Friday, March 24, 2017

Body in Motion

On Tuesday night, I had trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned and wanted to throw something at the alarm when it went off. But I had an appointment -- with a physical therapist. My doctor asked if I'd like to see one after she concluded that the occasional sharp pain I was having around my neck and shoulders could be related to fact that I spend most of my working days at a computer. She suggested that a therapist might do an evaluation and give me some exercises to do.

The therapist did her evaluation and noted that I had limited range of motion in my neck before experiencing pain and that there was a problem with the distance between my shoulder blades. I nodded and explained my bad habit of sitting too much at the computer, even though I use my adjustable standing desk when I work at school. But I have two monitors on that desk, and looking back-and-forth between them counts as "repetitive motion". And at home, I tend to work a lot at my dining room table on my lap top. Wrong position for arms, too much looking down. Even more when I read a book with my head down while slouching in a chair. The physical therapist mentioned that spending hours not moving from a sitting position can be as bad as smoking.

I heard all this and still expected to walk out with exercises to do and come back in three months. Instead, the therapist went off to get a large heating pad and a device with electrodes. She wrapped my neck in the heating pad, put the electrodes on the back of my neck and left me with a magazine. The heating pad to reduce inflammation felt wonderful, so did the pulsing from the electrodes. When the session was over, she came back with the exercises that she wanted me to start doing. And the news that she wanted me to come in twice a week. But the problem should be better soon if I work on my bad habits. Set an alarm and get up and move every hour. Watch my posture. Position my computer properly. Do the exercises.

Actually, I already knew I've been engaging in body abuse. That was why I requested an adjustable  desk at work. But I hadn't allowed myself to think too much about how that might be counteracted by sitting for hours at home, carrying around a shoulder bag that weighs at least ten pounds, and trying to make one trip from garage to house with two grocery bags and a 24-count case of cat food.

Thinking about writing and the body reminded me of a book that is somewhere on my shelf -- diet and exercise for writers. I know it's somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. I did come across Stephen King's On Writing. If you've read his memoir, you'll recall that he is candid about his former drinking problem that he justified at the time with "the Hemingway Defense" (that writers are sensitive, but real men don't show their sensitivities, instead they drink). About his life now, King observes that having a healthy body and a stable relationship (his marriage) enhances his writing. And his passion for writing contributes to his health and his marriage. King has a schedule, writing in the morning and the afternoon when necessary, but reserving evenings and weekends for his family and relaxation.

We all know, writing can be a pain in the neck, the back, the legs, and the posterior. Writing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, and weight gain. We get eye strain from writing. Too much time alone or the stress of a deadline can make us grouchy and give us insomnia. Knowing when to move our bodies -- to stand up and step away from the computer -- is essential.

I'm going to do better. I don't have the time to go to therapy two times a week, so I will sit up straight and get up when the alarm goes off and pretend I'm my cat, Harry, who wakes up from a sound sleep to turn around and stretch. Zumba. Interval walking. Will do. Yoga. Meditation. Will try.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

In the Weeds, or Keeping the Reader Interested Through the Middle of Your Novel


I, Donis, was fascinated by Barbara’s entry, below, on writing about sex. How much is enough, how much is too much? When do you cross the line and offend your reader? Myself, I usually skip over the graphic sex scenes, mainly because they tend to bore me. There are only two people in the world whose sex life interests me at all—mine and my husband’s. As for the rest of you, enjoy yourselves but leave me out of it.

I’m working on the the middle part of my WIP right now. The beginning flowed right out of me. I knew exactly what I wanted to say to set up the novel. I have a great idea for an ending, if I can pull it off. But getting from here to there isn’t as easy as I hoped. I know which direction I’m going, but I seem to have veered off the road a little and am finding myself a little bit lost in the weeds. Long ago I learned that one way to keep the middle part of your book interesting and not get bogged down is to have at least one interesting side story going. And as long as they are interesting and add depth to the novel, I don’t even mind two or three side stories. You just need to keep people reading. Maybe I need a sex scene…

The only problem with that idea is that graphic sex really wouldn’t fit in this particular series about a married mother and grandmother in 1919. My long time readers would definitely be surprised, to say the least. Of course, we all keep our target audiences in mind, and try to write material that will not offend them so much that they won’t buy our subsequent books. We don’t want to be killing any kitties or puppies unless we absolutely have to for the integrity of the novel. Nor do we wish to go too far beyond the language/sex/violence parameters set by our publishers or agents or editors lest they decide no longer to publish us.

But there are times when the story you are telling just calls for something shocking, or it won’t ring true. My self-censorship problems have to do with the mores of the times and the place I’m writing about in my current series. In 1910s Oklahoma, there were a lot of common and wide-spread attitudes that we in the 21st Century would find unsavory in the extreme – casual racism, even among people of good will who would never knowingly harm another person of any color; assumptions about women and people of other ethnicities; the treatment of children. Can you imagine what would happen today if a parent took a belt to a whiny child in the grocery store? In 1919, it would be expected. Language, too. Words that today would give the hearer a stroke were tossed about with abandon and nobody batted an eye. And I don’t mean just epithets, either. My grandmother, a farm wife with the straightest laces you can possibly imagine, used all kinds of what we would now call scatological words. In her society, crude words for excrement didn’t have nearly the cachet they now have, probably because farm people were up to their knees in it every day of their lives.

But I don’t want readers to judge my characters by modern standards and thus think less of them. Nor do I want to present early 20th Century societal shortcomings in a way that makes light of them or seems approving. So how do I deal with the reality of the time and place? Very, very carefully, let me tell you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Will she or won't she, and other questions about sex

Barbara here. Sex is the theme for today. Or rather the do's and don'ts of writing sex scenes. The reason for this is that I am currently trying to write a sex scene in PRISONERS OF HOPE, the third book in the Amanda Doucette series, and have found myself dithering and evading and resorting to the time-honoured "dot dot dot".

I have not faced this challenge much before because in both my previous series, sex never seemed relevant. Inspector Green is married, and the old mantra of "each scene needs to advance the story in some way" seems to preclude married sex, unless it prevents the detective from answering a crucial phone call or getting someplace important. I suspect that technique would seem contrived enough that readers would yell boo-oo. Similarly, in my Rapid Reads short novel series, poor country handyman Cedric O'Toole has been too romantically inept to make it that far.

But Amanda Doucette is a different matter. She's smart, worldly, single, and thirty-five. In the series, there are two eligible men vying for her attention. In a book club discussion last fall about the first book in the series, FIRE IN THE STARS, the members (all women) said I should have let the poor woman have a sex life. Amanda might have been keen, but being aware of the perils of rushing into a romantic entanglement too soon in a series, I had been holding out. But now that I am writing Book #3, perhaps it is time. That's when I realized it was harder than it looked.

For one thing, a writer suddenly realizes they have readers. Like their mom, their kids, and even grandkids. And friends and colleagues who might imagine we really live like this. In the interests of helping me grapple with this problem of writing sex in crime fiction, a couple of my friends sent me a link to a timely article on the subject, which helped to get me thinking. Check it out here.

Many factors influence the decision of will he/she or won't she, how much detail, what kind of detail, etc. First of all, the will she or won't she? I suspect female characters, like women in real life, are held to more exacting standards and their moral integrity judged accordingly. Male characters seem to be able to get away with lots of bad behaviour – being falling-down drunk in the gutter, not coming home for days, cheating on partners in "a momentary weakness", breaking the law in the interests of the greater good, to name a few. But let a female character forget to feed the dog, and someone will call her on it.  So part of an author's decision to let her female character have sex revolves around how this will be reflected in her character. If you're creating a raunchy, "bad girl", "no holds barred" character, she can have hot sex with whomever, whenever, wherever she wants. But Amanda is not that kind of character. She's passionate and adventurous, but she has a strong moral compass. She believes in helping people and doing the right thing. If she's going to sleep with someone, there has to be some depth of feeling and sense of commitment behind it.


So far so good; I could relate to that. But how to relate to the sexual feelings and romantic experiences of a character when there's a thirty-five years gap in years and cultural evolution between us? I was young in the sixties, which may have been the era of free love and the pill, but still just one step out of Victorian repression. No one even swore in books or in the movies, let alone showed a little flesh. Amanda would have been exposed to much more freedom, openness, and frank pressure. Plus I had never been a single thirty-five year-old woman navigating the landscape of dating and sex. At thirty-five I'd been married fourteen years, had two kids, car pools, and a full-time job.

Luckily, we writers have vivid imaginations. I've never actually murdered anyone either, but imagination (and stories from friends and family in that age group) can take you pretty far. And I suspect that some things don't change. Whether the feelings and experiences I dream up for Amanda bear any resemblance to a real woman's world is open for debate, however.

Point of view is another really interesting minefield in the handling of sex scenes. A scene written from a male character's point of view will focus on the feelings and experiences that character is having, what turns him on, what actions he takes. A scene written from a woman's point of view will, or at least should, describe her body's reaction, her thoughts and fantasies, what turns her on. I think it's very hard to write accurately across the gender divide. I've almost never read a sex scene written by a man that I found erotic, because it is focussed on what turns him on and not what turns a woman on. Even if the writer is trying to describe a woman's experience, he usually gets it wrong. Female writers probably do equally poorly trying to get inside a man's head.

But it gets even more complicated than that, and I'll have more to say about point of view later. For now, suffice to say I am still in safe territory, because I was going to be female writing about female.

But now we are down to the nitty gritty. How to describe the sex, how graphic to be, how poetic and metaphorical. Again this is partly influenced by the style of the book and the effect you want. Raw and shocking? Subtle and romantic? I rarely go in for "do's and don'ts" in writing, but I will throw in some cautionary notes here. In every scene, a writer is going for effect. In a sex scene, you hope to capture the reader and sweep them along on the journey so that they are immersed and experience it as vividly as possible. Anything that trips them up and pulls them out of the story will ruin this journey.

Metaphors and similes and euphemistic language can be killers. It takes a very skilled writer to hit exactly the right note with a metaphor or simile. Bad sex scenes are replete with images of fountains, geysers, fireworks, rocket ships, and other hilariously clumsy attempts at poetry. And once the reader laughs, all magic is lost.

Graphic detail can be an equal magic killer. First off, as you're reading about a particularly spectacular position, you might privately think "ow," or "how is that even possible?" In the article above, the writer makes reference to sex in a "disabled toilet" and I was immediately wondering how does that work, how do they fit, and how do they know it's disabled? A gush of cold water certainly would cross my mind. Magic killer.

And this leads me to the biggest hazard about writing sex scenes. The more graphic you are in your description of who does what to whom, where, and with what, the more likely you are to trip someone's "ew" wire. In the article cited above, the author's rule of thumb is if it turns you on while you're writing it, it will probably turn the reader on too. I disagree. We are not all turned on by the same things. Each of us has unique sexual triggers that come from our sexual orientation, our formative sexual experiences, and our partner's skills. And we have unique turn-offs. A three-some in a poster bed with handcuffs may drive some readers wild, but you've lost me at the gate.

So at the end of all this soul-searching, I've come full circle to that first rule of good writing. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes a gentle allusion or two is all that is needed to allow the reader to use their own imagination to fill in the scene with their own details. Like a good artist, more can be achieved with minimal brush strokes than with a flurry of minute detail. There are some universals in sexual arousal. A longing gaze, a tilt of the head, a touch of the finger. Maybe a caress or two.

And then dot dot dot.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Authors: the importance of knowing your business

by Rick Blechta


I have written at length on Type M about the difference between the job of “writer” and “author”. Yeah, those thoughts are very much my view of the two, and you might well not agree with them, but please hear me out. I’m not going to rattle that cage very much in this week’s post, anyway.

A few years back I did a very rash thing. Toronto was being considered to host the 2017 Bouchercon and I went to the meeting (held at the end of the Cleveland Bouchercon in 2012). What happened next I may live to regret. I said I would be willing to do the convention program book. Now payment is coming due and the sheer amount of work involved is daunting in the extreme.

Anyway, I’m currently dealing with processing author photos to accompany the brief bios that form a review of the authors in attendance. Here’s where I didn’t think through my commitment when I said, “I’ll do the programme!” At this point over 600 authors will be in Toronto next fall. Each should have a nice photo in the programme, right? That means dealing with those photos.

(When is he going to get to the writers vs authors part?)

With my professional designer’s hat on, I have to say that 20% of the author photos I’ve received have been (to put it bluntly) appalling: awful photos, too small photos and even ones that are quite blurred.

It seems to me that if you want to be taken seriously as a published author, first off, you should have a professionally done photo that can be used for situations just such as this. Yeah, your husband may have taken a great photo of you on your last holiday in Cancun, but is it up to professional standards?

I also put together a pretty exhaustive list of what authors need to know before sending in their photos. I know some of the authors submitting didn’t even give this a moment’s consideration.

One of the biggest things an author can do to help themselves stand out from the crowd — and probably the easiest to accomplish since it’s completely under their control — is to appear professional. For instance, a newspaper asks for a nice headshot for a profile they’re doing of you. Your job is to fire off a professional photo of yourself — and you do it promptly and in the proper format for print. That’s called being professional. It will help them to take your seriously.

That means educating yourself about things like finding out the difference between a photo on a computer screen and a photo on a piece of paper. (And it’s easily “google-able”.)

The thing that appalls me is that not only do too many authors attending Bouchercon not know anything about these requirements, but they obviously didn’t bother reading my instructions (designed to help them if they don’t know).

And they expect to be taken seriously as professional authors? Ain’t gonna happen. You tend not to get second chances with other professionals, especially media outlets.

I’ve just covered one small area of knowledge that an author should know. If you’re new to this game, especially, do yourself a favour and educate yourself. It will only help you.
_________________

One additional thing: Bouchercon2017 sent out a call for author photos over two weeks ago. Do you know how many I’ve received? Just over 10%. I’ll bet a good 20% of the attending authors will submit their photo at the eleventh hour. Guess what’s going to happen? I’m only going to have time to be able to just throw their photo on the page and hope for the best. So if you’re one of those authors who has registered and not taken care of this, do yourself a HUGE favour and get me your photo now when I can give it my full attention. Details are on the Bouchercon website.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The World's Largest Book


We often talk about 'losing ourselves in a book.' Here at the Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) it is quite easy to lose yourself among the serried ranks of the 729 dazzling white kiosks that are the 'pages' of the text of the Tripitaka, the Theravada Buddhist dhamma teachings, grouped around the spectacular Pagoda.

Each kiosk is lined with stone tablets, each containing 80-100 lines of inscription, originally in gold; a stone-mason could complete perhaps 16 lines a day. The 'book' was finished in 1688 and though it suffered a fair bit of destruction over the years – not least by the British during the Anglo-Burmese War, I'm ashamed to say – it has now been restored to its pristine state of splendour.

We've just come back from a holiday in this amazing country. For me, it fulfilled a dream I've had ever since I read Kipling's 'The Road to Mandalay' and wanted to see 'the dawn come up like thunder out of China 'cross the bay' – as indeed it does, a red and angry sun rising through the grey mists of the morning.

It is the first Third World country we've ever visited and certainly it has severe problems with a 10% child mortality rate and clean water a rarity in the countryside. The military dictatorship has ruined the economy and despite a fig-leaf of democracy in the person of Aung Snag Suu Kyi is still in control. Yet there is no malnutrition and in a fortnight we saw far fewer beggars than you would see if you walked along Princes Street in Edinburgh. The monasteries and nunneries, run solely on alms-giving, feed anyone who comes in – even if they do little towards medical care or modern education.

The sheer bling of the pagodas takes the breath away – tons of gold, thousands of rubies, sapphires and diamonds – but my principal memory is of the people themselves, smiling and sunny, and as intrigued by our foreign-ness as we were by theirs. Wherever we went little children would beam and wave or run up for a 'high five'!

I can't say it has given me useful ideas for a book. One guide engagingly explained that if there was trouble in the village the Chief Elder (elected every five years) would try to deal with it but if necessary would send for the police. If the police weren't coping, in the last resort they would send for the monk and after that, he explained serenely, everything would be all right. As a plot, I feel that would lack something.

What the experience did give me, though, was brilliantly summed up by Somerset Maugham in one of his Burma novels. When he travelled, he said, 'I do not bring back from my journey quite the same self that I took.'

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Guest Blogger Mary Anna Evans




Type M is pleased to welcome guest blogger Mary Anna Evans, author of the wonderful  Faye Longchamp Mystery series. Faye lives the exciting life of an archaeologist, and Mary Anna envies her a little. In her latest Faye Longchamp mystery, Mary Anna takes Faye to Oklahoma, which I, Donis, think is a very fine thing indeed. Find Mary Anna on Facebook and Twitter, where she runs regular contests for her followers, who can win books, swag, or the chance to have a character named after them!


TORNADOES!

I just moved to Oklahoma, the very heart of Tornado Alley. My new book is set in Oklahoma, thus it has a tornado traveling menacingly across its cover and I have deadly whirlwinds on my mind.

This should be no surprise to anyone who has read my work, since Artifacts closes with the mother of all hurricanes. To research that story, I read a book called Florida's Hurricane History from cover to cover, but I also dredged my own memory for colorful details. When I was seven years old, Hurricane Camille blew ashore 60 miles south of me and roared over my head. When you read that Faye is hearing the trunks of thick-bored pine trees snap, know that I remember that sound. And if, perchance, you should read in Burials about Faye experiencing extreme weather in the form of severe thunderstorms and maybe a tornado in Oklahoma, know that I have personal experience with those, too. I grew up in Mississippi, which weather aficionados have dubbed with its own stormy nickname--Dixie Alley. I've lived through enough hurricanes, tornadoes, and near-misses to know that it's all fun and games until The Weather Channel sends Jim Cantore to town.

So what does it feel like to be way too close to a tornado?

Well, a tornado took out my school's football stands and field house when I was eight, just a short walk from my classroom. I should have been able to see it happen, but all I can tell you is that the sky turned so black that we couldn't see even that short distance. When I was in the fifth grade, a funnel cloud skirted our elementary school campus, but I can't tell you much because we were all in the hall, sitting on the concrete floor with our heads between our knees. The same thing happened when I was a student at Ole Miss, but we were all ushered to the library basement, where we could trust that we'd be safe, unless all the floors, ceilings, books, shelves, and furniture on the upper floors caved in on us.

Fortunately (fortunately?), I can tell you more about the tornado that interrupted my eighth-grade English class. The sky turned green. (Yes, it really does that.) The clouds were a shade of purple that was somehow both deep and bright. As they lowered over us, daytime went nighttime-dark and the streetlights came on. We were herded into the hall to, once again, sit on the concrete floor with our heads between our knees, but this time there were skylights over us. And this time I peeked.

Those purple clouds roiled above the skylights and they dropped hailstones the size of softballs. The hail hit the roof with loud thunks and clanks, and the sky got even darker. The sound of the wind did indeed sound like a locomotive, just as every witness of a tornado has always said. Later, school gossips said that our school principal was outside watching the storm as it happened. Now that I'm an adult, I'm guessing that he was wondering what he'd do to protect us all, if things turned bad, but the gossip among youngsters was more lurid. Everyone said that he had to wrap his arms and legs around a post just to keep from being blown away. Remembering the force of the wind's gusts, I do not doubt it.

I'm writing this post on the sunniest of days, but a thunderstorm just two nights ago brought marble-sized hail to my Oklahoma back yard. It took those icy nuggets for a reminder that the earth is big and that I am small. And I took it for a sign that the tornado gracing the cover of my brand-new book was just the right image to usher it out into the world.

Happy spring to you all!
___________________

Visit Mary Anna's website at http://maryannaevans.com

Friday, March 17, 2017

Multi-Author Signings

Last fall I participated in a multi-author signing. It was sponsored by the Loveland Public Library, which is a state of the art facility. There were over fifty authors present with their books on display.

These kinds of events can be very frustrating for the newly published if they have wild expectations for sales. Unless you are a big-name author, chances are you'll be lucky to sell a couple of books.

So why go? There are many reasons to attend and here are a few cheery tips, warnings and observations to make the most of these events:

1. Just because someone doesn't buy your book on the spot doesn't mean he won't buy it later in a different format. On-line offerings are less expensive. 

2. Note the number of persons who explore the displays with a pen and pencil--taking notes. They might plan to download directly from the library. Electronic services through local libraries have exploded. Hoopla, Overdrive, Freading, Librivox, and OneClickdigital are sites that allow instant access to material.

3. If you've published a number of books, bring all the titles. Browsers usually ask "what is the first book in the series?" And that's the one they will want to buy! Not your latest. Multiple titles also demonstrate that people buy and read your books and the publisher finds it worthwhile to stick with you.

4. Put some thought into your display. Buy little bookstands. Make the collection colorful. Some of the authors tables at this event were works of art. Print out a little sign with prices and lay it to one side so customers won't have to ask.

5. Concentrate on getting browsers to stop at your table. Yes, lure them with chocolate. There is no way they can buy books from fifty authors. A little boost to their blood sugar and some pleasant conversation (about your books) can be a welcome pause in the lengthy time it takes to survey the tables.

6. About that pleasant conversation! Make each person feel good about not buying your books. What? Sounds crazy? It's not. Most folks feel guilty about not supporting local authors. People who have done you the enormous courtesy of stopping at your table should be encouraged to read flap copy, the blurbs on the back, and a few sample pages. Get the books in their hands while you talk. Then encourage them to look at other tables before they purchase. After doing so, you and your books will stick in their minds. Not the surly author who sighed and looked cranky when the overwhelmed buyer didn't shell out.

To be continued....at my next posting.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Busy Mini-Retirement

My mother is retired. But every time I call, she tells me she’s busy. I shake my head and think, How busy can you be, Mom?

Well, this week I’m on vacation –– my own mini retirement, if you will. Students are gone. My oldest daughter is in college, my middle daughter is visiting friends in New York City, and my youngest is in school all day. Theoretically, I should be getting lots done on my work-in-progress.

But theories are based on hypotheses. And hypotheses are only guesses. Very rarely are they outcomes.

So far this week, the dog has a vet appointment, this year’s FAFSA report must be completed, and I have school projects that –– if I allow –– can keep me busy all week. Yesterday, I wrote 700 words and revised a chapter twice. More than I’d accomplish during my usual 4 to 6 a.m. writing session. But I didn’t get done as much as I hoped.

You’d think after writing three novels featuring US Border Patrol agents –– and researching until the cows come home for each book –– that this new project (a novel set at a boarding school) would be something I could write very fast. Yet that’s not been the case. Lots of starts and stops. Lots of interruptions. Balancing a writing career with a teaching career and some educational consulting forces me to get as much out of my 4 to 6 a.m. sessions as I can.

So how did my week off get filled up? It’s probably a question my mother asks about her “busy” retirement.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

California Crime Writers Conference

As you read this, I’m out of town once again. This time I’m attending Left Coast Crime Honolulu Havoc in Hawaii. I’m on Oahu celebrating my birthday and promoting my latest book, A Palette for Murder.

I’m attending a couple more conferences than usual the first half of this year. Besides LCC, I’ll be at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD in April and the California Crime Writers Conference June 10th and 11th in Culver City, CA.

CCWC holds a special place in my heart for a couple reasons. I co-chaired the 2011 conference with the talented Naomi Hirahara, and the 2013 conference is where I met the Managing Editor for Henery Press, the publisher that ended up giving me a 3 book contract that includes my latest book.

Every two years the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime and the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America team up to put together this two-day conference geared toward writers. It’s filled with helpful information for crime writers at any level. Attendance is limited to 200. As I write this, there are still slots available, but it’s filling up fast.

The conference has its roots in the No Crime Unpublished one-day conference put together for years by SinC/LA. In 2009, SinC/LA joined with the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America and put on the first CCWC.

It’s a great conference with two days chock full of sessions featuring craft, forensics/crime solving, publishing industry and marketing experts. It’s been my pleasure to see it grow and improve year after year. The keynote speakers for this year’s conference are NY Times best-selling authors Hallie Ephron and William Kent Krueger.

Besides the workshops and panels, the conference fee also includes a sit down lunch both days, an agent and editor cocktail party on Saturday evening, a book room and a charity auction.

I’m looking forward to attending once again. Maybe I’ll see some of you there?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How much do you need to know to know that you don’t know much?

by Rick Blechta

I don’t know about you, but I tend to second-guess just about everything I do — especially in my writing. At times it can become quite debilitating. But I look on it as a strength rather than as a weakness.

Take the first sentence of this post as an example. Should second-guess be hyphenated or not? Of course I had to look it up. Making any mistake is anathema to me. (Darn, now I have to look up anathema to make sure I used it correctly… Yup.)

So this week’s post has already cost me extra time to write. Anything I write is like this, not just the fiction writing. Sure, I don’t enjoy looking stupid by making stupid mistakes. Who does? And I do find it particularly embarrassing to use a “big” word incorrectly.

But I also just like to know about things. It can lead me down long and involved rabbit holes, and cause a lot of time-wasting delays. There can be gold in them tar tunnels, though, because I’m also the possessor of a brain that stores arcane knowledge quite well. More than once I’ve pulled something out of it that really makes an effective point.

The point of this post is the importance of always questioning oneself. Are you sure? Is there a better way to do/say it? Should you consult someone? I’ve found time and time again that not just barreling ahead, damn those torpedos is the smartest way to proceed. It may be a small point. It may just be a throwaway bit of writing, but getting it right is important.

Every error due to not bothering to check something out diminishes what you’re doing — and that’s never a good thing.

So yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to honestly say, “Yeah, I know enough. I’m completely 100% sure. I have no self-doubt about this.

“Experts” will tell you that self-doubt is a very bad thing. I suppose if you let it take over your life and stop you from moving forward with something, then it is bad. Personally, though, I find self-doubt a good thing, almost comforting. Because I know I can always do better. I’m willing to accept that and work harder. And along the way, I’ll learn more and have less self-doubt about something in the future.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Home again! Nope, on the road again!

by Vicki Delany

Barbara faithfully wrote and submitted her Type M posts while she and I were away in India and Nepal. She shared some of her pictures with you.

It was a great trip, but I can't say I found any writerly inspiration there. I just enjoyed myself. No, I have no plans to set a future book in India.  Other than a hapless Western Tourist tale, I really couldn't anyway.  A couple of weeks is not enough to get a feel for a country and how the people live well enough to attempt to use it in a book.

But we did see some wonderful things and here are some of my favourite photos. I particularly loved the old Mughul forts and palaces that were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Marvellous examples of magnificent architecture from a time of no electricity, no computers, and no engines. Just architects scratching on paper (or in their heads) and manual labour, human and animal.

The Red Fort in Old Delhi

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Detail from Amber Fort

Barbara and Vicki at the Taj Mahal, which is as marvellous in person as in pictures

I am home long enough to wash some clothes and then it's back on the road. Elementary, She Read, the first in my new Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series comes out tomorrow, and I'm going to the US for a mini-book tour.

I'll be at Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor,MI,  Tuesday March 14, 7:00.  They're putting on a tea party for me!
Then Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA on Wednesday, also 7:00 and
Mechancsburg Mystery Bookshop, Mechanicsburg, PA Thursday, also 7:00

Hope to see some of you there.


Friday, March 10, 2017

My Week

Reading "My Day," Eleanor Roosevelt's syndicated newspaper column, one can't help but be struck by how she weaves the details of public and private. A description of a family evening seems ordinary until one realizes who the guests were who came to dinner. An account of a trip to the New York City World's Fair with friends leads one to pause and wonder about the security surrounding an event that Mrs. Roosevelt mentions so casually.

I was once asked to write a guest blog about a typical day in the life of my police detective, Hannah McCabe. I have occasionally been asked how I divide my time between my career as an academic and my other life as a mystery writer. Yesterday, as I was thinking about how to fit some designated writing time into my schedule for the rest of the semester, I paused to look not only at my day, but at my week.

My life is lived on a calendar that is never quite in step with people who look at a year and see twelve months. Academic-types look at a calendar and see semesters or quarters or intersessions. We see the times when classes are in session. We are sometimes unaware of holidays when other people have days off because our classes are meeting. We have spring break, and for a week -- as in summer and for almost a month in late December and much of January -- we may be working at home. We have "flexible" schedules in that we have work to get done, but are generally free to come and go unless we have a class or office hours or a committee meeting. Having such an undefined "work day," we often carry around papers to be graded or books to be read and end up in errand-to-do places with computers open. Think waiting room at the car dealership while oil being changed and tires rotated.

Next week is spring break for the students at UAlbany. This week was mid-term week -- a marvelous way to send them off with a sigh of relief that the first half of the semester is over and nagging anxiety about how well they did on the exam. I had two classes this week. Crime and Cities, a grad course, on Monday afternoon, 1:15-4:05. Violence in American literature, a 400-level, writing-intensive, course from 5:45-8:35 on Tuesday evening. Late evening classes are a recent addition in my school, and we take turns teaching them. The idea is that it allows students who are unable to take a class during the day to register for an evening class. What I've discovered is that I spend much of my day knowing that I'll need to teach in the evening and not getting too involved in anything else.



On Monday, I went into Crime and Cities feeling confident that my grad students would remember the discussions we'd had about the evolution of American cities from colonies to early 20th century cities. They had read, watched videos, discussed in class and their online journals the role of commerce in the establishment of the colony of New Amsterdam (where Peter Stuyvesant, the director general banned knife fights and fined failure to attend church) and Chicago (where location was everything, Mrs. O'Leary's cow was wrongly accused, and Henry Ford took note of the dis-assembly line used to butcher hogs). After the last student had finished her exam, I dashed back to my office to leave the exams on my desk and then hurried to the uptown campus (10 minutes away) to attend a meeting. I had already said I would be late (the problem when meetings have to be scheduled based on availability of the majority of attendees on two campuses). I got there in time to settle into my seat before the presenter was too far along. A bottle of water was waiting on the conference table, always welcome after a hike from one of the parking lots. I headed home after the meeting and spent the evening working on my Tuesday exam (while watching "The Voice").

Tuesday stands out as a high point in my week because a library director cc'd me on an email she sent out to the librarians in her system. The email was about me. She was letting them know that the three-volumes that co-editor, Steve Chermak, and I had edited on Crimes of the Century had made Library Journal's list of "Best of 2016" reference book. I zipped off a quick thank you for the news and sent an email to my co-editor. We did the email equivalent of a "high-five," both pleased that a project that had been so labor-intensive had turned out more than okay in the end. He suggested I email the editor we work with as co-series editors for crime and media and let her know. I also sent an email to my agent, who had nothing to do with the project, but I like to let him know when something good happens.

Tuesday evening I gave another exam. My undergrad students tackled multiple choice questions, true or false, matching, and the two essays questions of their choice. They felt more confident about the essay questions because they had made them up the week before. I caught up on the news on my podium computer while they wrote about Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Crane's "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," Dunbar's "The Lynching of Jube Benson," and Glaspell's "Trifles" and "A Jury of Her Peers". We wished each other good spring breaks as they deposited their exams on the table and headed out one by one. 

On Wednesday, I looked at the two stacks of exams on my desk and considered when I would start grading. I wanted to finish before spring break begins so that I would have an entire, uninterrupted week to work on my dress, appearance, and crime book. I also needed to do a draft of a proposal for a conference in Spring 2018 and send it off to my collaborator in a community project. I needed to read a manuscript that I had been asked to review by an academic publisher. I needed to finish reading  Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World, because I'm distributing copies of the book to my graduate class when they return after spring break. Justice Sotomayor is coming to campus on April 4 to give a public lecture.


During the day, the supervisor of our three-volume project sent congratulations on Library Journal. I glanced around at the stacks of articles that I'd read and printed out for my dress and appearance book. I debated whether -- since my one office window was going to be covered with green netting until July while renovations were going on -- I might actually pack up some of the boxes and spend more time working at home. I decided working in a gloomy office where no sunshine penetrated was probably easier than concentrating when a 16 pound cat decides he wants to set on your lap as you're writing. Besides I had tried that during the summer and the books I needed was always at school.

On Thursday, I confirmed that I would be on a panel during spring break if the organizer really needed me. I made a note to myself to rent the documentary that I would need to watch. Earlier, I'd remembered that I hadn't made my hotel reservation for Malice Domestic. I called the hotel and had a few tense moments on hold that turned out to be about the computer not a full hotel. I'd called my doctor's office to make an appointment to get my ear checked -- clogged since I'd had a cold -- and needed to scramble for my appointment book when the receptionist surprised us both by saying she could fit me in on Friday. I spent the evening, thinking about what I want to accomplish next week -- and realizing I need to get as much done up front as possible. A week goes by in the blink of an academic eye.

This morning -- or late last night -- I decided to write about how I'd spent my week. I'm thinking of keeping a daily journal to help me find more time to write every day. I'm going to see if setting aside a couple of hours a day to work on the 1939 book will get me through the first draft.

Just realized this post is really long -- but no time to edit. A meeting at 1. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Coming Up – Tucson Book Festival 2017

This photo is from 2011, but I like it

Every year at this time I pack up my old kit bag and head down to Tucson Arizona to work the Tucson Festival of Books. TFoB is a giant gathering of nearly 400 authors of all ilks, all participating in panels, talks, signings, presentations, and workshops. Nearly 120,000 people normally attend over the two day period. That's pretty good, considering that the population of Tucson is around 585,000. The festival draws readers and writers from all over the desert Southwest, and has almost reached the size of the Los Angeles Festival, which boasted 150,000 attendees last year.

I'm only going to be down there one day this year, Saturday, March 11. But it's going to be a busy day. I'll be moderating a panel, signing books at the Clues Unlimited Bookstore booth, teaching a class on writing historical mysteries, and participating as a panelist on a third panel.(for my complete schedule, click here) Participating on a panel is a little nerve-wracking if you don't care for speaking in front of crowds. I don't mind public speaking, but one does feel a some pressure to be entertaining. It takes a lot of preparation to be spontaneously witty and profound. The real work comes with being a panel moderator. Now, that does take a lot of prep. The moderator's job is to make the panelists look good. I've moderated many a panel in my time, and sometimes the authors are real pros who make it easy and sometimes you get a bunch of stiffs and you work your hindquarters off trying to keep the audience from either walking out or sliding out of their chairs in a coma, overcome by boredom.

It’s always a boost to be around other writers. Writing can be such a solitary life that sometimes you wonder if you're not just a voice crying in the wilderness. It's a mystery to me how a book ever gets written, to tell the truth. I've written books in the midst of personal crises that went on for months, but then found myself paralyzed when nothing in particular was going on with the rest of my life. But however lovely it is to get out in the world, I must say that I can’t help but wonder if all this travel and outlay and acting as free entertainment just for the exposure is really worth it. Especially when you can hardly find the time to finish your novel.

I want to write my stories. That's the thing I want to do and the thing I really enjoy doing. My mother taught us that in order to reach our financial goals, we should always pay ourselves first. In other words, put money aside for yourself before you even pay your bills. My mistake lately has been not doing the same thing with my writing. Do the writing first. It doesn't even have to be good, just get some words down on the page before you do anything else. That's my job, to do the writing. All the rest is gravy.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

More on inspiration

Barbara here. In my last post, I wrote about inspiration on the road, specifically a three-week personal holiday travelling through India and Nepal. I am still on that trip, now staying at the final destination of Kathmandu before flying home later in the week. Throughout the trip internet access has been capricious and slow, so I will try to be short.

The trip has been filled with inspirational moments that make your spirit and imagination soar. Imagine the passion and enduring loyalty that drove a grieving emperor to build a tomb to his beloved dead wife, embarking on a dream that took 22 years, employed 20,000 workers, and cost an unimaginable sum. Clad in shimmering white marble inlaid with precious stones, perfect in its symmetry, set off by fountains and gardens, it is breathtaking. Humbling yet exalting.


Another inspirational moment was sunrise in a boat on the Ganges River, joining the many faithful who make a pilgrimage to this sacred river seeking blessing or fulfillment of a wish. Along with others I lit a candle in a tiny flower boat and watched it dance along the current with the others, bearing our wishes out towards the sea.


A third inspiration came at sunrise again, on a flight out of Kathmandu over the legendary Mount Everest. Despite the persistent smog that plagues Asian cities, the sky over the Himalayas was a fierce, crisp blue, and the sun lit the white glacial peaks in perfect detail. Everest is but one of dozens of jagged, terrifying peaks around it, but its power lies in the human dreams that it has inspired. Cold and solitary, it still carries with it those legions of climbers who have dared to dream big, who've fought and triumphed and sometimes died on its rugged slopes.


There were many other touchingly inspirational moments as well. Watching a young rickshaw driver who couldn't have weighed 100 pounds, valiantly struggling to pedal his large charges around the markets. Watching young mothers trim the excess silk from the scarves and fabric bolts in the silk factory in Varanasi, sitting on the floor in a circle with their babies and toddlers by their side.

As Aline said in her Monday post, writing is about stepping into another person's shoes and imagining their world. Travel not only offers us other shoes, but other worlds and lives beyond our own. Not only will that enrich our writing, but our humanity as well. I will carry the inspiration of these moments with me for a long time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

On the lighter side…

by Rick Blechta

I’m a bit under the gun today with Things That Need Doing, so I’ll eschew the Sturm und Drang of my recent posts and instead present something for your delectation that’s fun but also interesting. It comes from a posting I saw recently on Facebook, that wonder of information and time-wasting engagement.

The basis of the article is this: what would it look like if you stripped away everything except the punctuation from some famous novels? (http://mentalfloss.com/article/75602/what-famous-novels-look-stripped-everything-punctuation)



Interesting, no?

Now try this (whether you’re an ink-stained wretch or not): take an extended piece of your writing and do the same thing. (The search and replace function will help with this. Just ask it to replace all the letters and numbers with nothing.)

What do you see?

Well, in my case, I see too many damn commas. The trend over time in writing has been to use fewer commas. The thought being that they stop or slow down the eye’s flow as lines on a page (or screen) are scanned. Basically the current accepted role of commas is this: use them only where clarification or easier understanding of a sentence is needed.

Stripped of my verbiage (and that’s another whole can of worms for me), I am obviously way behind the curve as far as current use of punctuation goes.

So, I’m left with this: use fewer commas and simplify my sentence structure and use of “waffle words” — as one editor-friend calls them — to just make everything more “lean”. That still leaves me with a lot of latitude to craft wonderful descriptions and engaging dialogue while making things move along more smartly and clearly.

And who says Facebook is a total waste of time?

Monday, March 06, 2017

Labels

Recently I came across a quote from Joanna Trollope.  I'm not sure how well known she is outside Britain; she was first successful with books that were labelled, with a faintly scornful curl of the lip, 'Aga Sagas'.

I'm never quite sure how well phrases like this translate. An Aga is a very expensive type of stove that warms the house and provides hot water as well as having a hob and a cooker with four ovens at different temperatures permanently ready to bake, simmer or even, in the lowest one, prove dough  or keep orphan lambs cosy should the need arise.

Every farmhouse kitchen in the glossy magazines that I tend to think of as property porn will have an Aga in some colour - bright red, dark green, duck egg blue or even pink - so the expression 'Aga Saga' denotes a story revolving round the  middle-class people who have what is sometimes known as 'first-world problems.'

I'm not a fan of Aga cookers myself.  I love to cook and I always think the oven temperatures are very approximate. But I have no patience with the attitude that suggests that the only people who have real feelings are those who live life in squalor and violence.  Yes, of course, those stories are deeply meaningful too, but human nature comes in all shapes and sizes.

The problems that Joanna Trollope's books deal with are universal - worry about one's children or one's parents, dealing with debt, jealousy, difficult relationships, infidelity - I could go on. But the reason I'm writing about her today is because of that quote I came across.  It described the writer as needing to have 'an acute consciousness of putting yourself in someone else's shoes.'

It's such a good description.  And it doesn't matter whose shoes they are, and it doesn't matter what label gets attached.  For a crime-writer hard-boiled, cozy, police procedural, gumshoe are only a few of the labels that are stuck on our books.  But the same thing applies to us all: if we are able to walk the miles in another man's moccasins we are, to be grand about it, illuminating the human condition, whether we have floral chintz on our windows or  dirty, tattered net curtains.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Guest Post: Cynthia Kuhn

It’s my pleasure to welcome Cynthia Kuhn to Type M. We met at Bouchercon when it was in L.A. a few years ago and instantly hit it off. Not too long after that she was awarded a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. Her book was almost instantly snapped up by Henery Press. That book, The Semester of Our Discontent, is up for an Agatha Award at this year’s Malice for Best First. Her second book, The Art of Vanishing, came out Feb. 28th. Take it away Cynthia...



Styling the Mystery

by Cynthia Kuhn

My first two book projects were focused on dress and fashion in literature, so I can’t help but pay attention to elements of style when reading/viewing sleuths in action. (Noir seems to have its own fashion system, so we’ll set that aside for now.) Happily, memorable items abound.

It’s difficult to imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes without his deerstalker cap. It’s a perfect accessory because it draws attention to the workings of his marvelous brain. Interesting fact: Doyle never specified a deerstalker, which was added by an illustrator of one of the stories. But it’s unquestionably iconic—to the extent that the current BBC series has Watson remind him at one point: “You’re Sherlock Holmes. Wear the damn hat.”

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot sports a Homburg hat over his “little grey cells”—coupled with a fastidious moustache. He is often attired in elegant garb, like Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher. In fact, her ensembles in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are so gorgeous that I often find my mind drifting away from the storyline to wonder if I too could find, say, a deliciously fringe-y vintage wrap. And nobody rocks a bob and pearl-handled pistol like she does.

While Nancy Drew’s fashions change with the times, homage was paid to her cloche hat in a recent episode of Scream Queens, when sorority president Chanel Oberlin attempts to unite the sisters through a ceremonial presentation of gifts, saying, “We are gonna use these Nancy-Drew-looking sleuthing caps and enormous magnifying glasses and catch the killer as a team.” (There’s a little wink here, by the way, since Emma Roberts plays Chanel on TV and Nancy in film.)

Although generally clothed in no-nonsense outfits, perfect for her investigative work, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone does own one dress she pulls out whenever she has to attend something formal. Every time she mentions it, I long to know where I can buy one too. I mean, a non-wrinkling, all-purpose little black dress? Is that not the holy grail of travel clothes?

The Parasol Protectorate series is not traditional mystery—it’s something like a paranormal steampunk romance adventure comedy of manners—but Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti has the sleuthing accessory to end all sleuthing accessories: a parasol kitted out with all manner of useful gadgetry that would make even James Bond jealous. How very useful!

**What are your favorite sleuthing outfits or accessories on page or screen?**


Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. Originally from upstate New York, Cynthia currently teaches English at MSU Denver. In addition, she serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado and blogs with Chicks on the Case. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Blogmates and Uneasy Comfort

One of the delights of being included in Type M For Murder is reading the posts of wonderful writers and learning they, too, struggle and are beset with a fair amount of insecurities.

My post is late today despite a Lenten vow to put in a decent Organized day of work every single day until Easter. Except Sundays when I revert to my natural state which is that of sloth. The truth is I often feel whipped around by events and don't know how the super producers do it.

I have a launch party/signing coming up March 11 at 2:00 at Barnes and Noble in Loveland. I've done a decent amount of preparation and I'm not a shy person so I don't mind appearing in public. But still...I would like to do my best and can think of a lot of things that can go wrong.

Part of my problem is that I have a hard time tending to promotion and writing at the same time. Right now I'm tending to on-line activity and entering my Nicodemus book in contests and responding to requests for information about Fractured Families. I'm lucky! I know that. But I'm also harried because I'm behind in every area.

A very wise woman, Jeanne Williams, who has helped more people launch writing careers than anyone I know once told me that writers are prey to a form of free floating anxiety when they are not writing. That is true for me. I don't know what there is about writing novels. It's amazing how much this activity keeps the demons at bay. If I put my writing first I find that I can cope with dental appointments, my children's upheavals, housekeeping details--practically anything with ease.

A writer I greatly admire, C.J. Box, spoke at a conference recently and said he was always working on three books simultaneously: the book he was composing, the book he was promoting, and the book in production. He writes at least one book a year and each book is really, really good. I admire his integrity and quiet resolution. Most of all, I can't figure out how he does it.

I can only do two out of three with any degree of success. I can write and promote, or promote and handle the things that occur during production. I probably should cut down on outside activities. I'm on our HOA board, fairly active in my church, an avid knitter, never miss the MET HD productions, and so on. And my beloved children! I love being included in their activities.

On the other hand, I think if I only scurry out of my office like a little brown spider on Halloween and Christmas I would probably shrivel up or simply give in to my tendency to read all of the time instead of most of time.

I read John Corrigan's post and it's comforting to me to know that other writers struggle with juggling duties and schedules.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Advance Readers

Writing: A solitary act. A lonely profession. “I love doing signings,” a writer friend recently told me, “because everything else about the book I did alone.”

This week, I found myself contradicting those sentiments when I asked a student why he never shows me a draft before turning in his work. “No writer works in a vacuum,” I said. “In fact, I have three people reading the novel I’m writing right now as I’m writing it.”

Admittedly, this is a major change for me. A time warp of sorts. I find myself seeking more feedback as I get older (I turned 47 this week), a mentality antithesis to what I anticipated during graduate school in my twenties when I attended weekly workshops, writing a novel over three years. Following those weekly critiques –– some helpful, some worthless, some downright painful –– I assumed (is vowed too strong a word?) to write alone (save for my agent’s feedback) forever.

Yet here I am.

Why the change? Necessity is the mother of all inventions and of philosophical mood swings.

I’ve had a crazy year. I’m working more than ever, which at a boarding school –– where I chair a department of 19, am responsible for the English curriculum and experience for 650 teens, serve as dorm parent to 60, teach, and coach –– is saying something. Couple that with starting a new series, and I want someone reading behind me. If I get 10 pages a week of finished copy right now, I’m doing well. (In the summer, I get 10 pages a day.) So if someone has blue eyes on page three, a month later, on page 50, she might somehow have green eyes. Hell, I don’t just want someone reading over my shoulder, I need it.

But it has to be the right person. I can’t have someone reading the book in chunks whose comments focus on suggested changes to the storyline. The plot, after all, changes as I write. I continuously go back and add and trim and change. (My agent, for instance, doesn’t want to see the book until it’s finished.) In terms of plot, primarily, I want to know where the reader is confused. Tell me what doesn’t make sense. This process, in that light, is similar to how I approach student work: I ask questions; I point to what I don’t understand; state where I’m confused. I don’t give “the fix.” The work isn’t mine. I don’t have that right.

Having my work read and critiqued as I go is a new approach, one I haven’t used since graduate school. This time around, it hasn’t been painful. I appreciate my readers’ time. Let’s hope their work –– and mine –– pays off in the form of a strong finished manuscript.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Courage of a Writer

This week I’m on my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Creative Painting convention. While I’m gambling, er, painting, I thought you might enjoy this blog post which originally appeared on Femmes Fatales about a year ago. Enjoy!

Courage 

by Sybil Johnson 

I’ve been told I’m courageous for creating a protagonist who is a computer programmer, an occupation some people consider unusual for cozy mysteries. Someone else told me I have courage when I mentioned I’d changed the process I was using to write my third book. I don’t consider either of these things particularly courageous, but it did get me thinking about courage—what it is and how important it can be to a story.

Me? I’m a wimp. I don’t like heights. I’m deathly afraid of the water to the point where I even dislike hot tubs. I won’t be in the same room with a snake, and I hyperventilate every time I need to send email to someone I don’t know.

Bystanders who pull people out of crashed cars, firefighters who run into burning buildings, police officers who patrol the streets are all courageous people. But there’s a less obvious kind of courage that we all to a certain extent exhibit every day—at a less dramatic level. It’s courage nonetheless. Something as simple as giving a presentation in front of a large group or driving in an unfamiliar city takes courage if those things frighten you.

As mystery readers and writers, we want our protagonists to have courage, to brush aside their fears and discover the truth. Minor characters can be total wimps and cower in a corner, but our main characters need to display courage. They don’t have to be superheroes. We want them to have faults and fears like real people. But don’t we root for a character a little more when she takes action despite her fears?

And what about writers? Aren’t all writers courageous? We send our words out into the sometimes cruel world not knowing if they’ll be accepted or rejected, if a reviewer will pan our book or praise it. No matter how experienced the writer, for must of us I think there’s that niggling doubt in the back of our minds that the last book was a fluke and that we’ll never be able to do it again. Yet, we still keep on writing and submitting stories despite that.

I guess I do possess courage after all. So does every other writer, whether they think of it that way or not. The next time you read a book, even if it’s not your cup of tea, applaud the courage of the person who wrote it.