Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny is one of my favourite mystery authors and Still Life is her first published book in her award-winning Armand Gamache series of murder mysteries. 

 Photo by Leanne 
 creative assistance provided by my friend David

I was excited to find this copy in my favourite consignment store. 

Publisher:  First published in paperback in 2006 by Headline Publishing Group

Book blurb:  
As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life -- all except one...
To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found dead in the maple woods. Surely it was an accident -- a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead?
In a long and distinguished career with the Surete du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will being to give up its secrets...

What did Ms. Penny have to learn and what came naturally to her?

What did Ms. Penny have to learn?


Dialogue tags...
For example, I found identifying the speaker in group difficult. This difficulty may be overcome by using more dialogue tags or by associating the speaker with an action. 

I.e. Simon reached for the steaming cup of coffee. "Boy, is it cold outside." 

And transitions could be more clearly defined. One minute the characters are in a shop or a restaurant and the next the characters are in a car. 

What do I like about Ms. Penny's writing?

One of the reasons Louise Penny is one of my favourite mystery authors is that we share the same passion for rural life.
The only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbors from dropping off baskets of zucchini at harvest time. (p. 5)
Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still. (p. 402)
Thought provoking...
"[F]our things lead to wisdom... I don't know. I need help. I'm sorry." (p. 106)
"I know at the end of a day I'll look at my work and think it's great, then next morning look at it and think it's crap. The work didn't change, but I did." (p. 353 - 354) 
After her murder Jane's friends find her art. This has convinced me that before I die I will set fire to all my unpublished work--I want to spare my loved ones that unpleasant discovery.

Turn of phrase...
She threw great logs of 'I'm right, you're an unfeeling bastard' on to the fire and felt secure and comforted. (p. 214)
Ruth's normally flinty voice was now as hard as the Canadian shield. (p. 220 - 221)

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

September was a productive month I...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Feeling Groovy (short story) 3 of 3 by Leanne Dyck

Summarizing parts 1 and 2:  A bunny leads over-stressed Mara into an exotic world -- a bear plays a guitar, a cow plays a cow bell and birds sing 'feeling groovy' while flower children dance. And even though Mara is really shy, she dances too.

Photo by Leanne Dyck

The next day I pushed back the covers before my alarm clock rang. 

"Feeling Groovy," I sang as I followed a rich aroma to my first mug of coffee. One tasted so good it lead to another. Gazing out the kitchen window, I mulled over my adventure. Did that really happen or... The clock on the microwave screamed at me. I need to move or I'll be late. I flew through the house throwing on clothing, brushing my hair and teeth. The bus raced me to the stop, but I won and climbed on.

"Good morning," the driver said.

"Good? It's magical," I told him.

Halfway through the morning a customer called to thank me for being so patient with her.

"Feeling," I sang in the stall of the woman's washroom.

"Groovy," someone sang n reply.

Whoever it was, I knew they were laughing at me. I fought my desire to hide in the stall for the rest of my shift and forced the door open. My...boss...stood at the sink. "So, you're a Simon and Garfunkel fan, too, eh?" She dried her hands. "I heard that a customer called to thank you. Keep up the good work." She

Life was finally pretty sweet on my side of the wall.

'I've seen [magical realism] confused with light fantasy and paranormal and even urban fantasy.'

What you don't know about my story Feeling Groovy...
Feeling Groovy is the abbreviated version of a novelette. I've recently combined this novelette with three other stories and am currently looking for a publisher for this collection. 

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Next post:  Published on Sunday, September 25th (around 5 p.m. PST) 

Word Vancouver 'is Western Canada's largest celebration of literacy and reading' This festival starts on Wednesday, September 21 and runs for five days--until Sunday, September 25. It offers workshops, panel discussions, blue pencil sessions and a publishers (books and magazines) exhibition -- plus. This year I'm excited to attend Jami Macarty's Get It Out:  A writer's guide to submissions of literary work. I look forward to sharing with you what I've learned. 

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Picture Books in Canada

Popular Canadian picture book author Kyo Maclear
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Saanich Centennial Branch
3110 Tillicum Road (by Pearkes Arena)

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

Be careful, don't sped. When you drive and when you are preparing a submission package. I wish I had...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Feeling Groovy 2 of 3 (short story) by Leanne Dyck

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Part one (in brief):  Over-stressed Mara pours herself a glass of wine and tries to unwind from her hard day, but she hears a noise coming from her basement. In the basement, she watches as one of the concrete dissolves and forms a gateway into an exotic world. A bunny as her guide, Mara begins to explore this world.

Feeling Groovy (part 2)

Hand-in-hand, the bunny and I skipped up the path. I saw lollipop trees and candy floss clouds. Birds sang the familiar words, "Feeling groovy."

The music grew louder. We climbed a small hill and saw a group of people dancing to music made by a brown bear with a guitar and an orange cow with a cowbell hanging around her neck.

The bunny led me over to a woman who was leaning against a lollipop tree. Her dress was fashioned from a fabric of eye-pooping colours -- orange, yellow and green swirls. The sleeves were wide, the skirt full. Round, steel framed glasses balanced on her nose and a thin, leather band wrapped around her head. Her sun-bleached, straight hair fell to the middle of her back. I watched as she wove daises into a long chain.

The bunny seemed to exploded with joy. "She came. She came."

"Chill, dude. Don't have a cow." Her words swirled around lazily in the air until they finally landed on my eardrums. "It's all cool. Everything is groovy."

"She came. She came," he sang. "This is her. This is Mara."

The woman finished making the daisy chain. She didn't walk, she danced in a flowing spiral over to where I stood. "Far out." She slipped the chain over my head. "Welcome to my side of the wall." And I thought she said, "My name's Wendy."

But when I repeated her name, she corrected me. "No, my name's Windy -- with an 'I' Dig?"

"Dig? Dig what?" I asked.

Instead of answering me she joined the party.
Everyone had long hair. The woman wore dresses like Windy's. The guys' blue jeans were faded and their cotton shirts hung loose.

Windy's arms flew gracefully in the air like wings. Her bracelets sparkled in the sunlight. Her dress floated around her like feathers.

A few minutes later, Windy rejoined me. "What's the matter?" she asked. "Don't you like the tune?"

"Yes, I like --"

She didn't wait for me to finish my sentence. "Well, then join the happenin', man."

"No, I'm too shy." I told her.

"Mellow out." Was all she said before she returned to the party.

Maybe, here, I can dance. I closed my eyes. The music filled my body. I felt like I was flying on each note. I feel so, so groovy.

"Outta sight," I heard Windy say.

I opened my eyes, and I was dancing.

Next post:  Sunday, September 11th approximately 5 PM PST
And then-- And then-- You logged on next week to see what happened next. (I hope)

photo by Leanne Dyck

Picture Books in Canada

'Locally, nationally and internationally, Nimbus is best known and widely recognized as the premier publisher of books about Atlantic Canada.' -from their web site

photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

Acceptance is so close that I can taste it. Every time I open the mailbox I expect to find it, waiting. 

I'll tear that letter open and read:  Yeah, of course we want to publish it. Are you crazy? Who won't?

I received two letters on Tuesday...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Feeling Groovy 1 of 3 (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Feeling Groovy is magic realism (also called magical realism or magical realist fiction)

Magic realism:  takes place in a world that resembles our own, except for the introduction of a magical element, which cannot be explained by the conventions of our reality.

(From the article literary terms:  magical realism, science fiction and fantasy

"feeling groovy" at the Mayne Island Fall Fair
photo by Leanne Dyck

Feeling Groovy

I work in the complaints department of a major telephone company. It had been an especially stressful day -- one irate customer after another. And I knew they didn't want excuses, they wanted someone to take blame.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." It was a song I sang daily, but never more frequently than today. Even though my shift was over and I was at home, my body still trembled, my head still throbbed. I poured myself a glass of red wine and tried to relax with a paperback on the sofa in my living room. Before I could take a sip I heard something. The sound increased in volume as I descended the stairs to the laundry room. I pressed my ear against the cold, concrete wall. A guitar strummed. A cowbell ran out. Voices were singing. Hey, I know that song. That's Simon and Garfunkel's Feeling Groovy.

All of a sudden there was an odour, like a million flowers had been shoved up my nose.

A silver fog drifted up from the floor. Fog or smoke? And where there's smoke, there's...


But there was no fire.

The fog turned sky blue, then spring green, then bright orange, then purple. It drifted up to the ceiling and then slowly began to clear. Blinding rays of sunlight poured out of the hole, where the wall had been. When my eyes adjusted to the bright light I saw a green meadow. A green meadow in the wall of my laundry room? How can... It can't. I need my eyes checked or my head read.

"Mara." Some one was calling my name.

I strained my eyes to the very edge of the meadow. A purple cow was munching strawberry red grass. I rubbed my eyes.

A bunny wearing a top hat hopped down the oatmeal cookie path. "Mara," he called. He stopped right in front of me and looked up. "Come on, Mara. We've been waiting for you." He wrapped his paw around my pinkie finger. Something about his touch eased my worry.

Hand-in-hand, the bunny and I skipped up the path. I saw lollipop trees and candy floss clouds. Birds sang the familiar words, "Feeling groovy." (click on this link to hear the song performed by Simon and Garfunkel)

Next post:  Sunday, September 12th (approximately 5 PM PST)
Log on next week for the continuation of Feeling Groovy--and find out where the bunny takes Mara.

Or why wait? 
"Feeling Groovy" is one of the stories in the Figure in the Mist anthology (ATLA publishing)
If you live in the United Kingdom, order here.
If you live in North America, order here.

photo by Leanne Dyck

Picture Books in Canada

at the University of British Columbia

photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my author journey...

It's still summer (officially until September 22nd) but I've already started thinking about what I'd like to achieve this fall.