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. 


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


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


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:

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: through HQ/HarperCollins.

Find out more about Vicky here:
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!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year's Resolution!

Have you made a New Year's resolution – apparently, we humans have been making them for over 4000 years? I usually make the same one: to try to be more gracious. This year I have a new one. My resolution is to learn Latin, or at least relearn it. Latin was my favourite subject at school.  I adored translating Ovid and Virgil and Cicero. I didn't carry on studying Latin after I left school because my mother said it was a frivolous subject.  My new classes start on the 5th of this month. Bring on the frivolity!

Happy 2018!

PS: It goes without saying I will continue to try to be more gracious 😉