Monday, September 29, 2014

Hearing Gryla's story (short story) by Leanne Dyck

I often visited with my grandparents before and after school. They lived only a few houses away. After school, one afternoon, Afi and I sat at the kitchen table. He shuffled the cards so we could start a game of gin rummy.

“Afi, what’s a,” I tried my hand at the Icelandic word, “grey-la?” It was a very poor attempt.

The word startled him and I hoped he wasn’t too disappointed in my poor pronunciation.



“Where did you hear that word, Elskan?”

“From Mom. She was on the phone with Auntie Lil. She said she felt like a gre… a gra… a...”

“Gre-la.” He said the word slowly and I repeated it.

“What did she mean?”

His thick eyebrows wove together. He looked like an approaching storm. “You listened in on a private conversation?”

“N-- Yes. But I couldn’t help it. She was talking too loud.”

He laughed and I knew I wasn’t in trouble—at least not with him.

“What’s a Gryla?”

“Gryla is an old woman who lives up in the mountains in Iceland. When children are bad she steals them and—.”

“Oli, stop that,” my amma scolded charging into the kitchen. “You’re scaring her.”

I’m not sure how many spooky tales Amma saved me from but she didn’t save me from the old woman. Gryla haunted me for forty years—filling my nights with shivers and shakes. Until one fateful morning, she yelled at me. “Write my story!”

Having no choice, I held the pen as it flew across the page.

Later that day I shared the story with my writing group and they helped me transform it into…

Sharing my author journey

Friday, September 26, 2014

Guest Post Dietrich Kalteis (screenwriter, short stories and crime fiction author)

Why did you start to write?
I have always had my nose in books. When I was a kid, I read everything from Dr. Suess to the Hardy Boys, to the adventures of Huck and Tom. The images created for me were magic. Stories have always taken me to new places and on great adventures. This inspired me to create my own stories. It just seems like a natural progression.

When did you start to write?
I drafted a novel when I was about sixteen and kept the longhand pages in a shoebox under the bed. I wasn’t serious enough back then and never took it past the shoebox stage, but I always felt I’d come back to writing one day.

How did you become an author?
Five years ago, my wife convinced me it was time to close my graphics business and start writing full time. I guess she’d heard me say it often enough, that one day I would write. So, that’s what I did.

What was your first published piece? Where was it published?
I polished a short story I started about twenty years earlier. It’s called Early Monday and was published at Joyful! It’s a story of a man coming to terms with raising his young son alone. Next up, I wrote one called Bottom of the Ninth. It’s about a cheating wife who fakes her own kidnapping and a husband who doesn’t want her back. It was published in One Cool Word. Getting those early pieces published was very encouraging.

How often and when do you write?
I write every day. I start early and write till about noon, often returning to it in the afternoon or early evening. Mornings are generally best for me, I’m more focused and energetic then.

Reflect on your writing process.
I start with a spark of an idea that intrigues me. Sometimes it’s based on something I read, heard or experienced, other times it’s just from my imagination. For me, there has to be some element of humor to the story. From there, I do whatever research is needed and check facts. Then, I draft a very basic plot outline and develop my characters and just start writing, letting the characters drive the story. After a first draft, I go back and edit, adding depth and taking out anything that didn’t work. I might edit a couple more times until I feel it’s ready to send out.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing?
I was a commercial artist for many years, so coming up with concepts and ideas is nothing new. That work also required a strong visual sense, and now, I’m creating pictures with words; so, yes, all of it has certainly been an asset.

What inspires you?
Reading something I can’t put down. As far as crime fiction goes, greats like Leonard, Ellroy and Higgins are always inspiring and always worth more than a single read.

Parting words
Well, I plan to keep on writing and having fun with it. And lastly, I want to thank you for inviting me to be your guest, Leanne. All the best.
 (Thank you, Dieter. I enjoyed reading about your author journey.)

Ride the Lightning
Seattle bounty hunter Karl Morgen goes after Miro Knotts on a skipped bond, finding the dope dealer wrapped around an underaged girl at a rave. Dragging Miro in the hard way gets Karl’s license revoked and Miro off with only a suspended sentence.

Finished in Seattle, Karl finds work as a process server up in Vancouver. To Karl, it seems the kind of place where people settle things with middle fingers instead of guns, the kind of place a guy could get used to. But he soon finds out otherwise.

After ducking a drug sweep by escaping north of the border, Miro seizes an opportunity to settle his score with Karl. And Karl finds himself immersed in the city’s underbelly of two-bit criminals, drug dealers and gangsters, eager for another crack at the scumbag who had his license revoked.

Dietrich Kalteis will be deservedly compared to Elmore Leonard, but he is an original voice. Ride the Lightning is a great story filled with wonderfully flawed characters.”
John McFetridge, author of Dirty Sweet and Black Rock.

“…it sustains a breakneck pace without sacrificing character to action, or action to character. Kalteis made me care about his cast of lowlifes, screw-ups and marginals.”
Peter Rozovsky, Detectives Beyond Borders

Dietrich Kalteis's short stories have been widely published, and his screenplay Between Jobs was a finalist in the 2003 Los Angeles Screenplay Festival. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Photo by D. Burrowes

My friend and fellow author, Amber Harvey, recommended that I read The Secret Life of Bees and lent me her copy.

Blurb:  Set in South Carolina in 1964. The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce hearted black "stand in mother", Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town. Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters. Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters (or younger friends) for years to come.

These are the fragments I left behind as I read--thoughts, comments, questions, quotes--reflections on what I read.

Sue Monk Kidd doesn't start the story with details about Lily's mother. Instead Lily tells us about the bees, introduces us to Rosaleen, and talks about her relationship with her distant father. We get to know and like Lily first and then she tells us about how her mother died. This way, when we hear, we are upset because by that we truly care about Lily.

'Time folded in on itself.' (p. 7)

'This is what I know about myself. She [my mom] was all I wanted. And I took her away.' (p. 8)
I can't believe Lily's father is actually telling her that she shot her mother. How low can you go? What a burden to lay on your own flesh and blood, on your own child. Especially when clearly it was him that shot her. Of course, I don't know this for certain. But he does have an uncontrollable temper and his wife did make him angry and he was holding the gun. Or, at least, that's what I remember reading. And T. Ray continues to stain Lily's life with physically and emotional abuse. In fact, his abusive treatment of her has become so common place that she has begun to view it as normal.

'The door closed. So quiet it amounted to nothing but a snap of air, and that was the strangeness of it, how a small sound like that could fall across the whole world.' (p. 33)

If you don't have anyone special in your life or if you think you don't, you long to fill the void. And yet Rosaleen has acted like a mother to Lily. It's plain they care about each other. Yet for Lily that's not enough. And so she sets out on an adventure to find someone who knew her mother--she sets out on a journey to gather the fragments that her mother left behind.

I'd never considered what my characters are carrying as tools for story development, before--clever idea.

This book is reading more and more like a mystery.

May, June, and August are such fascinating characters. I long to learn more about them and to explore their property. What is that low fence for and why are pieces of paper stuck into it?

' "Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're her." ' (p. 107)

Page 126 is such a sweet scene.

Is August the queen bee?

Page 226 such a beautiful ritual.

August is the perfect person to remove the lies from Lily's world and replace them with truths.

Four women ushering a girl into the sisterhood of women.

'Mary did not need to be hundred percent capable all the time. The only thing I wanted was for her to understand.' (p. 258)

Learning that your parents aren't as prefect as you believed they were is part of growing up.

'[N]o matter how much you thought you could leave your mother behind, she would never disappear from the tender places in you.' (p. 273)

So many beautiful images in this book. Sue Monk Kidd truly knows how to paint with words.

' "You have to find a mother inside yourself." ' (p. 288)

August about Mary (Madonna) ' "When you're unsure of yourself,...when you start pulling back into doubt and small living, she's the one inside saying. 'Get up from there and live like the glorious girl you are.' She's the power inside you, you understand?... And whatever it is that keeps widening your heart, that's Mary, too, not only the power inside you but the love... Not just to love--but to persist in love." ' (p. 299)

In the back pages of his book there is a reader's guide and an interview with the author. It was fascinating to discover how Sue Monk Kidd worked on this novel. It started out as a short story. She was overwhelmed by the idea of transforming that story into a novel and so employed techniques such as collaging. Read The Secret Life of Bees cover to cover--you'll be glad you did.

If you enjoyed reading The Secret Life of Bees you may also enjoy The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Post: Author Anne Lipton

How/why did you start to write?

In second grade, I won a poetry contest in honour of Sooner Day at Sky Ranch Elementary School in Oklahoma City.

I began to write short fiction in junior high. Even on school projects, I enjoyed adding my creative stamp. Assigned to write sentences with a list of vocabulary word, I wrote a rhyming rap.

How did you become an author? What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

I got my start as an academic author in the medical field. I have published scientific papers since college. But, I maintained my literary bent, too. As a medical student, I had a poem included in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association).

Reflected on your writing process

I enjoy editing, but I love to write. Rather than writer’s block, I have writer’s flow—or flood—of ideas. This demands its own discipline

I usually have several irons in the fire, but try to prioritize each in terms of importance, input from collaborators, and deadlines. I try to write down (or email myself) any good idea I have, the moment I think of it. Occasionally, I wake up with inspiration and rush to the computer to immortalize it. However, I usually do my household tasks first, start in on writing mid-morning, and go to the gym mid-day. I get back to it in the afternoon or evening, which is my favorite time to write. I often get on a roll and work late, sometimes well past midnight..

The solitary nature of writing can be a bane to me. I have therefore made a point of making friends and getting together with fellow writers. We write and talk about writing and read and edit each others’ work.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career?

I am a neurologist by training, but now write full-time. My background in medical writing provided me with a great deal of experience in editing, criticism, and rejection, but also in the joy of publication.

Was it an asset to your writing? How?

A neurologist is like a medical detective. My well-honed observational and research skills, as well as my understanding of people, come in handy as a writer.

What inspires you?

Art, dance, history, food, language, music, people, and places. The brain. And unsolved mysteries:

One fierce mild day, in the cobbled courtyard of Dublin Castle, a guide’s casual mention of the century-old unsolved theft of the Irish Crown Jewels captured my curiosity and sparked my imagination. I was living in Dublin at the time, and spent the next two years researching and writing my first novel, The Emerald Eye, a story of the hunt for this missing treasure.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

Make and carry book cards. These are business cards with an image of your book cover on the front. If you don’t have a published book, then you might play up your blog, etc. Put your contact information and useful links on the back, which might include a QR code linking to your website.

Parting words

Write what you love.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Duck, duck, published by Leanne Dyck

So what's my acceptance rate? How many "no"s do I need to hear until I hear a "yes"?

For Laurie, a virtual tour of the Japanese gardens on Mayne Island

Did you ever play 'duck, duck, goose'. It's a fun children's game were everyone sits in a circle except one child. That child--let's say she's a little red haired girl--walks around the circle placing her hand on everyone's head. And as the little red haired girl walks, she chants, "Duck, duck, duck." 

All the photos that appear on this blog have been taken by Leanne Dyck
-unless otherwise stated.

Of course, all the other children silently wish they would be picked. Everyone does--every single child.. But of course everyone can't be picked--only one.

"Goose," the little red haired girl says, loudly.

'It', the child who has been picked, jumps up and runs around the circle. If 'It' runs faster than the little red haired girl he gets published. Ah, wait. Hmm, I don't think that's right. I don't think you get published. I think that belongs to another game--a game I call 'no, no, no, no, no, no, yes.' 

In this game I mail a brilliantly worded manuscript, synopsis and cover letter to a publisher. I know I will be chosen because...well, I've told you, what I've sent is brilliant. So they have to choose me. When they don't I feel deflated. Although, I've been feeling less deflated, lately.


Well, because not that long ago I was a participant in a informative (and free) workshop, given by a generous and established author.
During the workshop the author asked, "What's your acceptance rate?"

My what? I wondered, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

"What's your acceptance rate," the author asked, again. "You know how many no's do you need to receive to get to a yes."

Wait, I thought, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. That's how you play this game?

"Mine is about 2%," she told us.

Someone else sitting amongst us said, "That's high, mine's about 5%."

Hold on. Wait a minute, I wanted to scream. That means if the brilliant, talented author who'd been picked to talk to us...that means if she sent out twenty brilliant talented manuscripts four would be picked to be published.

Okay, so let me write that again--so I can try and get my head around it.

20 submissions = 4 published pieces


And that's if you're brilliant and talented. If you're a little less brilliant, a little less talented...

20 submissions = 1 published piece

This realization helped me do two things. First, I started really cracking out the submissions--I've sent 56 since January 6th. And it also helped me see that each and every rejection is leading me to that acceptance. Each and every rejection will eventually get me published--especially if I learn from the feedback I receive and continue to sharpen my writing skills.

Everyone clear on the rules? Okay, let's play...

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Post Barbara Jean Coast, author of the Poppy Cove Mystery Series

The Poppy Cove Mystery Series is set in 1950's - 60's Santa Lucia, California, a fictional town loosely based on Santa Barbara.  The two main characters, Daphne Huntington-Smythe, a born and bred fun-loving California blonde is the accessories buyer and Margot Williams, a recent arrival with a contemplative nature, custom designs the store's apparel.  Both in their mid 20's, run and own their two and a half year old atelier Poppy Cove in the centre of town, where Poppy Lane and Cove Street meet, catering to a host of colourful customers.

Blurb:  It’s the 1950’s in Santa Lucia, California, and the height of the social season.  Time for the new Miss Santa Lucia, Nora Burbank, to display her loveliness at a high society fashion show produced by the city’s own fashionistas--Margot and Daphne, owners of Poppy Cove, the most elegant and “in” little dress shop in the county. 

Nora steals the show in her designer gown and custom-made necklace created by local jeweler Isaac Mendelson, and used on the sly by his apprentice son-in-law, Efrem Goldberg. At the conclusion of the show, the young queen is allowed to keep her dress and a replica of the necklace for her own. But Monday morning, Efrem arrives in a panic at Poppy Cove to beg Margot and Daphne’s assistance in tracking down the real necklace, which he believes was inadvertently switched for the replica backstage. The girls get involved in Efrem’s dilemma and try to help him before Isaac’s any the wiser. But before that can happen, Miss Santa Lucia is found dead in her bed and the necklace is missing. 

Who killed Nora Burbank?  Is it someone jealous of her new royal position and all of its perks?  Or did she just happen to be in the way when a thief attempted to steal her diamond-studded necklace? Did Nora have the real or the fake necklace, and how much did the thief and murderer know about it? But, of course, before the girls can find the killer, they’ll have to create several beautiful ensembles, calm numerous irate clients, and flirt with their ever-so-attentive boyfriends, before solving this mystery. 

The second of the series has just been released – DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN. Miss Santa Lucia, Nora Burbank, appears in the fall fashion show wearing a show stopping beautiful formal gown from Poppy Cove and a diamond necklace from a local jeweller. Poor Nora meets a surprising demise one night shortly thereafter and the gems are also missing. Motives abound – is the tragic murder over her title, beauty, or the diamonds? 

It’s the follow-up to STRANGLED BY SILK, which begins at the opening ceremony of the new Stearns Academy, an exclusive girls' boarding school, founded by the town doyenne Constance Stearns-Montgomery, who is nowhere to be seen, until the silk scarf tangled in the rose bushes leads to her strangled body. Cozy Cat Press publishes the series. The stories themselves are character driven, revealing the lives and secrets of the residents, how they evolve, change and what they've lived through, rounded out with the Poppy Cove creations and daily workings of the town, with a little murder and mayhem tossed in the mix.

Our names are Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff.  We’ve been the best of friends since childhood and currently reside in Kelowna, British Columbia.  We spend a great deal of time in the Santa Barbara area, which inspired our tales.  We've had a lot of people asking us about what it's like to collaborate and work together, who contributes what, how do you combine two perspectives to make one cohesive story that flows well and makes sense.

We talk.  Out loud.  A lot.  Sometimes at the same time. We laugh.  A lot.  We find that as we bounce around ideas, a new direction comes into view with a plot twist, and a new scene develops.  Usually when one of us gets stuck, the other spurs on a new situation and it switches all the time.  On the whole, we share the vision for the concept of our series of stories.  We both individually have a great love and passion for the place, the time, the social aspects, the clothes, the community we're creating.  Work shared is work halved and we're discovering sometimes when one of us gets an idea of a group of character traits, mannerisms, attitudes, appearance and runs with it, it becomes one of our beloved characters.  Another time someone else will see in their mind's eye an ensemble that begs to be described or a situation that must be explored with our fine Santa Lucians.  A town gets built, weather and climate described, plot formed.  It gets written out, honed and then incorporated in the story, tossed or set aside for a later date.

The pen name Barbara Jean Coast became this terrific reflection of the time and place.  Once it popped out, it had to stay.  She's a social butterfly, a flirty throwback party girl, fun loving and delightful, without a care in the world.  To her, every problem can be solved with a wink and a smile, all while wearing kitten heels and sipping a cocktail with a fine young man.

Having this lovely alter ego take charge of the process helps us keep focused on telling the tales, living life, not worrying about the small growing steps and stumbles.  Whenever we get too caught up, stressed out or too serious about the whole darn thing, we stop, look at each other and say, "What would Barbara Jean do?"  Then we have a good laugh at ourselves, relax, take a deep breath, maybe pour a glass of wine or two and put our feet up, all the while counting the blessings for the great lives we already do have.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to write a play by Leanne Dyck

In 2014, I won the right to have my short play staged. Here I document the journey--including what I learned from this experience.

photos by Leanne Dyck

The MayneNews blog announced the Mayne Island Little Theater's Play Writing Contest 

Members of the community were invited to submit a one-act play with an island theme. Characters were limited to three and props were to be minimal. 

I didn't know what I could enter but I knew I had to find something. 

I'd just finished milking all the 'thriller' out of a thriller to transform it into a literary novella. So I thought I should be able to write a play.

With the deadline hanging over my head, I sat down to write something new but nothing was as good as that novella. 

The novella fit the criteria--it was set on an island. Could I transform it into a play? 

I searched the novella looking for the perfect part. It had to involve no more than three characters, have strong dialogue and action. 

I re-read the rules. Minimal to no props, I read. I took this information seriously and thought creatively. Chairs can be a ferry bench or a car. Gosh, you're brilliant, Leanne. 

But what was I going to do with all the internal dialogue. A friend pointed out that much can be conveyed by facial expressions and gestures. And I knew she was right. But I also knew that it wouldn't be enough for the type of internal drama I wanted to build. I can let my characters talk to the audience. And once again I told myself I was brilliant. 

My pen flew and soon I'd finished writing my play. Worried that I was too dazzled by my own brilliance I sought out feedback and brought the play to my writing group. Other members were working on submissions.  So we workshopped our plays. This resulted in one of the most enjoyable meetings we've had. I received lots of helpful feedback. My play was further strengthened when I shared it with my husband. 

"This doesn't make sense... What does this mean?... Why did you include this?..." He was very helpful--I'm not kidding, he was.

Feeling confident that I was sending my best work, I clicked send on July 24th (about three weeks before the deadline). 

Playwriting tips...

1)fall in love with the story

2)vital ingredients:  strong dialogue and action

3)if you are writing your play for a contest, closely follow the rules

4)once you've finished writing your play, gather feedback
-ask friends to dramatize it

5)two ways to convey internal dialogue on stage:  by letting your characters talk to the audience or through facial expressions. Pick what works for you.

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Guest Post: Quattro Books--Allan Briesmaster, publisher

Quattro Books’ publications reflect the unique cultural character and dynamism of Canada today: what it has been, and what it is in the process of becoming. The Canadian literary scene is international; our national experience is informed and enriched through literatures brought by immigrants and newcomers. We are the home of the Novella.

Quattro Books is motivated by the vision for open-ended literary expression. The literature that we are interested in aligns closely to what Northrop Frye aptly called “post-national literature”: literature which tackles and breaks taboos surrounding origin. We aim to publish meaningful literature regardless of its linguistic, cultural, and national background; in doing so, we contribute to a community which accurately reflects the multiplicity and excitement of literary production in Canada. For us, a good novella or poetry collection by a Canadian author familiar to readers is just as important as a literary creation by an unknown writer who experiments with form or style.

Below is a list of some of Quattro’s most recent titles that have been published, and some of our highly anticipated titles!

Spring 2014

Travels by Night  - by George Fetherling

Travels by Night, long a national bestseller, is George Fetherling’s account of surmounting every obstacle as a despised minority to become to become a fixture in Canadian culture. A book with a broad cast of characters ranging from Margaret Atwood to John Lennon to Marshall McLuhan—and dozens more.

George Fetherling is a well-known novelist and commentator. Some of his other familiar books are Walt Whitman’s Secret, The Sylvia Hotel Poems and The Book of Assassins. He lives in Toronto and Vancouver.

Cleopatra at the Breakfast Table by Peter O’Brien

Cleopatra at the Breakfast Table is about storytelling in the digital age. It’s a jaunty account of a single father, 55, and his daughter, 15, studying Grade 10 Latin together. The book explores the bustling life of teenaged girls, the expanding influence of technology, the peculiar logic of contemporary family life, and how fathers and daughters communicate, or fail to communicate, in the era of Facebook.

Father and daughter talk about teenage “death circles,” discuss how brothel owners in ancient times advertised their establishments, and come to realize that, while buying a new cell-phone contract, they might not think the same thing when they hear the words “three-year Virgin contract.”
For the book, the author interviewed Gordon Lightfoot, Dr. Ruth and the former Bishop of Mumbai. Also interviewed are a 12-year-old girl from New York City who studies for her Latin tests by texting with a friend, and a 99-year-old businessman who dined with George Orwell and still uses Latin every day.

Come Cold River by Karen Connelly

 In Karen Connelly’s first collection of poetry since The Border Surrounds Us, the poet offers up a searing, complex portrayal of her troubled family. Refracted, augmented, drawn through various cities, streets and fields, over mountain ranges and foreign landscapes, this portrayal grows into an authentic homage to people who are often invisibilized or silenced. Simultaneously, it becomes an indictment of her own country, Canada, its long history of racism and unconscionable violence against women, children, addicts, and poor people. Never didactic, insistently real, these poems make us wonder “how to enter again/that unlikely tenderness/the cracked ribcage of the world/ as if it were the last shelter.” Come, Cold River is a piercing, exquisite look at the social inequalities in Canada.

We acknowledge the generosity of the Ontario Arts Council, the OMDC, and the Canada Council for the Arts