Archives for category: “The Emma Caites Way”

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TCA Fall Flyer

Authors + Card tables + Books =

A.V. Walters

Traverse City Authors

You’ve been there—a book fair, or an author-signing event. The author sits, with a forced smile, trying to engage. Normal people, who otherwise might manage a smile or a nod, drop their eyes and rush by. They’re too polite to intend to reject, but the result is the same. They avoid eye contact.

We love books. They entertain and inform. They take us to places, internal and external, that we otherwise would never experience. They make us think. Storytelling is probably the true oldest profession. It may be the real difference between man and the other animals. Forget tools—animals use tools.

But writing is very much an internal process. There’s not much to see. It is, for everyone except the author, pretty boring. And authors are often shy, living in the world from their side of the keyboard. It makes for a marketing conundrum. As the author, how do you sell books? As consumers, we want action—writing, by itself, isn’t dynamic.

The standard formula, the book fair, is death on cold toast. Uncomfortable for both the author and the consumer, it is Authors + Card Tables + Books = Boring. It’s like one of those sad little small town zoos, where the animals are housed in small, concrete cages. At best, you’re tempted to tap on the glass to elicit some response, or throw popcorn, even when the signs admonish you not to feed the animals. At worst, you scurry by, shoulders hunched, eyes averted.

I’ve joined an Author’s Group. We discussed at great length the challenge of the “author’s event.” We swapped horror stories of our collective experiences, trapped behind stacks of books in the entry of some otherwise kindly bookseller. We vowed not to repeat the equation.

Traverse City Authors announces its Celebration of Story. On June 14, at the Little Fleet, we’re holding a story slam benefit for Front Street Writers (a local nonprofit program for young writers.) After all, at its essence, what we do is tell stories. Come see the Authors, in their natural habitat, surrounded by good food and drink (because authors aren’t stupid), and yes, of course, books.

https://www.facebook.com/TraverseCityAuthors/?notif_t=page_fan&notif_id=1493079806456302

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Books and Blogs

A.V. Walters

ec coverGuylaine Claire Cover jpg

I’ve written both. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, so the rhythm of it feels natural. The books feel more like chess, plotting and planning to get the story out, in a way that’s more like a natural unfolding. In a blog, I want to give just enough story to create a mental image, and then to make my point. It’s photorealism versus impressionism. I admit that I am often guilty of subtle. Even too subtle.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about training cats. The point, albeit understated, was that, except for very small kittens, I don’t believe that anyone can train cats. They train you. You go to great efforts to change their bad behaviors, mostly changing your own conduct to minimize the opportunity for their transgressions. It raises the question, who’s training whom? I’m not sure that my point came across through the text. I thought it was wildly funny—in a Canadian restrained kind of way. Unfortunately, nobody noticed. In that, I failed.

Those readers (that didn’t get it) probably think I’m just another middle-aged woman with cats. I’m a relatively recent FaceBook conscript. There, I notice that there’s an endless supply of middle-aged women with cats. Even some of my same-age male cohorts have begun posting “cute” cat videos. Oh stop. You know who you are.

Anyway, from a writing perspective, a blog ought to be short and, well, glib. And I struggle with shorter. I note that there are a great many blogs that use no words at all. What are we coming to? Maybe less is more, but I can’t tell. I just write until the vignette is complete.

First, I wrote the two novels. Then, the blog was supposed to be a vehicle to build platform. I admit that with some shame—shame, because I know how to put those words together in a way that conveys the lingo of shameless-self-promotion. Along the way, I learned that I liked blogging. I like the challenge of brevity, with connection. So, perhaps I’ve taken it away from what it was supposed to be—marketing—and I’ve aligned it more into the mode of reflective, journal writing.

My mother is a potter (as in ceramics.) From the time when I was very little, she would explain her pots like stories. Every pot, she contended, had to have a top, a middle, and a bottom. Each part had to define itself, and still relate to the whole. We’d go to art fairs, and she’d (discreetly) show me pots that had failed this basic design requirement. I was trained to be a ceramic snob.

It’s what I try to do with each blog. It’s not haiku, but it’s distilled, hopefully with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some hit. Some miss. Recently though, after about a year of personal uproar, I’ve returned to working on novels. But, blogging has changed me. I used to sit down to write, throwing myself into the abyss—the only agenda was to move the story forward with every chapter. I had checklists, and l didn’t concern myself with the niceties, beyond letting every character speak in his, or her, own voice. The rest of it I left for editing. Now, I’ve become fussy in a chapter-by-chapter kind of way, and it’s slowed me down. I’m like a cross-country runner who’s over-trained doing wind-sprints. (We used to call that ‘running the telephone poles.’)

I’m not displeased with the result, only the pace. Does blogging do this to other writers? I can only wonder. This is all strange territory for me—new speech modalities defined by technology and delivery. I can only re-double my efforts. These characters are far enough along that I’m compelled to finish their story. Anything less, would strand them in the in-between. Again, I’m left to wonder—do other bloggers have this problem?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.V. Walters–

ec cover

Many years ago, I worked waiting table. The head waitress at the restaurant was a very funny woman with an incredible sense of presence. One day, she used the restroom on break and, unbeknownst to her, she got the back of her skirt caught in the waistband to her pantyhose. She returned to the dining room floor with one side of her ass exposed to the world. The woman had class. When a patron called it to her attention, she turned, looked, and without missing a beat, she said, “I suppose now you want me to turn the other cheek?”

I would have died on the spot. I’m not sure I’ve confessed to this before, but I am not a technical person. I struggle with it–especially so since Two Rock Press is a small concern and I try to be professional about it. You can only imagine my mortification when I discovered (thanks to a kindly reader) that the Amazon download for The Emma Caites Way was bollixed. We’d accidentally uploaded the wrong file. Folks who downloaded it ended up with a version that was not fully edited–once they hit the later chapters, it was all highlights and alternate wording. My deepest apologies. So, if you are one that downloaded previous version, throw that trash away. There is another free download day for The Emma Caites Way on December 2. (You may receive a notice from Amazon.)

If you haven’t previously taken advantage of the free Amazon download (Kindle version)–lucky you, you missed the muddle! Feel free to enjoy it now. Hey, tell a friend. I’m feeling so relieved that this was an easy fix, I feel like celebrating. So, come on and celebrate with me. Enjoy a free copy of my award-winning, life-affirming, deliciously fun, romp and triumph of a novel, The Emma Caites Way.

What, now you want me to turn the other cheek?

Two Chickens, Two Eggs

A.V. Walters

In the best of circumstances, a healthy chicken will produce an egg a day. From time to time, or if under stress, a chicken will occasionally miss a day or two. When winter darkness comes, egg-laying goes. (It’s why commercial egg operations use artificial lighting.) Chickens will usually try to lay in a protected area. The chickens in our front yard have each picked a hollowed out spot under the redwood tree. We collect the eggs everyday. In fact, it’s one of the tasks that Rick especially likes.

What you don’t see, is extra eggs.

Yesterday, Rick found an egg just out in the grass, a yard or two in from the fence–no hollowed out nest–just an egg, sitting there. He picked it up and carefully set it aside. It wasn’t an especially good looking egg; it was a little dirty and mottled looking. Later, he quizzed me about the egg numbers over the past few days.

You see, we’ve been collecting two eggs a day. Rick figures we’ve been set up for another round of Farm Humor. That egg is a rotten-egg-bomb. Our front yard chickens couldn’t have laid it. The numbers don’t work.

We have a suspect. One Bad Egg. We don’t yet have a plan. We could just carefully dispose of this suspicious egg…or we could keep the joke going……

 

Remember, The Gift of Guylaine Claire and the award-winning The Emma Caites Way, are free ebook downloads through July 4, on Amazon.

Coop d’État

A.V. Walters

“Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss”

These chickens are aggressive. They made it absolutely clear who’s in charge in our front yard. Because the emus are so much bigger, we forget that they are still little kids. If ever there was a lesson that you’re as big as you think you are, this is it. Right from the get-go, the chicken-bully (as we call the more aggressive of the two) started harassing the emus. When they’d bend over to eat, she’d rush over and peck the emus right on the top of their heads! The message was clear—the chickens are in charge!

The emus have learned to steer-clear, and give the chickens a wide berth. At times, they can eat together, (if I make sure there’s ample chicken food.) But, in their meanderings, the two species have a different agenda, and don’t choose to keep company. They’ve made their peace, but it’s not friendly.

Bob, the cat, was hiding under the lower, redwood branches. He’d crept in, to check-out the chickens. The emus spied him and took off in hot pursuit. They split up and triangulated their attack. The poor cat nearly didn’t make it over the fence, in time. And that was Bob, a cat they know and like! (Well, like may be a bit strong, but they know he’s not a threat.) Were the emus defending the chickens? Or, having been demoted in their own yard, merely defending their dignity against an unsuspecting target? And, just what was Bob doing in the redwoods, anyway?

Bob, from a safe distance.

Bob, from a safe distance.

Rick had it in his head that he could solve the underlying animosities by swapping out the bully-chicken for a more self-possessed, well-mannered chicken. (We live on a chicken farm, so we have access to spare chickens.) My sister shook her head. Even from 2,500 miles away I could hear her tight-lipped nonresponse. (The woman has her own chicken issues, I tell ya.) Finally, not one to hold her tongue, she cryptically said, “Won’t do any good; it’s about pecking order.”

I hate to admit it, but I’m enough of a political Pollyanna that I actually like the idea that deposing one bully could solve the problem of tyranny. Apparently Rick does, too. We’re not naïve. We read the papers. Has there ever been any coup that didn’t just install the next bully? I was in no hurry to do the chicken swap but yesterday Rick put chicken replacement on our to-do list.

We stuffed the chicken-bully in a box, and walked over to the chicken barn. We let her out and she immediately blended into the crowd. As for the replacement, how do you pick? What do you look for? Essentially, it comes down to who you can catch.

Not as easy to catch as it looks

Not as easy to catch as it looks

We returned with the replacement chicken and put her in the nighttime cage, to let the two chickens get to know each other through the safety of the bars. The squawking started almost immediately. The emus perked up—trouble in Chicken World could only be good news for them.

It’s official. The new chicken is the “low hen on the totem pole” resident of our front yard. The formerly docile chicken has stepped up to bully role. She doesn’t much like the new chicken and she’s loud about it. We’ve gone from nasty to noisy. She woke me up this morning, at sunrise.

The emus seem to like it. With the Chickens occupied with their own disputes, the emus are left, more or less, in peace. And actually, it looks like the emus are enjoying spectator status. I feel like I should serve popcorn. Funny how I can hear my sister’s “I told you so,” loud and clear, from across the miles.

Post-script:

Not so easy, this chicken swap. The new chicken was just too…well… chicken. She sat cowering in the corner of the porch all day.

Chicken chicken.

Chicken chicken.

Rick decided that it wouldn’t do. Another chicken swap was needed. We captured her and returned her to the barn. Rick rounded up a bunch of chickens, and then, using portable fence panels, thinned until he had just the chicken! The Goldilocks of chickens, not too bold, not too chicken. This one is just right. We brought her back to the yard and she settled in immediately, friendly, without being deferential. I think this chicken combo will work. Who knew it would be so involved? Now we need to see how the emus react.

Relaxing by the pool.

Relaxing by the pool.

Don’t forget, The Emma Caites Way and The Gift of Guylaine Claire are available as free Kindle downloads on Amazon–July 1 thru July 4.

ec coverGuylaine Claire Cover jpg

I lived in a border town as a kid. In Canada, we had Dominion Day, followed in quick succession with Independence Day. The two cities, Windsor and Detroit, made a big deal out of that double birthday party. We celebrated together–art fairs, music, junk food, topped off by an amazing display of international fireworks over the Detroit River. It was always an event that defined summer, and defined the international flavor of our home. My parents were Americans, living just over the border in Canada. Three of five kids were born in the states, but the last two (me and my little sister), were the Canadians in the crowd.

My writing reflects my dual roots. In celebration of Dominion Day (okay, so now they changed it to Canada Day) and the Fourth of July, my books will be available as free downloads on Amazon for the entire four day Freedom Festival. July 1 through July 4, enjoy two free books that will make you laugh, cry, and taste the various flavors of the North American culture clash. Let your summer read include a stroll through turn of the last century art with The Emma Caites Way or a more reflective, and very Canadian, The Gift of Guylaine Claire. Don’t let this award-winning offer slip by. Check me out on Amazon–A.V. Walters, or click this link, http://www.amazon.com/A.-V.-Walters/e/B008AL153M/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1372540421&sr=1-1

It’s blistering hot here in Two Rock, perfect summer weather to settle back with a great book.

And now… on Kindle…

A.V. Walters

I attended a business conference this week. Most of the presentations were dry as dust, except for one woman, who is an expert on the psychology of purchasing behaviors. From a larger, societal, perspective, what she was saying gives me the shivers. She studies people and their shopping behaviors, which are increasingly happening on-line. There is an ever-increasing shortness of attention span, nowadays, (hello, are you still with me?) that can take your breath away—in a nanosecond kind of interval. She analyzed the time spent researching (reading other customer reviews or perusing manufacturer’s sites) and how long it takes to complete the purchase-cycle. Once a decision has been made, people react in a split-second. The difference between a sale and losing a customer’s attention can literally be a question of how few clicks it takes. Too many clicks, or too much text… and you’ve lost them. Alas.

This is particularly surprising when the product is a book. Consumers who cannot instantly obtain the book they want will be drawn and diverted by “People who purchased this item also purchased that item”—and off they go! In a product that will take them hours to read, and from which they should derive many more hours enjoyment and contemplation, they’ll change their minds (or simply lose interest) if they cannot have it… now!

She reported that Amazon knows this, and designs it into their interface. Amazon now sells more books than any other outlet in this country. Industry pundits claim that in a few scant years, Amazon will be the biggest retailer in the world. And, we’re not just talking books, either—Amazon sells everything.

I guess I’m old fashioned. Apparently, I frequently stand in my own way—the only thing between me and success is… well, me. My books are on Amazon. I’m a POD (print on demand) author, so Amazon is the best distribution vehicle for the small or self publisher.  But I have never listed my e-books with Amazon. I’ve been loyal to smashwords.com.  Something about its counter-culture approach has always appealed to me. And, I’ve been offended by the war of the Goliaths—the major players in the publishing industry who seek to turn authors into “content providers.” I see the squeeze between retailers and publishers and note that more often than not, the losers in that battle are the authors.

I know that the publishing world is in flux. It is both a curse and an opportunity for authors. Caught in the new age of information, the old stuffy publishing houses have pulled in, more than ever. They are reticent to take a risk on new talent. The only sure-fire books these days are celebrity tell-alls, diet books, or Clancy-type thrillers. Oh, yeah, and anything with vampires.  Literature is lost in the mix. And yet, in the corners of the maelstrom, good books are peeking out. There is a chance that an elegant or beautiful story can find its audience. Oh yes, your story has a chance, if it can find its nanosecond.

And so, I announce that my books are now available as e-books on Amazon for its Kindle readers. For the moment, I have stopped tilting at windmills and will go with the mainstream (read–tsunami.) My sister loves her Kindle. She reminds me of this, all the time. I see it in the grocery store, people reading in line. The marketing experts tell us that gum, candy and tabloid purchases are down, because folks in the queue are busy with their smartphones. The impulse purchase has moved online. And now, for better or worse, so have I.

So, if you have a nanosecond or two, check them out—The Emma Caites Way and The Gift of Guylaine Claire—now available, instantaneously, at an on-line retailer near you.

 

 

 

 

Revealing

A.V. Walters

Skov painting

After almost a decade of owning it, I finally cleaned a painting today. I haven’t done that in a while, but once you learn the technique, you’ve got it. The painting needed cleaning the whole time but I was afraid. Sometimes you buy a painting, liking the muted hues you see, only to clean it and find it garish, or not just right anymore. I wish I’d taken a “before” picture. This painting has a lot of pinks in the sky and I was concerned that, cleaned, they’d overtake the canvas. I needn’t have worried. Even ninety years ago, the artist had more sense than that.

If you read The Emma Caites Way, you’ll see that art restoration is actually a part of my background. It’s an interesting way to learn more about art. I’m taken with the plein air paintings of the Arts & Crafts period. I like how the artist, on the fly, can suggest light and space with a few deft strokes, or even just a well-informed line or a perfectly placed splash of color.

Generally cleaning a painting brightens it and more clearly reveals the artist’s original intent. It removes accumulated oils, dirt and smoke residue, helping to protect the canvas over the long haul. In the process you become almost intimate with the work. You have to work within the artist’s original brush strokes, gently wiping clean the grooves left by the bristles in his brush. If you work the surface too hard—or scrub—you can damage the original paint. The work is painstaking. When you’re satisfied that you’ve done as much as you can (or as much as the canvas will endure) you protect it with a thin layer of conservation varnish. By the time you finish, you really know the painting.

This Danish painting is from 1923, apparently painted in Tuscany—I don’t think there are olive trees in Denmark. The artist, Marius Skov, is a “listed” Danish artist, meaning that he was recognized in his time. The cleaning lifted nearly a century of grime and funk from his canvas. It’s brighter and clearer than I would have guessed. Indeed there’s a roadway (or maybe a river) in the foreground that I never saw before. It’s a surprise.

With a good cleaning, you expect to see more features in the bright areas. What surprises me is how much new detail is revealed in the shadows. The trees in the center, once just a blob of dark green, now reveal new colors and brushstrokes that weren’t visible before. And now the countryside is dotted with neighboring villas and farm buildings, previously lost in the haze. Even the distant hills undulate in new distinct shades of blue and purple.

Once, years ago, I cleaned a painting of a waterfall and pond, and found that it’d been partially painted over–a figure, a man fly-fishing, had been painted out, covered with bushes and shrubs to convert the painting to an elegant and simple landscape. Some research on the artist showed that his specialty was paintings of fishermen. The part of the painting that made it the most valuable as an example of this artist’s work had been obscured. Worse yet, the owner of the painting had liked it as a landscape and was disappointed by the appearance of this new interloper. I was torn–how was I to be faithful to the intent of the original artist and satisfy the owner?

It makes me think about writing. It’s easy to move the plot along “in the light,” to reveal the obvious. It’s another thing entirely to look into the dark parts of the story and to reveal the texture that informs how things go wrong. It might be enough to let your readers know that a character has done something vile, or selfish. Yet, the story is more telling if we can see the brushstrokes in that life that consummate in that act. I need to remember to look hard at both the light and the dark in my writing. (And the painting turned out okay, too.)

Digital Pickpockets

They say that you should check now and then. I didn’t really believe it, but, because they say you should, from time to time I do a Google search on my own book titles. Really, to be extra careful, one ought to Google a section of text, which might be a better test.

So it’s the end of the month and I ran through the Smashwords standard SEO search on both The Emma Caites Way and The Gift of Guylaine Claire. I didn’t expect to find anything unusual, just the routine references to my blog and the on-line booksellers who carry the books. In all honesty, it’s a rote thing; I’m not even sure what I’m looking for.

And then, there it was! An on-line retailer (who, until this is fully resolved, shall remain nameless) that was listing The Emma Caites Way for download as a PDF. Looking closer it gave the online “handle” for the individual who “shared” it, and that person was not me. Somebody was actually stealing my book and making it available for online download. Can you say copyright? A few more clicks confirmed my suspicions. I don’t know whether to be outraged or flattered.

It wasn’t even a very sophisticated theft. The Emma Caites Way is a particularly distinctive title. I did that on purpose. They didn’t change it—I guess because that way they ride my negligible marketing coattails. Nor did they remove my name from the PDF (a not impossible task.) One has to wonder how this can pay. I’m a pretty small-scale target, a self-published author with only a couple of books. That leads to the inescapable conclusion that they didn’t select me specifically. It’s no measure of the quality of the product. To make such a violation financially viable, this character would have to hit many, many authors and let the numbers do their work.

This must be pretty common. The website has a message to copyright holders who contend that their work has been illegally listed. There’s a form you fill out, the DMCA Complaint Form. (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) I guess that with this kind of theft so common, one needs to streamline the process. That’s another argument that this is about the numbers, not about someone who picked me, because of the content and quality of my work. I suppose it’s an argument against smashwords free downloads, but I hate to restrict that as a marketing option for a new author.

I filled out the form and submitted it. Someone on the other end will look at the information and no doubt delete the pirated listing for my “document.” And that will be that. There was a time when theft of copyright was at least a compliment.

Heads up out there. It’s probably not about the dollars and sense of it, but you do need to watch your back. Constant diligence, in this, and in everything.

Now Ya Tell Me

(Not that I shouldn’t have noticed)

A.V. Walters

I’ve just logged over a year of blogging, and I‘ve been looking for a way to commemorate the passage, accounting for it, now that I’m no longer a newbie. The assessment isn’t an easy one. I broke my own rule when I started. Usually when I begin a new endeavor, I first ask myself the critical question—what’s the objective? If you don’t do that, then you’re left with no way to measure the results.

I confess that I blogged because people kept telling me I had to do it. I’d already self-published my first novel, (The Emma Caites Way) with another in the pipeline, and my writing compatriots kept saying, “You need an online presence, you need to blog.” Because I have privacy issues, I have steadfastly resisted having anything to do with Facebook. I can’t bring myself to hand over my personally identifiable information to a company hell-bent on constantly changing the ground rules, and often without meaningful notice. (Now they tell me that I’m suspect because of my failure to have a Facebook page!) Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Conventional wisdom told me I had to have a presence; I had to play the game. It was, they said, the way to sell books. So I gave in and blogged. It’s been like starting out on a journey without a clear destination, a little bit of a ramble, but if you pay attention along the way, not without its rewards. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy blogging. It gives voice to my gardener, rural alter-ego, something I haven’t explored in my other writing. I’ve come to know some wonderful people (and a few, slightly off-center) along the way—all over the globe. Who knew? But I cannot say that the blog has sold a single book. If it has, there’s certainly no evidence of it.

I follow a number of other bloggers. Many of them are gardeners, science geeks, or (like me) wannabee writers. I think we quietly blog for each other, lulled into the rhythms of it, like a very exclusive, private club.

Maybe I’m a failure as a blogger. But this week I made a discovery. I regularly read the newsletter from CreateSpace. I especially read anything by Joel Friedlander. He’s affiliated with BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) where I’m a member (and an award winner for The Emma Caites Way—Hey, it’s all about self-promotion, isn’t it?) His presentations are always informative and substantive. So after reading his headline article this month, I clicked on another selection, Is Blogging Good for Fiction Writers? (https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-2031)

Oh my! He nailed me (and many of you, as well.) I’ve been blogging away for a year, apparently without a clue. Yes, most of my readers are other struggling fiction authors; and yes, many of the blogs I follow are self-publishers and writers. Since my books (Yes, I finished and published the second one, The Gift of Guylaine Claire, and a third is in the works), don’t have a clearly defined, common theme, (and if they did, it’s not what’s in my blog) this lovely ramble has been just that.  It’s a clear demonstration of the blind leading the blind. And, given the fiction writer’s conundrum, a blog isn’t likely to achieve any results beyond that warm and fuzzy sense of community that I’ve come to enjoy.

I’m not sure where this all leads. I can’t imagine abandoning the blog after all this—after all, there are relationships in it now. All I can say is, Now ya tell me!

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo– Cheaper Than Therapy
A.V. Walters

So, what finally got me writing? I’d meant to do it, literally for decades. I had outlines, ideas, concepts…you name it. Two things finally turned the corner for me. The first was the complete unraveling of my life. Convinced that there had to be more–maybe even something in it for me–I walked out of a twenty-eight year marriage. I moved to the middle of nowhere, in part because I sought to recover the rhythms of my rural childhood and in part because I was broke and couldn’t afford to stay in the city where I was. And there I was. If ever you thought that you were held back by the cloying demands of a relationship, freedom comes with the hefty realization that if you don’t do it now, you have no excuse. If you don’t do it now, you might just as well have stayed, stayed to dedicate your every breath to the needs of someone else and let the creative spark within you suffocate and die. So there’s a pretty good incentive.

But, how do you start? Admittedly, for a little while, drinking helped. But the real impetus was NaNoWriMo.

What the hell is that? National Novel Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo.org) It’s a nonprofit group on the net that sets aside the month of November to challenge anyone brave enough to try, to write a novel in thirty days. A friend turned me on to it. The goal is to write every day with the objective of completing 50,000 words by the end of the month. There is no prize, only a lot of support, nagging, wonderful and dreaded email updates and writing for the sake of it. Really, check it out. Honestly, I never finished the 50,000 words in a month. Too much for me–but I got far enough in that I couldn’t stop and the end result of that first NaNoWriMo effort was The Emma Caites Way, an award-winning 400+ page novel. My second attempt–still without being able to finish the challenge of 50,000 words–was The Gift of Guylaine Claire, the novel I just published (though that one took two NaNo cycles to complete, even though it’s shorter.)

I’m gearing up again for November–and I hope to substantially complete my current manuscript, The Trial of Trudy Castor (again, a second time around Nano effort.) If you’ve ever dreamed of trying your hand at writing, I totally recommend it. It’s a maniac vacation (especially if, like most of us, there’s still the day job and Thanksgiving to distract you) into a self-inflicted world of angst, release, charging on–regardless and losing oneself totally in the story. It’s wonderful and hell, all in one. Its pressures (about 1,700 words per day) shake you free of the inclination to dither and sharpen your pencils relentlessly. You have to just do it.

For me, it came at just the right (write?) time. I was phenomenally depressed. I didn’t know where my life was going. I did know that I could weave stories and thus it started. Now, this is not the best option if you’re thinking that becoming an author is the path to wealth and fame. (That’s really fiction.) Writing is worthy in and of itself. It lets you explore the you of you. It helps you sort out your story and your characters and gives you insight into the you who created them. It is centering and terrifying. Here I am, five years later and I still don’t know where my life is going. Don’t expect NaNoWriMo to solve all your problems. But I have written two perfectly acceptable novels. I am a writer. I find that in a lifetime of experience, the only place you can really tell the truth is in fiction. I will continue with this, because I enjoy it, and because it allows me to explore and express. It turns out there was more to the me of me.

And so, if you ever thought that there was a story in you, I invite you to give it a try. November is coming. Sharpen your pencils. Breathe deep and ….. go!

If you’re from a small town, you’re always from a small town. They don’t let go of you, they welcome you home when you visit and they celebrate your triumphs with you, even from afar.

 

http://www.mininggazette.com/page/content.detail/id/526936/In-the-Catbird-Seat-Joe-Kirkish.html

Today is the last day that The Gift of Guylaine Claire will be a free smashwords download. (Just go to smashwords.com and enter the book title) Coupon codes will be available in the future for reviewers, but you might want to dust off some space on the old hard drive. Tomorrow we’ll do the final edits (because someone from Australia kindly pointed out a few minor tweaks)(and thank you to the sharp-eyed folks Down Under, who’re snuggling up with a good book because it’s winter there) and then it joins the ranks of Not Really Recent News and takes its place on the shelf next to The Emma Caites Way. A print version will be out by the end of August.
After that, you’ll have to wait for January for the next release, The Trial of Trudy Castor.
Thanks again.

You heard it here first. The Emma Caites Way has won the Best Literary Fiction Award by the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA.) Formal Press releases and such needed, but we’re still at the jaw-hanging, stunned phase. I guess we should celebrate and, maybe, garden!

A.V. Walters
Home from the holiday. While I’m not one for hauling souvenirs post vacation, I did manage to bring home one whopper of a cold. And like out-of-focus pix of treasured monuments, I’m sharing this with my traveling companions, friends and family. Next time I’ll send postcards. This has put a crimp in my post-vacation style (Well, this and the pre-vacation collision with a suicidal deer that’s disabled my car.) I was supposed to be putting in the garden over the last couple of days, but have opted for ibuprofen and Benadryl cocktails instead.
The purpose of the trip, aside from, well, a vacation, was to snap pictures of relevance to The Emma Caites Way, for the website. Wait a week or so, until this cold clears up (for both me and photographer/editor/book designer extraordinaire, Rick) and then check to see the results on the website (TwoRockPress.com.) Maybe we will even have garnered some shots worthy of a cover for the upcoming release of The Gift of Guylaine Claire. It’s tough to tell such things when rambling in an anti-histamine fog. On the home front, something must have died out in the valley, because the buzzards have been circling. It makes me nervous, having a cold and all. In the meantime, the garden (and Rick’s weeds) wait…

Today the first chapter of my second novel, The Gift of Guylaine Claire will be posted on the TwoRockPress.com website. For those of you who liked The Emma Caites Way, we hope you’ll also enjoy the new book. It is a very different book, about life, the connections we build and the losses we sustain, with its roots in Canadian and French-Canadian history, art and sculpture. This book gave me a chance to explore my own Canadian connections and history. Full publication is expected at the end of this month.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Emma Caites Way, Smashwords.com still has a sample download available, as well as ebook purchase.

A.V. Walters

We’re official! It’s probably long overdue, but Two Rock Press finally has a website. I can’t take any credit, I’m a technical idiot. But our editor, Rick (who also has technical issues but is braver and more diligent than me), and our friend Paul, (who is a total techie wizard, who just shakes his head and sighs about us), have prevailed! I’m sure there are still glitches to be worked out, but it’s up and running. For information about The Emma Caites Way, or the upcoming, Gift of Guylaine Claire, visit us at tworockpress.com.

A. V. Walters

Food for Thought

I don’t generally include my political beliefs in my blog. Please bear with me, this rant is related to the topics of the blog, and after I get this off my chest I’ll retreat to my usual, bucolic subjects.

My blog includes issues of rural living, gardening and the slower, and possibly richer, human dynamics that go with a rural lifestyle. I’ve confessed to years of organic gardening, even when I lived in the city. What I haven’t revealed is the depth and length of my interests in food issues.

Back in the late seventies I did my undergraduate thesis on World Food Scarcity and Sustainable Agriculture. Even back then it was apparent that our efforts to export “modern” agriculture were wreaking havoc in the third world. A closer examination of those same practices here, revealed the early cracks in the crumbling view of American agricultural invincibility.Doesn’t anyone remember the Dust Bowl? It was time to look in the mirror. Even then, soil erosion, pesticide contaminated underground water supplies and the dangers of widespread monoculture were beginning to illustrate cracks in our agribusiness model. Some changes and improvements did occur–university extension programs hailed crop rotation (like it was a new concept) and alternative tillage approaches. But the solutions offered all came in the form of agribusiness management models and, at the encouragement of government programs, our farms began to look less like farms and more like chemically dependent corporate entities. We continued to lose old-style and family farms to corporate agribusiness. I became a believer in the alternatives.

After college, I kept my convictions about having a smaller footprint on the planet. I’m not perfect, but I knew (and know) that one person can make a difference. I supported California’s early efforts to develop organic standards. I grew much of my own seasonal food in my postage-stamp sized, urban, back yard. When possible (and early on, it wasn’t easy) I sought out and supported local organic farmers. I rejected fast food. I believe deeply in the value of cooking for oneself and those you love. I think sharing a quality, home-cooked meal with friends and family is the essence of civilization and one of the most enjoyable forms of social intimacy. I tried to convey the essence of those pleasures in The Emma Caites Way, as the characters bonded, sharing common goals and great meals. I am a slow food advocate.

For a brief while, in the late seventies and early eighties, I supported the idea that the then-new concepts of agricultural recombinant DNA (now called GE or GMO crops) could revolutionize agriculture in a good way. I thought there was promise in the concept, much as the Ford Foundation’s advanced hybrids had brought us short stalked rice–a boon to food production on marginal lands and in resource poor countries. (Yeah, like some earlier folks had hailed the then-new technology of television as a boon to education!) As the science developed, I was horrified when, instead, the technology brought us Frankenfoods and pesticide-resistant (or worse, pesticide-containing) crops–and all without adequate testing–not only of the impact of those crops on the consuming public, but also on the environment. How can a crop be a good thing if planting it requires ever increasing amounts of chemicals to be flooded onto the soil? Even worse, the very licenses under which these GMO seeds are sold prohibit further scientific review. We, the consuming public, were advised that the intellectual property rights of the Corporate Agribusiness Elite were more important than public safety. We are the guinea pigs. And we are expected to be satisfied with Monsanto’s and Dow’s assurances that these products are safe.

In a warning shot across the bow, a decade ago we saw the Gen-Star debacle, in which strands of wheat DNA were inserted into corn. No need for testing, we were assured, because the products were intended for animal consumption only. Yeah, right. Sure enough, this restriction was ignored and human food products were manufactured from this FrankenCorn. People with wheat sensitivities reacted. Products were pulled from the shelves and the government of Mexico protested that the crop was grown, without disclosure or permission, in Mexico, where the original seed stock that made modern corn possible lives. I cannot begin to explain how important that fact is–because of the dangers of gene stock contamination.

I am one of those chemically sensitive people. I can’t tolerate scented products. I have food intolerances and serious food allergies. I can’t take most antibiotics. My life became much easier in the mid-nineties when food labeling meant that I could go to the grocery store, like a regular person, and read the labels to see whether I could eat the processed foods. Now everyone reads labels to check for vitamin content, or sodium, or sugar. Labeling empowers us to take control of our diets without having to grow all our foods in the backyard. (Not that it stopped me from doing so.) When food labeling was first proposed, the food industry screamed that it would be ruinously expensive, that it would result in lost trade secrets or secret recipes, that businesses would fail and that consumers weren’t sophisticated enough to use the information anyway! Pshaw! The world didn’t end. Millions of Americans assiduously read food labels today. We accept without question that we have the right to know what we’re eating.

Which brings me to my soapbox today. (What, you thought I was already on one?) We have the right to know. I want to know what I’m eating and I have that right. In my case, cross-contamination of foods could result in illness or life-threatening allergic reactions. The Gen-Star incident showed us that GMO crossed foods could result in triggering food allergies in unsuspecting sensitive people. You don’t have to be for, or against, GMO agriculture to recognize that Americans have the right to literally put their money where their mouths are. In my case, it is a critical question. But every consumer has the right to align their dollars with their convictions. To do so, you have to know. According to the average grocery cart, most Americans are already eating GMO foods, though polls show that under thirty percent of us think so. Today, over 50 countries (covering 40% of the world’s population) require GMO labeling. It’s shocking that we’re so far behind the curve.  A California initiative currently collecting signatures would require labeling of food products that contain GMO materials. It’s that simple–you disclose your ingredients and let the consumer decide. It’s a pretty American kind of solution to a thorny problem. I urge all Californians to sign the petition for The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012 and to support it in the election in November. It’s a no-brainer.

And now, if someone could help me down off my soapbox…(that’s an unscented soap soapbox.)

A.V. Walters

I’m weaving again, after a lapse of 15 years. I’m working on rag rugs, always one of my favorite projects. Rag rugs are quintessential American frugal and still they come out beautiful. I like the idea of making something utilitarian and attractive out of materials that have already exhausted their useful lives. I’m not a skilled weaver. I’m anal and dyslexic and I have to think for almost every throw of the shuttle, “Under or over on the first thread?” Still there is a rhythm to it that is soothing. Time passes, your hands do the work and your mind wanders and solves problems you didn’t even know you were having. I started the weaving to remind me of the process. One of the characters in a book I’m writing is a weaver.

I’m stalled on the book, Victorian Rules of Grieving, so I’m going through the motions hoping to re-connect to the characters. The book is a sequel to The Emma Caites Way, which I wrote when I first came to Two Rock. From the start I knew the new book would address some issues about loss (hence the title) with largely the same cast of folks from Emma. Then, my dad got sick.

It’s tough to deal with the same issues in fiction and in life simultaneously. As his illness progressed, it became more and more difficult to work on the book. I couldn’t even edit the second book (The Gift of Guylaine Claire) let alone deal with his illness. A year ago my dad passed away and I’m finally ready to look back at the grieving process and incorporate it into a story that will probably end up richer for the experience. Trust me, this is no way to deepen your literary bench.

Shortly after he died, I had a very detailed and full dream, that came with characters, plot and even a title, The Trial of Trudy Castor. It’s a hoot, a depression era speakeasy-rumrunning tale of crime and intrigue. I started writing it immediately. My dad would laugh. He loved my grandfather’s stories about running booze on the Canadian border. I figure the dream was a kind of gift from my dad. So, for the first time I’m writing two books at the same time. Oh yeah, and helping with the edit of Guylaine. It doesn’t rain but it pours.

That’s what brings me back to weaving. Each day I go out to the loom (which is in an unheated room, formerly a balcony that was enclosed–and then another balcony added on–don’t get me started) and I weave four or five inches. This particular rug has a history to it. I made a comforter cover out of two sheets, back in the 70s. I used it for decades. It drove my sister crazy. She couldn’t believe that I was still using ‘that old thing.’ I’d tell her each time, “But it’s not worn out yet,” and she’d sigh. Finally it did wear out and I saved the fabric. I know it will drive her crazy to see this reincarnated rug. So I’m weaving. As I do so, the story returns and the characters become more solid. It’s a good way to make good use of a gloomy winter day. It’s too early to rifle through the seed catalogs. I have a million things to do, but this weaving is centering. In a week or so, I’ll have a rug. I’d show pictures, but I’ve never been able to figure out how to upload them.

A. V. Walters

Errata

This business of editing is a full time occupation. Just when you think it’s finished, something else comes along. The Emma Caites Way was edited a number of times, by me, and by others and finally by Rick Edwards (a number of times). Each time I was shocked by how many errors had slipped past our notice. Worse, sometimes editing actually added errors in a terrible dance of sentences mangled in the word processing mill.

Along the way of creating the story, some things changed. One of the characters, not a major one but certainly an identifiable person in the story, was originally named Rick. He wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy individual, so Rick (the editor) edited Rick (the character) out of existence and the character Rick, became Tom, a not exactly warm and fuzzy individual.  Except one of our readers contacted us and pointed out that there’s a place in the book where Rick (the character, not the editor) is still peeking out between the lines! (Well, actually, in a line.) Whatever happened to global changes through Word!?? Sigh.

When the print version of The Emma Caites Way came out, I (the author) almost immediately found two punctuation errors. Then Rick (the editor) found a mangled sentence. Then our reader found The Ghost of Rick, the character (not Rick, the very warm and fuzzy but not perfect editor.) To our readers: I’m really sorry, we keep working at it and we will correct the errors. Feel free to keep pointing them out. We’re compiling a list for our first (and, with any luck, the only) revision.

Thanks for your support, your patience, and your keen powers of observation

Two Rock Chronicles is the official blog of Two Rock Press. The blog will be a show place for our authors and editors. Check here to share with us what’s new at Two Rock Press.

Recently we published our first novel, The Emma Caites Way, by A.V. Walters. First released as an eBook on smashwords.com on November 1, 2011, it quickly became a smashwords bestseller. Following that demonstrated initial interest, The Emma Caites Way was released in print and is available through Amazon. We anticipate the release of A.V. Walters’ second novel, The Gift of Guylaine Claire, later this winter.

We hope that you’ll get to know our contributors through the pages of our blog.