Thursday, February 12, 2015

blame it on mercury retrograde

it's been a week of cancellations due to weather ---
and to a broken arm!

i looked up my horror-scope and there it is:"... a thin, but a powerful impulse of destructive energy. This can be a sort of a sharp sting from a rapier, but if it will fall in an unprotected area, the Taurus may fall [her]self." i'm sure it wasn't meant to be literal, but...

so it looks as though the valentine's day signing of 'the value of the land' at coles book store at the mayflower mall will have to be rescheduled.
of course, you can still get a copy there.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Spring Signings and Readings Scheduled

Valentine's Day - Saturday, Feb 14, 1-3pm
I will be at Coles, Mayflower Mall
signing my new novel The Value of The Land.

Other upcoming dates:
Baddeck - March 7 - Reading at Baddeck Library
Sydney - March 24 - Reading at Authors with Glasses - Governor's Book Pub

Times and info to be confirmed.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Out of the Writerly Mind, and Into the Real World

First the announcements:

"The Value of The Land" is now available at the Mayflower Mall Coles and at the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop in Sydney, and at the Glace Bay Heritage Museum (aka the Town Hall).
It is also listed on my website:, and is now in stock on the chapters/indigo site.

But I promise, my novel is not (yet) rare or used, and it certainly doesn't cost $3000.00! Now, why do I say that?
Did you ever google yourself? Sure you did. Well, writers also look themselves up on various author platforms to see if we are in stock, or possibly rare or used. (I myself know several authors who are rare and/or used.)
This week, for example, I went to to see if my book is in stock yet. I did what one would normally do -- I did a search on the title on their home page. That is, I searched on "The Value of THE Land". And to my surprise, what came up was a used 1998 edition of an American book on land policies, its title being "The Value of Land"! No "the." And as if that isn't bad enough it's listed at over $3000.00. And... there is no image or description or seller listed (that I could find).
So if a potential reader were looking for my book there, they* might be so shocked and appalled that they will close their browser immediately lest the purchase be somehow mysteriously processed without their knowledge.
Hint: (because I have old friends who still cannot spell or pronounce it) my last name -- t-r-o-i-c-u-k -- should get you there without any hiccups.:-)

* I am taking a vote: Who thinks it should be proper grammar to mix singular (e.g., "reader" and "browser") with "they" when the sex or number of persons is not indicated? (No one under 30 knows the difference anyhow.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

NEWS -- after a long hiatus

I am back to my blog with an announcement: A new novel!

The Value of The Land

has just been launched by Boularderie Island Press.

It is available through Paypal from my website

as well as from the usual sources online and through your local bookstore. If you ask, they should be able to order it.

BTW, this is not the novel A Writerly Mind posts were following in the past; I did refer to it, though -- as the 'dairy novel.'

Take time to read a book.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Even before clear cutting and rain forests and were big news, I equated wasted paper with lost trees. In the 70s, I recycled blueprints (from my work), cutting the large sheets into stationery size, and wrote letters on the back. When I got my first computer in 1986, I regularly raided the trash bin next to the Xerox machine in the office to feed my home printer. These days, when I see wasted paper, I visualize barren hillsides and mourn the loss of habitats to flora and fauna, and suffer guilt at the part I play in this. (Not so Scotiabank or BMO who send me five pages of text over three sheets quarterly to report 2 lines of meagre assets. Yes, I did complain. “We’ll look into it.” Hah!)

For my current project I took my conservation efforts one step further by making a conscious change in work habits. In the past, I printed as I wrote, chapter by chapter, taking them through many drafts. This meant the early chapters were rewritten and refined many times by the time the last one saw a first draft. You can see that often in published novels — the early chapters are polished to perfection and the last chapters are thrown together – often with a contrived or cop-out ending. (As when, 400 pages into the investigation, the main suspect/character drops dead so there is no need for resolution of the plot, which has been proving his innocence or guilt. I still haven’t forgiven the author – one of my favourites in the legal/mystery genre – for that one.)

As I began the real work on Current Events I decided that before printing anything I would complete the first draft. I would press on, with minimum editing – and when I did edit, it would be done onscreen. Not only would I save paper, but also the cost of toner/print drum.

It was also my hope that by forcing myself to work mainly on screen I would force myself to mend the disconnect between the me who as a child won two penmanship competitions and the me who is approaching her second childhood determined to keep up with technology. (I’m already huffing and puffing, trying to keep up in that marathon.)

I had already got over a similar disconnect that existed between the writing me and the creative me. I remember sitting in front of that first mechanical box I owned – with its green screen and its dual disk drive – unable to call up an ounce of creativity. So for a long time I continued to write longhand, then input the finished text. (I have a theory on this: I believe it is a left brain/right brain thing – penmanship being close to an artistic expression; typing being a mechanical skill.) Gradually – and I do mean gradually – over a few years – I progressed to a point where I could edit or rewrite on screen. And then the breakthrough – when I realized what a waste of time longhand was. You could say it was laziness that forced my hand. Soon I found I could go direct to the keyboard with the most insignificant notes and – writer’s block and insecurities notwithstanding – get in the “zone,” i.e., lose myself entirely. Now, that is a good day.

There remains another disconnect, however. In the past I printed often and read/edited the hard copy. Somehow I got a better sense of sequence and flow when I could see the type, feel the weight of the pages. I could flip back or forward, have several pages in front of me at the same time to refresh my memory.

Which takes me back to last winter’s work on Current Events. I managed to get through fourteen chapters without printing. But, when I needed to go back and check on something, no matter how much I willed myself to ”just rrrread it, then, why don’t ye?” I invariably got caught up in editing. As if I’d miss a comma or bad phrasing on another day. Not necessarily a waste of time. But it was time I wanted to spend on progressing the story. Over several months – working only on screen – I took those chapters through several drafts and many additional editing passes – more than I would in print – before I printed them for the first time.

In late summer I finally sat down, brimming with optimism, to read through the fourteen chapters I had been so pleased with. I stopped after six, crushed with disappointment.

What is it about the printed page? Reading hard copy text, my perception shifts. The video display is perhaps too ephemeral a medium to hold the full weight of those little black symbols, meaningless in themselves but for an auditory placement of the tongue or an exhalation of air. But with the weight of those same printed symbols in my hands, I gain clarity, perspective. I see that, rather than lead the reader into the plot, I repeatedly digress into the background of secondary characters. This is not back story – only placed too early in the novel. Here it gives them a false sense of importance in the narrative. And, in some cases, I give away information best held back for a later reveal. In the meantime, the plot loses focus; and, I fear, would lose the reader as well.

So it’s not quite back to Square One. I saved whatever files I had into a Draft 1 folder and copied them to Draft 2. The first thing to do is to go through those printed chapters and remove the sections that don’t advance the plot – to my “Removed” file. Nothing will be discarded. Some will be inserted elsewhere; some will contribute to new chapters. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It’s been a few months since I last posted. Let me take a moment for a little shameless self-promotion.

In the interim, I’ve been busy with, among other unrelated activities, another writing project - the publication of my first book, a short story collection: Loose Pearls and Other Stories which was launched in April.

Loose Pearls is a group of thirteen unrelated stories. If there is one connecting thread, it is the idea of secrets and things withheld from loved ones.

The life of coal miner Doc MacSween reflects the overburden of the disaster in which he played a part. Katia carries a secret child in her heart while her sister allows her to suffer in silence. Monica returns to her former school as a teacher to relive the pangs of a hopeless crush. An old man shields his wife from her best friend's penchant for walking off with other people's belongings. In the title story, Loose Pearls, Anna tries to pass on a disturbing chapter of family history before it is lost altogether.

While sometimes tinged with humour, the stories often slide into the dark side. A spinster deals with a neighbourhood stalker by trying to put herself inside his head. A well-meaning but slow-witted young man causes injury to those supposedly trying to help him. A boy is preyed upon by the very people in whom his parents place their trust.

But there is hope as well. A wife dealing with her brother's suicide sees her husband's wild schemes in a new light. The neighbour of a mother whose daughter is missing shows her how life goes on.

And sometimes it is up to the reader to decide, as when Susan, a long-suffering housewife, literally finds herself at a crossroads. Here is an excerpt from that one, titled: "Tuesday."

The fairground was soft underfoot from the early morning rain. Overhead, the puffy clouds were splitting apart, revealing snatches of brilliant blue promise. Weaving aimlessly through the bustling flea-market crowd, Susan could see three kites bobbing above the field. She admired the crafts, fingered old china, spent a long time gazing into a glass case of estate jewellery.
She hadn’t thought it through. She had left the laundry in the dryer. By the time Sam thought to look there for his good shirt he’d never be able to iron out the wrinkles. And the grocery money – she’d meant to leave it – honest she did. She didn’t need it, she had enough in her own account. That had been the point of her pinching and scrimping and scratching these past few years. To do it on her own. And now, here she was with the grocery money – his grocery money – in her purse, as if she had stolen it. And the kids. They weren’t kids anymore. Sam Junior and Carla were both married, Sam Junior unhappily, she felt. Benji was nursing a broken heart these days. Not his first. Each of them had enough life experience to understand. But would they?
To be fair, Sam had never struck her before. He raised his hand so often in threat. That was common enough. But somehow this morning he zigged and she zagged, and suddenly he was making contact and she was on the floor. An accident. Susan believed this with all her heart. She wasn’t even sure what it was about. Something trivial. A wet towel in the laundry hamper?
Whatever it was, it didn’t have anything to do with where she was now. Not really.
She paid for her purchase, a tiny crystal angel. Or maybe it was just cheap glass. It didn’t matter. She liked it. She got into the car and pinned it to her lapel, and already she felt protected. She checked her watch. An hour back to the city. An hour to pick up a few groceries – just time for the bare necessities – thank goodness she kept a well-stocked kitchen. Because she would need part of that hour to change back into that person she was when she got up this morning. Whoever that was.
Susan started the car. She had her hand on the gearshift when the kites floated into view. She took the boundary road along the back side of the fairground and parked there. Bending low, slipping through the stiled fence, she was reminded of something. Youth. It wasn’t gone. Not yet. Not all of it. She was still slim as a willow, lithe as a teenager. She hopped up, achieving an easy balance as she sat on the top rail, legs dangling.
A young father spooling a multicoloured butterfly kite was torn between his toy and his toddler. Running in aimless circles in the daisy-strewn field, the little girl was propelled by gravity down the slope.
Sensing Dad’s dilemma, Susan hopped off her perch. “I’ll take it,” she said. “Go after her.”
For just a moment she saw herself through his eyes. A woman his mother’s age, a little angel pinned to her shirt.
He passed off the spool, and then it was hers, the dancing, swaggering kite. Caught off balance, she wrestled joyously with the wind. And then, just as suddenly, the moment of bliss was manoeuvred back into his hands, both of them laughing. In her heart she was eighteen again, blushing roses.
Susan turned the car and backtracked down the rutted lane to the concession road. Same intersection, different approach. She squinted into a sunset trail of long, straight macadam. No traffic in either direction. No reason to turn one way or the other. No reason not to.

So far the collection has received two favourable reviews:

Literary pearls stand for our burdens and our triumphs

“Thanks to Cape Breton University Press, Glace Bay writer D.C.Troicuk’s talent is on display in a collection of short stories entitled Loose Pearls. The volume is a welcome addition to the literature and culture of this island.

Troicuk’s 13 carefully written stories are infused with intelligence, imagination and style ... The title ... has resonance. The loose pearls are like strung natural pearls — many-faceted, valuable, with some pearls of great price. Primarily, these literary pearls in one way or another stand for our burdens and our triumphs ... The writing is economical. Flashbacks are handled extremely well ... Loose Pearls represents a good beginning for an author whose writing career will flourish.”
- LeRoy Peach, Cape Breton Post: June 6

Cape Breton’s D.C. Troicuk pens triumphant first book

“This first collection of stories from D.C. Troicuk is quietly understated as life flows gently below the surface of daily life.

Family cold wars are buried deep, and sometimes the glue holding things together, no matter what, is tainted by dislikes and resentments and bound inextricably by duty. The boiling point is not an explosion but rather an understanding that takes hold, a clarity of vision which builds until her characters begin to see the reality of their truths ... Troicuk is an excellent teller of tales. She writes with a clarity of vision that brings focus to her stories ... Troicuk’s first book is triumphant, and surely an indication of things to come. The good news is that her next book, a novel, is
already in progress.”

- Judith Meyrick, The Nova Scotian, June 12

So no longer can I hide under the pseudonym Dana Troy. I am indeed D.C.Troicuk. You can see more background on my website:

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Remember, this project, Current Events, dates back to 1986 as an incomplete short story. Last year when I revisited it, intending to begin the novel, I went to my thick Ideas File to refresh my memory. I decided to input those notes on my computer as a way of getting the wheels turning. They varied from hasty one-line notations that now made no sense, to starter scenes two or three pages long which developed into sections and even whole chapters. Other ideas got added to my Notes file, or were slotted into a rough chronological order in the Outline. Anything relating to a specific character I entered into the separate Characters Notes.

Much of this early material will remain as back story. Back story is everything that happens outside the narrative you are telling. It can be a kind of historical background of the place, a deeper characterization of one or more characters, an explanation of the situation, a glimpse into the future, or even secrets that only I, as the writer, will ever know. Most of the back story will never make it into the novel; that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to provide a framework upon which I drape my narrative; and it is an emotional foundation which supports dialogue, motivation and action.

The back story for most of my characters begins with their name, as I wrote earlier. But it should go much deeper. From insignificant details – favourite colour, food, hobbies – which can turn out to be indicative of important personality traits without being pointed or contrived, to factors that influenced their lives, their morals and their attitudes – schooling, religion, where they grew up, what their father did for a living, their income level, family and other relationships, and so on. Because the back story is not written to be part of the final narrative, it may contain relationships with people the reader will never meet, situations and lines of dialogue she will never read. But every item, individually and as a whole, serves the building of a character’s psychological make-up, just as every thought and deed influences our motivations and reactions in real life. The deeper the writer goes, the more well-rounded and sympathetic, the more real, the character will be.

Until I was inputting my notes on this project I would have said I don’t bother with back story. Then I realized this is the purpose of my Ideas file. When the project has been on the back burner for some time, as with Current Events, most of the notes I’ve made are little snippets relating to the main protagonists and secondary characters – not so much physical details as telling scenarios as  I mention above. What is that, if not back story?

Here is a sample, copied directly from my Characters file:

MELISSA (Carole's sister)

1. She’s in a lifeless marriage
     husband: Doctor (pediatrician) – KYLE is a good guy, basically
    From the outside, she makes a show of a happy marriage. But she treats Kyle as if he is not there. (And maybe he isn’t)

2. They have 4 kids, all boys, Kevin – (“leave the cat alone, Kevie” – 4½  ?); one is still in a crib - 20 months?– Corey – at what age do they go to a real bed from crib?; twins – Jordan and Jason, just-turned 3

3. She has a bizarre way of raising the kids
     she makes a game of cleaning up so the kids will help;
     she doesn’t let them in certain rooms – they hang out at the edge of the carpet like that dog I remember that was trained not to walk on the carpet.

4. She talks in – is it called hyperbole?? Exaggerating?
     It’s not enough to say: “What are we doing here?” She has to say: “What are we doing here? Does anyone know?”

5. She is always eliciting compliments. She has two methods: 1) “I’m so ugly” – meant to draw denial; or 2) “Wasn’t I smart to do that?” meant to draw praise.

6. She goes along with her mother on everything – to her face. Lila is unaware of what her daughter does and says behind her back.

7. She’s basically lazy, but she finds a way to get things done so they look good on the surface.

8. she has a group of friends who, though spread across the country, stay in touch by circulating a pair of plastic pink flamingoes on special occasions; they used to have an annual girls’ weekend–  in New York one year, at some ritzy spa the next – she feels left out of that now, they still do it, she’s stuck in rural Nova Scotia, not even in a city.

9. she clings to the “image” of herself as a teen model - she did some modelling locally. She wants so badly to be someone others look up to, for others to say “I want to be like her” – but she is aware, or maybe it’s a fear – that she has basically ridden on people’s coattails to get any attention at all. Now, e.g., she is the ”doctor’s wife”.

10. She is a closet alcoholic

This is Melissa’s blueprint. Her back story. Some of it will make it into the novel; most of it will not. Because, as with any new acquaintance, these are only first impressions. As I come to know her better, I expect to find that I misjudged her unfairly in some ways, and that my instinct was spot-on in others. But, like you, the reader, I may not know which is which until the last page.