Archives for posts with tag: editing

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

A.V. Walters

Garden Starts

I don’t know why I’m surprised by it; it’s the same every year. It’s as though someone pulled the plug and then all the green runs out of the landscape. It starts at the top of the hills, and in just a few weeks, we go from spring green to that golden-straw color that says summer in California.

Last week when we got home it was still green here, but flying in, over the Central Valley, I could see that the hills and everything east of us was already dry. We usually get a longer run of it in Two Rock—through June, usually. But this year’s dry winter is leaving its mark. Between last week and now, our hilltops have turned from green to gold. Where they’ve cut hay has gone gold. Yesterday there were deep ridges of cut hay, showing the contours of the hill. We wanted a photo of it—in the elongated evening light—but before that could happen, they’d bailed it and now the hill is punctuated with lines of square dots like a computer punch-card.

The bottom of the valley is still green, and near the creek it’s even lush. The pond is shrinking by the day, and only a few, stubborn egrets remain.

Today, with our head-colds in check, we finally started putting the garden in. We’d dug in the buckets the first week of May, so I was surprised that the soil in them was still loose and soft. It made planting a breeze. We put starts in 38 buckets—about half tomatoes and then some squash (more to come), peppers, eggplant (more of these too), and cucumbers. The rest will filter in over the next couple of weeks, and then there’s just watering and weeding.

Since we have the advantage of being pre-plowed, it’s odd to be planting and weeding simultaneously. But, the interval of absence, since the early May plowing was enough for weeds and (and quite a few, volunteer squashes) to get going so, Rick hoed the long garden. I have trouble eradicating vegetable volunteers but he’s an editor, amongst other things, so cutting things out (except being a smart-ass) doesn’t bother him at all. We’re not sure what kinds of squashes these were—last year, we turned out a bumper crop of four kinds of summer squash and at least twice that number of varieties of winter squash. But the plow spreads the seeds and there’s no telling what’s what but, judging by general location, we think most were yellow, patty-pans—they weren’t too popular, so a lot were left where they stood. (Won’t be planting them again, anytime soon.)We’ll let the “escaped” potatoes stay to see how they fare with the gophers. They were planted in bins, with bottoms, but in the early plowing this spring, Don wasn’t watching where he was going and he mangled the bins, spreading potatoes throughout that whole corner of the main garden. So, we shall see.

This year’s garden is a bit of a cheat. Usually we start a lot of our own seeds. This year, however, the trip away interrupted that, and we couldn’t rely on folks here to make sure that starts would be watered while we were gone. I know that sounds odd—well intended farm people not taking care of the garden—but, I speak from experience. (I think I’ve mentioned that this is not a dirt farm.) We decided we’d put in store-bought starts on our return. That’s a much more expensive garden approach than that to which I’m accustomed, but there it is. We’ll fill in with seeds—lettuces, radishes, beets and such.

We were running errands the other day and came upon an innocuous sign reading, “Vegetable Starts” with an arrow pointing down a rutted country lane. “Turn there!” I said, but, too late. So, we circled around and came back. We carefully worked our way down a terrible road in a borrowed car with bad shocks. (My car’s not back from the shop yet and, beggars can’t be choosers.) Finally, like a breath of fresh air, there it was. Senk Farms.

It’s a wonderful little operation, many kinds of vegetables, at very reasonable prices, lavender, honey, pick-your-own strawberries, home made jams.  Their starts are healthy, appropriately sized in their containers (not root bound) and lush. They had the widest variety of heirloom tomatoes I’ve seen this year! They had everything except pony rides for the kids. The women running it were very, very nice and helpful. Who knew that that unpretentious little sign would lead to the solution to this year’s garden dilemma? We gathered up the little pots and she came over with boxes. I went to write her a check—and, pointing, she told me just to put in the slot in the wall. They run on the honor system! Did I fall into a time warp? It makes me want to spend my money there. Later, I checked them out online—and they list their vegetable selection for the year, complete with what’s low and what’s gone already. I think I’m in love. We were going to finish the garden up from seeds, but now I think I’ll go back to Senk Farms for one more round.

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