Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 blog plans

The purpose of this blog has evolved over the years. Initially I created it to promote my soon to be released E book--The Sweater Curse. (The Sweater Curse was released in 2010--and I've recently obtained the rights. I've added to the manuscript. It is now novel-length. And I'm currently looking for a publisher for this thriller.)
How do I do that? I struggled to answer that question. And I thought I'd found an answer... Blog endlessly about the book. But this strategy bored even me.

Soon I was ready to try something else. So I began to create posts that where related to the book. The protagonist of The Sweater Curse is a knitwear designer. So I interviewed knitwear designers. I thoroughly enjoyed helping to promote their businesses. And I began sharing the hand knitting patterns I'd designed. I was making a career transition from knitwear designer to author. And I felt that my blog was the prefect place for me to showcase my past success. I was very proud of my designs and I enjoyed sharing them with you but... Recently I've been receiving feedback that has made me think that by including my patterns here I'm muddying the waters. Am I a knitwear designer or an author? Have no doubt I am an author. So for the sake of purity of purpose and to enhance clarity I will be removing these patterns from my blog in 2014. 

Though I knew this change was necessary, I was still a little uneasy about it. Would it mean less traffic? Did I have the right to make this change knowing that so many people enjoyed my patterns? These worries and more raced around in my head--until I read Victoria Grefer article 4 Tips to Blog Your Best

What will become of my hand knitting patterns? I'm still trying to answer that questions...

In 2014 I will reduce the number of times I post on this blog from three times a week to two. Thursday and Friday are too close together. If I post late on Thursday and early on Friday it's like I didn't post on Thursday. 
And besides with my new clarity of focus there is no 'without a pen'. This is an author's blog.
Monday's theme will be 'my author journey.' Each Monday I'll post about the events I attend; the things I learn and the stories I read and write.
On Guest Post Friday I will continue to help to promote those in the publishing industry--authors, publishers, editors, and...

This entire article can be summarized into two sentences:  Leanne Dyck's blog is a writing blog. Leanne Dyck is a writer.

2014 will be an exciting year. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.
Next post (Friday):  Literature As An Oppositional Disorder by Ernest Hekkanen

Friday, December 27, 2013

Guest Post Author Carrie Snyder

Carrie Snyder's latest book -- The Juliet Stories -- was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for fiction, and her novel, Girl Runner, was published in Canada by House Anansi.

How/why did you start to write?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I started reading books (or perhaps slightly thereafter, when I realized that the books I loved reading were written by people called writers). I love words, language, ideas. I seem to have infinite patience for the technical challenges of writing books: crafting characters and story in ways that use carefully deliberated structure to create momentum, suspense, surprise, pleasure, and emotion for the reader.

How did you become an author?
My first published poems were written when I was 16 and still in high school, and were published three years later in a well-respected Canadian literary journal. Over the years I’ve had many mentors who have encouraged and guided me, including teachers and editors. My first job after graduating from U of Toronto with an MA in English Literature was in the books section of the National Post newspaper. This was an excellent crash course on the publishing industry. The steps to becoming a published author are too tedious to recount here, but suffice it to say that there were rejections and disappointments along the way, but I found an agent, who sold my first book, Hair Hat, to Penguin Canada, and it was published when I was 29. I never gave up, despite rejection.

What was your first published piece?
Two untitled poems, published in The New Quarterly. Small literary magazines are enormously important in the life of a beginning writer. Enough cannot be said about the hard-working, eagle-eyed, supportive, gentle, warmly enthusiastic editors who nurture new writers and help bring them to maturity.

How long ago?
My first poems appeared in 1994. My first book was published a decade later in 2004.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I always intended to be a writer. I aimed myself at developing a career as a fiction writer from a very early age. I have degrees in English Literature, and my only real “job-job” was at the National Post, where I worked in the books section, and then later as a copy editor, and also wrote for the arts section. A great deal of reading and writing – any form of writing – can only be an asset to one’s career as a writer.

What inspires you?
I love a good story. And I love an iconoclastic character, perhaps an outsider, or someone who pushes the boundaries of convention in their time. I read the obituaries faithfully. I’m fascinated by how we make choices in our lives, and how bound we humans are by our own flaws; but also how adversity is overcome, painful rifts mended sometimes, and sometimes really beautiful things happen against all odds. I love the flaws in a character, almost as much as the strengths. Flaws are what make us interesting. Relationships are fascinating too. We are who we are in relation to others.

Parting words
Thanks for your interest in my books and my blog, Leanne. Good luck with your own writing!
(Thank you for the well wishes. It was a pleasure having you visit.)

author photo taken by Nancy Forde

Visit Carrie Snyder's popular blog:  Obscure CanLit Mama

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Yuletide Blog by Leanne Dyck

For me, Christmas is a time of introspection. Every year, Christmas arrives with a message. This year, as I contemplated the festive season, I was taken to three places...

Set the scene:  Christmas carols played at a loud volume
red, blue, yellow--bright lights
shoppers pushing, shoving rushing to the check-out counter

Over-riding it all, an authoritative voice demanding, "Buy. Buy. Buy. Spend. Spend. Spend. Fill those shopping bags. Now! Now!"

Filled with anxiety, I realize, I will will never be enough. There will always be a present that isn't event expectation unmet...

Set the scene:  wood pews

A voice preaches, "The reason for the season is..."

I listen and am encouraged to acknowledge what I have...

Love, support, belonging, potential for growth, purpose, creativity, friendship, faith, community, pleasure, inspiration, happiness, harmony...

The list continues and as it does I'm overcome by a feeling of abundance--of thankfulness.

Set the scene:  cold

No voice, only my thoughts. 

What lessons can the dark teach me? What do I take with me into the dark? What do I lose? What do I gain? Why do I need to be so busy, to clutter my life? What am I compensating for? What emotions am I suppressing? Why isn't this enough?

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. -Carl Jung

Carrying the lantern of our spirit before us, we must enter the darkness of our troubles if we are to drink clearly again from the source. This is making the darkness conscious. The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

Amongst my great grandmother's possessions, I found a copy of a short story. The author's name and the date of publication are lost in the dust of time. It is an old story, written by an unknown author but it speaks to me. I hope you enjoy it...

The wintry winds blew, and the proud waves of the Atlantic Ocean beat hard against a steamer outward bound for the American shore. Despite all the efforts of her skilled captain and willing crew, she was driven on the rocks and wrecked. Part of the passengers were saved by being put off in the boats, but the greater number sank with the vessel in the stormy deep.

Among those who were in the ill-fated vessel, was a mother and her only daughter, a bright girl of ten years. They had left England's shores with bright hopes and prospects before them. A comfortable home awaited them in the far West, and her husband and father waited to welcome them at New York, on the arrival of the vessel.

But, alas, these fair hopes were rudely dashed to the ground by the sad news of the fearful shipwreck.

When all hope of saving the vessel was abandoned, and the boats were put out, they were quickly filled. Among those who stood on the storm-swept deck, was the fond mother, with the child, grasped by the hand, eagerly watching for a place in the fast-filling boat.

"Room for one more, but only one," cried the brave sailor, as he handed the female passengers over the ship's side. There was a minute's silent suspense, then the fond mother warmly kissing her child, handed her into his strong arms, and in another moment the boat with its occupants disappeared in the surf. Before it was possible to return, the wreck had sunk, and all on board perished, among the number, that brave faithful mother, who lost her own life to save the life of her only child.

Distracted with grief, the heart-broken father mourned the loss of his wife and child, until the morning papers told of the safety of a boat with twelve of the passengers, among whom was a girl of ten years. He hurried to the spot, and with a thankful heart, clasped his daughter to his bosom. ...

Years passed away. The child of ten had become a fine young woman of twenty-five years, and was on a visit to the old country to see her friends and kindred there. In the fine old country house where her beloved mother had spent her childhood, there were many objects of interest, which her aged grandmother pointed out, recalling memories of the past, but there was one above all others of which she never seemed to tire, and on which for hours she could only look with tearful admiration. It was the picture of her mother. As her eyes fell upon it for the first time, she burst into a flood of tears, and grasping her grandmother's hand, she said, "I live because she died."

Next post:  Interview with Carrie Snyder--whose latest book, The Juliet Stories, was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for fiction.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bare knitting needles by Leanne Dyck

What's on my needles?

Nothing. They are bare. No freshly cast on stitches. No nearing completion project. No... Nothing...

A few months ago I was experiencing sharp pain in my wrists--increasing after I knit. I went to see the doctor. She directed me to a clinic where my condition was assessed. This involved an electric current being placed on my carpal tunnel. It felt like being tasered--I think, I've never been tasered. The clinic directed me to a hand therapist. This conversation ended with the therapist saying, "Stopping knitting--at least for now--may have been the wisest thing you've done."

Knitting in moderation is okay for most. Knitting in excess--like every waking minute--is not okay.

"Do you miss it?" Many have asked.

I don't miss the pain but I do miss...
-the creative release
-the sensuality
-the meditation
-the new garment

But change comes to all and it has come to me. I'm no longer a knitter--at least for now.
And have no fear, there are many wonderful knitting blogs out there. Here's an example 

Oh, yes, and other people are under going a career change. Read this tribute to Steve's
Next post:  Yuletide Blog

Friday, December 20, 2013

Guest Post Leaf Press, Ursula Vaira (founder and publisher)

Ursula Vaira founded Leaf Press in 2001 as a poetry chapbook publisher. Since 2007 she has been publishing trade poetry while continuing the chapbook tradition and the weekly on-line Monday’s Poem.

"Poetry, paddling and west-coast wilderness camping are my passions, and they show in my writing (And See What Happens, Caitlin Press) and in the works I choose for Leaf's list. This year I am so proud to have published Poems for Planet Earth, a round-up of poems from readers at internationally renowned Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria BC; Surge Narrows by Emilia Nielsen, in which 'words rush like cold, clean water over the skin' (Anne Simpson); milk tooth bane bone by Daniela Elza, 'an open armature for wonder' (David Abram); and Dark Matter by Leanne McIntosh, an invitation to 'listen, listen as though the moon/has just pressed her face/against ours.'

Publishing is not for the easily frightened. The hours are long.  The money is spare. The printing bills come due. Invoice payments arrive late. Contracts are signed long before the granting agencies approve or reject funding applications. No one lasts long in the biz without a passion for the work.

But the rewards! Money aside. Glory aside. But being able to work so intimately with these amazing poets, to spend hours and hours inside their words during the editing and design and typesetting until I know nearly every word by heart--and then to sit in an audience during the book launch, watching the effect of the poet's words play on each face ... I don't know, it just does it for me.

 Ursula Vaira, Publisher

Leaf Press – Publishing Poetry Only

Visit Leaf on Facebook

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guest Post: Lou Aronica of the publishing house Story Plant...

What is Story Plant's mandate?

The Story Plant is dedicated to author development. We commit wherever possible to multi-book deals with writers with an aim toward building their audiences over a series of publications.

How/why did you decide to be a publisher?

I've been in publishing since 1979, first at Bantam, where I became Deputy Publisher, then as Publisher of Berkley and Avon. I left that side of the business in 1999 to concentrate on writing, but even though I was having success in that arena, I found that I missed being a publisher too much. That's when I decided to launch The Story Plant with literary manager Peter Miller.

When did you establish Story Plant?

The Story Plant published its first book in 2008.

Share some of Story Plant's challenges and victories...

The bookstore arena is always a challenging one. It is difficult to generate attention for your books without taking considerable risks. Since print books are fully returnable to the publisher if unsold, one takes a big chance in doing a mass distribution. 

We have had significant success on the e-book side of the business. More than a third of our titles have reached the top 100 of either the Kindle or Nook bestseller lists.

This is a challenging time to become a publisher. How are you uniquely equipped to address these challenges?

I think what distinguishes us from most other independent publishers is our understanding of the history of publishing (I was taught the business by Ian Ballantine, the man who brought paperbacks to America for the first time) and willingness to constantly try new things.

What do you see as the benefits of being a publisher?

The greatest benefit of being a publisher is working with writers and seeing their vision come to life on the page.

How does Story Plant market books? Do you have a global reach?

We use a wide range of marketing techniques, from extensive publicity campaigns to targeted advertising, to e-mail marketing, and beyond. We're constantly looking for new ways to market books. 

The Story Plant is distributed by Perseus Distribution, so our books are available in the English language throughout the world.

What genres do you publish?

We publish a wide range of fiction, both commercial and literary.

Who pays the publishing costs--the author or the publisher?

The Story Plant pays all publishing and marketing costs.

Does Story Plant pay royalties as well as an advance?


Do you publish ebooks, print or both?


Please talk us through Story Plant's author submission process...

The best way to submit a title is for the author to query either me ( or our Editorial and Marketing Associate Allison Cronk ( Both of us have very broad tastes and we're open to all kinds of fiction. The only caveat is that we want writers who are truly committed to staking their own place in the book market; we aren't interested in writers who are simply following trends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

submitting short stories (a love story) by Leanne Dyck

In memory of the gone
but not forgotten
(It snowed on Dec. 5 and it melted on Dec.10)

It's a typical love story:

Short version...
Writer notices literary journal
Writer dreams of seeing her story in the literary journal
Writer sends in a submission
Writer is sent an encouraging rejection letter
Writer is inspired 
Writer writes
With fingers crossed, writer carries a short story to the mailbox

Long version...
Last July, I sent seven short stories to a variety of literary journals. I waited a couple of months and then the rejection letters began to trickle in. Far from feeling depressed, I was inspired to write.


1)Experience has taught me that sometimes its the story--it needs revising. But sometimes it's the literary journal--it's not the right fit.

2)I received two personalized rejection letters.

'While we are unable to accept (name of short story) for publication, we would like to see more of your work...less than 2% (of the stories they receive) are accepted for publication...Your work was almost there.'

'Although we will not be accepting your work at this time, I wish you best of luck with future submissions'

They want more and that's exactly what I'm going to send them.

3)It is extremely and increasingly difficult for aspiring writers to get published or make careers for themselves. Don’t waste time despairing this reality. Write and rewrite and when you’ve got something polished try your best to find a home for it. Don’t feel that there is something wrong with you if that journey takes longer than you’d hoped, or takes some ugly twists and turns. You must determine to write regardless of what external forces work against you, or in your favour. You must just write. If you write enough, and you write well, you will write your own way forward. --Elizabeth Ruth (Read her complete interview here)

I'm also entering contests. I enjoy entering the Women On Writing quarterly flash fiction contests. For the low price of twenty dollars not only can you enter their contest but you also receive an invaluable, detailed critique. 
I wrote that I entered but it really wasn't that easy. I needed help to achieve that goal. Thankfully Angela was there to help. I'd like to thank her and the WOW staff.

Now I like to showcase one of my favourite poets, husband, Byron.

In my yard a garden grows
So sad that now the pond is froze
The days grow shorter and grey darkens
The winds do howl and winter harkens
I grow weary waiting for the sun to shine
And long for when it is not winter time

In my yard a garden grows
A work in progress yet it shows
'Tis not a one of shrubs and flowers
Instead a work of stones and rock towers
Water cascades down the sculpted hill
And sand in patterned rows lies still

I await the spring when roses grow
And flora blush full and waters flow
The stones piled high amid rocks grown tall
Soothed again by sounds of water all
To sit and reap in tranquil harmony
Nature's blessing of my quaint rock quarry
-Byron Dyck

Friday, December 6, 2013

Guest Post Author Brock W.B. Clayards (thriller author)

How/why did you start to write?

I have always been a story teller. Even as a little boy I would recount events in the neighborhood as they inspired or impressed me. This occasionally had a down side as my parents tended to take these reports with a grain of salt. One incident in particular stands out. My parents refused to come to the top window in our house for a look see, at one of the biggest building fires in Dartmouth where we lived at the time. Not until the sounds of approaching fire sirens were evident was I able to convince them.
It was a natural progression for me to commit my stories to paper.

How did you become an author?

I was bored one rainy Sunday afternoon in Port Alberni. My wife was using the internet computer for school work so I sat down at our stand alone keyboard and began recounting an event that had occurred early in my police career. One paragraph led to another and soon I was hooked writing my first novel.

What was your first published piece?

Pacific Flyways was my first novel. It is a thriller set on the north end of Vancouver Island involving a plan to infect migrating wildfowl with a deadly strain of the H1N5 virus, Avian Flu.

Where was it published?

The novel is published as an e book and is available through Amazon or

How long ago?

It hit the either last September 2012.

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

 I was a member of the RCM Police. Included in my varied service was a stint with their counter terrorism section, Middle Eastern division. I spent several years in Ottawa chasing agents from Sadam Hussein’s Iraqi secret police operating in Canada under diplomatic cover. This combined with several years of small town policing on Vancouver Island helped inspire my book.

What inspires you?

 I love detail and research. My formal training is as a historian so I guess this comes from hours of working on essays in university. The trick is to write about things in such a way that my readers will catch the bug. 

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques.

I have arranged a book reading in conjunction with a popular local musician. The two of us did our thing and shared venue, costs and benefits. He was glad of the audience and shared expenses while I was glad of his notoriety to pull in a crowd.
Parting words

 My next book, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail, is a historical thriller set in Victoria at the start of the Great War. It is an adventure transporting the reader from the gritting brick enclaves of Victoria’s Chinatown, to the Sea of Cortez and back. Redvers Duncan, a Victoria City constable, battles drug tongs and German spies. He is faced with rescuing his beloved Wynn, a feisty school teacher, while trying to thwart an Irish Nationalist/German plot to sink the Canadian battle cruiser HMCS Rainbow.  The book should be available in the New Year from Diamond River Books in both E book and traditional hard copy.

Book Description (from Amazon)
'Every year thousands of migrating birds fill the skies of North America. This year a madman plans to infect them with a deadly strain of the avain flue, turning them into flying time bombs...and you thought The Birds was scary.
RCMP Constable Grayden Swift and Federal Fisheries Officer Janice Mason, rookies in their respective careers, confront terrorists, thieves, and romantic complications in the small town of Pasquin Cove. Pacific Flyways is a tale of action, sex, and intrigue in one of the most beautifully rugged areas of North America; the Broughton Archipelago.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A bad book review (short story) by Leanne Dyck

    After self-publishing my first book--an audiobook collection of short stories, I worried about what the world would think about my baby. Would anyone read it? What would the reviewers write? 
    To my relief, most of the reviewers were very kind--most but not all. One reviewer's words stung. She wrote, 'Some of the stories are too short.'
    Well, I ranted and raved to myself and to my husband. “Too short? Too short! It is a short story collection.”
    “Don’t worry about it,” my husband said, “You can’t please everyone.”
    I knew he was right, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that bad review Too short, rang in my ears. 
    I'll show her, I thought, and picked up my pen and wrote longer and longer stories. 
    Would I have made that leap without her bad review? Maybe, probably, hopefully. But that bad review helped me to make the leap sooner.