Sunday, December 27, 2015

Putting a bow on 2015

2015 whished passed in a blur. One minute I'm sitting in the sun, the next I'm walking my dog in the frosty air. It's time to examine the year the blur.



In 2015, I was published in this anthology.

Thanks to your support, 2015 was amazing. I began the year with apprehension due to a decision I'd made concerning this blog. The decision:  No more guest post Fridays. No more -- (link)  On January 4th, 2015, I explained this decision. I wrote...
As my own writing career demands more and more of my attention, I'm finding less and less time for everything else. And thus I've been forced to make a difficult decision. Effective January 16, I will no longer publish guest posts.
Yes, I worried. I worried that you would abandon this blog.

Boy, did you prove me wrong. In 2014, this blog reached 234,000 page views. And now it has over 251,000. That's an increase of over 17,000 page views. (In 2015, I published 52 posts. So that's approximately 327 page views per post. You rock!)

The most popular post in 2015 were...


How-to live a dream (320 page views)


The most popular book reviews...

1st...

Sing A Worried Song (mystery) by William Deverell (194 page views)

2nd...

Every Word (YA/mystery) by Ellie Marney (149 page views)

The most popular creative writing (short story/poetry) posts...

1st...

Irene's Reading by Leanne Dyck (122 page views)

2nd...

The Poem My Husband Inspired by Leanne Dyck (109 page views)

The most popular 'writing tips' posts... 

1st...

On Writing and Illustrating Kids Books (99 page views)

This is a yearly free event--well worth attending. In 2016, it will be held in the Vancouver Public Library from 7 to 8:30 P.M.

2nd...

And Then: Writing Transactions (93 page views)

In 2015, I made a personal goal of making 100 submissions. I'm pleased to report that on December 15, 2015 I'd sent 103 submissions. That's 1.5% more submissions than I made in 2014. 

What are my blogging plans for 2016?

This blog will offer one new post every week. I will review books, share writing tips and publish my own short stories. I'm looking forward to spending 2016 with you. Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year.



In 2015, our beloved cat--Ticky--passed away, from old age. We took the love he gave us and adopted...



Bim
a nine year old miniature poodle/Maltese cross

More...
What else does 2016 have in store for you?
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2016 is the year of the red monkey. Click this link, to read more. 

Next Post...
Just write. This post explains why.

Sharing my author journey...
What's an arch?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Meditation for winter solstice

photo by L Dyck

There was a time
when I didn't feel the energy of the moon
when I feared the dark
when I forgot the magic of the rain

That time has passed

Now, I say...
teach me more
open my eyes
fill my heart

Blessed be


photo by L Dyck

More writing to celebrate solstice...

My Magic Garden by Gail Woodward (photos by Crystal Favel)

bear energy

Sharing my author journey...

My writing desk is like a private jet.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christa's publisher -- not

photo by L Dyck

Christa was proud of her story. She believed it was her best work; she believed it was important; she believed it would be easy to find a publisher.

But I have to find the right publisher, she told herself. 

Finding the right publisher required Christa to do some detective work. She poured over the books in her home library and those at her local library and bookstore.  She sought out books that were similar to her own -- in subject matter and theme. Once found, she recorded the publisher's name and web site in a small notebook she carried. She bought Quill and Quire and read reviews of other books newly released by other publishers. 

One publisher stood book cover and type face above the rest. Christa spent hours on their web site. She closely studied their submission guidelines. Christa was advised to query first and then wait six months for a reply.

Christa carefully crafted her query letter and, hoping -- dreaming -- for the best, she sent it to the publisher.

Seven months later, the publisher contacted Christa and asked for three sample chapters.

"Oh, my gosh," she sang. "This is it. They want me."

It was love at first reply. Christa didn't even look at any other publisher. All the books she bought bore her publisher's  logo.

One's good, but more manuscripts will sweeten the deal, she told herself. So Christa revved up her computer and plowed through manuscript after manuscript.

She emailed her publisher and asked...

I have more manuscripts. Can I send them to you?

Her publisher wrote back...

Sure. Why not. Send us a sample...

So Christa sent more pages to the publisher and her dreams grew richer and more vivid. 

Not only will they accept my manuscript but they'll treat me like a rock star, she told herself. They'll send me on an all expenses paid vacation to their province. They'll rent me a room in a five star hotel. They'll give me a VIP tour of their publishing house. They'll see me for what I am -- a valuable prolific author.

A few days before Christmas -- three years after Christa's first contacted them -- her publisher (not) sent her a letter in the mail. It wasn't full of Christmas cheer. 

Thank you for sending us your work but...

Christa's relationship with the publisher was over before it had really started.

I asked Christa if she had any advise for other authors.

She said, "It's okay to get excited if they ask for a sample. But a sample isn't a manuscript. If they ask for a manuscript, it's okay to get even more excited. But a manuscript isn't a contract. Wait until after you've signed the contract to celebrate. But even then things can and do go wrong. Don't get carried way by your dreams. Keep writing and submitting. Don't put all your money on one pony. Submit to more than one publisher, at a time. And remember, just because one publisher sends you a rejection letter doesn't mean another one will."

To date, Christa has yet to sign a publishing contract for any of her novels. When asked if she is still writing, Christa smiled and said, "Yes, of course. Writing is my passion."

When asked if she was still looking for a publisher for her novels, Christa said, "I am working on new projects but I'd never trash my old manuscripts. I believe in them. They are good. I will find a publisher for them. I. Will."

And with an attitude like that, I know she will achieve her goal.


photo by L Dyck

More on publishing...

For me, publishing with a small press was a positive experience. I know working with them took my writing to the next level.

To learn more about this route, read Anne Goodwin's article:  Making Small-Press Publication Work For You

Sharing my author journey...

This week I've been playing detective.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cider House Rules by John Irving

From Life According to Garp to A Prayer for Owen Meany, I've loved John Irving's twisted sense of the world. And so it was only a matter of time until I meet and fell in love with Homer Wells (the protagonist of The Cider House Rules). 

Publishing date:  December 1993
Published by:  The Ballantine Publishing Group (an imprint of Random House)





My attempt to summarize the plot:  Boy is born in orphanage. Boy tries to be adopted -- fails three times. Boy finally leaves orphanage. Boy returns to orphanage.


Homer Wells, twenty-one, breathing in the steam from the hot tea; was waiting for his life to begin (p. 303)
My attempt to summarize what this book is about:  In one word -- waiting. The orphans are waiting to be adopted. Homer is waiting to begin his life. Wally is waiting for the war to start. Dr. Larch is waiting to see what the new board will do to the orphanage. The fruit pickers are waiting to pick apples. Candy is waiting to see if she will become Wally's bride or...

Yet it's so much more. It's a 'big idea' book...

Dr. Larch about Nurse Caroline...


He had heard her say, so many times, that a society that approved of making abortion illegal was a society that approved of violence against women... He had heard her say so many times, that abortions were not only a personal freedom of choice but also a responsibility of the state--to provide them. (p. 473)
Dr. Larch...
Always, in the background of his mind, there was a newborn baby crying... And they were not crying to be born, he knew; the were crying because they were born.
Why The Cider House Rules? What does this book have to say about rules?...
Homer:    "Some rules are good rules... But some rules are just rules. You just got to break them carefully." (p. 467)
Dr. Larch:  "I have no quarrel with anyone at prayer... It's when you start making rules." (p. 472)
Nurse Caroline:  "It's because even a good man can't always be right that we need a society, that we need certain rules -- call them priorities." (p. 473) 
Bottom line:  The Cider House Rules is a feel good book. And in my books, that makes it a perfect December read.

More...

On Tuesday evening December 1st, I, like all the other members of the audience, rested comfortably in palm of Mr. Irving's hand. He charmed us; he enlightened us; he made us laugh; he made us think. What was of most interest to me was what he said about how he writes. Here's what I heard...
-his books are ending driven. He doesn't begin a project until he has written the ending and several sentences leading up to it.
-he writes with his audience in mind; he believes in characters; he believes in plot.
-momentum for the story comes from his interest in creating challenges for his characters
-he wants to create characters that his readers will fall in like/love with and worry about.
-his writing is influenced by very old sources -- Shakespeare and 19th century novels
-he always writes about what he fears will happen
-he didn't become a full-time author until his fourth novel.
He asked us, "What type of practice does a doctor or lawyer have if they only practice two hours a day?"
By the time he wrote Cider House Rules (his 6th novel), he had learnt how to write 8 hours a day/seven days a week. He said that the key to writing a well-crafted book is to write slowly.

Next post:  Christa got an education when she submitted her story to a publisher. Now she has some advice for you.

Sharing my author journey...

Me:  Last week, I was thrilled to receive a rejection letter.
You:  You were what? Thrilled? Why?
Me:  I'll explain...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How to build an online community

photo by Leanne Dyck

We, writers, think we are working alone but, in reality, we heavily rely on others for support. We hope our readers will find our work and tell others about it. We hope publishers will accept our submissions. We connect with other authors for information and inspiration.  

How do we build this supportive community?

During Word Vancouver, I attended
Getting Started and Staying Motivated as a Published Children's Book Author with panelists D.R. Graham, Janet M. Whyte, Mark David Smith and Aleesah Darlison
and 
Establishing and Growing Your Digitial Footprint with Trevor Battye and Suzanne Norman

Here's what I heard...

Before being published...
-join professional organizations
-build your social network. Be active on 2 to 4 social media platforms. There are many to choose from. Pick what works for you.
-immerse yourself in your chosen genre and in the publishing world

After being published...
-with regards to social media, follow who your publisher is following
-create an author bio on Amazon and Goodreads

Some writers balk at being on social media. They view it as wasting time. They insist that their time is better spent working on their writing. But discoverability is the biggest problem in publishing, today. And your (potential) readers spend1 in every 5 minutes online. Readers want to connect directly with authors. Online is the new word of mouth. The best way to start is to build 
an author web site that has your own domain (for example, www.leannedyck.com). Build a website even if the only thing on there is your blog. But don't build a blog and forget about it. Anything you do online should be consistent.

Rules for blogging
-link, tag, acknowledge (acknowledge comments, etc.)
-minimal wordage posts
-site quotes
-keep information accessible
-use images
-engage with your followers

Hierarchy of fan involvement
-connect with you through social media
-read your blog
-subscribe to your e-newsletter
-attend your events
-buy your books

More info:  Kevin Kelly and 1000 true fans

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times it's getting harder and harder to attract a publisher. 
You've got a great book that you know readers want. What do you do?
Crowdfunding, is one way.
Wikipedia defines crowdfunding as 'the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet.'
Through crowdfunding you can...
-demonstrate that you have an audience for your book
-pre-sell your book
-self-publish your book

Examples:  Seth Godin raised over 280,000 dollars before writing the book.
Click this link to read about of Shane Koyzan success

More...

How to Create A Kick Ass Crowdfunding Campaign and Make Your Dreams Come True

You can build a supportive online community. But it requires time and a consistent effort. 

I know it works because, due to a consistent effort, I have been able to build a community of over 5,000 followers (on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn). If this "Luddite" can do it, you can too.



Photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

Something cool has been added to this blog.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book review: Every Word (YA/mystery) by Ellie Marney

I took a bite of my breakfast omelet. 

Knock. Knock. Knock. 

I chewed quickly but not quick enough. Bim, our self appointed guard dog, beat me to the door. He barked a greeting that sounded more like a threat. My translation:  Don't bother her; she's eating. 

I reached the door, turned the knob and... 

My husband stood there with a package in his hands. "I was outside cleaning eavestroughs when this was delivered. It feels like a book." 

Days before I'd signed up to participate in the Tundra blog tour for Ellie Marney's new book - Every Word. Could this be her book?

One envelop removed. Then another. Finally... Yes!


James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents without saying good-bye to this partner in crime, Rachel Watts.
Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behavior -- not that Mycroft's ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. Unable to resist, Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.
The theft of a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator and the deaths of Mycroft's parents... Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of these events -- or will she lose him forever?

Bim transformed from guard dog into reading companion. 

Time was I read for entertainment. That all changed when I decided to become a writer. Sure, I still want to be entertained but now I also want to collect how-to tips for my own writing. I want to learn what works and what doesn't. So, now, I always take notes while I read...

The Prologue
There's a theory being passed from new author to new author -- publishing houses don't like prologues. Well, obviously Tundra doesn't mind them. 

Together we take in the crinkling underexposed world that will soon become the day (prologue)
The descriptions are delicately handled and sensory-rich. Marney's bio explains that she writes short stories as well as YA. Did she learn how to craft such fine descriptions by writing those story stories?

The Beginning
I'm immediately plopped into the story with no establishment of setting. I find this jarring. And I wonder why Marney choose to begin these chapters with dialogue. She's already demonstrated her command of description.

The Middle
Marney has found a solution for the saggy middle--action. She writes nail biting scenes very well.

Marney skillfully weaves references to her first book into her second -- not enough to upset me (a newcomer to her work), just enough to make me wish I had read book one. (Hmm, could there be a trip to the bookstore in my future?)


The End
The cliff hanger in the second to last chapter made me devour the final chapter in a single gulp. 
The story ends with a surprising reveal -- it explains a lot and at the same time leads the way for even more mysteries in book three.

The setting
Much of Every Word is set in England -- a country I long to visit and thanks to Marney I feel like I have. The London she describes is like a comfortable old shoe.

The main character (protagonist)
Rachel Watts flies half-way around the world to support the guy who she thinks may still be her boyfriend. Pathetic? Right?
Wrong. 
Rachel is resourceful, compassionate, intelligent and courageous, but never pathetic.

Sure there is a intriguing mystery. But that's not what makes me read on. No, I'm hooked on Rachel and Mycroft's relationship. (This from a reader of mysteries, never hardly ever romance.)
My mind goes on vacation, and my breathing catches, so I'm gasping every time he does simple things -- putting his arm around my shoulders, or touching his lips gently to mine, like now (p. 13)
Favourite quotes
I enjoyed Marney's Australian turn of phrase...
'I pull up my drooping footy socks.' (p. 4)
'I'm so bush-whacked.' (p. 40)

And her prose that reads like poetry...
'[The moon] swims in a halo of golden light, like an egg yolk floating in a pale sway of foam.' (p. 62)
'We sink lower and lower, our eyes closed together, the warmth at each shoulder, and we wait for this ride to end.' (p. 334)

The Author

Ellie Marney was born in the tropical northeast of Australia, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kids' literature and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go, her partner and four sons still lover her. 
Ellie's short stories for adults have won awards and been published in various anthologies. Every Word is her second novel for young adults. 

Visit Ellie Marney's author website. (Link)

More...

Click this link to visit the other bloggers participating in this blog tour.

Next post:  (Monday, November 30th) 
You understand that it is important to build an on-line community. But your question is how...
How to Build an On-line Community


Sharing my author journey...

Quotes from my latest published story...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Developing Your Characters

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Have you ever received comments like...

Your characters sound the same, act the same, think the same. They're all the same.

Each writer faces the same problem -- to develop distinctively different characters. It's tricky because all of your characters are the product of your imagination. They are of you but they can't be exactly like you nor can they be exactly like any of your other characters. The goal is to create realistic, complex characters.

How do you do that?

What makes a character unique? 

During Word Vancouver, I attended Bennett R. Coles' presentation
Author website:  www.bennettcoles.com
Publisher website:  www.promontorypress.com
What are the Outside Influences on Your Character? 

Here's what I heard...

No character exists in a vacuum.


Outside influences can be overt or covert

Overt influences are easy to spot (attended Harvard, grew up in Toronto, etc.)
A writer must work hard to elude to a covert influence. Details must be wove in over many chapters. But a covert influence maybe the strongest influence.


Outside influences can interact with each other 
-collaboratively
-conflicting


To incorporate outside influences, a writer must... 

identify what they are and determine what effect they have on the character.
a)nature of the influence (what effect)
b)strength of the influence

Determine what effect influences have on each other

Show don't Tell


To develop you character collect the following information...

Name:
Age:
Married:
Children:
Profession:
Hobbies:
Relationships:
Core personality:
Profession influence:
Family influence:
Relationship influence:
Societal influence:
Other influence:

Despite the fact that your character has turned her back on family, socio-economic status, education, etc. they still influence her.

Get into your character's heads. Of course, there is a piece of us in each of our characters. But they have to be themselves.

Next post: This Friday (November 20) I will be reviewing Every Word (YA mystery/romance)



The Every Word blog tour begins on Monday, November 16th. Here's the link for more information.  

Sharing my author journey...

How did I become a contributing author of...



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book review: Day of the Bees by Thomas Sanchez

Publisher:  Vintage Books 
first edition:  July 2001

back cover blurb:  Day of the Bees celebrates passion and creativity as it explores the lives of a famous painter, Zermano, and his beautiful muse Louise during World War II. A novel of obsession, art, and war, it reveals the sacrifices made for love--of person and country.

An American art historian is seeking to discover why the painter abandoned Louise during the war. Visiting Provence after Louise's death, the scholar finds letters that piece together a tempestuous affair with startling revelations about her wartime experiences--her participation in the French Resistance, her struggles to elude a sadistic officer, and her intimacy with a mystical beekeeper. Spanning a panoramic landscape of fifty years, Day of the Bees is a haunting and lyrical portrait of the complex emotional chasms that can separate even the greatest of loves.





The opening chapters read like a tour guide's introduction to a foreign land.  

A pleasure to read...
Most of the story is told in letters. They convey secrets an artist shares with his muse--the longings, the dangers, the history, the passion. This is a quick compelling read. It an ideal book to escort you on your commute to and from work. 

Writing tip...
Letters are such a clever writing device. Through them you can get deep inside your character and also pull back to report on the actions of other characters.

Message...
To love takes courage. It leaves one vulnerable to a brutal world and yet it also offers protection and gives you strength. 

Quotes...
How many men have gone into how many women and felt another man there? (p. 231)
Heaven has no value unless hell exists. (p. 279) 
More...


(my dad in uniform circa 1940s)

Please click this link 
Remembering Them on Remembrance Day
to read the article I published on this blog last year



From the Heart is an uplifting book. Proceeds support needy and deserving High School students. To order, email Gary Doi (garydoi@telus.net)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How to increase your word count

Are you gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month)? Are you beginning to sweat after reading that last question? Are you dreading the sleepless nights and the too short days? Is your stress level through the roof? Are you beginning to hate writing?

Well, you could read Ruth Harris' blog article on how to write faster. In it, Ruth not only gives you advice on how to write faster but also includes a list of resources.

But...

Why put yourself through all that stress? Why divorce yourself from your life to sit alone with your computer? Why?

There is a better way...

You could buck the tread to go faster. Instead of increasing your stress level... Instead of starting to hate writing... Instead of the MacDonald's fast food writing you could join the slow writing movement. 

Instead...

Do what I do. I don't put any pressure on myself to achieve a certain word count or page goal. And yet I'm very pleased with my productivity level. I currently have sixteen manuscripts in publisher slush piles.

How?

The key for me is not to write fast but to keep writing. I often write more than one manuscript at a time and always (usually) am working on a project. But all you have to do is keep writing -- word after word, page after page. By doing this, you will finish your writing project. And instead of increasing stress, you'll increase your skill level and your passion for writing.

Bottom line...  

You can write faster or... You can just keep writing. Choose what works for you.

On the other hand...

The Glorious Insanity That is NaNoWriMo by H.E. James

Next week:  Book review:  Day of the Bees (historical fiction)

Sharing my author journey...



I'm proud to be one of the contributing authors...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Origins of All Hallows

Halloween. As a child, I thought it was simply an opportunity to put on a costume and eat too much candy. It was simply a fun holiday -- nothing more. But now, as an adult, I wonder... What is behind the mask? What is hidden in the shadows?

 Photo by Leanne Dyck

It's natural to be fearful of what we don't know. But there's only one way to gain understanding. So, bravely, my friend, let us venture in...
Because they were farmers, Celts worshiped Baal, the powerful sun god who made crops grow. But Baal had power only half the year, and come the end of October, the winter god began his six-month reign. He was the Prince of Darkness. He was the Lord of the Dead. He was the god who killed crops and brought cold, black nights. His name was Samhain, or Summer's End... November 1...marked the end of autumn and the start of winter, so that's when Celts held their ancient harvest festival of Samhain. It was a supernatural time when barriers between them and the underworld vanished. Of all the nights of the year, sunset October 31 to sunrise the next morning was most feared. Evil spirits summoned by the Lord of the Dead where everywhere... To drive the evil spirits away. Celts gathered together around blazing bonfires. (p. 20-21)
-my favourite quote from Hangman (gory horror) by Michael Slade (the father - daughter writing team of Jay and Rebecca Clark)

Photo by Leanne Dyck
The deity most commonly worshiped by the ancient Canaanite people. Baal was a god of fertility and also of storms. The Hebrew word baal simply means "lord" and is often used to mean owner, master, husband or even man... In Canaanite mythology, Baal was part of an extended pantheon... According to the myth, Baal gained his preeminence in Canaanite worship by overcoming forces that sought to destroy the equilibrium and security of the world... In the Bible, Baal is seen as a rival to Israel's God. Not surprisingly, nearly every reference to Baal in the Scriptures is negative, bearing witness of the harsh fact that the Israelities were continually attracted to his worship. (p. 51)

-Reader's Digest's Who's Who in the Bible:  An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary 


Photo by Leanne Dyck



At Samhain (October 31), the Wicca say farewell to the God. This is a temporary farewell. He isn't wrapped in eternal darkness, but readies to be reborn of the Goddess at Yule.
Samhain, also known as November Eve, Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples, Hallows, and All Hallows, once marked the time of sacrifice. In some places this was the time when animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the depths of winter. The God -- identified with the animals --fell as well to ensure our continuing existence.
Samhain is a time of reflection, of looking back over the last year, of coming to terms with the one phenomenon of life over which we have no control -- death. The Wicca feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is thin. Wiccans remember their ancestors and all those who have gone before. (p. 70 - 71)

-Wicca:  A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham 


Much thanks to my friend Terrill Welch 
for taking this photo of Bim and I
Please visit Terrill's website
to learn more about her visual art

Next post:  How do to increase your word count
I have over twenty submissions currently in publishers' slush piles. If you want to know how I did that, be sure to read my next post.

Sharing my author journey...

After a very productive Spring/Summer, I've entered a creative lull. It's not that I'm not working. It's not that I don't have plans. (In fact, I am working in dribs and drabs on four writing projects.) It's just 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book review: Wicked (fantasy) by Gregory Maguire


back of the book blurb: When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens. Muchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

from  the Reader's Group Guide:  One of the Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil 
Evil exists, I know that, and its name is Boredom (p. 79)
When goodness removes itself, the space it occupies corrodes and becomes evil, and maybe splits apart and multiplies. So every evil thing is a sign of the absence of deity. (p. 80)
[S]ome invisible pocket of corruption was floating around the neighborhood... A perfectly agreeable soul might march through it and become infected, and then go and kill a neighbor. 
Evil isn't doing bad things, it's feeling bad about them afterward. (p. 370)
[E]vil is an absence of the inclination of matter to be at peace. (p. 370)
Evil is an early or primitive stage of moral development. (p. 370)
Evil's an incarnated character, an incubus or a succubus. It's an other. It's not us. (p. 370)
Evil isn't a thing, it's not a person, it's an attribute like beauty...
It's a power, like wind...
It's an infection...
It's metaphysical, essentially:  the corruptibility of creation (p. 370)
It's not of air and eternity, evil isn't; it's of earth; it's physical, a disjointedness between our bodies and our souls. Evil is inanely corporeal, humans causing one another pain, no more no less. (p. 371)
Evil is moral at its heart -- the collection of vice over virtue. (p. 371)
Evil is an act, not an appetite... Everyone has the appetite. If you give in to it, it, that act is evil. The appetite is normal. (p. 371)
Is religion itself -- that tired and ironic phrase -- the necessary evil. (p. 387)
The real disaster of this inquiry is that it is the nature of evil to be secret. (p. 372)
It isn't hard to find evil in this world... Evil is always more easily imagined than good, somehow. (p. 388) 
  People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us... It's people who claim that they're good, or in anyway better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.(p. 357)
Is the Witch evil?

I don't judge her; I feel sorry for her.

At her birth, her father makes a pronouncement:  


"Heaven is not improved by it... and heaven does not approve." (p. 23) 

Those who attend the birth consider killing her, but they quickly change their minds when the baby bites the finger off one of them.


The midwives... dropped the thing at its mother's breast, afraid to consider mercy murder for fear of what else the baby might bite. (p. 21)
The baby is untouched by the parents and tries to avoid contact. She is called horrid and demon, by those who should love her.

The mother describes her one and half year old as taking 'no delight in the world' (p. 33). Yet, how can she? How can she when her mother tells her things like..."Shall we go walk by the edge of the lake today and maybe you'll drown?" (p. 33) Has the child been treated with love? Does the child know love?

The minute the child begins to speak her family asks her to be quite.

And later, the adult daughter has this exchange with her father...

Frex (father):  You hated your skin, your sharp features, your strange eyes.
Elphaba (daughter):  Where did I learn that hate?
Frex:  You were born knowing it. (p. 339)

And yet, despite the emotional abuse she suffers and because of the love she finds...


in the liquid glare of sunlight on old boards she held up her hands... she had at last understood that she was beautiful. In her way. (p. 206)
The story concludes with...


In the life of a Witch, there is no after, in the ever after of a Witch there is no happily. (p. 406)
The only fault I can find with this book is the weak transitions between one chapter and the next. This left me guessing as to which character I was following. But on the whole it is an intriguing story, cleverly told.

More:  The author (Gregory Macguire) talks about his book (Wicked) (a YouTube video)


Next post:  To celebrate Halloween, I've studied its origins. I'll share that post next week.

Sharing my author journey...

What do you do if the words just aren't coming?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thank you

I'm most productive and happiest in the Spring and Summer. I wish those days could stretch on forever. And, truth be told, here on Mayne Island, we have enjoyed seemingly endless days of sun and warm weather. Still it wasn't enough. But try as I might I was unable to will Autumn away. And it came, bringing with it a chill breeze and falling leaves. 



Photo by Leanne Dyck

Change isn't easy. But it is made easier with the support of a friend. It is made easier with your support.


"An unexpected gift from a thoughtful neighbour"
photo by Leanne Dyck

This year I felt forced to reduce the number of blog posts. I wanted to focus on my goal of finding a publisher for my writing. I wanted to focus on developing and completing more writing projects. For this reason, I made the decision to post once a week instead of twice. But I worried about this change. Would you, would I forget about this blog? Would it die a slow death? I enjoy this blog and want to continue to nurture it. I'm so glad you feel the same way. Thanks to our mutual support this blog will continue to survive and it will strive. Here's to many more years of blog posts. Here's to many more years of change.


Photo by Leanne Dyck

My goal is to continue to strengthen my writing skills. For many years, I received guidance and support for this goal from my Mayne Island writing group. That's why it saddened and worried me when that group folded. Where would I find the support I need? How could I continue to write? Thankfully, one of the members of that old group decided to form a new group. And I'm pleased to report that, with the help of a few new members, the group is now as strong as it ever was. And it gets even better because I've also found a first reader. My first reader gives me individual help on my entire manuscript. It is so much fun working with her that I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.


Photo by Leanne Dyck

Many people have helped and are helping me with my author journey. To them, to you, I say thank you. 
.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Reviewing Word Vancouver 2015

Word Vancouver 'is Western Canada's largest celebration of literacy and reading'.


photo by Leanne Dyck

Once again this year I was only able to attend half of what I wanted to. There was just too much happening. Inside the library there were author readings, workshops, presentations and panel discussions. Outside there were information booths for a diverse collection of groups from publishers to literacy advocates. Plus a stage for performers and tents for author readings.

Saturday I arrived half an hour early. I was eager for the day to begin. First up was a consultation with an established children's literature author. Because I was early I was able to score the third time slot. I was forewarned that ten minutes flew by so I spent the waiting time preparing a point form presentation about my experience, my manuscripts and my goals. The consultation was time well spent. I received validation for the work I've done and encouragement and inspiration to continue working. After the consultation I planned to grab something to eat but instead was pulled into an engaging workshop on how to get out of your own way and write the unexpected. In total, during Saturday and Sunday, I attended three workshops, three panel discussions as well as networking with publishers and fellow authors. 

It's interesting what you can learn if you listen...

A panelist said that she had received over 400 rejections. Another panelist dumped a large bag of mail on the floor.

He said, "This isn't fan mail."


It was rejection letters.


They told the room full of authors not to listen to naysayers and to never give up. They advised us to work towards our future success and prepare to make sacrifices to reach them. They stressed that writing isn't a hobby and it isn't part-time.



It's during events like this that I realize (once again) how truly blessed I am. I'm doing what I love, surrounded by a generously supportive community.

I'll write about what I learnt during Word Vancouver on...
Developing Your Characters on Monday, November 16th
Never Write Alone on Monday, November 30th

Next post:  What I'm thankful for this year

Sharing my author journey...

I'd like to thank you for your kind words regarding the death of my furry companion -- Ticky. He gave so much to me over his long life. And I knew I had do something with all that love. And so... Drum roll...

I'm pleased to introduce you to Bim.


photo by Leanne Dyck

Bim is a nine year old apricot Miniature Poodle cross. I think the other breed is Maltese.

For those of you interested in details...

Friday, September 25, 2015

What do editors do and why you should care?

photo by Leanne Dyck

That editor took my story and she tore it apart. Then she forced me to make all these changes. In the end, it wasn't anything like what I wrote.

There are tons of horror stories out there. I think they exist because we, writers, don't really understand what an editor does.

Recently, authors Phyllis Smallman and Kay Stewart interviewed editors Lenore Hietkamp and Frances Thorsen (bookstore owner:  Chronicles of Crime). Heitkamp and Thorsen answered questions like...

-How can I find the best editor?
-How can I work more effectively with an editor?
-What common errors do editors find and how can I avoid making them?
-What does an editor do?

Here's what I heard...

What does an editor do?
1)an editor reads your manuscript. While she's reading she's asking herself:  What is this author trying to say? Is it working?
2)After reading your manuscript, the editor writes a report -- she points out what is working and what isn't.
3)The editor then has a discussion regarding the manuscript with the writer. The editor is okay with a writer disagreeing with her, but she want to know why the writer disagrees. 
4)Both the editor and the writer have a say as to what needs to be changed. Once this plan is finalized, the writer works on the changes.  
5)The editor reviews the changes. 
6)The editor gives the writer a final draft of the manuscript.

Two types of editing
Micro (line) editing:  Is like looking through a microscope, the editor closely examines each sentence. She looks at sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
Macro (story) editing: Is like looking through a camera, the editor looks at the big picture. He looks at story structure,  plot, pacing, dialogue, etc.

Author - Editor relationship

-should be built on mutual respect
-authors should receive feedback on what is and isn't working
-editors should respect the author's voice

How can I find an editor?

-by networking
-by type the editor's name into a search engine
-through professional organizations (not all editors belong to professional organizations and this has nothing to do with their professionalism)

How can I evaluate an editor's work?

-read book reviews of books the editor has worked on
-ask for a sample of the editor's work

Authors can help editors by providing them with a story bible
(The Story Bible:  What It Is and Why You Need One by Jane Friedman)

Tip:  a good way to tell if your story is working is to read the first three and last three chapters of your manuscript. 

Common mistakes authors make
-introducing too many characters in the first few chapters
-not doing enough research
-repeating the same sentence throughout the book
-not putting the crime in the right place
-not reading the manuscript out loud or having someone else read it out loud or recording it
-the story isn't properly paced 
Tip:  you should have the reader on the edge of her seat; then let her breathe -- and repeat.
-too many consequences
-the story isn't properly plotted
-boring dialogue -- stick with what is important

Bottom line:  The editor and author have the same goal in mind -- to produce the best book possible. Authors shouldn't be defensive. Look at your work with the editor as conversations about your book.

More:  Why Edit?
This is a guest post written by Amy Haagsma on behalf of EAC-BC, the BC branch of the Editor's Association of Canada

Next post:  Word Vancouver is so cool. There's workshops, panel discussions, author readings and so much more. I'll be attending this Saturday and Sunday. And I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.

Sharing my author journey...

September was an emotions packed month for me. 

In writing...
I sent out more submissions this month than ever before -- 12 submissions. I also received a lot of rejection letters. In fact, one day I opened the mailbox and found seven. Let me write that again:  s-e-v-e-n. It took my breath away and set me reeling, like a boxer receiving an upper cut.

Quote from one of the rejection letters...
'This story is very sweet, but I think it could use some elaboration.'

But I know acceptance is coming. All I have to do is keep writing, submitting and revising.

In my personal life...