Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 blog plans

The purpose of this blog has evolved over the years. Initially I created it to promote my soon to be released E book--The Sweater Curse. (The Sweater Curse was released in 2010--and I've recently obtained the rights. I've added to the manuscript. It is now novel-length. And I'm currently looking for a publisher for this thriller.)
How do I do that? I struggled to answer that question. And I thought I'd found an answer... Blog endlessly about the book. But this strategy bored even me.

Soon I was ready to try something else. So I began to create posts that where related to the book. The protagonist of The Sweater Curse is a knitwear designer. So I interviewed knitwear designers. I thoroughly enjoyed helping to promote their businesses. And I began sharing the hand knitting patterns I'd designed. I was making a career transition from knitwear designer to author. And I felt that my blog was the prefect place for me to showcase my past success. I was very proud of my designs and I enjoyed sharing them with you but... Recently I've been receiving feedback that has made me think that by including my patterns here I'm muddying the waters. Am I a knitwear designer or an author? Have no doubt I am an author. So for the sake of purity of purpose and to enhance clarity I will be removing these patterns from my blog in 2014. 

Though I knew this change was necessary, I was still a little uneasy about it. Would it mean less traffic? Did I have the right to make this change knowing that so many people enjoyed my patterns? These worries and more raced around in my head--until I read Victoria Grefer article 4 Tips to Blog Your Best

What will become of my hand knitting patterns? I'm still trying to answer that questions...

In 2014 I will reduce the number of times I post on this blog from three times a week to two. Thursday and Friday are too close together. If I post late on Thursday and early on Friday it's like I didn't post on Thursday. 
And besides with my new clarity of focus there is no 'without a pen'. This is an author's blog.
Monday's theme will be 'my author journey.' Each Monday I'll post about the events I attend; the things I learn and the stories I read and write.
On Guest Post Friday I will continue to help to promote those in the publishing industry--authors, publishers, editors, and...

This entire article can be summarized into two sentences:  Leanne Dyck's blog is a writing blog. Leanne Dyck is a writer.

2014 will be an exciting year. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.
***
Next post (Friday):  Literature As An Oppositional Disorder by Ernest Hekkanen

Friday, December 27, 2013

Interview with Author Carrie Snyder




Carrie Snyder's latest book -- The Juliet Stories -- was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for fiction, and her new novel, Girl Runner, will be published in Canada by House Anansi, next fall.

How/why did you start to write?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I started reading books (or perhaps slightly thereafter, when I realized that the books I loved reading were written by people called writers). I love words, language, ideas. I seem to have infinite patience for the technical challenges of writing books: crafting characters and story in ways that use carefully deliberated structure to create momentum, suspense, surprise, pleasure, and emotion for the reader.

How did you become an author?
My first published poems were written when I was 16 and still in high school, and were published three years later in a well-respected Canadian literary journal. Over the years I’ve had many mentors who have encouraged and guided me, including teachers and editors. My first job after graduating from U of Toronto with an MA in English Literature was in the books section of the National Post newspaper. This was an excellent crash course on the publishing industry. The steps to becoming a published author are too tedious to recount here, but suffice it to say that there were rejections and disappointments along the way, but I found an agent, who sold my first book, Hair Hat, to Penguin Canada, and it was published when I was 29. I never gave up, despite rejection.

What was your first published piece?
Two untitled poems, published in The New Quarterly. Small literary magazines are enormously important in the life of a beginning writer. Enough cannot be said about the hard-working, eagle-eyed, supportive, gentle, warmly enthusiastic editors who nurture new writers and help bring them to maturity.

How long ago?
My first poems appeared in 1994. My first book was published a decade later in 2004.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I always intended to be a writer. I aimed myself at developing a career as a fiction writer from a very early age. I have degrees in English Literature, and my only real “job-job” was at the National Post, where I worked in the books section, and then later as a copy editor, and also wrote for the arts section. A great deal of reading and writing – any form of writing – can only be an asset to one’s career as a writer.

What inspires you?
I love a good story. And I love an iconoclastic character, perhaps an outsider, or someone who pushes the boundaries of convention in their time. I read the obituaries faithfully. I’m fascinated by how we make choices in our lives, and how bound we humans are by our own flaws; but also how adversity is overcome, painful rifts mended sometimes, and sometimes really beautiful things happen against all odds. I love the flaws in a character, almost as much as the strengths. Flaws are what make us interesting. Relationships are fascinating too. We are who we are in relation to others.

Parting words
Thanks for your interest in my books and my blog, Leanne. Good luck with your own writing!
(Thank you for the well wishes. It was a pleasure having you visit.)



author photo taken by Nancy Forde

Visit Carrie Snyder's popular blog:  Obscure CanLit Mama

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Yuletide Blog

For me, Christmas is a time of introspection. Every year, Christmas arrives with a message. This year, as I contemplated the festive season, I was taken to three places...



Set the scene:  Christmas carols played at a loud volume
red, blue, yellow--bright lights
shoppers pushing, shoving rushing to the check-out counter

Over-riding it all, an authoritative voice demanding, "Buy. Buy. Buy. Spend. Spend. Spend. Fill those shopping bags. Now! Now!"

Filled with anxiety, I realize, I will will never be enough. There will always be a present that isn't purchased...an event unattended...an expectation unmet...



Set the scene:  wood pews
candlelight
hymns

A voice preaches, "The reason for the season is..."

I listen and am encouraged to acknowledge what I have...

Love, support, belonging, potential for growth, purpose, creativity, friendship, faith, community, pleasure, inspiration, happiness, harmony...

The list continues and as it does I'm overcome by a feeling of abundance--of thankfulness.

And sometimes you don't even have to go church. Sometimes this message is delivered directly to your computer screen. Case-in-point, Rediscovering the True Spirit of Christmas by Jeff Goins
and A Christmas Reflection by Victoria Grefer



Set the scene:  cold
moonlight
silence

No voice, only my thoughts. 

What lessons can the dark teach me? What do I take with me into the dark? What do I lose? What do I gain? Why do I need to be so busy, to clutter my life? What am I compensating for? What emotions am I suppressing? Why isn't this enough?

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. -Carl Jung

Carrying the lantern of our spirit before us, we must enter the darkness of our troubles if we are to drink clearly again from the source. This is making the darkness conscious. The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

Amongst my great grandmother's possessions, I found a copy of a short story. The author's name and the date of publication are lost in the dust of time. It is an old story, written by an unknown author but it speaks to me. I hope you enjoy it...



The wintry winds blew, and the proud waves of the Atlantic Ocean beat hard against a steamer outward bound for the American shore. Despite all the efforts of her skilled captain and willing crew, she was driven on the rocks and wrecked. Part of the passengers were saved by being put off in the boats, but the greater number sank with the vessel in the stormy deep.

Among those who were in the ill-fated vessel, was a mother and her only daughter, a bright girl of ten years. They had left England's shores with bright hopes and prospects before them. A comfortable home awaited them in the far West, and her husband and father waited to welcome them at New York, on the arrival of the vessel.

But, alas, these fair hopes were rudely dashed to the ground by the sad news of the fearful shipwreck.

When all hope of saving the vessel was abandoned, and the boats were put out, they were quickly filled. Among those who stood on the storm-swept deck, was the fond mother, with the child, grasped by the hand, eagerly watching for a place in the fast-filling boat.

"Room for one more, but only one," cried the brave sailor, as he handed the female passengers over the ship's side. There was a minute's silent suspense, then the fond mother warmly kissing her child, handed her into his strong arms, and in another moment the boat with its occupants disappeared in the surf. Before it was possible to return, the wreck had sunk, and all on board perished, among the number, that brave faithful mother, who lost her own life to save the life of her only child.

Distracted with grief, the heart-broken father mourned the loss of his wife and child, until the morning papers told of the safety of a boat with twelve of the passengers, among whom was a girl of ten years. He hurried to the spot, and with a thankful heart, clasped his daughter to his bosom. ...

Years passed away. The child of ten had become a fine young woman of twenty-five years, and was on a visit to the old country to see her friends and kindred there. In the fine old country house where her beloved mother had spent her childhood, there were many objects of interest, which her aged grandmother pointed out, recalling memories of the past, but there was one above all others of which she never seemed to tire, and on which for hours she could only look with tearful admiration. It was the picture of her mother. As her eyes fell upon it for the first time, she burst into a flood of tears, and grasping her grandmother's hand, she said, "I live because she died."

***
Next post:  Interview with Carrie Snyder--whose latest book, The Juliet Stories, was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for fiction.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bare knitting needles


What's on my needles?
Nothing. They are bare. No freshly cast on stitches. No nearing completion project. No... Nothing...
Why?
Well, a few months ago I was experiencing sharp pain in my wrists--increasing after I knit. I went to see the doctor. She directed me to a clinic where my condition was assessed. This involved an electric current being placed on my carpal tunnel. It felt like being tasered--I think, I've never been tasered. The clinic directed me to a hand therapist. This conversation ended with the therapist saying, "Stopping knitting--at least for now--may have been the wisest thing you've done."
Knitting in moderation is okay for most. Knitting in excess--like every waking minute--is not okay.
"Do you miss it?" Many have asked.
I don't miss the pain but I do miss...
-the creative release
-the sensuality
-the meditation
-the new garment
But change comes to all and it has come to me. I'm no longer a knitter--at least for now.
***
And have no fear, there are many wonderful knitting blogs out there. Here's an example 

Oh, yes, and other people are under going a career change. Read this tribute to Steve's
***
Next post:  Yuletide Blog

Friday, December 20, 2013

Interview with the founder and publisher of Leaf Press Ursula Vaira


Ursula Vaira founded Leaf Press in 2001 as a poetry chapbook publisher. Since 2007 she has been publishing trade poetry while continuing the chapbook tradition and the weekly on-line Monday’s Poem.

"Poetry, paddling and west-coast wilderness camping are my passions, and they show in my writing (And See What Happens, Caitlin Press) and in the works I choose for Leaf's list. This year I am so proud to have published Poems for Planet Earth, a round-up of poems from readers at internationally renowned Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria BC; Surge Narrows by Emilia Nielsen, in which 'words rush like cold, clean water over the skin' (Anne Simpson); milk tooth bane bone by Daniela Elza, 'an open armature for wonder' (David Abram); and Dark Matter by Leanne McIntosh, an invitation to 'listen, listen as though the moon/has just pressed her face/against ours.'

Publishing is not for the easily frightened. The hours are long.  The money is spare. The printing bills come due. Invoice payments arrive late. Contracts are signed long before the granting agencies approve or reject funding applications. No one lasts long in the biz without a passion for the work.

But the rewards! Money aside. Glory aside. But being able to work so intimately with these amazing poets, to spend hours and hours inside their words during the editing and design and typesetting until I know nearly every word by heart--and then to sit in an audience during the book launch, watching the effect of the poet's words play on each face ... I don't know, it just does it for me.

 Ursula Vaira, Publisher







Leaf Press – Publishing Poetry Only

Visit Leaf on Facebook










Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reading The Beautiful Mystery


After reading and raving about A Trick of the Light, I wanted to read more books by Louise Penny. And The Beautiful Mystery's back cover blurb hooked me...

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery."
But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery's massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. But before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

The book opens with this Bible verse:  'And man's foes...shall be they of his own household.' (p. 13)
It's a clue. But to what? Intrigued, I read on...

I read on for the language...

'They followed one of the golden ribbons, deeper into the forest. Deep into Quebec. Toward a body.' (p. 18)

'Autumn came earlier here. The further north, the earlier the fall. The longer the fall, the greater the fall.' (p. 18)

'It was like walking into joy.' (p. 24)

'The darkness Gamache had expected to find inside the monastery was not in the walls, but in the men.' (p. 24)

'[L]ook at every body with an open mind. Not so open that their brains fell out, but open enough to see and hear the unexpected.' (p. 26)

'His long elegant hands like a mask over his face.' (p. 40)

'With an effort, the Chief Inspector banished those horrors. Let them glide right past, as though they were water and he a rock.' (p. 66)

'The world had found them, and slipped through a crack in their thick walls. A crack produced by a crime.' (p. 71)

'He lay there, listening. Imagining the monks in their cells, all around him. Like bees in a honeycomb.' (p. 106)

'The community of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupe is like a living chant. Each of us individual notes. On our own, nothing. But together? Divine. We don't just sing we are the song.' (p. 116)

'The voice was flat. It would skim and skip forever across this lake. Making barely a mark.' (p. 340)

'He unhooked the thought from his flesh and could almost see it drift away.' (p. 354)

And I received more than an intriguing mystery. 

Louise Penny shared her insights...

on addiction...
' "I've seen that look before," said Gamache. "When you sing. Not just you, but all of you."
"It's joy, I suppose," said the abbot. "When I even think of the chants I feel freed of cares. It's as close to God as I can get."
But Gamache had seen that look on other faces. In stinking, filthy, squalid rooms. Under bridges and in cold back alleys. On the faces of the living, and sometimes on the dead. It was ecstasy. Of sorts.
Those people got there not through chants, but through needles in the arm, crack pipes and little pills. And sometimes they never came back.' (p. 144)

on slipping away...
' "People die in bits and pieces... They lose their sight, their hearing, their independence. Those are the physical ones. But there's others. Less obvious, but more fatal. They lose heart. They lose hope. They lose faith. They lose interest. And finally, they lose themselves." ' (p. 277)

on the church...
'While many continued to search for God, they'd given up looking for Him in a church.' (p. 26)

Beauvoir 'went to church as rarely as possible. Some weddings, though the Quebecois now preferred to simply live together. Funerals mostly. And even those were becoming rarer, at least in churches. Even the elderly Quebecois, when they died now preferred a funeral home send-off.
It might not have nurtured them, the funeral home. But neither had it betrayed them.' (p. 72)

'The Catholic Church wasn't just a part of his parents' lives, and his grandparents', it ruled their lives.' (p. 99)

on the nature of our modern lives...
'Had peace and quiet become so rare that when finally found they could be mistaken for something grotesque and unnatural.' (p. 108)

Louise Penny wove fascinating research into the story...

research regarding the Gilbertines...
'The Reformation, the Inquisition...It was a dangerous time to be a Catholic...
[I]n Europe priest's holes were built into homes. Tunnels dug for escape.
Some had escaped so far they popped up in the New World. And even that wasn't far enough. The Gilbertines had gone even further. They disappeared into the blank spot on the map.
Vanished.
To reappear more than three hundred years later. 
On the radio...
Then, thanks to the Internet, finally millions of people listened to...recording[s] [o]f monks chanting' (p. 76 - 77)

' "The Church considered [the Cathars]...free thinkers, too independent. And gaining in influence."...
"So the Church killed them?"
"After first trying to bring them into the fold...Many were mutilated first, and sent back to frighten the others, but it only hardened the Cathar resolve"...
"The Inquisition would've done that to the Gilbertines?"...
"It's not a certainty...But Dom Clement was wise to leave. And wise to hide." ' (p. 314)

research on the Gregorian chant...
' "A whole mythology has grown up around them... Probably because we know so little about them. We don't even know where Gregorian chant come from...
Pope Gregory had nothing to do with the chants. Marketing, that's all. Gregory was a popular pope, so to curry favor some astute priest named the chants after him...
There's also a theory that if Christ heard any music, or sang any music, it would've been plainchant." ' (p. 330 - 331)

' "Scientists have even begun studying the chants... [T]hey hooked up probes to volunteers...It showed that after a while their brain waves changed. They started producing alpha wave...Their blood pressure dropped, their breathing became deeper... [T]hey also became...more alert...While the scientists say it's alpha waves, the Church called it 'the beautiful mystery.' " ' (p. 331)

Located in the back pages is A Reading Group Guide and the first two chapters of Louise Penny's newest release How The Light Gets In
***
In my email in box:  
Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction contest
Check it out. You could win $1000

Bayou Magazine offers the winner of their Poetry and Fiction contests $500

You can't win, if you don't play. So enter today...

And...

The Crime Writers of Canada wants me to remind you that if you register for Bloody Words before January 1, 2014, you'll save. So what are you waiting for? Register today...

***
Next post:  Is your poetry in need of a home? Read tomorrow's interview with Leaf Press.




Friday, December 13, 2013

Interview with Lou Aronica of the publishing house Story Plant...


What is Story Plant's mandate?

The Story Plant is dedicated to author development. We commit wherever possible to multi-book deals with writers with an aim toward building their audiences over a series of publications.




How/why did you decide to be a publisher?

I've been in publishing since 1979, first at Bantam, where I became Deputy Publisher, then as Publisher of Berkley and Avon. I left that side of the business in 1999 to concentrate on writing, but even though I was having success in that arena, I found that I missed being a publisher too much. That's when I decided to launch The Story Plant with literary manager Peter Miller.


When did you establish Story Plant?

The Story Plant published its first book in 2008.




Share some of Story Plant's challenges and victories...

The bookstore arena is always a challenging one. It is difficult to generate attention for your books without taking considerable risks. Since print books are fully returnable to the publisher if unsold, one takes a big chance in doing a mass distribution. 

We have had significant success on the e-book side of the business. More than a third of our titles have reached the top 100 of either the Kindle or Nook bestseller lists.


This is a challenging time to become a publisher. How are you uniquely equipped to address these challenges?

I think what distinguishes us from most other independent publishers is our understanding of the history of publishing (I was taught the business by Ian Ballantine, the man who brought paperbacks to America for the first time) and willingness to constantly try new things.


What do you see as the benefits of being a publisher?

The greatest benefit of being a publisher is working with writers and seeing their vision come to life on the page.




How does Story Plant market books? Do you have a global reach?

We use a wide range of marketing techniques, from extensive publicity campaigns to targeted advertising, to e-mail marketing, and beyond. We're constantly looking for new ways to market books. 

The Story Plant is distributed by Perseus Distribution, so our books are available in the English language throughout the world.


What genres do you publish?

We publish a wide range of fiction, both commercial and literary.


Who pays the publishing costs--the author or the publisher?

The Story Plant pays all publishing and marketing costs.


Does Story Plant pay royalties as well as an advance?

Yes.


Do you publish ebooks, print or both?

Both.




Please talk us through Story Plant's author submission process...

The best way to submit a title is for the author to query either me (lou.aronica@thestoryplant.com) or our Editorial and Marketing Associate Allison Cronk (allison.cronk@thestoryplant.com). Both of us have very broad tastes and we're open to all kinds of fiction. The only caveat is that we want writers who are truly committed to staking their own place in the book market; we aren't interested in writers who are simply following trends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

submitting short stories (a love story)

In memory of the gone
but not forgotten
(It snowed on Dec. 5 and it melted on Dec.10)

It's a typical love story:

Short version...
Writer notices literary journal
Writer dreams of seeing her story in the literary journal
Writer sends in a submission
Writer is sent an encouraging rejection letter
Writer is inspired 
Writer writes
With fingers crossed, writer carries a short story to the mailbox

Long version...
Last July, I sent seven short stories to a variety of literary journals. I waited a couple of months and then the rejection letters began to trickle in. Far from feeling depressed, I was inspired to write.

Why?

1)Experience has taught me that sometimes its the story--it needs revising. But sometimes it's the literary journal--it's not the right fit.

2)I received two personalized rejection letters.

Quote...
'While we are unable to accept (name of short story) for publication, we would like to see more of your work...less than 2% (of the stories they receive) are accepted for publication...Your work was almost there.'

'Although we will not be accepting your work at this time, I wish you best of luck with future submissions'

They want more and that's exactly what I'm going to send them.

3)It is extremely and increasingly difficult for aspiring writers to get published or make careers for themselves. Don’t waste time despairing this reality. Write and rewrite and when you’ve got something polished try your best to find a home for it. Don’t feel that there is something wrong with you if that journey takes longer than you’d hoped, or takes some ugly twists and turns. You must determine to write regardless of what external forces work against you, or in your favour. You must just write. If you write enough, and you write well, you will write your own way forward. --Elizabeth Ruth (Read her complete interview here)

I'm also entering contests. I enjoy entering the Women On Writing quarterly flash fiction contests. For the low price of twenty dollars not only can you enter their contest but you also receive an invaluable, detailed critique. 
I wrote that I entered but it really wasn't that easy. I needed help to achieve that goal. Thankfully Angela was there to help. I'd like to thank her and the WOW staff.

Now I like to showcase one of my favourite poets, Lord...um...er...my husband, Byron.



In my yard a garden grows
So sad that now the pond is froze
The days grow shorter and grey darkens
The winds do howl and winter harkens
I grow weary waiting for the sun to shine
And long for when it is not winter time

In my yard a garden grows
A work in progress yet it shows
'Tis not a one of shrubs and flowers
Instead a work of stones and rock towers
Water cascades down the sculpted hill
And sand in patterned rows lies still

I await the spring when roses grow
And flora blush full and waters flow
The stones piled high amid rocks grown tall
Soothed again by sounds of water all
To sit and reap in tranquil harmony
Nature's blessing of my quaint rock quarry
-Byron Dyck

Friday, December 6, 2013

Interview with Author Brock W.B. Clayards (thriller author)


How/why did you start to write?

I have always been a story teller. Even as a little boy I would recount events in the neighborhood as they inspired or impressed me. This occasionally had a down side as my parents tended to take these reports with a grain of salt. One incident in particular stands out. My parents refused to come to the top window in our house for a look see, at one of the biggest building fires in Dartmouth where we lived at the time. Not until the sounds of approaching fire sirens were evident was I able to convince them.
It was a natural progression for me to commit my stories to paper.

How did you become an author?

I was bored one rainy Sunday afternoon in Port Alberni. My wife was using the internet computer for school work so I sat down at our stand alone keyboard and began recounting an event that had occurred early in my police career. One paragraph led to another and soon I was hooked writing my first novel.

What was your first published piece?

Pacific Flyways was my first novel. It is a thriller set on the north end of Vancouver Island involving a plan to infect migrating wildfowl with a deadly strain of the H1N5 virus, Avian Flu.

Where was it published?

The novel is published as an e book and is available through Amazon or Smashwords.com

How long ago?

It hit the either last September 2012.

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

 I was a member of the RCM Police. Included in my varied service was a stint with their counter terrorism section, Middle Eastern division. I spent several years in Ottawa chasing agents from Sadam Hussein’s Iraqi secret police operating in Canada under diplomatic cover. This combined with several years of small town policing on Vancouver Island helped inspire my book.

What inspires you?

 I love detail and research. My formal training is as a historian so I guess this comes from hours of working on essays in university. The trick is to write about things in such a way that my readers will catch the bug. 

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques.

I have arranged a book reading in conjunction with a popular local musician. The two of us did our thing and shared venue, costs and benefits. He was glad of the audience and shared expenses while I was glad of his notoriety to pull in a crowd.
 
Parting words

 My next book, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail, is a historical thriller set in Victoria at the start of the Great War. It is an adventure transporting the reader from the gritting brick enclaves of Victoria’s Chinatown, to the Sea of Cortez and back. Redvers Duncan, a Victoria City constable, battles drug tongs and German spies. He is faced with rescuing his beloved Wynn, a feisty school teacher, while trying to thwart an Irish Nationalist/German plot to sink the Canadian battle cruiser HMCS Rainbow.  The book should be available in the New Year from Diamond River Books in both E book and traditional hard copy.



Book Description (from Amazon)
'Every year thousands of migrating birds fill the skies of North America. This year a madman plans to infect them with a deadly strain of the avain flue, turning them into flying time bombs...and you thought The Birds was scary.
RCMP Constable Grayden Swift and Federal Fisheries Officer Janice Mason, rookies in their respective careers, confront terrorists, thieves, and romantic complications in the small town of Pasquin Cove. Pacific Flyways is a tale of action, sex, and intrigue in one of the most beautifully rugged areas of North America; the Broughton Archipelago.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Authors: Dealing with negative reviews


Way back when (2006), I self-published an audiobook collection of short stories. It was my first published piece of size and I was a bundle of emotions. One of these emotions was doubt—would any one really like it? Well, I was relieved to discover that most did—one didn’t. Her comment:  the stories are too short. Well, I ranted and raved to myself and to my husband. “It is a short story collection.”

“Don’t worry about it,” my husband said, “You can’t please everyone.”

I knew he was right. But I couldn’t shake the negative review. Write something longer, echoed in my mind. It drove me on to write novellas and novels.

Would I have made this leap without her negative review—maybe, probably? But that’s not my point. My point is that sometimes if you’re able to endure the sting you can learn something from a negative review.

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Deserve To Be Served!

I'm taking a brief from sharing the my Christmas knitting patterns.
Why?
Well, there's trouble in paradise and you need to know about it.
My husband, Byron Dyck, explains...

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Translink kills Queen of Nanaimo 
(Queen of Nanamio is a B.C. Ferries Vessel)
Byron Dyck

If you thought commuting from the gulf islands was hard because of the ferry system. Just wait... it gets better! I wish. Actually, it just got worse. Much worse. So much worse that the 620 bus schedule change could signal the end of the Queen of Nanaimo. The final nail that BC Ferry execs have been trying to drive into the coffins of Gulf Islanders for decades. The 620 bus leaving Tsawwassen terminal is going to coincide uncannily closely with the Vancouver-Victoria sailings. To be clear, that is coincide ONLY with the major passenger routes. So, when the Queen of Nanaimo brings in the handful of over-paying passengers from the Gulf Islands in the morning, they have a one and a half hour wait for a bus. Now, if the Queen of Nanaimo could leave a quarter of an hour earlier, or the 9:15 am bus could leave fifteen minutes later, the Gulf Islanders could still be catered to without spoiling everything for the "predominant customer base from Swartz Bay". Since the bus schedule is less likely to change than Stephen Harper resigning the alternative to waiting for 1.5 hours in the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal Arrivals area, I suspect that I won't be the only one abandoning the morning Queen of Nanaimo run. I'll go through Swartz Bay instead and ride on the "big ones" - exactly what the BC Ferry execs want - one less run, and then another... I wasn't wondering before why there wasn't a replacement vessel (ANY VESSEL) for the two weeks the Queen of Nanaimo was out of service. If you can't see the writing on the wall, you don't know what collusion means.

How much less ridership can the Queen of Nanaimo take before they determine that they have to cut it altogether?

You're not paranoid if someone is out to get you. If BC Ferries doesn't get you, Translink is waiting to screw you as soon as you land.

We are tax-payers and so it's not unreasonable to expect service. And as a concerned citizen my husband contacted Translink. Below is that correspondence...

Byron writes...
I just found out that the 10:00 am bus from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal will no longer be available after December 16th. As a commuter from the gulf islands to Richmond this will greatly affect my ability to get to work in a timely fashion. The 10:00 am bus means that we already wait for a half
hour for a connection.



Tranlink's replies...
Thank you for your feedback.  The changes to the 620 bus schedule was made as a result of a review of the ferry and transit travel patterns.  The predominent customer base is from Swartz Bay and we were frequently providing overload trips while underutilizing some trips that met other ferry service.  Many of the overload trips involved taking buses off other routes to help with heavy passenger loads from the ferry.  The schedule changes have not resulted in a decrease in service hours for the 620 bus.  It is a reallocation of resources to try to best meet the passenger demand at the ferry.  Our Service Planning Department will be monitoring and accessing these changes.  We apologize for any inconvenience these may changes may cause you.  We have assigned your comments to the Service Planning Department.
Sincerely,

Customer Relations Department
CMBC

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Interview with Author Susan Schoenberger


How/why did you start to write?
 I started to write seriously in my late 30s as a creative outlet that tapped into a different part of my journalist's brain. I don't like embellished writing as journalism, so I needed another venue to play with words.

How did you become an author?
 That was a very long road. I first wrote a novel that didn't go anywhere, then started working on short stories. When I attempted writing a novel again, I was fortunate enough to win a contest that helped me, eventually, find an agent. But even then, it took two years to sell A Watershed Year. Since then, I've had some rough luck and some great luck. Borders, which was much more enthusiastic about my book than Barnes & Noble, filed for bankruptcy just as it was coming out, so that didn't help. But then my editor at Guideposts Books moved to Seattle and got a job with Amazon Publishing, where she told them about my book. They are re-releasing it in November, which will give it another life, and they also bought my next novel, The Virtues of Oxygen.

What was your first published piece?
It was a short story called "Intercession," and it's the basis for the first chapter of my novel. 

Where was it published?
 It was published in the small journal Inkwell, which is based at Manhattanville College.

How long ago?
That was 2002. 

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
 I was a reporter and a copy editor, and both of those helped me as a fiction writer. The reporting skills are important for research, and the editing skills help me to fine-tune my own work.

What inspires you?
 Many other writers inspire me, as well as anyone who pursues a craft and really tries to untie the knots of what makes art successful and meaningful.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique
I'm convinced that Twitter is a meaningful endeavor, but I haven't had enough time to devote to tweeting and building my followers. So please follow me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/schoenwriter

Parting words
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story. 
(You're most welcome, Susan. I enjoyed reading about your author journey. And I wish you much success with A Watershed Year.)


Blurb:

A woman in the midst of heartbreak finds renewed purpose in her life when she decides to adopt a young boy from Russia in this powerful and triumphant debut novel.
Two months after the death of her best friend Harlan, Lucy remains haunted by the things she never told him. Then she begins receiving emails he'd arranged to be sent after his death, emails that will change the course of her life. One email in particular haunts her -- he tells her he is certain she is destined for motherhood. Thus begins her watershed year.
Links
To order the book:

My website:


My Facebook author page:


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Insomnia by Stephen King


It was a sunny, warmish day—unusual for early October. I unzipped the flap on the canopy, climbed onto the lawn chair and slipped into Stephen King’s world.

Insomnia was published in 1994. Well before the creation of the new genre—Baby Boomer Lit. But there’s no doubt this book belongs in this genre. King writes frankly about growing old and the moment of death.

‘ “The approach of almost every death which serves the Purpose takes a course with which we are very familiar. The auras of those who will die Purposeful deaths turns gray as time of finishing approaches. This gray deepens steadily to black. [The moment of death gives] release to those who suffer, peace to those in terror, rest to those who cannot find rest.’ (p. 396)

The senior citizens that people King’s book aren’t feeble and ineffectual. No, on the contrary, they fall in love, have sex and live dynamic, engaged lives.

Ralph Roberts is vulnerable—having just lost his wife—and so is a sympathetic character. He’s an every man which makes him easily relatable.

‘As that summer became fall, and as that fall darkened down toward Carolyn’s final winter, Ralph’s thoughts were occupied more and more by the deathwatch, which seemed to tick louder and louder even as it slowed down.
But he had no trouble sleeping.
That came later.’ (p. 35)

With the skill of a master, King takes time to develop his story. He uses the first forty pages of Insomnia to develop his characters, build intrigue and establish the world in which his story is set.

Completely engrossed in the book right up and including the bittersweet ending, I only paused briefly to note interesting observations ….

‘ “All lives are different. All of them matter or none matter.” ‘ (p. 577)

and acknowledge exceptionally well-written passages….

‘[L]ooked a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.’ (p. 144)

‘The light which did manage to find its way in here seemed to fall dead on the floor, and the corners were full of shadows.’ (p. 185)

 ‘He could feel the killer’s aura which surrounded this place pressing in on him, trying to smother him like a plastic dry-cleaning bag.’ (p. 501)

Insomnia has an old-fashioned charm, full of quaint sayings like:

‘Peek not through a keyhole, lest ye be vexed.’ (p. 384)

‘ “Looks like it’s shank’s pony the rest of the way up the hill.” ‘ (p. 463)

And as always happens to me when I read Stephen King’s prose, I was inspired to write…

It’s the time of the year when the clouds drift down in thin veils to dance with the evergreens. 
***
Next post:  An interview with author Susan Schoenberger