Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The art of being a writer COMPLETELY explained!

by Rick Blechta

Funny how our lockdown seems to generate so many things to do. My days are nearly complete filled with, well, stuff. Last week, I made and froze 400+ ravioli. And I'm not Italian! Of course, I'm practising a lot. Today, besides tooting my own horn, I'm making soup, researching how to use an online recording program, cleaning the fish tank and filter, making dinner, and more practising.

Anyway, all this information is by way of saying, I don't have the time today to write a proper post, and since it's getting late, I've got to move to Plan B.

What's Plan B? I don't have one.

See you all next week, God willin' and the crick don't rise!

Monday, March 30, 2020


Groundhog Week 2, Day 1. The sun is shining, there are bullfinches in my garden and the clocks have gone forward, meaning an extra hour of evening light. I am safe and comfortable. I've had more phonecalls from family and friends than I've had for years and have even learned about Zoom. I have a supply of food, books and good neighbours and family around should we need anything. I have a husband who is good company. I have nothing to complain about.

But the world shut down so fast and so frighteningly. I daren't let myself think about the danger to family and friends; I just need to take each day as it comes and be glad that the only problem is extreme dullness. We actually had a discussion this morning about whether we should go for our allocated half-hour walk in the morning or save it so we could look forward to the excitement of having it in the afternoon.

In fact,the pattern of each day isn't a lot different from an ordinary day, with working at my desk, cooking and cleaning, reading, watching a bit of TV. I have more time available for writing than usual since I'm not out shopping, cooking doesn't take so long when we're not planning supper parties and hours I'd normally spend meeting up with friends are freed up for uninterrupted creativity.

Somehow it's not working like that. I'm sitting in the same room, at the same desk, but when I try to concentrate on the new book, it feels as if I'm standing in a desert, barren and colourless, with only the odd bit of tumbleweed blowing across it.

I would have said that when I am writing I'm escaping into another world, the world of my characters. But reflecting, I now wonder whether the constant flow of chat and gossip and exchange of news that forms the background for daily living is also what gives my characters life? Have I now put their world into lockdown, too? It's an uncomfortable thought.

So I have lots of positive resolutions for this week. I'm not going to make myself do dreary things, like tidying cupboards and shredding all the bumph cluttering up my filing cabinet. I'm going to work out little treats that don't involve getting closer than 2m to a stranger. I shall cook nice things to eat – I may even make tablet, a wicked sort of Scottish fudge that can add two inches to your hip measurement if you so much as open the tin. And if the worst comes to the worst I might even read Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy while I eat it.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Living in the Kill Zone

I'm 64 years old, which puts me inside the foyer of the Coronavirus kill zone. Fortunately I'm in good health. At least, I hope I am. If you hear that I've keeled over before my next post, then I spoke too soon.

It's a strange time. As I noted in Facebook, this feels like a slow-motion Apocalypse. One with wifi. All my book signings and convention appearances have been cancelled. My writing seminars at this summer's Litfest will be conducted on Zoom, the new medium of business and social communication.

When I take my dog for his walk, I notice quite a few people out and about. Most are with their dogs and the rest either couples enjoying a stroll or kids on bikes with a parent supervising. The playground at the local park has been marked with yellow tape and placed off-limits. Schools, libraries, and churches are closed; liquor stores and pot shops have been deemed "essential" and remain open. When Denver first issued the stay-at-home mandate, places that sold booze or weed were to lock up. Lines immediately formed. Emotions heated from anxious to testy. Wisely, to cool things down, the mayor granted an exemption, as did the governor. And the law prohibiting restaurants from selling liquor for off-premises consumption was also lifted. So on the plus side to this catastrophe, you can even get cocktails delivered or served with take-out. Causes you to wonder just how pointless such laws actually are. Although it's cheaper to buy booze at the liquor store, the act of getting adult beverages delivered makes imbibing them seem a little more tasty.

One of my favorite phenomenons is the law of unintended consequences and this pandemic has brought plenty of examples. In this case, that nature abhors a vacuum. With people's travel restricted and their subsequent absence from the greater outdoors, mountain lions have ventured from the foothills and into the city of Boulder. Groups of these pumas have been photographed wandering the streets, no doubt cataloging where the neighborhood pets can be found for later dining. There hasn't yet been any clashes between mountain lion and human, but when the quarantine is relaxed and people rush back outside, the big cats might not so easily yield and return to seclusion.

A lot of people are hanging out on their front porches, enjoying their to-go margaritas. Outwardly, the mood is like a prolonged recess. All whom I've met have been friendly, cordial, and keeping the approved social distance. At the bus stop, when passengers disembark, everybody, including those waiting by the bench, immediately shuffle in a comical dance to maintain a six-foot boundary.

But I can't deny the inner foreboding, the grim tension behind the calm facade. Part of that angst is of course because of the virus, and to what extent it will ravage the population. Who and how many are going to die? The other part of that worry is about the economy and the loss of jobs and income. If you've ever been unemployed, I have--twice--you know the malaise that corrodes your spirit. Not working is no vacation. It feels like you're being smothered.

As a species, we humans have a remarkable capacity for survival. The purveyors of doom and gloom regard our situation as a fixed circumstance and dismiss our ability to learn and adapt. Seeing as we are Type M for Murder, I'm waiting for when this crisis eases and the criminal shenanigans to appear. You know, like those bodies that wash up after a flood with bullet holes in them.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Lying to Myself

No cute clip art this time. No adorable family photos.

Today I'm not trying to think positively about COVID-19 or all the economic ramifications. I tried that yesterday. As usual, when I lie to myself in the day time, my dreams make me face the cold hard truth. Dreams tell me how I really feel. Last night was not pleasant.

I'm grief-stricken for all the small businesses who will never recover from this worldwide catastrophe. My husband owned a livestock truckline for 23 years. I remember all too well the blood, sweat, and tears that went into keeping it afloat. In most small businesses the margin of profit is very small.

I haven't delved into the details of the massive government bailout yet. But I hope this time around there is some protection against executives getting millions of dollars in bonus payments and small business left to sink or swim. There is nothing sadder than employers having to lay off people who have been with companies for years.

As a college town, Fort Collins has a network of lively cafes and bistros. Today we are under an official stay-at-home order. I can't imagine how all of these places will find the money to crank back up again when our situation changes. My friend up the street said her dog groomer was not allowed to open her doors. My neighbor, said his massage therapists was under the same "non-essential" designation. The fine for violating this is $1000.

I'm reluctant to write too much about our new rules in this email because they change daily. Colorado has a first class medical system. I consider it a privilege to live in the state. We brag about being the most fit state in the union. Nevertheless, the virus has just exploded here. We have a much higher death rate than I would expect. Everyone I know is cooperating.

Life doesn't change much for writers. I have a delightful academic book about Kansas to review. An editor requested some revisions for a novella.

Nevertheless, my thoughts and prayers are with all the wonderful people who lead very different lives, and whose ability to provide necessities require working in the public every day.

God bless all the health care workers and the people who are exposed on a daily basis

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Changing times

Homeschooling, Keeley-style
This week has seen lots of changes. We have all five of the Corrigans at home at once, a rarity in itself. And all five of us are in different stations of the home working remotely, even my fifth-grader. I drove 11 hours to Ohio twice in five days last week to, first, get my daughters, then to retrieve their belongings when their colleges determined they would finish the year “remotely.” And this old dog is trying to learn the remote teaching game himself. Maybe the biggest change is that, for the first time I can remember, the 500-acre boarding school campus where I reside is post-apocalyptically quiet. I live and work with teenagers because I enjoy their energy. The world, as Bo Whitney reminds us, “hasn’t said No to them yet.”

Or, rather, it hadn’t said No until this week.

Keeley (left) made Delaney a diploma
My daughter Delaney, 21, is (was?) a senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. She, like the high school seniors I teach and who live in the dorm I run, won’t have a graduation. My senior and my seniors have lost their springs, lost their final athletic seasons, lost their chance to say goodbye.

I loved Thomas’s post on Monday and in particular, the Asimov quote about isolation. It is fitting at this time –– we are all forced to embrace isolation. I told my wife yesterday, “...spend hours at the computer writing and tweaking course content, take the dog on two long walks each day, and read? You just described my Christmas vacation.” Of course, that bad joke was tempered when I got an email from a dear (writer) friend in New York City who said everyone in their house has Covid-19, and she went to the hospital with a 105-degree fever. The danger is real, and the fear is palpable.

And U.S. politicians continue to squabble.

Audrey (right) and Delaney
making dinner
We are living in changing times. I feel it as I did in the wake of 9/11. Declining financial markets have changed people’s lives, so has the need to maintain a “safe social distance.” And so, maybe, as Thomas touched upon on Monday, the need for control –– for us, as writers, who long for it, and for readers who seek our novels because they offer a resolution to a chaotic (fictional) world –– the need for reading and writing has never been greater.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Interesting Times

We live in interesting times. Along with a large percentage of other Californians, I am staying home with only occasional outings to take a walk. Really not much different than my normal life. The biggest change is that my husband is now home more because all of his usual activities have been cancelled. He’s the one who braves the grocery store and does the shopping for family members who shouldn’t be going out right now.
A sign of the times: the Manhattan Beach Pier Closed

For me, not a whole lot has changed. I usually exercise indoors with only an occasional walk outside. I’m still writing. It’s nice that I no longer have a deadline so I’m not so stressed out about that. I’m still working on painting projects, reading and doing other stuff around the house. Honestly, as long as someone brought me food periodically and talked to me on occasion, I could stay inside for months and months and never be bored.

But all of the constant news on the corona virus and its effects on everyone and the economy is taking a bit of a psychological toll on me. The weather isn’t helping. It’s been raining here for the last couple weeks, unusual for this time of year. Sometimes I think the sky is crying for all of us.

So I’m trying to be kind to others and myself. I read 2 newspapers in the morning and that’s all the news I look at during the day. My husband gets alerts on his cell that tells us of any other stuff we need to know about from the city. Besides the usual things I do, I’m looking for fun and interesting things to keep my mind off stuff. I thought I’d share some of the  things I’ve found.

From BoredPanda, the Cowboy Museum put its head of security in charge of their Twitter. The results are pretty fun:

Murder and Mayhem moved its conference online. It’s free. To register and watch the replay go to: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/murder-and-mayhem-in/register

Then there’s finding amazing artwork like these from Stone Artist Akie Nakata. Also from BoredPanda.com: https://www.boredpanda.com/stone-art-animals-akie-nakata/

Then there’s the 40-minute free virtual tour of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. I took a tour of it years ago, but it was fun to go on this one. https://winchestermysteryhouse.com/video-tour/

If you want to learn about Egypt, you can take a short animated 3-D “tour” of the Giza Plateau. And there are a lot of photos and information on the plateau. http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/videos/87541/full/

In other news, my publisher has knocked down the price of the Kindle edition of the first book in my series, Fatal Brushstroke, as well as the first in a number of other series to 99 cents. https://henery.press/brushstroke For links to the other books on sale, you can go to my Facebook author page (www.facebook.com/sybiljohnsonauthor) and check out the pinned post.

Stay well and safe, everyone, and don’t forget to be kind to others and yourself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A little comfort for writers and readers in these dark times

by Rick Blechta

Well, here we are, week 2 in coronavirusland. I’d like to share some random — though connected — thoughts with everyone today.

I was speaking with a musician-friend in New York yesterday and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “You do realize, Rick, that likely every musician in the world is out of business right now.”


That’s a lot of people, many of whom live on the edge of financial ruin at the best of times, they’re self-employed most likely, and now they have no income. Things really are desperate for them. And don’t forget those others who support the musicians offstage. They’re in the same boat.

Writers on the other hand can still write. As a sidebar, I’ll bet there may be some writers who haven’t even noticed there’s a pandemic going on! Just joshing, but we do generally work in seclusion, and we can keep doing so without endangering our health.

If I were to extend that further, we could even get our works published without ever seeing someone face to face, and if the work was published electronically, it could be distributed and enjoyed without any “hands on” contact.

I doubt things will come to that, but it is a comforting thought in a way, isn’t it?

Stay well, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2020

On Writing, the Pandemic, and Self-Isolation

I’m putting the finishing touches on my latest Geneva Chase novel and getting it ready to send to my publisher by the first week in April. They’ve asked me to put together a 250-word description of the book that could possibly be used on the back cover as well as a 650-word synopsis.

Additionally, it was requested that I send over a description of the “emotional hook” of the novel to help with the cover design.

I can’t recall ever being asked that before. After giving it a fair amount of thought, the “hook” for Shadow Hill is that Geneva Chase is trying to gain control of her life in a world that is out of control.

It struck me as being appropriate for what we’re going through right now. It’s like we’re all living through an improbable international thriller film. It has all the elements of a hell of a story: a viral pandemic for which we have no treatment or vaccine, a slow, clumsy start to testing, we’re running desperately low on hospital masks, gowns, and respirators, entire states being shut down, and a world economy is in shambles.

Don’t even get me started on the politicians.

I’m doing my best to complete my publisher’s requests as well as finishing my manuscript but finding it hard to stay focused. My attention keeps pivoting to real life. I worry that whatever I write can’t possibly compete with the story that’s unfolding worldwide.

I can’t control what’s happening in the world, but when I should be writing, I can control my immediate surroundings. I get myself a hot cup of coffee and turn on some unobtrusive, ambient music. I pull up whatever I’m working on onto my laptop and get to it, ignoring the bad news, at least for the time being.

The world that we writers create is something that we totally control.

An unintended consequence of this virus is the self isolation. I know some people have a problem with it, but I think most writers are good at self-isolation. It's how we work.

I once heard a publisher say, “Most writers are damned hermits.”

Isaac Asimov said, “My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones.”

PS...because of the coronavirus, all the schools have closed, including our local college where I was teaching creative writing. I was two weeks shy of finishing the course. One of my students sought me out and asked if I would critique the last assignment I'd given them. I took it as a compliment and told him that I would.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Guest Blogger Betty Webb

Type M is so happy to welcome Betty Webb today to talk about something so much more pleasant than what has been going on lately - writing! And if anybody knows about writing, it's Betty. If you are a writer, where do you get your ideas? Ideas should be coming out of the woodwork these days. Betty's newest Gunn Zoo Mystery is Panda of Death. It's a wonderful story, and even looking at the cover will cheer you up.

Second Thoughts on “Write What You Know”
by Betty Webb

When I was still a full-time reporter, and at the same time was writing two vastly different mystery series, my readers often asked me, “How do you find the time to write?”

My answer was usually something on the order of “All I do is write. I don’t really have a life”

That was both true – and an evasion. I obviously have a life. I’m married, I’m a mother to two sons and a grandmother to two girls and three boys, I teach, I volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo, I have a wide circle of friends, I’m step-mom to four cats, I own a temperamental car, and my house is filled with electronic devices I don’t know how to use. Dealing with all that is a life.

All of which brings me to the other question I’m regularly asked: “Where do you get your ideas?”

When I was writing the Lena Jones Desert series (Desert Noir, Desert Redemption, etc.), the answer was almost always “From the newspaper.” And that was truth. As I teach my creative writing students, each issue of your daily newspaper has enough plot ideas in it to fill a small-town library. For instance, take a look at the typical Dear Abby column, where a letter from Sad In Wisconsin asks, “Should I divorce my husband or report him to the police for… (insert sin/crime here)?” It hardly takes a creative genius to construct a book around poor Sad In Wisconsin’s woes.

But my answer to the where-do-I-get-my-ideas question is different if we’re talking about my Gunn Zoo series. For that one, the answer to where I get my ideas would be, “From my life.” The fact that I volunteer for a zoo obviously gives me an insight to exotic animals that most people don’t have, but even a Gunn Zoo book isn’t made up of animals alone; people are always involved.

And that’s where my own particular life experiences come in. Let’s take a look at my latest book, The Panda of Death, where caring for a red panda (yes, there is such a thing) helps zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley solve a murder case. Without giving away too much, the motivations and conflicts between the human characters are almost always based on someone I personally know. For instance, my husband is a Quaker – you know, those folks who will never commit a violent act, not even in self-defense. But he’s married to a woman (me) who is descended from Scots Highlanders who settled arguments with their five-foot-long claymores. These days, it’s no longer lawful to kill someone for forgetting to buy toilet paper, but the lust for vengeance is still part of my DNA. Thus, I can write believable killers.

Here’s another example of how I use my own life in my books. In The Panda of Death, a very nasty scriptwriter on Tippy-Toe & Tinker, a children’s TV show is murdered, and the suspects include the marionette artists who work on the show. Since I’m not a big puppet fan, how did I come up with that idea? Easy. I’m a mom and grandmom, and more times than I care to remember, I’ve sat through puppet shows with my little rug rats. Ryan, my youngest, went through a period where he was obsessed with dinosaurs, and it was while buying him a toy T-Rex for his birthday that I came up with the idea of using a cast of dinosaurs for characters in a mystery novel. (Before you ask, no, the T-Rex named Tippy-Toe didn’t do it.)

My point is this: you don’t have to lead a life fraught with thrills and danger to be a writer. In fact, the more action-oriented your life is, the less likely it’ll be for you to write a book; you’d be too busy ducking and hiding. Instead, it’s the slower-paced but more convoluted life of a stay-at-home mom or dad (or librarian or dry-waller) who can more easily come up with plot ideas, and at the same time, have enough insight into the human condition to pull it off.


Betty Webb is the author of the best-selling Lena Jones mystery series (Desert Redemption, Desert Wives, etc.) and the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries (The Panda of Death, The Otter of Death, etc.). Before beginning to write mystery novels, Betty spent 20 years as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. www.bettywebb-mystery.com and www.bettywebb-zoomystery.com.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Settling In

Frankie, here. 

Sorry for missing my last two Fridays. Life has been hectic with reorganization in my academic unit and then the order from the governor to go to distance-learning. Now, I'm trying to adjust to the new normal of working at home that most of you are probably experiencing if you have a job that allows it. Not that I don't normally spend a portion of my day and even my year working at home. That's what most university professors do. But as my Type M mates have been blogging, this is different. We are all distracted and anxious. Anxious? I have moments when I'm scared silly. I've watched too many bad movies, and I'm not the hero of the ones that keep running through my head.

At moments like that I look at the replica of a sign from World War II that I keep on my kitchen counter for ordinary frantic days -- "Keep Calm and Carry On." A reminder that I can be an ordinary hero by doing what I can do. That means not panicking and staying home with any virus I might be carrying. My cat, Harry, loves the company.

Even going out once a day for a long walk, I'm feeling disoriented. To combat that, I've come up with a schedule and a list of to-do items.

My priorities:
1. Preparation/delivery of my classes on Monday and Tuesday afternoons
2. Virtual meetings with students
3. Work on my book projects
4. Work with my webmaster on the new website

To accompany my priorities, I need to stay healthy and focused. To accomplish:
1. Daily exercise -- walk and other aerobics (yoga or Pilates)
2. Nutritious meals -- make my own (but don't waste food as I usually do)
3. Stay in touch with family and friends -- phone, text, Skype, write real letters 
4. Do spring cleaning and decluttering -- goal, an environment that feels peaceful and calm
5. Play with Harry
6. Get out and use my bookstore hobby kits -- learning knitting, juggling, fashion design, dog training (kit bought months ago in preparation for puppy want to adopt)
7. Use my Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts to watch some of those movies and TV shows I want or need to catch up on -- some of which relate to classes and book research

All this is obviously enough to keep me busy. My only other decision is when I'm going to check in to hear what I need to know about what is going on. Before my walk seems best. I can walk off my stress, then come home and settle in again.

Watching the news as I type. In New York, we are about to go on mandatory restrictions of mobility. Stay calm . . . and carry on.

That's my plan. I'm also thinking of signing up for an online writing workshop or two. I'm browsing the list at Master Classes.

How are you settling in?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pandemics I Have Known

Like everyone else, I, Donis, am sitting here at home, healthy at the moment but aged, self-isolating with my unhealthy, aged spouse. The sudden onset of this pandemic has made me think a lot about the research I did for Return of the Raven Mocker, my 2017 book about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Like that time, there was no cure and no one knew what to do, except self-quarantine. There was no vaccine, and no effective vaccine was developed until 1932. Scientists were dropping from exhaustion trying to find something helpful to mitigate the situation.There were no doctors available since most had been drafted because of World War I. So people were left to their own devices, some of which were worse than nothing (e.g. a drop of turpentine in a spoonful of sugar) But some were truly useful. I'm reproducing here parts of an entry on the use of alliums for illness that I did on Type M in 2018.  As things develop, I'll post more entries on home remedies to use for caring for the sick. I make no claims that this is a panacea, but onions and garlic have been used by home nurses (Mama) for centuries, so perhaps it couldn't hurt. Enjoy! In the meantime, stay healthy, stay home, and wash your hands.

Return of the Raven Mocker, which was set during the influenza epidemic of 1918, included lots of early 20th Century home remedies for the flu. I have used some of these when I was sick and they are actually helpful, so in the spirit of public service, I'm including a couple of preventative suggestions for you, Dear Reader. It’s fascinating to see what people resorted to before anti-viral drugs were available. When I was doing research on the book I received an email from my sister-in-law Dolores on this very topic. Here is an excerpt:

"My Grandmother always baked an onion for a head cold. It loosened the congestion. I had forgotten about it until I read this email (I liked the smell also~)

"In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was a Doctor who visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their families had contracted it and many died. The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore keeping the family healthy."

I expect this tale is apocryphal, but I was interested because in my research I had found several home remedies that involve onions, and this fit right in. In fact, all the allium plants - onions, shallots, leeks, especially garlic - have volatile oils that seem to be antibacterial and/or antiviral.

We didn’t have much garlic around the old homestead when I was a kid, but garlic is truly useful for fighting disease. Research shows that garlic builds white blood cells, thus boosting immunity. Besides, it’s delicious.

If you’ve never baked a head of garlic, now is the time. Trim off the top of the garlic head to expose the cloves, drizzle a little olive oil over it, wrap the head in some foil or place it in a clay or ceramic baking dish. Bake the head in a hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cloves are very soft. Squeeze the baked garlic out of the cloves into a small bowl and mash it up with a fork. At this point you can add oil, herbs, a little salt, whatever appeals. Or you can just spread the garlic on a cracker like butter and chow down. Even if you are not a garlic fan, I can assure you that well-baked garlic is infinitely milder than the raw stuff.

And speaking of the raw stuff, remember that Roman gladiators used to chew cloves of raw garlic to make them strong. You bet it did, in more ways than one.

So, place a few raw, unpeeled onions around the house and chow down on some garlic. It may help you avoid the flu, if for no other reason than your friends will keep their distance. And you won’t be bothered by vampires this Halloween, either.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A question worth answering

I am having a difficult time motivating myself to write this blog. Actually to write anything. I suspect most of us are distracted and unfocused, flitting from one worry to another. This pandemic thing is very new, and information changes minute by minute. Images flit across the screen of struggles around the world, and the fateful numbers pile up at home. Turn off the news or social media for a few hours, and you return to astonishing changes.

On the firm advice of doctors, as a person over 70 with a couple of chronic health conditions (which I've always considered no big deal), I am mostly staying in my home. Even this has been a reality check. Since when did I become a "vulnerable" person who needed protection? I am not happy to have my adventurous wings clipped, but I accept it for my health and that of others.

Initially I thought okay, I'll have lots of time to write my work-in-progress. Not happening. The yellow pad of paper sits on my coffee table, open to the same scene as last week. I can't marshall the sustained concentration to create. I force myself to write a few sentences, but then come upon something that requires a quick internet fact-check, so I open my laptop, and I'm down the rabbit hole for half an hour.
My forlorn manuscript lost amid tax records
However, I have almost finished my taxes, so some good has come of this! And I am hoping that once I get into the rhythm of this self-isolation, my writing muse will come back. On my last blog, I said that over my next four blogs, I was going to discuss the four elements I consider key to successful stories. The first one was a character worth caring about. All this seems very distant now, but in the interests of trying to reestablish some normalcy in our lives, I'm going to take a stab at the second one. In my current brain-rambling state, I may not truly do it justice, so feel free to comment on the idea, and I may revisit it on the next blog in two weeks.

The second element is a question worth answering. This is basic Writing 101. Every story poses a question at the beginning, and that question sets the hero on their quest. The driving force of the story is the hero's pursuit of the answer. Will the guy get the girl? Will the climber reach the summit? And in the case of last week's dog photo, presented here again - Will someone let the poor things in?

Please let us in!
There can be, and indeed should be, smaller questions, both in each scene and in each subplot, and the challenge is to  layer them and knit them together to make a complex, compelling story. But the story as a whole rests on the power of that primary question.

Like the character worth caring about, the question has to be a worthy one. It has to contain enough meat and meaning to engage the reader's interest. The reader has to care about what the answer is, and care that the hero gets there. Shallow, silly, superficial questions leave readers thinking "so what?" And that will not keep them up at night. What gives a question meaning? An important struggle people can relate to. I believe this is one reason crime fiction is so successful. It is about human relationships and conflict, and our question involves literally life and death. Whodunit, howdunit, whydunit, or willhedoit? Whether it's a serial killer or a genteel tea party murder, the deliberate killing of one person by another is arguably the most primal thing one human being can do to another. It is intimate, it is raw, and it is extreme. People want to know what happened, and how and why it happened. We walk in the shoes of the hero, of the victim, and in the case of good writers, of the villain too.

But even within the mystery genre, not all questions have equal power. The murder may seem almost irrelevant, lost in a blaze of car chases and explosions, or trivial, lost in the clever chatter of the characters. It's still possible for the reader to think "so what?", especially if the victim is faceless. So a large part of making the question worthy lies not just in keeping the focus on the murder rather than the distractions, but also on creating characters who are genuine, believable and personally affected by the murder. In my opinion, if all characters, including victim and villain, are real and well rounded so that people can relate to them, the reader will care about what happens. So back to Element #1, a character worth caring about. If the writer has created a character you care about, then chances are you'll care about their struggle to achieve their quest.

A small note about the last word in that phrase, a question worth answering. I chose the word answering rather than asking because the momentum of a story lies not in the asking but in the answering. The answer is the goal at the end.

I'll sign off here and invite anyone to comment, improve, and add. Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Rethinking who and what we are

by Rick Blechta

There is that famous curse — purportedly originating in China (but that’s unproven) — “May you live in interesting times.” Well, that’s come true — in spades over the past two weeks.

The lives of everyone in the world have been dramatically upended, and based on my own small experiences, it will take a definitive toll on all of us. It’s very difficult to not feel anxious and worried all the time. Go to the grocery store and you see shelves that are empty, or nearly so. How will we all survive? Since there’s no definitive answer to that question, it’s hard to avoid slipping into hopelessness and despair.

Now is also the time when we find out what our leaders are made of. The reality of that is very stark in some countries. Bad choices made at the ballot box are coming home to roost. And boy, does that add to anxiety levels. The people who are in charge have no idea what they’re doing. Just great…

There’s also the issue of how long this new reality that’s been forced on us will rule what we do and cannot do.

My motto in life tends to be “deal with it.” I try very hard not to resist things that I cannot control. It’s better to go with the flow. Life with all the restrictions we have right now is very different, but does pushing back against it have any effect? Not really. Our best option as human beings is to try to do no harm. I’ve learned of people I know who, unbelievably, are pretending nothing is wrong. They are living their lives as if they can bull their way through this pandemic. “I’m not going to let COVID-19 tell me what to do!” The simple fact is, these people are dangerous, not only to themselves but to all of us. Simply put, they are being incredibly selfish.

Fortunately, though, I have imaginary friends I can hang out with. The world they inhabit doesn’t have a major health crisis upending everything. I’m spending some quality time there.

You can do it too, whether you’re a writer or a reader. Last week I wrote about favourite books we can return to when we’re in need of some comfort. That post now seems rather prophetic.

Read, my friends! Escape reality for a bit. It will greatly help reduce your stress and anxiety levels. You can’t do much about coronavirus other than taking precautions to keep yourself and those with whom you interact safe. That leaves a lot of time on your hands.

I wish everyone the very best of health!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Names from the Past

When it came to sitting big exams I got nervous like everyone else.  But I was lucky enough to have a good memory and did quite a good job at cramming beforehand, so when it actually came to sitting there in the exam hall and turning over the paper I usually quite enjoyed it in a weird sort of way and afterwards the results were pretty much OK.

Ask me a month later and I wouldn't remember nearly so much.  Ask me a year later, unless you were talking about a subject I'd gone on studying, and all that acquired knowledge would have faded to, 'Oh, I did know something about that, once.'  Make that several years later and...

Well, put it this way, a while ago someone mentioned Thomas Carlyle, the great British historian and philosopher (who lived just down the road from where I am now) and I said guiltily that the only thing I knew about him and his wife Jane was that Samuel Butler had said it was good of God to let them marry each other and not make four people miserable instead of two.

Shortly after that I decided it really, really was time to clear out my student notes and found that not only had I read his books I'd written quite a lengthy essay on them.

Recently I've had quite a few readers who when contacting me, or even talking to me,  have asked some detailed question about the actions of a character, named, without giving any context.  I can feel my mind going blank in an awful, panic-stricken way and have to try to flannel as I struggle to think who it was - or even think, 'I wrote a book that had a character with that name?  How very odd.'

The series characters, like the academic subjects I went on studying, are always  clear enough - indeed, as Rick said last week, I miss them when they're getting on with their own life but I'm not there. But a random character, plucked out of a book I wrote perhaps twenty years ago?  Not a chance.  The book's finished, the incidental characters have left the stage.  I have to embark on a frantic flip through all the books till I come across the name in question.

I'd feel worse about it if I didn't remember that PD James, on a transatlantic flight to take seminars for students of her work, decided that a refresher course might be a good idea, and finished one book to find she'd got the murderer wrong.

If she and I aren't the only ones and it happens to you too, I'd be more than grateful if you have any tips to pass on for what to say while the reader anxiously waits for their reply.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Virus and Publishing

During this time of upheaval in the financial markets it's difficult to predict the effect on publishing. Traditionally when the economy goes south people read more. Will that hold true now? Are we a Netflix nation?

Last month an editor requested a piece of fiction with a specific subject and the peculiar word count of approximately 20,000 words. I finished it on time and much to my amazement rather liked it when it was finished. It was/is to be included in a four-author anthology. Now, who knows?

How much do the major publishers depend on huge publicity pushes with multi-city author promotions and carefully staged appearances at events. I have several not so carefully staged mini events pending. I enjoy presenting information about my books, but Colorado is really shutting down right now.

The United States has a wide-spread sophisticated health care system. Our population as a whole is healthier than most of the world. Colorado has an awesome system in place. Our governor took immediate steps to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Much to my amazement, the bishop of Colorado (Episcopal--my own denomination) just sent an email requesting that parishioners attend online. St. Luke's will be closed for in person worship this Sunday.

Is all of this necessary? I don't know. That's the point. The amount of confusion from both a health and financial standpoint is eerie.

We here in America are in a state of suspension. Waiting to see. Waiting to see.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Staring out windows

A lot of time this week has been spent writing and thinking about writing. I’m at the fun stage of a book –– the part where I see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The outline I spent two months creating has been useful as a loose guide, but now I have an ending I like better than the one I thought up while penning the roadmap.


I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the book.

My daughter, when she was six, once said, “You always say you’re writing, but every time I go in the office, you’re just staring out the window.”

“That’s writing,” I told her.

Not much has changed. Which is interesting because the outline was the thing that was going to change it all for me. Do the heavy lifting upfront and write the book any time I have a free moment. Just follow the outline. That was my plan last fall.

Funny how things work out. Or don’t.

I’m still glad I put the time into the outline, but, truth be told, I deviated after the first hundred pages, as I got to know the characters. Jeffrey Deaver gave a keynote address I once attended in which he said he worked 8 months on his outlines and 3 months writing the books. Hell, that still leaves him with a vacation month each year. I wish I had the same systematic approach. But I don’t. And I don’t think I will find it.

I had my 50th birthday in February, and I do believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks –– I use speech-to-text software to put ideas and even (very) rough chapters onto the page occasionally. I use text-to-speech apps to listen to my work when editing. But technological upgrades are not the same as thinking and working through plots and plot problems intellectually. Writing crime novels continues to be and will always be about posing the mystery you, the writer, will have trouble solving and then staring out the window until you find your solution –– no matter how many times your daughter walks in the room.

Or that’s how I think about it. And I didn’t need an outline to land there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

On Being A Writer

Lately, I’ve been mulling over the question of what it means to be a writer. Most of us write something in the course of a day whether it’s an email, a tweet, a text, a document for work or part of a book or story. Should we all be labeled writers? In some sense, we probably should.

I’d been writing short stories and books for a while before I would answer “I’m a writer” to the question “What do you do?” I hadn’t yet had a story published when I finally declared I was a writer, but I had started sending my stories out for consideration. By doing that, I think I’d changed my mindset from something I was going to try to do to taking it seriously as a career.

So, for me, being a writer means having a certain mindset. Here are some indications you might be a writer that I came up with:
  • You write even on the days you’d rather watch episodes of the Great British Baking Show or Ice Road Truckers.
  • You continue to write even after your publisher cancels your series and you no longer have a deadline.
  • Your characters are so real to you that, when a reviewer complains that a character doesn’t work enough, you immediately start defending her to all who will listen.
  • You read a book or short story differently than before you started writing. You notice how a story is constructed as well as how the writer describes things. You even take notes and jot down a passage you particularly like to study later.
  • Every person you meet, everywhere you go and everything you do is fodder for possible inclusion in a story.
  • You read an article in the newspaper and tuck it away in the back of your mind, thinking that would be interesting to include in a story some day.
  • You have discussions with others or write blog posts about what makes a good character and story.
  • You don’t have to be published to be a writer, but you do take your work seriously and you write regularly.
  • You feel a sense of accomplishment after you finish a book or story or write a particularly fun or interesting scene.
That's my list. What about all of you? What do you think it means to be a writer?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

“Comfort reading”

by Rick Blechta

If you’re anything like me, you have a TBR (To Be Read) stack of books about a mile high. I always feel a twinge of guilt when I pick up a book. I shouldn’t be spending precious hours enjoying what someone else has written. I should be working on my own stuff. Sure, I could put it all down to “research” which is not stretching the truth, but…

Sometimes, usually at the end of a trying day, I can’t imagine reading something new, let alone having enough mental energy to work on my own novel. I just need to “escape” for a few hours, and my solution is to reach for some old friend, a book I’ve very much enjoyed already, often repeatedly, that I can disappear into with no pressure to read it to the end. I think of this as “comfort reading” and it’s as nourishing to my soul as a favourite comfort food can be. In fact it can do you a world of good to indulge in both at the same time!

I have a few comfort reading choices. I’ve always enjoyed reading Dick Francis, but there are some I find more attractive than others. The two that come to mind immediately are Bolt and To The Hilt. I can enjoy either one for an hour or two and emerge feeling much refreshed. The Thirty-Nine Steps is another indulgence. I suspect that some of the Camilleri novels will also land on my comfort reading pile. These stories are just so different and refreshing that reading a few chapters can feel like you've made an overnight trip to Sicily. (Why did it take me so long to discover these gems?)

So that’s my basic list. We have a gloomy day on hand here in Toronto, and it is quite tempting to disappear to the bedroom and spend a few hours with an old friend. I’m going to do my best to resist, though, like I’m doing now writing this blog post. Duty calls!

How about sharing your comfort choices with the rest of us? What book(s) do you turn to when you’re tired, maybe a bit blue, overworked, and in need of some pampering?

Monday, March 09, 2020

Can't Recall the Last Plot? No Worries. Read the Next Book in the Series, Anyway.

Barbara Fradkin’s excellent blog on relatable characters prompted me to submit this.  Can you recall all the plots of all the books in all the mystery series that you’ve read?  Of course not.  There’re simply too many.  But what you remember are the protagonists.

What is it about a mystery series that makes us want to keep coming back, eager to devour the next installment?  Is it the way the story is told, the plotting, the pacing?  It’s all those things, of course, but most importantly, it’s the characters.

We become invested in them and can relate to them.  Sometimes we are so invested that, if they do something that we think is stupid or make a bad decision, we get frustrated or angry at them.

Isn’t that how we feel about our friends and members of our family?

The characters are so important to us, that often we’ll forget the plot to the earlier books, but the protagonists live on in our minds. So, let’s talk about why we love certain characters.

Starting with the late Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, who doesn’t like a female protagonist that is so relatable?  She’s a bit of a frump, although it my head, she’s an attractive frump.  Kinsey is about 5’6”, 118 pounds, has short dark hair that she trims with a nail scissors.   She usually wears jeans and turtleneck sweaters.  For times that she needs to “dress-up”, she owns a wrinkle-resistant little black dress.

I visualize Kinsey looking very much like Sue Grafton does on the back of the book jacket of her mysteries. 

Kinsey Millhone jogs three miles every day but enjoys junk food.  She’s been in and out of various relationships and was married twice.

We can relate to her.  She’s just a regular person with a self-effacing sense of humor who solves mysteries.  From letter to letter in her series of “Alphabet” books, we watch her grow her friendships, romantic relationships, and her jobs.

However, she’s one of the few characters who doesn’t really age.  She’s been in the ‘eighties’ since, well, the eighties.  She doesn’t have a cellphone and has never streamed a movie on Netflix.  Keeping her stories in that decade makes her novels as comfortable as a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy day.

After 25 volumes of Sue Grafton mysteries, it’s nearly impossible to recall the plots of all of them…or any of them.  But that’s not important, is it?  As long as when you finish one, you’re looking forward to your next letter of the alphabet.

A favorite character that I grew up reading was Travis Magee written by John D. McDonald.  The books started with The Deep Blue Good-by in 1964 and ended with The Lonely Silver Rain in 1984. 

Like Kinsey, Travis is relatable. There’s no sense of ostentation at all.  He’s a beach bum who lives on a houseboat called the “Busted Flush” that he won in a poker game.  He’s a self-described “Salvage Consultant” and “Knight Errant”.  He makes his living by finding items that have been lost or stolen and taking a cut (usually half of what the item is worth). 

Travis was another hero that didn’t seem to age although at the beginning of the series, he intimated that he was a Korean War veteran and somewhere along the way that subtly changed to being a veteran of the War in Viet Nam.

I was impressed that, even in the ‘60’s, he was a prototypical environmentalist, waxing poetic on how damaging encroaching human development was on the Everglades.

It wasn’t until about 1979 in The Green Ripper that Travis starts to slow down.  In the last book of the series, The Lonely Silver Rain, Travis learns he has a teenage daughter and takes all the cash he has on hand and puts it into a trust fund for her.

Who can’t love that?

But as memorable as the recurring characters in McDonald’s books, unless I go back and reread them, I can’t recall any of the plotlines.

What can be written about Michael Connelly’s Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch that hasn’t already been said?  Twenty-one novels have given Harry Bosch a very full life of his own.  Bosch is so firmly in the minds of mystery readers and writers as well, that he’s appeared as a cameo in other writers’ books. 

Bosch has a long history with multiple partners, both professional and romantic.  He has a colorful, exotic back story.  With each book that Connelly writes, his protagonist evolves. 

But he’s also getting older.  It’s no secret that Bosch is a Viet Nam veteran, a tunnel rat.  That’s going to make him close to seventy-years-old.  In his last book, Dark Sacred Night, Bosch is slowing down.  He’s joined forces with one of Connelly’s newest creations, L.A. Detective Renee Ballard.

By his own admission, Connelly said that Ballard debut appearance in The Late Show was going to be a single appearance.  But she was “too fierce” so he brought he back.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.  They are both forces to be reckoned with on the likability scale. They’re both loners, they both have haunted histories, they’re both relentless in the search for justice, willing to break the rules to get it.

So, with so many books in the series I’ve talked about, how on earth can you recall all the plots?  Most of us simply can’t.  Nor are we supposed to.  We respond the characters.  The reason we keep buying these writers’ books is because we enjoy being with the protagonists. 

We don’t necessarily have to recall how the last book ended. We only need to look forward to the next.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Hunting for Happiness

Oklahoma Book Award Finalists for 2020

I (Donis) am working working working to finish the more-or-less-final draft of the manuscript of my second Bianca Dangereuse mystery, set in Hollywood in 1926. I am alllllmost there! I want to get it sent to my editor before I leave for Left Coast Crime on Thursday March 12, and I think it will happen. I also would love to get a synopsis finished and sent to a prospective agent before I go. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, mainly because I also have a couple of author presentations to get ready for, both on March 11 - one early in the day and one late in the day. Then I'll be flying off to San Diego early in the morning on March 12. There was some worry that LCC would be canceled due to the covid-19 virus, but apparently it is still on, so full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes. The conference organizers sent all the participants a note saying that the conference hotel is taking extreme measures to make sure everything is disinfected. There will be hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. I'm going, dang it, because I so seldom have the opportunity to make these important mystery conferences. In fact I had a time-management set back a couple of weeks ago when my beloved but troublesome husband's pacemaker began beeping because the battery was failing and he had to have surgery to get a new one implanted in his chest.

So that's done. He's recovered well and I'm back at the writing life. All of this has been stress inducing, the deadlines and preparations and viruses and operations. Anyone who is a writer and has a life understands that this is just the way it is. However, on occasions like this I am overcome by a distressing thought:

Do I really want to do this any more?

I write because I enjoy it - when I can take my time with it, that is - and I undergo all the crap that goes with publication because 1) I want to share my work and 2) I like to make a little money. Little is the operative word, here. Am I rewarded, ego and money-wise, enough make it all worth it? Not really. I'm rushing toward the end of my time on earth, and how do I want to spend it?

What is the secret to happiness? One thing I've learned over the course of my many years is that I cause most of my own suffering. Stop putting pressure on yourself. Do or don't do, as Yoda says, and quit beating yourself up. Of course knowing something and being able to do it are two different things...

So... in the spirit of finding happiness where one can, here is a nice ego-boost I received today: The Wrong Girl, the first Bianca Dangereuse novel, is a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award this year.

I also got a lovely review for The Wrong Girl today in the Historical Novel Review this month:
"Casey brings the world of silent film to life, using Hollywood slang from the 1920s. The novel is structured like a silent movie, with black-and-white story cards at the head of each chapter. Casey takes us to another world, but one which is all-too-close to ours. The theme of film executives as sexual predators could have been taken from today’s headlines. Highly recommended."
Thank you, HNS!

And last but not least, if you are braving the germs and attending Left Coast Crime, one of the premier mystery author/reader conferences, this year in San Diego, March 12-15,
Here is the link for the Left Coast Crime panels. So many wonderful authors will be be there. I'll be on a panel called Hooray for Hollywood: Tinsel Town as a Setting, on Friday March 13 at 4:00 p.m.
along with Kellye Garrett, Sherri Leigh-James, and Phoef Sutton

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

A character worth caring about

Rick's post about the universal appeal of stories got me thinking – what makes a good story? One clue could be found in Tom's excellent post of last week and in the words of one person in the comments section:  emotion is "the beating heart of writing".

It's a timely reminder to all writers that no matter how beautiful our words or how thrilling our tale, readers are unlikely to keep reading if they are not emotionally invested. Stories are about characters, even if that character is a dog or horse. Not cardboard cut-out characters, not two-dimensional superheroes, not people who are defined only by an unusual talent or quirk, but characters with all the hopes and dreams and struggles and flaws that people can relate to.

Everyone can relate to this!
Somerset Maugham is credited with the famous saying; "There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are." I usually begin my writing workshops by giving this quote, because I believe everyone writes a novel differently and has to discover what works for them. There are far too many "how to" books out there which claim to lay out the secret steps to a perfect novel, and in my opinion, that way lies formulaic, derivative writing that fails to allow your truly creative self to blossom.

That's not to say there are no skills and tools of the craft to be mastered; a writer should be constantly learning and improving, not only from books and workshops but also by reading great novels. And over time, they will discover the rules that work for them and guide them in the creation of their best work.   In that spirit, having started my workshop with Somerset Maugham's quote, I then tell attendees that for me, there are four key elements to a good story. I am talking about crime novels, but I think the same applies to other genres. These elements are linked together, but over the next four blogs, I am going to try to tease them apart to discuss each in turn.

In keeping with Tom's post, the first element is a character worth caring about. There can be more than one character worth caring about, of course, but at the very least there should be one. It can be the protagonist, the victim, or even the "villain". Worth caring about is not synonymous with likeable. It represents a deeper level of identification and engagement. Something about the character should touch you in a way that makes you care about what happens to them and makes you want to spend three hundred pages with them to find out how they end up. If you have ever watched a TV show or read a book that has no character you cared about, you probably didn't finish the book or watch the next episode.

I've wrestled with how to define what makes a character worth caring about. Although positive traits are part of it – few readers want to spend time with a despicable character– I think caring comes not from being likeable, charming, funny, or brave, but from layers, flaws, conflicting desires, and a personal issue they are struggling with. Readers care about different things and identify with different struggles, but generally the more your character wrestles with a universal challenge like love, loss, loneliness, fear, or anger, the more likely the reader will identify and care about them.

The word worth is an essential part of my phrase. Is the character worthy of the reader's investment? Characters who are shallow, frivolous, silly, boring, or facing a superficial challenge are usually not worth our time (nor do they pique our interest), unless the frivolity is in itself a challenge they recognize and wrestle with as they seek a deeper meaning or commitment. But often when writers try to give their characters a meaningful challenge, they fall into cliches or superficiality themselves. The burnt-out cop, the loser in search of redemption, and the brave young widow(er) in search of a new start have all been done to death, so the writer has to work hard to make that character and their situation unique. Similarly giving a character a quirk like second sight, illness, autism, OCD, or disability is no substitute for making that character real, unique, and full rounded.

These are some of my thoughts about what makes a character intriguing enough to draw us in. It doesn't have to be complex or heavy-handed. I'm sure my dogs in the simple photo have already tugged at a few heartstrings and everyone wants to know what happens to them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Why do we humans need storytelling so much?

by Rick Blechta

Stories are such an integral part of our lives. Every nation, every culture, all people tell stories. The formats vary widely, but when you stop and think about it, they’re a huge part of our everyday lives and I’m certain this goes right back to our earliest ancestors.

Stories help us understand who we are and how we fit into our societies. They tell us where we came from. They can be basic — your mother telling you about your birth — right up to the latest 3D, computer-generated wonders out of Hollywood. It makes no difference. At their root all stories are the same. They teach, they make us wonder, they make us think and consider, they can give us comfort or sorrow, and they can entertain. They can be spoken, written, sung, watched. They can even be conveyed through images with no attached words or dialogue.

I wonder if there is a single human, alive or dead, who has not been blessed with storytelling in their life? I cannot imagine it. First and foremost, it would be hard to run away from, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine living without stories? No books, no movies, no radio or television, books on tape, talking to other people. Storytelling starts early, basically as soon as we can understand what are parents are saying to us we’re being told stories.
We humans crave to be told stories. I know I do. I read as much as I am able. I love to watch movies. When driving on long trips, I always have an audio book on. I’m particularly fond of radio plays. In contemplating this topic I realized just how ever-present stories are in my life.

Most of all, though, I love telling stories. It’s what drives me to write novels. Heaven knows I don’t do it for the money I make! It’s what makes all writers put so much effort into sharing their ideas and characters, and it’s a wonder for us when we share our creations with other humans.

Hopefully our stories will outlive us, and that too is a wonder. What would Homer think if he was told that his two great works, The Iliad and The Odyssey were still being enjoyed thousands of years after he created them?

Now I don’t for a moment believe anyone will be reading a Blechta creation thousands of years from now, but it’s enough to know people are reading them right now — and hopefully enjoying the experience.

And now I’ve just told you a short little story. I hope you got something out of it.

Monday, March 02, 2020


I hate deadlines.  Mention the word and my brain goes into lockdown.

I got back from holiday to find my page proofs waiting reproachfully.  Having slogged through them, I suddenly realised that I'd got confused about my post and had thought it was next week.  Usually, I think over what to write but now I have a deadline and yup!  brain lockdown.

So I thought I'd share this with you by way of apology.

It made me laugh, anyway.