Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Snollygosters and Grumbletonians

I’m at the tail end of my WIP with a deadline looming over me. One minute I’m convinced I’ve got it, the next I’m sure I’m doomed. Endings are difficult for me. They always have been. I discovered this when I came across stories I wrote in grade school and junior high. You can read about them here.

So I’m in need of a little distraction. For me that means finding interesting words. Yes, I was that kid who liked to read the dictionary and encyclopedia for fun.

Here are a few interesting words I’ve run across recently:

suffonsified or sophonsified – I heard this one on an episode of Sleepy Hollow. Couldn’t find it in the OED, but I did find it online. Supposedly, it’s informal Canadian speak meaning satisfied. Does that ring a bell for all of you Canadians out there?

gillygaupus – I also got this one from Sleepy Hollow. According to the OED it originated in the 1700s and means a foolish or awkward person. Variations include gilly-gaucus and gilly-gawpy 

fudgel - This is an eighteenth-century term meaning “Pretending to work when you're not actually doing anything at all.” I have to say I’m pretty good at this one. A lot of people would say writers, in particular, do this a lot. But, really, sometimes when we’re staring off into space we’re actually working!

perendinate - to put off until the day after tomorrow. I’m also really good at this one, though I’m trying to be better.

uhtceare - (OOT-key-ARE-a) This is an Old English word meaning lying awake and worrying about the day ahead. That’s me these days with that deadline looming.

slugabed – This one’s from the 16th century and means someone who lies in bed through laziness or past the time they should be up. I’ve actually heard this one in my life, from my mom when she was trying to get me up for school. I am not a morning person!

grumbletonians - people who are unhappy with their government. I think there are a lot of people in the U.S. these days (and probably in other countries) that could be called grumbletonians these days. The OED says: “A contemptuous designation applied in the latter part of the 17th c. to the members of the so-called ‘Country Party’ in English politics, who were accused by the ‘Court party’ of being actuated by dissatisfied personal ambition; hence in later times applied to supporters of the Opposition.”

snollygoster - A shrewd, unprincipled person, esp. a politician. Love this one. I shall start using it immediately!

So there you have it, some fun new words for you to use. Now, I must get back to writing!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When the complete plot for a crime novel arrives on your doorstep

b)y Rick Blechta

Accused serial killer Bruce McArthur
Actually, change that title to “when a complete plot for a believable crime novel arrives on your doorstep”, because that’s exactly what is taking place right now in Toronto (where I live).

First, here’s a pretty good article that lays out how the man at the centre of this case came to be arrested and also includes some more recent details of the investigation: http://www.680news.com/2018/01/30/man-handcuffed-to-mcarthurs-bed/

Pretty good place to begin the novel, right? The police have staked out a suspect’s apartment and our protagonist detective and his team observe a young man go inside. Realizing the danger this person could be in, they decide they have to take action and break down the door to the apartment.

Next, the investigation leaps into high gear as the crime team fans out across the city to gather information. They’re suspecting the arrested man could be a serial killer, but they are completely unprepared for what they go on to discover.

Looking at the internet, I see this story is being covered everywhere and you’ve probably seen or heard something about it by now. Like any crime of this kind, the details are really quite horrible, but it’s not as if this sort of thing hasn’t been plotted numerous times in crime novels already. If you read my post about the Bosch series from Amazon Studios, it probably struck you as it did me that the subject would fit right into one of their seasons. The first season in fact featured the hunt for a serial killer of male prostitutes.

What moves this Toronto case into exceptional territory is the manner in which the bodies were disposed of. Put yourself in the place where the couple living on quiet Toronto street find out the beautiful planters that have been decorating their backyard for several years actually contain the remains of murder victims. I have no idea how I would handle news like that. They seem to be taking it in their stride, however.

While the details that have come out are heartbreaking, as a writer of crime fiction, I have to admit I am utterly fascinated by what is happening. Call me ghoulish or unsympathetic, but I’m just being honest.

Another factor in the developing story is that the police as recently as last year were insisting there wasn’t a serial killer active in Toronto’s Gay Village (as it’s known) when two men, now confirmed murdered by McArthur, went missing. A lot could be made of this as a secondary plot in our imaginary crime novel, and the Toronto Police Services are certainly going to have explain just why they made that statement.

They’ve already stepped into this sort of situation a number of years ago when they didn’t publicize that a serial rapist was at work in an area of the city because they were hoping to catch the individual red-handed, which they did, but not before he raped another woman. The lawsuit on behalf of the victim that followed and the investigation of police methods was not a pretty sight (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/jane-doe-wins-case-against-police-force-1.163867).

It’s going to happen again, I’m sure.

And now here in Toronto, the police feel certain the body count is going to go up — perhaps very high.

I’m sure some writer is going to take up this situation and turn it into a novel. There won’t be a lot of imagination required in coming up with plot details. It’s all in the newspaper reports.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Is there such a thing as a "book club" book?



I listen to the radio a lot – these are pics of just three of the radios we have around the house 😊. The other day I heard an excellent review of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I enjoyed the book when I first read it a few years ago so I thought I might reread it. Interestingly, The Kite Runner started as a short story – it was the first thing Khaled ever wrote. It stayed in a drawer for a long time before Khaled plucked up the courage to show it to his uncle. After reading it, his uncle told him it wasn't finished. So, Khaled went back to his computer and every morning before he went to work he wrote a bit more and a bit more of the story. Finally, it became The Kite Runner. Perhaps beginning life as a short story is one of the reasons why I find second half of the novel less engaging than the first half? Who knows? But I'm digressing.


Prompted by the review, I was keen to discuss The Kite Runner with a writing chum. To my surprise, he said he'd not read the novel. Worse still, he called it a "book club" book, as if a "book club" book was somehow inferior to other books. I asked him to explain. He said "book club" books were generally books which had been "sensationalised" in the media – The Book Thief was another such book – and easier reads and more sentimental than other books. Gosh! I disagreed (rather strongly!).

The point of being in a book club, in my opinion, is to boldly explore books and writers we wouldn't normally explore. It definitely isn't to read the one type of book, and certainly not to be restricted to reading sentimental, easy-read books, whatever that means. At least, in the book club I go to we read a wide range of fiction. But perhaps I'm wrong? What do you think? Are you a member of a book club? If so, is there such a thing as a "book club" book and what exactly is that?


Finally, all you writers, how would feel if one of your books was a "book club" book? For my part, I'm always delighted, if not honoured, when a book club picks one of my books to read.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I be the teacher

When I first got published way back in 2006, I looked for opportunities to share what I'd learned both to promote myself as an author and to make a little scratch teaching on the side. I contacted the creative writing department at my alma mater, the University of Denver, and was politely told that despite my three-book deal from HarperCollins, thanks, but no thanks. The reason for turning me down was that I lacked an MFA.

Since then, I've been on scads of panels and seminars, mostly gratis. One exception to the no-money-for-you situation was Lighthouse Writers Workshops, who take pride in making sure that presenting writers are rewarded with more than thank yous. Those gigs led to other paying opportunities at the Colorado Writing School, the occasional honorarium from libraries and assorted universities, and teaching a course on graphic novels at Front Range Community College.

Interestingly, my latest teaching assignment was with the Regis University Mile High MFA program, me still sans MFA. Like other creative writing programs they've expanded to include genre fiction, meaning commercial fiction, which is what I write. My first opportunity with them was to teach an afternoon craft seminar. The next semester I was assigned a student to mentor, and the following semester I got two different students. What I just finished was the 2018 Winter Residency, during which the students arrive on campus for an intense ten-day schedule of workshops and seminars, from 9AM to 8PM everyday. It might not sound that grueling but by the mid-residency intermezzo, I was ready for the break. The last two days of the residency felt like the final miles of an army conditioning march.

What most impressed me about the experience were the wonderful writers that I met, both the students and the faculty. The poets were especially noteworthy with their incisive and inspiring works. My students were exceptionally well read and very articulate during their critiques of one another's submissions.

A notable moment: At a meeting with my fellow instructors--all literary writers--several of them discussed upcoming works scheduled to be published in Ploughshares and Glimmer Train, which got me thinking...that if I were to get something published in those magazines it wouldn't add much to my credentials as a writer of speculative fiction. Then again, if I mentioned that I had pieces in Clarkesworld or Alfred Hitchcock's Mysteries (which I don't), it wouldn't have meant anything to these instructors. Aside from that, we shared a lot of similar experiences about the publishing industry. Mostly like, don't expect much promotion or a lot of money!

One unexpected accolade was that another instructor told me she recognized my input on a student's work because of the strong improvements in structure and plot development. I've learned a few things writing genre.

Among the new friends that I met at Regis were Kristen Iversen, Sophfronia Scott, and Christine Sneed, who were all visiting professors and acclaimed writers. Kristen wrote Full Body Burden, a memoir about growing up close to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant (and she had read my book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats). Sophfronia presented an amazing look at her newest novel, Unforgiveable Love, a retelling of Dangerous Liaisons set in post-WWII Harlem. Christine has earned an enviable reputation for her short fiction, and her collection, Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry, is at the top of my reading list.



Friday, January 26, 2018

Sick Days

In my on-going effort to understand the characters in my 1939 book-in-progress, I've been thinking about how my characters respond to being ill. This was inspired in part by my annual physical, after which I was given my flu shot. I thought about it again when I saw three people in the same row on my plane flight wearing masks. They looked young, college-aged. Seeing them made me glad I'd had my flu shot. But I saw them again after we landed – just as the young man – having discarded his mask – was turning his baseball cap backward. He strolled away, wearing his backpack, one of the young women at his side. She had ditched her mask, too, and looked unlike someone who would have needed or donned one. The other young woman, who had seemed to be with them, wasn't in sight. I was left curious about them. Had their parents told them to wear masks? Or, had they thought it would be cool to do it? Or, really been concerned about ruining their trip by coming down with something?

That sighting made me think of Adrian Monk, and the final episode of the show that I had seen last weekend. Monk, who should have owned stock in a company that manufactured anti-bacterial wipes, had learned his dead wife's secret and found the daughter that she thought had died but that had been adopted. With his wife's murder solved and her daughter now in his life, Monk had begun to heal. On his way to a crime scene, he wore a turtleneck sweater under his jacket instead of a white shirt and tie. And one suspected that he was less concerned about shaking hands and being hugged.

In my 1939 book, there are several characters who don't have the time to be ill. If they were sick, they would try to conceal it and keep working. My sleeping car porter and train cook need the money. But the cook -- who wants to own a restaurant would have his grandma's recipe for chicken soup. The sleeping car porter, whose mother died when he was a boy, would shiver in his jacket and blow his nose out of sight of the passengers. He might dose himself with cough medicine (Was it being sold in 1939? What brand was popular?). He was raised by his father and had no grandma (why not? both dead? Estranged? But his father was a preacher).

Then there is my villain. How would he handle being under the weather? Stretched out in his bed, under warm covers.


Hot toddy brought to him by a servant on his nightstand. Flipping through a book that the woman he is courting was reading the last time he saw her. What book is it? What does he think about it?

So my thoughts about my sick characters – down with a cold or the flu – has taken me a bit deeper as I think about how they would respond. I've generated a few more questions about them that might provide useful insights.

How do your characters handle sick days?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Late, Late, for a Very Important Date

Donis here, posting very late today because I thought yesterday was my Thursday to post and I had missed it, but then our fearless leader Rick pointed out to me that today is Thursday--and I have already spent the top half of the day doing doctor stuff. But never fear. Tattered and out of breath, I am here.

The reason I am in such a state of dishabille is severalfold. My beloved husband underwent yet another surgery recently (he's doing fine, thank you for asking), I have been involved in preparing a writer-in-reidence program at my local library for the summer, and I've been gearing up for the release of my tenth Alafair Tucker Mystery, Forty Dead Men,  in two weeks.

I've updated my website, as well as done something I should have done years ago--I created author pages for myself on BookBub and on Facebook where I'll be announcing appearances, news, and giveaways, so I invite you come by and "Like" or "Follow" me, Dear Reader. Which by the way, if you enjoy the work of any author, it always helps her or him if you follow their pages and/or leave a review on Amazon or another site.

Forty Dead Men has not even been released yet, but the early reviews have been excellent, I am happy to say. I you would like to check it out, I invite you to breeze over to my website where I have have posted the first couple of chapters. I hope you will find yourself intrigued. You don't even have to wait for the official release date of the book to acquire an e-copy. Forty Dead Men has an early eBook release on Barnes & Noble. It is first on the list under Nook First Look!

I am off on more life-errands now, so I will leave you with an apology for my tardiness, and a wish for a lovely day of reading. I'll write you again in two weeks. I promise. I made a note on my calendar.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Going gentle, or not

In my last post about forks and roundabouts, I talked about having an open vista ahead now that I'd completed my existing book contracts, and I mused about what writing project to tackle next. Thanks to all the readers who wrote in to ask for one series or the other, I've suggested a three-book contract for two Doucette novels and one Green. At my current publication rate, this would bring me to the early 2020's.

When I did the math, it gave me pause and forced me to consider the question of how long I want to continue writing. And the more important and more ominous question of how long I should continue. Writing a mystery novel is a complex task. It demands not just verbal fluency and sophistication but also stamina, determination, novel thinking and creative, unusual mental leaps. And perhaps most importantly - memory. Keeping track of all the characters, their stories, actions and motivations, the subplots and twists inherent in a mystery is a tremendous feat of memory, particularly for a mostly pantser writer like me who pulls things together on the fly.

I've been writing since I was six years old. Even though I had school, a busy career, and children along the way, I've always been a writer. An inventor of stories. I can't imagine my life without a story percolating in my brain. And now that I have retired from other things to become a full-time writer, it shapes my every day. Apart from the activity and the purpose it brings to my life, it also brings me a community of friends, opportunities to travel, and constant interaction with new people.

That is a lot to give up.

I've always said that I would continue writing as long as I had the brains to do it. But who knows when that will be, and whether I will know? In a recent interview with the New York Times, Philip Roth was asked about his decision to retire from writing when he was in his late seventies. He replied: "By 2010 I had a strong suspicion that I’d done my best work and anything more would be inferior. I was by this time no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the verbal energy or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack of any duration on a complex structure as demanding as a novel."

Powerfully honest. How does a writer recognize that their time is up? This decline in mental vitality and verbal energy sneaks up on you. All of us, as we age, find we have to work harder to remember that perfect word that dances just out of reach in our mental storehouse. To compensate, we develop tricks, one of the most useful being the thesaurus. I love that "Ahah, that's it!" moment. We find it more difficult to keep track of details, but can use notes, lists, and outlines to jog our memory. When we forget where we are in a story, or where we left off, we can reread the last chapter as a way to relaunch ourselves.


As I've grown older, I've changed my writing process too. As I wrap up my writing for the day, I jot down a sentence or two about what comes next in order to have a place to start the next day. Like all writers, some of my most brilliant ideas come to me during the "off-writing" hours such as driving down the highway or walking the dog. I now use my iPhone to record those ideas before I forget them.

There will likely come a time when all these tricks are not enough, but I hope it's still a few years off. My mother lived to 97 and wrote a book when she was 86. Some people maintain their mental acuity well into their nineties whereas an alarming number start cognitive decline in their late sixties. In many ways, life is a roll of the dice and who knows what the next roll brings. All we can do, to fight that dying of the light, is stay active and engaged, eat well, and keep challenging our brains. Luckily, what better challenge than trying to write a novel?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Impact

by Rick Blechta

My wife and I have been enjoying the Bosch series on Amazon. I’ve read pretty well all Michael Connelly’s Bosch novels over the years and enjoyed most of them immensely. Being a former LA Times crime reporter, his prose has real immediacy. Or would it be better to use the word “impact” to describe Michael’s prose style?

If you haven’t read any Connelly, his prose is rather sparse. With only bare bones description — just enough to set a scene — a lot is left to the reader’s “mind’s eye” to flesh things out but because he’s writing about Los Angeles and the surrounding area most of the time and we’re all familiar with that from a myriad of TV shows set in that city, this is no great handicap.

His dialogue is crisp and again pretty sparse. He’s certainly got the cop lingo down, even in his earlier books. I would guess this is a result from being a crime reporter. I also never get the feeling he’s showing off how much he knows. All those “cop details” come out in asides or they’re organically woven into the plot. I know for a fact how tough that is to do!

Anyway, getting back to the Amazon series, I’m finding it really quite superb. The cast is well-chosen — especially Titus Welliver as the title character — and more than get the job done. Production design is excellent and the writing uniformly terrific.

What’s interesting about that is numerous screenwriters have been employed — Connelly among them. You’d expect a dog’s breakfast of styles and colliding interpretations of characterization. None of that happens which is really quite surprising. If I hadn’t noticed the screenwriting credits, I never would have suspected that most of the episodes have different writers.

But the real takeaway from watching these episodes — we’re halfway through the second season — is the fact that I find myself constantly thinking about what I’ve seen. I’m not talking about mentally rehashing the most recently watched episode, either. Before sitting down to write this post, a couple of things that happened back in series one was going through my feeble brain.

To me, that’s the gold standard of impact. We’ve all read books or seen movies or plays that have stuck with us for a long time. What is it about those that causes them to stick with us? Why do these have such an impact?

The really interesting thing is that Bosch is having the same effect on my wife, so it’s not just me and my likes and dislikes that is causing a reaction. To be fair, she also enjoys reading Connelly, but I think something else is at work past that.

One last thing, Bosch is not retellings of the Bosch novels. Yes, they freely use characters and  situations but combine several books in each series to create something wholly new. I don’t believe I’ve seen that done to such an extent before.

But at the end of the day I’m left with this: How the heck can I accomplish this in my own writing?

Okay, Type M readers, if you’ve watched Bosch, what did you think of it? Am I correct about its impact?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Human Face

Last week saw the launch of my new book, Human Face. Needless to say, it was the coldest spell of the winter, with snow causing disruption and warnings about 'no unnecessary travel' in place.

However, fortunately it was patchy; here on the east coast we were protected from much of it since it seemed to be the tail end of the 'snow bomb on the other side of the Atlantic and friends coming from north of Aberdeen were totally unaffected. Some brave souls even came across from snowy Glasgow and it was a good crowd.



It was lovely to have Marianne among the guests – photos above – and honestly, I hadn't been celebrating until I was totally blotto. I swear it was merely due to my unfortunate habit of shutting my eyes when someone's taking a picture.

When, after writing nine books in the DI Marjory Fleming series I decided to write something different I felt a bit like Jim Hacker being warned by the immortal Sir Humphrey Appleby, 'That's a very courageous decision, Prime Minister.'

I got an email from a reader who, when told, emailed back anxiously, 'Oh please promise you won't do anything horrible to Marjory!' So I promise, I won't – I have another Galloway book at the back of my mind.

But the decision to amalgamate all the individual constabularies (police districts) in to one Police Scotland gave me an idea I wanted to explore. It was meant to save money, and it occurred to me that keeping a fully-fledged CID in a rural area where there was rarely any serious crime must be an expensive business. A Serious Rural Crime Squad, peopled by experienced officers seconded from the cities and brought in as needed with appropriate back-up would be more cost effective.

I needed a detective and as I said in my last post I had this picture of a young man who had not only lost his wife and unborn child in a traffic accident but actually had to sign the form to shut down their life support. From this came DI Kelso Strang.

He is a graduate and an ex-soldier, a former sniper. After his adored Alexa's death he finds working in his old team very hard, seeing his colleagues go home to their families when he has an empty house. His DCS thinks that the pilot investigation on the beautiful Isle of Skye might give him a chance to come to terms with his loss: it doesn't look as if it's anything very serious and he might even take in a bit of restorative hill-walking.

Human Face is a charity for supporting vulnerable children in Africa, run by Adam Carnegie and funded by Beatrice Lacey. She's fat and plain but adores Adam and believes that one day he will marry her, even it it's for her trust fund rather than for love. She finds it hard to deal with the foreign 'housekeepers' who come and go and when one disappears, she's quite pleased – if it wasn't that she feels just a little uneasy. The woman had been seen packing her bags, though, and she'd told someone she was planning to leave. The local police believe it is just another case of a woman who wanted to go without anyone knowing where she is.

But when a directive comes that it's to be further investigated, Kelso Strang finds out that there's more to it – much, much more – than meets the eye.

Stepping out of my comfort zone has been a good experience. It's let me get to know, not just another detective, but another part of beautiful Scotland. In my talk last week, I did say that one of the perks of setting my books in some of the loveliest rural areas was the tax-allowable holidays. At the end, a lady who came up to have a book signed said she'd been very interested to hear me say that because, 'I'm a tax inspector.' Oops.

She did say kindly that there was nothing that said you couldn't enjoy yourself at the same time as doing legitimate research. And I've more places lined up: Caithness, next time.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Guest Author Janet Kellough

by Vicki Delany

I am delighted to welcome back my friend and neighbour Janet Kellough to Type M. She's got a fascinating new venture to tell us about. 



A MYSTERIOUS MASH-UP


I became a crime writer by accident - I had a story that just begged to be told as a mystery. I had never written a mystery novel before, so it was with a great deal of trepidation that I first began to write. The result was On the Head of a Pin, the first book in The Thaddeus Lewis Mystery Series. I wasn’t too alarmed when I was asked to take a crack at a second book, because I had discovered a very interesting thing – the basic structure of a mystery plot is a wonderful skeleton to hang almost anything on. (Yes, puns intended.)

The Thaddeus Lewis books are full of mid-19th century Canadian history. I know, it’s a topic that makes most people roll their eyes. But hey – throw in a murder or two, have your sympathetic hero solve the puzzle, bring the story to an end in a satisfying manner, and presto chango you can actually get people to read history! I’m not the only one who has realized this. There are whole series built around things like cooking, Christmas, bird-watching, archaeology - subjects that obviously fascinate the writer and that she wants to tell you something about. It’s frequently fascinating stuff, but it’s the need to find out whodunit that keeps you reading.

My latest book The Bathwater Conspiracy is different from anything I’ve written before. It’s speculative fiction, the story set in an imagined “what if” place where it would have been all too easy to just make stuff up. I could have invented alien races, given my protagonist super-powers, created technology that would solve everything in the flash of a computer chip. But I didn’t want to write that. I wanted a story that had its feet planted firmly in a credible scenario. And in the same way that the Thaddeus Lewis books draw their fictional plots from real, documented history, real scientific principles are woven into the plot of The Bathwater Conspiracy.



I figure the best science fiction holds a mirror to present day society, and I had some things I wanted to talk about – things like bioethics, gender, religion  - so for me, it was a no-brainer. I turned again to that wonderful mystery structure that lays out the premise and then invites the reader to consider all plausible explanations within the framework of the setting.

Right up front, there’s a dead body and a puzzle and a cop who wants to know what’s going on. Because the story is set in a mythical future, I can present possibilities that don’t exist in our own world – unusual suspects, unfamiliar settings, unique plot twists. But because it’s a mystery, familiar motives like ambition, lust and jealousy find a very comfortable place in the story. And as long as I keep the plot consistent with the world I’ve created, the mystery structure will spin merrily away, driving the plot forward and offering the astute reader an opportunity to solve the puzzle before the protagonist does.


So should you file The Bathwater Conspiracy under Science Fiction or under Mystery? As much as I dislike the North American habit of labeling books by genre, I have to admit that it’s a complete mash-up – a speculative fiction/mystery/police procedural/post-apocalyptic thriller. But at the very core of it that lovely mystery skeleton holds everything together and keeps you reading until you find out “whodunit”.

Janet Kellough is the author of The Thaddeus Lewis Mystery Series and the stand-alone novels The Palace of the Moon and The Pear Shaped Woman. Her newest novel The Bathwater Conspiracy was released this month by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Omniscient Viewpoint and other Godly Pronouncements


Having retreated from this century and become newly enthralled by novels written by old Russians, I wonder why the omniscient viewpoint has fallen from favor.

Anyone exposed to contemporary writing courses is drilled with the necessity of "staying in viewpoint." I wonder why?

Authors used to wander all over the place and their books carried a delightful sense of authority. After reading Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment, I ascended to the 19th century and reread some of my favorite books: Gone With the Wind, Green Dolphin Street, Not as a Stranger. Rebecca, and A Distant Trumpet.

I've read obsessively this early winter. This is not particularly healthy. In my case, it indicates withdrawal and protection from the stresses of contemporary society. The bombardment of news and conflict is overwhelming. And ugly.

That's where novels come in. The kind based on Jane Austen type problems dithered over by civilized people.

In addition to this reading allowing me to cultivate a functional approach to the demands of everyday life, I've learned a lot about writing. Writers in previous eras not only changed viewpoints within scenes, they hopped from person to person and occasionally inserted narrative passages that would make today's editors grind their teeth.

Shifting third person is the popular choice for contemporary mysteries. It's an excellent approach, but it's rather timid. I miss the complexity and wisdom of writers such as P.D. James who came up with the following gems:

God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.

What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.

By the time political correctness is added to the mix, passion has been drained from so many books. It's delightful to read novels written during a time when writers were seething with passion and didn't have to worry about political correctness. Gone with the Wind is the epitome of patronizing racism.

Talk about racial stereotypes! Yet it is one of the finest books about the destruction of the South during the Civil War. It also helped me understand my father whose family came from Georgia and who had many of attitudes so wonderfully captured in Margaret Mitchell's book.

Some of the classics would never survive the contemporary editorial pencil. Physical book-burning has given way to a more subtle kind of destruction.

Hooray for the old writers who had axes to grind, oodles of biases, and knew how to express them.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Money is Time

If you’re like me, like most midlist writers, you have weeks like this one –– weeks when you simply need more hours in each day to get everything done. This week, for instance, five workdays ran until 10 p.m. or later; I had seven meetings on Monday and Tuesday alone.

These are the weeks when the writer in me longs for nothing more than a cluster of uninterrupted hours when the cell phone doesn’t chime a calendar reminder, when no papers roll in needing a coffee-addicted sucker to grade them, when my mind is clear of everything but problems concerning my manuscript.

I’m working on the second draft of a novel, revising and rewriting, chipping away for roughly two hours a day. I have friends who write full time. We talk about the pros and cons of having a “day job.” Working at a boarding school provides housing, a paycheck, meals, and the chance to discuss great books with great kids (and tuition remission for my three daughters). I feel very blessed to have this gig. But there are times when shutting the computer down at 6 a.m. after writing for two hours to walk away from the book until the next morning feels like leaving the characters for a month-long joyage. And switching gears so drastically can it make it feel like it’s been a month since you worked on the book last when you finally do return the next morning.

But there are pros to having a day job. Writing is never work. It’s hard. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not pressure. Golfer Lee Trevino once said, “Pressure is when you play for $5 a hole when you only have $2 in your pocket.” Writing isn’t like that for me. A friend who had a breakout book in his twenties and has always wrote full time once told me about having the $1,100-a-month health insurance payment hanging over him as he wrote. “It keeps me on my toes,” he said. I bet it sure as hell does. I don’t need to make enough each month writing to cover bills, and maybe there’s a creative freedom in that.

What it comes down to is that for writers money is time. I don’t know many writers who talk about buying new cars or making extravagant purchases (the new Kindle is $180, after all). I do know writers who talk about making enough money to “be able to just write.” Generally speaking, writers don’t spend a lot. They can’t. They’re home writing. It’s a solitary profession, one that requires you to be planted in front of the computer for many hours, alone with your thoughts.

And some weeks that sounds pretty good.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

My Year In Books, 2017

It’s time for my annual reading wrap-up, although a little delayed.

In 2017 I read 81 books, 5 more than last year, most of them mysteries and non-fiction though I did branch out to some horror/ghost stories and general fiction.

2017 was the year I discovered Marla Cooper’s Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries as well as Emily James Maple Syrup Mysteries and continued my love affair with Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport Mystery series.

My two favorites in the traditional/cozy mystery category are The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian and The Skeleton Paints a Picture by Leigh Perry.

They’re both great books (and series) with good characters, but what makes me love them the most are Dory, the living gargoyle in Gigi Pandian’s series, and Sid, the living skeleton, in Leigh Perry’s series. They have such wonderful personalities that I want Dory to come to my house and cook vegan food for me (yes, a gargoyle that’s a vegan chef!) and I want Sid to come over and watch movies with me. I love Sid so much that I named a skeleton in the book I’m currently finishing up after him.

I read a lot of interesting non-fiction this past year including The One-Cent Magenta by James Barron (who knew a stamp could be so fascinating?), One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson and The Lost City of Z by David Grann (more interesting than the movie).


I even read some general fiction, something I rarely do. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is my favorite in this category. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I can see it as a film, one I’d watch repeatedly.

That’s my book wrap-up for the year. As usual, I have stacks of books around the house and a slew of them on my Kindle, waiting to be read, but I'm always looking for suggestions.


In other news: The audio versions of the first two books in my Aurora Anderson Mystery series (Fatal Brushstroke and Paint the Town Dead) are now available from Tantor Audio! They’re both read by the wonderful Vanessa Daniels. You can check them out here: Fatal Brushstroke  and Paint The Town Dead 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Beliefs

by Rick Blechta

My bewilderment increases every time I run across some of mankind’s stranger beliefs. Take those who believe the earth is flat and the fact the vast majority of humanity thinks it’s a sphere is simply the result of a massive conspiracy on the part of governments, scientists, corporations, and “those people” who are actually controlling this planet. How is it possible to believe this? Do they honestly think a conspiracy to hide their “truth” has been successfully carried out for literally centuries?

One thing I’ve learned over the course of my life is that if someone believes something strongly enough, the chances of convincing them otherwise is pretty close to nil.

I suppose showing the flat earthers photos of our planet taken from space, photos of other planets, looking at the moon outside their own front doors would be met with protestations that everything was faked by “them”. Taking them up in a plane high enough to see the curve of the earth (like in a flight between continents) would be met with “It’s all an optical illusion”.

I’ve just used one example of bizarre beliefs. There are many others — many that would be very contentious to state. That’s not my aim. This is not a matter of “I’m right and your wrong.”

Whether you believe somebody else’s beliefs are absolutely screwy, you should in the end respect their beliefs. It’s what they believe in their hearts. To them it is The Truth.

In writing convincing fiction, this is a very important concept to embrace and understand. Terrorists believe so wholeheartedly in something to be willing to do horrible things and lay down their lives doing them. That’s very heavy duty, to believe something that strongly. As an author, it is our job to make this understandable to our readers.

Once a writer understands the belief concept, convincing characters with strong beliefs will become more believable. How many times have we all, as readers, put down a book because something a character did was just too unbelievable. The fault lies with the author who didn’t — or couldn’t — understand and hence wasn’t able to convey the character’s very strong belief in the character’s actions that was needed for the plot to work. Groundwork should have been laid beforehand and it wasn’t because the author was unable to perceive this fault in his/her writing.

So don’t try to change flat earthers minds, try to understand them. Your readers will thank you.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Indignez-Vous!


The English translation of Indignez-Vous! is Time for Outrage! It is the title of a small pamphlet written by the French diplomat and member of the French Resistance (and concentration camp survivor)  Stéphane Hessel. Published in France in 2010, the pamphlet has sold nearly 1.5 million copies in France and has been translated into numerous other languages. He urges us all, but especially young people, NOT to be indifferent. He says we must look out for inequalities around us and be ready to stand up and fight  (in a non-violent way!) to address them.



So, how far would you go to try and make things right, especially in the world of books and writing? Would you, as over 250 Irish writers and academics have done recently, pledge to refuse to participate in anthologies, conferences and festivals where women are not fairly represented? The pledge was made after the publication of the Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets (2017), which covers Irish poetry from the 17th century to 2017. Out of the thirty contributors to the Cambridge Companion, just four are female. The indignant rebels, both female and male, claim that the Cambridge publication “repeats the minimisation or obliteration of women’s poetry by previous anthologies and surveys” and “leads to a distorted impression of our national literature and to a simplification of women’s roles within it”.  Fighting talk indeed!

Would I go that far? Possibly. Six years ago I discovered that most leading literary magazines (in the US and UK) focused their review coverage on books written by men, and commissioned more men than women to write about them. I decided then and there that in my very small way I would fight the gender imbalance in the book world by only reading books by women authors. This may seem a bit like cutting my nose to spite my face. After all, there are an awful lot of good books by male writers. But by pushing past the groaning male dominated book promotion tables in the book shops and searching beyond the top big male names thrust in my face, I discovered many wonderful new and old women writers.


Is there still a gender imbalance in the book world? Probably. Do I still read only women writers? No. I do now include a male writer or two in my reading list. In the words of English novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard “I’m not against men novelists, I just feel that my side needs more encouragement.”😉



Are you on a side that needs more encouragement?  If so, how far would you go to encourage it?

PS: If you wish, you can read more about the Pledge here: https://awomanpoetspledge.com/





Saturday, January 13, 2018

Vicky Newham – an exciting new British crime writer!

I am delighted to introduce my guest, Vicky Newham. Vicky is an exciting new British crime writer. I got to know Vicky when she was a student on one of my short creative writing courses. At the time she was also finishing her Masters in Creative Writing. Her writing is fresh and original – and downright deadly! It was no surprise to hear that her exciting debut crime novel, Turn A Blind Eye, was snapped up by HQ/HarperCollins!

Turn a Blind Eye is out on the 5th April in the UK. Do check it out, you wont regret it!

Over to Vicky ...



TURN A BLIND EYE – Tower Hamlets & the London docks

I began teaching and living in East London in 2002 and quickly became aware of how much the river and docks have affected the area over the centuries. When I researched the subject more formally ten years later for what has become my debut novel, Turn a Blind Eye, I realised that changes have occurred in cycles. Much of the plot in the novel grew out of my interest in these subjects, and it’s the same for the characters. What astonishes me is the contrast between the economic highs and lows; the way that the deprivation and poverty of Tower Hamlets juxtapose the wealth of Canary Wharf and the gentrification movement.

During Georgian and Victorian times, the London docks expanded significantly, and workers formed enclaves. Their distinctive cultures, slang and religions provided stability but also responded to change. The building on the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane exemplifies this phenomenon. It was originally built as a Huguenot church in the 18th century, then became a Methodist chapel, then a Jewish synagogue and is now the Brick Lane Great Mosque. Following German bombing in the Second World War, the docks were re-built and re-prospered, but lost their trade in the seventies and eighties because container ships couldn’t reach them.

Immigration in Tower Hamlets has taken place in waves too, often following world events, many of which form the backdrop for my novel. French Huguenots were the first to settle in Spitalfields. African slaves arrived for several centuries. The potato famine sent many Irish to East London. Russian Jews fled from the pogroms. After World War Two, the Windrush passenger liner dropped hundreds of West Indian men at Tilbury docks. In the 1970s, many African Asians settled in East London when Idi Amin expelled them from Uganda. In recent decades, Bangladeshis have been the largest ethnic group in East London and their association with the area dates back to when the East India Company recruited seamen from countries such as Bangladesh and China to their crews, many of whom settled in Limehouse, Stepney and Brick Lane.



In Turn a Blind Eye, my main character, DI Maya Rahman, is a Bangladeshi-born female detective in the Metropolitan Police. She came to live in the UK with her family in 1982 when she was four. When I was teaching in East London, a lot of my students were Bangladeshi. Coincidentally, I was teaching about cultural differences on the A-level Psychology curriculum, and was surrounded by cultures which were new to me. Maya’s character therefore evolved naturally from these experiences. Her sergeant in the book, DS Dan Maguire, is a fast-track officer who’s just arrived from Sydney. His character stems from my visits to Australia and my interest in penal transportation. His ancestor was deported as a political prisoner on the last convict ship to leave Britain. Effectively, it means that both characters are outsiders and have an interesting lens through which to view East London and the crimes they are tasked with investigating. In turn, the setting means that the plots in the DI Maya Rahman series stem from the socio-economics of the area, much in the same way that they do in Scandi-Noir.

_______________________________________

Turn a Blind Eye has been optioned for TV. It is released in hardback, e-book and audio on April 5th. It is available for pre-order here: http://amzn.to/2mwppDE through HQ/HarperCollins.

Find out more about Vicky here: http://vickynewham.com/
You can follow Vicky on Twitter: @VickyNewham


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Another Year, Another Book, a Whole New World of Self-Promotion



Donis here,  kicking off my new year. My tenth Alafair Tucker Mystery, Forty Dead Men, will hit the streets on February 6, 2018. You can pre-order here. I am particularly proud of this book, which deals with the psychological effects of warfare on a veteran of the First World War. They called it shell shock back then. Now we call it PTSD. The early reviews have been stellar. Publishers’ Weekly starred review of Forty Dead Men says “Casey expertly nails the extended Tucker family—some 20 people—and combines these convincing characters, a superb sense of time and place, and a solid plot in this marvelously atmospheric historical.”

The official launch party for Forty Dead Men will be at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, on February 24 at 2:00 p.m., when Poisoned Pen Press hosts Yours Truly, Dennis Palumbo (signing Head Wounds, A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery) and Priscilla Royal (signing Wild Justice, A Medieval Mystery) for a three author signing party! We will also be remembering another wonderful Poisoned Pen author, Fred Ramsay, who passed away late last year.

Trying to publicize a new book is a new adventure for me every time. Forty Dead Men is my tenth book in almost thirteen years, and just in that short time things have changed so much that I have to re-learn how to do it with each release.



Do you remember, Dear Reader, when authors had hard-copy press kits that they used to give to prospective agents and editors and to bookstore managers? That is a photo of mine, above. This is a left-over from the press kit batch I used to publicize of my third book, The Drop Edge of Yonder, a mere 10 years ago. NOBODY that I am aware of uses a physical booklet like this anymore. No, now it's either promote yourself on line or in person, and in person is becoming harder and harder to arrange. I have a website and a blog. I don't know how much either helps, but it can't hurt, right? This time I’m doing something most authors these days do automatically, and that is set up an author page on Facebook. It’s hard to believe, but Facebook was less than a year old when my first book was published in 2005, and nobody had an author page. I was finally convinced to create one because I can use it to push promotions and announcements. We shall see how this turns out. In the meantime, Dear Reader, if you would be so kind as to visit my Facebook author page, here, and give it a “Like”, I would be most appreciative.

Also, please remember that especially if you like a book, it is very helpful to the author if you write a nice review for it in Goodreads or on Amazon.

This writing game is tough. And when it comes to publicity, you just have to put your head down and go. What works for one may not work for you, so you try everything you can manage and do the best you can. The really important thing, though, is to do the best you can without making yourself miserable. Life is too short.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Forks and roundabouts; navigating multiple series

At the beginning of this new year, fresh and cold and full of possibilities, I find myself standing at a fork in the road. What choice to make? Which way to go? I have just submitted the third manuscript in my new Amanda Doucette series to my publisher, and although I have a few months of edits and such ahead, I have completed my three-book contract for this series. I do have one contractual obligation left to fulfill – the fourth book in my Rapid Reads Cedric O'Toole series, the deadline for which is in June – but beyond that, I have no major writing commitments on the horizon.

I began my published writing career in 1994 with a short story in a local anthology, and published quite a few short stories before publishing my first mystery novel, Do or Die, in 2000. In the subsequent fourteen years, I published ten novels in the Inspector Green series, which works out to more than a book every one and a half years. During that time I also wrote short stories and three Rapid Reads novellas. It was a busy pace.


During its ten-book run, the Inspector Green series garnered four Arthur Ellis Best Novel nominations, including two wins, and developed a loyal fan base. As with all long-running series, readers enjoyed spending time with the exasperating, hard-driving detective and his collection of regulars both on the police force and in his family. They followed his ups and downs and watched him grow as a character and a man, as did I.

Ten books seemed like a nice round number for me to give the series a rest and spread my wings with new characters, new settings, and new story styles. I'd spent fifteen years of my life with Inspector Green and as a writer, I didn't want the series or my writing to grow stale. So I proposed a new series to my publisher and was given a three-book contract to develop the Amanda Doucette series. New character – a woman for the first time – new cast of supporting characters, a different setting for each book, and a story style with far less inherent structure (police procedurals, no matter how you vary them, are essentially murder investigations).

At first I found it surprisingly difficult to switch gears. I couldn't hear Amanda's voice or get a handle on her reactions. After you've lived with a cast of characters for fifteen years, their voices come easily and you slip into their skins almost the moment you pick up your pen. Not so with Amanda. It's taken me three books to get to know her and to feel her from the inside as I write her scenes. I also found the looser story structure, with no clear forward momentum and a need to motivate Amanda's every move (why on earth would she do that instead of just calling 911?), much more of a challenge than I had expected. I am not a fan of thrillers, but found myself creating stories with thriller-like elements just to motivate Amanda's continued involvement. I still love traditional "unpeeling the onion" whodunits, but why on earth would Amanda unpeel the onion in the first place?

The Amanda Doucette series has received positive reaction from readers and reviewers, and I believe it has picked up some readers that Green did not. But some readers who love Inspector Green were upset by the change and wanted him back. Even now, although most are enjoying Amanda'a antics, they still hope I write another Green book. It's a dilemma that all writers of multiple series face. Each series has its fans, and often readers prefer one over the other. And now that I've written all three books in the Doucette contract, a new book in either series would probably be at least two years out. Six years after the last Inspector Green novel or two year after the last Doucette, Prisoners of Hope.


I love both my series, and would happily write either. Ideally I would like to alternate series, but there are practical questions to be asked. Can a series survive six years' absence? Does the Amanda Doucette series have a firm enough fan base that readers who love it will wait at least three years for the next installment? Do I know her well enough to put her on the shelf for a year or two and have her still come when called?

My instinct says that, after three books, Amanda may not be well enough established in readers' hearts and thoughts, especially if there is a three-year gap before the next. Four books may be enough, but that leaves an even longer gap before the next Green. I can't write more than one book a year and still retain my sanity. In fact, one book a year feels like a straitjacket sometimes, as other fun things like travel and grandchildren beckon.

So these are my thoughts as I stand on the threshold of the new year, facing a fork in the road. I'd be interested to hear what other writers have experienced, and what readers like. All this dithering may be moot, of course, if for some reason the publisher wants neither series, but that's a whole other fork in the road! Perhaps more like a roundabout.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Some random thoughts from the depths of winter

by Rick Blechta

It can get to be a pretty daunting task to sit down and write a blog post every week. I’ve been doing it here since 2006! Well, most weeks… Sometimes you’re fired up by something you’ve read or seen or responding to a fellow blogger’s post. Other times you sit down and think, “What the heck am I going to write about this week?”

Today is one of the latter.

So rather than cruise the internet for ideas or stare at an unforgivingly blank computer screen (or play a couple of hands of computer solitaire), I’m going to just bounce some of my pet rants around:

Why do we have the word “sometimes” (see first paragraph), a logical amalgam of two words, and not a word like “othertimes”? Seems to me it would be very handy and also logical. Anyone (See? There’s another one!) with me on using othertimes as much as possible to see if it catches on and the Oxford Dictionary notices and makes it an Official Word?

Why is it in this time of instant electronic communication that it takes several working days to transfer money from one bank to another? Does someone have to check over each transfer to make sure it’s legitimate and correct? Based on my experience, nobody looks over anything in banks these days.

Why do people caught in traffic on highways sit right on the bumper of the car in front of them instead of leaving adequate room to stop? Do they think those hundred or so feet are going to get them to where they’re going so much faster? Think of it this way: How long does it take to travel 100 feet at, say, 50 MPH? That’s how much faster you’re going to get to your destination. So you save about one second, but risk an accident. Is that a smart risk to take?

And finally my current forehead slapper: Why didn’t I go with my initial idea and title one of my novels (I’ll let you guess which one) Fire and Fury? A professor here in Canada did, and his book — all about the Allied bombing of German cities in WWII — has surprisingly wound up on the bestsellers list on Amazon ten years after its publication! (Damn! Missed another great opportunity — even though my novel eventually got what I thought was an excellent title.)


Now, loyal readers of Type M, I ask you to please add your random thought(s) and let’s expand this discussion.

Who knows? It might do some good. And at the very least, you’ll feel better for sharing your pet rant.

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Back Story

Recently in The Author there was an article by David Williams about the world's shortest stories. He quoted the tale that Ernest Hemingway was asked to produce one, on the promise of having his bar bill paid, and he came up with, 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.'

Whether he wrote it or not, what a wealth of human tragedy lies in those few words! Margaret Atwood's attempt was a rather more cynical, 'Longed for him. Got him. Shit.'

Williams also quoted one of his own from his book, HE and SHE: 1000 stories in 1000 tweets, that I particularly liked: 'A Lasting Hand: Their marriage started with two hearts and a diamond. It ended with a club and a spade.' A crime novel in miniature.

They're all clever. They whet the curiosity and the answer to the questions the reader wants to ask could be a short story, or even a whole novel.

Wanting to know the back story is a fundamental human instinct. When we first meet someone we all ask what I call 'establishing' questions. Where do you live? What do you do? What family do you have? What books do you read? What films do you like? It's the way a meeting proceeds to a friendship.

When we introduce a main character to our readers, they need to know a bit about the back story if they're going to feel involved. The trouble is that we can't set down a list of attributes and tastes and a lot of personal history without slowing up the story and boring everyone rigid as well.

To be convincing, I need to know the answer to all these questions, even though I'll never actually write everything down. It's a gradual process, like getting to know a real person, but it's what makes them take on a life of their own. I sometimes found myself saying about DI Marjory Fleming, 'I didn't know she'd done that!' I hope that's what percolates through to the reader.

In the past months I've spent a lot of time learning the back story of a new detective, DI Kelso Strang. What drew me to write about him wasn't exactly a shortest-story-style tweet, but it was a very brief image that came into my head: a young man, his adored wife and their unborn baby fatally injured in a car accident, signing the paper to switch off her life-support.

Somehow the idea took possession of my mind and the new book, Human Face, comes out this month. I'll be writing about it in my next post.


Friday, January 05, 2018

It's Here!!!

Image result for happy new year 2018 images

I am truly a January Junkie. I love the beginning of a New Year. One would think at my age that the thrill would be gone. But no. I imagine myself capable of achieving all kinds of things. It's the hope that springs eternal.

Mainly my goals are financial (to keep better track of stuff) and to spend a lot more time writing.

I have spent most of my life in very small towns. One of the liabilities/assets of small communities is the consciousness that projects for the good of the whole depends on a lot of participation. So I end up doing my part in an awfully lot of groups.

 I need to pare down and concentrate on my writing.

As to the merits of resolutions--they do me a lot of good. Last year, one of my goals was to get more exercise and I did. There were a number of interruptions, but on the whole I can say that was a resolution kept. I go regularly now to Miramont and am stronger and have increased energy.

My greatest blessing this past year has been friends and family. The sister relationships among my three daughters have always been close. So are the cousin ties with their children. And I'm included in so many family festivities. It's wonderful.

Type M is still going great guns after twelve years.

Here's to a terrific 2018 to one and all.     

Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Year Resolutions and Musings

It’s that time again. You know what I’m talking about –– that time each winter where you (and I) promise to lose weight, exercise more, read a book a week, write six days a week, start that new project . . .

You get the idea. Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone. We both spent too much money and ate badly. Now it’s time to be better human beings. For at least three weeks. Or maybe that’s just me being cynical. Maybe it’s just me who’s the bad human being. I apologize for dragging you down with me.

Regardless, I’m going to use my New Year Resolutions to set some straightforward and hopefully reachable goals. Here they are:
  1. Writing and exercising go hand-in-hand for me. When I’m exercising, my writing is better, so I’ll shoot for getting to the gym four days a week in the cold weather. 
  2. Finish the second draft of the work-in-progress before my birthday (Feb. 24) 
  3. Write and sell a short story this year
That’s the list. Pretty simple. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the for-what-it’s-worth category, here are some titles I’m either reading or just finished:

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates, Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, and Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexi. Loved them all.

And as we freeze on the East Coast, here are some pictures from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where we spent part of the holiday season.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Coptic, anyone?

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was planning on doing a post on my favorite of books from 2017, but right now I am begrumpled and blutterbunged. (See my previous post on these and other fun words.) For some unknown reason, I lost an entire folder from my desktop. Luckily, not my current WIP, but some important docs for something else I do. I can recreate most of it, but it’s still leaving me a bit out of sorts.

So right now, you’re getting a completely different topic – Coptic. I enjoyed Rick’s post yesterday on Latin pronunciation so I thought I’d share a video I found on YouTube where someone reads the Lord’s prayer in two dialects of Coptic: Sahidic and Bohairic.

As long time readers of Type M know, I’ve been studying Ancient Egyptian and Sahidic Coptic for many years now. Coptic is the last trace of Ancient Egyptian. It emerged around the 2nd century AD and was spoken in Egypt until Arabic came along. Now it exists as a liturgical language only. The Bohairic dialect is what is used in the Coptic Christian church today.

The script might look a bit familiar to you all. It’s basically the Greek alphabet plus several new characters for sounds that didn’t exist in Greek.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Have you ever heard Latin spoken?

by Rick Blechta

Like Marianne I took Latin for three years in high school. We had a very good teacher, but he really couldn’t speak Latin in a conversational sense and it certainly had no real fluidity when he did something like read to our class. The result was that Latin really did seem like a dead language to me.

At the height of the Roman empire, it was the most spoken language on the planet. How something like that could die out is pretty mind boggling.

But the Romans were nothing else if not organized and left behind lots of tutorial as to how their language was spoken, most likely to help all those they conquered become part of their empire.

And thanks to the internet, you can hear it spoken probably pretty closely to what you might have heard in the Roman forum itself.

So this is for Marianne first and foremost, but also for all you former Latin scholars out there:


I don’t know about you, but it somehow sounds more Germanic than I would have expected. Certainly it has great force. No wonder the Romans loved debate and declamation.

And my New Years resolution is not to study Latin, but I wholeheartedly will support Marianne in her scholarly pursuit!