Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I read slowly and because of this I seldom read books longer than 300 pages but on August 30th I undertook a challenge -- to read a book double this length. I left a trail of notes...

'[W]hen you handle books all day long every new one is a friend and a temptation.' (p. 12)

The Historian's old-fashioned charm captured me and I was helpless to do anything but continue to read. It was raining which added an atmospheric note to the experience.

Circles within circles within circles. We are told the story by the daughter, who in turn is told the story by her father, who in turn is told the story by his professor.

I continue to be intrigued by The Historian. I like how Kostova inspires the reader to invent her own answers to questions:  Why does the father have such a strange reaction to the matre d's story? What story is worse than the one being told -- and why? Has the father become a victim of the curse? Is the father a vampire? My creative mind gambles ahead in the rich, green meadow Kostova has led me to. Oh, if only I had all day to read.

Elizabeth Kostova skillfully weaves the threads of these stories around and around each other, like weaving a tapestry. She creates such a complicated design but the reader never gets lost -- always sees the pattern.

'It is a fact that we historians are interested in what is partly a reflection of ourselves perhaps a part of ourselves we would rather not examine except through the medium of scholarship; it is also true that as we steep ourselves in our interests, they become more and more a part of us.' (p. 250)

These vampires don't shimmer in the sunlight -- they lurk in the shadows. They aren't romantic but the embodiment of evil. Bram Stoker would be very pleased with Elizabeth Kostova's dark, mysterious tale.

Elizabeth Kostova has filled my mind with her tale and I'm finding it hard to sleep for fear of a dark figure lurking in the shadows. Yet I read on...

The professor had returned and we, the reader, dance from father to daughter as we travel ever nearer to Dracula.

I really enjoy how Elizabeth Kostova drops clues like petals along the path. If the reader isn't careful the petal will be overlooked, mistaken for just another blade of grass.

One member of the family is chosen to receive a dragon tattoo. What tattoo (talkative, secretive, demonstrative) do we receive from our family? Who is tattooed? Who isn't? Why?

'I'm on a quest of sorts, an historian's hunt for Dracula -- not Count Dracula of the romantic stage, but a real Dracula -- Drakulya -- Vlad III, a fifteenth-century tyrant who lived in Transylvania and Wallacia and dedicated himself to keeping the Ottoman Empire out of his land as long as possible.' (p. 391)

Male-female, we are mammals, primitive, uncivilized, wild, untamed, driven by desire, uncontrollable, capable of the unthinkable...evil? 

We bear the mark but must we do the deed?

The love of a mother for a child--and what would cause her to leave?

I wonder if Elizabeth Kostova is Hungarian or...Romanian? From what sense of cultural knowledge is this tale drawn?

'I would return to you immediately, but I know that if I do, the same thing will happen. I will feel my uncleanness,...I will feel the horror of it...How can I be near you knowing that I am tainted? What right do I have to touch your smooth cheek?' (p. 564 - 565)

What would make a parent feel this way about his child? Where would he go for comfort?
A father fearing that he will physically abuse his child may enlist to kill the 'enemy'.

'If there is any good in life, in history, in my own past, I invoke it now. I invoke it with all the passion with which I have lived.' (p. 621)

Would Dracula truly see himself as evil or would he justify his actions? Does anyone ever see himself as evil?

Within a book lies a trail of a book to a book.

No book is flawless. I felt that the last chapter was not written with as much care as the prior ones. So I wonder, did the author lose interest, did an editor instruct her to cut words, or did she simply have trouble finding the end? For me, it seems rushed--a lot of telling very little showing.

Regardless, The Historian was a titillating, captivating read. This book has me searching my bookshelves for the next read, something like must be, horror. My teeth long to sink into the flesh of the genre; taste another author's blood...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Free sweater pattern: Easy Sweater for adults by Leanne Dyck

Update:  Nice to know that my patterns are still being enjoyed. Hello to all my knitting friends. : )

I bet this is one of the easiest sweaters you'll ever knit. And it's quick. And it's free.

Drop shoulder sweater knit from the bottom up

Sweater measures
Chest:  36 (40, 44, 48, 52, 56) inches
91.44 (101.6, 111.76, 121.92, 132.08, 142.24) centimeters
Length:  22 (22, 24, 24, 26, 26) inches
55.88 (55.88, 60.96, 60.96, 66.04, 66.04) centimeters
Sleeves:  16 inches (40.64 centimeters) long

Knitting needles:  10 mm/15 US/ 000 Canadian and UK

Yarn:  I used Meldoy by Patons. This is an 100% acrylic super bulky yarn.
I knit the smallest size and used 6 skeins
Weight:  600 grams (100 grams per skein)
Yardage:  510 yards (85 yards per skein)
466.34 meters (77.72 meters per skein)
I recommend you add a skein for each size (i.e. 7 skeins for medium, 8 skeins for large, etc.)
But you could use a different super bulky yarn

Tension:  9 stitches = 4 inches

Stitch pattern:  Garter
Row 1:  knit--to end of row
Repeat row for pattern

How to work the knit stitch tutorial

Front and back (make 2)
Cast on 40 (45, 54, 59, 63) stitches
Work for 22 (22, 24, 24, 26, 26) inches

Sleeves (make 2)
Cast on 9 stitches
Work for 16 inches
I like to work my sleeves from the shoulder down.
It's really important to cast off loosely. You could even use a size larger needle.

Sew shoulder seams (approximately 2 to 3 inches on both sides)
(5 to 7.6 centimeters)
Attach sleeves
Sew side seams
Add fringe
Here's how to make fringe

Next post:  Sticking with our Halloween theme, together we'll take an adventure through Elizabeth Kostova's book The Historian (horror)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guest Post Author Cindy Lapena

How/why did you start to write?

I started writing simple rhymes, stories, and essays when I was very young and had a whole notebook of poems by the time I was 10 years old. I knew I had a knack for it because the words came out very easily and the sentences just flowed. I never had problems with composition classes and enjoyed all my writing assignments as much as I enjoyed reading. I imagined, from a very young age, that I would be a novelist and a poet and read all kinds of literature for enjoyment and to remind myself that one day, my work would be in books that other people would read.

How did you become an author?

By the time I was in sixth grade, I decided I should be part of the school paper and contributed poetry. In high school and college, I was on the school paper and learned a lot about journalism and publishing, and continued writing for or editing newsletters and academic publications throughout my career as a teacher. In my work with theatre, I also wrote several feature articles, interviews, and press releases that were published in national newspapers and magazines.

What was your first published piece?

Besides all the work I published in school papers, my first professionally published work was a booklet published by the Fund for Assistance to Private Education in the Philippines. A friend of mine, who was also a professor and a published author asked me to write on one of the topics I delivered in seminar-workshops around the Philippines: How to Write Behavioural Objectives. It was my first paid work outside of school publishing and I was very proud of it.

Where was it published?

The funny thing is, while it was published in the Philippines, where I came from, I never saw a copy of the booklet. Apparently, it had been distributed all over the country in private schools mostly outside the National Capital Region. I only found out about that when, while giving a workshop in one of the southern provinces of the Philippines, I found out that most of the participants knew me by name, because of that pamphlet. It seems to have been a “bible” of sorts for teachers looking to improve their syllabi and lesson plans.

How long ago?

That was back in the mid-80s.

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

Writing has always been a big part of my life, just as reading. Unfortunately, when I was ready to choose a University course, there were no Creative Writing degrees available in the Philippines. I chose a course in Communications Research instead, which was the newest and hottest course related to writing—and would have brought me to a career in Communications, possibly journalism and broadcasting, or something of the sort. Two days into the course, I received a telegram from the National Science Development Board offering me a full scholarship with a full allowance and expenses if I took an Education degree in either Mathematics or Physics. It was my big opportunity to become independent, so I took Mathematics (I had a horrible experience with my high school physics teacher and I hated writing up lab reports) with Education. That, of course, had nothing to do with my writing, except that I became very active with school journalism during a time when freedom of speech was curtailed in the Philippines. (I was so close to getting arrested as a result of writing too freely.) Once I graduated, I was invited by the principal of the high school I had graduated from to teach, but she wanted me to teach English because she knew that it was my forte. That led to a Master of Arts degree in English Literature with a specialization in Drama and focus on Creative Writing. How that happened is another long story. Since then, I have taught High School, College/University, and adult/professional learners. I had a 5-year stint as an indexer and abstracter, writing material that can be found on online databases such as Infotext and Ebsco. I have worked in theatre in nearly all areas from acting to directing, almost as long as I have been a writer, although I have earned more from my writing than my acting or production work.

Around 2006, an old friend of mine, who had been my teacher in high school, then the principal when I taught there, and then the dean when I taught in the college department, asked me to join a team of talented teachers to write a series of textbooks in English and critical thinking. I co-authored the first volume with another friend and former co-teacher who had moved to Australia, so we completed the project via email with him in Australia, me in Canada, and my friend as series coordinator in the Philippines. The project is currently with a publisher and will, hopefully, be finally published for school year 2014-2015, after so many obstacles with the publishing industry that got in the way.

My first major success as a writer was winning the 3rd place in the 2007 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the biggest and most prestigious Literary Awards in the Philippines, for the full-length play The Piano. I submitted my entry in April 2007, then moved to Canada in July of the same year, so I never got to attend the Awards Gala because I received the news when I was already in Canada and I could not afford to go back.

Last year, I became a Canadian statistic when I was laid off from a full-time teaching job. I was taking on freelance writing and editing jobs online when I came across the National Novel Writing Month challenge and decided I would do it this year, since I had the time anyway. I completed my first novel as a result and am working on revising it while looking for a publisher. I have since decided to focus on my writing and my art full time and believe I am ready to launch myself as a business very soon. 

 Meanwhile, I took a manuscript I had completed in the Philippines (one of quite a few) that was a compilation of games, activities, and projects that I had used to make my English classes more lively and interesting. I have turned it into a 5-volume series: 101 Fun Games, Activities, and Projects for English Classes by Cynthia Lapeña that I very recently published in two editions: a Kindle edition, available on Amazon, and a full-colour print edition, available on both CreateSpace and Amazon. I also have a workbook series for Pre-School that I prepared when I was homeschooling my youngest son, and, because only the 1st book of the 4-volume series was published, I plan to work on it for publishing as well on CreateSpace and Amazon as my next big project. I also plan to put together some volumes of poetry to bring to local publishers.

My first novel, The Lost Amulets, is the first book in the series that I call The Amulets of Pangaea. I tried to see how it would fare in the Next Best Author Series and, while I did not make it past the first of three rounds, I have received so much positive feedback from other authors that I know it’s just a matter of finding the right publisher. Besides being an adventure involving teenagers, it is a fantasy tale that brings to life creatures, characters, and stories from Philippine myths and legends. I intend to incorporate elements from Philippine myths and legends as an alternative to the current book offerings that are satiated with all kinds of vampire, werewolf, and zombie stories. My oldest son, Kitt Lapeña, is with me on this project, having agreed to create the cover art for the book.

Here’s the blurb:
If you are looking for something totally new, interesting, and awesome, The Lost Amulets is just the book you want to see. Ms. Lapeña makes use of folklore from the Philippines, where she was born. She wants to introduce a whole new class of fantasy creatures to the world while sharing myths, legends, folktales, beliefs, and superstitions from the Philippines.

The Lost Amulets is a YA fantasy adventure story about four teenagers who are recruited by Littlefolk to find their missing king and three amulets that will restore natural order to the parallel world Dapit-Adlaw where fantastic and mythical beings exist. They encounter these beings, both good and evil, and race against time to solve the riddles and find the amulets that will help to restore vital elements in Dapit-Adlaw. Their final mission is to release the God of the Hunt from a curse. As the children make many new friends and help defeat the followers of the evil Tasu Wey, they discover strength and build confidence and the 16-year-old lead character, in particular, learns to accept that mythical beings and magic do exist. 

The Lost Amulets is the first book of the series The Amulets of Pangaea.

And here is the awesome cover I designed with artwork my son created:

What inspires you?

Everything inspires, but mostly people and all the things they go through. I love people watching and write poems or makeup stories about them. I watch nature and I am inspired to write poetry. My life is so full of experiences and encounters of all sorts that it is an endless source of stories to tell. I have ups and downs and I write about those. I read almost incessantly—you can’t tear me away from books, and all those inspire me—either to write something better or something similar to what I like. Most of all, I love myths and legends, and my first novel makes use of those. I have so many ideas about books I would like to write that I will have things to write about well into my old age. I have also shared so much as a teacher that I want to share my inexhaustible collection of teaching ideas with other teachers, so I write teaching resources and textbooks.

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

The publishing industry today is very different from what it was before the Internet became huge. Nowadays, authors need to promote themselves using every possible means. So far, I began building my platform when I started a blog, then joined Facebook, and recently, Twitter. I connected with everyone I could whom I had met in the past and constantly try to build new connections, join groups, and make new “friends” and acquaintances. Once you’re online, you need to make yourself heard, so I keep on writing. Every time I write something, I publish it on my Facebook author page (Cindy Lapeña) and my blog (Cindy Lapeña: Creativity Unlimited) with over 14,700 views to date, and then post links to it in all my groups, on my FB wall, and on Twitter (@mimrlith). The trick is to keep on writing regularly, keep on publicizing, and offer something useful, entertaining, or thought-provoking each time.

Parting words

I always tell my students, workshop participants, mentees, and just about anyone who comes to me for help or advice to never give up because success does not always come instantaneously nor when it is there, does not stay by itself. You need to keep on working at it to remain successful. I believe in doing what I am passionate about, doing what I enjoy, and if it can become my source of income and support as well, then all the much better! Over and above that, I tell everyone that nothing is impossible as long as you can imagine it because your creativity is limited only by your imagination.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Victoria Writers Festival reviewed by Leanne Dyck

on my way to the Victoria Writers Festival

Gibson Auditorium, Young Building, Camosun College, Lansdowne Campus

The Victoria Writers Festival is a three-day event (October 17 to 19). Due to logistics and finances, I was only able to attend one panel discussion.

Love Familiar:  Our Families, Ourselves

Panelists:  Israeli-Canadian short story writer Ayelet Tsabari (The Best Place on Earth)
Poet Matt Rader (A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno)
Novelist Dede Crane 
Short story writer Shaena Lambert (Oh, My Darling)

Host:  Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox

This event commenced with the authors taking the podium to read from their work.

Dede Crane shared a scene from her novel between a daughter and her aging mother.

Ayelet Tsabari’s story focused on an ethnically diverse family and their differing views on raising sons.

Matt Rader read two poems.

Shaena Lambert’s story focused on a wife’s open marriage and tension-ridden relationship with her husband.

After each reading, Jack Knox asked thought-provoking, weighty questions that left this island gal wishing she’d paid more attention in dictation class.

Some of what I heard and my pen was able to capture…

Ayelet spoke of how her view of ethnic diversity has changed now that she’s a mother. She was raised in Israel—she’s raising her son in T.O. His experiences will be different than hers and this will no doubt create a gap between them.

She said that she wanted to show a different side of Israel, a more personal one. That’s why she wrote about family.

Matt said that it has been his experience that people read themselves into your writing but miss the actual references.

Shaena’s cast of characters have vastly different backgrounds from hers. When asked how she builds characters that are so far away, she answered by saying that the characters come to her in snippets; they grow to live on the page. Once they begin to talk she sees them clearly.

The panel discussion concluded with questions from the audience—from their lips to my ear and down to my pen. Things may have been lost or gained in translation…

Question:  Is it possible to write about simpatico?

Answers:  -It’s important, for the sake of the story, to show contrast.
-It’s important to grow to simpatico.
-Simpatico is what the characters are seeking but they must journey to find it.
-Similarity already exists, that’s why I am drawn to write about them.

Question:  Do you have a right to impose your truth on your family by writing about them?

Answer:  -You have a right to express your point of view
-Be brave, honest storytellers
-Tell your small ‘t’ truth
-Try to take risks as a writer
-By telling your truth it may lead to healing

Panelists:  Shaena Lambert, Dede Crane, Ayelet Tsabari, Matt Rader

Monday, October 21, 2013

free knitting pattern: Pulse by Leanne Dyck

Transform a plain sweater into a fashion statement with this easy, quick and fun knitting project.


Inspiration for this design came from a theory I heard. I was told that if you keep the pulse of your wrists and neck covered you will stay warm. I was surprised to discover that the theory was right. Maybe you'll agree, after you knit 'Pulse'.

Knitting needles:  4.50 mm/US 7/ UK 7/Canadian 7 or size to obtain tension
Yarn:  two skeins of worsted weight yarn (20 yards/182 metres)
Tension:  5 stitches x 8 rows = 1 worked over seed stitch

Stitch pattern

4 x 4 rib stitch (worked over an even number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit four, purl four to end of row
Row 2:  purl four, knit four to end of row
Repeat rows for pattern

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

(Make two)
Cast on 40 stitches
Neck:  work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 6 inches (15 centimeters)
Arm:  work in seed stitch for 22 inches (56 centimeters)
Wrist:  work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 4 inches (10 centimeters)
Seam the two parts of the neck together 
7 inch (18 centimeters) seam
Sew the cuff seams 
4 inch (10 centimeters) seam
Weave in ends.
Roll back turtleneck
Next post:  Raving about the Victoria Writers' Festival

Friday, October 18, 2013

Guest Post Author Cora J. Ramos

How/why did you start to write?

I have always kept journals: poems, dreams, philosophy, painting and story ideas. I think it is common for writers to write—whatever and whenever they can, even if for no one but themselves.
I began to write short stories when I helped found the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. We held a contest, more as a spoof in the beginning, to encourage our writers to write. The goal, judged by outside judges, was to win the Coveted Dead Bird Award (upside down black raven-like bird (not real) on a trophy. I think submitting to contests is a great way to develop your writing, especially if feedback is given from the judges.

How did you become an author?

I always wanted to write a novel but it wasn’t until I had a déjà vu experience at the ruins of Coba in the Yucatan, Mexico, in 1987 that I was inspired to start. My first book is the result of that experience. It took me years to learn the craft of writing while constructing the story, and more years learning to revise and edit it.
Becoming an author requires a different skill set than being a writer. It has to do with willingness to revise your work so that it is publishable, getting past any self-sabotaging behaviors that interfere with opening up your work to others for possible criticism and/or rejection, and the willingness to learn yet another skill-set (promotion and marketing) for getting your book out to the public. That is what it takes to become an author for most writers in today’s market.

What was your first published piece?

The first was a short story I wrote was for the Coveted Dead Bird writing contest which I mentioned above. I didn’t win, but I sent that piece off for consideration to be included in an anthology of murder mysteries by a German chapter of Sisters-in-Crime. It was accepted and published in Murder Between Knife and Fork. The story, Seeds of Revenge, is about a revenge murder via the poisonous seeds of the wild Jimson Weed.

What else was published?

After getting that first piece published, I kept writing short stories until I had quite a few, some contest and award winners. After several years, two of my Sister in Crime sisters and I decided to jointly publish all our stories in an anthology of mystery and suspense set in the San Joaquin Valley of California. It was published as Valley Fever, Where Murder is Contagious. The title is a play on the name of the lung infection derived from breathing in the soil-dwelling fungus found in our valley called Valley Fever (deadly in rare cases). That was in January 2003.

What is your most recent published work?

During all the time I was writing short stories and getting them published, I was also working on my first novel, Dance the Dream Awake.

How did you come up with the name for your novel?

I was trying to focus on how I would write the novel and decided to start by doing a freeform painting. I find the arts overlap and sometimes one will stimulate the other. I painted this woman in a mask, dancing around with a rattle and it was frightful. She was dancing the dream awake –for me. That turned on the light bulb and I envisioned the nightmares that Tessa has at the beginning of the novel. Because every “expert” in the writing field says not to start your novel with a dream (cliché), I begin in Tessa’s psychiatrist’s office where she is trying to make sense of the nightmares she’s been having. She is, in effect, trying to ‘dance the dream awake.’

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

It was strange that I began teaching (children with learning disabilities) at the same time I began writing my novel. It was a busy time learning how to teach, how to write (I took writing classes at night) and writing. I can’t say that teaching was an asset but maybe learning the structure to teach enabled me to be disciplined to write consistently.

But once I decided to write this novel, it was like, “Okay, now I dedicate this part of my life to this.” No going back. After I retired I was finally ready to publish. I had lots of criticism for waiting so long, but I tend to do things at my pace and don’t succumb to pressure easily. It wasn’t like I was going to make a million dollars on my first book! It makes for a happier life with less stress to go at your own pace—something I couldn’t do if I were under contract. My next book is almost ready to be published, with another half done, so it wasn’t some awful pattern I was creating by waiting so long on the first.

What inspires you?

Everything around me is fuel for inspiration. As an artist, I try to look at things in fresh new ways, through the lens that is my viewpoint, and that spills over into writing—same thing. Observe what is around you and ask, “What if. . . .”

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

I began a travel blog years ago to become familiar with what it takes to write one. Then a little over a year ago I started a personal/writing blog when I knew I would have to build a platform for when I published. I try to write for readers, but somehow most of the readers are writers. I don’t give much writing advice as there are many good teachers on the internet for that already.
I am of the opinion that what you give out will come back to you (the whole karma thing). I have tried to develop supportive relationships with other authors and friends on Facebook and within other author groups. If we can all help each other move forward, we are all more likely to get ahead than going it alone.

What are you writing now?

I am writing the past life story of Jack from my first novel. It started out as part of the story I was writing as a follow-up book to Dance the Dream Awake, focusing on Jack and Tessa. But the past life story wouldn’t take a back seat to the main story so I had to stop and write that past life as a stand-alone book first. It will be called Haiku Dance and is set in 980 A.D. Japan, in the Heian era (just before the famous Tale of Genji was written). It will be a sizzling romance.

Parting words

I have always tried to keep an open mind. I read like that and write like that. I think when we close ourselves to new or different ideas we begin the process of death. Open is an expression of outward movement of growth, closed is a withdrawing, dying movement. Write with passion for the yet unrevealed that will be revealed, the mystery that will be uncovered, the love that will be found and consummated. Enjoy your life with open arms and write it into your work.

Blurb of Dance the Dream Awake:
A past life intrudes into the present.
Tessa Harper throws herself into a trip to Mexico as a last ditch effort to stem the nightmares of a Mayan sacrifice that have plagued her for months. She reasons that by going to the ‘belly of the beast,’ to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico where the Maya lived, she might find answers that will make the awful dreams stop.
She meets Porfirio, an unfulfilled love from that distant past. Amorous archaeologist Nick Richardson uncovers recent artifacts underneath the ruins of a Coba pyramid; artifacts that might help explain what happened to Tessa in a previous life that is un-resolved. When someone is after the strange beads she came into possession of, the suspense is on. Who wants them and why? Three curanderas (women shaman healers) have been waiting for Tessa at Tulum and she must decide if they are there to help her or, as her “friendly” neighbor Jack believes, are up to something more nefarious.

Cora J Ramos 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marketing Tips for authors by Leanne Dyck

As a knitwear designer, from 2002 to 2010, I sold my patterns to knitters who live in Canada, the U.S.A., the U.K., Australia and Israel.

As a self-published author, I sold my books to readers and bookstore owners. This experience has been invaluable. I call on it as I plan my marketing strategies. Some day a publisher will accept my manuscripts. When that day comes I will be ready. Thanks to this experience, I will be a key player in the marketing of my books.

Today I'd like to share some of what I've learnt.

Marketing can be used to achieve two goals:  selling a product or service and building a brand.

Experience has taught me that the best way to sell books is through direct sells.

-cold calls to bookstores
-book launch
-book readings
-other book related events

As an author, our brand is our name.

Through your blog you have the potential to reach a globally community. For example, visitors to this blog come from United States, Canada, Russia, and the United Kingdom (top four countries--according to the stats page)

When a potential reader types your name into a search engine what website is listed first?

Hopefully yours.

Type Leanne Dyck into a search engine. Stand back. What happens? 

Here are my top three marketing tips to help you build your brand.

Tip number one...
Visit popular blogs
Leave comments
If readers like your comment, they'll click on the link and follow you to your blog.

Tip number two...
Your author name should be the first thing readers see when they visit your blog (thank you, Kristen Lamb for sharing this tip). This will get your name in front of potential readers. And the more popular your blog becomes the stronger your presence will be on-line.

Tip number three...
Include your blog address on your business card and add live links to them on your email signature. This will make it easier for others to find you on-line.

Other tips from other authors...

(Don't be fooled, traditional published authors can use this advice as well.)

The Book Designer wrote an article on Marketing Your Book
He advises authors to focus 'on how they will market the book before they write it.'
I did this when I wrote my first mystery. I wrote it, mainly, for a local readership. And it became a Mayne Island best seller.

Am I saying that you should do all of these marketing activities? 


Pick a few that interest you. As Pam Perry recommends, choose the inexpensive ones first.

I'd also recommend that you choose the ones that fall within your comfort zone. If you're shy, why not enlist the help of an extrovert friend. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

My secret ingredient to building this successful blog...

'You are the wind beneath my wings'
'I'm walking on sunshine'
And I just want to call and say
(Google image)

It's amazing to look back and realize how far we've come. This year, together, we've scaled many mountains and swam a lot of seas.

For example...
On January 1, 2013 this blog had accumulated 49,000 page views
We now have over 170,000 page views
For example...
I added my first post to Google Plus on January 30, 2012
over 1, 600 of you now have me in your circles
For example...
The most popular post (Knit, Knitting, Knitted tutorial-tails) has received over 5,000 page views
The second most popular post (Please welcome Author Joyce T. Strand) has received over 2,000 page views
My most popular short story that I've shared is (Eve's Other Children)--it received over 80 page views 
(The reason why these are different than the ones listed under most popular posts is that the ones listed at the bottom of the home page are the weekly highs.)
For example...
The first guest to this blog was knitwear designer Stephannie Tallent she visited on November 5, 2010
Followed a few days later on November 8th by my eldest brother Rick--who wrote an article about sheep farming.
My most recent guests were Karen Guzman and Cathy Cruise of the blog Write Despite
I have many guests. I encourage you to visit the Guest Posts page

We've done so much that I'm beginning to think that there's nothing we can't do. We've done so much that I'm beginning to be a little jaded. You've supported me so much that I think I've started taking you for granted. And I've started to think this blog is all about me. It's not about me -- it's about us.
author -- reader
host -- guest
It's about making connections and being inspired. You inspire me to continue to write this blog. You inspire me to practice my craft.
That's why...
I just want to stop and thank you
So, from me to you...
(Google image)

Here's to another fun-filled year of accomplishments.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Guest Post Author Cathy Cruise

Cathy Cruise is the host of the popular blog Write Despite

How/why did you start to write?
I’ve been writing since a poem I wrote about a fish in first grade got pinned up on the bulletin board. In fifth grade I wrote a book of poems, in sixth grade I started the first of many novels that I never finished (a pattern that has endured, sadly). In ninth grade I started keeping a journal under my mattress and HAD to write in it nearly every night until I was almost 30. It was the only time I felt like I’d explode if I didn’t get all my thoughts down on paper. Then I met my husband and stopped writing in it. Maybe I just told him all those thoughts instead and no longer needed the journal? Or maybe he’s just helped kill my creativity. (I need someone to blame.)

What was your first published piece?
My first published piece was a story called “Number Three Thousand and Six” in New Virginia Review. My professor at the time, Richard Bausch, was a guest editor for that issue and was kind enough to take my work. This was in 1994. A lifetime ago.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
Well I guess the writing career I’ve had would be the freelance writing business I ran for eight years, and the wildly varied jobs as an editor/writer at different organizations. Prior to that, I was working on a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in creative writing. And yes, both degrees helped me enormously.

What inspires you?
Reading. And not just great literature, but anything that gives me ideas, or resonates, or reminds me of something I’m working on. I’m often inspired by reading something horrible too, just because I feel like, well hell, even I could do better than that.

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques
Not sure how successful our platform is. We have nearly 400 followers now, so that’s encouraging, I guess…? Others have far more, of course. To start, I read many of the internet hints that tell you how to build a platform—start a blog, post regularly, respond to comments, put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, etc. I know we could be doing LOTS more to promote our platform though. And we welcome all ideas!!!

Parting words
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts here. I love your blog and have learned so much from postings like yours. The sense of community we’ve managed to nourish and enjoy has been the best part of this whole experience. Write well, everyone!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tips on Writing Blog Posts by Leanne Dyck

 When trying to find blog topics take direction from your target reader. For example, when I created this blog I was a soon-to-be-published author. In fact, back then, one of my reasons for creating this blog was to market my book. The protagonist of that book was a knitwear designer. And I was undertaking a career transition, moving from a knitwear designer who wrote to an author who knit. 
What am I going to do with all the hand knitting pattern I've designed? I wondered. Then, like a poke from a knitting needle, it hit me--offer them for free on my blog. 
Three years later these patterns are still among my most popular posts.
Other advice...
Keep blog articles brief -- from 200 to 500 words.
Blog regularly -- ideally two to three times a week.

 In his article How to Craft a Blog Post--10 Crucial Points to Pause, Darren Rowse encourages bloggers to slow down. Good advise to follow whatever you write. You may enjoy reading his series of posts on 'How to Write Great Blog Content' 

In Jeff Havens' post 3 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Blog Posts, he advises against writing the entire post in one long paragraph; writing simply to sell; and using your post as a means to share your problems.

Bryan Hutchinson wrote an interesting article for one of my favourite blogs--Write to Done. In it, he reveals the secret of how you can write a blog post that will go viral. 'Go viral' he describes as the 'holy grail of blog writing'. In order to reach this goal, he explains that it's important to know your niche, your community and your world view.

Peter Sandeen sings the praises of writing guest posts in the article he wrote for Write to Done -- The Surefire Way to Attract New Readers With Every Blog Post

In her article 5.5 Tips to Write Amazing Blog Posts Even If You Are a NewbieJane Sheeba offers advice such as knowing your target reader and improving your ability to write.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Guest Post Author Karen Guzman

Karen Guzman is the host of the popular blog Write to Despite

How/why did you start to write?

I started writing stories in fifth grade, which resulted that year in two production of two little “books,” one about a pony and one about a dog. Surprising, right?

What was your first published piece?

A short story titled “Get On With It.”

Where was it published?

In a very tiny literary magazine out of the midwest. Believe it or not, I’ve actually forgotten the magazine’s name. At the time it was such a major thing to me, and now I can’t remember the publication’s name. I remember the story because it was so incredibly sophomoric. Yeech.

How long ago?


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

I worked as a newspaper journalist right after college, stopped briefly while I earned an MFA, and then went back to newsrooms for another 13 years. The benefits of my time as a reporter and feature writer are just too numerous to mention. Working in daily journalism gives you a front-row seat on the world, the communities, issues, and people that you write about, and it’s an absolutely fantastic education. It helped me grow up, a lot.

What inspires you?

Nature, the Divine, deeply felt and beautifully written literature.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I wish I had more to share. Our blog
is my first platform. It’s doing well, but to grow, we need to get the word out more broadly and provide more varied and compelling content.

Parting words

 is about writers helping writers. Send us your thoughts. Share your successes and frustrations. We’d love to hear from you.

Karen Guzman writing samples...

Feature story that appeared in Chicago Tribune

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Word Vancouver notes by Leanne Dyck

This year, Word on the Street became Word Vancouver and I was blissfully unaware until I arrived home and read the brochure. 
Um... Yeah... Is my face red? Yup.
Here's what I did notice...

Because I wanted to attend an early morning lecture (11 a.m.) I sailed over to the mainland on Saturday evening. There were weather warnings. So I made plans to stay an extra day, if necessary.
I arrived at the Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch early Sunday morning (10 a.m. -ish) and watched the Word Vancouver crew tearing down tents. Due to the weather forecast, the outside market was brought inside. The Vancouver Public Library was stuffed full. Already, narrow aisles were made even narrower due to display tables occupying both sides.

The first display I saw was by the Alcuin Society. I feasted my eyes. The books displayed were works of art. All had won awards for book design. 

I descended the stairs to the Alma Van Dusen room.

Pauline Johnson -- A Vancouver Legend with Shelia Johnston

Shelia Johnston spoke eloquently about Pauline Johnson -- a dynamic poet and true Canadian. Pauline was born into an ethnically diverse family -- Aboriginal father and white more 

In a time when the dominate white culture looked down on Aboriginals, Pauline used her gift for poetry to attract and inform her mainly white audience about the proud Aboriginal traditions. 

"She caused revolutionary thinking," Shelia Johnston told us.

(sorry, this is what you get when you don't hire a professional photographer)

Shelia treated us by reading from Pauline Johnson's collection of poetry. I listened, captivated as Shelia brought Pauline's lovely words to life.

Audience members informed us that Margaret Atwood and Tobin Stokes have created an Opera called Pauline

Then. I walked next door to the Peter Kaye Room.

Get Published with Janet Love Morrison
Janet Love Morrison used her personal experience to help us navigate our way through the publishing process.

First decision, self-publish or traditionally publishing?

Janet offered us a series of questions to help direct us into one camp or the other.

-What was the purpose or intent behind writing the manuscript?
-Who is your target market?
-What are your story's unique selling points?

Before submitting our manuscripts to a publisher, Janet advised us to do our homework.

Questions to answer...
-what genre does the publisher publish?
-what are the publisher's submission guidelines?
-how many books does the publisher publish a year?
-what is the size of the publisher's print run?
-what awards has the publisher won?
-how long has the publisher been in business?
(Janet told us not to shy away from new publishers. She simply wanted us to be informed.)
-where are the publisher's books reviewed?
-does the publisher support their newly published authors?
(Janet told us that generally a publisher will help market a new book for three months)

Once we've found our publisher and are ready to make a submission...

-cover letter
(Janet told us that if we could find someone (organization) to endorse our manuscript send that along with your submission.)
-sample chapters or pages
-state if this is a multiply submission

When a publisher is interested in publishing our books, they will ask us to sign a contract. Janet advised us not to sign anything until you completely understand it. In fact, she suggested hiring a literary lawyer to help explain the contract.

For those in the audience who decided to self-publish, Janet walked us through that process as well.

I shuffled back over to the Alma VanDusen Room

New Directions in Creative Writing
Presented by UBC Creative Writing

UBC professors discussed the creative writing program; the developments they've seen with respect to combining literary projects with new media and the professors also talked about their own writing.

I remained in this room for...

The Scene of the Crime
Presented by the Crime Writers of Canada
Moderator:  Cathy Ace
Panel members:  Debra Purdy Kong, David Russell, Robin Spano, Kay Stewart and Chris Bullock

I am a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and it was nice to re-connect with some of the members.

At the beginning of the discussion, each writer was given seven minutes to talk generally about their writing, their book(s) and to do a brief reading.
Then the audience was invited to ask questions. These were many and varied.
Some were...
Question:  Do you use beta readers?
Answer:  All of the authors did. One as many as 12.

Question:  Do you contact the police for a research resource for your book?
Answer:  Yes, the public relations office. Sometimes, through social media, the resource person contacts the author.

Question:  How do you come to your story?
Answer:  One author picks a place (location) where she wants to spend time and then develops a story around the place.
Others are haunted by an image or inspired by news headlines and current issues.

Back into the hall...
Think I'm done?
Think again.
I ascended the stairs to the Canada Writes Tent which was brought inside, into a coffee shop.
I kicked myself because I caught the tail end of Sexy Sick Chick Lit (Kim Clark and Robyn Michele Levy). I would have loved to hear it all and speak with them later. But then I would have missed... And I couldn't have split myself in two--or even cloned myself. So... Next year, perhaps.

I enjoyed listen to...
Mark Letheren-Young read from Free Magic Secrets Revealed:  A Memoir
Carellin Brooks read from her soon-to-be released book Fresh Hell
Shaena Lambert read from her short story collection Oh, My Darling
Janie Chang read from Three Souls

Okay, I'm not sure how but I had an opportunity to visit the book market. I met so many interesting people and I invited them to visit this blog. I'm hoping they'll accept my offer. Because I know you'll enjoy meeting them as well.

Oh, yes, and in case you're wondering, Mother Nature did throw a hissy fit--and I was stuck on the mainland. Oh, poor, me. I got to go out to eat with my in-laws--a rare and savoured treat.
I arrived home a day late and just in time to attend a meeting of my writing circle.
I thought I'd be drained -- and I was, a little. But mostly I was super-charged. And now I'm dreaming of flying off to literary events in T.O., New York, London. Okay... Okay... I know, don't get carried away...

Literary festival... 
Some day I will attend...
Some day I will attend as a participating author...
The stuff of dreams...

Sidney Writers' Festival

Whistler Readers and Writers Festival

Surrey International Writers' Conference
Learn more here