Quick Review: Dollybird

DollybirdDollybird by Anne Lazurko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5-5 stars!

I found the characters very engaging. I could see how they changed and grew as the novel progressed, and it was completely realistic to me.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer – trying to get through some heavy books, and busy with other things. But this book is exactly what I needed to kick start my fall reading. The plot sucked me right in – I burned through the last 100 pages in one evening. I think I finished the entire book in three or four days. I’m normally a slow reader, so that’s a good clip for me.

It was also clear Anne did her research. The details about medicine (or lack of) at the turn of the 20th century made the characters and plot more credible. Also many good details about the setting (Ibsen and area, which was near Moose Jaw/Weyburn).

A wonderful piece of historical fiction.

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Market

My Snap Scene entry, part of my effort to market this novel before it's even published! Check it > http://instagram.com/snapscene#
My Snap Scene entry, part of my effort to market this novel before it’s even published! Check it > http://instagram.com/snapscene#

I’m (almost) ready to start sending my manuscript to a potential publisher, and I’ve been looking through the submission requirements of the small presses in Western Canada.

Along with the usual requirements, I noticed that at least one publisher asks writers to submit a marketing plan along with the manuscript.

Interesting. What exactly do they want, I wonder? How much detail do they need?

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Revise

Last weekend my editor got back to me with the suggested revisions for my novel. This is my seventh round of revisions, but they’re not nearly as extensive as the first few rounds. I can see the finish line.

One of the biggest issues to tackle was the ending. I went from having a lengthy, expository ending in an earlier draft to an abrupt ending that would have left readers feeling like they’d fallen off a cliff. Neither was very good.

I hate it when writers tie up every loose string at the end of their books, and so that was what I was trying to avoid with the last draft.

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The Livelong Line

The old tracks running through Livelong and beyond.
The old tracks running through Livelong and beyond.

Everyone in Livelong and the surrounding area knows where the tracks were. Some people remember the actual CNR railway tracks, which were ripped out in the early ‘80s. The land is still marked by the tracks – I regularly walk or jog down the old rail bed.

Edna Alford laid down the tracks in her short story “The Lineman,” found in her second short story collection titled The Garden of Eloise Loon:

Now they’re taking up the tracks. All up and down this country–not just mine, not only the Livelong Line. We’re not alone here. Figure they don’t need tracks no more, not ones you can see, at least. So they took them up. Even took down the trestles, took up the ties, everything, if you can believe. For what? Little piles of charred old ties marking mile after mile. It’s a wonder they didn’t send a truck up for the cinders.

Continue reading The Livelong Line

Blog Hopping

My colleague Anne Lazurko recently asked me to participate in a blog hop, which is a project where writers answer a few questions about their projects. Anne is not only an award-winning ag journalist, but she also has a historical novel coming out with Coteau Books next fall. I’m excited to read her novel, and if you’re at all into Canadian fiction, I’d suggest checking out her blog at annelazurko.com.

Here’s what I have to say about my project:

What is your working title?

Friendly Fire.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh, here goes:

Darby Swank’s life is idling in neutral until her aunt’s murder forces her to dig through her family’s history and take a stand in her own life.

That was difficult.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It started such a long time ago that I’m not entirely sure anymore. I was working at a campground at Brightsand Lake for the summer, and this character, Darby Swank, just strolled onto a blank page (in those days, I still wrote my rough drafts with pen and paper. How quaint).

I wasn’t sure what her story was at first, but I knew she would bear witness to something terrible at that lake. After banging my head against my keyboard for over a decade, it eventually sorted itself out.

What genre does your book fall under?

I think it could fall into the mystery bucket. Or literary fiction. We’ll see.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

If you like horses, cows, rye whiskey and beer, music, fisticuffs, cheating women, murder, and drought, this is the book for you.

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Home

Earlier this month, I was in Saskatoon, where I spent $75 in 20 minutes at McNally Robinson. That book store is really dangerous.

I also visited the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. I hadn’t been there since I was a middle-schooler, and I decided to stop in before it moved to the Remy.

The Mendel had a few interesting exhibits going on. I spent a lot of time in the miniature portraits exhibit (picture tiny portraits of loved ones people used to wear around their necks, or display on their mantles).

Some of the lockets had the subject’s hair plaited on the back. It reminded me of a couple hair wreaths my great-grandmother had. My ancestors’ hairs were woven into intricate patterns. I wonder what it is about hair that inspires people to weave it, wear it around their necks, or mail it to rock stars.

But it was one piece in the “Home” exhibit that burrowed into my brain. I haven’t stopped thinking of it since.

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Down to the wood

(Please note this post contains a small amount of mild profanity. Well, I think it’s mild, anyway).

About five years ago, while I was still living in Edmonton, I shaved my head to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. It was an annual event at my workplace. My colleagues would fundraise, and then one afternoon they’d sit on a stage while someone shaved, dyed, or cut their hair (if they were donating it for wigs). The neighbouring building participated too, so there was always an audience of hundreds.

My wonderful co-workers pledged plenty of money with absolutely no prodding on my part. It was a celebratory event, and in the weeks preceding the shave the I.T. guys almost had me convinced to take it “down to the wood” (i.e. Bic it).

I guess I’m a little vain because I was worried I’d cry in front of everyone when my hair came off. So I spent a week trashing my hair beforehand. I dyed it black, then green. Then, the night before the shave, my husband cut it into a mullet. He kept laughing in my face, and I started to cry, but that just made him laugh harder.

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Bookmarks

On Monday Alexis Kienlen, my friend and colleague, tweeted about Project Bookmark Canada. The people behind this project are placing plaques with excerpts from Canadian literature at the locations described in the work. For example, there is an excerpt from Fugitive Pieces at College and Manning Streets in Toronto.

Alexis is now campaigning to bookmark the Prairies, and from the brief Twitter conversations we’ve had with the Project Bookmark organizers, they seem quite open to this. So if you love your Western Canadian lit, be sure to sign up as a reader so we can get this train moving!

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Cabin Fever

I’ve been on a Wilco kick for the last little while.

It started with a spring blizzard in late March that closed highways and made me question my sanity for living in Saskatchewan (it’s been winter here for six months). Cabin fever soon set in. Corey, my husband, talked me into watching a doc about the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, one of Wilco’s albums.

I don’t know if you go through this, but sometimes when I get into a band/musician, writer, whatever, I get slightly obsessive. The kind of obsessive where you read every book/story you can get your hands on, or listen to every album over and over. Neko Case has inspired this type of madness in the past, as has Sherman Alexie.

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Author, farm journalist, Saskatchewanian