Sunday, June 28, 2015

Where's the head? (short story)


Once upon a time I sat down with a glass of lemonade in a friend's back garden. I wanted to get his opinion on a story I'd just written. After I finished reading it to him I asked, "Well?"

He had a kind face and a warm smile. His words weren't always easy to hear, but they were always helpful. By way of a reply, he said, "A couple of weeks ago, Sharon asked for my opinion on a painting she'd just finished. I knew she'd didn't want false praise; I knew she was worthy of the effort. And I feel the same about you. So I'll tell you what I told her, I can see the body, but where's the head."

"Huh?"

"Stories should always have a point and make it," he said. And his words still echo in my ears.

More (coming soon):  We'll talk about find the point of your story again soon when we tackle the problem of how to find the end of your story. Please stay tuned.

Next Monday:  reviewing Gone Girl (thriller) by Gillian Flynn

Sharing my author journey...

It's an old song. I know it's been sung before--by me and others--but...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book review: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

History is more than a little confusing. For example let's try to solve the mystery of who discovered Canada.

I typed that question into a search engine. It spit back: Jacques Cartier in 1534. Huh?

When I typed in what did Leif Eriksson discover, I was directed to biography.com

'Leif Eriksson was on his way back home
to Greenland...when he sailed off course
and landed at what is now Nova Scotia,
which he called Vinland. This account
comes from the Icelandic Eiriks saga.
Another account, the Groenlendinga saga,
says he learned of Vinland from an Icelandic
trader who had been there 14 years earlier...
By most accounts, Eriksson sailed from
Greenland to Norway in 1000.'

That's 534 years before Jacques Cartier.

I typed in: what did George Vancouver discover? This time I was sent to Wikipedia.

'Captain George Vancouver...was an
English officer of the British Royal Navy,
best known for his 1791-95 expedition, which
explored and charted North America's
northwestern Pacific Coast regions.'

Confused yet? Have you figured it out? Who discovered Canada? Was it lost?

I typed in what does Canada mean?

Wikipedia informed me that...

'The name of Canada has been in use since the earliest European settlement in Canada,with the name originating from a Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian word kanada
(or canada) for “settlement”, “village', or “land”.'


and from the Canadian Heritage web site.

Isn't that interesting? It seems to me that Canada wasn't lost. It seems to me that the Iroquois knew where it was. After all, they named it.

So imagine, I'm at home on Mayne Island. It's a sun-filled day and say I'm outside working on the yard. A tourist from Vancouver Island shows up.

“Wow, it's a good thing I came,” he tells me. “You were lost. Here let me help you.” He moves into my house.

I'm forced to move down into the basement.

He tells me, “I like it here. I mean, it's pretty and all that but what do you do about this and this and this.”

So I teach him some tricks to make adjusting to rural life much easier. I think we're friends.

One day, he says, “You know you look really cramped, living in the basement.”

I think how nice of him to notice.

He says, “I'm sure you'll be much happier living in Victoria. We'll teach you how to be a city person. It'll be a much better life than the one you had on Mayne Island.”

With me out of the way, he's free to treat my island any way he wants. He builds fast food restaurants and paves over flowerbeds for parking lots. He pollutes the water and the air.

Now, of course, none of that will happen. I'm just a white woman wondering what it's like to be Aboriginal. All I can do is wonder. But Thomas King knows and he has opened my eyes.

The Inconvenient Indian is not a easy read, but it is a necessary one. And thanks to King's wit, it is doable.

He discusses three types of Indians.

'Dead Indians are dignified, noble, silent, suitably garbed. And dead. Live Indians are invisible, unruly, disappointing. And breathing. One is the romantic reminder of a heroic but fictional past. The other is simply an unpleasant, contemporary surprise.' (p.66)

'Legal Indians are those Indians who are recognized as being Indians by the Canadian and U.S. governments.'(p. 68)

'North America hates the Legal Indian... The Legal Indian was one of those errors in judgment that North America made and has been trying to correct for the last 150 years.' (p. 69)

I like how King answers the question of what do Natives want. It speaks to the diversity of a people. Aboriginals are a diverse people. It was the white man who lumped them all together under one title—Indian. King makes this point through out this book. Whites made the classification. Aboriginals did not.

Some may say the abuses done to Aboriginals is old news and they should just get over it.

King replies to this comment...

'[A]n examination of the past...can be instructive.It shows us that there is little shelter and little gain for Native peoples in doing nothing.' (p. 265)

If Native people want sovereignty and self-determination, they will have to fight for it, King concludes.

Favourite quote: 'The fact of Native existence is that we live modern lives informed by traditional values and contemporary realities and that we wish to live those lives on our terms.' (p. 266)

If you would like to gain better understanding of the Aboriginal experience in North America, I highly recommend...



The Inconvenient Indian

Next post:  Where's the Head (a short story)

Sharing my author journey...
On Mayne Island, The Inconvenient Indian was not only a book but a challenge. A challenge issued...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Laureen's Submission (part 4)

This is part 4 of Laureen's Submission. Here are the links to part one (start with the writer), part two (focus on the Acquistions Editor), part three (focus on the Publisher).


"Leanne reading on the ferry"
by Byron Dyck

Wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, earplugs maintaining silence, eye mask ensuring darkness, Jon Torgelson snored. He was enjoying the extra hours of sleep the weekend provided. Laureen inched out of bed. For her, it was a normal workday. She made a pit stop in the kitchen to grab a quick bite. Then, still in her pyjamas, hair and teeth unbrushed, she stumbled down the hall and into her writer's den. Laureen wrote for a couple of hours before deciding to take a break and survey her email inbox.

"Oh, look, another rejection letter," she mumbled when she found the email from Knight's publishing house. "I'll just give it a quick read." But the words confused her. What? It can't be. I must be reading it wrong.

She heard noises in the kitchen, followed them and found her husband pouring coffee. "Jon, I need you to read something out loud to me."

"You need me to... What?"

"Read something."

He followed her to her computer screen.

"Ms. Laureen Torgelson," he read aloud. "Please send us," Jon paused as he felt the full weight of what he was reading. "The complete manuscript." He was so proud of her; he wrapped his arms around her and they held one another. Then he said, "One step closer."

And she knew he was right. This isn't acceptance, she told herself, not yet. It's merely an opportunity.


The End

Thank you for reading my short story. I hope you enjoyed it.

More:

8 Ways to Support the Writer in Your Life by Robbie Blair

Sharing my author journey...
Last week I worked to transform a novel into a novella. I did this to offer this work to a larger audience. This transformation is delicate work...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Laureen's Submission (part 3)

This is part 3 of Laureen's Submission. Here's the link to part one (focus on writer, Laureen) and part two (focus on Acquisitions Editor, Cora Green)


(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Thomas ended the phone call by saying, "I do understand. You are an important author to us. And rest assured we will handle this issue, promptly." Then he hung up. If they only knew how hard I work. A publisher does far more than publish books. He signed. The tasks are endless. And there's another one. He regarded the manuscript with a cold-eyed stare. He made up his mind to ignore it.

But the manuscript didn't rest peacefully on his desk. "Read me. Read me." It seemed to call.

It was like dark chocolate. He couldn't keep his fingers away. So he gave in, picked up the ten pages and began to read. "By Laureen Torgelson."

Thomas' heart fell. It was the name that stopped him. He'd known several Torgelsons throughout his life. It had been a Torgelson who'd tripped him during a soccer match--ending his involvement in the sport. Without the exercise, muscle quickly became fat--a condition that had permanently altered Thomas' five-foot, nine-inch frame. It had been a Torgelson who'd broken his heart. Years ago, he'd knelt on one knee, held her hand and asked the question. That's when she'd crushed him like a bug.

But he'd found someone else. Thoughts of his wife filled his mind; he checked the clock on his computer screen--5:30 PM.

He was almost out the door. But, at the last minute, he retraced his steps, picked up the manuscript and shoved it into his briefcase. One of the first things he did when he arrived home was exile the manuscript to a corner of his desk in his study. 

No work. Not this week-end, he told himself.


***

The weather had turned unseasonably warm; Thomas and his wife Marian were outside enjoying it. He, like a porpoise, doing laps in the pool. She sat at the glass top table, pen in hand and chequebook open, paying bills.

Thomas swam over to a side of the pool and pushed himself up, resting his stomach on the edge. "Surely you don't have to do that now. The water is prefect. Come and join me."

Marian's pen didn't stop moving. "In a minute," she told him. "I'm almost finished."

When she started affixing postage she discovered the shortage. "Do we have more stamps?"

"In my desk," he told her.

Marian slid the patio door open and walked into her husband's private domain. The study was styled after an English hunting lodge--brown padded chairs, wallpaper depicting hunting scenes and a Winchester hung over the fireplace.

Marian eyed the piles of paper that filled the desk and easily located a manuscript lying abandoned on the corner of his desk. In the past she'd helped Thomas unearth gold in the slush pile.

I'll just take a peek

But she immediately shoved the idea out of her mind. 

"No, that's none of my business, not any longer," she scolded herself. 

Marian grasped the handle on the middle drawer and gave it a tug. But the drawer didn't budge. She swung her hand out and up to coil her fingers around the edge of the desk. Perhaps by accident, the manuscript tumbled off the desk, onto the floor. 

"Oh, no, how did that happen?"

A trace of a grin swept across her face. 

Marian stooped to pick up the pages and read the title. It caught her imagination. She picked up the ten pages, slipped into a padded chair and read. 

Well, she laughed, she cried and she said, "My book club would love this book. He has to publish it."

And that's exactly what she told Thomas.


(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Next post:  Part 4 of Laureen's Submission (we return our focus to the author)

More:  

What does a book publisher do? on Chrone.com

Random House Explains What Publishers do (article and video)

I've published a few interviews with publishers on this blog...

You've find them on the Guest Post page (link)

These posts included interviews with these small presses...

Story Plant (link)

Central Avenue Publishing (link)

Ronsdale Press (link)


Sharing my author journey...

This week I received another rejection email. In the past, especially... 

(photo by Leanne Dyck)