Monday, March 31, 2014

How do you get published? (poem) by Leanne Dyck

How do you get published?

Fluffy white clouds
Colour rich rainbows
Songbirds sang
I typed, wrote for hours, days, weeks, years, decades

People, who looked like me, walked and others ran past
I followed
I came to a sign and read, 'Publishing House'
An arrow pointed the way
I continued down that road
Until I stood in front of a white wall
Others stood there too
But they were soon gone
Where did they go?

I heard noises
It sounded like a party
"Hey, why don't you join us?" someone called
I searched high; I searched low
But I couldn't find a doorknob or even a door

Someone else walked up
"Hey, can you tell me how to get." I pointed at the wall. "Inside."
"Sure," she said. "Here's the key." She handed me a note.
I unfolded the note and read, "Keep writing and submitting."
And so I did.

I haven't got in, not yet.
But I know I will, soon.
And when I do, I'll pass the key on to you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Post thriller author Michael W Sherer

From the author of the 2013 Thriller Award-nominated Night Blind comes the second Blake Sanders thriller, Night Tide.

Friends don’t let friends go to jail and live to tell about it. Twenty-some years ago, Blake Sanders’s best friend Perry Langford was arrested and convicted of murder for a campus bombing, but Langford always maintained his innocence, claiming someone else blew up the building. Not even Blake knows what really happened, and he was there, a secret he’s kept all these years. Now Langford is out of prison, and he’s gunning for all those he holds responsible for his stint in stir, including Blake. Whoever planted the bomb is cleaning up loose ends, and the prize they’re still seeking after all this time—a revolutionary battery design—is worth a fortune, even worth selling out one’s own country…and killing for.

"A great, great read! NIGHT TIDE is on my (very) short list for 2013 awards. Once again, a crime from the past entangles Sherer's nocturnal hero Blake Sanders in its present-day repercussions, and once again Sherer makes Seattle at night the perfect setting for a thriller full of unexpected twists, darkness (literal and metaphorical) and wonderful, three-dimensional characters. Even better than NIGHT BLIND, and that's not easy." –Timothy Hallinan, author of The Fame Thief

“Michael W. Sherer's solid, sure-footed prose reminds me of some of my favorite crime writers of the past. Night Tide shows an author at the height of his faculties, with a tight, well-constructed story and characters that leap from the page. I'll definitely be back for more.” –Robert Gregory Browne, author of Trial Junkies 2: Negligence

“I am an unabashed fan of Michael W. Sherer's books. His unlikely hero, Blake Sanders, has a newspaper route and an unsavory past--yet he's the guy you'd want if your back's ever against the wall. Add the beauty of Washington state and enough interesting and quirky characters to fill a phalanx of float planes, and you have a cracking good story and a first-rate thriller. Blake is oh-so-human--a regular guy, but from the moment you meet him you know he'll pull you through. Sherer holds his own with the big guys of the genre.” – J. Carson Black, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Survivors Club 

“An interesting thriller, and an interesting protagonist. Very well worth reading.” – Willa, Goodreads (4 stars)

“A great thriller, one I have no hesitation in recommending.” – Brenda, Goodreads (4 stars)

“As with NIGHT BLIND, this offering is both a thriller and a mystery, written by a writer who shows a deft storyline execution, economical yet telling character development, and expertly built conflict.” – Hal Johnson, Amazon (5 stars)

How/why did you start to write?

The one subject in college I felt reasonably confident of passing was my native language, English. Pass I did, with Cs, Bs and the occasional A.

The school used a 4-1-4 semester system—two semesters of four courses/credits each, in between which fell the month of January, otherwise known as “Winter Study,” when all sorts of eclectic courses were in the catalog, and grading was pass/fail. A creative writing course was offered my junior year. Since it was in English, I figured I could pass.

The course was taught by an alum who had graduated ten years earlier. In the first few classes he told us about his own creative writing experience. He’d gone to live with his grandmother in Spain the year after graduation and had written a novel about college life. Upon his return he sent it around to the major NYC publishers where it eventually found a home after about 17 rejections. The book became an instant bestseller, and was made into a major motion picture starring Liza Minnelli. His second book, bought by the publisher before it was written and finished under deadline pressure, bombed. Critics hated it and few people bought it. He married, moved to Taos, N.M., and wrote for a muckraking newspaper and had been working on his third novel for six years.

I decided then and there that I wanted to be a novelist. What a great life! Write a bestseller, sell the movie rights and sit around a pool in Taos living off the royalties!

The teacher was John Nichols. His first book was The Sterile Cuckoo, and the book he was writing the year I met him (published a year later) was The Milagro Beanfield War.

How did you become an author?

The easy answer is, by writing. I didn’t call myself an author for years, thinking the term was somehow reserved for those who write best-selling books. But I do feel a certain reverence for the term. Anyone who writes a book can call himself an author. If the book’s so bad that no one reads it, though, the term is meaningless.

So, let’s start with how I wrote my first book. During my senior year of college, due to a series of unfortunate events, I failed my winter study course. (Not my fault, I swear. Oddly, the only two courses I ever failed were both pass-fail college winter study programs.) As a result, I had to over-elect the final semester of senior year to have enough credits to graduate. Since I found out too late to register for courses, I begged an English professor I knew to sponsor an independent study in creative writing. He asked me what I intended to do. I told him I was going to write a novel. He said if I actually finished, he would give me a B.

Though I’d never written anything longer than a 25-page term paper, I decided there couldn’t be anything more to writing a novel than sitting down and typing out a story until it was over. So that’s what I did, and by the time the semester—and the story—ended I’d written a 385-page novel. A bad one, but a novel nevertheless.

What was your first published piece?

I graduated from college with a degree in English, which is good for one of two things: teaching and washing dishes. I ended up washing dishes in a restaurant in Denver, and kicked around for several years in a number of jobs. In 1978, I finally got a job in Chicago working for a trade magazine called Foodservice Distributor Salesman because of my background in the restaurant business. The features and news items I wrote for that magazine were my first published pieces. Since then I’ve written more than 500 feature articles for a wide range of magazines.

My first book, though wasn’t published until 1988. My first novel (the one I wrote in college) went into a drawer. I wrote another, a mystery, shortly after graduating. I started a third and wrote 250 pages before putting it aside. A few years later, after moving to Chicago, I met an agent who took me on and tried to get a contract for me on the basis of partials. He wasn’t successful, of course, and after we parted ways, I wrote a fourth novel.

I worked on that book for several years before I thought it was good enough to sell, and started sending it around to publishers in 1985. Back then, editors still responded to query letters, and authors could send books in “over the transom” with representation. I sent the book to dozens of editors, and at one point got a very nice, personal note from an editor at Dodd, Mead who said it was better than most manuscripts that crossed her desk. Her encouragement prompted me to call her and ask if she would be willing to look at another book in the same series. She said she would. Problem was I didn’t have another book.

However, I did have 250 pages of a novel I’d started, and I felt I could fix it without too much trouble and finish it. I rewrote the book in about three months and sent it to the same editor. This time I asked if she could possibly read it in a few weeks as I had a business trip to New York planned, and I wanted to take her to lunch to talk about it. She said, “Lunch is one of the things I do best.”

The fateful day came. I met her in her editorial offices in New York. She came out to reception and said, “I’m taking you to lunch,” which I was sure meant that she was going to offer me a contract. At lunch, though, after we’d ordered, she told me she wasn’t going to buy this book, either. The problem, she said, was that it was a Chicago-based series, but the book took place in upstate New York, so it couldn’t possibly be the first in the series. My heart sank.

But she raised my hopes a moment later by saying, “Send me the first book again. I’ll take another look, and if I don’t absolutely hate it, I’ll show it around to some people in the office and see what they think.” Fortunately, the book had been making the rounds in New York for so long that the publisher’s sales VP had seen the manuscript when he was at a different house and had loved it. So, the two of them convinced the editorial board to make me an (very modest) offer.

I gladly accepted, and An Option On Death was published in 1988. Sadly, Dodd, Mead, in business since 1839, went bankrupt in 1990.

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

My non-fiction writing career—first as a trade magazine editor, then as an account executive in a public relations agency and finally as a freelancer—has been both a help and a hindrance. Writing is like almost any other craft. It takes practice to become good. Everyone from figure skaters to needlepointers must constantly hone his or her skills to improve. So I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to work at my craft. But working as a freelance writer takes time away from writing fiction, regrettably.

All the other jobs I’ve had—dishwashing, bartending, photography, employee benefits consulting, lumber yard go-fer etc.—have contributed to my general knowledge as well as expose me to situations and people I’ve been able to draw upon when writing.

What inspires you?

Great writing inspires me. I believe there are three kinds of authors (discounting those who are downright awful)—those who tell a great story but don’t write well (think early John Grisham); those who write beautifully but wouldn’t know a plot if it bit them (think Wallace Stegner); and those who tell a page-turning yarn in language that sings. I try to be one of the latter, and my goal is to make each book better than the one before.

My other great inspiration is my wife Valarie. She makes me want to be a better person every day.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I don’t think anyone has that piece of the puzzle figured out yet. Most authors have websites, participate on social media and use the standard promotion strategies—book tours, blogs, appearances at conferences, etc. But few can tell you exactly what worked for them and what didn’t.

Stephen White, the Boulder, Colo., thriller author once said that he became a best-selling author through sheer serendipity. When his second book came out in paperback, the lead title for that publication month wasn’t ready. Five minutes before editors at his publisher broke for lunch after putting aside the topic of what to do about the problem, someone raised the question again. An editor piped up, “What about White’s book?” Since everyone was hungry, the suggestion passed unanimously, and the publisher did a 400,000-copy print run, putting Stephen White’s name in front of customers everywhere.

I think you just have to keep writing good books and hope that eventually readers find you. My first Blake Sanders thriller was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. I was sure that my sales would rocket upwards as a result. It had no effect. So, who knows?

Parting words

I’ve heard the same words from writers everywhere—those of us who keep doing it, putting out books no matter what, can’t not write. It’s what we do. It’s who we are—authors.

Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide, the second novel in the Blake Sanders thriller series. The first in the Seattle-based series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Simon & Schuster's Incite-ful authors show me The Dark Side

The Dark Side:  An Evening with Mystery and Thriller Writers

Last Wednesday, March 19, I travelled by ferry from Mayne Island to Vancouver to visit my in-laws and to attend The Dark Side (a free literary event—part of the Incite series).
I walked into Vancouver’s central library and felt a change—it was no longer intimidating. I descended the stairs and walked into the Alice McKay room. Even though I was fifteen minutes early, many of the chairs were already occupied. I claimed a chair at the side of the room but decided to move so I could take better photos. Surprisingly, I ended up sitting right behind Robin Spano (yes, this Robin Spano).

Simon & Schuster had published all of the authors involved in this event.

The evening began with author readings. 

Sean Salder a.k.a. Sean Slater read the first two chapters of his book

Deryn Collier selected a reading that served as a introduction to her protagonist

Andrew Pyper read an exchange between two characters 

Nick Cutter a.k.a. Craig Davidson read the last two chapters of his book.

Q. & A..
The audience was engaged and questions flew around the room. Here’s what I heard…

How did you start to write?
I wrote fan fiction.
Writing crime fiction was a desire I had since childhood.
My passion for reading inspired me to write.

The problems involved in writing under a pen name were discussed—especially in light of offering an author reading. (i.e. Who is on the stage?)

Is it easier to write your second book?
In certain ways, yes, because now I know my strengths and can rely on them.
Now I have confidence in my ability to write.
I find that it’s easier to structure my novel but I face more doubts and I impose higher standards on my writing.

When asked which book is their favourite, one author said that it was the one that was in the trunk. He was waiting for the best time to start a project that was dear to his heart. Most of the authors said that it was impossible to pick one favourite—they liked all their books, but for different reasons. “And all come home with different report cards.”

On the subject of formal training in writing, all authors agreed that it wasn’t necessary.
Reading is your education.
Seek out master storytellers and study their craft.
Attend writing events.
The lone author who was working on completing his PhD said that even though formal training wasn’t necessary it could prove valuable if looked at as working on your writing for two years in a supportive environment. Would-be students was cautioned against buying into one-upmanship.

The topic of research was discussed.
I draw on my life experiences.
I’m not writing a procedural.
I don’t hesitate to call up anybody—to answer my research questions.
I try to get the basic details.
Remember that there will be variances between professionals.
It’s the culture of the profession that is most important for me to capture.

When do you write?
Full-time 9 to 5 Monday to Friday
I write when I can. When my children were young, I woke at 4 a.m. and wrote until 7 a.m.
I write before I read emails.
I do what’s working when it’s working and that can vary.
I always leave something exciting to working for the next day.

The evening concluded with book signings.
Sharing my author journey...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Even Write? by Neil D. Ostroff

my blog:

Amazon author central page:

Authors den


Book Marketing network

Here are some reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars Finished it yesterday and still reeling..., August 19, 2013
Elly Michaels - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Drop Out (Kindle Edition)
Wow! My literature professors always said that a novel is praiseworthy if it inspires in the reader strong emotions, and Neil Ostroff's Drop Out certainly does that.
5.0 out of 5 stars Drop Out, July 29, 2013
Dora Preston - See all my reviews
This review is from: Drop Out (Kindle Edition)
Ostroff hits a home run. Drop Out is a truly inspiring story of heartbreaking loss, survivor's guilt, and the healing power of unconditional love. I highly recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most emotionally moving books I have ever read., July 28, 2013
Mary Lou Transue - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Drop Out (Kindle Edition)
Since I am 82 years old I read this book rivited to the story line with so many deaths. I have had most of my friends pass and many with Hospice Care so I was attracted to learn what Hospice does to ease the end of life.

The book was fast reading and very very moving. In a way it was extremely spiritual and it made me realize
how lucky we all are for every breath we take and every day we live.

 Buy it and read it. You will not regret it.

I've been doing the internet interview thing again and recently I was asked something that I hadn't been asked before. The questioned posed was; "What do you hope to achieve with your writing?"

I had to think about that one for a moment before I could offer a reasonable response. I'm actually not looking to achieve anything with my writing except to provide people with entertainment (an imaginary retreat from the real world). I'm not looking to win any big awards (though I'm not opposed). I don't think I'm going to get rich from this (though that would be nice). And I'm not looking at my writing as a way to meet women (I'm married). So why exactly am I constantly in front of my keyboard tapping until carpel tunnel kicks in?

Simple, I'm addicted to storytelling.

I describe my books as quick, exciting, thought-provoking, powerful reads, devoid of mind-numbingly boring character details, but characters that will forever haunt your memory. My plots are both uniquely insightful and yet jarring at the same time.

I don't think my books will ever hit the mainstream market but I could get a viral following of readers who want to experience the kinds of stories that stay with you long after finishing the final page. As one of my fans put it in an email to me; "I love your novels because I can read them in a few hours, which is good, because I can never put them down once I start one."

Such high praise pinks my cheeks. The freedom of an author to write any type of novel they want without worrying if a certain publisher will accept the material is amazing. I will NEVER have a publisher or agent tell me to rewrite a novel again.

In my early, exciting days as a New York-agent-represented author I had several publishers tell me to take out what I thought were some of the best parts of my novels because they felt the scenes wouldn't sell to the mainstream public. Well, guess what? I don't want to sell to the mainstream public. I want to sell to people who are interested in reading something they've never read before, something that may touch them deeply or maybe scare the h*ll out of them. No boring, conventional, formulaic, mainstream stories here. Just a crazy, obsessed, introverted author airing out the over-cluttered attic of his mind.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Like Magic (short story) by Leanne Dyck

I have many happy memories of caring for children in daycare centres. One of these memories inspired me to write this short story...

Like Magic

(revisions made in 2020)

It was a crisp, cool, sunny, day in mid-March. My shift at the Sun-time Day Care was winding down. I'd bundled up the kids and we were outside playing. I knew the parents would be thankful that they wouldn't have to struggle with jacket zippers, mittens, and toques. Soon only one child remained. I held the swing so Alison could climb on and sail into the cloudless blue sky. Instead of asking the question that was on the tip of my tongue--where is your mother, she asked,  "Do you believe in Leprechauns?"

Saint Patrick's Day was that week's theme. "Oh, yes, of course. A friend of mine is a Leprechaun."

Her eyes widened. "What's his name?"

"Michael O'Neal. He's the king of the Leprechauns."

"What does he look like?"

"His clothes are green, his long beard red, his leather boots black and he's as big as a minute." I measured his height with my thumb and index finger.


I nodded. "You know sometimes he plays tricks on me."

"What kind of tricks?"

"He's so silly. He hides things." She giggled and I continued. "I set down my pen, my brush, or my glass and then puff--like magic--it's gone."

"Gone. Forever?"

"No, he usually returns what he's taken. Leaving them in unusual places, my glass in my bedroom, my pen in the fridge."

"What does he like to eat?"

"Anything green--cucumbers, broccoli, peas, green beans."

"Hey, I like peas."

"Maybe you're a Leprechaun."

"No." She laughed. "What else does he like to do?"

"He sits on my shoulder and tells me tall tales about his long journeys to the end of the rainbow and his pot of gold."

"He's rich?"

"Oh, yes, all Leprechauns are."

"I'd like to meet a Leprechaun."

"Someday maybe you will." The iron gate made a clicking sound. I turned to look. "Hey, who's here?" I slowed the swing.

Alison planted her feet on the ground. "Mom!" She sang with irrepressible joy and bounced into her mom's arms. Then, like magic, Alison was gone.

Like Magic 

New work from my favourite poet

The spring in trees is to my mind
So full of colors too much to find
A name for each and every one
As in rainbows after rain in sun

by Byron Dyck (my husband)

Sharing my author journey

Friday, March 14, 2014

Guest Post: Author Java Davis

College and graduate studies in literary research and linguistics. 15 years in marketing as an editor and typesetter/photocompositor. Retired/disabled.

Leanne, you asked me lots of questions about writing, but to me, writing is not the issue, nor is it the goal.  My goal is to be an interesting story-teller.  A person can write beautifully, but if you have no story, it’s pointless.
My method of writing a novel is to have a good story in mind.  Then I just start.  I let the story and the characters surprise me along the way.  If I’m surprised, so might a reader be.  This is contrary to the conventional wisdom that you should work with an outline and have your characters’ growths fleshed out in advance.  In the book I just finished writing, a minor character became a major character, and one that I thought would be a major character became a minor one.  Ultimately, the story is the way it’s supposed to be, with the help of my characters.
I try to include places and things that I know well.  I’ve traveled through many states in the U.S., and I incorporate those places.  I’m a car nut, and I love choosing the cars that my characters drive.  I’ve had a variety of jobs over the years, and my characters are often employed in those occupations.  I also like to have at least one of my characters be Jewish, throwing my own faith into the mix.  In my latest book, however, I wasn’t able to work in a Jewish character. 
For three years after I wrote my first novel, I kept it a secret from all family and friends.  It was important to me that they be spared from giving me their candid opinions.  If they hated my work, they would feel terrible giving me the bad news.  Eventually, I opened up to family and friends, including my husband.  That was a big hoop to jump through, for his sake.  Only my sister had a poor opinion that she was scared to express, but she reads books on astrophysics for fun, so my simple stories have nothing to offer her.  And that’s OK.
Meeting other independent authors and their readers online is a huge part of the process.  I adore them all!  Creative, fun, enthusiastic, and anxious to please!  I try to be as supportive as possible to fellow authors and am grateful when they do the same.  A few of them are way too sensitive to criticism.  They’re in love with every word they write.  That’s just not practical.  Criticism comes with the job, and not every book is for every person.  Marketing is often the equivalent of bashing your head into a brick wall.  The wall doesn’t give, and your head gets bloody.  I wish I had a magic bullet for the marketing part of independent authorship.
-- Java Davis, 2013

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Words Behind The Writing by Leanne Dyck

The Words Behind The Writing

Because learning didn’t come easy to me I internalized the sentence, ‘I am stupid.’ It was then and is now the music that plays in my head. I've spent most of my life looking for some way to make it stop. And I found writing. 

I say the wrong word; I take too long to answer; I mispronounce the word. I've spent too much time worrying about how I appear to others. 

How do I make myself heard, understood?  

My pen can express what my tongue trips over.

“Okay, you may find me odd. I am odd. But here read this.”

I study her face and gain validation. I know she’s impressed—I can see it. And it helps. Until, once again, inevitably that experience is drowned out by the steady drumbeat—I am stupid. I am stupid.

She can continue to tell me how good my writing is, how talented I am but I can no longer hear her.

If I could live in pen ink I would. I feel comfortable there. I’d curl up and rest contentedly forever in my computer keyboard—nestled inside the ‘U’ or the ‘C’.

And yet I have a husband who loves me, friends who support me. I know that doesn’t just happen. I tell others if you are in a supportive, caring relationship it is due in part because of what you’ve done, who you are:  karma at work. Healthy relationships don’t just happen you have to build and maintain them.

‘I am stupid’ is a familiar phrase. It’s helped to keep me small, keep me contained. Belief in it means I don’t have to grow. It’s the reason I fail. It’s the reason I don’t have to try. Others may have trouble locating the ugly part of themselves. But I know where mine lies. I can pull it out and examine it whenever I want—poking it, twisting it. Pain is an emotion that can block out all others. Self-inflicted pain means I’m the one in control. And in this way 'I’m stupid’ acts as my shield keeping me safe from anything anyone else can do to me. And when you are in a relationship with others there’s always a risk of pain.

And so I continue to write—a short story becomes a novella becomes a novel. I gain validation. Through the eyes of others, I see a different me—talented, capable, intelligent. But it is only a flash—gone too quickly. I chase it like a drug. Writing. Writing. Writing. Becomes my life.

that's me--naked

I worried that by publishing this story I went too far, exposed too much. But then I read an article by Bella Mahaya Captep...  
You cannot heal what you cannot see... Your negative habits and behavior patterns have their way with you--until you become conscious of them. You must first see them. Once you realize what's going on, they dissolve....If you're a writer wanting to tell your truth, showing up [naked]is a valuable practice.

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guest Post: Author Carola Dunn (mystery/Regency)

My recently released book, HEIRS OF THE BODY, is the 21st in my Daisy Dalrymple mystery series. Daisy's cousin Edgar, Lord Dalrymple, is approaching his 50th birthday when he realizes he has no idea who his heir is. He himself inherited the title from Daisy's father, because her brother was killed in WWI. His lawyer advertises worldwide, and four possible heirs are found, from all over the British Empire, and in all walks of life. Edgar—or rather his managing wife—asks Daisy to work with the lawyer to eliminate all but the rightful heir. All four are invited to his home, Fairacres, for his birthday, along with Daisy and her family. When one of the heirs dies unexpectedly, it begins to look as if someone plans to eliminate his rivals—permanently.

Available in US and UK hardcover and ebook. And in Canada from Amazon Canada.

How/why did you start to write?

I started writing as a ploy to avoid looking for a "proper job." The first few years I was married, we moved a lot and I had a lot of part time and temp jobs. Then we bought a house and settled down. No more excuses.

How did you become an author?

I sat down at the kitchen table with a pad of paper and a ballpoint pen and wrote, without any great expectation of actually producing an entire book. When I reached the end, it seemed an awful waste not to try to get it published, so I typed it and sent it off. And an editor bought it.

What was your first published piece?

A Regency, Toblethorpe Manor.

 Where was it published?

USA—New York publisher (Warner Books)

How long ago?

32 years

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

I got a degree in French and Russian. If I'd known I'd end up on the West Coast of the US I'd have taken Spanish instead. At various times I worked in market research, child care, office jobs, in-store demonstration, construction, bookkeeping, data entry (more complicated than it sounds as some of the people whose data I was entering were barely literate!),  proof-reading/copy-editing, and writing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology. French and Russian have come in handy when I've created French or Russian characters. The proof-reading and copy-editing obviously had their uses. The rest, not much.

What inspires you?

It varies. Sometimes it's a place I want to write about—Cotehele is a prime example: a fifteenth century fortified manor house that I've used as the setting for two books, a Regency (Smugglers' Summer) and a mystery (Mistletoe and Murder). Sometimes it's an issue—slavery and racism, war, PTSD, snobbery, chimney-sweeps, and so on. An idea for a character or a pair of characters in conflict can spark a story. Sometimes I simply think of a brilliant title and then have to write a book to go with it (eg. Styx and Stones). My time-travel Regency came about because I wanted to tell the story of Ada Byron Lovelace, often called the first computer programmer, but she was a baby at the end of the period!

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

To tell the truth, I'm not sure what an author platform is. I don't think they existed in 1979, when I started writing. If I have one, it's thanks to my publisher.

Parting words

34 years and 60 books later, I'm kind of glad I picked up that ballpoint...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book review: Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Back cover blurb:  In 1968, into the beautiful, spare, environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born:  a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once.

I jotted down notes as I read. They read as a traveler's journey through the book--Annabel.

Kathleen Winter knows Labrador. Her words paint a vibrant picture not only of the land but also of the people who live there. 
'Anyone from Labrador called vegetables by their name. Cabbage. Turnip. Carrot. No matter how many individual specimens, you spoke of them as one entity. He realized Treadway thought about people in the same way. Men, to him, were all one man.' (p. 121-122)


' "We will love this baby of yours and Treadway's exactly as it was born."
"Will other people love it?"
"That baby is all right the way it is. There's enough room in this world."
This was how Thomasina saw it, and it was what Jacinta needed to hear.' (p. 26)

'It never once occurred to Treadway to do the thing that lay in the hearts of Jacinta and Thomasina:  to let his baby live the way it had been born. That, in his mind, would not have been a decision. It would have been indecision, and it would have caused harm.' (p. 27)

And between what Thomasina said and in what Treadway thought, there lies the story's conflict. Need one conform to society or can one be uniquely themselves?


Kathleen Winter has a lot of talent but I think the most striking are her vivid descriptions.


Kathleen Winter has a lot to say about how males and females differ in eastern, rural Canada--their roles and their underlying believes. 


In acting to protect his son, Treadway may have lost him preeminently. But he did discover that his biggest fear is a reality--Wayne does dream of being a girl.

I'm reminded of something I heard many years ago: to grow to be a man, a son must grow away from his mother.


Male--female. It's a toss of a coin, a 50/50 choice. Had the doctor guessed wrong, those many years ago? And if, he had, what now? I've studied group dynamics--formally and informally.  I know that if the group identifies a person as a member, it can overlook variations that wouldn't be tolerated if seen in an outsider. Could this happen to Wayne? Will his community accept him?


Thomasina to Wayne
' "I wouldn't call what you have a disorder. I'd call it a different order. A different order means a whole new way of being. It could be fantastic. It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren't scared." ' (p.208 - 209)


'If only the world could live in here, deep in the forest, where there were no stores, roads, windows, and doors, no straight lines. The straight lines were the problem. Rules and measurements and lines and no one to help you if you crossed them.' (p. 216)


(Page 238 to 242) This is such a heartwarming scene between Wayne and his mother. Wayne seems so understanding about his body--so philosophically together. I hope this continues. 


Did Wayne graduate from High School? Is he going to live at home for the rest of his life? If he doesn't marry Gracie, who will he marry? Will he marry? Will he marry Wally? Will he ever see Wally again? Will he tell Gracie or Wally his secret? And what about what Thomasina has just told him... Will his parents ever straighten out their differences? Will they get the help they so desperately need?  


I'm of two minds over Wayne's decision to leave.  I want him to stay were others can protect him. Yet, in order to grown, Wayne must leave. And I know he is ready. But is the world?


The courage and strength Wayne shows in advocating for himself on page 370 is admirable.


Chapter 27 was a very difficult chapter for me to read. I wanted so badly for Wayne to be protected from this type of treatment but if he had been the authenticity of the story would have been lost.


Chapter 29
All it took for Treadway and Jacinta to get back together was Jacinta to be practical and Treadway to remember. They got back together over a pair of men's gardening gloves.


Chapter 30 seems like a high wire act. Wayne is up there, high in the sky, on his way from male to female. Will he make it without falling? The wire is so very long and the other end too far away for him to see. How will he know when he has arrived? Will he know? He won't arrive because he will always be drawn to two realities--male, female. Is he stuck or free?

Why is Annabel my Canada Reads choice?

Well, I believe that when we learn to embrace our similarities while respecting each other's differences, Canada will be a much better place.

Sharing my author journey...