Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

Question:  What scares you more the evil you discover in those you label as other or your dark side?

Published by Simon & Schuster Canada
Published in 2017

Author:  After listening to Andrew Payne contribute to a panel discussion, I quickly added his name to my list of must-read authors.

Horror:  One of the brutalist scenes is in the opening chapters--the killing of protagonist Dr. Lily Dominick's mother.

Monster:  To create his monster, Payne borrows from three pioneers of the horror genre--Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Robert Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).
'A two-hundred-year-old man who believes he personally inspired Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula.' (p. 59)
' "Three novels, each dramatizing an antagonist bearing a unique mental deformity. The Creature:  a being made of dead parts, a soul tortured by solitude. Hyde:  the psychotic with dissociative identity disorder, one half the responsible physician, the other an escaped patient beyond control. And Dracula, a projection of insatiable lust darkened by sexual anxiety.' (p. 159-160)
Plot:  Following Steven King's formula, Payne introduces us to his protagonist Dr. Lily Dominick and her seemingly ordinary life. Charmed, we follow her down the rabbit hole to the stuff of horror.

Favourite quote:  'Writers are a strange breed. Magpies, scavengers. So fearful of the world they would prefer to describe it than live in it, yet brave to the point of idiocy when in pursuit of inspiration. The real ones will slip their heads into the noose and pull the lever themselves if they think a hanging would make a good tale.' (p. 155)


If you enjoy reading The Only Child by Andrew Pyper, I know you'll enjoy reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova--I did.

Next post:  

Book Review
Sunday, November 5 at approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, October 22, 2017

short story: Awakening by Leanne Dyck (2 of 2)

Did you miss part one? Do you want to re-read it? Please click this link.

"Ocean cruise" by LDyck

Awakening (part 2)

The doorbell rang. A man in blue coveralls stood on my porch. "Excuse me for disturbing you." His embroidered name tag read Dan Conner. "But I think you accidentally threw this out." Dan held up my monster.

"I don't want that," I told him.

That was the last time I thought about my novel, until, years later, when I flipping through the pages of Quill and Quire:  Canada's magazine for book news and reviews, and noticed, a glowing review for a new mystery--Murder Island by Dan Conner. "This intriguing mystery will soon be a movie starring--"

I'd read enough, I threw the magazine across the room...


I woke with a start. It was all a daydream. There was no Dan Conner. I still had my manuscript. I raced outside to the recycling bin to reclaim it.

Finally, I was able to look at my manuscript with fresh eyes. What did they like about my manuscript? Anything? I found positive comments and read those over slowly. All agreed that the beginning was captivating and the dialogue was strong. So they didn't think the whole thing was garbage, they just thought it required revision.

Ann wanted me to work on the middle. I searched the Internet and found an article on building suspense--like ending each chapter with a cliffhanger--and another article on "red herrings"--information designed to mislead the reader. John wanted me to work on my main character. I searched my bookshelves and learned that the main character needs to solve her own problems. If she doesn't, it's cheating. And in Suzanna's feedback, she'd circled a sentence in a tone that she suggested I maintain. I typed in 16 point text, printed the page and posted it by my computer. That way it would be easy to refer to as I worked on revisions. My first readers had invested a lot to time and effort in helping me improve my manuscript, I emailed them my thanks.

Sure, I have a lot of work to do on my novel. But, instead of letting it overwhelm me, I'm focusing on how much I will learn. That's the thing about writing there's always something to learn. That's why I love my craft.

"Heading home" photo by LDyck

This concludes my short story Awakening. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Next week... Ah, next week. Each October I like to read a horror novel to get me in the mood for Halloween. This year I found The Only Child by Andrew Pyper. Next week it will be my pleasure to share my book review with you.

"Abby"  photo by LDyck

Next post:  Book review:  The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
Sunday, October 29th at approximately 5 PM

Sunday, October 15, 2017

short story: Awakening by Leanne Dyck (1 of 2)

photo by LDyck

Short stories are a breeze to write. I can pop one of those off in an afternoon. But everyone knows real writers write novels.

One Saturday morning, I woke very early full of inspiration. Thankfully, I keep a notebook by my bed. I couldn't write fast enough. I thought it was just another short story, but it didn't take me long to realize that the plot was too detailed. I was writing a novel.

Day after day after day, I wrote before I went to bed and the minute I woke. I thought about the story when I was shopping, at work and in the shower. I focused on the same characters, the same plot, the same story question. My life wasn't mine, I was living to write that story. It was exhausting.

I don't know how but somehow I finished Murder Island--a murder mystery set on the rural island where I have a vacation home. My writing group congratulated me and recommended that I get at least three first readers.

"First readers are the first to read and give feedback on your novel," they explained.

I selected John, Ann, and Suzanna. John is in my writing group. He has had a short story published in a literary journal and even self-published a novel. Ann, I know from work. Every lunchtime her nose is in a book--usually a mystery. Suzanna and I have been friends since university. She teaches middle school Language Arts.

They all gave me their feedback. My manuscript came back riddled with it,

Ann's comments stopped in the middle of the manuscript. She explained that she hadn't read to the end because of what she called "the saggy middle".

"It was too predictable. All the clues pointed to the same person."

I wonder if John read my novel backward. He complained about the weak ending. He didn't like the fact that my main character--Julianna, an amateur detective--was unable to solve the case and hired a detective, Nick. Nick solves the case but isn't that what detectives do? Nick is a professional, doesn't it make sense he'd have more resources?

Suzanna used red ink to circle what looks like every second word. She said the narration had an inconsistent tone--ranging from informal to formal.

I showed up to writers' group with tread marks across my forehead. "What do I do first? How do I solve these problems? I can't re-write the whole thing, that would take days. I thought it would be fun to write a novel, but it's just a ton of work. And how do I know that it's not just a waste of time?"

My writing group advised me to work on something else for a while and come back to my novel when I was feeling stronger.

Put it away for a while--yeah, sure. The thing screamed at me from the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. So, I pulled it out every couple of weeks and poured myself some wine. The wine didn't help. The feedback still stung. I stuffed the thing back into the drawer. Into the drawer, out of the drawer--this waltz continued for four months until I decided to look at it one last time. Nothing had changed I still had no idea how to fix my glaring errors.

I frowned at my collection of writing books.

"What a waste of money," I mumbled.

I thought of all the writing workshops I'd attended.

"What a joke. I'm not now and never will be a writer. I'm a fraud."

photo by LDyck

I put the wordy monster in the recycling bin and carried it to the curb. That felt so good that I went back inside and deleted all the computer files until not a scrap of my novel was left.

"Time for a new hobby." I picked up a pair of knitting needles and coiled yarn into stitches. I didn't know what I was knitting and didn't care. I turned on some relaxing music and poured myself a glass of wine. The chair was so comfortable...


Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever abandoned a writing project? Have you ever abandoned the writing life? For how long? Did you ever return--to writing, to a project? How?

the beautiful Abby sporting her new collar
photo by LDyck

Next post...

Does the protagonist remain a knitter? Are her words lost forever? Or...?
Find out next Sunday (October 22)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

After 7 years, why keep writing?

Seven years ago on October 10, high from finding a publisher, I decided to document my rising success as an author by starting this blog.

Ever since I've been giving it all I have. I've written 36 picture books, 5 short story collections, and one novel for young adults. I'm very proud of this work. It's the best of me.

And yet...

And yet, none of this work has found a publisher. And I still haven't earned the success I seek. I still haven't broken into the publishing industry.

Why keep trying?

At times, I have to admit, this has been a hard question to answer. At my lowest, I think maybe I can write but that I'm just not cut out to be a writer. Maybe I should just hide all my pens and do something else.

Why I keep writing?

Writing fulfills me. Stories excite me. I still have something to say. I still have a lot to learn.

I'm so close I can taste it. I know I am because publishers are making comments like...
'Your writing is immersive and inspirational.'
'we applaud you for taking what you have learned form your struggles and applying it to an art form that you are clearly passionate about'
 'Our...editors were highly interested in these stories, and the strong characterization work and suprising humour in them.'
And you. Week after week, you keep logging on to read my writing. For this, I only have two words--Thank You!

And I promise I'll keep writing until my dream becomes reality.

Looking back...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tips on Writing Blog Posts

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What did I learn this year?

Seeking positivity...

And this blog has a new mascot...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Canadian Literary Prizes: write and read

Update:  Each year I wait with eager anticipation for CBC TV to air the Scotiabank Giller gala. I love to listen to authors discuss writing. This year I heard...

'[W]hen I sit down to write I can do anything. It's incredibly empowering.' -Michelle Winter (I Am A Truck)

'[T]o be part of an imaginary world for a time is very enlivening.'
-Michael Redhill (Bellevue Square)

'I think you have to daydream a lot when you are a writer. I think that's one of the job descriptions.' 
-Ed O'Loughlin (Minds of Winter)

"a spark of inspiration" 

photo by LDyck


Sharpen that pencil, click that pen, punch those keys, there's still time to enter these short story contests...

Freefall:  Annual Prose & Poetry Contest
Deadline:  December 31, 2017

PRISM International:  Jacob Zilber Prize
Deadline:  January 15, 2018

The Mayne Island library
One of the places you might be able to get one of these books
photo by LDyck


Reading prize-winning novels and short story collections is an excellent way to study the writing craft.

Governor General's Literary Award


Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
'For over 20 years the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize has recognized the best Canadian novel or short story collection.' --from the website

Brother by David Chariandy
McClelland & Stewart
'supremely moving and exquisitley crafted portrait of [Scarborough, Ontario]' -Mark Medley

Watch the video featuring the finalists. Here's the link

Scotiabank Giller Prize 

 Scotiabank Giller

'In a statement, the jury categorized 2017 as "a year of outliers, of books that were eccentric, challenging or thrilling strange, books that took us to amusing or disturbing places. In fact, you could say that the exceptional was one of 2017's trends. It gave the impression of a world in transition:  searching inward as much as outward, wary but engaged." ' -Sue Carter


Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill
Doubleday Canada

November 20
Winner announced at a gala--aired on CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Next post:  Year 7:  Why keep writing?
A post that recaps the 7th year anniversary of this blog. Oh, yes, and tells you where I'm at as a writer.
Published on Sunday, October 8th (at approximately 5 PM)