Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Woods by Leanne Dyck (short story)

Too early on Friday, June 22, I wrote this very short story for you. I hope you enjoy reading it.

The Woods

'into the woods' ldyck

Tall trees encircle me. Sunlight filters in through a canopy of leaves. Am I lost? No, I know these woods. A bird sings from a branch overhead.

A loud rustle.

Is it a bear?

I hear him growl. I see his teeth, his claws-- Only in my imagination.

There it is again. I head to the sound. 

Am I crazy? Maybe.

A fawn tangled in vines. 

I approach slowly, trying not to be perceived as a threat. 

Why is it alone? Where is its mother?

I move quickly to untangle its legs. 

The fawn is free. 

Her mother steps into the clearing and together they disappear into the safety of the woods. 
'graceful ladies' ldyck

August on this blog:  

August 5:  If you've ever wondered what my writing day is like, My Writing Desk (short story) should answer all your questions.
August 12:  I'm thrilled to introduce you to children's author Susin Nielsen. I know you'll enjoy reading her interview. 
August 19:  
Book review:  We Are All Molecules (YA) by Susin Nielsen
August 26:  Writers have little to show for a day's worth of work--no punched time clock, no dirty fingernails. This can lead to many misconceptions. Lazy Bones (short story) explores these misconceptions. 

'dreamy sky' ldyck

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review: The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani follows a circular plot--beginning and ending with the murders of two young children:  Mila and her little brother Adam. (Click this link to learn more about circular plots.)

Who would do such a thing?

Louise seems to be the perfect nanny. Not only does she appear to be a compassionate child care provider but she also keeps an immaculate house and serves delicious meals. But what happens behind closed doors...

In the middle pages of The Perfect Nanny, Slimani provides a case study of Louise--murderer. We hear accounts from Stephani (daughter), Rose Grinberg (neighbour), Jacques (ex-husband), and Hector Rouvier  (former charge).

Exploiting our fears

Skilled thriller authors, such as Leila Slimani, know how to exploit commonly shared fears in order to write a gripping tale. 

In this case:  What can happen to the most vulnerable in our society when they are left in the care of relative strangers?

As an Early Childhood Educator caring for children in day care centres, I've come face-to-face with this fear and have helped parents overcome it.
'Early childhood educators work with one of society's most vulnerable groups--young children. The quality of the interactions between young children and their caregivers has a significant, enduring impact on the children's lives. The intimacy of the relationship and the potential that exists to do harm call for a commitment on the part of early childhood educators to the highest of ethical practice. (p. 1 Code of Ethics:  Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia)

What is left for you discover, dear reader, are how and why these murders were committed. The Perfect Nanny is a quick, grippy read.

'Even if you're not writing in the horror or thriller genre, a healthy dose of fear is essential in your story.'  Click this link for tips on how to achieve it.
 'into the woods' ldyck

Next post:  Published on Sunday, July 29th (at approximately 5 PM PST)
The story The Woods was inspired by my walks in the woods. What are the chances?☺

Me:  "Come, Abby."
Abby:  "I'm thinking about it."

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Island Storyteller (short story) by Leanne Dyck

'trading post--the oldest grocery store on Mayne Island' ldyck

The narrator of this short story doesn't drive and has a sore hip, so how does she get home?

I scanned the row of vehicles parked in front of the grocery store. Some of them looked promising. I ruled out the trucks. They would be too difficult to climb into with my sore hip. I peeked into a navy Sudan. A shaggy face looked back. The dog started to bark so I moved onto the next prospect. A four-door rust-covered Pontiac stood like a relic from a simpler time.  The door creaked open. I eased into the passenger seat. The springs were shot. It was like sitting on a gravel road. Next car, the driver came out before I could climb in. The passenger seat of a two-door sports car held a large box. I considered tossing it out but thought better of it. I'm too polite to take such liberates. Last car in the row; last chance for a ride. No dog. No box. I wiggled around in the overstuffed, leather seat. It was comfortable enough to sleep in. My eyelids felt heavy. I leaned back and breathed deeply. A sudden breeze caused me to open my eyes. "You don't mind giving me a--."

"What the?" You jumped away from the car--almost slammed the door closed.

I'd scared you. Me? I had to laugh.

When I caught my breath, I said, "I need a ride. I know you won't mind. We live on a rural island; we help each other. It's just what we do."

"I'm heading South." 

"North, towards the ferry, for me. I'll get out before you run out of road."

You sighed--happy to be behind the steering wheel again, I guess. You slipped a disc into a slot, the engine purred. A guitar, joined by a singer filled the car.

Music? We didn't need music. I coughed into my fist. "Do you mind?"

You got the hint and turned the music off.

"This island is woven together by an interlocking web," I began. 

"Webs? Oh, you mean roads. Yes, we do--."

"Everyone knows I'm a storyteller. That's what I do. I tell stories. And that's what I'll do for you--if there are no more interruptions." I breathed out slowly, determined to remain calm, and began again...

"the road home" ldyck

"This island is woven together by an interlocking web. Paved roads connect groceries stories to the school, the community centre and to the church. But not all roads are paved."

"Don't I know it. Sometimes you feel like you're not in a car at all." You looked at me. "You know like you're on a horse." 

I frowned. 

You said "Oh, sorry. Really, I am listening, Please, go on."

I continued the story. "On a gravel road." I nodded left, directing you to make the turn. "and down an overgrown forest path sits an ancient cabin. It hasn't changed since it was built some hundred years ago. Lovingly restored tenderly maintained but not changed." I took a short break, just long enough to say, "Yes, this is the road. Keep going."

You mumbled something. Maybe about the road being so bumpy, but I ignored you.

"Practical in design, the cabin blends into its surroundings. Over the years, the earth has embraced the house--cradling, concealing it in--"

"Which house is yours?"

"Just keep driving, I'll tell you when we get there. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, concealing it in its green bosom. A thick layer of dust covers the life and love that dwells in this house. This house. This is the house. This is where I live. Stop."

"What? Oh." You stop but not in time. "Oh, sorry."

"Turn around in my neighbour's driveway," I breathed out slowly and reminded myself to stay calm. "The house swaddles and keeps its inhabitant warm through the winter of her soul. Within its walls, she still feels his presence." 

You slowed the car in front of my house like you were expecting me to just get out. But I haven't finished the story yet. "You should park. You don't want to waste gas." And the story, "Here he lives, breaths. That's all I have so far. What do you think?" I expected a positive review or at least a thank you for sharing. But all you say is, "Are you terribly lonely?" Like that has anything to do with anything.

"Why would I be? My husband only commutes two days a week. The last ferry will bring him home." I crawled out of your car and up my steep driveway. Ah, the life of a storyteller.

"time to come in from the backyard" ldyck

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

10 favourites from my bookshelf by Leanne Dyck

These old friends have been on my bookshelf for years. It's time that I share them with you.

10 of my most favourite books by Canadian authors

Jane Urquhart
McClelland & Stewart
historical fiction
A stunning, evocative novel set in Ireland and Canada, Away takes a family's complex and layered past. The narrative unfolds with shimmering clarity, and takes us from the harsh northern Ireland coast in the 1840s to the quarantine stations at Grosse Isle and the barely hospitable land of the Canadian Shield; from the flourishing town of Port Hope to the flooded streets of Montreal; from Ottawa at the time of Confederation to a large-windowed house at the edge of a Great Lake during the present day. Graceful and moving, Away unites the personal and the political as it explores the most private, often darkest corners of our emotions where the things that root us to ourselves endure. 

When Alice Lay Down with Peter
Margaret Sweatman
Alfred A. Knopf Canada
historical fiction
buy this book
Alice falls in with Peter in Orkney in the 1860s and pursues him to the New World. They join the rebellion against the Canadian acquisition of Manitoba and fight on the side of the charismatic Metis leader, Louis Riel. While not Metis themselves, they prefer the company of rebels and outcasts to the men who are invading from the east. Alice participates in the political execution of Thomas Scott, an odious Orangeman who is determined to destroy Riel and crush his followers. Thereafter, she is haunted by Scott's ghost.
Alice lies down with Peter in a storm of lightning and hail, the catalyst for the conception of Blondie, the wry narrator of the novel. Blondie lives for 109 years--much of it in love with Eli the buffalo-hunter-turned-singing-cowboy--and her tale covers four generations, three wars, two rebellions, a couple of labour strikes, and countless insurrections, both political and domestic. She experiences many losses over the years, losses that belong to us all:  the extinction of the buffalo; the deminishment of the environment; and the inevitable attribution of loved ones.

The Way the Crow Flies
Ann-Marie MacDonald
Alfred A Knopf Canada
historical fiction
buy this book
In The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to a post-war world. For Madeleine McCarthy, high-spirited and eight years old, her family's posting to a quiet air force base in Ontario is at first welcome, secure as she is in the love of her family, and unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets. The early sixties, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of a child as Madeleine draws us into her world. 
But the base is host to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froelich family, and the odd Mr. March whose power over the children s a secret burden that they carry. Then tradegy strikes, and a very local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As the tension in the McCarthys' household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality--a lesson that will only become clear when the quest of the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

A Fine Balance
Rohinton Mistry
McClelland & Stewart
historical fiction
buy this book
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry's stunning internationally acclaimed bestseller, is set in mid-1970s India. It tells the story of four unlikely people whose lives come together during a time of political turmoil soon after the government declares a "State of Internal Emergency". Through days of bleakness and hope, their circumstances--and their fates--become inextricably linked in ways no one could have foreseen. Mistry's prose is alive with enduring images and a cast of unforgettable characters. 

Fox's Nose
Sally Ireland
Cormorant Books
buy this book
At Lisli Nos, or Fox's Nose, a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, in a wintry attic on Christmas night, a girl named Julia makes love with her children. Afterwards she discovers a grubby exercise book in a trunk--her grandmother's diary of the Siege of Leningrad. She becomes obsessed by the account of the privations her family endured and of their encounters with enemies, both from beyond the city limits and within their own psyches.
Back in Vancouver during the months that follow, the past exerts a continuing and potent force on Julia's schoolgirl life as she and her German friend, Ursula, create a play about the siege for drama class. Meanwhile, Ursula's troubled brother, Willi, looks on from the wings waiting for an opportunity to perform his own destructive role in what proves to be a replay of the violence that so harmed their parents' generation.

Good to a Fault
Marina Endicott
Freehand Books
buy this book
In a moment of self-absorption, Clara Purdy's life takes a sharp turn when she crashes into a beat-up car carrying an itinerant family of six. The Gage family had been travelling to a new life in Fort McMurray, but bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer rather than remnants of the accident. Recognizing their need as her responsibility, Clara tries to do the right thing and moves the children, husband and horrible grandmother into her own house--then has to cope with the consequences of practical goodness.
What, exactly, does it mean to be good? When is sacrifice merely selfishness? What do we owe in this life and what do we deserve?

Emma Donoghue
buy this book

It's where he was born. It's where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. But to Ma, Room is the prison where she's been kept since she was nineteen--for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven foot space. But these walls can't hold them forever...

Eleanor Rigby
Douglas Coupland
Random House of Canada
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 Liz Dunn is 42 years old, and lonely. Her house is like 'a spinster's cell block', and she may or may not snore--there's never been anybody to tell her. Then one day in 1997, with the comet Hale Bopp burning bright in the blue-black sky, Liz receives an urgent phone call asking her to visit a young man in hospital. All at once, the loneliness that has come to define her is ripped away by this funny, smart, handsome young stranger, Jeremy. Her son.

Larry's Party
Carol Shields
Random House of Canada
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 Larry Weller, born in Winnipeg in 1950, is like a lot of people. He's never really liked his first name; 'its Larryness has always seemed an imprisonment and a sly wink toward its most conspicuous rhyme:  ordinary... He was just one more citzen of the Larry nation, those barbecuers, those volunteer firemen, those wearers of muscle shirts.' But Larry Weller is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony, and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us a resonant and unforgettable portrait of a man--a sensuously detailed CAT scan of his life. In episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly, Larry emerges from a dreamy adolescence equipped with a Floral Arts degree from Red River College and journeys towards the millennium. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, he moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties, and the lean, mean nineties, adapting a society's changing expectations of men. Shields' elegant prose turns the trivial into the momentous as we follow Larry through the tribulations of two marriages and divorces, his relationship with his parents and their private tragedy, the birth of his son, the development of his career as a landscape gardener, and his agonizing mid-life crisis.And throughout, we witness his deepening passion for garden mazes--so like life, with their teasing treachery and promise of reward. From the moment that he first recognizes the man he could be, through to the completion of his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry's Odysessy mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy, and faultless wisdom.

Fruit:  a novel about a boy and his nipples
Brian Francis
ECW Press
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Peter Paddington is a 13-year-old, fat, gay cross-dresser with two selfish, annoying older sisters and an overbearing mother. But his biggest problem is that his nipples keep threatening, cajoling, and teasing him--out loud (or so he thinks). 


Arrival:  The Story of Canlit
Nick Mount

reviewed in Quill & Quire

buy this book

111 book recommendations 
from newly published Canadian authors

'trading post--the oldest grocery store on Mayne Island' ldyck

Next post:  Sunday, July 8 at (approximately) 5 PM PST
Island Storyteller

What's it like to love to tell stories and live on a small island where the opportunity to tell those stories may be few and far between. Well...

'my husband('s) rocks' ldyck

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