Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Post: Author Ben Nuttall-Smith (interview)

-How/why did you start to write? 

I composed my first song before starting kindergarten, well over 70 years ago and began scribbling poetry in my teens. (My mother did not like the song. Dear Mommy pretends to be 21.) Serious writing began following my retirement from teaching in 1993. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, I retired to a “handyman’s delight” on the Sunshine Coast and began the healing process by gardening, renovating, and writing a memoir about survival (and eventually healing) from childhood sexual abuse.

-How did you become an author?

After countless rejection slips from publishers all over Canada, I published my memoir and a first book of poetry with a publish-on-demand company. I kept writing, moved back to the Lower Mainland and joined the Canadian Authors’ Association. Then I joined the Federation of BC Writers and began serving on both boards, helping other writers.
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2002, I was hit by a car on a sidewalk and spent six weeks sitting daily in the Zocalo, painting, reading and writing. I composed a book of poetry about the poor people of Oaxaca City and an epic poem about Quétzalcoatl, the mysterious bearded god of the Mexican people. Over the next seven years, that poem grew into two more trips to Mexico and a great deal of research about American First Nations before the advent of European conquests. The resulting novel, Blood, Feathers & Holy Men, was picked up by Libros Libertad and published in January 2011. That publication was due to a stroke of karma. I met Manolis, the publisher, while trying to help a fellow writer through the Federation of BC Writers.
Libros Libertad will release my second novel, Secrets Kept / Secrets Told, in January 2012. That novel is a rewrite of my earlier memoir.

-What was your first published piece?

I had the occasional article and bits of poetry published in small-run magazines and newspapers over many years. While living in Sechelt, I wrote weekly articles for the Royal Canadian Legion and for the local press.

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

At 17, I joined the Royal Canadian navy. Then I ran through a series of jobs before returning to school as an adult student and eventually becoming a teacher. I taught Music, Art, Theatre and English for over 30 years. The entire story unfolds through the eyes of Paddy Milne in my upcoming novel.

-What inspires you? 

            On a summer day, I’ll sit in a shady area, pen in hand, and observe people and my surroundings. How do those surroundings make me feel? Can I see beyond the ragged clothing, the grimy face and the rasping voice? Where has this person been? What misfortune led him or her to this lowly state? Can I see beauty where there is only ugliness and pain?
            I appreciate the splendour of nature, the sparkle in people’s eyes. Encounters, visions and stories of misfortune affect me deeply. But, to write a story or a poem takes a concerted effort and daily discipline.

-Please share one of your successful marketing techniques.

I carry cards with photo, address, email and web information. The back describes current publication(s). I also printed a flyer describing my book(s). Then I attend readings and literary events, writers’ conferences and network with fellow scribblers through various writing organizations including The Writers Union of Canada. I offer workshops wherever appropriate, which give me exposure to sell books. I make sure to have books with me wherever I go and recently sold a book while waiting for a haircut.

-Parting words

Writing, a lonely obsession, takes place in a cave. Shameless self-promotion is out in the open and time-consuming. Balancing the two is almost impossible. With all that, we must never stop reading. Reading keeps the gears lubricated. I’m forever buying books from fellow authors, reading manuscripts, and trying to keep up.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Post: Mary Woodbury of Moon Willow Press

I just discovered that Moon Willow Press has closed. (2019)

My new small publishing company in Port Moody is Moon Willow Press. I am an environmentalist involved in the local community on several projects, including speaking up against oil sands pipelines running through culturally sacred and ecologically bio-diverse areas in the northern half of our province as well acting as a steward for the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet.

I am committed to producing provocative books that use sustainable print materials, and for this reason print only on FSC-certified or post-consumer paper. I  also donate a portion of sales to tree planters in the world who are working in areas such as Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Malawi that suffer from deforestation. My press is partnered with Eco-Libris and Green Press Initiative.

I have written a toolkit for green publishing, which is free at site. In my first year of publishing, I also have two titles that are just e-books: The Little Big Town is a young reader's story about a rough transition experienced by a young girl who moves from a large city to a small, rural area. A collection of short stories, Smoke Ghosts & Other Outré Tales, is a fascinating and imaginative collection of travel vignettes.

This year's print titles (also on Kindle) are a fiction literary road novel, Infernal Drums; an eco-poetry collection, The Sacred River of Consciousness; and the novel The Lottery Winner. Two titles are slated for 2012 so far, a science-fiction title calling for the preservation and resurrection of the great forests of the earth, The Philodentrist Heresy, and an as yet untitled novel about a group of people adapting to a world devastated by climate change.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Something (poem) by Leanne Dyck

Something is happening,
Something is growing,
Something is bubbling up within you,

Something unstoppable,
Something undeniable,
Something perpetual,


Embrace it.

'Meditate upon the sun, on the hidden energies lying dormant in winter, not only in the earth but within ourselves. Think of birth not as the start of life but as its continuance.' from Wicca:  A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First sentence (writing game) by Leanne Dyck

This writing game can be played by two or more players.

Preparation:  Choose a book (well-known or not)

Play:  One player reads the opening paragraph out loud to all the players. Each player writes a short story inspired by this paragraph. 

Variation: Glean your inspiration from a photo or a series of photos.

Variation: One player at a time supplies one sentence until the short story is created.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Post Author George Szanto

How/why did you start to write?
I’ve been writing since I was 5. It seemed natural to create the kinds of material others had produced for me, so I contributed too

How did you become an author?
As opposed why I started to write? Same thing, except that in the 6th grade I gave my teacher a short story, which she then read to the class. And I got a new respect from my fellow students.

What was your first published piece?
Too long ago to remember. I wrote plays as well, and they were performed early on

Where was it published?
All my plays were published by Playwrights Canada Press.

How long ago?
Eons. The first play was  published in 1972. My first books, one of essays and one of short stories, were published in 1977

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
Mostly I taught and travelled. Everything I’ve done has been grist for the writing mill
Please share one of your successful marketing techniques
Pushing my publisher as hard as I can

Parting words
Please check out my website,

Most recent release:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Props (a writing game,) by Leanne Dyck

This game can be played by two or more people.

Preparation:  Into a small box (or bag or suitcase or pillow case or), each player puts one item.

Play:  Each player must draw one item out of the box and tell a story about it. Or add to the story already being told.

Variation:  Have a theme for the story exchange such as clothing. Each player must bring a hat, belt, top, etc.

Other themes:  children's toys, household tools, etc.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guest Post: Author Anne R. Allen

 Anne R. Allen is the author of five comic mysteries debuting in 2011 with two publishers: Popcorn Press and Mark Williams international Digital Publishing. FOOD OF LOVE, originally published in the UK in 2003 by Babash-Ryan, made its US debut in September 2011. THE BEST REVENGE, also first published by Babash Ryan, (2005) will be relaunched by Popcorn in December 2011.

Anne’s titles with MWiDP include: THE GATSBY GAME (October 2011) GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY (October 2011) and SHERWOOD, LTD (December 2011.) These titles will also be available in paper from Popcorn Press. She is also working on a self-help guide for writers with PAY IT FORWARD author Catherine Ryan Hyde. Anne has a popular blog for writers at, where she blogs with NYT bestselling author, Ruth Harris.

-How/why did you start to write?

I think I’ve been writing since I could first hold a crayon. I named all the people in my coloring books and made up stories about them. I loved stories about witches and dark things, so I always ran out of the black crayons first.

When I was about six, my mom built me a puppet theatre, and I wrote plays and put them on in the back yard. Then I graduated to writing plays for my friends and my Brownie troop.

And I guess I never stopped.

-How did you become an author?

As I said, I’ve always been a writer, but I guess when I first thought of myself as an actual author was when I got my first novel published as a serial in a local California entertainment weekly. It was crazy—I contracted to write one chapter of exactly 700 words every week. (It had to fit opposite the astrology column.) Every episode had to incorporate the news of the week. I got paid $50 an episode. But hey, I was an “author”—getting paid and everything.

-What was your first published piece?

My very first published piece was a poem I wrote in seventh grade. It was a very dark revenge sonnet about watching all the cool kids burn up in a fire while I stood outside and laughed at them. I was very Goth at age 12.

-Where was it published?

It was published in our school literary magazine, which was had the suitably pretentious name of Finnegan’s Awakening.  It was edited by an upperclassman who later went on to become a well known screenwriter and essayist: Michael Ventura. (One of his most memorable films was Roadie, starring Meatloaf.) He’s the first person who ever told me I could write. The beginning of a life-long crush.

-How long ago?

Uh-oh. Do I have to say? Seventh grade was, um, long ago and far away.

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

I spent twenty-five years in theatre and film, acting and directing. And yes, the two are perfectly matched. Preparing for a role is very like creating a character. You learn that every character in every scene must have a goal or a motivation. I specialized in comic cameos, so I also learned that even the most minor character can have an interesting character arc.

I also supported myself by working in bookstores. As you can imagine, that taught me a whole lot about the publishing marketplace.

-What inspires you?

Everything and anything. But I guess I’m most inspired by the absurd. Life is absurd. It’s wildly silly and funny. I love to point out ironies and show people how to laugh at themselves. I often base my villains on versions of myself—or the way I imagine other people might see me.

-Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

I wish I knew if it was really successful or not, but I devote a good deal of time to social media, especially my blog, which is pretty popular. I got 11,000 hits last week (a record.) I blog mostly about writing and publishing, so I’m speaking to other writers, but since most of my novels are about the publishing business, I figure that’s good marketing. But my books have only been for sale since October and I don’t have any sales figures from my publishers yet, so I don’t know if it’s working.

-Parting words

My latest comic mystery, Sherwood Ltd, is due in mid-December and is a sequel to Ghostwriters in the Sky, which came out on Oct 31st. Sherwood is based on my adventures living and working in a wild and crazy erotica publishing house in the English Midlands, near the real Sherwood Forest. I had a wonderful time fictionalizing the charming town and its eccentric inhabitants and putting my heroine, Camilla Randall there to solve a murder mystery.

GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY (Romantic comedy/mystery: Mark Williams international Digital Publishing, October 2011) After her celebrity ex-husband’s ironic joke about her “kinky sex habits” is misquoted in a tabloid, New York etiquette columnist Camilla Randall’s life unravels in bad late night jokes. Nearly broke and down to her last Herme s scarf, she accepts an invitation to a Z-list Writers’ Conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California, where, unfortunately, a cross-dressing dominatrix plies her trade by impersonating Camilla. When a ghostwriter’s plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with the dominatrix to stop the killer.

SHERWOOD, LTD. (Romantic comedy/mystery: Mark Williams international Digital Publishing, November 2011) Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to kill her. When Camilla is invited to publish a book of her columns with UK publisher Peter Sherwood, she lands in a gritty criminal world—far from the Merrie Olde England she envisions. The staff are ex-cons and the erotica is kinky. Hungry and penniless, she camps in a Wendy House built from pallets of porn while battling an epic flood, a mendacious American Renfaire wench, and the mysterious killer who may be Peter himself.

Food of Love (romantic comedy/thriller)—Someone’s trying to kill the Princess—because she got fat? Unfortunately, they have a nuclear bomb.

Buy Links:

The Gatsby Game (romantic comedy/mystery)—Based on a real unsolved Hollywood mystery. Chick Lit noir. The nanny didn’t do it!

Coming in December from Popcorn Press (ebook and paper): The Best Revenge: A suddenly-broke NYC celebutante runs off to California with nothing but her Delorean and her designer furs, looking for her long-lost gay best friend.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Words (writing game) by Leanne Dyck

This writing game can be played with two or more players.

Material:  pens and index cards (or small slips of paper)

Preparation:  Distribute index cards and a pen to each player. Players write one word on each card--nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions.
Before the game you may wish to assign nouns, verbs, etc. individual player. For example, one player be responsible for supplying the noun. Another the verb. Etc.
Play:  Use these words to form sentences, paragraphs, scenes, or short stories.
The first player places a word on the table. The next player adds another word and so on until all the words are used or the story is told.

Preparation:  Put the words in a big pile, face down in the centre of the table. Each player chooses a set number of words (ten?) Players may trade words or return unusable words to the pile and draw replacements.
Play:  Working independently, each player forms a sentence using their collection of words.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Elf hat free knitting pattern by Leanne Dyck

This adorable children's hat is the perfect project for the beginning knitter, but I'm guessing knitters of all skill levels will want to knit it.

Like all the patterns I share on this blog, this pattern was designed by Leanne Dyck.

Baby hat

knitting needles:  4.50 mm/US 7/UK7
Yarn:  worsted weight main and contrasting colour
Tension:  4 stitches x 6 rows = one inch

4 x 4 rib
Row:  knit four, purl four--to end of row
Repeat row for pattern

Stockinette stitch
Row 1:  knit--to end of row
Row 2:  purl--to end of row
Repeat row for pattern

Cast on 56 stitches with main colour
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 2 inches [5.08 cm]
Work in Stockinette stitch with contrasting colour for two rows
Alternate between main and contrasting colours every second row
Decrease two stitches at the beginning and end of row every second row
When hat measures 10 inches [25.4] and 6 stitches remain, slip stitches onto a double point needle
Work I-cord for six inches
Using a darning needle, pull thread through stitches and secure
Add fringe

Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Post: Author Theresa Varela

How/why did you start to write?

When I was very small, my cousins and I were babysat by an uncle on many Saturday evenings. We huddled on a fire escape, eating pancakes he made for us (size of which depended on our size!) and we listened to stories he told. My mother took us to Broadway shows. Another uncle wanted to send me to acting school based on my at home renditions.  I refused, preferring to curl up with Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew. I also grew up playing with every type of conceivable doll. Paper dolls were my favourite. I looked forward to cutting them out of McCall’s Magazine. I’d create paper houses for them and stories for them to act out. I had a great imagination. Storytelling is where I began, more so than story writing. As a young woman someone asked me what I wanted to do more than anything. I said that I wanted to write a children’s book. I don’t know where that response came from; at the time I was raising two children and working full time and didn’t stop to listen to myself. Going further in my career and obtaining an advanced degree, PhD in Nursing- in Research and Theory Development, creativity went on the back shelf. One day a professor in graduate school ask us to reflect on whether we were readers or writers. At the end of that endeavour, I realized I was both.

How did you become an author?

Through persistence and perseverance. Research is important to most writing but the funny thing about writing some types of research papers is that what you say counts, only if ten other people said it first, and you can justify your comments by references and a very long bibliography. I decided to cross out of the world of research to one where regular folks get to read what I think needs to be put out there on the planet. This is a lot more important to me than only a handful of people reading it. My neighbours would never get to read any of the research articles that I wrote and if they did they probably wouldn’t enjoy them.

What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

My first published piece was my doctoral dissertation at New York University. I hold that tiny book dear. It’s on a shelf. When I dust, I gaze lovingly at my name on the spine. It’s called The Mirror behind the Mask: The experiences of people with HIV/AIDS who practice Santería. That was in 2001. I’ve had a couple of articles published in nursing journals after that.

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

I’ve been a psychiatric nurse practitioner for over, cough, years. Right now I work in a homeless shelter for men who are dealing with addictions and at a community mental health center. The people I serve are challenging and I love them. I don’t really see myself ever totally signing off from this work. There are so many stigmas about mental illness, still, unfortunately, but I see it as a place where isolation, fear and anxiety can be fought through various types of media, not just for the ill person but the system that supports that individual. Some of my writing tackles this very concept. My just finished novel is called Covering the Sun with My Hand. It’s about a Puerto Rican family, told by Julia Acevedo. Her twin brother is diagnosed with Schizophrenia during young adulthood in the late 1970s. She tells the story of how her family deals, or maybe not deals well, with his illness, and about Latino expectations in regards to women. The story is told from her very candid and sweet perspective. Julia is close to fifty when she begins to finally create her own life without feeling as though she’s negating her culture or family. This particular story isn’t personal to me, other than seeing it lived every day through some of the people I work with. It’s also not only a “Latino story” It’s transferable to many women who struggle with their identities separate from their family’s expectations. In my creative fiction, the people I have worked with are given voice.

What inspires you?

My father used to drive me to La Marqueta. This is a bustling Latino market of all things traditional and cultural in New York City. He’d always tell me “These are your people.” So, I think that inspires me to write. I’m in the process of writing a mystery with a paranormal bend. The heroine, Daisy Muñiz, is also Puerto Rican. She reminds me of a Cherry Ames or Nancy Drew who just happens to stumble on murder and mayhem. This is going to be a series. I have a few outlines in the works for subsequent books. When I grew up there weren’t stories like these with a Latino twist. I didn’t do badly but I want to see where I can fill empty spaces on book shelves or e-readers where there shouldn’t be for this population.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

I do lots of friending on Facebook, tweet, and am a member of SheWrites, Cyberville Authors, CrimeSpace and a few others. One of the best things that happened for me is connecting with Sunny Frazier, Acquisitions Editor at Oak Tree Press and Author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. I sent Sunny a query for Covering the Sun with My Hand but it wasn’t the right fit for her publishing house. I immediately sent her another inquiry for my first Daisy Muñiz novel, Woman Found, that had been sitting on a shelf. Sunny gave me advice on what I needed to do to sharpen my writing and about creating my marketing platform. I’m proud to be one of her posse members. This past year I’ve learned about the joys of blogging. I blog weekly at Here I offer my thoughts and experiences on Spirituality, Writing and Psychiatry. 

Parting words

Your website here is lovely, Leanne. There are such wonderful crafts on display. When I’m not weaving words, I weave with yarns and threads. I crochet afghans, embroider and needle point pillows and framed art. Here are pictures of some of the crafts I’ve completed. I won’t say that I’m a photographer. Most of my work has been through the use of kits. I don’t have to think about making up a pattern. I get to enjoy the same gifts that I receive when I write- patience, self-discipline and beauty.

Leanne, thanks for having me for a visit.

(It was my pleasure, Theresa.)