Monday, July 29, 2013

Magazine Launch (short story) 3/7 by Leanne Dyck

I've been offering you my serialized story Magazine Launch
Here's installment two...
And here's installment three...

Magazine Launch 3/7

Byron sat in a reading chair flipping the pages of his paperback. He must have gotten to a really good part. I set my suitcase on the bed, dug out my clothes and laid out my outfit—dress, blazer, earrings. I’m going to look so professional. I ran my hand over the sleeve of my blazer. Just like an author. I’d even remembered a small purse to stow my author reading. And the herbal remedy for my anxiety… And the herbal remedy… I searched my purse. I don’t have… I don’t have… Breathe. I emptied the entire contents of the suitcase. It’s not here. My heart jumped from my chest to my head and tired to pound its way out. My entire body became one, big sweat stain. I can’t… I can’t…
            “What’s the matter?” Byron’s words attempted to detach me from the wall.
            “I don’t have my rescue remedy and I can’t… not without…”
            “Oh, we’ve come all this way. We're here and...”
            I knew what he was going to say. 'you're going to read.' He’s so heartless. 
            “And besides, you’ll be fine.”
            “Fine? Do you really think so?” Will I beYes. No. Maybe. How can I beI’ve read to audience  before. But… but… My mind was so full that I barely heard his question.
            “Of course. How long is your reading?”
            “Five minutes.” Five minutesI can’t read for five minutes. I’ll trip over my words. I’ll say the wrong word. Then they’ll know. They’ll know. “They’ll all know that I’m dyslexic.”
            “What’s you’re reading about?”
            “Being dyslexic.”
            “And you’re worried that they’ll learn you’re dyslexic.”
            “Yes.” Brief pause. “That doesn’t make sense. Does it?”
            “No.” He held me. “The audience will have read your story. Everyone will know how hard reading is for you. They’ll all be pulling for you.”
            “Do you really think so?”
            “Yes, of course. And besides, if you make a mistake no one will even notice.”
            If I make a mistakeThere’s no if; there’s only when. When I make a mistake everyone will laugh. They’ll all laugh and they’ll know that I’ll never be one of them. I’ll never be a writer. They didn’t choose my story because it’s good. They choose it because they feel sorry for me. Well, I don’t need their pity. I’m just as good as everyone else. And I have to prove it. I have to be prefect. I can’t make any mistakes. None. Negative thoughts haunted me as the hours slipped away. I tried to eat but I just wasn’t hungry. I tried to practice my reading but it just sounded so dumb. So, instead, I raced around like a crazy person—had a shower, dressed, brushed my hair, put on make-up. Ignoring the tornado, Byron’s nose remained in his book.
            “Are you ready?” I asked.
            “What? Already? It’s only 7 o’clock,” he told me. “We still have an hour.”
            “Yes, but what if we get lost? And… And…” I can’t be late.
            “We won’t get lost.”
            “How can you be so sure? We’ve never gone there before. We don’t know Victoria. We could get lost. Just because it’s not your thing you think it’s not important but it is important to me.”
            “Fine. Fine.”
            It didn’t take him long to get ready and we were out the door. Victoria was no match for Byron. He easily navigated the streets and soon we’d arrived at the Orange Hall on 1620 Fernwood.

Last weekend I went to the Mayne Island car show and saw...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Guest Post Author Pat Dobie

How/why did you start to write?

I wrote a super-long poem in Grade 6 and thought it was excellent! But I wrote only for school assignments—essays, stories, poems, etc.—until I was in my twenties.

How did you become an author?

Well, when I was 24 I entered a writing contest, for reasons I still don’t remember. And I won it! First prize was publication and $200. It was the 3-Day Novel contest, which is still around. I recommend the contest, if you can type fast. It’s a trial by fire.

What was your first published piece?

That would be, to the best of my memory, Pawn To Queen (the 3-Day novel).

Where was it published?

It was published in Vancouver by Arsenal Pulp Press who, at the time, ran the contest.

How long ago?

That was in approximately 1500 AD. Haha! Kidding. I think it was 1988.

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

I was a UBC student when I first got published (majoring in History and Psychology). But after I graduated I somehow ended up in the conference and trade show industry. I kept writing, and I’ve written a novel every 4 years since then (give or take).

However, when I sent my finished manuscripts to a publishing house (this was back when you could still do that), and got a letter back asking for revision, I honestly did not know how to begin. So I started a new novel, instead. And this cycle continued for, I’m embarrassed to say, 20 years. After the first two, I stopped sending them out. Although I FELT like I was revising, I really didn’t understand how to rip a novel apart and put it back together better.

My work as a project manager for international conferences and trade shows was definitely an asset to my writing because I learned how to manage my time, and how to think strategically (which is great for plotting). I also wrote hundreds of proposals, and that taught me how to revise. I would write a 70-page proposal and feel no qualms about ripping it apart if sections didn’t work. I enjoyed the conference work and it involved a lot of travel, which I love, but when I had children I had to retire from it. So I worked part-time for a while, then I went back to school and got an MFA in Writing. And, funnily enough, my program advisor said that I am the most ruthless and tireless reviser he’s met (of my own writing). So there we go. I ended up learning what I needed to know.

What inspires you?

Images usually inspire me, like for the historical novel I just finished, it started with an image of a man on a train, who sees everything in a sinister light. For the novel I’m writing now, it was an image of a young man smoking a cigarette in a Vancouver back alley, in the pouring rain. I also have an image for the next one, of a young girl, but I won’t tell you what she’s doing—it’s a secret!

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I don’t have a platform. I have, like, a piece of plywood lying flat on the grass. Actually, I do have a website but it’s not for my writing, it’s for a club I’m in.

But I’ll tell you what I like to find from authors I admire: 1. A web site that they update once in a while, ESPECIALLY if it has book reviews, or good advice, 2. Interviews on line (either print or audio), 3. How-to articles online or in industry magazines like Poets & Writers, 4. Live readings or talks. I am not a big fan of social media and so it doesn’t matter to me if an author has a Facebook site, or if they tweet.

Parting words

Here is a quote from Michael Cunningham, who wrote The Hours:
“I think a certain fearlessness in the face of your own ineptitude is a useful tool.”

I can add, that the thing I like about writing is that it gives you a very satisfying life. It’s a way to challenge yourself, to use all of your abilities, and to live in a kind of meditative state when you’re thinking about your characters or plots, or noticing the world around you (for description). It’s also great because to be a good writer, you have to read, read, read—something I’ve loved since I was four years old and first figured out that the black marks in my nursery rhyme book said something about the pictures. 

Here is where I did my MFA. It’s an excellent program. I did think about applying to UBC, which is closer to home, but they asked for work in two genres, and I really only write fiction (long and short). So I applied to 3 low-residency programs in the US and got into this one. Atlantic Monthly rated it one of the top 5 low-residency programs in the US, and it’s the best thing I ever did, education-wise.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Magazine Launch (short story) 2/7 by Leanne Dyck

Here's installment one of my serialized short story 'Magazine Launch'.

And here's installment two...

Magazine Launch (continued)

The inn was just as I’d pictured it—hidden away on a quiet street. The gold handled door was flanked on both sides by fragrant rose bushes. The interior was a blend of burgundy and gold. I flowed past an oval table that was covered by a white lace tablecloth and held a vase of pink teacup roses.

The well-groomed man behind the counter smiled at us. “Good evening,” he said. “Welcome to the Rosewood Inn. How may I be of service?”

I stepped behind Byron; Byron stepped behind me. Our waltz ended with me in front.

“Good evening.” I flipped open the folder and the contents fell to the floor. I squatted down to collect the pages. “Somewhere in all this mess is a…a…” I giggled nervously.

Byron found the reservation, handed it to me and took the folder.

I looked up. The man was leaning on the counter and peering down at me. He was trying to hide a grin—but not doing a very good job.

I stood up; the man leaned away from the counter and went to his computer. After clicking a few keys, he led us to our room. It was so beautiful—delicate print wallpaper, wainscoting, French doors opening to a small balcony, King sized bed draped by a duvet that matched the wallpaper. I wanted to live there forever.

About writing creative non-fiction...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Post: Author Joyce T. Strand

Mystery author Joyce T. Strand, much like her fictional character, Jillian Hillcrest, served as head of corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder. Rather, she focused on publicizing her companies and their products. Joyce received her Ph.D. from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA She currently lives in Southern California with her two cats, a collection of cow statuary and art, and her muse, the roadrunner.

How/why did you start to write?

Before I started to write, I read. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. My family did not have a television.  However, what we did have in my town was a library, and I traveled there frequently on my green, one-gear Schwinn bicycle. In my favorite mystery genre, I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. By the time I reached high school, I was reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and John Steinbeck. 

Certainly it’s not always the case that an avid reader becomes a writer, but throughout school and college I chose essay questions over multiple choice; and writing papers over taking exams. I wrote my way through college and graduate school. I consider my doctoral dissertation to be my first book.

Then I chose a career in public relations. During my 25-yr span as a Silicon Valley public/investor relations executive, I wrote hundreds of press releases; dozens of by-lined articles; lots and lots of background papers, SEC documents, scripts etc. Unfortunately, my career ended somewhat prematurely when I was laid off in 2008.

Now what? “Why don’t you write a book,” says my husband who I’m sure was tired of me moping around not finding a job after a year of looking.

And that’s how I started to write fiction.

How did you become an author?

Well, first I wrote a book about a somewhat idealized but flawed Silicon Valley PR executive who through no fault of her own gets drawn into solving a couple of murders. I drew the crime from a real California case, although the book is certainly fictionalized. Then, I edited the book. And I had several others edit it. And some more people looked at it and said, “You should always have your book edited by a professional editor.” So I hired a professional editor. And, by the time Draft 5 rolled around, I started to think of myself as an author.

Little did I know. I wasn’t even half way there! I hired a cover designer; a proofer; a formatter; and distributor. I started a Facebook fan page; web page; a couple of blogs; and I learned about tweeting.

Now, am I an author?  Whew. We’re still just getting started. How do you sell books? There’s Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and there’s e-books and paperbacks and hard cover. And how do you choose?

As of today, I have published two books in the Jillian Hillcrest series both as e-books and paperbacks; the third one has just started its journey through the editing process. I have a blog with more than 21,000 hits. I have almost 4,000 Twitter followers; and almost 1000 LIKES on the Jillian Hillcrest fan page. Does that mean I’m an author?

What was your first published piece?

I published my first fictional novel ON MESSAGE in December 2011.

I truly cannot remember my first published article, which I ghost wrote for a high-tech magazine. It would have been in the 1980s. I also published my doctoral dissertation in 1977. 

Where was it published?

I publish under my own publishing company: McCloughan and Schmeltz. In the U.S., the e-book version of ON MESSAGE was published in multiple e-books including Kindle and Nook. The paperback version is available through Amazon.

How long ago?

ON MESSAGE was published in December 2011; OPEN MEETINGS was published in July 2012.

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

I was a public/investor relations director for more than 25 years at several Silicon Valley high-tech and biotech companies. Unlike Jillian, however, I never encountered a murder nor did I get to help solve one. My career was definitely an asset to my writing, as 60% of my work involved writing marketing and investor documents. Although fiction is absolutely different than marketing writing, the writing discipline is similar.

What inspires you?

Without sounding too maudlin, my family and friends truly invigorate me. Then there are sunsets; pounding ocean surf; a great glass of red wine; an awesome musical (Wicked, Les Mis, Man of La Mancha); a hawk in flight; oh – and a good book!

Of course, a good review does a lot to make me want to continue writing, just as a bad review shouts failure.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

Through the many tools and offerings of the WLC founded by Melissa Foster, I have come to truly appreciate the benefits of supporting other authors.  By using the WLC cross-tweeting facility and featuring interviews or articles by participating authors I have grown my blog from fewer than 2,000 hits to more than 20,000 in six months. My goal is to gain at least 300 page views for each featured author, which I typically achieve within a week of tweeting. This brings viewers to my blog, raising my visibility along with my books whose covers, of course, are displayed on my blog.

Parting words

To all readers: please write reviews of books that you like. They are so important to helping us promote our books.

To all authors: support your fellow authors. You will be supporting yourself.


Jillian Hillcrest returns as a PR Executive to join with a local Silicon Valley reporter who is uneasy about the supposed DUI death of an informant. He solicits Jillian’s help along with that of her neighbor, a retired police officer, to look into events in his hometown north of the Napa/Sonoma wine country. Jillian’s ex-husband grows more and more certain he wants to re-marry her.  OPEN MEETINGS was inspired by a network of criminal ex- and current police officers in the broader San Francisco Bay Area.


Murder intrudes on PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest's routine as head communications executive at a small Silicon Valley biotechnology company. She is eagerly staying on message to inform investors, the media and the community about her company and its products. When someone near to her is murdered, a determined San Francisco police inspector involves her in the investigation, convinced she is key to solving the crime. She co-operates fully only to find that solving a murder is more hazardous than writing press releases. On Message is the first in the Jillian Hillcrest mystery series. As with all the novels in this series, it was inspired by a real California case.


Twitter: @JoyceTStrand
Purchase sites –
On Message

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson, two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, is an inveterate traveller. Over the past three years, he has been clear cross Canada and back again. In a helicopter above the barren lands of the sub-Ardtic. On a tundra buggy in the polar bear migration paths of Hudson Bay. In a canoe in northern Ontario with his four-year-old son. Funny, poignant and insightful. Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is a heartfelt tribute to our quirky and fascinating country. (from the back cover)

Why did I choose to read this book?

I’m a fan of the author—Will Ferguson, and, no, not simply because he won the Giller (for his most recent book 419). No, I was a fan way before that. I became a fan after reading his second book:  I Was A Teenage Katima-Victim!

I found that book, years ago, while shopping with my dad.

“I think you should write a book about your experiences in Katimavik.” Dad walked forward two steps, removed a book from the shelf and handed it to me. “A book like this one.”

The cover of I Was… claims that, ‘You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll swoon.” And I did all of that. And that’s how I became a fan—and some day I’ll rave about it, but not today. Today I’ll rave about—Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw.

Playing two roles—tour guide and historian—Will Ferguson proves that Canada was never boring, then nor now.

Being a relatively recent transplant to B.C. and knowing very little about the capital or the history of the province, I found the first chapter fascinating.

In chapter two, Will…um…er…Mr. Ferguson refers to his time in Katimavik.
A favourite quote…

‘[I]n my experience people never really travel to find themselves. They travel to lose themselves. To leave something behind; some part of them.’ [p. 67]

I laughed out loud for at least a minute after reading page seventy-four. Will you?

‘There is an ache—deeper than nostalgia, stronger than regret—that underscores the Canadian experience and informs so much of our immigrant past. It is the dream of escape, the dream of flight. Of return.’ (p. 98) This is how Mr. Ferguson introduces the story of Tom Sukanen—a Finnish immigrate who built a ship in the middle of Saskatchewan. He wanted to sail back to Finland. I remember hearing about Tom Sukanen when I was in my early twenties. I remember thinking that he must have been nuts. Yet the Tom Sukanen that Mr. Ferguson introduces us to isn’t crazy. No. He’s a strong man with a single-minded determination to return home.

My favourite quote from chapter three is…
‘Jackie Schollie…is our designated ‘polar bear monitor’. I have to admit, Jackie’s title makes me jumpy…as in, “Here comes the polar bear. And there goes Mr. Ferguson. The bear has now caught up to Mr. Ferguson and appears to be eating him. We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds.” ‘ (p. 112-113)

As I reached the end of the book, I surface like a swimmer not wanting to leave the water.
On page 321 Mr. Ferguson asks, ‘Can you miss a place before you leave it? Can you feel homesick for a city that isn’t your home? That is how I feel. I miss St. John’s [Newfoundland] and I have not yet gone. I’m homesick, and this is not my home.’

I lived in Newfoundland for three months, when I was twenty. And this is exactly how I felt. Like drinking a glass of water, Newfoundland became a part of me—and it still is.

If you want to reveal in Canadian pride or if want to get to know Canada, I highly recommend Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson.
Sharing my author journey...
I meet with my (the collective 'my') writing group last week. And as it was our last meeting before our two month (July and August) hiatus, I thought I'd offer some words of encouragement to a member who'd just started sharing her work. Well, the words I offered stayed with me. I wondered why. Then I turned my message inward. Was I sharing my work as much as I could? (gulp) Nope. So this week I pulled up my socks (It's summer. I'm not wearing socks. But you know what I mean.) and submitted my work to literary journals. Four submissions are winging--one by email, the rest by post--their way to slush piles. I personally think I've won simply by playing but there may be more to this story. If there is you'll be one of the first to know. 
Next post:  
Please welcome author Joyce T. Strand (mystery author)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Magazine Launch (short story) 1/7 by Leanne Dyck

My creative non-fiction story 'Because She Believed In Me' was published in the Island Writer Magazine:  The literary journal of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in Winter 2009. 

Magazine Launch

It was an ordinary day. Then I turned on my computer. Then I read an email from the Victoria Writers Society. My short story will be published in the Island Writer, I thought and my head exploded. Along with the acceptance letter was an invitation to the magazine launch. Would I attend? I didn’t have to think about that question for long. Of course I would.
            “My story’s been accepted,” I told my husband. “And we’re going to the magazine launch.”
            “Have you checked the ferry schedule?”
            I hadn't. I just thought things would work out.
            He followed the maze of numbers. “The last ferry leaves Vancouver Island for Mayne Island at 8:30 p.m.”
            I glanced at the invitation. “The event starts at 8:00 p.m.” What did that mean? Did that meanNo, we have to. “Maybe the launch won’t take that long?”
            “Come on, Leanne. Think. We can’t even drive from the ferry to Victoria and back in half an hour.”
            “But I have to go. I have to. It’s my story… I’ve been chosen.”
            He heaved a heavy sigh. “We’ll find accommodations.”
            I wrapped my arms around my hero. I knew Byron would have a solution. He’s so smart. What will I wear? I had an outfit to plan, a reading to practice and mere weeks to get it all done. I have to start today.
            “You’ll have to find us a place to stay,” Byron said.
            Me? But I have so much to do… Still by the way he was looking at me I knew booking accommodations had just become my responsibility. I studied the invitation. “Out of city guests may enjoy staying at the Rosewood Inn.” Inn? Sounds expensive. “You’ll have to check—”
            “No, you’ll have to,” he told me. “This is your thing. I’m going with you.”
            Oh, Byron, you always make things much harder than they have to be.
            Weeks passed; the day arrived. Byron and I sailed from Mayne Island headed for Vancouver Island. I flipped open my paperback; starred out to sea; read a few paragraphs; stared out to sea; read a sentence; stared out to sea.
            “Yes?” He looked up from his book.
            “What time is it?”
            “Five minutes after the last time you asked.”
            Byron drove the truck out of the ferry terminal. “How do we get to the Rosewood Inn?”
            Honestly, do I have to everything? I opened the file folder that held my author reading, the reservations for our accommodations and… “I printed off a map.”
            “You did?” He sounded surprised.
            I read the street names; Byron followed my directions and I got us all the way there.

My husband snapped this photo of me while we were at the Church fair this past weekend. 
I may look a little lost but there are books in my arms so you know I'm happy. : )

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guest Post: Author Lou Allin shares writing advice

Belle or Holly? : The Old Order Changeth, 
Yielding Place to New

            “Abandoning” a series is a harsh word. It sounds like an author tucked the books into a heated drop at a foundling hospital, or a love affair petered out. Maybe sales fell into the abyss.
            I left my five-book series when I moved from the Nickel Capital in Northern Ontario to Vancouver Island in Canada’s Caribbean. Instead of using an amateur sleuth, I started a police procedural. Now three books in, I miss realtor Belle Palmer, and I don’t quite adore young RCMP Corporal Holly Martin (too callow for my sixty-seven-year-old tastes), but it’s been a good decision. Why change? Moving was only one part of the answer.
            I need to live where I write, down to the last mosquito or banana slug. “Show me the landscape in which you live, and I will tell you who you are,” said Ortega y Gasset. The bitter cold and tormenting flies defined Sudbury. My nostrils and throat knew -15C from -25 or -35.  A spastic flicking dance pounding forest paths from May to August is now as foreign as the pungent esters of Deep Woods Off. I watch the fog roll in and out like Reddi-Whip, smell the brine and rotting kelp, and plunge my geocaching hand into a dark cleft in a cedar trunk (no poisonous snakes here) .
            Second, my sleuth needed to lose a few decades. Starting out, I made her my own age.  Forty-five. Mellow and wise, but still in shape. When my first review mentioned “middle-aged Belle,” I said, “No way!” Later, while she was heading toward fifty, I felt sadistic putting her through the hellish perils of the final chase scenes, paddling a canoe, riding a snowmobile, and dodging bullets.
            Third, challenges are stimulating. Anything which shakes an author out of ruts is good canon fodder. I had already welcomed two contracts for Orca’s Rapid Read books, 20K gems in simpler language with linear plots. Write normally, then hit the Hemingway key. Instant transposition. Some people have believed that joke, just like they ask where to buy a “bush poodle.” A fresh series would stretch my writing muscles.
            With a few orphan standalones, I was also peeved at agents who scoffed at amateur sleuths. I was pitching a Utah book where a reporter found a body in a cave. “But why should she care?” the agent asked, barely old enough to vote. “Where’s the motivation?”
             “And if I made the victim the sister of the reporter?” My eyes narrowed.
            “That would be better.”
            No such worries in a police procedural. Death knocks early, and it gets investigated. No sly inveigling of the amateur sleuth tootling around on her own, notebook tucked in pocket, boyfriend- or father-connection to the police for inside information.
            Even before I left Ontario, armed with a few maps, I started my Holly Martin series. Holly would be a staff sergeant….in a outlier detachment of three. Intimate. No pesky bureaucracy. Then I arrived at the island and learned the facts. Holly needed a staff of at least fourteen! Without even a single act, my new girl was demoted to Corporal. Worse yet, she wouldn’t get to investigate murders. Inspectors would be called in from the city, shoving her aside.
            But authors love to find “a way around.” Holly could discover “suspicious” deaths that looked like accidents or root around in cold cases. A key suspect, a friend perhaps, might be innocent. And she could continue to follow the ongoing hunt for her mother, who disappeared without a trace ten years earlier.
            As a bonus, I’m having fun with titles, leaving the “are Murder” list behind. After Northern Winters, Blackflies, Bush Poodles, and Memories, I was running out of ideas. My spooky new titles come from Victorian poems: And on the Surface Die, She Felt No Pain, and the latest, Twilight is Not Good for Maidens. The last comes from a children’s poem called “Goblin Market,” with little girls trading their golden curls for the forbidden fruit of forest homunculi. A vampire tease? No more than “BUSH” poodles attracted Republicans in 2003.
            Holly will have to grow on me. I was thirty two once, short on experience but long on strength and willingness to learn. That readers like her is the first step. And as for Belle Palmer, she’s alive and well in a parallel universe, along with my beloved German shepherd Freya and my father born in 1910.

Lou Allin kissing a chiton

Lou Allin's latest book...

Buy link

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review February by Lisa Moore

'In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during the Valentine's night storm. All 84 men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns.' (From the back cover)

Lisa Moore talks about her book February.

Why did I choose to read February?

-It was chosen as the book all Canada should read by Canada reads.
Learn more about that here: Lisa Moore and Trent McClellan talk about February and Canada Reads

-It's set on Newfoundland. 
Newfoundland is a special place for both my dad and I.
My dad was stationed in Newfoundland during the Second World War.
Newfoundland was one of the provinces I worked in as a Katimavik participant.

-To learn from a master
At the time, I was attempting to develop a character whose circumstances were similar to Helen's.

My favourite quotes...

John (Helen's son) has dysgraphia.
It 'made him see all numbers and letters backwards and sometimes upside down. John had overcome this, compensated, faked his way through... He'd gained form his mild disability an unshakable certainty that things were not always what they appeared to be.' (p. 26 - 27)

Although there is no doubt that Helen is the central figure in February, John is a important minor character.  

'I'm ready [the instructor] said. Are you?
Helen put on the indicator like [the instructor] said. She put the car in gear. [The instructor] turned and looked behind and sat forward and rolled his shoulders, and then he said she could go, and she put her foot on the accelerator, but she hit it too hard and she'd had the car in reverse not drive, and they slammed backwards, burning rubber, and lurched to a stop, and she bounced against the seat belt hard, and so, she saw did [the instructor].
Mrs. O'Mara, he said. Can I call you Helen?
Yes, she said.
Helen, we have to go forward.' ([p. 213 - 214)

And Helen has to go forward. She has to leave what happened in 1982 and continue with the rest of her life. But something--a memory, something--always brings her back to Cal.

'The dead are not individuals, she thought. They are all the same. That's what made it so very hard to stay in love with them... Nothing ever happened to them, they did not change or grow, but they didn't stay the same either...
The act of being dead, if you could call it an act, made them very hard to love. They'd lost the capacity to surprise. You needed a strong memory to love the dead.' (p. 246 - 247)

Lisa Moore taught me how to develop a character--outside and in. I know Helen--her thoughts, dreams, longings, fears--her inner life. Like a friend, I remained with her right up until the final, tenderly hopeful last page.

I know my writing has benefited (and will continue to benefit) from reading such a deeply written book.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rest-Q benefit a success by Leanne Dyck

Where were you on the evening of February 14th, 2013?

If you weren't at the Ag Hall on Mayne Island then you really missed out. All who attended had a grand time.

Ty Binfet, director of Rest-Q Animal Sancturay, kicked off the evening by thanking the audience for attending and the volunteers for participating. Then he spoke to us about the animals he cared for:  the three-legged dog and the thirteen cats, to name but a few. Rest-Q provides a home for animals from near and far--for animals who come from neighbouring islands, provinces, and countries.

At the conclusion of his brief speech, Ty was given a cheque for one thousand two hundred dollars by the organizer of the fundraiser Nan Johnston.

Then to thunderous applause, Bob Connolly joined Nan on stage. 

The singing group 'Nan and Bob' is very popular on Mayne Island. The duet wrapped the room in a warm blanket of nostalgia. They sang favourites from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Who could resist singing along? Not me.

Carol Barker joined them on stage to tinkle the ivories on her keyboard.

 Later during intermission, she played the harp while we munched delicious deserts. I tell you, Mayne Island is one classy place. Sam Israel played his classical guitar during the intermission as well.

I tried to ignore the urge as long as I could but finally succumb and leaped on the stage. I tried to entertain the audience with my rendition of "Hello, Dolly". 

Thankfully, Nan was there to stop me. She handed me a folder and told me to read not sing. So, I read two poems:  one by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and one penned by yours truly. 

You didn't know I was a poet? Well, neither did I.
When I was done, Nan and Bob once again graced the stage with their melodious tunes. Their hard work earned them a standing ovation.

So, I ask you, where will you be next year? 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Guest Post Author Julie Emerson

Update:  Congratulations to Julie Emerson for winning The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku International. Her winning entry will be read by Christopher Gaze (from Bard on the Beach) at Sakura Days Japan Fair on Saturday, April 5th at 12:30 p.m. at the Van Dusen Gardens. The festival continues on Sunday.

A Hundred Days - a botanical novel  by Julie Emerson

            I’d like to thank Leanne for giving me the opportunity to tell you a bit about my book A Hundred Days – a botanical novel. It’s the story of a woman, Rosemary, who spends 100 days on an island, and  each day she chooses 1 plant or herb in her garden to observe and write about  –  with botanical and mythological and historical information. In the 100 chapters, she also writes about her observations of island life, and what happens to her. Because I’m an artist, I drew a pen-and-ink illustration for each of the 100 chapters. I wrote the observations nearly 20 years ago. Last year I was involved in the process of publication of the book A Hundred Days, and it took about 100 days. I’ll tell you some of the differences between the writing of it and the publication, and you’ll recognize some of these yourself.
            The first was the different perception of time I had while I was doing the writing and the drawings. You can imagine when I would walk slowly around the garden, look at the ground and at the sky, look at the plants and trees, and then stop to focus on the flower or herb. I would smell it and observe the shapes and colours of the different plants. I took notes and I sat inside writing.  I was alone, and I was outside of time. Not only didn’t I look at a clock, but I also didn’t have a cellphone or Google or an iPod.  
            When I was getting this book ready for publication, I used 5 different software programs, and because they blew out 2 computers, I also had to buy a new computer and scanner and printer to prepare the cover photographs and the illustrations. When I was observing the natural world and writing, there was nothing to buy.
            While I was preparing A Hundred Days to publish, I was inside looking at a screen. I spent a lot of time on the micro-level. It was time-consuming, and I tried to do it as fast as I possibly could. This is a different kind of lack of time. When you take a break outside, you do some weeding, or when you stop writing, you do the tasks you need to do. When you’re inside at the computer and you need a break, you switch to another screen. You look at another and another…Working on a computer, you need a special effort to maintain your focus and to sustain your creativity.
            The negative effects of technology on books are undeniable, and I love books. At this same interesting time in the history of reading, the technology now exists for writers and independent publishers to do it themselves, exactly as we’d like to. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to have books that would be classified as difficult Mixed Genre and to have books on paper that are as beautiful as we can make them.

Learn more about "A Hundred Days" on the Mayne News blog


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Should Authors Review Other Authors? by Leanne Dyck

Rake over a book—paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Given such close study any book’s flaws will become evident. Maybe that’s why the Internet is full of bad book reviews.

Is there such a thing as a perfect book? Is writing a perfect book the goal? Is it even possible?

Kristen Lamb asked:  Is it fair for authors to review other authors? She explained that as authors we are uniquely equipped to peek behind the curtain. We can dissect and spread out the guts of the book for every reader to view. Is this our duty?

I don’t think so.

Possibly because of my background (I’m dyslexic), I see my role not simply as an author but also as an advocate for literacy. We should encourage others to read. It’s our mission to venture into bookstores and report back about our amazing reading adventures.

My reading time is valuable. So I’m rather ruthless when I encounter what I consider to be a poorly written book. I don’t continue to read it. How could I review a book I haven't finished reading--why would I?

If a book captures my imagination—inspires, enlightens, captivates—I’m willing to overlook minor flaws. I want to focus on the positive and so that’s what I do.

In her book The Right to Write, Julia Cameron reveals that she doesn’t point out the flaws in another writers writing. Instead she focuses on the positive—and in doing so the writing improves.

If I’m thrilled by a book’s plot... 
If a book is peopled with captivating characters...
If I’m charmed by prose...
that’s what I rave about.

Authors shouldn't write reviews; we should write raves.

Here's an interesting article I found:  What is the Purpose of Criticism? What I found interesting was the explanation of the different kinds of criticism. 'Objective criticism focuses on the work of art and seeks to analyze it in terms of observable features... The subjective critic is less interested in analyzing the work of art than in expressing his personal reaction to it... In relativist, or historical, criticism, the work of art is analyzed in relation to the author's life and the social conditions of his period... The theoretical critic emphasizes the importance of general rules and values rather than the qualities of any particular work.'
Sharing my author journey...
This week, as well as continuing to work on my non-fiction manuscript, I was given a gift. My muse nudged me awake by whispering a story in my ear. I polished it and sent it off to my writers' group. The relationship between artist and muse is magical. : )
Oh, yes, and...

Trincomali Community Art Council's
9th Annual Summer Group Show
Opening night
Friday, July 5th
Doors open at 5 p.m.

I will be one of the writers reading from their work. I hope you can attend.

I thought that was it. I thought I had shared all my news. But my husband just brought the mail home and... and...

I have two short stories in the recent issue of Icelandic Connection

Next post:  Please welcome author Julia Emerson

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mayne animal benefit by Leanne Dyck

Happy Canada Day!

I'll be celebrating with friends and neighbours but for your reading pleasure I continue my summer project...

This article was published in the Islands Independent newspaper on February 2009...

Nestled in the heart of Mayne Island is Rest-Q Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary provides a home for 130 animals. The animals that were once abandoned, neglected and abused now oink, purr, quack, snort and bark happily in their forever home.

Providing such sadly necessary care is expensive. From where does this funding come? Well, as their web site says, "Rest-Q is a registered charity entirely funded by private donations."

Nan Johnston and Bob Connolly of the singing group "Nan and Bob" wanted to help and were inspired to act. They enlisted the aide of a few friends and are planning a fund raiser. The evening of Saturday, February 14th will be full of Broadway music, poetry, and delicious desserts. All involved have donated their time. All proceeds will be donated to Rest-Q Animal Sanctuary. Tickets are $15 and they are going fast. The Ag Hall doors open at 7:30 a.m. We invite you to come, enjoy, eat and put a little love in your heart.

Rest-Q Animal Sanctuary director, Ty Binfet will be available to answer your questions and receive your donations during the event.

Visit next Monday to read about the exciting outcome of this planning.

Much thanks to Robert for taking these photos.

After this article was published Rest.Q Animal Sanctuary was moved to Galiano Island (a sister island to Mayne Island). Here you can learn more about the sanctuary, the wonderful animals they care for and how you can help.
Next post:  Authors should rave about other authors