Archives for posts with tag: “The Emma Caites Way”

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!