Archives for posts with tag: literature

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving!

Guylaine Claire Cover jpg

On Monday. And I forgot to send a card.

No, really, usually I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with a turkey and the whole traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is my favorite of all holidays. What’s not to like, eh? A day in which we get to reflect on the good we have in our lives—and to share it with those around us. (Of course I do American Thanksgiving the very next month.)

This year there’s just no time. Rick and I are struggling to get as much building done as we can, while the weather holds. There’s an oversized helping of thanksgiving in that, too. So what is missed, is sharing.

So, to share the day, for Canadian Thanksgiving, I’m offering my most Canadian novel, The Gift of Guylaine Claire*, as a free Kindle download on Amazon. It’s available, Monday only at:

http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Guylaine-Claire-V-Walters-ebook/dp/B00CMYC8LG/ref=la_B008AL153M_1_2_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413081503&sr=1-2

You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy this offer. Because everything is marketing, if you enjoy the book, please let me know, or post a review on Amazon or GoodReads. In the spirit of the day, feel free to share the link.

Thank you, and have a wonderful holiday.

 

*Readers’ alert, my sister says this is a two-box-of-Kleenex book, but maybe she’s just a sap.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ripples…

A.V. Walters–

ripples

Sometimes there are crystalized moments in your life, moments that are loaded in a way that forms who you will be, or that define a new direction that your life will take. I’m fascinated at how a chance event can snowball to construct an entirely different version of you, than the expected path might have yielded. You may not even know it at the time but, upon reflection, you can see how the impact of that moment left its fingerprint on you, and maybe on others around you.

We all have answered those “pivotal” questions, “Where were you when…” But they reflect a wider sensibility—that of a community or a nation. And I don’t doubt that those incidents that form the arc of history have an impact overall. What I’m talking about here, though, are the more personal moments—the AHA! events that took who you were, an instant before, and then mapped a new direction for who you became as a result.

 

From time to time, in this blog I’m going to address those ripples—in my life, and in the lives of those I know. I invite you to ponder your own circuitous paths, and how the “you” of today emerged. Feel free to share.

 

The Magnificent Radovini Brothers

stick built

We were stair-step kids, arriving with catholic regularity, one, nearly every year. Before long, our standard issue, three-bedroom tract home was too small, owing to our lopsided gender distribution. When the time came that my brother, the only boy, really needed a room of his own, we four girls were too much for the other bedroom.

My parents own interests were running out of space, too. My father’s woodworking and my mother’s new involvement, in the world of clay, were spilling out of the utility room and into the kitchen. So, my parents took the plunge. Together they sketched out a plan to expand our home to make enough room for our wild tribe, and enough for all the different things we did. An architect made their dreams into plans and the bank gave the go ahead. My parents found builders, the highly recommended Radovini Brothers. These young men accepted the job, but warned that, in the middle of it, they’d be taking off for two weeks for a long planned family reunion. As long as the project was enclosed before they left, and then finished before the end of the summer, my parents didn’t mind. How could they? They understood family.

It was high theater for us. It was summer and we were off school so we could watch. They were doubling the size of our house, there was digging, with its piles of dirt and concrete, and finally, The Radovinis arrived. We loved them. They were five brothers with mops of dark hair and sun-bronzed skin. They worked shirtless. The neighbor women came to watch. The Radovinis worked and laughed and sang—sometimes opera, sometimes Italian folk tunes. The brothers harmonized, in their songs and in the rhythms of their work. They brought enormous lunches, which they unpacked from coolers with great ceremony. Food was important. They ate with great gusto, the jokes and ribbing continuing between bites.

It was like being visited by the circus. They were as charmed by us as we were by them, a string of blond towheads, following their every move like puppies, soaking in the aroma of pine boards, and watching the building take shape.

Our house grew by the day—faster even than we’d been told to expect. These men loved their work, and loved showing off their skills. Our jaws hung slack as we watched the drawings from the plans take shape in the air. It was a two-story addition and they were fearless—walking out on the thinnest of planks, twenty feet in the air, tossing up tools to the outstretched and ready hands of trapeze-artist framers. We tipped our heads back and shielded our eyes from the summer sun with cupped hands, to watch. How lucky we were to have found such tradesmen! As the time for their scheduled vacation approached, they worked long hours, determined to frame and sheath the structure before their trip—as promised.

The oldest brother approached my father. Were we happy with the work? Of course! Sheepishly, he requested that my parents advance the full contract price. The brothers were traveling across Canada for their reunion and wanted a “safety reserve.” My parents, thrilled with their work, were happy to oblige. Hell, they’d have adopted them if they could.

In their absence, we clamored over the new addition like squirrels. We collected nails and pieces of scrap wood—which we hammered into odd towers. When parents weren’t watching, we walked on the skinny joists, high above what would be our new garage. It was all so exciting–we could hardly wait for their return.

My father broke the news at dinner one night. We knew that something was up. My mother’s face was puffed and red. There’d been an accident. The Radovinis, they were going over the mountains—with most of the family riding in a travel trailer. A passing car clipped their trailer and forced it, and its tethered truck, over the edge. Four of them had been killed, along with their wives and children. The surviving brother would never walk again. With him, all that remained of this vibrant family was the elderly grandmother and an infant child, who’d remained home. The singing and laughing, gone.

My parents never mentioned the money. And, from that day, we became builders. My dad rolled up his sleeves and learned. His weekends became building time. We were his cadre of conscripted workers, little fingers stuffing insulation around windows, holding the end of the measuring tape and carrying tools and supplies. He learned wiring and plumbing and tiling (Oh My!) So did we. He harnessed his intense fear of heights to finish the roof and upper walls. We learned to put our fears in context. Money was tight, but skills we could learn. We became a family that built what we needed. We never shied from what willing hands could perform. It took my parents, and us, ten years to finish, but it was done, and done well.

That continues to today—not a professional builder in the bunch, but my siblings, mostly girls, are not strangers to the working end of a hammer. The Radovinis came into our lives nearly five decades ago. Right now, I am poised at the largest project of my adult life—my husband and I are building a home. As I wrote this, the concrete truck arrived to pour the footings.

 

Pouring Footings

Pouring Footings

In my minds eye, I can see the Radovinis, perched, straddling the skeletal ribs of our new roof, drinking ice water from re-filled Coca-Cola bottles. They chug it down and pour the rest over their heads, laughing and working in the summer’s heat.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again–well, it’s late for that time of year. For some reason I always miss the true peak of pruning season and sneak it in, just before the whole thing starts to bloom. So today I’m doing three trees and the roses.

The pyracantha ought to be a shrub, but before I got here someone let it go and it was a tree–dropping its litter and berries all over the roof. I’ve been pruning it shorter and shorter each year. I’m trying to make it into an arch over the sidewalk and now, after six years, it’s finally started to take some shape. I also do the annual whack at the buckhorn. It’s a shame, really. It was planted next to the house–as though it were a shrub. Unfortunately, in its natural state it would be a lovely, large tree. Elmer, the landlord, wants a shrub, though, so each year I whack it into a sad version of its real intentions. I feel guilty doing it, but the alternative is that Elmer will. I love the man, but he is a plant butcher. So I undertake the annual ritual of pretending that you can, year in–year out, cheat nature. The buckhorn should never have been planted next to the house. Ultimately, if left to its own devices, its roots can, and will, destroy the foundation. I have trouble with this. One of my pet peeves is the short-sighted planting of trees. In any planting scheme, one should always consider the soil, the light and the size of the proposed tree as it will fit into the existing landscape. In that regard, this farm is a constant test of my patience and reserve. And finally, I’ll trim the peach tree.

The peach has it’s own history, as previously discussed in this blog. It was infected with peach curl when I came, and finally, last summer (after stripping all the leaves) we had a curl free season. The tree grew lots of new, lovely, healthy branches. It has never looked so good. So I’ll trim it with a mind to an improved shape and maximizing this year’s crop. It bears lovely peaches. Pruning the peach has its own hazards. It’s planted on a mound in a rock garden. The rocks are large–and tippy. Under one side of the tree, amidst the treacherous rocks, some enterprising garden fool has buried a large, Victorian era bathtub. I guess it’s supposed to be a water feature, though usually it’s just a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Over all of this, is a groundcover–vinca major, whose job it is to obsure one’s footing enough to guarantee a dip in the very cold, murky water of the tub, should you try to prune in the winter. I’ve fallen in once already today. The mounded garden makes it impossible to water the peach tree. The rocks and tub make it impossible to use a ladder safely in pruning. This is the kind of tree placement that is typical on this farm. It’s a good thing Elmer makes his living with livestock.

That’s what’s new on the farm. My personal life has been a roller coaster of personal trials this past month, so the pruning comes at a good time. Pruning is a very reflective chore–each cut a set of decisions about shape and future direction. I love it. It is as close as one gets to sculpture in adult life. I’m pruning in my life, too, making decisions about future directions. So there are parallels to this winter chore.

I’ve returned to writing–jumping into The Trial of Trudy Castor as though I’d never stopped. It’s funny how you can leave a story–for months even, and then pick right up with it, like an old friend. In my recent tumult, I’ve neglected my marketing on the last book The Gift of Guylaine Claire. It’s not nearly as easy a read as the first book, though I think it’s the better of the two. I also think that the French Canadian name, right there in the title, inhibits interest. We shall see. In the interim, I’m offering a free download of it–good through the tenth of March. If you have an e-reading device, feel free to download it through smashwords.com. Enter the coupon code  VH78Q at check out. If you like it, please leave a review on goodreads.com (or, if you must, on Amazon)–or comment here on the blog, if you prefer. I look forward to some input.