power to ensure that you are not insulted or disappointed. The genre of story I have chosen to tell might not be your thing, or you might not approve of the paths some of the characters have taken, but there will be internal consistency to my book.

My point here is that self-published authors owe readers more than some of us are giving. Don’t blow it. Don’t self-publish your book without being sure it is the best story that you can tell. And if it’s up on Amazon and some readers are writing 1 star reviews, pay attention to what they’re saying. Don’t compare the dozen 5 star reviews you somehow managed to have people who owed you something write, to the less than stellar takes on your work from objective readers. When I get to the end of your book, don’t let me think that you published your first draft.

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