Friday, May 31, 2013

Guest Post: Author Sharla Shults

 Sharla Shults' writing is reflected through two different purposes. The first message is inspirational from the heart inspired by life, love and whispers of yesterday. While some thoughts are fact and others fiction, the recollections are rooted in moments to evoke a personal emotion, set a purpose for tomorrow, and provide an insight for reflection. It is a means for sharing love, dreams and inspirations to send a heart racing, free a heart of grief or perhaps even offer a path for forgiveness. Two books of inspirational poetry include Echoes (2004) and Remembering (2009).

The second is a message to and for America, our country, your land and my land: A message of sacrifice, a message for freedom, a message for those who have served in the past, presently serve or will serve our military forces in the future. A grave price is being paid every moment of every day of the year for all the freedom America has to offer. Let us not forget those who have fought or are fighting for our nation; they are the epitome of the human spirit called freedom! Her most recent book release, Awakenings from Then ‘til Now (2013), is reflective of historical poetry.

How/why did you start to write?

Through the years leading up to the publication of my first book in 2004, I never envisioned myself as a writer. I was a mathematician, an educator, content on teaching and working in various arenas with youth in middle and high school. Yet, in a way, that is where it started: creating curriculum that went outside the basic equation into the realm of creativity. Have you ever been given a poetic math challenge? My students were given just that: a challenge where imagination reigned and creativity soared. As a result of that unusual beginning, I am now on the verge of publishing my third book...WOW! Number three! As I look back to my writing's inception, I realize more and more what a gift I have been blessed to share with others. It comes by way of poetry: a way of transcending the boundaries of conscious thought where, like my students, imagination reigns and creativity soars.

How did you become an author?

After compiling my first manuscript (collection) of poetry, I begin investigating various avenues to get my work published. I contacted a Christian publisher who was interested in my writings and it was soon after that I signed a contract for the publishing of my first book.

What was your first published piece?

My first published book is Echoes. This book of poetry echoes from the heart inspired by life and God’s love that whisper of yesterday.

Where was it published?

I was published by Xulon Press, Maitland, FL

How long ago?


What inspires you?

I am inspired by life, all that is around me, family, experiences, adventures, nature.

Amazon Author Central…

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crime Writers of Canada mini writing conference report by Leanne Dyck

The morning of Saturday, May 25th I woke before my alarm. By 6:30 a.m., I was in the truck headed for the ferry. I was excited—but not nervous. This surprised me. I’m use to talking to one or two people at a time, in a few hours I would be talking to a room full. But the day wasn’t all about me—there were other panels, other panelists.

Here’s what I heard…

Panel 1:  Moving from Idea to Draft

-When conducting research, experts (such as police officers) are helpful—especially if you send them an introductory letter stating what information you want to collect.

An attendee asked:  If your story is based on a true event, how do you avoid being legible?
Answer:  Mask the facts and consult with a lawyer.

There was discussion about plotter or panster. Most present did some type of outlining before writing.

Advice:  -Write the first draft then fix it.

There was discussion about how to make the outlining process easier.
-mind mapping
-mind mapping using post-it notes
-mind mapping using a white board
-mind mapping using the computer program Scribner

Editors have said that…
-readers want to be in a place
-readers want to learn something

When conducting research, the Internet only gives you the big picture so buy books and find experts.

An attendee asked:  Should an author be able to play with the facts?
Answer:  The author should ask herself, “Could this happen?”
If the answer is yes—go for it.

-In writing scenes, instead of trying to account for every minute only write the important scenes.
-You should start the scene with one set of feelings and end it with a different set.
-Beware of sagging middles.
-Each scene should move the story forward.

Food for thought:  An eight year old said, “I like this book. I just think the author told too much of it.”

Panel 2:  Handling Common Problems in Plot, Character, and Style
Chris Bullock (moderator), Joan Donaldson-Yarmey, DebraPurdy Kong, Lou Allin

-Beware of using local places as the setting for negative events.
-If you’re becoming bored with the story bring in a bad boy or girl.
-Read (lots of) books like an author. When you encounter characters ask yourself why you like/dislike them.
-Feel free to build a character that is a composite of real people.

When building a character start by asking yourself:
What do they look like?
How do they act?
Where do they work?
Then go deeper…
What are their hopes, dreams, fears…

-Once you understand your character outside and in you can bring them to life on the page.
-When you’re working on a series develop a character bible for each character—main and minor.

When building a character
-avoid making them too quirky—you want believable characters
-avoid making them too stereotypical
-be careful how you age your character
-ensure that there is continuity
-secondary characters shouldn't overshadow—if they begin to reign them in.
-don’t have too many characters. Ensure that each has a purpose.

-find your own style
-your words should flow naturally
-use your own voice
-aim for rhythm in your writing
-as the writer matures so does her writing
-don’t let your setting take over

(much thanks to Kay Stewart for taking this photo)

Panel 3:  Marketing Your Work
Leanne Dyck, Robin Spano, Phyllis Smallman (moderator)

I sat down feeling confident. I looked out at the attendees and immediately felt nervous. All those old stories about how I couldn’t read began attacking me. I was tired so I tripped and fell over some words. This made me feel embarrassed. Still I knew I wanted to be there; I wanted to be a member of the panel. This is an important part of building my author career. It’s just hard for me—that’s all. But it’s been my experience that the more I challenge myself the easier things become.
I plan to share my speech with you—in a future post, so watch for that.

Robin Spano spoke eloquently about Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. She said that through Twitter you’re able to interact with anyone who has a Twitter account. And this makes it an excellent networking tool.

She pointed out that there is a blog component to Goodreads. Goodreads is an excellent way to promote the books that you've enjoyed reading.

Since Robin spoke I’ve had an opportunity to become more involved with Facebook. I like it because through it I really feel like a member of a community.

Twitter and Facebook are more immediate—brief messages sent quickly—than a blog. But what works best for me is having an opportunity to think before I write.

My other panelists stressed that you should find what works for you and use it. Blogging works for me.

One the marketing ideas Phyllis Smallman recommended, which I hope to eventually use, is Skype. Imagine being able to do an interactive presentation to a globally audience. She also said... Well, her she is...

Award winning author, Phyllis Smallman, lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C. but spends the winter months in Florida where her books are set. Her fifth book, Highball Exit, comes out in the fall of 2012.
" at the top of her game in this fast-paced tale."  Globe and Mail

Phyllis Smallman writes...

Marketing Creativity
It doesn’t matter if you paint, knit or write books like I do; you need to be able to sell your product the same as Kraft needs to sell their cheese. How do we go about that? Here are some quick tips that may help you.

    1.You need to be able to speak about your work so go to Toastmasters and learn to be a great public speaker.  You’ll have fun and it’s the quickest way to put yourself at ease in front of an audience. More than that, they will become part of your marketing platform.

      2. Have a good talk with yourself and decide what type of marketing you are most comfortable doing.  For me that means not hand selling books at fairs, festivals or signings, but I’m happy to hand out bookmarks.

    3. Build a platform with a community of like minded people.  Join guilds, art groups and associations to increase your fan base and provide new ideas and marketing opportunities. I belong to Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America and Florida Writers Assoc.

     4. Give stuff away.  In my case, I put up free short stories where e-books are sold.  When you download a short story of mine there is a few chapters of one of my books attached at the end. Bitty And The Naked Ladies has been downloaded about 30,000 times. Write articles about the work you do and offer them to on-line magazines. This is a way to get your name out there and gain authenticity.  If you give people information, you create fans and followers. My articles have appeared in Omni magazine and in Spinetingler.

     I send out a newsletter once a year, when I have a new book out, to update readers on what’s happening and to remind them that I’m still writing. I include any new publishing events, awards or books. For instance, I won a bronze medal from Independent Publishers this spring.  That will go in my fall newsletter to announce my new book, Long Gone Man, coming out in Sept from Touch Wood. To receive newsletters, which you can use as a template, go to and I’ll add you to the list.

     This is the most important point.  You want people to like you. Don’t annoy them. Don’t over send things to them, don’t over-invite them to events, don’t over social media them and most important, don’t always make it about you. Be nice.

Mystery Mini Chats followed the panel discussions. It was an opportunity for readers and authors to engage in dialogue about books. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guest Post: Writing for a Paycheck by Dede Perkins

You've written your novel, and either it's hiding in a drawer or hopefully, it's making the query rounds. The trouble is, your novel isn't earning you money - yet. So what can you do if you need to earn money while you wait for your novel's royalties to roll in? In between writing your next novel, you can write for the corporate and/or non-profit world.

I hear you groan, but as a paid business writer and an as-of-yet unpaid fiction writer, I can tell you, it's nice when a client thanks me for my work and as part of the deal, hands over a not-too-shabby check as payment.

The good news is this is a terrific time to be a business writer. In the age of information, every business and non-profit needs a website, social media profile, advertisement or old-fashioned printed brochure. And most need writers to produce the copy for them.

So, from one writer to another, here are 4 strategies that will jumpstart your paid writing career.

#1. Research work that's being done in a couple of industries that interest you. Read websites, white papers, ad copy, articles, and write a couple of your own. Use them as writing samples and give them to anyone who is interested.

#2. Figure out your market and start with an unpaid first assignment. For instance, if you'd like to write for the non-profit world, call a couple of the smaller organizations in your area, say you're a new writer who wants to write for their industry and offer to write an ad, a brochure, a tag line, a page of website content - whatever they need - for free, no strings attached. Once people see you can write, the projects and paychecks will follow.

#3. Tell everyone you know that you're taking on clients for business writing projects. If they send someone your way, be sure to thank them and then do your very best work.

#4. When that first "real" client calls, don't be shy. Ask everything you need to understand the message you are being hired to write. Tell the client you will send copy in about a week. Write the first draft and as you would with a piece of fiction, set it aside for a day or two. Reread and revise. Repeat the process until you are 100% satisfied with the piece. Send it to the client and be open to feedback and revision requests. Rework the piece until the client is 100% satisfied.

Business writing may not be the stuff of your dreams, but getting paid for writing is better than getting paid for doing almost anything else. And if all goes well, your novel will be wildly successful and soon you'll be able to devote your creative energies to more interesting pursuits - like writing your next wildly successful novel.

Dede Perkins, business writer by day and fiction writer by night, owns A Few Good Words, an outsourced business writing company based in Maine.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Raving about A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

CBC radio raved about Louise Penny's most recent mystery--A Beautiful Mystery. I want to read that book, I told myself. So I paid a visit to my local bookstore.
To my request, the bookseller said, "No. But have you read any of her books? No. Well, you need to read..." She took A Trick of the Light off the shelf. She seldom wrong, so I left with the book.
In my reading chair, my eyes moved easily across the page. And I was all wrapped up in the story--like a cozy quilt--before I even realized it.
I have a few fine artist friends but I don't know much about fine art. Ms. Penny gave me a glimpse into the nastier side of this world. 

Blurb from the dust jacket:  "Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musee in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Surete du Quebec, is called to the tiny Quebec village, and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

'[T]hey don't call it the 'art establishment' for nothing. Fact is, most are followers. If one dealer is sniffing around an artist it won't be long before others join him. We follow the buzz. That's how phenomenons are created. Not because the artist is better than anyone else, but because the dealers have a pack mentality. Suddenly they all decided they want one particular artist." [p. 204]

'[T]here's other forms of attack. Of hurting. Even of killing. You can murder a person's reputation. You can kill their drive and their desire, even their creativity, if you try hard enough.' [p. 149]

I like how Louise Penny echoes the title throughout the book:  once when a painting is admired, again when a fifty dollar word is used and then again leading into the final reveal of who-done-it...

' "A word was used at your vernnissage...To describe your paintings...Chiaroscuro. It means the contrast between light and dark. Their juxtaposition. You do it in your portraits, Clara. In the colors you use, the shading, but also in the emotions your work evokes. Especially in the portrait of Ruth...
[T]here's a clear contrast. The dark hues, the trees in the background. Her face partly in shadow. Her expression thunderous. Except for one tiny dot. The smallest hint of light, in her eyes." ...Gamache turned to Francois Marios. "You said something curious, when we were standing in front of that portrait... Was it real, or just a trick of the light? Hope offered, then denied. A particular cruelty... That's what this crime, this murder was about." ' [p. 314]

I love Ms. Penny sense of fun...

' "What is this? A cult?"
"Praying doesn't make something a cult," whispered the Chief.
"Did you get a load of all the smiling and shaking hands? What was that? You can't tell me these people aren't into mind-control."
"Happiness isn't a cult either," whispered Gamache, but Beauvior looked like he didn't believe it.' [p. 165]

' "He's my sponsor."
"I beg your pardon?" said Gamache.
"Brian's my sponsor. He's eight years sober, I'm only two."
Gamache looked from the elegant Thierry Pineault, in gray flannels and light cashmere sweater, to the skinhead.
"I know what you're thinking, Chief Inspector, and you're right. Brian is pretty tolerant of me. He gets a lot of grief from his friends when he's seen with me in public. My suits and ties and all. Very embarrassing," Thierry smiled.' [p. 334]

Final Thought:  It would be so cool if sober people, like me, could have a sponsor. Someone whose been there, done that. Someone who would hold you accountable. Someone to phone if you have a crisis of conscious. Someone who would listen without judging.
Sharing my author journey...

This Saturday (May 25th) is the 

National Crime Writing Month Mini Conference Events

Making Crime Pay 
9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Three panel discussions plus a blue pencil cafe

Mystery Mini Chants
2:30 to 5:00 pm
Authors talk about their books

This is a free event

and I'm a panelist and emcee. This front of stage appearance was filling me with a volatile mixture of anxiety and excitement until I realized that it's not all about me. Other people will be there.

Now I'm looking forward to hearing what the other panelists will share.
Now I'm looking forward to helping the mini chant run smoothly.
Now I'm looking forward to sharing information with the other attendees.
Now I'm mainly excited.
Looking forward to seeing you there.

Next post:  Please welcome Author Dede Perkins

Monday, May 20, 2013

How-to read to children by Leanne Willetts

For the Love of Books was published in 1992 in the Manitoba Child Care Workers' trade magazine. (Willetts is my maiden name.)

For the Love of Books

by Leanne Willetts (now Dyck) Child Care Worker III

When we think of reading to infants and young children many questions arise. Here I will answer three of the most commonly asked questions.

What, if anything, does the infant gain from this type of experience?

The positive effects of the reading experience are four-fold. To begin with reading is of immense benefit to early language acquisition. The infant is repeatedly exposed to a few words in an interesting and stimulating format providing him/her with a golden opportunity to expand upon a limited vocabulary at a manageable pace. Second, reading is an effective way to strengthen the bond of adult to baby. During those few precious moments, the child has your total attention, nothing exists in the universe except the two of you. Third, the sound of your voice is a wonderful preparation for nap or bed time. Fourth, the fine illustrations found in picture books provide excellent visual stimuli. Illustrators draw from the limited experience of the young child's world. They draw common items such as balls, cats, dogs, faces, which the child no doubt has had experience with. Infants are by nature egocentric and these illustrations have great appeal to them.

I'm no Robert Munsch, how can I even attempt to read to a baby?

Even Robert Munsch had to, and still has to, practice. Most babies are a very receptive audience. They are perfectly content to lay there and listen to you. By using Robert Munsch and other storyteller's techniques you can enhance the reading experience. Some of these techniques are:

-Point out similarities between the world of the book and his/her world. Say something like, "Mary has a green ball just like the one in the picture."
-Ask questions and allow time for him/her to respond, whether there is a verbal, non-verbal, or no response. Allowing time for the infant to respond even before such communication is likely will prepare the child to pickup on the cue. Such preparation will make it more likely that an older child will take a more active role in the reading experience. 
-Talk about and draw interest in the illustrations. If the illustration is of an animal point to the animal and comment on its name and the sound it makes.
-Use gestures. When you read the word B-I-G use your body to dramatize the word.
-Vary voice tone: from low to high; loud to soft; slow to fast.
-Use eye contact.
-Use your imagination; vary the text, expand the story, use your creativity--remember nothing is written in stone.
-Use your genuine interest in the reading experience. If you show enthusiasm for what you are reading the baby will pick up on that.

The more you practice the better you will become. However, before everything else, please remember the needs of the young audience should be paramount. The book is there for the enjoyment of the baby. If you sense an infant's attention lagging, stop and read again later. Make the reading experience as positive as possible.

How soon can I start reading to a baby?

As soon as you begin talking to a baby, you can begin to read to him/her. Research has found that an early positive exposure to the reading experience will help the child slip naturally into the habit of reading.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why Mysteries? by Phyllis Smallman

One of the questions I’m always asked is, “Why do you write mysteries?”

First of all, I love to read mysteries. Mysteries are epic adventures, life and death struggles to right wrongs, to see justice done and to discover truth.  Often reluctant and unprepared, the hero or heroine goes on a quest, taking us with them.

Stories of crime explore the darker side of human nature, greed, anger; jealousy and love…all of these emotions are at the heart of a good mystery. We all fear being the victim of crime. Each of us feels as vulnerable to crime as we do to disease.  Money won’t protect you …nor does education…nor culture…and while we already know how dangerous the world is without mysteries to tell us, our fear holds us enthralled. 

As I grow older a phrase comes back to me…. “things are going to hell in a handcart.”  From the bible to Starwars, the fight against evil goes on.  In fact the first crime stories appear in the bible…Cain murdering Able...Joseph being sold into slavery…the bible is full of tales of theft and murder, tales of the killing of babies.  And you think identity theft is new?   Think of Jacob stealing Esau’s birthright.  These stories tell us things are not getting worse, they were always like this and for me this is a comforting thought. We may not be winning but we’re not losing either. It is a struggle that goes on day after day and generation after generation.

Crime is so central to life we name it like the Eskimos name snow. Petty crime, blue collar crime, or major crime, I write about it because I write about the drama of life.

Phyllis Smallman

This article was first published on OmniMystery News on February 5th, 2013. It's re-printed here by permission of the author.

Phyllis Smallman is the award winning author of 5 books in the Sherri Travis mystery series, chosen by Good Morning America as one of the 6 best mystery series for summer reading in 2010.  Her next book, Long Gone Man out in the fall of 2013, and is the first in a new series.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writer royalties and advances by Leanne Dyck

Recently a friend asked, "Are royalties the same across publishers? I understand royalties  to be author gets a percentage of each book sold? Is that correct? What is the percentage?"

Here is my answer...

Royalties are usually between 5 to 10% of the cover price of the book. (The exception is an eBook publisher. They offer a higher royalty because they generally don't offer an advance.) For example, a paperback sells for $20. The author receives $1 or $2. And if you have a literary agent she gets 15% of your royalties. It doesn't look like much when you think in terms of a small number of books. But remember most publishers make large print runs.

Yes, you can make money writing. Two examples:  J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

This weekend I bought an excellent book on the craft of writing:  The Breakout Novelist:  Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass (literary agent). And I immediately  skimming though it. I stopped dead in my tracks when I got to chapter 25--a chapter called Numbers, Numbers, Numbers.

Donald Maass writes:  'Advances are an estimate of eventual royalties .. A nonreturnable advance is money you keep, but advances levels are not permanent [and]...can go down suddenly and sharply.' He explains that the publisher's estimation on the amount you will earn is based on the net sales of  'your last novel.'

'[B]ookstore chain buyers...order new novels by the numbers, meaning according to the net sale of your last book. [If] [y]our last book sold poorly...there's no reason for a chain buyer to imagine that things will [improve]... So well known is this pattern that publishers' sales reps have a term for it:  selling into the net...

'Weak sales on one book become a self-fulfilling prophecy on the next, and so on and so on... 

'[And] there's no bouncing back.

[The solution:] Earn out. That starts with an advance that you can exceed in royalty earnings.' [p. 307 - 308]

Monday, May 13, 2013

free knitting pattern: "Kayesha" woman's summer top

This pattern was first published in A Needle Pulling Thread:  the magazine promoting Canadian needle arts (spring, 2008)
Carla A. Canonico (editor-in-chief)

Finished tunic measurements:
Bust:  XS – 30/ S – 34/ M – 38/ L – 42/ 1X – 46/ 2X – 50 inches
76.2 / 86.36 / 96.52 / 106.68 / 116.84 / 127 centimeters
Length:  XS – 27.5/ S, M, L – 28/1x, 2x – 28.5 inches
69.85 / 71.12 / 72.39 centimeters

Knitting needles:  4.00 mm/US 6 OR size to obtain tension

Yarn:  Ornaghi Filati Italy bamboo worsted weight (approximately XS, S – 685 (625)/M, L – 822 (750) /1X, 2X – 959 (875) yards (metres)

Gauge:  5 stitches x 7 rows = one inch (2.54 centimeters) worked over Stockinette stitch

Stockinette stitch
Row 1:  knit – to end of row.
Row 2:  purl – to end of row.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern.

1 x 1 rib stitch (odd number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit one, purl one – continue to end of row.
Row 2:  purl one, knit one – continue to end of row.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern.

1 x 1 rib stitch (even number of stitches)
Row 1: knit one, purl one – continue to end of row.
Repeat row for pattern.

Cast on [XS – 74/ S – 84/ M – 94] L – 104[1X– 114/ 2X – 124] stitches
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 4 inches. (10.16 centimeters)
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; Stockinette stitch for [XS – 34/ S - 44/ M – 54] L – 64 [1X –74/ 2X – 84] stitches. Work for 4 inches. (10.16 centimeters)
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 7 inches. (17.78 centimeters)
This row:  1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; decrease 10 stitches knit evenly across Stockinette stitch section; 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches. Stitches remaining:  [XS – 64/ S – 74/ M –84] L – 94 [1X – 104/ 2X – 114] stitches.
Next row:  1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; purl [XS – 24/ S – 34/ M – 44] L – 54 [1X – 64/ 2X – 74]; 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches
Upper body:
Work in established pattern for 6 inches. (15.24 centimeters)
Armhole shaping:
Next two rows:  decrease 10 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows while maintaining established pattern. Stitches remaining:  [XS – 44/ S – 54/ M – 64] L – 74 [1X – 84/ 2X– 94]
Work for [XS – 4 (10.16)/ S, M – 4.5 (11.43)] L, 1X, 2X -5 inches. (12.7 centimeters)
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 1 inch. (2.54 centimeters)

Straps worked from two balls of yarn
From 1st ball of yarn work [XS – 5/ S – 10/M – 15] L -20 [1X –25/ 2X –30] stitches in 1 x 1 rib stitch
From 2nd ball of yarn decrease 34 stitches; work [XS – 5/ S – 10/M – 15] L -20 [1X –25/ 2X –30] stitches in 1 x 1 rib stitch
Work for 1 inch (2.54 centimeters)
Cast off.

Cast on [XS – 74/ S – 84/ M – 94] L – 104[1X – 114/ 2X – 124] stitches
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 4 inches. (10.16 centimeters)
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; Stockinette stitch for [XS – 34/ S - 44/ M – 54] L – 64 [1X –74/ 2X – 84] stitches. Work for 4 inches. (10.16 centimeters)
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 7 inches. (17.78 centimeters)
This row:  1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; decrease 10 stitches knit evenly across Stockinette stitch section; 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches. Stitches remaining:  [XS – 64/ S – 74/ M –84] L – 94 [1X – 104/ 2X – 114] stitches.
Next row:  1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; purl [XS – 24/ S – 34/ M – 44] L – 54 [1X – 64/ 2X – 74]; 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches
Upper body:
Work in established pattern for 6 inches. (15.24 centimeters)
Armhole shaping:
Next two rows:  decrease 10 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows while maintaining established pattern. Stitches remaining:  [XS – 44/ S – 54/ M – 64] L – 74 [1x – 84/ 2x – 94]
Work for [XS – 2/ S, M – 2.5] L, 1X, 2X – 3 inches. (7.62 centimeters)
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 1 inch (2.54 centimeters)

Straps worked from two balls of yarn
From 1st ball of yarn work [XS – 5/ S – 10/M – 15] L -20 [1x –25/ 2x –30] stitches in 1 x 1 rib stitch
From 2nd ball of yarn decrease 34 stitches; work [XS – 5/ S – 10/M – 15] L -20 [1X –25/ 2X –30] stitches in 1 x 1 rib stitch
Work for 3 inch (7.62 centimeters)
Cast off.

To eliminate confusion, before working this design take a few minutes to carefully read the entire pattern. Then highlight all information that pertains to your size.

In the working of this design, cotton may be substitute for bamboo.

Would you like to shorten or lengthen the tunic?  This is relatively easy to accomplish. It is best to make these alterations between the bottom trim and waist. Currently, the pattern requires you to:  Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 20 stitches; Stockinette stitch for [XS – 34/ S - 44/ M – 54] L – 64 [XL –74/ 2x – 84] stitches. Work for 4 inches.
To lengthen, instead of working this area for 4 inches (10.16 centimeters) work it for 5 (12.7 centimeters) or more inches. To shorten, instead of working this area for 4 inches work it for 3 (7.62 centimeters) or less inches. Ensure that the length of the back and front match.

Sew strap seams. Sew side seams to waist. Weave in ends.
This is the last hand knitting pattern I'll be sharing for a while. For the entire summer season--Monday, June 3rd to Monday, August 29th--I'm planning to share...a fun summer project. : )

Next post (Thursday):  Writer's royalties and advance

Friday, May 10, 2013

Please welcome Author Shereen Vedam

How/why did you start to write?
Years ago, I was a receptionist at a Xerox company in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The only reading material near me was their technical manual, which was about how to use one of their Word Processing units.  Incredible as this sounds, I found that interesting enough to want to learn how to do word processing.  But I needed something to practice on.  So, in order to learn how to cut, paste, and move text around, I began writing a story, hoping to both entertain myself and have something on which to practice my new word processing skills.  Thus was born a fantasy writer.  That first story was a children’s fantasy novel called, Heir to the Kingdom, which, years later, I finished, chapter by chapter, for class critique during my final year at the University of Victoria, taking my BA in Creative Writing

What was your first published piece?
My first contracted short story is still available.  It’s a contemporary fantasy short story called, Dragon Dreams, and is part of the anthology, Cat Tales (the only dragon story in this cat anthology).  The anthology was published by The Wildside Press and edited by the Hugo winning author and editor, George Scithers, released in 2008. 

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I’ve held many different jobs, one of them was as an Animal Health Technician in Vancouver, BC.  The sale of Dragon Dreams was directly related to this job.  When Mr. Scithers called me on the phone at work (I had long since left that veterinary clinic and was now working as a data coordinator), he asked me where I had gained my experience with animals, because he was certain I couldn’t have written that story the way I had without some experience working with animals.  I admitted that in another life I used to be a veterinary assistant, and he reamed me out for not including that bit of detail in my cover letter.

What inspires you?
There are a lot of authors that I love, but my current favourite is Terry Pratchett, and it’s not because I was a finalist in his Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now, fantasy contest.  A friend, on hearing that I was a finalist was shocked that I’d never read his books, so she lent me one and said, “You have to read this one.  It’s one of his best.”  It was.  The book was called, Wyrd Sister.  I have since read many Terry Pratchett books and truly love his writing, his view of the world, and his unforgettable characters.

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques
The best one for me, personally, was joining Romance Writers of America (RWA).  I learned an incredible amount about the craft of writing from them and their associated chapters, and have made many connections in the industry as a result of belonging to RWA.

Parting words
Aside from reading fantasy, my next favourite genre is Regency.  Fantasy comes to me instinctively; it’s in my blood.  Whereas, with Regency, I had to work hard to learn about the era and the customs and it took a great deal of courage to write this first book.  Publishing isn’t an easy path for any writer to follow.  The road is paved with more disappointments and heartaches, than successes.  So, I couldn’t be more pleased to have A Beastly Scandal be my debut novel, because not only is it a Regency, but it has paranormal elements that tip it into the fantasy realm.  This book is the first of 4 fairytale-inspired Regency romance contracted to be published by ImaJinn Books.

A Beastly Scandal (a Beauty and the Beast tale)

Lady Annabelle Marchant was a belle of the ball in London until she used her psychical senses to save a man’s life.  She failed miserably, leaving him dead and her disgraced.  All she wants now is a chance to comfort his widow by cleansing the woman’s home of her husband’s restless spirit.  But the widow’s son, the beastly Lord of the Manor, accuses her of coming to the wilds of Cheshire to snag him as a husband.  Thoroughly disgusted, she is bent on proving him wrong.
Lord Rufus Marlesbury, the Earl of Terrance, is suspected of murdering his father.  He has come home to clear his name by finding the real killer before the new year or the king has promised that Rufus will be called in front of the House of Lords to answer for the crime.  He does not have time to waste fending off a marriage-minded miss who has inveigled an invitation to his home by playing on his grief-stricken mother’s worst fears.
With an unruly manor ghost terrorizing the occupants and corpses piling up in the village, Belle must find a way to see the man beneath the beast and Rufus must learn to believe in the love of a woman who has no reason to trust him.  Only by working together can they stop a vengeful ghost before it torments the guests or before the killer strikes again.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Raving about 3 Southern Gulf Island children's authors book launch

On Saturday, April 27th at 4:30 p.m. Mayne Islanders meet at the community centre to celebrate three book launches.

Southern Gulf Islanders:  Lael Whitehead (Mayne Island), Debbie Bowles (formerly Mayne Island now Salt Spring Island) and Helen O'Brian (Mayne Island) all wrote books for children. But the similarities don't end there. There's a commonality in the underlying theme of their books as well.

Kaya Stormchild by Lael Whitehead (learn more)

Lael Whitehead has often entertained our island with her melodious singing. But I'd yet to discover her author voice. The room was wrapped in silence when she began to read. The magical passage was rich with communion between nature and man.

Lucy and the Sky by Debbie Bowles (learn more)

Debbie Bowles' skill as an illustrator is well known. However, writing a book was a new undertaking for her. Lucy and the Sky is written in playful rhyme. In the passage Debbie read, a frog helps the protagonist, Lucy, escape her forest "prison". Debbie teased us by only reading the first half of the book. And, oh, how I wanted her to continue to the end--as did everyone in the room. But grinning, Debbie yielded the floor to Helen.

Fin's Swim by Helen O'Brian (learn more)

Helen O'Brian's book recounts the swim of a man named Finn. Finn undertook this extremely challenging swim in order to raise awareness for BC's fragile waterways. 

Immediately following Helen's reading, Finn took the floor to share some brief anecdotes. One story in particular stands out for me. Finn said that when he began the swim he was overwhelmed by the daunting task that lay ahead of him. But he was fortunate to meet with members of one of BC's native nations.

The Chief told Finn, "If you honour the river at the beginning of each day, the water will wrap around you, to carry and protect you."

The Chief led Finn through a ceremony. They stood at the edge of the bank, cupped their hands into the river and showered themselves with the water. They continued these steps until they had faced all four directions--north, south, east and west. Finn told us that he faithfully began each day's swim with this ceremony.

Did it help? Did he meet his challenge?

Well, you'll just have to read Helen's book. : )

I'm so glad I shared in this wonderfully positive celebration. It refreshed my love for my island home. And, on the way home, I paused for a second to acknowledge how truly fortunate I am.
Sharing my author journey...
This week my muse taught me: All that I need I have. It is there waiting. All I have to do is acknowledge it.
I spent much of this week pouring over a collection of old writing. I'm building a book. It's a lot of fun to do--to see how much my author voice has development; and yet how much I've remained the same.

Monday, May 6, 2013

free knitting pattern: women's top "Flowers for Mary" by Leanne Dyck

This pattern was first published in the now defunct Knit Together:  the quarterly publication of Canadian Guild of Knitters by owner/editor Cynthia MacDougall (August, 2009). I've made a few changes to this pattern to make it easier to knit.

"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

Finished Measurements:
Chest:  36 [40, 44, 48, 52, 56] inches
91 [100, 112, 122, 132, 142] centimeters
Length:  22 [22.5, 24, 24, 26, 26]
56 [57, 61, 61, 66, 66] centimeters

Materials:  4 [4, 5, 5, 6] light worsted yarn (double knit yarn in UK) (each ball 168 yards/154 metres)
Recommended needles:  1 pair 4.50 mm (7 US, 7 UK), 1 pair 9.00 mm (11 US, 00 UK) or size to obtain tension

Tension (gauge):  24 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm over 4 x 4 ribbing with 4.5 mm needles
12 stitches to 4 inches/10 cm with 9 mm needles

With smaller needles, cast on 98 [106, 122, 130, 138, 154] stitches
Row 1:  knit 3, *purl 4, knit 4; repeat from * to last 3 stitches; knit 3
Row 2:  purl 3, *knit 4, purl 4; repeat from * to last 3 stitches; purl 3
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until work measures
14 [14, 15, 15, 16, 16] inches
33.5 [33.5, 38, 38, 40, 40] centimeters
Armhole:  Cast off 6 [6, 6, 8, 8, 8] stitches at beginning of next two rows
86 [94, 110, 114, 122, 138] stitches remain
Keeping continuity of pattern, work even for 
8 [8.5, 9, 9, 10, 10] inches
20.3 [21.5, 22.8, 22.8, 25.4, 25.4] centimeters
Cast off remaining stitches.

With smaller needles, cast on 98 [106, 122, 130, 138, 154] stitches
Row 1:  knit 3, *purl 4, knit 4; repeat from * to last 3 stitches; knit 3
Row 2:  purl 3, *knit 4, purl 4; repeat from * to last 3 stitches; purl 3
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until work measures
14 [14, 15, 15, 16, 16] inches
33.5 [33.5, 38, 38, 40, 40] centimeters
Armhole:  Cast off 6 [6, 6, 8, 8, 8] stitches at beginning of next two rows
86 [94, 110, 114, 122, 138] stitches remain
Keeping continuity of pattern, work even for 
1 [1, 2, 3, 3, 4] inches
2.5 [2.5, 5, 7.5, 7.5] centimeters
End with work side facing for next row
Change to larger needles and decrease as follows:
Decrease for Yoke:  
1st size
purl 1, *knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1 (purl 2 together) twice
repeat from * to last 5 stitches
knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, purl 1 
55 stitches remain
2nd [3rd, 4th] sizes
knit 1 [1, 3], *purl 2 together twice, knit 1, knit 2 together twice
repeat from * to last 5 [5, 7] stitches, purl 2 together twice
knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1 [1, 3]
59 [69, 73] stitches remain
5th [6th] sizes
purl 1, purl 2 together, *knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1 (purl 2 together) twice
repeat from * to last 7 stitches, knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, purl 2 together, purl 1
77 [87] stitches remain
Set Pattern for Yoke
Row 1:  (right side facing) 
knit 1 [0, 0, 0, 2, 2], purl 3, [1, 1, 3, 3, 3], *knit 2, purl 3
repeat from* to last 1 [3, 3, 5, 2, 2] stitches
knit 1 [2, 2, 2, 2, 2], purl 0 [1,1, 3, 0, 0]
Row 2:  (wrong side facing)
purl 1 [0, 0, 0, 2, 2], knit 3 [1, 1, 3, 3, 3], *purl 2, knit 3
repeat from * to last 1 [3, 3, 5, 2, 2] stitches, purl 1 [2, 2, 2, 2, 2], knit 0 [1, 1, 3, 0, 0]
Repeat these two rows for 
3 [3, 3, 4, 4, 4] inches
7.5 [7.5, 7.5, 10, 10, 10] centimeters
end with right side facing for next row
Shape Neck: 
Cast off centre 23 [23, 25, 25, 27, 29] stitches for neck
16 [18, 22, 24, 25, 29] stitches remain on each side
Work the remainder of back in two separate sections
First side
Keeping continuity of yoke pattern, work even for 
3 [3, 4, 4, 5, 5] inches
7.5 [7.5, 10, 10, 13, 13] centimeters
Ending with wrong side facing for next row
Shape shoulder
Cast off 8 [9, 11, 12, 13, 15] stitches at the beginning of next row,
work pattern to end of row
Work yoke pattern for 1 row, cast off remaining stitches
Opposite side: 
Join yarn to remaining stitches and, keeping continuity of pattern,
work in yoke pattern for 
3 [3, 4, 4, 5, 5] inches
7.5 [7.5, 10, 10, 13, 13] centimeters
Ending with right side facing for next row
Shape Shoulder:
Cast off 8 [9, 11, 12, 13, 15] stitches at the beginning of next row,
work pattern to end of row
Work yoke pattern for 1 row, cast off remaining stitches

Sleeves (make 2)
Cast on 74 [74, 82, 82, 90, 98] stitches
Work in rib as given for back for 
2 [2, 3, 3, 4, 4] inches
5 [5, 7.5, 7.5, 10, 10] centimeters
End with right side facing for next row
Change to larger needles and decrease:
knit 3, *(purl 2 together) twice, knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 1
repeat from * to last 3 stitches, purl 3
54 [59, 69, 74, 79, 89] stitches
Set pattern for yoke
Row 1 (wrong side facing):  purl 3, *knit 3, purl 2
Repeat from * to last 3 stitches, purl 3
Repeat this row until piece measures 
9 [9, 10, 11, 11, 12] inches
23 [23, 25, 28, 28, 30] centimeters
Ending with right side facing for next row
Cast off 3 stitches at beginning of next 
6 [6, 8, 8, 10, 10] rows
Cast off remaining stitches

Sew shoulder seams together. Centre top of sleeve in armhole opening. Sew in place. Sew side seams and sleeve seams together using mattress stitch. Weave in ends.
Next post:  Three author Mayne Island book launch