Monday, September 30, 2013

Knitting pattern: Summer Sunset Cardigan designed by Leanne Dyck

This is a perfect project for a beginner knitter. No picking up stitches. Just knit three pieces, attach the sleeves, sew the seams and you're done.

Finished measurements:
Chest:  36 (40, 48) inches
Length:  20 (20, 24) inches
Sleeves length:  12 inches

Yarn:  Worsted weight yarn:  approximately 400 (931/1,1330) yards 
365 (851/ 10360) meters
(122 meters/133 yards) per ball

Knitting needles:  4.50mm / 7 US / 7 UK / 7 Canadian or size to obtain tension

Gauge (tension):  5 stitches x 8 rows = 1 inches worked over seed stitch

seed stitch (over an even number of stitches))
Row 1:  knit one, purl one--repeat to end of row
Row 2:  purl one, knit one--repeat to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

1 x 1 rib stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row:  knit one, purl one--repeat to end of row
Repeat row pattern

Notes:  1)Body of cardigan is worked in one piece, horizontally.
2)Front is worked in two panels using two balls of yarn.

Cast on 90 (100, 120) stitches
Work in seed stitch for 20 (20, 24) inches or to desired length
51 (51, 61) centimeters
Divide into right front and left front:  work 45 (50, 60) stitches in pattern. Join second ball of yarn and work to end of row. 
Work each front separately, continue in seed stitch until front measures 20 (20, 24) inches.
51 (51, 61) centimeters
Cast off.
Sleeves (make 2)
Cast on 75 (86, 90) stitches
Work in seed stitch for 10 inches (25.4 centimeters)
This row:  reduce number of stitches by 38 ((42, 44) stitches evenly across row. 37 (44, 46) stitches remaining.
Work in 1 x 1 rib stitch for 2 inches. (5 centimeters)
Cast off.

Sew on sleeves. Sew side seams. Weave in ends.

During the designing process, I consulted Standards & Guidelines for Crochet and Knitting

Friday, September 27, 2013

Writers' Circle (poem) by Amber Harvey

Writers’ Circle
by Amber Harvey

Papers, notebooks, laptops
Cast nets
To capture thoughts
            that swim
            in the rivers of our souls
But not all.

Our souls’ divers spiral downward
            into a maelstrom
Where image, feeling, story,
            like cells in primeval mud
Attire themselves in life
            and become language
Then all spiral upward
            through a vortex
            where meaning
            is caught and held
Letters form words
Words form phrases
To wrap and hold the meaning
            in booklets, pages and laptops

Beyond the bounds
            of books, papers and laptops,
Swim the thoughts
            that can’t be captured.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Benefits of Blogging by Leanne Dyck

I live on a remote island... I don't have deep pockets... How can I reach out and build a readership? This question pounded in my head as I began to write. Here's my solution...


What has blogging done for me? What can blogging do for you?

It's helped me to develop the habit of writing daily...

I've set the goal to write daily, often. But it was only when I declared this goal to the world by way of my blog that the goal became a commitment. Now I have readers, like you, waiting for stories. Now I have motivation. And by meeting this commitment I'm proving to publishers that I can make deadlines.

It's enabled me to network with others in the publishing industry...

I live on a rural island. Without this blog, it would be difficult to network with other publishing professionals. Every Sunday, on this blog, I publish a short story or book review.  I'm thrilled to be able to share my writing with the world. I'm delighted to be able to promote reading and good books.

It's helped me to avoid the social media time suck...

Like many, I could spend hours on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In. There goes my writing time. Still, I need to maintain my presence on these important social networks. Where did I find a solution to this dilemma? On this blog, I'm able to publish my articles on a variety of social networks without spending countless hours on them.

Read more about the benefits...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Something Good to Eat (short story) by Leanne Dyck

A photo of the landscaping project
my husband and I started the summer 2013

 Something Good to Eat was published in Icelandic Connection magazine.

Something Good to Eat

Gryla lived in a one-room thatched roof cottage on the tallest mountain peak in Iceland. She loved the isolation her home provided. She enjoyed looking down on other people. And she often did.

Gryla had a happy life. There was only one thing that created discomfort—her stomach. She had a digestive disorder due to her unusual diet. You see, Gryla loved to eat children. Correction, Gryla loved to eat bad kids.

Over the years, Gryla senses had become acute. Her ears were like radar zooming in on grumbles and insults. Her eyes scooped out disobedient behaviour.

When she did find a target her taste buds salivated and her body began to tremble. I need a fix. I need a fix. The words pounded in her skull. Motivated, she threw her burlap sack over her shoulder and climbed down the mountain to the valley below. She waited until all in the house were asleep before she snuck in and seized the child. Returning home, she’d throw the catch of the day into her large black cauldron, season to taste and eat until her hunger was satisfied. Later, she was forced to chase the meal down with three bottles of Pepto-Bismol. Unfortunately, the sticky pink liquid always failed to quiet her complaining stomach. Something has to change. Gryla realized. I can’t continue to live like this. But what can I do? I have to eat. And I crave children. Things continued unchanged for years. Her stomach problems caused Gryla to become a bitter, angry, old hag.

“I want it. I want it.”

Gryla heard screams of protest coming from a white house with a red door.

“Well, then I hate you!”

Gryla saw a girl with strawberry blonde hair throw a hairbrush at her mom, storm into her bedroom, and slam the door shut.

        That night, Gryla found the house with the red door and, looking through a window, she spied the girl with the strawberry blonde hair asleep on her bed. Gryla’s stomach rumbled with hunger. She slid the window open and crawled inside. Gryla crept over to the girl and shook her awake. “Rosa Olafdottir, you are accused of insolence. How do you plead?”

“What do you want, you old hag?”

“Yup, you’re my gal.” Gryla opened her sack and grabbed the girl’s arm. But the girl wiggled free.

“Hold on. Wait a second. What are you planning to do?” Rosa asked from the other side of the room.

“What do you mean? What am I planning to do? Surely your parents have told you about me.” Gryla stood proud with the sack held out—hopeful that the child would leap inside.

        Rosa struck her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Oh, you’re the old woman who sneaks into kid’s bedrooms, takes them up to your mountain home…and…and.” She gulped. “And eats them?”

“Bingo. Yup, that’s me.” Gryla said.

“Yes, I’ve heard of you. But…but…I thought you were just a silly myth my parents told to try and keep me in line.”

Silly? Silly! Oh, yeah, this one has to come with me. Gryla thought. “Oh, I assure you I’m very much alive—as you can see.” Gryla smiled. “Now are you ready to go?” She swung her hand out trying to catch the child.

Just in time, Rosa jumped away. “Hmmm, let me think. No!” Rosa waved her hands. “You don’t really want me. I’m not bad just sometimes my behaviour is. And besides who are you to jud—“ Her nostrils flared. “What stinks? Did you fart?”

“Sorry.” Gryla blushed.

“You came into my bedroom, uninvited, and farted.” Rosa coiled her fingers into fists and placed them on her hips.

“It’s not my fault. I can’t help it. I have a digestive disorder.”

“A digestive disorder?” A faint grin formed the corners of Rosa’s lips. “Isn’t that caused by eating the wrong kinds of food?”

Gryla nodded. “Oh, probably but what’s a person to do. The stomach craves what it craves. Now, will you please make this easier for both of us and crawl into my sack.”

“Are you deaf? I said no.” Rosa took a breath and shaved the sharp tone from her voice. “I have a better idea.” She shoved her feet into her fuzzy pink slippers and opened her bedroom door.

“Something better?” Gryla asked. “What could be better than—

“Has anyone ever made you a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“A what?” Gryla looked puzzled.

“A toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

“No, I’ve never—

“Well, then, please allow me to be the first.” Rosa led Gryla into the kitchen.

Dubiously, Gryla took a seat at the kitchen table while Rosa toasted the bread and found the peanut butter.

“I don’t know about this.” Gryla eyed the sandwich.

“Just try a little. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. And then I’ll…”

“You’ll come with me.” Gryla grinned.

“And then I’ll make you something else,” Rosa corrected.

Gryla took a bite, licked her lips, and ate every crumb. “Th— Th—” The peanut butter had cemented her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

“Milk, that’s what you need.” Rosa soon returned with a glass. “Here.”

Gryla took a sip. The milk broke the seal and her tongue swam free. “That was delicious. Please, girl, can I have another one.”

Rosa made three more sandwiches, wrapped them in foil, and handed them to Gryla. “For the walk home.”

        “Well, thank you so much. That’s very kind of you.” Gryla put the sandwich in her sack. That following night, for the first time in her life, Gryla slept like a baby.

        Word soon spread throughout the village from one naughty kid to another, “If you’re bad, don’t worry—just fed her something good.” 

        So when Gryla crawled through Erik’s window, he served her macaroni and cheese. Gryla didn’t think she’d like it, wondered why he didn’t make her a sandwich, ate it anyway, and declared it delicious. 

        Rosa and Erik were the first of many. All the children in the village took turns serving Gryla their favourite meal. These kindnesses transformed Gryla from a bitter, old hag to a gentle, elderly woman. And she never again ate any children.

To read more of my articles and short stories please visit the Written by Leanne Dyck page.

To visit with Gryla, read this article and this one, as well as this one--that I found especially interesting.

(back yard)


Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post Author E R Brown

Marc Emery and me, or
How do you research a subject like grow-ops, when you don’t smoke weed?
My book, Almost Criminal, is about a young man who is seduced into the grow-op business. As one online reviewer put it, it’s a view “into the BC drug trade through the eyes of Tate, a brilliant teenage screwup.”
In every reading I’ve given, and every author Q & A session, one subject is certain to arise. Even my mother asked, “How do you know so much about marijuana? How much research did you do?” At least she was nice enough not to use that nudge-nudge, wink-wink tone of voice.
So, I’ll state this again, just for the record: I don’t smoke. Not cigarettes, cigars, pipes; not tobacco or cannabis or any of the products derived therefrom. There was a time when I did, but that time has passed.
But yes, I did research the subject. It took time, but I established an arms-length relationship with someone “inside” who checked facts for me. My home library grew to include titles like Bud Inc. (Ian Mulgrew); The Cannabible (Jason King); and Marijuana Grower's Handbook: Your Complete Guide for Medical and Personal Marijuana Cultivation (Ed Rosenthal and Tommy Chong). If you want advice on how to set up the plumbing for a basement grow-op, just ask. If you want to know the difference between varieties of pot, I’ve got the breakdown from Alaskan Thunderfuck to Vietnamese Black.
My book is a crime novel. It’s not about marijuana, it’s about crime and society, and how my protagonist makes it through. It’s neither pro-pot nor anti-pot. Which brings me to Marc Emery, Canada’s self-proclaimed Prince of Pot, who’s serving a ten-year jail term in a US federal prison near Yazoo City, Michigan. When I was seeking “advance readers” - people who might write a nice blurb to go on the book’s cover - I thought of Marc.
It took some digging (more research!) and some help from Marc’s wife, but I managed to reach him. Marc was happy to read the book. “I have time on my hands,” he wrote. As a result, my name is now in the federal corrections system’s CorrLinks database.
Marc was enthusiastic until my protagonist makes his first visit to a grow-op. The experience I described was not right, he said. I described a teen’s somewhat smart-ass reaction: Tate is not impressed. Marc complained that a grow-op is “sexy, the smells are wonderful, spicy, peppery, pungent.” He implied strongly that it was a near-religious experience.
Now, I know what a grow-op smells like. It’s earthy and damp, and the fertilizers are either chemical or, um, natural. Spicy and peppery wouldn’t be my words. I’m sure that, for Marc, visiting a grow-op is a near-religious experience. But he’s an activist, and he has an agenda that is wrong for my story. I think that, if I were strongly pro-pot (and engaged in the kind of "research” that people jokingly ask me about) my novel would not be the same.

Marc didn’t blurb my book. But he was helpful: he found technical errors that my previous source had missed, for which I’m grateful. He also described a technique for packaging marijuana so it’s undetectable at the border. I didn’t include that in the book. Research is one thing, but I didn’t feel like telling any casual reader how to beat the cops.

I’m sure my mom would agree.

E.R. Brown is a Canadian writer of crime fiction. His first novel, Almost Criminal, was published in April 2013. An award-winning advertising copywriter, he worked as a stagehand, recording engineer, technical writer and chandelier cleaner before settling down and writing for a living. His short stories have been published in literary magazines and broadcast on CBC Radio. He was born and grew up in the Montreal area,  and now lives in Vancouver.  

book: Almost Criminal (Dundurn, 2013) ISBN 978-1459705838

Booklist review (starred),  May 2013

Almost Criminal: Tate MacLane is too smart for his own good, a sort of misguided prodigy. Prematurely graduated from high school, he was tossed out of university (“socialization issues”). Now 17, he’s working at a coffee shop in Wallace, British Columbia, a “hopeless corner of nowhere” and dreaming of finding a way to get back to Vancouver and back to school. Along comes Randle Kennedy, a marijuana grower. Until the drug is legalized, he’s growing medical weed, and the Canadian cops tend to be lenient if they know you’re in the medicinal side of the business. But make no mistake: Randle’s a drug dealer. And young Tate is now working for him. When Tate discovers the truth about the life he’s wandered into, he knows it will take more than his keen intellect to get him out safely. Tate is a fresh narrative voice, and Randle, who could have been a fairly stereotypical drug-dealing villain, has surprising depth; he’s even a weird sort of father figure for young Tate. If you took a gritty crime novel and a coming-of-age story and squashed them together, you might get something very close to this excellent book.

Rick Mofina (bestselling author of the Reed and Sydowski series):
E.R.Brown hits it out of the park – great characters and storytelling evocative of Elmore Leonard.

Robin Spano (author of the Clare Vengel Undercover series of novels):
ALMOST CRIMINAL is a wildly fun read. The concept is original, characters are vivid and fleshed-out, and the story surprised me at each turn, with its unlikely teen hero turning conventional morals upside down. E.R. Brown is an exciting addition to the Canadian crime scene.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Almost Criminal by ER Brown

About the protagonist:  Tate is a drift. To a large degree, life happens to him. He doesn't have a plan. Due to his intellect, he was sped through school. His mom brought him to nowheresville--Wallace, BC.
But he's not without responsibilities:  he's the family bread-winner. And is devoted to his ailing mother and younger sister.
He's just not invested in life. He has potential but no drive. I want more for him; I want to shake him awake. And in chapter four, he does wake up... But is he ready?

About the subject:  I moved to Mayne Island fourteen years ago. Back then, when I mentioned my move, more than once I heard, "Remember don't breathe in too deeply." Implying... Um, yeah, well...
The marijuana culture is everywhere in Canada--rural, urban. You just need to know where to look and who to ask. Clearly, E.R. Brown found a source. 
Where? Who? How? E.R. Brown will be here tomorrow to explain.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Eve's Other Children (short story) by Leanne Dyck

This short story was inspired by Icelandic folklore.

photo by bdyck

Eve's Other Children

God told Adam and Eve, “Cats have kittens, sheep have lambs, cows have calves, dogs have puppies and you shall have children—lots and lots of children. Go forth and multiply.”
Eve dug her big toe into the soft, black soil. This is a very weird first date. I mean, I’ve just met the guy and God’s already talking about having babies with him. It’s not like he’s the only guy in the whole… Well, I guess he is. It’s him or nothing. And besides, he is kind of cute. The least I can do is get to know him.
So Eve started dating Adam and they got along. They got along so well, in fact, that they fell in love.
“Ten—ten’s a good number,” Eve told Adam. “Let’s have ten children.”
“I’m a good provider.” Adam said. “Let’s have twelve.”
Eve giggled. “Or twenty.”
First came Cain, then Abel, but they didn’t stop there. The family grew and grew. Looking down from heaven, God smiled on all of them. He wanted to meet the children. So, one Monday, He phoned Eve. “I’ll be there tomorrow. We’ll have lunch. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Oh, so am I.” HE’S COMING TO VISIT US. TOMORROW! Eve surveyed her surroundings and winced. Books, toys, dust—clutter of every kind. “The whole place is a total mess.” Freaking out, she raced around mindlessly. “I have to dust, vacuum, clean the bathroom, and…”
“I’ll help you, Mom,” Mary said.
“Oh, dear girl, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
Mere hours before His arrival, Eve surveyed her progress. Homemade vegetable soup simmered on the stove. Hand polished hardwood floors glimmered in the sunlight. “Every thing looks— The kids!” There was hair to wash and bodies to dress.
Most of the children understood the importance of the visit. They stood obediently in line as she fussed over them. If only all of my children would behave. The others joked, laughed and disregarded her scolding. “Hush, children. You must quieten down and co-operate. God will be arriving at noon. We must be ready.”
            “Sure, whatever, Ma,” they said, laughing at her stress.
Ryan even argued with her. “Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter to Him what we wear. He doesn’t care if we brush our hair. He sees us; He knows what we look like.”
Eve felt equally stubborn. “It does so matter. It’s important to look our best—out of respect.”
“Blah, blah, blah. Who’s that?”         

She looked out the window and saw God cresting the hill. This can’t beThey’re not ready. She looked at the clock on the kitchen wall—eleven-thirty AM. He’s early!
            Half of her children wore pretty dresses and carefully ironed pants. They made her feel so proud. Her other children’s wind tousled hair and mud caked clothes made her heart crumble. He can’t. He simply can’t see them. He’ll think I don’t care. He’ll judge me an unfit mother. But what am I going to do? Thinking fast, she told the wild ones. “Quick children run out into the woods and play.”
            “But I thought you said we had to meet this God guy?” Ryan asked.
            “I won’t let anyone see you—not when you look like that.”
            Not believing their luck, they scampered off into the woods. As they left they stuck their tongues out—taunting their prim and proper siblings. “We get to play. We get to play. We get to play.”     
            The obedient children began to complain. “Why do we have to…? How come they get to…?” Eve glared at them and they fell silent.
            Knock, knock, knock. Eve swung open the door and, sure enough, found God standing there. She threw her arms around Him in greeting. As coached, her children bowed and curtseyed.
            “If you, please, Mr. God, sir, we would like to entertain you with a song,” Cain said.
            God nodded and the humble cottage filled with music. The song ended and God clapped his hands enthusiastically. “Your voices are so sweet. It’s like listening to the angels. Gather around, children, I’d like to tell you a story.” He cradled the youngest on his lap; the rest sat in a circle around Him. “In the beginning was nothing. So, I thought, hey, why not shine some light on things. I did—and thought, not bad.”
            As He spoke, Eve ladled soup into her finest dinnerware. She waited patiently until He was finished and then called them for lunch.
            God sat at the head of the table, slurping his soup until the bowl was empty. “That was delicious, Eve.”
            She ran to the stove, retrieved the pot and brought it to the table. “Would you like more?”
            “Yes, please.” God held his bowl up for Eve to fill.
            “Me too, Mamma,” the youngest said and God chuckled.
            After lunch, the children bowed and curtseyed—excusing themselves. God and Eve sat alone at the table talking. “Eve you’re doing a fine job. Your children are delightful.”
            Eve glowed with pride.
            God drummed his fingers on the table. “But, I’m not sure…”
            “Did I meet all of your children?”
            Eve froze—recalling tousled hair, muddy clothes and irreverent attitudes.
            “Eve?” God rested his hands palms down on the table, leaned in and stared at Eve. “I asked you a question. Did I meet all of your children?”
            Oh, no he’s on to me. What am I going to do—now?
Play dumb. Yeah, that always works. She slowly nodded her head.
            Eve looked into her coffee mug and mumbled. “Yes, of course, you did.”
            “Oh, Eve. You’re forgetting whom you’re talking to. I’m God. There’s nothing I don’t see. Nothing. I see the birds in the sky, the ants on the ground and I see some of your children playing in the woods.”
            “Oh, them. Well…um…well.”
            “Why did you lie to me?”
            “I didn’t…I didn’t mean to… I tried. I tried so hard. Adam’s never home. From the minute I got off the phone with you, I worked. I got down on my hands and knees to scrub every inch of this floor. I picked, washed and chopped every vegetable in that soup you enjoyed. When you were cresting the hill, I was still working. Those bratty kids, they just won’t co-operate. I tried to explain how important You are. They laughed at me. Ryan even argued with me. You won’t believe what I have to contend with. I just couldn’t deal with them any longer—not today, not with you coming. You came all this way; I know how busy you are. It’s just my back was against the wall and I didn’t know what else to do. You can come back. You’ll meet them then. No harm was done.”
            “Yes, Eve. Harm was done. You hid your children from me. You lied to me. I can’t abide dishonesty. You know that. You’ll never learn unless I take a firm hand. And so, the sins of the mother are visited upon the children.”
            “No. What are you saying? What are you going to do? You can’t…“
            “Sorry, Eve, but I must take a stand. You banished your children to the woods and that is where they will remain. You didn’t want me to see them and so no one will—not you or Adam or your other children. They shall become Huldufolk.”

Eve's Other Children was published in the Icelandic Connection magazine
'Icelandic Connection is a quarterly magazine celebrating the cultural heritage of people of Icelandic decent in North America.' -from the Icelandic Connection website

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why the Wolf? by Natalee Caple

In my new novel a lone she-wolf follows the main character of Miette as she searches across the Western landscape for the mother who gave her up for adoption, the infamous Calamity Jane. Wolves have always appeared in Westerns for the obvious reason that they are truly present in the West. Wolves have appeared quite recently in the Western through Cormac McCathy’s book The Crossing, where the protagonist makes a doomed attempt to locate and rescue a she-wolf he has injured. The she-wolf in The Crossing is a figure that can represent the inexorable destructive progress of capitalism. The relationship between man and wolf seems like an allegory of the nightmarish marriage between urban expansion and natural sustainability. In this, my ecocritical read of The Crossing, the real crossing over happens because of a metaphorical choice to restore nature that comes too late.

But for me the wolf works as symbol because of the wolf’s commitment to a pack. My wolf is meant to seem more uncanny and unnatural because she is a lone she-wolf (where we think of lone wolves as masculine), and she seems invested in a pack that includes only women (Miette and Calamity Jane), which suggests that she defies traditional definitions of pack and territory.

Wolves fascinate me because they have long appeared in international mythology. Wolves show up in folklore from North American, Europe, Russia, and China. The Cheyenne often include “wolf” in the names of Cheyenne men, particularly warriors. But of wolves as maternal figures, or as a figures that women might identify with, there are fewer examples. Romulus and Remus are twins raised by wolves in Roman myth. Barry Lopez notes that “women show up frequently in native American folklore and history as wives to wolves or their helpers” (121). A wolf is a benevolent figure who aids an abused woman in one Sioux story Lopez calls “Woman Who Lived With Wolves” (121). Navajo witches become werewolves (123) and along the lower Pacific coast of Canada and the United States several tribes incorporate the figure of the wolf into initiation ceremonies as well as ceremonies for healing and to enter puberty (128). I drew on this breadth of representation, this rich cultural shared imaginary, as I constructed a she-wolf for my Western.

In the chapter that is Calamity Jane’s fourth birth, I add to the many stories of her birth by rewriting a legend out of Texas from a hundred years earlier about a girl who lived with wolves and was stolen back before her pack was murdered. In this way, I try to show Calamity Jane as born into a violence that is natural and known (in the storm that tears her from her mother) but no less cruel or terrible for being natural. 
Like the storm, the violent instincts of people are natural but terrible.

On the third day of the hunt the girl was cornered in a canyon. A wolf stood in front of her snarling and bristling until it was shot dead. The girl collapsed and cried over the body of the wolf, holding the head of the beast to her breast. When the hunters approached she growled and barked and as they grabbed her she bit and tore their flesh with her teeth. One hunter cracked her head with the butt of his gun and she fell down unconscious. They bound her and took her to a nearby ranch and locked her in a room. When she woke she howled and howled and howled until the men were on their knees with hands over their ears.

In the Old West wolves were both competition and prey for men. “Wolfers” looking for quick cash captured and killed wolves for bounty. This state endorsed murder aligns the figure of the wolf with the figure of the innocent outlaw abused by society, and so becomes a credible metaphor for wayward women like Calamity Jane (who was known to howl like a wolf when drunk). For my novel, which is expressly anti-violence and about the incredible diversity of individuals from the West not usually found at the centre of a Western, I wanted a figure from the natural world that I could connect with marginalized human communities who have experienced nationally endorsed violence (via police action and laws that promotes violence) including women, indigenous peoples, Black men and women, criminals, Chinese and Japanese North Americans, and the mentally ill. I did not want to render all of their experiences equal (in terms of similarity) so I hoped that the wolf as guide might instead gesture to complicated and even mysteriousness links between their narratives.

Set in the badlands of the North American west in the late 1800s, In Calamity’s Wake tells the story of orphaned Miette’s quest to find her mother, the notorious Calamity Jane.

Miette is reluctant to meet the woman who abandoned her—whom she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker and exhibition shooter—but she sets out nonetheless across a landscape peopled with madwomen, thieves, minstrels and ghosts, many of whom add a thread to the story of her famous mother.

Interspersed with Miette’s story are the stories of Jane as told in legend, history books, dime store novels and by the woman herself. As Miette makes her way to Deadwood, South Dakota, history and myth collide to create a picture of a remarkable woman who shattered the expectations of her time, and a daughter who must confront the truth of her past. As in Billy the Kid or HBO’s Deadwood, In Calamity’s Wake blends fiction with real conversations and events to transport us, through vividly crafted atmosphere and seductive storytelling, to a side of the Wild West we’ve never seen before.

Globe and Mail:

Link to Amazon purchase:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Review: In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple

When I was a little girl, I learnt about the old West from watching movies like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and High Noon and movie stars like John Wayne.
In this version of the old West, there was little room for women. We were schoolmarms, saloon dancers and housewives. We were depicted as being fragile and ineffectual.
John Wayne's character tells his approximately nine year old son, something like, "You're the man of the house, now. Take care of the women folk." Then he rides away.


'After quarreling with one husband, Steer, who beat her, hit her in the lip with a rock and tried to stab her, she tried to get him arrested. When that didn't work, when he beat her again with the heel of his boot, she tied him to a mule and left him in a stable. She took his saddle and his horse and rode right out of marriage.' (p. 47)


'Elijah [her brother] and I joined General Custer as scouts at Fort Russell, Wyoming in 1870... I drew a reputation for getting myself and others safely out of many a close circumstance. I was considered the most daring rider and one of the best shots in Western country... I was the bearer of important dispatches and as the most reckless I was given the job of swimming the Platte River at Fort Fetterman, riding ninety miles to bring news back and forth.' (p. 253 - 269)

Fragile? Ineffectual? Not Martha Canary...not the woman they called, Calamity Jane.

What I learnt from watching these movies was that Aboriginals  were blood-thirty savages.
I watched as the chuck wagon  cut through the wild west. The passengers were unaware that Indians stocked them. I sat at the edge of my seat, chewing my nails because I knew what would happen when they caught up to the wagon. But, wait, cresting the hill... Is that... Is that the cavalry? Oh, thank goodness. Everything is going to be okay. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. 

But I didn't know the truth...
'The Indians, he said, were never savages but perhaps the Europeans were.' (p. 12)
'As retaliation for the loss of thirty white men, the army killed one hundred Lakota Sioux Brule.' (p. 8)
'I thought it no mistake that the Indian campaigns came on the heels of quashing secession. I knew that both sides the North and the South, were sick with what they had done and somehow that was driving them to do worse; shame is a great engine and the Indian wars were partly that engine running on leftover madness from the civil war... [I]t all comes down to us telling them to stay on a space of land and then finding something we wanted there and telling them to get off of it.' (p. 257 - 259)

Favourite quotes from In Calamity's Way...
'Loneliness had turned her empty rooms into storage for the phantom belongings of people she may or may not have ever known.' (p. 40)
'So many parts of being who we are start as fictions about belonging.' (p. 155)

I'd like to thank Natalee Caple for writing this book about a woman who was more than her legend.

the woman they called, Calamity Jane

and if you'd like to read about 'notable Canadian women' pioneers, I'd highly recommend the non-fiction book ...And Mighty Women Too
Work in progress:  Alone In Her Head
A novel in short stories
Sequel to A Long Way From Her
Word count:  49, 939 words

Though it looks like I'm nearing my goal, I've reached a tricky part of the story (emotionally draining) and whereas before the word count grew by leaps and bounds now growth is word by word. But I'm still enjoying the adventure--and will climb this mountain. 
Congratulations to friend of this blog, Manolis. 
He writes...

It is my pleasure to inform you know that my book “Nostos and Algos”, , 2012, translated by Lucia Gorea is ready for release in Romania by the Dellart publishers.

Needless to say, I’m on cloud nine.
Tomorrow meet the author of In Calamity's Wake Natalee Caple

Monday, September 9, 2013

Because She Believed In Me (short story) (2 of 2) by Leanne Dyck

Because She Believed In Me (continued)

At home, away from my classmates' prying eyes, sheltered in my mother's arms, I cry. I don't tell her why.

"Sh-h-h, honey." She tries to comfort me. "Things will get better."

I don't believe her.

One day she tells me, "The teacher says you need special help." She can't hide the disappointment in her eyes.

Recess is no longer a time to run and play--no, not for me. Instead, my "special" teacher and I are squirreled away in the only available classroom--the kindergarten room. There on miniature brightly painted furniture I struggle to catch up.

Catch up, become normal. I wonder if this is possible.

My classmates know.

"Baby, retard," they label me.

And I believe them.

"I can't" and "help me" become my most used phrases.

Despite the opinions of some educators and social workers, my parents continue to believe in the soundness of my intellect. Their challenge is to reveal it to me.

My mother attempts to teach me to cook, to back, to sew, to knit. I greet each invitation with a roar. "No! I can't! I'm too stupid!"

"I can teach her," my grandma says. "I can reach her."

My grandma says, "With tender care, among the thorns grows a rose."

My grandma is a sorceress. She works her magic on everything from seeds to flour to yarn. She chooses me as beneficiary of the secrets of her craft.

Visiting with my grandma is a treat. I love to sit beside her as she spins her magic.

When she begins to teach me to knit, I want to throw the needles, I want to storm away but I can't. I can't act that way in front of Grandma. I have to try.

One tentative stitch leads to others. My inner critical voice slowly begins to be silenced by her kind encouraging words --"You catch on so fast! Your stitches are so even! You're finished already?!"

I am empty -- she fills me.

She teaches me the knitting basics. I learn to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off. I knit a square. I knit more squares and make a doll's blanket.

I am so proud.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm not stupid.


One day, my mother asks, "Why don't you join the new 4-H knitting group?"

"I can't..." I begin.

"Grandma would be so pleased to hear that you are continuing to learn to knit," she says, gently pushing.


Organized through the school, the first day of 4-H, our regular classrooms take on new purposes. The grade eight room becomes the sewing room. The grade nine room is set aside for knitting. I creep in.

A gang of teenagers confronts me. "What are you doing here? You're too young to learn to knit! Knitting is for teenagers!"

Meekly, I reveal my knitting sample.

"You knit that?" they ask, amazed.

Thanks to Grandma's lessons, I earn my membership in this important group. Through the group, I develop friendships and for the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.

The 4-H year concludes with Achievement Day. It is a day to gain recognition for our new skill. First, second and third prize ribbons are distributed. That first year of 4-H, I am thrilled to discover a first prize ribbon placed beside my garter-stitch scarf and stitch samples.

I am proud to report that the achievements I made in knitting eventually translate into academics and I graduate from High School with an award in Language Arts. After High School, I earn high marks in university English classes. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Guest Post author Shane Peacock

How/why did you start to write?

Most authors start writing or decide they want to be writers when they are very young. They are the brains in the class, the ones with their noses in books all the time. I wasn’t like that. When I was a little boy I just wanted to play hockey! But once I realized how much I liked stories – the stories inherent in hockey games, the bed-time stories my parents told me, the amazing tales I began reading in books – everything changed. I love stories. I love narrative. I think we all see life as a sort of story and we all want our lives to have narrative. Being a story teller is the most natural thing a human being can do. Hopefully, it helps you to understand, to at least a small degree, the truth about life.

How did you become an author?

It took me a long time. During my last year in high school and throughout university, I became absolutely fascinated by Literature. I couldn’t get enough of it and wanted to make my own! Influenced by all the great work I was studying, I began writing short stories and sending them to literary journals, all of which were rejected! I also wrote a novel ... or two. I finally realized that if I was going to be a real writer, one who made a living by writing, I needed to understand the business of my art, as well as the art itself. So, I spent a great deal of time researching magazines, publishers, and agents. I began getting myself published anywhere I could in order to build up a portfolio. I started pestering agents to take me on and I applied, twice, for a Canada Council grant to write a book about a little known, amazing Canadian, a high-wire walker and renaissance man named “The Great Farini.” I got the grant, which greatly helped my career, convinced an agent to help me get an interview with a publisher, and eventually, using the portfolio I’d built up, a maturing manuscript, and lots of persuasion, got myself published with a major Canadian publisher, for my very first book.

What was your first published piece?

I can’t even remember what those first pieces for my first university’s newspaper were! But perhaps the first truly serious publication came with a piece about Farini for a circus magazine. My first book was about Farini too – “The Great Farini: The High-Wire Life of William Hunt,” a biography, for adults, with Penguin Books. I then wrote “The Dylan Maples Adventures,” a YA series, but gained my first big, bestselling success and international acclaim with “The Boy Sherlock Holmes” series for Tundra Books.

Where was it published?

The university newspaper pieces were for Trent University’s “Arthur,” in Peterborough, Ontario, the circus magazine (“King Pole”) was out of the U.K., and the biography was for Penguin Canada, published in Toronto.

How long ago?

The Trent pieces would have come out in the early ‘80s, the “King Pole” bit in the late ‘80s, and the Farini biography appeared in 1995, the year after my first play, also about Farini, debuted on the outdoor stage of The 4th Line Theatre, complete with circus acts and a live high-wire act above the heads of the audience, by a Cirque du Soleil performer.

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

I had all sorts of jobs from the end of high school through university and into the first decade of my attempt to start a writing career. I worked at the local paper mill in Kapuskasing in northern Ontario, where I grew up, in order to finance my student tuition (though during those years I also worked in the forests for Ontario Hydro and even did some labor on a tobacco farm). Once I graduated from the Masters English Literature program at the University of Toronto (where one of my professors was Robertson Davies), I worked for nearly a decade at the U of T Bookstore, carting boxes around the Receiving Room. I used to work all day there, and then half the night writing at home. On such a schedule, and time off for extensive research trips, it took me ten years to finish my first book. All of this was an asset to my writing in that it taught me how hard I had to work to succeed. There are many qualities you need to become a writer, but perhaps the most important one is the ability to work very hard and put in long hours, without EVER giving up.

What inspires you?

I often write about extraordinary characters, larger-than-life people, whether in my journalism, my plays, or my novels. People like Sherlock Holmes (“The Boy Sherlock Holmes”), The Great Farini, and even sumo wrestlers have been featured in my work. When I was a child I dreamed about doing great things, living a heroic life; that just fascinated me. Now I write about real people like that, and create characters like that. I’m intrigued by what motivates extraordinary people. Often, my characters are awfully eccentric too, sometimes just plain weird! Some writers write well about ordinary people and everyday existence. I admire that. But for me, I need eccentricity, individual individuals. I think I’m also inspired by the whole idea of trying to tell the truth about life. I tend to admire artists who are brave enough to do that. Art is about getting to the heart of the matter.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

Like many authors whose work appeals to a YA audience, I spend a great deal of time on the ground speaking to students in schools and libraries, and to older groups, teachers and librarians and readers, for example, at conventions and international writers’ festivals. I also maintain a lively and entertaining website as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I try to push the publicists at my publishing houses to get me onto radio and TV and blog sites, and I make sure that I perform well and am conscious of promoting my work to the best of my abilities when I have those opportunities. I think doing the simple things like answering the many e-mail messages I receive from fans is important too.

Parting words

Thank you for inviting me to appear on your site! I often tell young readers that I became a writer because I didn’t want to have a job, which is of course, being silly, but in other ways it isn’t at all. We writers don’t have jobs as much as we attempt to tell the truth about life, as we see it, through stories. 

Author website: