Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Slave To Her Muse (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Debbie Newton slept but not peacefully. One minute she lay on her stomach, the next she flipped like a pancake on her back. She kicked at the blankets, mashed her head into the pillow. Longing for a soothing island oasis, she found a violent storm. The wind raged--tossing her like a kite. A rope. Yes, that's what I need. In her hands, a thick rock climber's rope appeared. She looped it around a tree and then around herself. There, she thought--confident she'd won. Red handled scissors materialized. One cut and she sailed into the air.   

"No fair!" she screamed, pounding her mattress.

Soaring over rooftops, she looked down and saw in bold black lettering on a green metal roof, 'W-R-I-T-E'. She gave up, woke up, turned on her bedside lamp, grabbed a pen and was a slave to her muse.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest Post Author Jenny Milchman

How/why did you start to write?

Legend has it (well, OK, family lore J ) that I was writing stories before I knew how to write. I dictated bedtime tales to my mom when I was two years old.

How did you become an author?

My short story “The Very Old Man”, which was published by a new e press, made me an author. I was paid $30 for it—the first ever money I earned as a writer. It didn’t matter that this was the price of dinner and a movie—and only my own dinner and movie at that. It was money for something I wrote. But selling my debut novel might count towards this transition even more. COVER OF SNOW is a literary thriller, coming out in Jan/Feb 2013, and finding just the right editor at just the right house was a dream maybe 37 years in the making.

What was your first published piece?

The Very Old Man”, a story about a new mother who has a random encounter in the supermarket, and afterwards finds life beginning to spiral out of control.

Where was it published?

In an anthology called Lunch Reads 1 that pairs two short stories to read over a meal J

How long ago?

About a year.

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

Yes. Definitely. I always wanted to write, and I studied poetry and short fiction seriously throughout high school and college. But it wasn’t until I went to graduate school in clinical psychology, and was faced with the challenge of understanding and helping people who were different from anyone I’d ever known—as well as a few out and out dangerous situations—that I found my writer’s voice in suspense fiction. Writing was always my way to find respite and cope with whatever was happening in real life. Once real life took a threatening direction, so did my work.

What inspires you?

The thin line we all walk between before and after. How life can turn on a dime. The there-but-for-the-grace situations. A hope that my stories can provide places of respite for others.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Don’t market.
I don’t mean to be snarky.
But I really do feel that trying to keep your book in the forefront of everyone’s mind is a) a losing battle—people have plenty of other things in the forefronts of their minds and b) not the best way to draw attention to your work.
Instead figure out a way you can provide great content, value add, enrich each person’s life in a meaningful way. Maybe that’s because your book has a catchy title like Pam DuMond’s CUPCAKES, LIES & DEAD GUYS and people like cupcakes and you post updates about this national trend or recipes or gift certificates to bakeries. Or maybe you have become a huge success like MJ Rose and you know how to offer this as a service to others (AuthorBuzz). Perhaps you’re an expert on WWII and your book takes place in 1941 and history buffs love learning about life back then through your eyes. If you have something valuable—truly valuable—to offer, people are going to want it. And then they’re going to find out about your book.

Parting words

Writing is a passion and publishing is a dream. Today there are more ways than ever to do it. Support the people who support you—bookstores and readers and other authors. And then keep at it and never give up. You book will be born, and there is little better (some, but not a whole lot J ) that is better than that.

Author links

Jenny's blog
Suspense Your Disbelief:  A Place for authors, readers, and everyone

Jenny's website
Take Your Child to a Bookstore

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Picturing Autumn's beauty by Leanne Dyck

I started this season with a mission. Each year, I have a problem transitioning from Summer to Autumn. This is year I was determined to find the beauty in the now. Here is more of what I've found...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why write short stories

As a teenager I wrote endless stories all with no final scene. Fearful of this outcome, as an aspiring author I reduced the word count. Instead of novels, I wrote articles for craft magazines, flash fiction for literary journals and creative non-fiction for magazines. Currently as an emerging author I write novels as well as continuing to write short stories. My most recently completed short is entitled Liquefied. Inspiration for this story was the Canada Writes contest. I entered for a chance to win $1, 000.

Why write short stories?

-To find an end
-To sharpen your writing tools
-To have an opportunity to work with an editor
-To gain a readership
-To gain validation (i.e. "Yes, I am a writer--my article appeared in this magazine.")
-To build your author platform. Many book publishers advise aspiring and emerging authors to submit to literary journals
-To win a prize

Remember, everyone wins when she continues to work toward her goal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knitting technique: Fold up pocket by Leanne Dyck

One of the easiest ways to knit a pocket onto a cardigan.

After sharing the technique to achieve
Knitting:  proper pocket placement, I promised to share another pocket technique. Here it is... The technique you've been waiting for.

The fold up pocket is achieved by knitting the front longer than the back.

And then by folding up the front to form a pocket.

How much longer should you knit?

Any where from four to six inches--depending on how deep you want the pocket to be.
This technique works best on hip length sweaters. 

On some cardigans I've attached a rib trim to the pocket. Knit the rib until it measures, at least, two inches [5.08 cm] and is as wide as the pocket.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Artisan Tour pictorial on Mayne Island

 Photographer:  Toby Snelgrove
I was so intimidated taking his picture.
Visit his web site and then you tell me why.

Native carver:  John Aitken
Do you remember when I featured Mayne Island's Honouring figure?
Well, John created it.
I know he's very talented--and nice. Okay, I'll stop there with the attributes or we'll be here all day.
I wish I could remember everyone's name.
Did I tell you I just had a birthday--and people tell me that it will get even harder to remember these important details. And so...now you know...why
That, however, doesn't stop us from enjoying their creations.

Amber's colourful, one-of-a-kind hats--sure to chase away the winter blahs.
 Author:  Amber Harvey
Amber had a sale on her books--3 for $30
Disappointed you missed it.
No worries. She told me that she's going to continue the sale at the Craft show in Agricultural Society Hall on December 11th. Mark your calender.

 Wool producer:  Joyce Kallweit. Yup, I did say the magic word--wool. And her sheep make the good stuff. You better believe I have at least two skeins in my stash.
 Fibre artist:  Celia Leaman.
This is one of the times when I say "should". As in, I should have taken more pictures of Celia's table. She makes the most adorable felted seals and cowboy snowmen and... Well, you'll just have to see for yourself. She'll be at the Craft show on December 11th.
Where is that show again?
In the Ag Hall.
Yup, I know that's where you'll be.
Artist:  Debbie Boules
Yup, yeah, Christmas card--duh. I knew I need to buy something. I really hope she's at the craft show on December 11th.
Debbie? Do you hear me, Debbie?
 Barbara who makes the most delicious muffins
Colleen makes such beautiful earrings--especially this one pair. They are sparkly, white snowflakes. I'm still dreaming about them.
Colleen, are you doing anything on December 11th. Because if not you could...

Artist:  Terrill Welch
Whose new book I want to buy as a Christmas present.
Who am I going to give it to?
I'm not telling. It's a Christmas secret.
Hey, Terrill, do you have some for sale at your house or where can I buy a copy?
Do you think if I visited her website I'd find out?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scotiabank Giller Prize by Leanne Dyck

The Scotiabank Giller Prize was aired on CBC TV was my favourite TV show.
Well, let me tell you. Finally, Canadian authors--my heroes, mentors, icons--received the attention they deserve. They talked about how they write--and not in a long-winded way. Oh, no, they spoke with insight and with a sense of fun. It was a party--for them.
This year there were six authors nominated for the $50, 000 prize--one more than usual. I sat captivated.
My only complaint--it wasn't long enough and it's not a series.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free knitting pattern Islandia Hood by Leanne Dyck

This design was inspired by a hood that was fashionable in Iceland in the 1300s.

Skill level:  beginner

Knitting needles:  6.00mm/US 10 or size to obtain tension, plus two double pointed needles to same size.
Yarn:  worsted weight (approximately 850 yards or 500 grams)

Tension:  4 stitches x 7 rows = one inch worked over Stockinette stitch
(If you can't achieve this tension with 6.00mm/US 10 then you need to use a different needle size. If you get six or more stitches in your sample swatch then you must use a larger size of needle. If you get four or fewer stitches to the inch, then you must use a smaller size of needle.)

Seed stitch (over even 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

Note:  collar and hood are worked in two parts--front and back

Back collar
Cast on 60 stitches
Work in seed stitch for 10 inches
Cast off 10 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows
Back Hood
Work (40 stitches) in seed stitch for 14 inches

Front collar
Cast on 60 stitches
Work in seed stitch for 10 inches
Cast off 10 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows
Front hood
Work (40 stitches) in seed stitch for 3 inches

Note:  This section of the hood is worked simultaneously from two balls of yarn.

Work stitches (20 stitches from each yarn ball) in seed stitch for 11 inches
Cast off using the three-needle bind off technique

Sew hood and shoulder seams. Weave in ends.

How to make I-cord
How to make fringe
Video of me reading Islandia Hood scene from The Sweater Curse

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Post Author Laurie Buchanan (interview)

How/why did you start to write?
Many years ago I had a typing service and placed an ad in "Writers Digest" stating "It's My Job To Make Your Work Look Great!" I soon found myself editing and formatting manuscripts for authors--many of them Harlequin romance writers.

People started asking me how I got started, what made it successful, and similar business-type questions, so I wrote, "Pages To Go! How To Start and Maintain a Successful Freelance Typing Service."

These experiences "primed the pump" and served me well when I went back to school and had to write a thesis and dissertation for my Master's and PhD degrees.

Where can we find your current work?
I am an anchor writer for SibylMagazine, a regular contributor to Evolving Your Spirit magazine, and I currently have a non-fiction under consideration with a literary agent in the San Francisco area.

What inspires you?
My creative muse is "wabi-sabi"--a practice where inessentials are trimmed away or eliminated.

The intersection where wabi (minimal) an sabi (functional) meet is the foundation for my creativity--space. Space to move at my own pace, space to invest my time the way I want, space for inspiration and quiet solitude.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques
As a non-fiction writer, it's important to establish and maintain a "platform". In other words, exposure, Exposure, EXPOSURE.

I have a high-traffic blog (Tuesdays with Laurie) and an author website (Laurie Buchanan) am active in several online social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Do you attend writer's conferences?
I attend the annual Writers' Institute at UW-Madison. I have found that spending a weekend with other writers, literary agents, and publishers keeps me excited and engaged.

Parting words
"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." -Laurie Buchanan

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembering him... (short story) by Leanne Dyck

For remembrance on Remembrance Day

I once knew a man. Although he was old when I met him, by the twinkle in his eye, I could see glimpses of the young man he had once been.

He had been of age upon the onset of the second world war and like the other men of his community, he was eager to enlist--an eagerness driven by a passion to see the world. He wanted to sail from cloud to cloud on the wings of a huge iron bird. But it was not to be. While his friends saw active duty in Italy and France, he was tucked away on a radar base in Newfoundland. Yet, 'they also serve who only stand and wait'. No, this man never saw active duty. There were memories he could never share. Horrors he had never lived.

In sadness and in pride, he stood straight and tall each and every Remembrance Day. He had known the men who never returned. He ensure that I honoured them, as well. Through him, I saw the soldiers not as faded images from the distant past but as men who had 'lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow/Loved and were loved.'

I once knew a man. That man was my dad.

Written 2003
Revised 2021

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Woman with a Pen by Leanne Dyck

I'm the first, last, and only daughter in a family dominated by males. 

I spent my childhood tagging along after male cousins. They did cool things like climb trees and jump from rooftops.

Sometimes their friends said, "Leanne can't do that! She's a girl."

Thankfully my cousins didn't listen. Unfortunately, I did. In my young mind, I began to equate being a girl with being weak. I did everything I could to prove that I wasn't a girly-girl. This self-talk shaped my life. I became a feminist because I thought if we worked really hard we could shed our femininity and prove ourselves men's equals.

My mom's death changed my life, in so many ways. She'd always been my sage. Once again she taught me. I witnessed firsthand the steel strength she possessed. A strength nurtured by the women who encircled her hospital bed.

What does it mean to be a woman? What powers do we possess? Why do we act the way we do? What challenges do we face? How do we overcome them? These are the questions that make my muse dance. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Knitting dilemma: sleeves

Picture this, I'm happily knitting. The front and back of the cardigan is finished--and looks beautiful. But, then, I realize I have one ball left. Let me write that again, for emphasis one...ball...oh, no!
What do I do?
Yeah, that was the question.
Here's what I decided to do...
I divided the one ball into four balls--two medium size balls for the sleeve and two smaller balls for the cuffs.
Did it work?
All will be revealed on Monday, November 28th, when I let you peek at my inventory for WinterCraft (a Christmas craft show on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada)
Next post:  Women's fiction author

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blood, Feathers and Holy Men by Ben Nuttall-Smith

Blood, Feathers and Holy Men -- Historical Fiction


This is a story of Quétzalcoatl – a major Toltec, Mayan and Aztec deity, connecting the ancient myth to a Tenth Century European Irish priest, a handful of young monks, two Norsemen, and an Irish slave-girl.

When Hernando Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519 Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, believed him to be the god Quétzalcoatl returning, as promised.
            In 910, an Irish priest and five monks are shipwrecked in the Hebrides and taken as slaves by Norse traders. Through a series of cataclysmic geophysical events, the Norse ship is pushed to a strange new land, where the priest, three monks, the Irish girl and two Norsemen are left to learn the ways of the natives.
            One monk – the priest’s spiritual rival – marries a chief’s daughter and eventually becomes a shaman, opening the gate to a new understanding but contributing to a spiritual crises for the priest who escapes into madness. The mad priest and his companions travel on, reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The priest recovers his sanity and the Europeans seem content to remain among the fishermen natives.
Miraculously, they find remnants of the serpent-headed Norse ship and decide to rebuild her. With a large contingency of Toltec warriors, the Europeans sail to Yucatan where the priest founds a new Toltec capital city in the desert, is made king, and becomes an historical embodiment of the Mayan-Toltec god Quétzalcoatl.

The shaman-monk is summoned by visions to rescue the priest from forces of evil. Battles are fought and good men die. When everything seems to have been resolved, fate steps in fulfilling the mystery, beauty and horror of the Quétzalcoatl myth.


Chapter Twenty-Five
City of Nations

            Thrashing on his bed of cedar boughs, Mountain Thrush fought his nightmare. His head ached and pounded with the spirit drums that always heralded shamanic visions. Hot tears scalded his cheeks. His throat burned dry.
            Two days before, he'd climbed up onto the plateau from the river valley. His totem, the grazing buffalo, only raised their heads and gazed as he trudged by. Possibly they understood that this was no hunter but a holy man who knew them well. Near the buffalo and prairie dogs, a stand of dark green pine beckoned to the shaman. Such ancient trees marked the sacred place of dreams - where only he could go.
            Years before, he'd followed the line of four planets to that same spot and when a shower of fire stars signalled “Stop” he crouched beneath an ancient tree, thanking the tree for its presence there. Then as now, he placed his body in a hollow between large roots, down among the stones and needles, drawing strength from the tree whose wisdom came from many many generations.
            The Tree Spirit took him into its very core. Mountain Thrush counted more than nine hundred golden rings, telling the tree's age. The tree's wisdom spoke to him of what it had seen and what the ancestor trees had seen and those before, even when the land was under ice and when the inland sea came to those ancient hills. As always, when the visions came, he felt overwhelmed.
            This time, long silver strands stretched to the distant mountains. From the east, upon those silver strands came screeching monsters belching smoke and steam. As the monsters passed, the buffalo fell in heaps amid piles of bones and rotting flesh. Flies feasted while nations starved. Teepees, no longer made of buffalo hide but of thin fabric, fluttered ragged on their frames.
            Furious fevers ravaged men and women, children, babes. Fields of corn, squash and beans wilted in the blazing sun, unpicked. Forests turned to tangled brush. Irrigation ditches filled with blowing sand. The rains no longer came to cool the land.
            He felt his bones age and turn to dust. He watched his people herded from their land. He saw children being seized and sent to spend their youth in ugly buildings of wood and stone. He heard their cries as they were forced by pale-skinned men and women to speak a foreign tongue, forbidden to speak their own. He saw hunters no longer permitted to hunt and fish for food. Spirit voices cried to him that the sweat lodge, spirit dance, and potlatch were prohibited. He smelled the vomit-bitter breath of men and women, boys and girls, as fiery water burned their bodies and minds and ruined their lives.
            “No more. No more. I beg you, show no more.”
A powerful wind howled through the highest branches. In a hail of falling pine needles, he saw a flash of brilliant light and, high above the hill, a mushroom cloud. The air turned sour with sooty haze. Plants and trees withered in the blast. When eagles dared to challenge the metal birds, they died before they left their perches. Giant trees crashed to lie in stacks by riverbeds. The endless prairie was razed. Hot rain burned the only trees still standing.
            In a final vision, Mountain Thrush knew the earth could stand no more. He watched in horror as the land heaved and rumbled her rebellion against the poisonous waste of all that she had given men so freely. Great stacks of wood and stone and metal fell in flaming heaps. Wild men fled with flashing lights of red. Green had vanished.
            Nature hid to await another sun.


Ben Nuttall-Smith taught Music, Theatre, Art, and Language until he retired in 1991. He now lives in Crescent Beach, near Vancouver B.C.
Ben is publicity chairperson for the Canadian Authors’ Association, Fraser Valley representative for the Federation of British Columbia Writers, BC rep and Editorial Board member for the Canadian Poetry Association quarterly magazine Poemata and member of The Writers Union of Canada.  
Publications include an historical novel – Blood, Feathers and Holy Men, Libros Libertad, January 2011, three books of poetry Word Painting, Splashes of Light and Scribbles from Afar and a 3500 word illustrated children’s book – Henry Hamster Esquire.  A second novel, Secrets Kept / Secrets Told will be published by Libros Libertad January, 2012.

Author's website

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mayne Island's welcoming figure--a pictorial exploration

 He remains--watching over us...
Tomorrow:  A Slave to Her Muse by Leanne Dyck will be featured here
Next post:  Please welcome Author Stephanie Beck