Monday, August 21, 2017

New Beginnings

I don't like this time of year.  August is still officially summer but it's chilly now in the early morning and the heat has gone out of the sun; it's as if it's tired and just putting in the time until the excitements of the brand new season of mellow fruitfulness and harvest festivals.

Newspapers and magazines are still dutifully promoting barbecues and swimsuits and recipes for salads but somehow you feel that their heart isn't in it and the shops that are now getting in the woollens for autumn seem much fresher and more attractive. (Let's not talk about the catalogue with Christmas stuff that someone sent me last week. I'm pretending it didn't happen.)

Yes, it's time that summer was over for another year. and even the schoolchildren are starting to feel they want to get back and see their friends, and the new pencil-cases, fancy notebooks and novelty rubbers are flying off the shelves.

I don't know whether it's the result of having spent a lifetime in and around schools - father a headmaster, teacher at one time myself, mother of schoolchildren, husband a headmaster too (oh yes, Freud could have a field day).- but I always feel that a new year starts in September, not in January.

Who can really plan new beginnings in January?  New Year resolutions are famously hard to keep.  Dismal weather, dark nights, the Christmas credit card bills dropping on to the mat - who can possibly feel fired up and enthusiastic?

September, though...  Somehow it always seems to me like the new notebook you got on the first day of term, enticingly pristine, and you always thought that this time you would be able to keep it neat, without all the blots and crumpled pages and sums marked wrong that the last one had.

This year, come September, my desk will be tidy, my accounts will be up to date, the book will progress according to timetable and I will sit down at my desk each morning with new vigour and a song in my heart. I can hardly wait.

August still has two more limping weeks to go, but I think I might go out now and buy a fancy notebook and a novelty rubber. Just to be ready.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What's In A Name? Guest Post by V.M. Escalada

 by Vicki Delany

One of my closest writer friends isn’t a mystery writer, but the fantasy author Violette Malan. Or is that really her name?  Read on to find out.

So I'm in my brother's bookstore, and I'm looking for my latest book, and I'm not finding it. Just as I'm thinking "oh really?" it strikes me that I'm looking for the wrong name.

I'm not sure how much of a secret it is, but besides being Violette Malan, who writes sword and sorcery fantasy, I'm also V.M. Escalada, who writes epic fantasy. I have to admit that when my agent first suggested I use a penname, my immediate reaction was unfavourable. There are all kinds of reasons for such a suggestion, however, change of genre and change of gender being two of the most common. What people don't often talk about, however, is the practical experience of being two people.

To start with, I was a little flustered. I had plenty of questions, and no one – it seemed – to go to for answers. Don't get me wrong, my agent, and my editor, had plenty of helpful suggestions, just not for these actual, practical, concerns.

My first concern? What explanation do I give people who know me, personally? After all, people who have never met/heard of Violette Malan, aren't likely to ask. The short answer, by the way, is "it's a marketing thing." The long answer is, as they say, beyond the scope of this enquiry..

Which brings me to my second concern: Who am I in public? At a con, for example? The easy answer is: I'm whoever was invited. That's the name that will go first on the con badge. It's not at all unusual, at cons, to see people with two names on their badges, the one who was invited, and (sometimes in brackets or in smaller print) the other one. If you weren't invited as a special guest? If you're just registered as a regular panelist? That's when it gets tricky. Do you use the established, familiar name? or the new one?

I haven't had to answer that one yet, but I'm thinking those marketing people are going to want me to emphasize the name of the author whose book just came out. 

But how do I become a second person? What would I use for a photo? A bio? This is the point at which it struck me that this could be a lot of fun. After all, I make people up for a living, don't I? Not that I can become entirely someone else. Again, people who already know me would have to be able to recognize me. I'm not becoming a different person, I'm becoming a second person. I can't dress entirely differently because, first, I can't afford all those new clothes and, second, I've already bought the stuff I look good in.  I'm not going for frumpy, no matter what the marketing people say.

But I will need a new autograph, won't I? At least I know which name to sign, right? The signature has to match the name on the cover, right? That feels right to me, I could be in a situation where the person asking for the autograph only knows the author standing in front of her. It gets more complicated when the person knows both of you. How personal do you make a personalized signature? Do you sign both names? On the same page? Family's easy. Family doesn't care how you sign the book as long as you sign it, and they can leave it lying around to impress their friends with – something the Escalada part of my family can now do more easily than before.

I admit, I don't really have an answer for the autograph issue. Maybe you can help me out?      


Violette Malan is the author of the Dhulyn and Parno series of sword and sorcery adventures (now available in omnibus editions),  as well as the Mirror Lands series of primary world fantasies. As VM Escalada, she writes the Faraman Prophecy series. Book One, Halls of Law, is available now. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @VioletteMalan.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Too Sad For Words

Usually I try to stay out of politics when writing my blog or on social media sites. We are all inundated with opinions. From the left. From the right. And everywhere in between. I figure mine doesn't add much.

But today, when I feel I must speak out I find that I don't have the words to express my overwhelming sense of sadness over the events in Charlottesville. I can tell you what I think. But that is a function of my mind. And in the immortal worlds of Blaise Pascal, "the heart has its reasons which reason cannot know." What is in my head is one thing, my heart quite another.

When citizens of this country can fearlessly march under the banner of Nazism, when members of the KKK can present their hate-filled ideology without the president of the United States denouncing them unequivocally we are in danger from within. Our democracy is being undermined.

"Good and fine" people who object to the pulling down of statues don't stand beside violent persons bent on tearing up our Constitution. They go home. They leave when events turn ugly. They don't lend their energy to movements that are blatant attacks on human beings. They write their congressmen. They start petitions. They try to reason with persons with another point of view.

They don't take clubs to their fellow man and they denounce those who do.

As to leaders, there is a statement in the Bible that serves us well. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Not by their blossoming. By their fruit. Never mind how charismatic a leader or how attractive the words coming from his or her mouth. What are the fruits?

If hatred, anger, dissention, and deceitfulness seem to follow someone around, something is wrong.

And right now, something is very very wrong in these United States.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Musings

Summer is nearing the end, and it’s time to reflect.

It was a summer of travel –– my day job took me to Tampa, Fl.; Bozeman, Mt.; and Fitchburg, Mass.; vacation took me to Baxter State Park and Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I spent lots of time with my family, including the real DA Keeley (daughters Delaney, Audrey, and Keeley).

(from left) Delaney, Audrey, and Keeley
I wrote about 125 pages, not as much as I’d hoped. There have been summers where I cranked out 125 pages of rough copy in two weeks. But that meant sitting on my writing chair, behind a closed door, eight to 10 hours a day. I’m writing my current book on spec, and my oldest daughter is talking about a summer internship next year that could take her anywhere in the nation (and, thus, far away from my wife and me) Therefore, this might be the last summer with all three girls at home. So, no, I didn’t finish the book, but the end is near.

One thing I’ve most enjoyed about this new book is that I’m writing in present tense. I’ve always been intrigued by the present-tense narrative voice. Recent Type M guest blogger Naomi Hirahara is an author I enjoy. Her Ellie Rush series is told in the present, and I love the immediacy and the tension that creates. Also, I’ve taken baby steps into screenwriting, which requires present tense, so I grasp (and appreciate) the impact this unique tense has on readers and viewers. But the switch from past to present wasn’t easy. It took a long time (and three different POVs) to get the voice right (I probably wrote 100 pages no one will ever see to do so). But I’m nearing 70,000 words now, and the sun is shining.
Ann Whestone and Paula Keeney (right)

On August 12, I read and signed at Mainely Murders bookstore, in Kennebunk, Maine. It’s a must-visit, if you’re in southern Maine (and worth the drive, if you’re not). The store is everything that is great about independent booksellers. Owners Paula Keeney and Ann Whetstone retired, renovated a one-car garage to a small store with an eclectic inventory of 3,500 books, and travel widely to find new authors. They have a rock-solid loyal following. (One customer told me she routinely buys a used book from them and gives it back so they can sell it again, all part of an effort to support the store.) Above all, Keeney and Whetstone love mysteries and their writers. Whether you’re a fan or writer, I highly recommend seeking this store out.

With Audrey, one-third of the "real" DA Keeley

Signing at Mainely Murders

Now it’s time to get back to school and time to finish the book.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Reading List

I’m always looking for reading recommendations so I read Vicki’s recent post with interest. I don’t really distinguish between what I read during the summer and other times of the year. That's probably because while here in Southern California we do have some change of seasons, the changes aren't as dramatic as other areas.

Here are a few books I’ve read this year that I found particularly interesting:

The One-Cent Magenta by James Barron. This
is the story of the most valuable stamp in the world, the One-Cent Magenta. This is not your childhood stamp collecting experience. We’re talking high profile stamp collecting. A very interesting read.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann. In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle in search of the lost city of Z and was never seen again. Over the years, others have ventured into the jungle trying to find him and the fabled city. This is their story as well as an account of journalist David Grann’s own venture into the jungle. I don’t know much about this corner of the world at all so I found it particularly interesting. A quick read. There’s also a recent movie based on the book. I haven’t seen it, but this book is definitely worth reading.

The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian. This is the third book in the Accidental Alchemist series and my favorite so far. This series is part fantasy part mystery. It features alchemist Zoe Faust and Dorian, a living gargoyle. I like all of the characters, but I’ve fallen in love with Dorian. You can read this book without reading the first two in the series, but I’d recommend starting from the beginning with the Accidental Alchemist.

A Sticky Inheritance by Emily James. This is the first book in the Maple Syrup mysteries. I stumbled upon this series sometime this past year, I don’t remember where. Honestly, I might have simply been attracted by the cover. Interesting covers can lure me in. The main character, criminal defense attorney Nicole, inherits a maple syrup farm in Michigan. At first, I wasn’t sure about a mystery featuring maple syrup, but I fell in love with this series from the first page of the first book. I’ve read several more in the series and have two others queued up on my Kindle.

That’s my brief wrap-up. I’ve read lots more books so far this past year, but I thought I’d highlight these as being particularly interesting. What have you all been reading?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Yet another apology

by Rick Blechta

Here’s what I look like at the moment.
To everyone here at Type M, I'm really sorry but I just don't have time to write a post this week. You can blame it all on Bouchercon 2017, though. I am charged with handling the design and layout of the programme book and it is a horrendously large job.

I hope you understand. And you will likely get the same sorry excuse next week, as well, sad to say. But once we hit September, I'll be back in the Type M saddle again!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Reading

By Vicki Delany
Image result for summer reading cartoonWe're moving into late summer now. Here in Southern Ontario, basically we haven’t had one. I am a heat-freak and this summer has been anything but.  Rain upon rain upon rain and otherwise generally cool and cloudy.  Not a single day with temps above 30.  (Sad face here).

Nothing I like more than to sit in the sun by the pool with my book while everyone else huddles inside with the air conditioning.  Everyone but my mom. I definitely take after her.

Product DetailsAnyway, nothing I can do about it, is there? So I haven’t done as much reading this year as I usually do. See above about sitting in the sun etc.

But what summer reading I have done has generally been good. I have never been one for a so-called beach read. When I have the time to really get into a book, I like something big and thick and complex and fascinating.

I noticed that John had one of the books I am going to recommend on his list.  The Sympathiser by Viet-Thanh-Nguyen is all of the above: big and thick and complex and fascinating. Set partially in Vietnam but mostly in the US after the end of what the Vietnamese call the American War, it’s an examination of the Vietnamese experience in the States and a look at the war through ‘the other sides’ eyes.  As you know, I went to Vietnam last year and loved it, and I’m now enjoying learning more about the country and its people.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train. I liked Train very much, this one was good but not as good, in my mind, but still an examination of the complex lives of women and girls and the dangers they face within and without. One thing I have started noticing lately is that in a lot of modern psychological suspense books there are a very large number of POV characters, sometimes even to the point of there not actually being an identifiable protagonist. You’d be hard pressed to say in Into the Water who the protagonist is. Done well, that works. Done badly, it creates a mess of a book. I’d say it works in Into the Water.

Product DetailsAbout Sixty edited by Christopher Redmond.  I am not a Sherlockian, but I do write the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries, and every book sold in that fictional bookshop is real. I don’t claim to have read them all, but this one appealed to me. There are sixty novels and stories in the original Holmes canon. In About Sixty, a Sherlockian picks one of the sixty and argues as to why it is his or her favourite. It provided a great reminder to me of the stories and an overview of the entire canon.

The Break by [Vermette, Katherena]The Break by Katherena Vermette. A tale of an indigenous family and community in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  A woman witnesses a crime and calls the police. All the people involved then tell their stories, both leading up to the crime and in the aftermath. In this case I thought the multiple POV and lack of an identifiable protagonist didn’t work.  I had no one to hang my hat on, so to speak, and some trouble keeping track of the characters. Still, I enjoyed it for the insight into the lives of the characters and their often difficult world.  Not for the faint-of-heart and definitely not for anyone who doesn't like bad language.  Almost none of the characters can finish a sentence without a swear word. Sometimes several. 

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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder.  Not big and thick, but very small, this book was written very quickly at the end of 2016.  We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.  Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience

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And, because every once in a while, you need light and funny. Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay. Who provides just that: light and funny in a classically-styled cozy.