Archives for posts with tag: “The Gift of Guylaine Claire”

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.

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.

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!

 

 

 

Another View of Saint Kateri

A.V. Walters

Today, the Vatican is Canonizing a fresh batch of Saints. It’s sort of the “Hall of Fame” of the truly faithful. It’s interesting to note the blend of those selected–they don’t make new saints everyday, ya know. Among them is Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, “The Lily of the Mohawk.” This is notable because it’s the first time a North American, indigenous person has ever been granted saintly status. It seems that every 350 years, or so, they get it right.

A closer look at Kateri reveals that she presents with many attributes similar to the female saints of the middle ages. She was a young woman–of high rank (the daughter of a chief and then, when her parents succumbed to a small pox epidemic, the adopted daughter of her uncle, the new chief.) Small pox had left her scarred and partially blind–yet she still had opportunities for marriage, which she declined. Like many of the early European saints, the level of commitment to her faith was out of step with the expectations of her community. It was not regarded with favor, at least not during her lifetime. Kateri left her home and tribe, alone, and walked hundreds of miles north, to a tribe where she would be welcome because that tribe had fully adopted the new Christian faith. Disturbingly, she advocated harsh self-abdication–even to the point of endangering her already compromised health. She was a great friend to all, and dedicated herself to a life of service and toil. She died young–in her early twenties. On her deathbed, the first of her miracles was reported by the Jesuits who attended her. With her last breath, the disfiguring scars of smallpox were reported to have disappeared from her face. In the eyes of God, everyone is beautiful and equal.

It’s a story about finding a place for smart, uppity, young women. Scholars have noted the similarity between the female saints of the middle ages and young women of the modern era who suffer from anorexia or cutting behaviors. From a psychological perspective, unusually saintly behavior is coupled with refusal to adhere to the gender-determined norms of the day. It’s a narrow avenue of control by those whose social options were more limited than the powers of their intellectual, or spiritual, capacity. Not that I want to discourage selfless devotion to a cause–that being one of the hallmarks of humanity–but today I hope that the pathways to self-realization for young people are more open than, well, martyrdom.

I discovered Kateri during my research for The Gift of Guylaine Claire. Her story was the perfect counterpoint to the title character–who was herself an odd fit in society. Guylaine had been raised in a loving home, one that, almost accidentally, found space for her to bloom creatively. Kateri’s tale mirrored the pivotal story of Guylaine’s indigenous grandmother, Claire, and tied into some of the central themes of my book. Kateri was so perfect, that if I hadn’t found her, I would have had to invent her. Her actual role in the book, as the subject of one of Guylaine’s sculptures, is minor but thematically she is woven in throughout the story in terms of forgiveness, transcendence and making one’s own way. Kateri was drawn to her faith, despite the fact that her tribe blamed the “Black Robe” Jesuits for the very epidemic that had taken her family. In an odd way, both she and her tribe were correct in their convictions. So, today we celebrate the recognition of a young woman challenged by personal circumstance and race. Maybe we can all learn from it.

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

Serendipity

A.V. Walters

How curious, that something I researched years ago, intended to play a small part in The Gift of Guylaine Claire, would surface as a current events issue simultaneously with the publication of the book.

I was looking for a concept sculpture, something to tie Guylaine to her indigenous roots and to Canadian history. (Something beyond the famous Maisonneuve monument in Montreal.) Even in fiction I like to find actual historical events that give my work texture and depth. In my search, I found Kateri Tekakwitha. Kateri was perfect. Her story mirrored the story I’d created for Guylaine’s grandmother, Claire, in that she was a native Christian convert, whose family and tribe ostracized her for her conversion. And, like Claire, her faith was deeper than that of those who’d lead her to it. Her childhood affliction with smallpox left her partially blind and disfigured and yet she was not bitter. She traveled hundreds of miles alone through the wilderness to find a community that would accept her. There, she lived a short life of service. Kateri is historically documented, as are many of the miracles attributed to her. In short, Kateri was a dream story come true as a subject for my fictional French-Canadian/Métis sculptor. She became a small part of the Guylaine Claire story.

It turns out that, after three and a half centuries, Kateri is about to finally achieve the ultimate recognition for her toil. On October 21, the Roman Catholic Church will canonize her as Saint Kateri. She will be the only First Nations individual to ever be so recognized. (Saints don’t just come along every day, you know.) Her story straddles the current day borders of New York and Quebec so she will be celebrated as an American, Canadian and First Nations Saint.

The Gift of Guylaine Claire is not exactly a glowing endorsement of traditional Catholicism. It is, however, a tribute to finding one’s own transcendent path regardless of any specific belief system or circumstance, in an atmosphere of forgiveness, loving and tolerance.

And with that, I announce the print release of The Gift of Guylaine Claire. It is now available* at your online retailer or, by request, at many fine brick-and-mortar book stores.

 

*also available as an ebook through Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook outlets.