Category Archives: What I’m Reading

Welcome Guest Blogger and Author, Daniel Dinges

Why I Wrote Get Out of the Way
by Daniel Dinges

(Watch the Get out of the Way Trailer on You Tube)

Get Out of the Way has to do with the passage of time. At sixty-three, the idea of writing stories about the Vietnam era became more and more attractive to me.

My motivation to write also came from my personal experiences in public high school classrooms several years ago. It is amazing what educators have done to contort the history of the Vietnam War and Sixties culture, with much of its value and relevance relegated to a few dry paragraphs.

The students in these classrooms, however, showed intense interest in what actually went on in the “old days.” We had some great conversations, and giving them primary source insights was a delight. This work attempts to provide an accurate, and close up view of what it was like to be a young adult in the Sixties and early ‘70s.

Perhaps the most important and simplest reason I wrote my first historical novel was to entertain. This story informs, makes you laugh, and perhaps brings you to tears.

I started to write the book for the first time in 1991. I had been out of the army for over 20 years and was bursting to write down all those great memories. When I contacted people in the publishing industry, they gave me some bad news. Lots of other writers had the same idea, and for the most part the books were turning out to be unsuccessful.
No one was interested. The project was put on a shelf.

In 2006, after my experiences in teaching, I was determined to try again. The publishing industry had not changed its view of books about the still controversial conflict. This time I took the project more seriously. I read books on novel structure and character development. Online workshops were very useful. Regular attendance at a local writers circle was also a help.

One of the things I did was to attend a writers’ conference. It was a great experience that I believe this type of activity would benefit any would-be author. The Southeastern Writers Conference takes place every year on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The atmosphere is very “Georgia nice.” Even if you receive literary criticism, it takes you a couple of days to realize it.

Some Agents & Editors Conferences offer a one-on-one meeting with an established literary agent, and provide an opportunity to have a portion of your manuscript evaluated by someone in the publishing industry. I had gotten to a point where I felt it was time to decide whether to put the project away again or go for broke. This looked like the perfect time and place to make that decision.

My meeting with the literary agent never happened. The schedule was for, let us just call him “The Agent,” to give a presentation on Tuesday night, and then do meetings on Wednesday. There were not quite enough sessions to accommodate every writer in attendance, so I stood in line a couple of hours to make sure I got on the schedule.

On Tuesday night, he was almost an hour late for his presentation, something about the Dolphin Watch taking longer than expected. After rambling on for around 40 minutes on how influential an agent is, he finally got to something of value. “First let me tell you about the kind of projects I’m looking for,” he announced. What followed was a list presented in very general terms and included, at some level, almost anything you could think of. Then he got to the part about those projects that were definitely not of interest. The first item was the Vietnam War. I cancelled my meeting time.

I did meet with a publishing professional the next day. He said the same thing. The work showed promise from a writing perspective, but had no literary value. Fortunately, some of the other conference presenters offered solid encouragement and so I continued with the project.

Over time, the manuscript took its final shape. Several hundred literary agents turned it down. Eventually, Tate Publishing expressed an interest, and here it is. When you read my book, I hope you find it an enjoyable romp through a unique time.

Daniel Dinges lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Get Out of the Way is his first book. Visit the author here .

Dinges’ publisher has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of Get Out of the Way. If you’d like a copy, just post a comment as to why you think this would be a great addition to your library.

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His Illegal Self by Peter Carey — an interesting novel that dragged a bit in places, but not so much that I didn’t look forward to picking it up every so often.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher — so well written I never wanted to pick up a pen (metaphorically speaking) again.

Good to a Fault, by Marion Endicott — I am really enjoying this novel. I think it was made into a CBC radio play last year and I heard snippet of it. Can’t bear to put it down.

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Recently Read and Enjoyed

Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
the post birthday world by Lionel Shriver
Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

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The Perils of Bookstores

Okay, more money spent this week at my local bookstore:

A Perfectly Good Family, by Lionel Shriver (If you haven’t read, We Need to Talk About Kevin, you should)

Men and Cartoons, by Jonathan Lethem (How could I possibly resist this title)

Total: $40.00 approx. which is why I usually only allow myself into second hand bookstores.

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Three Days at Indian Rock

Four to six hours from Vancouver (depending on how fast one drives and how willing one is to get a speeding ticket) is a very special place I have been going to every summer for nearly 15 years. It’s called Indian Rock and lies twenty minutes outside of Penticton, just beyond Naramata in the Okanogan. Wine lovers and sun-worshippers will know be familiar with this area — often referred to as the Napa Valley of BC.

On Monday, I decided to get there as quickly as possible and hopped a Westjet flight to Kelowna — in under 40 minutes I was embraced by the hot, dry air so foreign to those of us who dwell in the rain forest and an hour later I was sipping Red Rooster’s finest on the shores of the Lake Okanogan. This is what Paradise Looks Like

I’d intended to do some serious work on my next book, but instead spent my time reading (finished two books — Timothy Taylor’s Stanley Park; thumbs down, and Joan Clark’s An Audience of Chairs — big thumbs up).

As can be seen in the photos, the gardens were more beautiful than can be imagined and the pics do not do them justice. I’ve created another web album for those of you who might like to see more images. My friend and I opted to drive back to Vancouver — a slow and easy road trip that involved lots of junk food, music, leisurely stops and conversation. It’s calving season in ranch country and we saw so many sweet baby cows that we are not sure we can ever eat a burger again.

That said, I’m off to the dude ranch in Ashcroft in the morning and I’m pretty sure Angus beef will be on the menu. I’ll be posting the pics from my weekend on the ranch next week.

In the meantime, as someone who thinks like me once said: “Ain’t nothin’ like ridin’ a fine horse in new country.”

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Back to the Page

I’m tired. I have been looking forward to today for at least a week because all of my contracts are over and I’m free!!

On Monday I spent an amazing afternoon with the grade eights and nines at Killarney Secondary School and today I was at my old high school — CHS. I am now an official Old Girl, and somehow that doesn’t sound as good as say, Old Boy. It’s a private school thing…

I came home and watched the stingray and spider application on my igoogle until I fell asleep. I even tried to catch up with Facebook and wonder why I have any friends in that space at all — I just can’t seem to get to it.

It’s pouring here — as wet and grey as Vancouver can ever be and I feel like hibernating with my book (The Film Club by David Gilmour) — not the P.F. guy — the other one. And that is what I plan to do until bedtime.

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Books for Dawson City

I’ve had to really cut down on the books I’m taking to Berton House — mostly because there is just no room left in either of my oversized peices of luggage. In the end, I’ve chosen four novels and though this isn’t enough reading for three whole months, it’s all I need. As much as I love to read, I find it can totally distract me from my writing, especially when I’m on such a tight deadline for my latest book. I have one month (until the end of April) to hand in my second draft). So here is my list and any comments or opinions are welcome.

everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers), by Simon Price
Under the Skin, by Michel Faber
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
sweetness in the belly, Camilla Gibb

These are the kind of decisions that make packing such a challenge…

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So Many Books for Christmas

Wow! People really came through on books as gifts this year. Thanks to all of you. These are the titles I found under the tree:

  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  • Under The Skin by Michel Faber
  • Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
  • Londonstani by Guatam Maliani
  •  A Perfect Night to go to China by David Gilmour (not of PF fame)
  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee

Not bad loot at all…


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We Need To Talk About Kevin

Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, is the reason why I walked into work yesterday bleary eyed and unfocused. Once into this book, it is impossible to put down and I think it was about 3am when I read (and re-read) the last paragraph. Shriver had great difficulties placing this novel — most publishers thought the story too dark and the topic too sensitive to sell. “Who would want to read this?” they asked. Lots of people, it turns out. It won the Orange prize.

What happens when a women who doesn’t really want to have children, decides, in a moment of impulse to get pregnant? And what happens when the child she gives birth to grows up to be a teenage mass-murderer without a conscience? Who is responsible for his heinous actions and what is the impact of his crime on his family, and on the people surrounding him?

Does an ambivilant mother create a monster child, or are their people in the world who are inherantly evil? This book does not answer these questions, but it does get us thinking about them. There is a completely unexpected twist toward the end that makes the story even more gripping and thought-provoking. Recommended.

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CBC CHILDREN’S BOOK PANEL – Children’s Picture Books

Ken Setterington’s Picks

1. “Alphabetter”, Dan Bar-el/Graham Ross, Orca
2. “Jousting with Jesters”, Martin Springett, Orca
3. “Snow”, Joan Clark/Kady MacDonald Denton, Groundwood
4. “Jurassic Poop”, Jacob Berkowitz/Steve Mack, Kids Can Press
5. “Listen Said the Donkey”, Jean Little/Werner Zimmerman, North Winds Press
6. “Fox Walked Alone”, Barbara Reid, North Winds Press
7. “Mommy?”, Maurice Sendak, Scholastic

Michele Landsberg’s Picks

1. “When Owen’s Mom Breathed Fire”, Pija Linderbaum, R&S Books
2. “So Sleepy Story”, Uri Shulevitz, Farrar Straus Giroux
3. “Ancient Thunder”, Leo Yerxa, Groundwood
4. “Flotsam”, David Wiesner, Clarion Books
5. “Blue 2”, David A. Carter, Little Simon
6. “Walter Was Worried”, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Roaring Brook Press

Phyllis Simon’s Picks

1. “Pirate Bob” by Kathryn Lasky, Charlesbridge
2. “While You Are Sleeping”, by Alexis Deacon, Hutchinson
3. “The Scallywags”, by David Melling, Barron’s
4. “The Fairy Doll”, Rumer Godden, Macmillan (2006 edition)
5. “The Story of Holly & Ivy”, Rumer Godden, Viking (2006 edition)
6. “Lucy Willow”, by Sally Gardner, Orion

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