Friday, January 22, 2021

January's Flying By . . .

 Does anyone else feel like this month is flying by faster than anticipated?

Writing kind of got set aside these first few weeks as we huddled around the television to await election results. Shocked by the mob that stormed the Capitol, I yet admired those Congressional representatives and staff who returned to count and affirm the votes of the Electoral College. That was an unforgettable January 6th.

On January 20th, I woke at dawn. CNN was already busy broadcasting 'getting ready for the inauguration,' and I watched the sun rise, the White House colored a rosy pink and gold. Now, just two days later, has Washington, D.C. settled down again as the Biden Administration gets to work? Along with many others, I hope so.

And then a Congressman tried to sneak a gun to work, despite those metal detectors. Aargh!

The pandemic creeps closer now, with friends reporting friends who are struggling with new diagnoses. We stay at home, sheltering in place, the quarantine sometimes stifling, but leavened with phone calls and the weekly visit with family in our bubble. And the writing beckons, despite doubts. So I shall persevere. 

Perhaps next week, I'll give you a better sense of what's happening to Moira and Dylan in Island Wife, the sequel to Standing Stones.  Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with a new price for Standing Stones

Let your friends know if they like historical fiction set in Scotland in the 1840's, a time and place far from where we are now. You just might find people struggling against injustice, a love story or two, and sheer courage to face down the challenges that seem to come along with every generation.

Be well, stay safe, and cherish each day!

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

IWSG Jan 2021: Into the New . . .

Into the new with a special treat:
An interview with Liesbet Collaert, author of an adventurous memoir, Plunge.

And it's the First Wednesday of the Month, which means time to connect with a wonderful community of writers who share their thoughts, hopes, doubts, and dreams in a monthly blog hop as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Check out this link and try to visit/comment on at least 12 writers' posts . . . You can do it!

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Before we 'plunge' into Liesbet's interview, here's IWSG's question for January 6thBeing a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

I almost hate to admit this but . . . missing punctuation and incorrect grammar on the first page are a serious distraction. Once I'm caught up in the story, I'm more forgiving. But that first page? Oofta! 

What else makes me stop reading? If the characters (yep, either male or female) are insensitive, exploitive, and brutal, I just don't want them in my head. Bad guys can be bad guys, but rape? Torturing children? Not going to read that. I don't expect HEA every time. Isn't that true to life? We don't always catch that golden ring. But I want to celebrate with my characters when they are successful, surmount obstacles, and create new and better worlds. Especially as we face into this second and challenging year of the pandemic, writing that affirms hope is important to me.

And now for that wonderful interview with Liesbet Collaert who so kindly and thoughtfully answered my questions about how she came to write her memoir, Plunge. How did I meet her? Right here on IWSG! 

How did you get started writing your memoir? Like many adventurers, probably, I stated “One day, I’ll write a book!” That must have happened after a second extended backpacking trip in South East Asia and Down Under when I was in my twenties. I managed to create hardcover photo albums (remember those?), but working full-time as a primary school teacher in Belgium didn’t allow for book writing.

When I returned to the US from a year-long RV trip in Mexico and Central America in 2007, I actually considered writing a travel memoir, came up with a structure, and jotted down ideas and notes. Nothing came of that project, because three months later, my husband and I were head-deep into sailing a new-to-us catamaran. This change of lifestyles turned into an eight-year sea journey during which I kept track of our experiences in blogs, diaries, and Word documents.

Once we finished our wanderings in the Caribbean and South Pacific and opted for a relatively settled life in the United States, I did get serious and determined about actually creating my debut memoir. It took five years of work – on and off depending on the logistics – before Plunge was published! I was most productive while we house- and pet-sat for months in other people’s homes. Barely anything got done when we were on the road in our camper van. 

What strategies did you use to organize your memoir?
I had a few well-defined goals in mind during the creation of my book: it had to be different from other sailing narratives and memoirs, written in the present tense to pull the reader into events and emotions to reflect my impulsiveness, and incorporate foreshadowing and flashbacks as well as be suspenseful. 

I never took writing classes or English literature (Dutch is my native language). I just followed my guts and cranked out the first draft, utilizing my memory, notes, and blog posts. This version was way too long! About twice as what I had in mind for the end product, an intense page-turner. Editing the manuscript required many takes and huge cuts. The final version – which I sent to a substantial editor for review – is a mostly chronological account of my tumultuous thirties with the previously mentioned elements intertwined.

How did you know when your memoir was “done”? As a perfectionist, I had the most difficult time to “let go” and call it quits. I can reread something forever, tinkering and polishing and improving! “Perfect doesn’t exist,” I had to tell myself. A friend’s advice helped as well: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

To be honest, I promised myself to publish Plunge in 2020 and made that my main focus of the year. This project had taken long enough. There was no time for anything else and still, I barely succeeded, as my travel memoir published on November 28th, my 45th birthday! Hiring a professional editor and cover designer caused unexpected delays. Writing the book is one thing, self-publishing it quite the other. It was extremely hard work, time consuming, and seemingly never-ending (as that perfectionist popped its head up again) with a steep learning curve.

Is your wonderful blog your primary connection with your readers? I’m a debut author, and my life consists of much more than writing. When I produced my sailing blog – It’s Irie – Sailing the World the Way It Is – from 2007 to 2015, comments weren’t much of a thing and I documented our travels for myself, my friends, and my family. My readership was benign and interactions rare.

Once my husband and I quit the cruising life and I started a new blog (Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary) about our lifestyle, I also reported on my progress as an aspiring author, once a month. Because of all these reasons, yes, my blog is the only thing that connects me with my readers as my readers so far are my blog readers. And my writing updates could act as a newsletter.

I appreciate and respect the readers of my blog tremendously. They make efforts effort to catch up on what’s going on, read what I have to share, and often comment. They dedicate some of their precious time to connect with me. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to me to reply to every single comment I receive. I enjoy the connections, conversations, and even real-life encounters that have ensued this way!

How do you come up with topics for your blog? This is easy. My subjects emerge from life. Unlike others, who attempt to break into a niche or monetize their blog, I don’t care about that. This allows me to write about whatever I want. It’s my blog. Topics come easy because of our exciting, alternative lifestyle, my (undesired) tendency to get in trouble, my never-ending thoughts and ideas, and my openness to chat about anything. Just like I will never get bored in my life, I will never run out of topics for my blog. 😊 Plus, there are always photo challenges or writing prompt challenges to participate in, if the mood strikes or the well threatens to dry up.

Do you belong to a community of writers? I envy writers who belong to an in-person writing or critique group. That would be so awesome and helpful. But, because I am a nomad, this will never be possible. Luckily, there is the internet and the ability to be a part of online groups. That being said, due to our non-stable resources, I am only a member of three non-committing Facebook groups – the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), the We Love Memoirs Author Group, and the Women Who Sail Who Write group – and participate in the monthly IWSG blog-hop.

By following other blogs, sometimes started by someone visiting my blog first, I have become acquainted with many fantastic, knowledgeable writers and maintain a good relationship with them. They are a helpful bunch and posing a question or inquiry by email or on a Facebook group often provides an answer.

Do you work with beta readers? Yes! When you read about the writing craft, you soon learn some important lessons. One of them – besides hiring a professional editor and utilizing proofreaders at the end – is working with beta readers. As a new author, it was hard for me to decide exactly when to do this. On hindsight, I should have waited before engaging them. The version my eight beta readers (from different backgrounds, relationship angles, and nationalities) received was too long. But, one of the main things I struggled with in year two of the writing process was what to leave in and what to take out. My beta readers were a tremendous help with so much more than tightening the prose and I am eternally grateful for all their feedback.

What is your biggest challenge ahead as a writer? Good question! Because I am a free-spirited, flexible, and frugal person, I actually possess a lot of freedom – to write or to pursue other pursuits. But there is one challenge, and this has always been the same challenge: my preferred lifestyle. Being a perpetual nomad, living, traveling, and working on the water or on the road is challenging and exhausting. Adding a writing schedule to that is impossible. It is no surprise or secret that I am most productive when settled somewhere with running water, unlimited electricity, and reliable internet for periods of time. Yet, often to my companions’ and my own frustration, I keep trying to combine my two passions. I am faced with a question that has repeatedly haunted me: do I keep traveling, or do I focus on my writing? How do I find a healthy balance?

Links for Plunge! 
Social Media & Blog Links
Plunge! Book Blurb 

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?

Thank you, Liesbet, for sharing your thoughts about writing your wonderful and inspirational memoir. May this New Year bring you -- and all of us -- good health, happiness, a sense of peace, many more adventures, and many more opportunities to write!