Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I found this book at my local library (wait for it) 's  book sale. No, I didn't buy it new. Buying second-hand allowed me to take a risk on an unknown author. I didn't know the author, but I had heard of the book. It was recommended to me--well, not just me. I attended a talk on how-to write humour and during the Q and A, the presenter was asked what book he would recommend.

"Well, beside my own, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared."

The book opens with the 100-year-old man climbing out a window--of course. And I was immediately drawn into the story, because I wanted to know why a 100-year-old man would climb out of a window.


'The 100-year-old man set off in his pee slippers (so called because men of advanced age rarely pee farther than their shoes.)' (p. 4)


Beyond the climbing out of the window part, this story is in no way predictable. A 100-year-old is expected to celebrate his age and die; protagonist Allan doesn't celebrate and lives.


Title:  The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Published by  HarperCollins Publishers

Publishing date:  2012

Translated from the original Swedish by Rod Bradbury

Author:  Jonas Jonasson

Author bio:  Jonas Jonasson is a former journalist and media consultant. He lives in Sweden.

Book blurb:  After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his alcohol consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey.

It would be the adventure of a life-time for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory:  not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, he has actually played a key role in them. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.


Jonasson doesn't concern himself with convention. He rarely uses quotation marks, preferring hyphens. He takes detours to follow minor characters, whenever he feels so inclined. And he is rather lazy when it comes to crafting transitions...
'The following hours of Bellringer Farm developed as follows' (p. 231)

The story is written in a just-the-facts-ma'am style. After all, Jonasson was a journalist. As a writer, I found it fascinating to read an author whose style is vastly different from my own. As a reader, I found this style frustrating. It was hard to get to the meat of the story--difficult, but not impossible.

This story spans one hundred years and the setting varies from Europe to Asia to North America to the southern hemisphere. The pages are populated with characterized versions of important historical figures. The humour is tightly interwoven into the plot and serves to make this book endearing.

About my next post...
Monday night (February 29th), I (will/am) attending a CWILL (Children's Writers and Illustrators) panel discussion. Here's what I learned last year (link) After attending that discussion, I wrote 15 picture book manuscripts. Who knows what will happen this year.
I'll share what I learn in my next post. (published at approximately 5 PM on Sunday, March 6th) 



Sharing my author journey...

If you don't write, you may be surprised to hear that sitting in a 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reflections on a writing life

The story comes to me fully formed but barely visible. In order for me to see it (capture the tone, follow the plot) I must become the story. So if I'm writing a children's picture book, I see the world through a child's eyes. The ordinary becomes the unusual. Mushrooms are thrones for frogs. Twigs are notes from fairies. If I'm writing a mystery, I become paranoid. Why did that car drive passed? Where are they headed? What are they doing? 


(Most of the photos that are published on this blog have been taken by me (Leanne Dyck) 
and are of Mayne Island. If they aren't or haven't been, I will tell you so.)

I'm thrilled to be living a writer's life. It fulfills me, even though the process isn't always easy. The dark narratives do effect me. I once shared this with a friend. Her advice was to write something positive. But I knew I couldn't force the story to be something it wasn't. If I tried to do that I knew I would lose sight of it. I knew I had to peer through the fog and record what I saw. I knew that I had to be true to what I found there.

The writing life does come with its share of frustration. It feels like establishing my career is taking so unnecessarily long. If, for example, a publisher had accepted my novel several years ago it could be a bestseller by now. 




But, as I re-write said novel, I'm so glad that acceptance letter didn't come. Sure it was good then but it's so much better now. Sure it flowed then but it flows so much better now. 


Building an author career isn't a race; it's a journey of discovery.


Work with all your heart, because--I promise--if you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom. (p. 63 Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert)



Next post (Monday, February 29th):  Book review:  The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
How I found this book and what I thought while I was reading it. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lasting Love (creative non-fiction)

Happy Valentine's Day! This short story is dedicated to my parents. Even though it is short, it took many years to write. One reason may be that it was so close to my heart. I was with my mom for a month and a half before she died. I always knew my parents had a strong love, but I didn't know how strong until I witnessed the scene that inspired this story. My parents were private people, but I know think hope they won't mind me sharing this with you.


(My parents on their wedding day circa 1940s.)



Defenseless, I lay in this cage of sheets and blankets as cancer prowls, leaps, sinks its teeth into my flesh and devours me--piece by piece. I struggle for life; all I gain is courage.

My husband stands straight, tall, so close to my bed. He is all I see. He is my life. His long, thin, weathered fingers stroke my brow. My life is in his touch.

Our love has endured so much--worry, anger, misunderstanding, longing, pain. Will it endure this?

Others think he is strong but I see his damp eyes, his Adam's apple quiver, his erratic breathing. I know his fragility. My strongest desire is to keep him safe from sadness, from grief, from loss, from what is happening to me. I want to hold him and I want to tell him that we've won, that we will be together forever.

But though I fight, I am leaving him--slipping away.

He must withstand this. He must be strong. I will give him strength. I sneer up at him. Don't let it win. Have faith. Our love is stronger. I tell him with my eyes.

"May I kiss you?" He is always a gentleman.

"If you dare." I grin. He's used to my teasing.

Our lips--our hearts touch.

"Was it worth it?" I ask. "Was it worth your life?"

"Oh." He breathes. "Oh, yes." He forces a smile.

Then I know; I know we've won; I know our love will never die.

My mom passed away in April 1998; my dad was by her side until her very last breathe.

(My parents at my wedding circa 1990s.)

Next post: Writing the Story -- I reflect on my writing process.
An apology...
Okay, I don't know how this happened but part of this post was published on Google +. I'm trying not to lose sleep over it. I know it's minor. But I know how I feel when I find a post I want to read and only half of it is there. Frustrating. So please accept my apology. I hope you find that it was worth the wait. 

Sharing my author journey...
I was growing nervous. In fact, I was even preparing excuses. You 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

book review: That Night by Chevy Stevens (mystery)

I don't remember where I was. I don't remember what I was doing. But I do remember the news story. It burned a hole in my heart. It happened in Canada. It happened in BC. They were a group of teenage girls and they killed a friend. I think everyone in Canada was effected by the news of Reena Verk's deathDid her murder inspire That Night by Chevy Stevens?




Book:  That Night

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Published:  2014

Book blurb:  As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications:  a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn't relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren't easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she's doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy--not Ryan, who s convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni's innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni's life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Author bio:  Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still lives on the island with her husband and daughter. When she's not working on her next book, she's camping and canoeing with her family in the local mountains. Her debut novel, Still Missing, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. Please visit her at www.chevystevens.com




I took notes as I read...

The opening line that grabbed me and reeled me into this book...'I'd spent almost half of my life behind bars for a crime I didn't commit.' (p. 4)

I wonder how Stevens did her research for this book? Prison life seems so genuine, like we're there. 

Good tip on how to handle bullying on pages 44 and 45 -- just go with the flow.

This book offers a refresher on life as a teenager. I'm sure glad I left that stage.

Visiting with her dad, while living in prison forces Toni to live in two worlds. She wanted/longed to live in one but couldn't. So she told her dad (someone she feels very close to) to stop visiting her. That must take an amazing amount of courage.

The reader gets deep inside Toni's head and the things she says about prison life--doing hard and soft time--I find applicable to life outside the cell. How much is attitude?

There is a confusing transition on page 185. First Toni is walking and then she is parking her truck.

Final quote...


She referenced some psychobabble about teen girls turning on each other, the viciousness and pack mentality that can arise, how gossip can  become truth in people's minds... She finished by saying, "Whoever the murderer is, wherever he is, he didn't just end one life that night--he ended three.' (p. 219)

Sharing my author journey...

Tuesday I spent re-writing a picture book manuscript. Inspiration woke me