Tuesday, January 31, 2012

writing: I'm stuck

Problem:  During the early stages of a writing project, I grow discouraged with my lack of finesse.
My solution:  Give up—at least for a while—and move on to another project.
Roy Peter Clark (in Help) writes:
‘Lower your standards at the beginning of the process. Raise them later.’ He continues by quoting poet William Stafford. ‘I believe that the so-called “writing block” is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance… One should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing.’
Good advice. Words I should heed.
Are you looking for cures for writer’s block? Here’s some more advice: Overcoming Writers' Block
And for a different perspective, Laurie offers:  I Love My Writer's Block

Monday, January 30, 2012

#knitting a sweater pattern

Flowers for Mary

This gentle blend of rib stitch and easy lace makes a flattering top that you'll love to wear.

Skill level:  beginner

Sizes:  S [M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X]

Finished Measurements:
Chest:  36 [40, 44, 48, 52, 56]
Length:  22 [22.5, 24, 24, 26, 26]

Materials:  4 [4, 5, 5, 6] light worsted yarn (each ball 168 yards/154 metres)
Recommended needles:  1 pair 4.50 mm (7 US, 7 UK), 1 pair 9.00 mm OR size to obtain tension

Gauge: 3 stitches = 1 inch
            4.5 stitches = 1 inch

 4 x 4 rib stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row:  knit four, purl four—to end of row.
Repeat row for pattern.

Moss stitch (over even number of stitches)

Row 1:  knit two, purl two—to end of row.
Row 2:  purl two, knit two—to end of row.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern.
Note:  To shorten or lengthen sleeves –
alter at this point…
“* Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 8 inches (20.3 cm)”
To shorten, reduce number of inches.
To lengthen, increase number of inches.


Cast on 80 [90; 100; 108; 118; 126] stitches work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 13 [13, 14, 14, 15, 15] inches. 33 [33, 35.5, 35.5, 38, 38] cm
Change to larger needles and decrease 26 [30, 34, 36, 40, 42] stitches evenly across row 54 [60, 66, 72, 78, 84] stitches remain.
Work in moss stitch for 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Decrease 3 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows 48 [54, 60, 66, 72, 78] stitches remain.
Work in moss stitch for 6 inches (15. 2 cm)
This row:  14 [17, 20, 23, 26, 29] in moss stitch; decrease 20 stitches; 14 [17, 20, 23, 26, 29] in moss stitch.
Work in moss stitch for 2 inches (5 cm)
Cast off


Cast on 80 [90; 100; 108; 118; 126] stitches work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 13 [13, 14, 14, 15, 15] inches. 33 [33, 35.5, 35.5, 38, 38] cm
Change to larger needles and decrease 26 [30, 34, 36, 40, 42] stitches evenly across row 54 [60, 66, 72, 78, 84] stitches remain.
Work in moss stitch for 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Decrease 3 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows 48 [54, 60, 66, 72, 78] stitches remain.
Work in moss stitch for 4 inches (10.2 cm)
This row:  14 [17, 20, 23, 26, 29] in moss stitch; decrease 20 stitches; 14 [17, 20, 23, 26, 29] in moss stitch.
Work in moss stitch for 4 inches (10.2 cm)
Cast off

Sleeves (make 2)

Cast on 72 [76, 80, 80, 86, 86] stitches
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Increase 2 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows. Increase to 76 [80, 84, 84, 90, 90] stitches.
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of the next two rows 74 [78, 82, 82, 88, 88] stitches
Decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of the next two rows 72 [76, 80, 80, 86, 86] stitches
*Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 8 inches (20.3 cm)
Work in Stockinette stitch for 2 inches (5 cm)
Cast off

Every attempt has been made to ensure that the instructions are clear and correct.  Please notify us of any errors so we may correct them immediately.

© Leanne Dyck, May 09
Next post:  What she wrote and she still believes

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Opposite of Dark by Debra Purdy Kong

When Benny Lee hit the M3 bus’s brakes for the third time in a minute,
tension rippled through Casey’s lower back. Usually relaxed and patient, old
Benny was slipping. Maybe she would, too, if this was her first day back
driving a bus in tedious, noon-hour congestion after six months on nights.
Vancouver might be beautiful, but the traffic would always be horrible. With
any luck, she’d nail the pervert sharing her seat before Benny put her in

Casey unfastened the buttons on her tight leather jacket and took a deep
breath. She exhaled slowly through her nose, like the yoga video had
instructed. The exercise was supposed to release tension. Fat chance.

The suspect pressed his thigh against hers. His gray suit, crewcut, and
square glasses portrayed respectability, yet his flushed, middle-aged face
and wandering hand suggested something else.

His hand crept closer to her thigh. He always chose the right side of the
bus, always picked an aisle seat near the exit, and always made his move as
the bus approached its next stop. Lately, he’d grown reckless by staying on
the M3 instead of switching routes like he used to.

Fingers spidered closer to her leg. Casey watched Benny drive. As arranged,
she would speed dial Benny’s cell number just before she was ready to nab
the guy. Victims had reported that the suspect didn’t carry a weapon, so
Benny would keep the doors shut until she’d cuffed him. The problem with
this plan was the passenger distracting Benny with loud complaints about
dirty seats and rude passengers.

The M3 approached Commercial and Broadway, and the suspect’s thigh nudged
Casey’s a little harder. She removed her cellphone from her pocket.
Adrenalin raced through her as she watched pedestrians head for the SkyTrain
entrance at the intersection’s southeast corner.

The light turned green and the bus eased forward. Sweet, overripe aftershave
nauseated her. Oh crap, the jerk was panting. Fingertips crept toward the
garter peeking below her miniskirt. Casey hit speed dial, then shoved the
phone in her pocket. The suspect moaned. Benny eased the bus to the stop as
the pervert squeezed her left thigh.

“Right!” Casey grabbed his wrist and flashed her ID badge. “MPT security.
Your party’s over, dude.”

The man jerked his arm free. A moment later, he was out and running. Benny
had missed the signal.

“Benny, make the call!” Casey rushed down metal-riveted steps and onto the
sidewalk crowded with people waiting to enter the bus.

Running north on Commercial, the suspect smacked into pedestrians. Even in
stilettos, Casey gained on him. She’d spent too much time practising to let
criminals get away. The sidewalk became an overpass and chances for escape
diminished. Below them, rail tracks ran along a steep ravine. Casey heard
the whirl of an approaching SkyTrain.

The suspect tried to barge through a group of teens, allowing Casey to close
the gap. She leapt and tackled him. They hit the ground and rolled into a
chain-link fence. Straddling his back, she clamped the cuffs on him and
said, “I’m making a citizen’s arrest for sexual assault.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Section 494 of the Criminal Code says I can.” Casey caught her breath as
she removed a card tucked behind her security license. “Under the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, it’s my duty to inform you that you have the right to
retain counsel without delay.”

By the time she’d finished reading everything on the card, people had
started to gather.

“Do you understand?” Casey asked him. “Do you want to call a lawyer?”

“I want you to get my wallet and get the hell off me, bitch!”

Casey spotted an open wallet near the suspect’s face. Wary of accusations of
theft, she said, “I’ll watch it till the police arrive.”

“I’ll sue you, you whore.”

“Wrong profession. As I said, I’m with Mainland Public Transport security.”

Maybe she should sue him for a new pair of stockings. Reasonably priced
fishnet was almost impossible to find. Casey glanced at the gaping hole on
her shin and then popped a stick of gum in her mouth. Chewing always slowed
the adrenalin.

“You’d better find my glasses too,” the suspect said.

They were wedged among weeds and grimy candy wrappers at the fence, but
Casey opted to stay where she was. She noticed the family photo in the guy’s
wallet: three young kids, the suspect, and a plump brunette. Casey shook her
head. What kind of family man spent his lunch hours squeezing women’s thighs
on buses? How pathetic was that?

Benny hurried up to her. “Sorry, Casey. You okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“I called the cops and Stan wants you back at the office. Some detective’s
on his way to see you. Looks like your week’s off to a hell of a start.”

Casey popped a bubble. She’d handed the authorities a fair number of
delinquents over recent weeks, so police chats were becoming routine.

The Vancouver police arrived at Commercial Drive later than expected.
Forty-five minutes passed before she bounded up Mainland’s two flights of
stairs and into the security department. It’d take at least another half
hour to write her report.

As she greeted the security department’s admin assistant, Amy, Casey spotted
a new chair next to Stan’s door.

“Does Stan know it’s pink?” Casey asked.

“It’s not pink, it’s dusty rose, or so the catalogue says.” Amy lifted the
bifocals from the chain around her neck and took a closer look while she
tried not to smile.

Casey grinned. “I’d emphasize the dusty part.”

“I thought I heard your voice,” Stan said, emerging from his office.

Oh lord, her supervisor was having yet another fashion disaster day. Hard as
Casey tried, she couldn’t convince Stan that checkered sports jackets and
striped shirts didn’t work for most human beings. She and his wife had
nearly given up trying.

“So you caught the pervert single-handedly,” he said.

Based on Stan’s disapproving tone and the way he crossed his arms over his
chest, Casey knew what was coming.

“What happened to observe and report? Since when do my officers put
themselves in danger?”

“But he wasn’t armed and I experienced the crime firsthand, excuse the pun.”
She flashed a smile, but Stan didn’t look amused.

“Tackling someone is hardly non-violent intervention, Casey. I thought I
told you that use of force isn’t part of the game plan anymore.”
Casey sighed. It was hard to keep up with, let alone apply, all the changes
and restrictions Mainland had imposed since she first trained in security.
And why was Stan being such a hard-ass when she’d caught the guy?

He lowered his arms. “Write up your report after you see our guests.” He
nodded toward the door.

“Guests? Benny said a detective wanted to see me.”

“There are two of them.”

She noticed the way Stan’s lips pressed together until they almost
disappeared between his gray beard and moustache. His lips always vanished
when he was tense. “What’s up?”

His gaze didn’t quite meet hers. “You’ll see.”

Hmm. The last time Stan avoided eye contact and tensed up like that was two
years ago, when she’d told him she was divorcing Greg. He never had coped
with crying women too well.

“Tomorrow you can start on the purse snatchings you’ve been bugging me for,”
he said. “Drop by for details whenever. I’m going to grab some lunch.”

Leaning close to the door, Casey heard male voices. She strutted inside. It
took three seconds to realize that her black leather miniskirt, torn
stockings, and stilettos were making a bad impression.

The older man, stiff and solemn in his brown suit, stared at her spiky hair
while the younger guy glanced at her D cups. Understandable. The girls were
barely contained in the tank top under her jacket.

On the other side of the door, Stan yelled, “I ain’t sitting in a friggin’
pink chair!”

Casey smiled as she nodded to the officers. “I’m Casey Holland.”

“Detective Lalonde with the West Vancouver Police Department,” the older man
said, displaying his shield. “This is Corporal Krueger.”

West Van police? What were they doing out of their jurisdiction? As Krueger
shook Casey’s hand, his long thick moustache twitched.

“While we waited for you, Mr. Cordaseto told us a bit about MPT,” Lalonde
said. “I’d forgotten that the government’s pilot project became privately
funded. I thought it was still at least partly subsidized.”

“Funding ran out, but the government insists on fewer cars on the road, so
investors bought it twelve years ago, for a good tax break, apparently.
Mainland fills the void in the suburbs and shares the load with TransLink
buses on busier routes.”

“I understand you’ve worked here ten years?”

Why were they interested in her background? “Yes—five as a driver and five
in security.”

“And you’re a civilian doing police work?” Krueger asked.

Casey didn’t appreciate the disdain in his voice. “It’s not much different
than loss prevention work in retail, except we’re mobile, and, as you guys
know, it’s too expensive to have police riding buses all day nabbing vandals
and creeps. Most of the people we catch commit petty crimes and end up with
fines, probation, or community service.”

“The suspect you pursued today sounded dangerous.”

“Not really. He squeezes thighs and runs away,” she replied. “If he was
armed or more aggressive, the police would be involved.”

“Do you like this work?” Krueger asked.

"It’s more interesting than being a driver, unless you count the time a guy
pulled a knife on me. After that, I went into security to learn how to
protect myself and others.”

She was proud of the gutsy reputation she’d earned among Mainland’s staff,
even from old-fashioned farts who thought women didn’t belong in security.

Lalonde said, “Few people would choose security work after an experience
like that.”

Casey shrugged. “Had to face my fears.”

“You work alone?” Krueger asked.

“Pretty much. We have only one other full-time person, plus Stan. There are
three more part-timers who work other jobs.”

“There’s that much of a demand?” Lalonde asked.

“On and off. It usually starts with passenger complaints.” She watched
Krueger remove a notepad and pen from his pocket.  “So, how can I help you

Lalonde glanced at his partner. “A fifty-five-year-old Caucasian male, whom
we believe is Marcus Adam Holland, was killed between 8:00 and 10:00 PM
yesterday evening.” He paused. “Are you his daughter?”

“What?” She frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“Are you related to Marcus Adam Holland?”

“I’m his daughter, yes.”

“When did you last see him, Miss Holland?”

“Three years ago, on March eleventh, in a casket. He’s buried at Cedar Ridge
Cemetery, Detective.”

Lalonde and Krueger exchanged unreadable looks until Krueger scribbled
something down.

“How did the man you buried die?” Lalonde asked.

“My father died from botulism.”

“This body hasn’t been dead three years,” he replied. “His wallet contained
a valid driver’s license and credit cards, several to jewelry stores.”

Eeriness crept up Casey’s spine. Dad had given her a piece of jewelry every

“I never did get his wallet and passport back. Assumed they were stolen. But
I have a death certificate. Maybe someone at Vital Statistics screwed up.”

Casey didn’t like the way these guys looked at her. What was it? Pity?
Skepticism? Ambivalence? She sauntered behind Stan’s old mahogany desk. “Can
you give me a clearer description of the victim?”

Lalonde turned to Krueger who flipped through his notepad. “Green eyes,
blond hair, graying at the temples, one point eight meters tall.” Krueger
looked up. “Five feet eleven inches.”

Casey wasn’t aware she’d been gripping Stan’s chair until her fingers began
to ache. A wallet and similar appearance didn’t prove Dad had been alive
these past three years.

“Did you see the body?” she asked.

Lalonde nodded.

“Did you notice a small white scar by his left eyebrow?” She didn’t like
this second exchange of looks between Lalonde and Krueger. Why weren’t they
answering? “How, exactly, was the man killed?” As Lalonde glanced out the
window overlooking the yard, Casey’s patience withered. “If it’s him, then
I’m family, so don’t I have a right to know?” Still no response. “Come on,
guys, I’m used to working with the police; this conversation doesn’t go
beyond this room if you don’t want it to.”

Lalonde finally said, “The victim was struck repeatedly about the head with
a sharp heavy object.”

She pushed the grisly image from her mind. “Where did it happen?"

“In his house on Marine Drive in West Vancouver.”

The eerie sensation wound around her neck and began to squeeze. “Dad didn’t
own a place there.”

He’d dreamed of it, though; an ocean view house on pricey real estate. But
he hadn’t had the bucks. So, what was dream and what was reality? Casey
slumped into Stan’s old Naugahyde chair.

“An anonymous called us about the body around midnight,” Lalonde said.

“Male or female?”

“Male. Could you provide a list of your father’s relatives, friends,
business associates, and other acquaintances?”

“It’d be three years old.” Casey rested her elbows on the desk. “If he was
alive, don’t you think I’d know?”

“Some people deliberately disappear to start over,” Lalonde replied.

“Do these people stay in the same city and provide a body for burial?”
Predictably, all she got was more silence. Was she annoying them as much as
they were annoying her? Too bad. She wasn’t the one with the identity

“Miss Holland, we’d like you to come to the morgue,” Lalonde said. “The
coroner can’t start the autopsy until you’ve identi--”

“I know.” She met Lalonde’s gaze. “I want to see the body up close. Not on
some monitor or in a snapshot or whatever they do down there. Face-to-face,

Lalonde watched her. “The wounds to his head are extensive.”

“All right.” She could take it. Had to. Wimping out in front of these guys
would be humiliating.

“Mr. Cordaseto told us you could take the afternoon off, so I’d like to do
this now.”

“Fine.” It took some effort to get to her feet. “Dad and I were close,
Detective. He was a proud and honest man. He wouldn’t have deceived me like
that.” She couldn’t think. “Any idea why the man was killed?”

“There was cash in his wallet, but the hard drive’s missing from his PC. No
storage devices of any kind anywhere, and he might have had a laptop too.”
Lalonde slipped his hands in his coat pockets. “There’s a photograph of you
in the master bedroom.”

No, couldn’t be. “As far as I’m concerned, Dad’s been gone three years. If
you think otherwise, then show me proof.”

“Do you remember the name of his dentist?” Krueger asked, pen poised over
his notepad.

“No. I take it fingerprints haven’t helped identity him yet?”

Krueger shook his head.

Casey headed for the door. “Let me change first and wash the grunge off my

“That’s unnecessary,” Lalonde replied. “The sooner we go to the morgue, the
quicker we’ll have answers.”

“This is a costume to attract trash, Detective.” She turned to Krueger. “Go
figure, huh?”

Casey tried to move fast to the women’s locker room downstairs but Lalonde’s
news had a paralyzing effect. The same thing had happened three years ago
when that doctor called from Paris. She was at work then, too, eating a
cheeseburger. In a heavy French accent, the man explained how botulism had
killed Dad. Her first response had been anger. No one had even bothered to
let her know he’d been sick. After the call, she threw up. Greg was driving
the M9 at the time, so Lou had taken her home.

Casey reappeared twenty minutes later to find the detectives looking
curiously at her, trying not to seem surprised. Casey attempted a smile.
She’d replaced gelled spikes with her usual light brown curls, the heavy
makeup for a trace of lipstick, and the skimpy clothes with plum trousers
and a silk blouse.

“Did you need to perform an entire makeover?”

“Why do a half-assed job?”

“For expediency?”

Following him to the exit, Casey rolled her eyes and waved at a
worried-looking Amy. Lalonde chose the back seat of the Sebring, while Casey
sat in front with Krueger.

“Tell me about the food poisoning in Paris,” Lalonde said.

“Dad died nine days after eating at a burger joint called Alvin’s
All-Canadian Café. The bacterium was in a mayonnaise-based salad dressing.”

“How many others were ill?”

“No one, according to my lawyers.”


“I’d heard that adults stood a fairly good chance of surviving the toxin. I
wanted to know if the hospital had been negligent. The lawyers didn’t think
so. Apparently, botulism’s not easy to diagnose when only one person’s been
infected, and it took too long to find the source. By the time the doctors
knew what was wrong, Dad was too far gone.”

“Bit odd that only one person was infected, isn’t it?”

“I thought so. It turned out that some fool used the remains of a jar of
mayonnaise that hadn’t been refrigerated. The restaurant was busy at the
time and no one would take responsibility for it.”

The drive to the airport to collect his body had been surreal and, in some
ways, offensive. She’d had to pick up Dad from the cargo area, not that she
would have wanted him swooping down the chute at the luggage carousel. But
still . . . cargo.

Losing someone she loved and trusted had depressed her for a long time. Her
adult relationships had never been as strong or trusting.

“I guess a blood analysis hasn’t been done yet,” Casey said. No one
answered. “You guys really don’t want to tell me much, do you?”

Lalonde kept his gaze on the window.


Casey rubbed her arms and shivered. The morgue was colder than she thought
it would be, or was she shivering because of the possibility that all her
grief had been wasted on a lie? An attendant accompanied Lalonde to a
labeled, oversized drawer and Casey’s heartbeat quickened. Lalonde produced
a key and unlocked the compartment. The attendant slid a shrouded body
toward them.

Someone touched Casey’s arm and she jumped. Krueger. Sympathy flashed across
his face as he guided her nearer the body. She’d tried to mentally prepare
for the sight of mutilated flesh and a close resemblance to Dad. One of last
year’s criminology classes had discussed body decomposition. Nasty stuff.
She vowed to stay cool and calm.

Lalonde turned to her. “Ready?”

Feet apart, arms crossed, and standing strong, she said, “Go ahead.”

One glimpse of the victim’s face and her stomach somersaulted. Gashes
crisscrossed his scalp and descended to what remained of the left side of
his face. Dried blood and bits of gray stuff matted his hair. Dozens of cuts
mangled the upper half of his left arm and shoulder.

“Is this man Marcus Holland?” Lalonde asked.

Memories of Dad raced through her mind, images so vivid it was as if no time
had passed and grief was just beginning.

“Is he your father, Miss Holland?”

“Just a sec.” Her legs grew shaky. Casey looked at the attendant.
“Is there an appendectomy scar?”

She’d only glimpsed the scar once, by accident, after Dad’s operation twenty
years ago.

Lalonde nodded to the attendant who lifted the sheet. Casey looked at the

“There is,” the attendant said.

“Well, Miss Holland?” Lalonde asked.

Casey swayed toward the body, then recoiled, terrified of touching it. She
tilted to one side. Hands gripped her arm and shoulder. Perspiration
dampened her upper lip.

Lalonde said, “Get her some water.”

How could this man be Dad? It didn’t make sense. “No bloody way!”

“Are you saying this man isn’t your father?”

Pulling free of Krueger’s grasp, she charged out of the room.

Buy Link

The book is available in hard cover and paperback at amazon.ca
chapters.ca (including Kobo) at http://tinyurl.com/3dsy36y
The book trailer and more information can be found at http://bit.ly/i983XE

Interviewing mystery author Debra Purdy Kong

Update:  Debra Purdy Kong has just published a new mystery. Learn more by clicking on this link.

How/why did you start to write?

I started to write because it was the best way I had of expressing myself. It began with journal entries, though I have to say that writing book reports in school was the only thing I really enjoyed and did well. After obtaining a diploma in criminology, I sold my car and left for Europe to figure out what I wanted to do back in 1979. I continued journal writing and wrote letters home, and then tried my hand at a short story. I also wound up sharing an apartment with an aspiring singer/actress who loved my stories and encouraged me to keep going. I loved the process of writing and editing so much that I took her advice.

How did you become an author?

I became an author after writing many drafts of my first mystery, Taxed to Death, and deciding to self-publish in 1995. It was a terrific learning experience. By the time I signed a contract with a traditional publisher for The Opposite of Dark, I’d had plenty of promotion and marketing experience, and had written three more mysteries.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

There were a number of reasons. Seventeen years ago, my sister had breast cancer. It was a difficult year, but one of the things I learned was not to wait for a lifelong dream to fall in one’s lap, but rather to make it happen, if possible. Who knows when any of us run out of time? Also, my husband was looking to start a small business on the side and liked the idea of publishing, so he financed the project while I learned how to do the layout, and so forth. I wanted to learn about book production and the business of publishing and promotion.

What was your first published piece?

My first published piece was a personal essay called “A Dancer’s Foot”. It was about my years of ballet study from age eight to sixteen. I didn’t enjoy the experience that much, and hated it by the time my mother let me quit.

Where was it published?

It was published in 1982, in a glossy little magazine from Ontario that was just starting out. They paid me $90 and I was thrilled. I thought, how hard could it be to write and earn money? Three years passed before any of my stories or essays were again accepted for publication. Two more years passed before I was actually paid anything, and I think that was in American stamps.

How did you find your traditional publisher?

It took over ten years to find a traditional publisher, (including two years spent with an American agent) and thirty-five submissions to publishers. One day, someone told me about a BC publisher who was interested in mysteries set in the pacific northwest, so I submitted The Opposite of Dark to her. A year later, I had a contract.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

Before writing, I worked as a secretary for a firm of chartered accountants, which was where I met my future husband, and where I came up with the idea of writing about a young, overly enthusiastic tax auditor for Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption. I never did use my diploma for career purposes, but the some of practicum and volunteer experiences have appeared in my novels and stories.

What inspires you?

Great writing inspires me!

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

One of my successful marketing techniques was to join a forum for independently published authors on amazon and get to know people. They’ve given me some great marketing tips, but they’ve also bought my books and have reviewed them, which is always a surprise because I’d never ask anyone to do this. Happily, these efforts resulted in sales. So, I pay it forward and support indie authors when I can.

Parting words

When it comes to writing, success is a really hard thing to define. Sometimes, I’m not sure we should even try. For some, it’s publication credits, for others, success is determined by royalty cheques, or awards. For me, success is about tenacity and becoming a better writer; learning to listen to those who are trying to help. 80% of the one hundred stories, essays, and articles I’ve had published were initially rejected by editors who took the time to offer helpful comments. For me, writing is always about learning. It always will be.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Canada Writes' Namedropping Nonfiction Challenge

I was going to post some cool photos I took recently during an ocean voyage I took recently. However, an offer I couldn't refuse was delivered to my email inbox--Canada Writes' Namedropping Nonfiction Challenge. So, I wrote this instead...

Leanne Dyck read the instructions over slowly. A true story about someone in my life...I could write about my husband...I have tons of stories about Byron. She gulped. But if I do he'd...he'd...never forgive me. He's so private. Her brows knit. But if I don't... Nervously, she rubbed her hands together. It's so hard to break into the publishing industry. Entring this contest might be my big break. What do I do? Think. Finally, the expression on her face softened. Of course... She crossed her fingers and pressed send.
Next post:  Please welcome Author Debra Purdy Kong

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#reading The Sweater Curse chapter 3, page 2

I'm pleased to offer you, page-by-page, the first three chapters of The Sweater Curse--one page every Wednesday

The Sweater Curse

Chapter three, page two

The door opens a crack and a youngish woman fills the gap. "Excuse me, Ms. McNamara. I don't know if you remember me but--"
"Of course, I do. Well, hello...," Mother looks at the woman and beams.
"I was one of your students," the woman supplies. "Joy--"
"Of course, Joyce Givings."
"Of course, Joyce Bridgeweight," Mother says.
"Well, Lam now."
"Class of '99."
"2007," Joyce corrects yet again.
It's clear Mother doesn't remember this woman.
"Yes, of course. Please, do come in." Mother stands, walks to the door, and pushes it open, inviting Joyce to enter.
When Mother peers into the baby carrier, the woman grips firmly in one hand, she sees the treasure Joyce brought her. "Who's this?"
"This is Hannah."
Mother grabs a chubby little hand. "Well, hello, Hannah."
Baby Hannah responds with a yawn. Apparently, Mother's charms do have their limits.
"I named her after you." Joyce beams.
"Well, I'm...I'm honored."
My visit isn't over, Mother slips into the leather driver seat of a red convertible Mustang.
It's a cloudless autumn day; she drives with the top down. Apparently, her environment no longer stinks.
The car turns onto a long driveway. At the end of this tree-lined lane stands an architect's masterpiece. Its flat roof and strange, sharp angles make an artistic statement.
Children play outside on the manicured lawn. There are three boys and four girls, aged from three to seven. The appearance of the car signals the end of their play. All eyes are fixed on her as she parks and vacates the car. They run to her with open arms.

Chapter three, page one

I examine my surroundings and realize I'm in a lecture hall. All the students are draped over their desks. Who has captured their attention?

The lecturer, though aged, I would recognize anywhere, Mother.

Blah, blah, blah. On she drones, but the young minds sucked it up like sweet honey.

Now she's at the bedside of an elderly woman. Starry-eyed, her patient rests easy in her care.

Accompanying her from one adoring patient to another is a small clutch of students. They hang on her every word.

I follow Mother down a long corridor to her sterile office. There waiting for her is a pile of paperwork. She sits and, document after document, attacks the mound.

I didn't notice it before, but there's a ring on her finger. How did I overlook it? The diamond is enormous, I guess she's remarried.

I scan the room and am immediately drawn to a group of photographs decorating a feature wall. There's one of Mother and her latest victim on their wedding day. It's a garden shot. The ancient bride and groom have turned to face each other. He towers over her. They look like a couple of freaks. I wonder if it's a show for the camera, or if they truly mean all they are saying with their eyes.

The other pictures feature three women as they graduate from university and then marry. The final photo is larger than the rest and includes the entire family. The subjects range in age from three to seventy. Everyone is carefully arranged on a large wooden deck of a summer cabin. Front and center is Mother and the poor old guy. Clearly, Mother is now reaping the benefit of another mother's devotion.

Someone knocks.

"Yes," Mother calls without looking up from her paperwork.
Next post:  Canada Writes' Namedropping Nonfiction Challenge

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Be Your Own Publicist workshop

I found this in my email inbox...


The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is offering the Professional Development Workshop HOW TO BE YOUR OWN PUBLICIST in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria, in February and March of 2012. The workshops take place from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. For those who can’t attend in one of the participating cities, a 3-hour webinar will be offered, distilling the highlights of the workshop.  

Authors Elizabeth Ruth and Ann Douglas will present on traditional but innovative book marketing strategies as well as new media opportunities for writers.  Kelly Duffin, Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada, will update participants on the latest evolutions in the publishing landscape.

Whether you are an aspiring writer wanting to develop your audience before publication; an emerging writer who needs to stay visible; or long-published and looking for new tips and techniques, this full-day workshop is for you.

Participants will leave the workshop having gained the know-how and confidence to creatively promote their own future works, and an expanded, inspired sense of what it means to be a writer in the current publishing context.

Most workshops of this calibre charge hundreds of dollars. The price of this symposium is $89.00 and covers costs, including lunch, $75 for members of The Writers’ Union of Canada. For registration information please go to www.writersunion.ca/registration.pdf .  Please circulate this information to writers you think might be interested in coming to this event. Space is limited so register today.

Note:  I'm going--are you?
Next post:  My last offering from The Sweater Curse (chapter 3, page 2)

Monday, January 23, 2012

knitting #fashion in 1937 (2 of 2)

(We continue reading from Stitchcraft:  a vintage needlecraft magazine published from the 1930s to 1980s.)

For daytime models the line is slim and youthful. Collars are, as a rule, either of the Peter Pan persuasion, the mannish shirt-collar type, or the new, low-choker style. Some afternoon models affect a high, very tightly draped line as softer, but in this case the knitted fabric must be thin. Shoulders are very slightly square, just enough to give a good tailored effect, but with no hint of an artificial breadth. Skirts are short and narrow, with open over-laps low at sides, front or back, or with a "kick-pleat" for width.

When there are fulness at the top it is more moderate than last season, and usually takes the form of two or three short, shallow folds, or a couple of neatly tailored darts.

Plaided, checked, and some striped effects are shown as well as flower patterns. These designs are either knitted into the fabric or worked in relief on the surface. Many knitted surfaces are rough, such as the tweed yarns, harsh-haired wools, yarns with "nubbing" of all sizes, others with long "bumps" that loop up on the surface when worked, boucle threads of all types and weights. At Robert Piguet's there is a smart tweed suit trimmed with matching tweed yarn, even to the colours in the "nubbing", knitted in stocking-stitch to form the back of the jacket between shoulder-yoke and waist-line. Similar work faces the lapels and the patch-pockets. The play to shoulder and arm movements afforded by the knitted back makes this an admirable suit for active sports wear.

Many jackets are shorter than last season, and have interesting treatments of lapels, neck-lines, and pockets. Belts, too, are important, either smart saddler-made leather ones or matching knitted ones. Some suit jackets are merely nipped in at the waist-line, others are gored, and with these no belts are worn. Longer coats of fingertip and three-quarter length are shown, either belted and fitted or loose-backed, of the top-coat or box-jacket varieties.

Jumper, blouse, and dress bodices may be either plain and flat up to the neck-line, or softened by crocheted frills, jabots, or pleated bibs. Many smart blouses are knitted of fine wool in tailored shirt-waist style with fancy plastron fronts shaped like a man's shirt-front. These may be done in tucked effects or lacy stripes contrasting with a plain stitch for the rest of the blouse.

Buttons are used in great quantity, and are equally smart down the back or front of a dress. The high-necked line for bodices, blouses, and jumpers is often buttoned down a short vent at the back of the neck. Others fasten inconspicuously along the shoulder, while others have a centre-front, buttoned band as on a shirt-waist.

Cocktail ensembles, suitable for restaurant dining as well, are shown in most knitwear houses. These are tailored in style and have floor-length, slim skirts, and short, fitted jackets or boleros. The bodice top is frequently quite decollete, and the sleeves, if any, are short. The jacket and bolero sleeves accompanying, however, are as a rule long and close-fitting, with, perhaps, a mere hint of fulness at the top.

The new winter colours are beautiful. All the summer garden shades are to be seen, and then, to be seasonable, the autumn-leaf browns and soft, placid, browns and tans. Black is always smart in Paris, and is shown nearly as much in the knitwear houses as at the couturiers.
Next post:  Where will I be on March 2? Here are a few hints:  writing, The Writers' Union of Canada, workshop. Ah, you guessed it. : )
Also I received a voicemail request the use of one of my posts. Okay, if you're like me--a little dumbfounded my this request--you'll be interested to visit Speaking from the Heart The post is titled "Write or Wrong" and will go live tomorrow. (Much thanks Laurie)This is a supportive, thought-provoking, inspiring blog. So, please click the link.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Please welcome Author Marilynne Miles Gray

How/why did you start to write?
Starting as a teacher of language and literature, then as an editor of a peer-reviewed journal for professional educators and people in corporations, I’ve found it an easy descent into writing a novel.
I can credit a love for reading to my mother who read to me almost daily (just to get me to take a nap) when I was very young and frequent trips with her to the closest decent-sized library which was an hour by bus. Fortunately, I never suffered motion sickness on the bus – the rule was: no reading on the bus, please! To go into the ‘big-city’ library in Hamilton Ontario back then was awe-inspiring. I can relate to those who still do not have ready access to reading material.

How did you become an author?
I still ask myself: did I trip or was I pushed?
In grade school, I entered a writing contest that landed me a radio interview. It happened so long ago that all I can recall was the interviewer slipped in a trick question: “What did your parents tell you not to say?” I fell for that one big time. Poor mom and dad. What I had said was not all that bad but it was something that needed a sentence or two of extra explaining – why I wasn’t allowed pets. Made them look mean when they were anything but.
In high school, I wrote a prize-winning essay that landed me on an American television show that pitted young people against each other to see who could ask the most insightful questions of people who came from other countries and cultures.
To appear on the show, every so often, I would take the trip over the border from North Vancouver to the big burg of Bellingham to compete. Appearances involved some great coaching on the part of my teachers who donated time and interest in the development of their pupils. At the time, I had no idea I might be honing my writing skills beyond being on t.v.
One young Nigerian medical student I met on the show later came often to visit me and my family. We would feed him, of course but not Nigerian style. As I think of it, he could have given us some cooking lessons. His stories about the transition from hot Nigeria to cold and wet Seattle were both sad and funny. I sometimes wonder what will appear on the computer screen if I Google his name -- J.A., wherever you are, I hope all has gone well.

What was your first published piece?
I honestly don’t recall. Likely it was an art show review I wrote for The Ubyssey during my second year at UBC. While I’ve never lost my love of art, my tastes have broadened and changed so I now feel as home at a contemporary painting display as at a show of Renaissance art in some European gallery. (As an aside, my husband jokes: “Marilynne’s idea of a good time is a walking visit to a museum, cathedral and art gallery all in the same day.”)
At the time, I thought some of the art was… well, juvenile and ugly so my dilemma was: how to write about something objectively yet not insult the artist? There’s such a thing as killing potentially good writing (let alone art) with premature or wrong-headed criticism. Interestingly, according to some experts, premature and badly-conceived criticism is the #1 writing problem, not misplaced modifiers and clichés or other issues some writers might imagine. I cover the topic of premature criticism when I give writing classes: how to appropriately criticize and appreciate work whether it’s your own or that of others.
What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
By the end of second year university, I was torn between taking a degree focussed on History and Geography or one slanted towards English Literature. I had already decided I didn’t want to go the PE (Physical Education) route, though that too was a natural given my ongoing interest in sports.
In the end, I opted for an Honours English degree at UBC. The English Department had a wonderful faculty, the likes of Earle Birney and Roy Daniells to name two great men. They could not only write but they could also teach and convey their love of the field. So, I was enticed by the fact the professors were warm and friendly (with perhaps one exception – an old curmudgeon … but that’s another story). The programme was respected across the country; classes were small, my marks were reasonable and I felt a growing love for the field. I added another year to do my Masters in Can. Lit. then another year to do my Professional year for a teaching certificate and went out into the world to teach for about 15 years.
The decision to become a teacher in my field is not one I regretted.
At university, when I returned to do doctoral studies, I was also a supervisor / career advisor of students taking their fifth year of teacher training. One of the most important insights for me as much as for them was the value of being flexible and creative as to where, when and how our formal studies can be applied in varied settings especially when we start out with the idea we want to take up profession ABC then discover maybe it’s been a mistake. It was hugely gratifying when a student understood their courses were anything but a mistake and that there were places in the world to now put the learning to happier and more productive uses.
Eventually, my husband and I left academia to start our own professional mentoring company as trainers, programme designers, and (for me) a writer of technical manuals and a newsletter –MentorInk -- that I recently laid to rest after almost 25 years non-stop.

What inspires you?
I could say ‘jealousy’ that other writers have managed to make their millions by publishing schlock. That would be true. To that notion, I can also add ‘a desire to leave a legacy of interesting, thought-provoking and well-written material’.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques.
If I knew, I’d gladly share. This is my first non-fiction work. To this point in time, almost all of my writing (or editing) has been non-fiction for professionals, oriented towards career development and my specialty field of mentoring. Occasionally, I will do ghost-writing which is fun.
I’m familiar with methods that worked during the pre-ebook days but that was then and this is now.
I have a deep, dark, strongly-held suspicion that contemporary successful marketing is the happy confluence of luck, unbridled determination, unholy amounts of time spent massaging social media, and tons of energy.
For my first murder mystery – The Avid Gardener: grieving and scheming -- now nearing the completion of Draft #1 prior to its first edit, I’m hoping to learn the secrets (if there are any) from others who’ve gone before me and won over the world!

Writing tips
1. I spent a great deal of time examining different ‘writing websites’. How-to writing websites vary in quality from bad to very bad to reasonably useful (depending on the purpose). This is no news to most writers yet all too often we writers hope to find ‘the perfect website’ that just doesn’t exist.
One piece of advice? Spend a few hours locating five or six promising sites, each for a different purpose depending on your goals (how to get ‘unstuck’, character arc, and so forth). For a limited period of time visit each site for ideas and suggestions. Keep this activity to a minimum as you’ll find yourself spending more time doing this than actually writing and revising.
If, after a few visits, the value of a site seems to be questionable, keep on the hunt or give yourself a breather and consider another approach.
2. Create audio chunks of what you have written then play it back to your ‘inner ear’ or have someone who knows how to critique listen to the portion and give feedback. This has always been a method that is worth trying.
3. Develop a series of questions a ‘critic’ can ask you about different aspects of your writing. Asking yourself each question from your list has limited value. An external, competent person is a necessity.
4. Don’t think of someone who gives you five minutes of advice as your mentor. Five minutes here or there just doesn’t cut it. Mentors are people who help change our lives in profound, meaningful and positive ways.
A mentor is someone whose helping role varies according to your need. I know how the many mentoring factors come together having spent so long researching and helping others to develop mentoring skills to better effect.
If you have a mentor, (or wish to have one) keep in mind she or he may be a teacher one day, a sounding board another, an advisor on a third occasion, a coach the next time, a role model at all times. Mentors can play some two dozen different roles in the life of the protégé! Note that I did not mention the role of ‘critic’ as one the mentor plays.

Most recent book
My most recent work (2011) is an ebook: Mentoring A to Z as part of a series of books to wrap that part of my career.

1,000,000,000,000 protégés can’t be wrong. Neither can the same number of mentors. That could mean some 500,000,000,000 or so relationships (love those numbers!) over thousands of years (give or take a few here and there). And each relationship unique! How is this possible?
Those are the words to an imaginary ad from a couple of years ago intended to catch the hearts and minds of the jaded who thought they had the mentoring relationship notion in a box, no surprises. After all, what could I teach them about mentoring that they didn’t already know? A great deal as it so happens and it didn’t take them long to see this fact.
Yes, everyone has a different opinion of what mentoring is, what a mentor does and the unfolding of the relationship. Yet, opinion isn’t good enough. What you need is solid understanding of what it will actually take for success. Some of the secrets to success are counter-intuitive. Others are overlooked. This book is based on my years of close-up field experience given to people around the globe who suddenly understood the need to fill in the many gaps between what they believe they know about successful collaboration and what will truly lead to success no matter what the field, the goal or the circumstances. 

Buy Link

Author links


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writing advice: What I should have done

(Don't you wish that you could time-travel and give your younger self helpful advice. Today I'm doing exactly that.)

Dear younger Leanne,
You know those stories that you're working on. Well, you might think that you can just throw them out--unfinished. You may think that because they belong to you, you can do whatever you want with them. Well, you're wrong. You can't. You can't because they belong to me--older Leanne--not you. So, instead of tossing them away, you better file them away for safekeeping. You better or else...
Oh, yeah, and another thing. You might think that by writing all those stories you're just having fun. WRONG! You're doing important work. However, you're only doing half the job. You also need to get someone who can spell and knows grammar to edit them. Ask Mom she'll help you. Then you need to submit them to literary journals or short stories contests. Oh, yeah, and don't just do it once and think you're done. Don't just say, "Oh, well, I submitted it. I didn't win. I don't have to do that again." Don't think, I tried, failed and now I'm done. The only way you failed is by being done. Simply by continuing to submit your stories you're proving that you are a winner. If you don't continue working until the job is done, well then you'll leave all that work for me. And trust me, I won't be pleased.
Oh, yeah, and the most important thing. You may not think you're smart, but I do. I know how talented you are. And you're doing a grave disservice by not sharing your talent. So do it. Do it now!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Knitting fashion notes from 1937 (1 of 2)

Stitchcraft, a craft magazine, was 'made and printed in England by Messrs. Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd. of Bradford, and published for the Proprietors, STITCHCRAFT LTD. (controlled by Patons & Baldwins, Ltd.), by the Conde Nast Publications, Ltd., 1 New Bond Street, London, W.I. Registered for the Canadian Magazine Post.

by Anne Talbot

Knitted wear in the new autumn and winter collections may be divided into two groups, the classical, serviceable type of knitted garment destined for sports and country wear, and the more elaborately designed models suitable for afternoon and evening wear with more complicated cut and detail. In the second category the evening models in knitting and crochet are principally of the informal type, but there are a number of beautifully designed, lace-stitch evening gowns being shown in new novelty threads and yarns that are suitable for even quite formal occasions. I have in mind a very lovely white evening dress of spun-glass thread, flexible, gleaming, and translucent, and light to wear. It is crocheted in a lacy pineappple-stitch. The surplice bodice is decollete in a V-shaped line front and back, the skirt fits snugly and flat over the hips with a crisp, circular flare below the knees. The flare is faced with white horse-hair lace to give a clear-cut, stiff line.

Another designer, Paule Valence, shows a plate blue silk yarn, through which runs a silver lame thread, worked in small popcorn-stitch to make a short-fitted evening jacket and long, slim skirt. The bodice is of silver lame, draped cowl-fashion in front, and cut in a deep curving decollete at the back; the skirt is worn over a silver lame foundation which gleams through the knitted meshes.

As Wanda Kofler's there is an evening model of finest black wool in Irish crochet lace with large, bold flowers and leaves in white. With a crimson sash, tied at one side, this is a most striking evening model for country-house wear. Mlle. Kofler also shows a long, fitted evening coat in Irish lace wool crochet, worked with various colours in a leaf design. One of her most ravishing evening gowns is knitted balck silk model with a bolero jacket knitted in black and white silk, and studded all over with brilliants.

I was surprised that cowls were in fashion in the 30s. I thought they were a 1980s invention. I guess there's nothing new under the sun.
Popcorn stitch? Wow, I haven't heard of this stitch for years. When I was a teenager, my grandmother made me a white popcorn stitch toque (wool hat).
Please log on next Monday, I will continue offering this article.
Next post:  Writing advice:  what I should have done

Friday, January 13, 2012

Please welcome Author Karen Wojcik Berner

How/why did you start to write?
I write to make sense of the world. I cannot remember a time when writing was not a large part of my life. Sometimes I think an event has not really happened until I write about it.
How did you become an author?
In college, I double majored in English with a writing concentration and communications. I had known since I became editor of my high school newspaper that writing was going to be my career, but after college, I didn't think I had enough life experience to write a novel, so I put fiction aside for awhile. Lack of life experience, plus the fact that money is required to move out of one's parents' home. I went to work in magazines for ten years.

Many years later, I had a very vivid dream about a woman that I could not shake upon waking.  Then a character popped into my head while I was in the shower, of all places, which was the only five minutes of quiet time I had with a six-year-old and an infant. What if these two met? I knew it was time to revisit fiction.
What was your first published piece?
My first published piece was a story for the local newspaper on a dance company coming to perform in my hometown. I was a sophomore in college and talked my way into meeting with the features editor having nothing more to show than clips from my college and high school newspapers. He bought the piece on spec, and I worked as a stringer with them for a few years.
What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
Nothing. I have always been a writer and have been lucky enough to make a living at it. That is rare, I know, and I am very grateful. Throughout the course of the writing jobs, I have been an orchestra publicist, a magazine editor, a freelance writer, and now a novelist. All of those years writing and editing everything from a restaurant menu to editorials about the paint industry helped strengthen my fiction. The most important thing I learned is that no first draft is perfect. Everyone, from Shakespeare to Stephen King has written and rewritten so many times they cannot count.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me -- a gorgeous full moon shrouded slightly by whispy clouds, people and their stories, decisions made that don't seem to make any sense. Material is all around us.
Successful marketing techniques?
A blog can be a very successful marketing piece. Think about it. A blog showcases your writing as many days per week as you choose to post.

When I was conceptualizing Bibliophilic Blather, I started thinking about what I can offer the community that maybe others could not. After all of my years editing, I thought that might be it, so I started Editing for Grammarphobes to help writers who need refresher hints. Who could possibly remember everything they learned in English class?

Flash Fiction Fridays showcases microfiction by authors of all genres writing on various monthly themes. It is fascinating and a great writing exercise, especially for those who write longer works. It has really helped me to focus on making every word count and cutting the superfluous.

I hope your readers will stop by
http://karenwojcikberner.blogspot.com and
join in the conversation.
Thank you so much for having me here today, Leanne.
Author Links
Blog: http://karenwojcikberner.blogspot.com
Twitter: @KarenBerner
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Scream-ebook/dp/B003DQPKSK
Barnes and Noble:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/A-Whisper-to-a-Scream/Karen-Wojcik-Berner/e/2940012226655/?USRI=a+whisper+to+a+scream&itm=2

Have you ever wanted something so badly it hurt?

Annie Jacobs has dreamed of the day she would become a mother since the first time she held her Baby Tenderlove doll. Unfortunately, biology has not cooperated with her plan, and she finds herself dealing with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility instead of picking out baby names.

Across town, stay-at-home mom Sarah Anderson is just trying to make it through the grocery store without her toddler hurling a box of rice at a fellow shopper. She is exhausted from managing the house, a first grader and a toddler, all without any help from her work-obsessed, absentee husband.

When Annie and Sarah meet through a Classics Book Club, each thinks the other one's life is so much better than her own. But is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence?

"A Whisper to a Scream: The Bibliophiles (Book One)" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary marriage and its problems. The novel speaks to a longing in all of us, a yearning that might start as a vague notion, but eventually grows into an unbearable, vociferous cry.