Monthly Archives: January 2014

Interview with Diane Lynn McGyver & book giveaway!

01dlmcgyver-shadows-in-the-stone-smallI’m pleased to introduce to you Diane Lynn McGyver, author of Shadows in the Stone. Please read my review here if you missed it. 

Diane is a Nova Scotia native who is quite the romantic, which you will discover from this interview, and a prolific writer. If you are in NS you may have read her articles.

Diane, welcome to my interview corner. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Lynn, thanks for having me here. So, a little about me: I enjoy tea, chocolate, raw cranberries, tart Cortland apples, ice skating, sitting in a boat for hours and letting the tide move me, gathering around a fire with family and friends, John Denver, walking in snow-covered woods at night, learning, Scottish music, exploring, adventure, stories and laughing. I’ve worn many hats in my life time and worked at more than 25 jobs, looking for satisfaction I never found except in the words of my own stories. I had been told by many I couldn’t keep a job. It wasn’t until I was forty I realised, “the jobs couldn’t keep me.”

It’s good you discovered what does keep you. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

I have never not wanted to be a writer, but I was told it was a hobby only. Still, that was all I ever wanted to do from as far back as my earliest memories. If I had to lay blame on one reason why I am a writer, it would be the story itself, or more accurately, the capturing of a story, so it could be read later, perhaps years down the road.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

My first response would be: No, I don’t read a lot. But when I think about it, I read every day. If I had to tally up my reading time, it would probably be about six hours a day. I read fiction (novel and short story), nonfiction (for research, learning and pleasure), blogs (for the same reasons), email and various other types of writing.

The authors I enjoy most are Robin Hobb and Dr. Seuss. Oh the Places You Will Go is my most favourite. One by Richard Bach was the book that made me think the most.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I feel like giving up several days a month, but I keep moving in the direction of becoming a more confident writer. I don’t believe I can without a doubt call myself a writer. Perhaps it is because I do so many other jobs or because I can’t make a full living from my writing income. Is being a writer a destination, or is it the journey that makes us writers?

Good question! I think it is in the attitude of one’s will on that journey, and the destination – both say ‘writer.’ Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I have a few favourite quotes posted at my desk or stored in the shadows of my thoughts for when I need them:

1) Be the hero in your own story.

2) Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

3) It could always be worse.

Good ones! What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

I was first published in East Coast Gardener magazine in 1998. It was a newspaper-style publication out of Yarmouth, NS. I became aware of it while working at the garden centre Lakeland Plant World in Dartmouth. When I went on maternity leave for my first child I became bored, picked up a pen and thought about submitting an article on gardening to the magazine. To my surprise the editor Carla Allen liked it and wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic. I think I received $25 for the 800-word article. The money didn’t matter though. My writing in print for all to read was the real reward. That one publication was all I needed for me to pursue a writing career.

An exciting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

In the nonfiction category I’ve had a few dozen articles published in local and national magazines. They were about gardening, genealogy, horses, homemade soap, photography, raising kids and writing. My first column ran for six years. It was all about gardening. My second column focussed on genealogy. It celebrated its eighth year in October. Roots to the Past is currently published in four newspapers in Atlantic Canada.

In the fiction category I’ve published one fantasy novel (Shadows in the Stone), one romance novel (Pockets of Wildflowers), one anthology (Nova Scotia – Life Near Water) and several short stories. 

 My most favourite of all is writing fantasy novels.

There’s no doubt you are a writer, Diane. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

Step one: I write down the story as quickly as possible. I don’t look back and edit or I might stall or get stuck. Step two: I stash it in a drawer for a week or more. Step three: I read and edit it, then I go on the hunt for a list of words I’ve flagged (that, even, was…). Next I read it out loud and edit, then I print it and edit. And then…I read it and edit one last time. Then I send it off to an editor. When I’ve applied their suggestions I read it one more time. Then I’m ready to publish.

That’s something I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo, to not look back and edit along the way. I see it works well for you. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I have a computer file where I stash ideas. If I have a title only, I write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the kitchen cupboard door. A few times I’ve dreamt entire books. When this happens, I immediately write a summary of the story, print it and stick it in a duotang.

What inspired you to write Shadows in the Stone?

When I was thirteen I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. It shined a new light on dragons, fairies and magic, one that captivated me. I studied the D&D books and played faithfully every Friday night. Yes, while other teens were out doing things that might horrify their parents, I was in a room with like-minded individuals seeking adventure. We didn’t stop until I was about eighteen. Those adventures left a lasting impression, one I wanted to preserve in story. And Shadows in the Stone was born.

How long did it take you to write Shadows in the Stone? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

I began Shadows in the Stone in the early 1980s. I wrote the original draft which didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell, so I started again. The second book was better but still not what I wanted. In 1998, home with my first child, I picked up the story again, and this time nailed it. I spent years rewriting, adding characters, taking them away, researching fairy and druid magic, spells, healing herbs, castles, mediaeval clothing, primitive food and weapons like swords and daggers. Along the way I also worked on my writing skills, learning more about nouns and verbs, dialogue tags, plot, style, characters, point of view, engaging readers and anything else that would make my story better. I invested in several books and dictionaries to help me on my adventure. I read blogs and talked to other writers. It was a long journey but well worth it.

I chose the title Shadows in the Stone because there are many secrets hidden in the shadows of Aruam Castle. Some are good and some are evil. I also love stones and feel they possess their own energy. I’ve used this idea and gave the stones in this story their own powers.

The word stone is used in all three book titles in this trilogy: Scattered Stones (to represent the scattered characters who long to be together) and Healing Stones (to represent the healing that must be done for a happy ending).

I look forward to the books to come! Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I believe every character has a bit of me in them, including the ones who are not so nice. Bronwyn has my shyness and lack of confidence when it comes to issues of the heart, and he has my sense of honour for doing the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit him. Alaura possesses my dedication to getting the job done which sometimes makes her appear as an unfriendly individual. She also shares my love of nature and horses and learning. I gave Isla my serious side, my curiosity and sense of adventure. Tam is my quiet side; he thinks and does more than he talks. He’s strong, silent and keeps his troubles to himself. I didn’t know he was like this until after I knew him for a few days.

My favourite? That’s a difficult question. I suppose Bronwyn is because he possesses the high sense of honour with a dash of hidden humour I enjoy.

Why did you decide to publish your book in the non-traditional way?

Although I easily had nonfiction articles published since 1998, fiction was another matter. I had submitted several different stories to dozens of editors for more than ten years without success. Many times I had positive notes from editors, and even once was told the story would be accepted except they didn’t have room for it. I read about the many things others did to get published but nothing worked for me. Then I read about only one percent of submitted stories get published. It sounded near impossible for me to get accepted, or at least it would take years to receive the acceptance letter.

The final straw was the summer I submitted Shadows in the Stone to DAW in New York. They wanted the entire manuscript, not just the first few chapters and synopsis. It cost me almost a hundred dollars to submit, and I received only a simple rejection letter after waiting about three months.

That rejection hurt more than the dozens I had received beforehand. I had invested a lot of time, emotion, energy and money in that submission and got nothing for it. For several months afterwards I walked around in a daze, thinking I was going to give up, break the pencil and never write again.

Then I learned about self-publishing. And I learned this powerful quote (or something like this): Don’t let anyone else—not even an editor—tell you your story isn’t good enough for others to read.

I immediately began to learn how to self-publish and never looked back. It was the best decision I made in my writing career.

I can understand why you did what you did, although it’s a tough decision to make. What do you most enjoy about writing?

I most enjoy putting my feet in the shoes of the characters and telling their stories. Writing the first draft is the best part.

How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

I make it a priority. I write every day without fail. It is the best part of my day. It’s why I rise, how I continue to make sense of the world and what makes me who I am.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I have many interests. I love photography, drawing, painting, raising goats, watching movies, gardening, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, riding, baking, watching the stars, shovelling snow, yoga, reading, archery, boating, dancing, rock collecting, beachcombing, travelling, genealogy and exploring. I like sharing all these things with my kids.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals– daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

I make goals every year and break them down into months. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but I will settle for 500. I have also set goals to what I want to have accomplished in five years and ten years. In the next five years I’m supposed to have fifteen novels and two nonfiction books published. It’s a tough goal, but when I break it down to years and then months, I realise it’s not impossible.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

This year I’m working on several projects that are in various stages. My next romance Twistmas should be out in February. It was supposed to be out in December, but family turmoil threw me off course in the fall. The novella Fowl Summer Nights, a humourous story about a retired Canada Post worker, is due out this spring/summer. I’m excited about this project because it’s my first attempt at writing humour. It makes me laugh out loud, so I hope it makes others do the same.

Also due out this spring or summer is Scattered Stones, the second book in the Castle Keepers series. The fall will see When a Boy Becomes a Crow. It’s another attempt at humour.

Through my pen name Candy McMudd, I will release Throw Away Kitten in the spring. It tells the story about a problem many farmers have with people dropping off unwanted kittens. I’m in discussions with our local vet hospital to see if they will offer the youth novel for sale in their office. A portion of the profit will go into a fund which will pay for spaying or neutering of cats owned by people who can’t afford to get their animals fixed.

Wow! You are busy! What a nice thing to do with your Throw Away Kitten book. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

My advice is to write. Apply butt to chair and write every day if you can. Don’t give up on your dream. Keep learning about writing. It will inspire you to write more. Attend workshops and join writers groups. Don’t let anyone tell you your writing isn’t important, that no one wants to read it. It is, and you will find readers.

Thank you for this encouraging advice, Diane, and thank you for an interesting and detailed interview. 

Now for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Diane Lynn McGyver’s book Shadows in the Stone? Please leave a comment about what most interested you in this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 4, not one name but TWO NAMES will be pulled from the basket! Yes, you have two chances to win!

Diane said, “I’ll give away two eBook copies of Shadows in the Stone with this interview. I’ll provide coupons to Smashwords, so they can choose the format they wish to have.”  

I will be contacting the winners after 6:00 PM EST on February 4, so be sure to check your email. You could be a winner of Shadows in the Stone. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Book Review: Shadows in the Stone: Book 1, The Castle Keepers – by Diane Lynn McGyver

01dlmcgyver-shadows-in-the-stone-smallBook: Shadows in the Stone: Book 1, The Castle Keepers
Author: Diane Lynn McGyver
Publisher: Quarter Castle Publishing
Date: September 2012
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 368
Price: on Amazon – paper, $15.91 CDN; for Kindle $5.31
My rating: A memorable fantasy world with characters that will stay on your mind.
 

I had the privilege of reading this book, Shadows in the Stone, before its release. It had to brew in my brain awhile, as some stories do, so it has taken me a long time to write my review, for which I apologize to the author – but here it is! 

Fantasy is one of my favourite genres to read. This story took me to a different place and even yet some things have stayed with me. Diane Lynn McGyver created a whole new world, with characters the reader quickly cares about, and suspense, drama and mystery to keep the pages turning.

Having said that, I would not recommend Shadows in the Stone to young readers as some battle scenes may be disturbing, and there are very descriptive scenes of relationship intensity and some violent scenes.

The main character, Corporal Bronwyn Darrow, made up his mind to never love again after being deeply hurt by a woman he trusted. That is, until he meets the enchantress Alaura of Niamh. Bronwyn tries to keep his focus on his duty as he wants to move up in the ranks of the castle guard but he is very distracted by this troubled mysterious woman. She needs his help, though, and he cannot resist the challenge, being an honourable man. 

What nagged at me the most may not even be an issue for another reader. Bronwyn constantly runs through his emotions and thoughts regarding Alaura,  for whom he soon cares deeply. There were places I felt should be left to the reader to ‘get’ the first or second time and know from there without the constant repetition. Even so, the author built characters of dimension and heart.

There are warriors, royalty, peasants, villains, secrets, betrayal, danger, heroism, love, passion, suspense, exciting moments that are magical, and more, all leading to a satisfaction for the reader in the way events unfold. The author describes scenes and situations very well, weaving pictures in the reader’s mind. Where the author ended this story leaves the reader waiting for more. There are several unanswered questions relating to Alaura, the castle, the child Alaura cares for, and more mysteries. Fortunately, this is the first in a series, so we have more books to watch for in which we can anticipate those answers.

All in all, this is a good read fantasy lovers will find captivating and fascinating.

You can find Shadows in the Stone listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Come back for my interview with Diane Lynn McGyver, the Canadian author of Shadows in the Stone, here on January 30’14. She has two copies of her book to give away to visitors who leave a comment after the interview! Don’t miss out!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 
 

Funny video: Grandfather make-up artist

In checking my mail today I got very sidetracked. For me that’s not hard to do, but this time I am sharing with you what drew my attention. It’s a video on Yahoo! Canada News, and is so funny.

Apparently there is a challenge for girls to get their boyfriends to do their make-up for them. This girl took it a step beyond, and what results is laugh-out-loud funny.

Perhaps you have already seen this, but even so … I hope you enjoy it!

Click here to see a grandfather do his granddaughter’s make-up.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twelve:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Here’s what I love about reading novels. They give me the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For a novelist to provide that great joy to his readers, he has to develop full and believable characters and then choose how to convey the thoughts and ideas of those characters on the written page. That choice is all about point of view (POV).

 

In determining POV, every writer has two main options, first person or third person. We’ll talk about variations, like second person,  in a later blog post, but today let’s keep it simple.

 

First Person POV: I went for a nice walk, and I saw a pretty flower.

 

Third Person POV: She went for a nice walk, and she saw a pretty flower.

 

I know, I know, the two sentences above deserve trashing for multiple reasons, but let’s not complicate matters. Two choices. That seems pretty straight forward. So how do you decide which is best for your novel? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you how I decide which POV is best for my novels.

 

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I consider these four things:

 

1. The usual POV in which my genre is presented.

 

2. My preference.

 

3. The strengths and weaknesses of each POV.

 

4. The unique characters in my novel.

 

So let’s talk about #1 – the usual POVs for some common genres. In my next “Writing the Third Dimension,” I’ll discuss numbers 2 through 4.

 

Historical fiction is usually presented in third person POV. That’s because historical fiction often paints on a wide canvas, and most authors prefer to open the minds of many characters to their readers. Multiple third person POVs are less awkward and, to most readers, more “believable” than multiple first person POVs.

 

Mysteries and Who-Done-Its boast a wide variety of sub-genres. Because of the differing requirements in each of these sub-genres, readers will find some novels presented in first person POV and others in third person. If the novelist wants the main character to be as stumped by the mystery as the reader, she will often choose first person POV. If the writer wants to present what happened from multiple viewpoints, he will often choose third person POV.

 

Romance novels are built on a foundation of strong emotions. They are often presented in first person POV, which is able to convey emotions at a very intense level.

 

Young Adult novels are often told from first person POV because of that same strong emotional bond the writer is trying to forge between a main character and the reader.

 

Action-Adventure is another genre that is split between both POVs, but if the novel has only one main character, authors often choose first person POV.

 

Children’s novels, those first chapter books, are also usually written in first person POV, and that is done to help young children bond more easily with the main character.

 

Feel free to add to our genre list. Do you have a reading preference for POV?

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

 

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back February 27, 2014 for part 13.

My years in blogging on WordPress

My fourth WP blogging anniversary was January 9! I can hardly believe it’s been four years.  Thanks to Laura Best for telling me about WordPress when we met at her book signing in November 2009.

I’m sure you who have a blog here on WordPress received your annual report at the end of the year. You found out how much blogging you actually did last year, which of your posts were the most interesting to your readers, and how many times your blog was viewed during the year. I didn’t share any of my reports with you when I received them but here are the parts I like from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. I find it interesting to look back and compare. Perhaps there is a post listed here you missed or would like to read again.

2010:

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

 

In 2010, you wrote 67 new posts, not bad for the first year! You uploaded 24 pictures, taking up a total of 5mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

 

Your busiest day of the year was October 16th with 52 views. The most popular post that day was I love books! Know of any new ones to tell me about?.

 

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

2011:

Crunchy numbers

 

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

 

In 2011, there were 74 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 143 posts. There were 75 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 14 MB. That’s about a picture per week.

 

The busiest day of the year was November 10th with 97 views. The most popular post that day was the New 7Wonders of Nature: vote for Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy.

 

Attractions in 2011

 

These are the posts that got the most views in 2011. 

 

2012:

Crunchy numbers

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

In 2012, there were 87 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 229 posts. There were 287 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 74 MB. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 23rd with 68 views. The most popular post that day was I received The Versatile Blogger award!.

Attractions in 2012

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012. 

 

2013:

Crunchy numbers

 

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 84 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 312 posts. There were 96 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 35 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 25th with 140 views. The most popular post that day was It’s Banned Books Week: here’s a list of 100 banned books.

Attractions in 2013

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013. 

 

Did any of these catch your attention again?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Book Review: Dracula – by Bram Stoker

Dracula, a mystery by Bram Stoker (1897)
 
Book: Dracula, a mystery story
Author: Bram Stoker
Original Publisher: Archibald Constable and Company (UK)
Original Date: May 26, 1897
Genre: horror, gothic, mystery
Pages: 408
Price: Kindle currently $0.00 on Amazon; paper $10.51 (sale)
My Rating: WOW! Read this book! Captivating, exciting, spooky.
 

For some time I had considered reading Dracula, but not being interested in the modern vampire and zombie movies and television programs I avoided it until a year ago.  I decided to read some of the classics and chose this one because I had seen the Dracula movie long ago and wanted to be able to say I had read the book. I found it on YouTube and began by listening to it, but then found it for free on Kindle so finished it that way – which was better for me.

This story so captivated me I had to keep reading. Bram Stoker’s writing style and beautiful use of language is thrilling to read, and the characters he created made for such a good story. The only problem was that I had to put the book down when it got late into the evening. It freaked me out a little! Not that I believe Dracula to be real but Stoker’s brilliant writing and settings really spooked me! I couldn’t read it after dark. Now that is good writing. I am so glad I read this book.

The story is written like a diary but with each person writing from their own perspective. If that sounds boring or as if it would be hard to follow, it isn’t at all. It makes it very interesting. The reader wants to keep reading to know what is going on since last hearing from each character, where is Dracula in his plotting, who else is going to meet with trouble at his design, how are they going to defeat him.

Points of interest:

  • Other titles Stoker had for this book were The Dead Un-Dead, and The Un-dead, before deciding on Dracula
  • His main character was called Count Wampyr until Stoker came across the name Dracula while researching for the book
  • Dracula is an old story, but not quite the original vampire story since Stoker borrowed some details from a couple of previous authors, but he built on that and made it better.

Vampire stories told now could not be what they are without Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If you think you know about vampires from what is currently written, do yourself a favour and read Dracula for the ‘real’ story, even though it’s fiction. 🙂  I don’t believe you will be disappointed.

You can find Dracula listed on my BUY THE BOOK!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

The Time Machine – hilarious commercial

My daughter sent me the link to a very funny commercial. In my opinion it is hilarious, and such a good commercial for the way everything comes together. The acting is great, the expressions are believable, the characters are ideal, and even though the situation is a bit far-fetched — as ads tend to be — I just simply really enjoy this commercial. Note that as far as commercials go … they are not high on my list of likes. 

Yes, I have watched this one several times. And will again.  🙂  I just had to share the laugh with you.

Let me know what you think of this Doritos advertisement. I don’t know if it has aired, do you?

Ad info: “Ryan Thomas Andersen, a filmmaker and professional photographer, makes it into the finals of Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl” contest with this commercial. In it, a man learns of a time machine that can only be powered by Doritos chips.”

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂