Archives for posts with tag: language

Social Media Angst

A.V. Walters

They say you’ve got to do it. An author, especially a self-published author, has to have an online presence. I have resisted. Not that you’d notice from this blog, but I’m shy. (Really, you can be opinionated and shy, at the same time.) I have an inherent distrust of corporate ethics and, to engage in social media, you have to trust them with your personal information. They said I had to blog, so I blogged. Not that I regret it, but later when they acknowledged that a blog don’t do diddly for a fiction writer, I felt some relief. Now they say I’ve got to go on social media. I blanche. My chest tightens and my brain becomes waterproof, impervious to new information. Facebook. LinkedIn. Google+. I shudder.

Toe in the water, I’m now on Facebook and Google+. (Check it out, AV Walters) I know that registering is just the first step. I’m supposed to post regularly, to engage with the world through technology. Sheesh. I see them, my friends, with their faces glued to the screen. They’re following the cartoons and Youtube links sent by their friends. But, the day is beautiful. And, there’s gardening to be done. Still, the steady glow from the screen has them in its grip.

I don’t know. Just all part of the grand experiment, I guess. I still think you need to actually live a life in order to report on it. If this enhances the experience of living—I’m all for it. If it’s a substitute for living, well, I’ll see you in the garden.

And, here’s the irony of it—I’ll be blogging my impressions. Go figure.

 

 

 

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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!

A.V. Walters

I’ve been tapped…

I’ve been blogging away, quietly, for months now and, suddenly, I’ve been tapped for a bloggers’ award. (A Bloggie?) I’m a little surprised, since my blogging efforts have been, well, quiet. It is very sweet to have someone you’ve never met (but yet, have come to know) reach out and give you the nod to let you know that your efforts are appreciated. Thank you Sarah—half a world away and still a part of this strange, new kind of community.

I understand that there are rules about these things—which has delayed my response, a little. So, for those people that I will, in turn, nominate, the summary of those rules is:

a) You must thank the individual who has nominated you;

b) You have to turn around and tap ten others, to recognize them with the same award;

c) You need to tell seven things about yourself that you haven’t already revealed in your blog, and;

d) You must post the award symbol somewhere in your blog.

For me, the most difficult will be the seven revelations. Blogging was a challenge, for me, from the start because I so jealously guard my online privacy. I don’t do Facebook or the kind of personal, social media that is readily available. Some years ago I had an unfortunate experience with a stalker and I learned how cautiously one had to guard one’s sense of privacy. All the writers and self-publishing folks said I had to Facebook, and tweet, and blog (oh my!)  There was no way I would do Facebook (or, the pictorial kinds of “sharing.” I hate to break it to the Facebook folks, but those aren’t real friends. It took me almost a year to agree to do an author photo and, even then, I did it as a spoof. So, I decided to try blogging instead.

In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, I was dragged into it—but you wouldn’t know it once I started. I’ve found that I really enjoy sharing that one little corner of my life—a rural/gardening perspective. It’s an important sliver of who I am. I find solace and warmth and humor in the everyday of rural life. It has almost nothing to do with my more formal writing, so far there’s not even a gardener in any of my books. (What’s up with that, eh?)

I’m not a very good blogger. I am forever getting notices that tell me I need to “optimize my online presence.” I just shudder. I’m not technical, can’t even figure out how to post photos—there’s no way I could do all that technical stuff to “reach out to a wider audience.” I can’t even get the Twitter feed thing going. I have no idea how the people who did find me, did so. I laugh when I read the word searches that brought people to my blog—usually about gophers, or bucket farming, or some poor soul desperate for a solution to those damned noisy mourning doves. (And I have no remedies to offer that don’t come from the end of a double-barrel. Sorry.) But blogging seems to have stuck and, whether it sells books or not, I seem to be here, to stay.

Thank you

As for this award, I’m touched to have been recognized. (“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”) So, thank you, Sarah the Gardener. I’ve loved watching and hearing about your garden, in its Down Under oppositeness. I’ve learned from you just as I hope others may have picked up a tidbit or two from me. (For example, until your last entry I didn’t know pepper and eggplants were so temperature fussy for germination. I thought I had bad seeds! One of this year’s eggplants seedlings came up after eight weeks, and there was Sarah, explaining to me just why.) So thank you, thank you, thank you (and the seedlings thank you, too.)

There are others…

I have come to enjoy many other bloggers. I’ll nominate the ten, but there are more. These ones are special because they showed me that there are others who take the garden pleasures seriously. I am not the only one whose very favorite thing is to go out to the garden to see what’s for dinner. There are some blogs that I follow just because they make me laugh, sometimes uncomfortably so. And finally there are blogs from whom I learn and enjoy a little different perspective, even wickedly so. They are, in no particular order:

1) Soulsby Farm, A Very Small Farm—for giving me faith that there are younger people out there reaching back into our agricultural heritage. http://soulsbyfarm.wordpress.com/

2) Planthoarder—for a glimpse of gardening and what’s in the weather back home and totally luscious photos. http://planthoarder.wordpress.com/

3) A Stay at-home Scientist—for a touch of gardening and a spoonful of science that speaks directly to the heart of this wonk. http://stayathomescientist.com/

4) Cristian, because he’s very, very, young, and yet runs full tilt at writing what matters to him, and because he has his own aesthetic. http://cristianmihai.net/

5) Catherine Caffeinated because she gives out pep talks and dispenses the self-publishing scoop (at least her version) unselfishly and with a dollop of humor. (Though the pink is a little much.) http://catherineryanhoward.com/

6) All the fearless contributors at Fresh Ink, for their bravery and for providing and using a platform to showcase new writers. http://fresh1nk.wordpress.com/

7) For the chronicler of Joe’s Shitty Ideas, because you make me laugh and sometimes wince. http://joesshittyideas.com/

8) Clotilda Jamcracker, because she gardens, she has a wild perspective, she’s a hoot and makes me think. http://www.clotildajamcracker.com/

9) Dianne Gray, because she writes, and writes about writing and takes her characters as seriously as other people. http://diannegray.wordpress.com/

10)  A French Garden, because she has lovely photos, she gardens with sincerity and she’s so brave to have picked up and followed a dream. http://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/

And now the damnable revelations……

1. I have a cat named Kilo (No, not that! Because when I rescued him he weighed 2.2 pounds) and my cat has a cat, named Bob.

2. I’ve known all about the Hispano-Suiza since was about four because my dad thought it was important and loved to hear us little kids say it. Excellence at all cost!

3. I just learned that you can eat pumpkin greens! (Not that I’ve tried them, yet.)It’s a good use for those creeping vines once you know that you’ve got all the pumpkins you need (and, then a little, in case the gophers get them.) One year we went to harvest a lovely pumpkin, only to find the gophers had hollowed it out and eaten the interior then, stuffed it full of dirt! (It was actually, pretty impressive.)

4. I am a news junkie and a policy wonk. Moving to the farm helped a lot because it made me cut back on my news sources. Of course, you could keep busy full-time, just on the net… At least I got rid of the television.

5. I am not a technical person. I can’t even put a photo in the blog! (I don’t have a camera, and couldn’t transfer the photos if I did. (There’s only so much begging one can do… Rick?) I almost rejected this award because of the requirement that you post the award logo on your blog. I’ll have to figure it out.

6. I just sent two pounds of Manzanita ash to my mother in Michigan.

7. In 1974, I was an E.C.S.S.A. cross-country running champion. (Yeah, go a ahead, figure that one out.)

And, that’s it. I addressed all the responsibilities of this awesome honor and I can now go back to regular blogging… once I figure out how to post that darn picture. (Rick?)

 

A.V.Walters

We have settled into our normal summer weather pattern. That’s warm (80s) days and cool nights, fueled by ocean fog. It slows down the garden some, but makes this valley extremely livable. You can watch its magic, just before dusk when the winds from the west sweep in a low ‘cloud’ layer, that’s really high fog. Some evenings the sunlight streams in, below the fog, and its raking light illuminates the fields, revealing things you never see in mid-day.

This pattern lets us reap the benefit of old-fashioned air conditioning—we open the windows at night and close them in the morning before the first glimpse of sunshine. It keeps the house in the 60s and 70s, regardless of the daytime highs. Each day the overcast, fog really, clears by about 10:00 am. This gives us marginally shorter daylight exposures, and, sure, that makes for a slightly longer number of days to harvest. It’s worth it. Because our daytime temperatures are also mediated by the ocean, we don’t get the blistering summer temperatures of the inland valleys. It keeps the grapes away. The grapes like really hot days.

Now, doesn’t that sound catty? The NorthBay area, famous for it’s stellar wines and acres of rolling vineyards, has agricultural flair, but sometimes lacks the depth of real farming. It is boutique and/or corporate. Throughout the north bay counties our organic farmers and Farm Trail participants keep it real. It’s only my opinion, but to keep the farm atmosphere, I think the investment side needs to have a stake in the game. Put simply, I like to see dirt under the fingernails. Elmer doesn’t do dirt, but, at an age when most would’ve retired, he still sweats the details of chickens and sheep. If the coyotes yip and howl at night, he wakes up to listen—are his flocks at risk? And he’ll roll out of bed to pull on his jeans and shoes if there’s something to be done about it.

I’m not against vineyards, but when I head inland and see those valleys covered with endless rolling fields of vines, I wonder just who is going to drink all that wine? And, from a gardener’s perspective, monoculture often means too much of a good thing. I believe in diversity.

These past four years have been telling for the grape growers. In this economy, who can afford twenty-dollar bottles of wine? It’s been a boon to cheap wine drinkers, but has put the squeeze on the vineyards. As the high end wines lost market share and reduced their ouptut, the quality vineyards have been forced to sell their grape juice to some of the lower end producers. For the savvy shopper, that spells pretty damn good wines at very reasonable prices. (She smiles as she licks her lips.)

Still, I like that our valley’s climate has kept us in more traditional agriculture. Even though we have great soils, our cooler climate makes real crop/vegetable farming a challenge. So these rolling hills are still host to chicken farmers, rangeland for beef cattle, and dairies.

A dairy is a strange kind of range. Around here we see old-fashioned dairies, where the cows primarily eat grass and the size of the operation is limited to how far a cow can walk twice a day. The dairy next door rotates its fields, and has extra land for harvesting hay. That hay feeds the cows once our dry summer hits and the green drains out of the landscape. We watch out the windows as the cows move from field to field, and every night and morning head in for milking, like city commuters. Right now the only green grass in sight is in the very bottom of the valley, which currently is crowded with cows.

The garden is in. Now we just water, weed and wait. We are behind, but I’m not worried about it. It’s not like last summer, when the fog lasted through the days and the garden just didn’t mature. Even with our late start, things are perking along nicely. We’ve had a couple of crook neck squash, tomatoes and cucumbers so far, with the promise of many more—copious flowers and many many baby green vegetables in sight. It’s a nice time to pause, count our blessings and catch our breath. After all, in a few short weeks we’ll be starting in with some of the winter vegetables, and there’s harvesting and canning to come. For now, we can let the bees do the work.

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

Gadabout, TMI

A. V. Walters

I spend more time than most, watching cows. The view out my back window looks out over the valley–which is peppered with cows. My front window looks across the land to the  dairy paddock, next-door,  for birthing cows. It’s essentially a cow delivery room. So, I see a lot of cows.

Still, I don’t quite get cows. It may not look like it, but they’re always doing something–ambling along with a lumbering gait in some kind of quasi, synchronized cow ballet. When I first arrived I noticed that the cows all faced one direction in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I watched for several weeks until I’d confirmed that, in fact, cows (like most of us) don’t much like the sun in their eyes. (It was news to Elmer, too. He’d never noticed, being a chicken farmer, and all.)

Often cows at rest, without any apparent provocation, will suddenly all head off together as though something’s up. Maybe there’s a feed truck, or not. Sometimes the cows will just get it in their heads that right now is the time for all of them to move, suddenly (though lumberingly), en masse, to the other side of the pasture, where they’ll proceed to do–absolutely nothing. It defies comprehension.

One day I noticed that a single cow at rest, would suddenly kick-up and bolt across the pasture. It happened over and over. This was new. I asked Elmer about it. He shrugged, “Maybe it’s heel fly season.”

“Heel flies?”

“Yup. They bite and lay eggs, right here,” he pointed down, to his ankle.

“Yeah, and then…?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t run cattle. But I know it’s not good for them, makes them cough. You watch’em, when they lay down and tuck their feet under, they’re protecting their feet. It’s not too bad here, real bad in the central valley.”

Of course, I had to look it up. Sure enough, there are heel flies. (Not that cows have much in the way of heels, mind you.) They’re also known as cattle grubs or warble flies. The story is, the eggs hatch and the larvae migrate through the body, feeding off the cow. Usually they mature in the chest cavity–making the cows cough. The parasite interferes with respiration and, in dairy cows, cuts down on milk production. With beef cattle (we have both around here) they fail to gain weight and, when the larva matures, it eats it’s way out, between the cows shoulders, ruining the hide. And I’m sure the cows aren’t too crazy about it, either.

This little, agricultural-science education was more gross than I was ready for. But wait, there’s more…

The term gadabout? It comes from gad, or gadding, which is “to be on the go, without a specific aim or purpose.” It describes the behavior of cattle taking evasive maneuvers from the damn heel flies. So a gadabout is a person who flits about socially. And a gadfly is either “any of various flies that bite or annoy livestock,” or, “a person who stimulates or annoys, especially by persistent criticism.”

And all that comes from the desperate sprints of righteously annoyed cows. More than you wanted to know, eh? Sometimes, that’s life on the farm. Makes ya kinda wanna settle in with your feet tucked underneath you…