Thursday, December 31, 2020


It’s the last day of 2020, the end of a trying year. For many it’s been a downright shitty year. Losses, in one form or another, upon more losses. It's time to take inventory, to take stock in what’s happened and what might in the near and distant future. And that’s what I’m doing this week.

For me, Dec. 31 is a day of reflection each year. This year, despite some defeats, I’m very grateful. To date, my family has remained healthy. My sister, my wife, and I all work in education. No one has taken ill. Likewise, my mother, who has 19 heart stents (yes, 19; not a typo), diabetes, and beat lung cancer, has secluded herself at home with her Kindle, reading four or five novels a week to remain healthy. I had a perforated colon in 2017 and spent about a month in the hospital and had two seven-hour surgeries. So I know better than to take my health for granted. I’m grateful to be healthy right now.

But tomorrow marks a new year, and it’s time for resolutions. More than resolutions, it’s a time to be resolute. I’m all about controlling what you can control. I published two academic papers this fall, and that was great, but fiction remains my love and crime my passion. I’m hoping to start a new series. That begins with small achievable goals that lead to something larger.

First, I want to write every day. I can control that. It might not be at everyone’s ideal time –– typically 4 a.m. or 11 p.m. –– but I can write every day (I got an hour in before my 12-year-old awoke on Christmas morning).

Second, I want to finish the novel I’m working on by May 31.

Third, I want to have a new short story completed and submitted by July.

New Year resolutions? I try to control what I can control and let the chips fall where they may. Here’s hoping 2021 is a better year for everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Bye Bye 2020!


It's almost time to say good-bye to 2020. Thank goodness!

When I think about how little I’ve done, writing-wise, in 2020, I feel rather ashamed. But I’ve decided to give myself a break. I haven’t completely stopped writing so that’s a big plus. And I have lots of ideas for the future. Another plus.

In the past year, I’ve done more decorative painting projects and taken a few Zoom classes with Chris Haughey, a designer and teacher who I’ve had the pleasure to take classes from in person. I’m also grateful that I was able to attend the Creative Painting convention in Las Vegas in February, the last time I was out of Los Angeles County. I also started relearning the Swedish I sort of/kind of learned at one point in my life via It’s been fun to spend a few minutes each day relearning the things I’ve long forgotten. And I did a couple macrame projects, which turned out to be quite fun.

Since Covid is raging here in Los Angeles County, I'm not going to be doing much to celebrate the new year. I'm not much for a New Year's Eve party, anyway. I pretty much hang out at home with the husband and hope that I'll stay awake until midnight.

I did find a few interesting things you can watch online. Las Vegas won’t be doing an in person celebration, but they’ll be streaming an event online which they’ve dubbed “Kiss Off 2020”. Starting at 11:45 pm PST on December 31st they’ll be counting down to the new year. At midnight a 2020 sign will be revealed and then blown up. Then a 2021 sign will be lit up, streamers will come down and there will be a 10-15 minute fireworks display. You can view this virtual event on their Facebook page or their YouTube channel. I’m not sure, but I’m hoping that it will be made available to view later for those of us who don’t want to stay up that late.

The Space Needle will also have a New Year’s Eve celebration they’ll be streaming online via Not sure if this one will be available to watch after the event happens.

If you have kids, there are a lot of Noon Year’s Eve events they can participate in. Apparently, this has been going on for a few years at libraries. This year, of course, it’s moved online. They count down to the new year at noon instead of midnight so the little ones can feel like they’ve participated. Check your local library to see if they have one.

My wish for you in this coming year is that you all stay healthy and safe and that the world returns to normal soon.


In other news, the American Dialect Society chose its word of the year. Not unexpectedly it is Covid. In the running were Covid, 2020, antiracism, Before Times, BIPC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), doomscrolling, pandemic, social distancing, and unprecedented.

The digital word of the year was doomscrolling, obsessively scanning social media and websites for bad news. You haven't done that one, right?

The Zoom-related word of the year was “you’re muted”. In the running were Zoombombing, Zoom fatigue and zumping (Zoom+dumping) which is breaking up with someone via Zoom. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that zumping is a thing now.

The Pandemic-related word of the year was "social distancing". In the running were contact tracing, coronials (the coronavirus generation for the predicted baby boom in the wake of the pandemic), Covid, flattening the curve and moronavirus, foolish behavior or ideas related to the virus.

The Slang/Informal word of the year was “the rona”, a term for the coronavirus. Covidiot was in the running in this category.

You can read the full account here:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Last post…of 2020

by Rick Blechta

Starting in 2014, I’ve kept a running file of each year’s blog posts. It’s always sort of exciting to get to the final one of the year. I also enjoy going back and reading how the year shook down blog-wise. There are always a few where in retrospect, they are real downers as far as mood goes.

Guess what I found in 2020’s lot? Reading this set was difficult. So many bad memories.

New Year’s Eve 2019 found my wife and I spending the holiday with some dear friends out in the country. That year had been pretty brutal for us in a number of ways, them too, so we all toasted the arrival of 2020 with “Good riddance! This new year is going to be a great one for all of us!”

Little did we know.

Actually, there’s a good news story here. Our friends have a small business selling pedal-assist electric bikes, pretty high-end ones. They’re also on a trailway, so there is a strong rental program for people who want to bike the trail, but may need a little “help.” 2020 was their best year ever — by a long way. You see, people weren’t going on vacations so they had money to spend on something like an electric bike. Our friends couldn’t get them into their store fast enough. By the end of May, they’d already sold more than the previous year’s total number of bikes! As pandemic restrictions dropped during the summer, their rental program took off too. Then in the fall, they sold off every single rental bike (discounted) which had never happened before.

Closer to home, my wife’s flute studio had to go online. Every single student said, “Sure! No problem.” It was a lot more work for both of us since I am her recording engineer and chief scanner of annotated music, but it all went well. Additionally, during the summer, most of her students wanted to continue, something that has never happened before. So she had a successful year of teaching to say the least.

So there was a bit of good news for some in 2020.

But for the rest of us…bupkis.

Even writers who already live a hermit-like existence had a tough time. We discussed it here on Type M: having trouble concentrating, being distracted by news feeds and social media more than ever, and worst of all, trying to decide whether to write the pandemic into our novels’ plots — something I still haven’t personally decided.

So in two days we will bid farewell to 2020 — a pretty rotten year by any standard.

I have some hope 2021 might be better, but I am always going to carry the memory of last New Year’s Eve when we kicked 2019 to the door, expecting its younger brother to be ever so much better.

It appears now we were dancing on a grave. I won’t make that mistake on Thursday night!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Starting Over

By Thomas Kies

This will be my last blog of 2020. I certainly won’t be sorry to kick this year’s butt out the door and embrace 2021.

2020 had it all. First and foremost was the pandemic. Sitting in my little corner of the world, I felt relatively safe. A horde of tourists felt the same way. Tourist season here on the coast has literally broken records. Travelling by air seemed risky, but driving here, renting a vacation home, and sunning on the beach felt safe.

But now, covid seems to be creeping closer and closer. Our daily number of infections continues to climb, hospitalizations increase, and now people I know have contracted it. One individual, in his fifties and healthy, died from covid complications.

In addition, 2020 saw out of control wildfires devastating parts of the western United States. Fires seemed to completely consume the continent of Australia, wiping out forests, killing billions of animals.

One after another, hurricanes made landfall, battering the Gulf Coast states and Central America in particular.

Unemployment skyrocketed. Food lines continue to grow. The government seems unwilling or is too dysfunctional to help.

Winding things up this year, an RV in downtown Nashville is packed with explosives and detonated outside of an AT&T Data Center. A recording of a woman telling the immediate area to evacuate immediately is blasted over a loudspeaker on the RV before it explodes. An extravagant suicide? An attack against the communication center? As of this writing, it's a mystery.

Somehow an appropriate way to end the year.

An end of 2020 bright spot? For now, there's toilet paper on store shelves.

Strange year.

So, when I say that I’ve thrown out the first hundred pages of my next book and I’m starting over, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

Why did I do that? If I’m bored writing it, the reader is going to be bored. That’s literary sacrilege.

I didn’t have to completely trash it all though. The characters are basically the same, only better…or worse, depending on if they’re a good guy or a bad guy.

The plot is basically the same, except better. The pacing is faster, the dialogue snappier, the descriptions of the scenes more vivid. More show, less tell.

So, writing that first hundred pages that ended up in the trash wasn’t a complete waste of time. If only we could throw 2020 in the trash and start over.

Oh, wait. We are.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Stories

Christmas resonates so deeply within us because of our holiday memories. I thought I'd share three of mine.

The first happened when I was ten. For some reason I decided to do something extra that Christmas morning so I opted to make pancakes. Which I had never done before. My mom stood by to give advice, but not too much as she believed that the best way to learn was from your mistakes. I served a stack, hot and steaming, to my dad and proudly waited for his confirmation of my culinary expertise. As my old man was a real chow hound, I expected him to wolf them all. When he cut into the pancakes, they oozed moist dough. After his initial bite, I asked what he thought of them. "Kinda mushy," he answered diplomatically. In retrospect, the look on his face was that he wanted to spit them out.

The next year, a used car dealer near my house had decided to augment his inventory of wrecks-on-wheels with Fox minibikes. He'd let us kids tool around the lot, hoping to get us so excited that we'd badger our parents into buying us each one. I'd bring home brochures and tell my mom and dad how cool these minibikes were. We didn't have a lot of money, but to my eleven-year-old brain, that mattered little. I never saw a clue that my folks had bought a minibike but that didn't prove a thing. If nothing else, that my parents were going to such lengths to hide the existence of a minibike only meant that they had purchased one. Christmas Eve I went to bed imagining myself the envy of the neighborhood as I puttered about on my brand-new Fox minibike. I'm sure you've guessed the punch line--there was no minibike under the Christmas tree...or anywhere else. My sister keeps the memory alive by reminding me, "Remember that time when you thought you were going to get a minibike for Christmas? You were so disappointed. That was awesome!"

Story three: Christmas 1973. My best friend and I were back home on leave from the army. After months of military restrictions, we rampaged the town like Visigoth vandals. There wasn't a party we didn't crash, a liquor cabinet we didn't raid, an old girlfriend--hell any girl--that we didn't hit on. The soundtrack for our escapades was "Jessica" from the Almond Brothers as we tore about in my friend's used Chevy, one that he had bought with his enlistment bonus for joining the infantry. But I also recall a bit of poignancy in that this was our last hurrah as footloose bachelors. The responsibilities of adulthood awaited within an uncertain future. When you're on furlough, you wait until the last minute to head back to base and as luck would have it, at the moment my friend was to leave on his trek from New Mexico to Georgia, his car wouldn't start. The clock was ticking and Uncle Sam is very unsympathetic if you're late reporting to duty. But my friend couldn't abandon his car, nor could he afford a new starter. So we took turns that frosty afternoon chipping away at the corroded contacts and trying the starter. Finally, late in the evening, he got the engine to turn over. Not wanting to push his luck, he zoomed away without exchanging more that a hasty, "See you later." Months passed and I managed to connect with him over the phone. I asked about the Chevy. He replied, "That lemon broke down on me twice along the way. I ended up donating it to a guy for a demolition derby. After all the trouble that POS caused, it was almost worth those headaches watching it get smashed to pieces."

Merry Christmas, everyone! See you next year!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Looking Backward and Forward

 By next Friday at midnight -- whatever happens between now and then, if the planet is still turning -- 2020 will be in our rear view mirror. We have called this year by many names -- some of them curses that our mothers would not approve of -- even if she is uttering the same curses when no one is listening. 

To say it has been a bad year is an understatement. But it also has been educational. We've learned things we didn't want to know -- like at what point we become numb to the daily death count. Or, think we have, until we lose someone we know and/or love. Or, until the media reminds us with yet another story that makes us understand once more the toll that COVID-19 has taken on individuals. Today, there was a story about a young woman who gave birth to her child and then died. The article was accompanied by a photo of the day when she and her husband celebrated her pregnancy. They are glowing with happiness. And now she is gone, and he has had to break the news to the other children. 

We can imagine one death, one family devastated. That haunts us. We have learned that this year. Learned it over and over again even when we tried not to see or listen. 

But we've also learned that we need to find time to stay connected with the people we care about.  Once upon a time, before email, my best friend from grad school and I used to write each other real letters. With email, oddly enough, the letters became less frequent. Until the past few months, when one email letter has led to another and we are having an on-going conversation about our lives. 

Some of us, those of us with "companion animals," were reminded of how much we value their companionship. I dropped my cat, Harry, off at the vet's last Wednesday evening for a procedure on Thursday morning. The vet and I were anticipating that I would be able to pick him up on Friday morning. Instead, the blizzard blew through depositing 22.5 + inches in our area. I spent the next six nights realizing that even when Harry is napping in a corner somewhere, the house has a different vibration when he is in it. I was as relieved as he was when I could finally pick him up on Tuesday afternoon.

Something else I learned this year -- vanity is a lot of trouble and sometimes unnecessary. For decades, since I was in my 20s, I first plucked out gray strands and then dyed my hair. I could never find a color that felt exactly right, although I did settle on a cool shade that worked with my skin tone. I thought occasionally of saying to heck with it and letting my hair go gray. But I didn't want people to think I had "stopped trying" or that my hair had turned white after a scare (old superstition). I didn't want to look in the mirror and see that I looked ancient. But this fall, while working from home and unable to get to a hair salon, I chopped my hair into a shape that worked on Zoom. Then, although I'd ordered hair color delivered with my groceries, I decided to see how gray my hair actually was. That was when I realized -- as more and more gray appeared -- that I liked the silver. It was great with my favorite shades of gray and blue. The color worked with my skin tone. Still, I was shocked when several people on Zoom said they liked my hair. Who knew?  The only problem now is that I need to update my author photos.

 I've also learned how to order a delicious meal online. I had used Grub Hub before. Now, I know how to "read" an online menu and find what I want. Last night I had a seafood feast -- fried oysters, crab hush puppies, mussel boil, and coleslaw. All this from a restaurant I had just discovered. And I'm doing my part to support local businesses with an order every couple of weeks -- my reward for learning how to do more with veggies and left-overs.  

Although I would rather have made this discovery under happier circumstances, I have finally become a fan of technology. I like what one can do on Zoom. I also like what one can do with a combination of new technology and old. I found an "animal communicator" online. We talked on the telephone, and then she did a session with Harry using a photo that I had sent her. In case you're interested, Harry has never lived with a dog (I wasn't sure), but he knows what they are. He was curious about the puppy (see cute photo) that is likely to join us in the new year. But he is withholding judgment until he encounters him and sees how he behaves. The session was inspired by my research for a book, but it was also fascinating.

I could go on with the list of things I've learned this year -- some good, some bad. You must have your list as well. I've going to see how many of those things -- for example, the need to get outside and get fresh air or at least open windows even in a pandemic -- translate into New Year's resolutions. 

Happy Holidays and Take Care,


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve and Chocolate to All

LaNell's Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Christmas Eve at last, the beginning of the end of the longest and darkest year in decades and (I pray) the beginning of a better time. This has always been a period of new beginnings for me, Donis, since my birthday falls between Christmas and New Years. Those three events put a decisive punctuation mark at the end of every year. I always feel like I shake the old year off like a dog hauling herself out of a pond so she can trot confidently into the woods, going she knows not where, but on her way.

I'll begin 2021 with a new president, new book coming out February 2, and a shot in the arm as soon as my number comes up. And to celebrate the new dawn of hope, pleas allow me to treat you to my late sister-in-law LaNell’s recipe for boiled chocolate oatmeal cookies - no baking! These are oh, so delicious, and very easy. I have this recipe in LaNell’s handwriting, and have lovingly pressed it into my personal cookbook. 

Happy Holidays to all.

LaNell's Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick butter

1/2 cup milk

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups uncooked quick oats

1 cup chopped nuts

Combine first five ingredients in a saucepan and boil two minutes. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Remove from the fire and add 3 cups of uncooked one-minute oats. Add one cup of chopped nuts. Mix in well. Drop by teaspoons-full onto wax paper and let set. Yields about 40 cookies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Winter solstice hope

I have almost no words for this blog. I echo those of Rick and Douglas; the end of 2020 can't come soon enough. After months of lockdowns, isolation, sacrifice, and economic hardship, here we are in the midst of the holiday season and once again confined to our rooms, unable to fully enjoy cherished celebrations with family and friends as we have in the past. 

Just last week we were cheered by the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel. Not just one vaccine, but several, if we can all hang in long enough to get the whole world vaccinated. We had been buoyed by the election of Biden (yes, even Canadians were thrilled and relieved that perhaps the US would return from its four years of darkness), only to be horrified by the calls to arms and the mad attempts to overturn the election, which continue to this day.

But then this week came news of a mutant virus more contagious and fast moving than the original, as if that one weren't bad enough. The UK is locked down and airports are blocking flights from the UK, all in a desperate but surely futile effort to keep this mutant confined to the UK. 

And so back into the dark we go. 

And yet, 2021 is a new year. I hesitate to ask "what more could possibly go wrong?" because, well... But despite the long wait and the chaos, despite the best destructive efforts of conspiracy theorists and anti-maskers, vaccines hold out hope. Throughout history, humans have celebrated the promise of light and hope in this darkest time of the year. 

So as a symbol of that hope for a better future, I post this simple picture. May its light brighten the world.

And may you find some holiday cheer, no matter how strange the celebration this year, and here's to a better year ahead. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

My wish to all of you

by Rick Blechta

To further illustrate just how miserable 2020 has been, we had an opportunity to witness a once-every-600-years conjunction of the two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn. I’ve been looking forward to this rare event all year. It took place last night, and guess what? The weather here in Ontario was cloudy, as in complete cloud cover, no breaks, with a cold rain.

The entire year has gone like this, one thing after another. The province of Ontario will be going into a complete lockdown, starting on Boxing Day. It should start today, and the lockdown should be far more extensive, but to be honest, commenting further would be getting into a political discussion with which I don’t want to burden anyone.

So here’s where I’m going instead…

Monday, December 21, 2020

Where was I?

Hi, Douglas Skelton this end.

This year will the strangest Christmas in living memory, thanks to you-know-what.

Here in dear old Blighty families should not congregate to tuck into the turkey over the holidays. The original advice not to do so was reversed to allow a period of five days when they could get together but that reversal has itself been reversed to only one day.

Honestly, there are so many reversals it's like reading a William Goldman novel. Especially when the uppermost question on our minds when we think about popping out for a pint of milk is 'Is it safe?'

The wacky world of publishing appears to shutting down for the holidays nonetheless.

Well, at least the bit that signs off on deals and edits and, importantly, signs the cheques. For the benefit of the US, that's the correct spelling of check. Yes, I know it's simpler but that's not the point. Standards must be maintained and once we are contagion-free I will be despatching a team of spelling and pronunciation missionaries to your fair land to educate with evangelistic zeal. 

I'm kidding, of course, and to prove it here's a smiley face - 😀

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes...

For the next two to three weeks there will be no queries from publishers or agents. No deals being made. No edits being demanded. 

Many authors will not be shutting down. Oh, they may take some time on Christmas Day to pull a cracker (if this blog had been for the UK market I could have made an off colour remark at this juncture followed by a virtual Sid James/Carry On dirty laugh. And I apologise to anyone who doesn't understand all this but it's been a long day and I'm tired so please bear with me because I may veer off at a tangent at the drop of a Christmas Pudding, this paragraph being a case in point).

Now, where was I?

Oh yes...

I for one will be treating the holiday period as, well, something that is not a holiday period. I have a new book I am writing on spec and I want to complete at least its first draft by January or February because then I have a deadline for the fourth in my Rebecca Connolly series. That's not until the summer but time flies like an arrow they say. And fruit flies like a banana. I remember the first time I heard that line, I laughed fit to bust. Ah, laughter - those were the days.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes...

How many other scribblers of words, sometimes in the right order, will be thusly labouring while others are Zooming and Skyping? 

Quite a number, I'll bet, for the creative process recognises no Yuletide fun and brooks no New Year stoppages. Of course, in Scotland, we call New Year's Eve Hogmanay, which sounds like Hug Many and there will be none of that, thank you very much. In fact, I would quite happily see the whole huggy/kissy things banished for good. Not that I get much of that, of course, for traditionally the women here hang me up and kiss the mistletoe.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes...

So Christmas Day will see me banging away (see reference above to Sid James and Carry On movies). I may stop for a mince pie or two - for reference, it's not made of minced beef but minced fruit - before I make myself something suitably festive to eat. I'm not ignoring the midwinter feast completely. My name is not Ebenezer Scrooge, you know. At least, I don't think it. Hang on while I check the name tag sewed into my collar.

Nope, not Ebenezer Scrooge. I seem to be called Machine Washable.

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for sticking with this ramble. I'm going to head back into this world of mayhem I am creating.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes...

(PS - I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and that 2021 will be better than this disaster movie of a year has been).

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Great Unknown


I spent Thanksgiving in a raft on the Colorado River, with my daughter Michele, her husband, Harry, my granddaughter Audrey, and her husband Pete. We camped out overnight in twenty degree weather. I had no idea what I was getting into. The others were experienced white water addicts. This was essentially a float trip. But still . . . 

The river part of this excursion was a lot of fun. Camping out was miserable. What's more, at my age, it's not a good idea to risk getting too cold and lowering one's immune system. Harry said later this was the coldest trip they had ever taken. 

On the whole--especially since I survived--I enjoyed the trip and decided afterwards that I live too cautiously. I'm very self protective.

Nevertheless, if I had known what I was doing, I wouldn't have done it. And I would have missed out.

In a way, the adventure was reminiscent of my entry into the writing life. When I began I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing. I had never had a creative writing course. I didn't know any writers and there were no writing groups in my community. It was literally the great unknown. 

I taught myself to write from books that I checked out from our local library and from the Writer's Digest Magazine. I sold the first short story I submitted to a magazine that was marketed in truck stops: Overdrive. Then another to the same publication, then one to Woman's World

I've had a lot of breaks and made a lot of mistakes. 

Nevertheless, if I had know what I was doing in writing I wouldn't have done it. And I would have missed out.

There was no internet chiding me that I would be foolish to try because of the odds. No bombardment of statistics. No writers groups to mock my plots, my characters, my choice of words. I was foolishly optimistic. Writers Digest told me monthly that if I persisted I would succeed. 

Now publishing is looking far off into the Great Unknown again. People are reading a lot, but the books they are reading were bought by publishers before Covid hit. I understand a great many of us are turning to the classics. How will this trend affect the industry's coming list? What books will the great houses choose to entice the buying public?

As for me, I'm relying on the best advice I ever got. Irwin Applebaum once said "Write what you really want to write. There's so little money in the business it's stupid to do it for any other reason."

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Suggestions 2020


I join with Rick and everyone else here at Type M in encouraging you all to support your local independent bookstores. If you’re in the United States or Canada, you can find one near you by going to Indie Bound’s store finder at

It’s a little early for my reading wrap-up for 2020, but I thought I’d give you some book recommendations for those readers on your Christmas list. There are so many good books, it’s hard to pick which ones to recommend. I went through the books I’ve read so far this year and picked some favorites. Besides purchasing books by the authors here at Type M, here are my suggestions:

Cozy Mystery: 

There are a lot of good cozies out there. I’ve recently read and enjoyed the Nick and Nora Mystery series by T.C. LoTempio. It’s a three book series, Meow If It’s Murder, Claws For Alarm and Crime and Catnip. Nora Charles is a former investigative/crime reporter from Chicago who moves to California when she inherits her mother’s sandwich shop. Nick is a tuxedo cat, formerly owned by a missing private investigator, who adopts her.

The Alaskan Diner mystery series by Elizabeth Logan aka Camille Minichino. The first book in this series, Mousse and Murder, came out earlier this year. The second, Fishing for Trouble, was released a month ago. An enjoyable series set in an interesting state. You can’t go wrong with any book that Elizabeth/Camille/... writes. (She writes under a lot of different names.)

The Movie Palace series by Margaret Dumas. These are just delightful reads. There’s a ghost, an old movie palace and murder. What more can you ask for? Books in the series are Murder at the Palace, Murder in the Balcony, Murder on the Silver Screen.

Humorous Mystery:

Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas. This is the first book in the Cyd Redondo series, a mystery filled with adventure and humor. Cyd is my kind of gal: positive, resourceful and prepared for anything. A top-notch travel agent who knows everything about the places she sends people, only she’s never traveled anywhere herself. When she wins a trip to Tanzania, it turns out not to be the vacation that she’d hoped for.


The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. This is a fascinating read about an event that I didn’t know about until I listened to a History Channel podcast. It referenced this book, so I had to get myself a copy. Well worth reading.

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman. I’ve always been fascinated by accounts of art theft. This memoir is a very interesting account of some of the many cases this FBI agent worked on over the years. 

The Ravenmaster: My Life With the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife. The author is the current Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. He talks about what it’s like to take care of these birds and also about the history of ravens at the tower.

Speculative fiction:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, first book in the Thursday Next series. These books have been around for a while, but I recently re-read this one. It’s set in Great Britain in 1985 in an alternate reality where the Crimean War still rages on, time travel and cloning are reality, and literature is taken very, very seriously. Thursday is a literary detective for Spec-Ops. There are 7 books in this series. This is my favorite. Fforde also has a website that talks about Thursday and her world:

Middle Grade:

I enjoy reading a lot of Middle Grade novels. There's a lot of really fun books out there.This year I enjoyed these in particular: 

Greystone Secrets by Margaret Peterson Haddix. There are two books in this series so far with another coming out in 2021. In the first one, The Strangers, the Greystone kids, Chess, Emma and Finn, discover that they aren’t who they think they are when three kids with remarkably similar names and ages are kidnapped. These books are filled with mystery and adventure. 

The Last Musketeer series by Stuart Gibbs is a fun swash-buckling, time travel adventure. There are three books in the series, which should be read in order. I listened to the audio versions of the last two, read by Ramon de Ocampo. de Ocampo does a terrific job as narrator, making it even more exciting.

Those are my suggestions. What about yours?

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Short and sweet!

by Rick Blechta

Last week I wrote about supporting your local independent bookstore, and if you don’t happen to have one, any independent bookstore if you can manage it. A number of you wrote to me or commented either here or on Facebook that you’re taking what I said to heart.

Just to prove that I’m in on this 100%, I’ve got my three-book order from Sleuth and we also bought a book to give to our granddaughter, the redoubtable Lucy. However, it’s not crime fiction because four-year-old generally aren’t into murders and stuff.

So to everyone who contributed to the conversation, thank you, and on behalf of the entire book industry, thank you for your support!

All this made me think of the loyal readers of Type M. Some readers have been with us for years, some drop by occasionally, some maybe just once, but we are grateful to all of you for your support.

It has been far too long since we thanked you for taking the time to read our offerings — so thank you very much! We wouldn’t be here — 14 years and counting! — if it weren’t for you.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Ripped From the Headlines

 By Thomas Kies

I’m constantly on the lookout for plotlines that I can “rip from the headlines”. More often than not, I don’t.  I make stuff up.

But now and then something comes along that says, “write me into a novel.”

Here on the coast, we have a real-life mystery unraveling right before our eyes. Let me set the scene.  We are just south of the Outer Banks on the coast of North Carolina.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I have a house on Bogue Banks Island.  

There are other banks islands and one of them, Cape Lookout, is run by the National Parks Service.  There’s a lighthouse, some cabins, and lots of space and beaches to camp on.  

On May 23, Jeff West, the Superintendent of Cape Lookout (one of the Shackleford Banks islands) was in my office in Morehead City.  He’s on my board of directors and a friend of mine.  Jeff told me that a young soldier had been camping with seven other soldiers and had gone missing the night before.  

U.S. Army Specialist Enrique Roman-Martinez, stationed at Ft. Bragg, was reported last seen just after midnight on May 22 at the campsite.  He allegedly walked away wearing shorts and no shirt and carrying no supplies, without telling anyone where he was going.  His wallet and phone were found at the campsite. 

Point of information.  The waters off our beaches are home to everything from sharks to venomous snakes to deadly rip currents. 

At the time Jeff left my office, the parks service was still searching for him.

Then on May 29, the severed head of U.S. Army Specialist Enrique Roman-Martinez washed up on the shore of Shackleford Banks.  The parks service and the military launched a search for the rest of his remains.

To this date, they haven’t been located.  The military issued a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of anyone responsible for the homicide of the paratrooper.

An autopsy showed the soldier had been decapitated, however it’s unclear how he died.  There’s evidence of multiple chop injuries to the head and the jaw had been broken in at least two places. A toxicology report found no evidence of drug use. 

The dead soldier’s family are concerned with inconsistencies in the story of what happened when Roman-Martinez went missing.  The 911 caller told a dispatcher that the soldiers had been looking for help to find their missing friend.

“When we woke up, he was not here and we’ve been looking for him all day,” the caller said.  “We were trying to find a park ranger or their offices, or anything, and so we went all the way to the ferry and found that we needed to dial 911.”

However, a Cape Lookout National Seashore spokesperson said that the park rangers had encountered the group the afternoon of May 23 and asked them to move their vehicles, which were parked too close to the sand dunes.

He continued, “The rangers moved on after hearing the group would comply.  The soldiers did not make mention to them at this point that anyone was missing from their group.”

The 911 caller also had told the dispatcher they were worried that Roman-Martinez might hurt himself because he had “suicidal tendencies.” 

Add to that the fact that the bodies of two more Fort Bragg soldiers were found last week in a remote training area of the North Carolina Army base.  

Then on Thursday, the FBI entered the picture, complete with their scuba team.  Their truck is pictured at the top of this blog.

A tragically sad story for sure that makes for an interesting mystery.  

A strange twist came last night in the form of an email.  Now, because I have a relatively public position here in our area, I get the occasional strange private message through our Facebook page or an odd email.

Four of them came as I was watching episodes of Fargo with my wife.  They came from a woman whose name I don’t recognize.  The first was a link to the story about Roman-Martinez.  No explanation, just a link.

The second was a link to a story from Reuters dated April 2019 headlined, “U.N. rights boss condemns Saudi Arabia’s beheading of 37 men.”  

Her message to me was: Ya’ll could always move in with this bunch.  They’re pretty civilized just like ya’ll.  Do believe in UN rights???

Her second to last message was: Anyone “bother” for investigate?  Or did you just blow it off cause He’s Spanish and from LA?

Weird, right? The last message asked if it was against the law for someone to steal crab pots or kill a spouse for insurance money.  

I believe it is.

Needless to say, I haven’t responded.  I’m the president of our county’s chamber of commerce.  Yes, I write mysteries in my spare time, but I’m not the lead on this investigation. 

Is this staying at the top of my radar screen?  You bet.  We have our share of missing kayakers or boating mishaps, but murders are few and far between. 

Will this find its way into a book?  Most likely, but probably not one of mine.  It’s a little too much like my first book Random Road in which six bodies are found hacked to death on an island.  

I’ll rip another story from the headlines. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Don't Tell Me

   You may remember this comic strip:

    Linus is watching television. His older sister, Lucy, walks up and asks what he is watching.      

    He says "Citizen Kane."

    She says that she has seen it "about ten times."

    Linus tells her that he has never seen it before.

    Lucy turns to walk away. As she leaves she lets drop what "Rosebud" means.

    Linus's response?


I saw this "Classic Peanuts" strip in my Sunday newspaper. I was reminded of it again this week when I was reading a comment that one of my students had made in an essay about a movie that I have seen many times. The student wrote about having been in suspense ("edge of seat") during the movie and being "shocked" and "surprised" by the ending. 

I was delighted that the student had enjoyed the movie. 

And I was reminded of the need to be careful when I talk about movies and books to my students and other audiences (e.g., book discussion groups). 

Some people -- many people -- don't want to know how it ends. They will put their fingers in their ears, shouting, "Don't tell me!"

On the other hand, I'm one of those people -- probably a minority -- who have no objection to knowing in advance who lives or dies or walks away together into the sunset.  

Not only do I have no objection, sometimes I really want to know how it ends. No Country for Old Men? Yes, I cared about the characters. The Usual Suspects? I really enjoyed but could wait for the twist. Am I saying too much by revealing there was a twist?

If the level of tension is particularly high I like to know that the characters I'm invested in will survive -- or, at least, die well. In bookstores, I sometimes pick up a book, read the blurb, and flip to the last page.

I don't mind knowing the ending because I enjoy seeing how the writer gets there. But that's me. I need to remember that many other people don't want to know how it -- the movie or the book -- ends.

I need to keep my student and dear Linus in mind as I work on my historical thriller. My goal should be to write a book that an adult Lucy can read "about 10 times" and still enjoy. . . and that an adult Linus will close feeling satisfied that "The End" was worth the wait.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A New Year, a New Book.

Donis here. Thank goodness this horrible year is almost over. May 2021 be a better year and new beginning for all of us. As for me, I'm looking forward to being able to get out of the house and see actual people again. Not that my husband isn't an actual person. I think he probably is, and thank God for him. I'm also looking forward to the launch of a new book in February, the second installment of my Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse series, set in 1920s Hollywood. The new book is called Valentino Will Die, and it's available for pre-order RIGHT NOW, as a paperback, audio, or ebook. My next task is to start publicizing, which is going to be an interesting proposition during this pandemic — but that's another story for another blog entry. 

Here is the publisher's blurb for the Valentino Will Die, along with a preview of the gorgeous cover. And please take Rick's admonition to heart and support your local bookstores this Christmas, and remember all the wonderful contributing authors this blog — the best gift you can give us is to help us keep giving you the gift of our storytelling!


Champagne wishes and caviar dreams take a backseat when a murderer strikes in Hollywood.

Silent film sensation Bianca LaBelle, formerly farm girl Blanche Tucker of duller-than-dull Boynton, Oklahoma, has put a lot of distance between her humble roots and her glamorous new Hollywood life. Her life is now fashionable and dazzling, and it becomes even more so when she gets to make a film with her good friend and screen idol, Rudolph Valentino.

But when Rudy confides in Bianca that someone is trying to kill him, and then falls deathly ill days later, Bianca vows to find out who is behind the underhanded deed. A jilted lover, a delusional fan, or maybe even a mobster? Calling on P.I. Ted Oliver to help her investigate, the two delve into the end of what had seemed to be the charmed life of Valentino.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Searching for that grain of sand

Before I explain that title, I want to second Rick's excellent suggestion about buying a book (or more!) from your local independent bookstore as a gift this holiday season, and I love the idea of Type Mers buying one another's books. Read and transport yourselves this holiday!

Now for my actual blog. I'm probably not the first person to use the oyster metaphor to describe writing a novel. An oyster starts with a single grain of sand inside and then works layer upon layer around it to create a beautiful pearl. For me, that's how my novels start. With a single intriguing idea. It can be a simple image like a pair of shoes, a character that I am curious about, a small snippet from the newspaper. No matter how small, it's a toehold that allows me to start spinning the story around it, expanding and developing and adding until sometimes the original germ of the idea has completely disappeared as it's subsumed by the bigger story it inspired.

I am just embarking on the fifth Amanda Doucette novel, and at the outset I knew only one thing; it would be set in British Columbia. Because of the constraints I'd set upon this series, it should involve Amanda creating a charity event somewhere in the wilderness. Luckily, British Columbia has plenty of absolutely spectacular wilderness, so there was a lot to choose from. After some thinking and some reading, I narrowed it down to the west coast of Vancouver Island, in part because I always travel for research and it's on my bucket list. But a setting does not make a story by itself. I needed an idea. So I started to read about the history and people of the area, looking for that inspirational grain of sand. Lots of history. Lots of drama. Shipwrecks and swindles and epidemics and heartbreaking loss. It was way too big a canvas. Most novels, especially mystery/ thrillers are about struggles and triumphs on a more intimate scale. So I continued to read, asking myself all the time "what is this book going to be about?"

Then this morning, the idea came to me in a single word. Hermits. Apparently the wild west coast of Vancouver Island is a haven for hermits. Every hermit has a very intimate story, of tragedy, triumph, rejections, and perseverance. And in that single word lay a world of possibilities. A grain of sand I can build a story around. In the few short hours since reading that, the tiniest pearl has already begun in my head. It will mean a whole lot more research but now it will be focussed. I will no longer be casting about aimlessly but slowly building the knowledge I need. I am still far from setting pen to paper, and I know there will be moments of despair and frustration as the story develops, but it's an exciting moment.

I even came up with the title, far earlier than I usually do. But that's a secret until I'm more confident about the pearl I'm hoping is in there.


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

A prescription for this holiday season

By Rick Blechta

Toronto, where I live, is currently in a partial lockdown. My wife and I decided when the current lockdown began three weeks ago, that if we needed anything we were going to do our best to patronize our small local shops because they need all the help they can get.

So no fast food from the big chain restaurants, using our local hardware store instead of Homeless Despot. Sure, online providers such as Amazon are pretty damned convenient and super-fast, but at the end of all this, we want to have small shops still in business so we do our best to help.

If you’re hear on Type M, either as a reader or one of our group of excellent writers, I certain you have the warm and fuzzies for at least one independent book store and I’ll further posit that it is one that specializes in crime fiction. Perhaps it sells nothing else.

Here’s something you may not know, that bookseller — like all others — can easily order any book you might want. Sure, you might have to wait a week or two, rather than next-day service from Amazon, but you will get your book, and you’ll be helping a business that is likely having a hard go of it right now.

Here in Toronto, we crime fiction lovers are blessed with the most excellent Sleuth of Baker Street, so last week, faced with a curtailed holiday season, when my wife and I decided to make use of that down time to enjoy a bit of reading (with no guilt!), the only place to call was Sleuth. Several of our favourite authors have new books out and there are two Type M members who I’m looking forward to get into their work, so we have a big pile waiting for pick-up.

It dawned on me that with all the gift-giving coming up in three weeks, we have the opportunity right now to do some good, so I have a proposal for every one of the people reading this post to buy at least two books this holiday season.

First, you  deserve a book. Since March, you’ve put up with a lot, haven’t you? You need a reward! Could I suggest buying one from one of the Type M authors — especially if you’ve never read one of their books. We have some exceptional authors here, and I can recommend all of them without hesitation, plus we “cover the waterfront” as far as subject matter goes. The bottom line is, though, just buy a book, any book. Then put up your feet and enjoy several hours in a made up world.

Also, as many of us have mentioned in previous December posts, there is a tradition in Iceland, a very wonderful tradition, to give or exchange books on Christmas Eve. Whether you celebrate that holiday or not, why not give someone a book before year’s end? It would make them very happy I’m sure, help out a struggling business, and give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Heaven knows we need more of those!

So that’s Dr. Blechta’s prescription for making this month better than it might be. I’ve bought my comfort reading, and I’ve ordered books to be given as presents. I’ve managed to do something good and bring smiles to a lot of faces along the way.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Taking the city heat

Write what you know.

It's one of the golden rules of the game. There are many golden rules. Too many but this is the one that concerns me today.

But what does it really mean?

Well, shall I tell you what I think it means? That's a rhetorical question, of course. I'm going to tell you whether you want me to or not, otherwise this blog will be pretty darn short.

On the face of it, write what you know suggests you should only write, you know, what you know. In other words only what you have experienced on a personal level.

Obviously that's not something most writers do. Tolkien, for instance, was not a Hobbit, nor a wizard nor an orc. Ed McBain was not a cop, although Steve Carella did bear an uncanny resemblance to the author himself. Larry McMurtry was never a Texas Ranger.

However, what each of those authors did was make sure that they knew whereof, and whatof, they wrote. Tolkien was an expert on mythology and languages. McBain (or Evan Hunter or Salvatore Albert Lombino or any other names he cared to use) made it his business to understand policework. McMurtry, a Texan, researched and researched and researched until he knew his world.

And that, to me, is what the rule really means. Know your world before you write it.

That world may be a Scottish city, it may be a nuclear submarine or a galaxy far away but before putting pen to paper (figuratively speaking) the writer should know as much about it as possible.

A few years ago I both followed - and broke - the rule.

The Janus Run was set in New York. I am not from New York. I have visited (love the place) but could not do so for various reasons when writing this conspiracy chase thriller. I couldn't set it in Glasgow because the plot needed the pulse, the aura, that only a city like New York can offer. 

That was how I broke the rule.

It is also how I adhered to it, for the New York I wanted to write about was not the real one.

Okay, I can hear you scratching your heads so I'll try to explain.

I'm a huge movie fan. Too huge, to be honest. It's all the popcorn and hot dogs and I should go on a diet.

What I wanted to do with that book was create an action movie in prose, something that just kept moving. And although it was set in the present day, it was at its core a tribute to the 70s thrillers I love so much. Films like Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, The Parallax View, The French Connection, The 7 Upsm Across 110th Street, Report to the Commissioner. So the New York I wrote about was a movie New York, the one I have been researching for years. I took characters and tropes and even modes of speech from that era while also trying to make it as close to the real-life city as I could.

It made the book highly stylised. It wasn't a parody, it wasn't a spoof. It was designed to be an affectionate nod to those movies, as well as the writing of Ed McBain and Robert Ludlum and William Goldman.

Did I pull it off?

To an extent. It was read by people who had lived in New York and they said the setting was fine but I am certain native New Yorkers would raise a few eyebrows. I also made a rookie error regarding a gun which annoys me now. Most of the readers who have commented seemed to have enjoyed it. One even missed his stop on a train journey because he was so wrapped up in the story.

In my mind I succeeded because I did what I wanted to do. For some readers who were not aware of my intention it did not work quite so well and I get that, I really do. They didn't believe the backdrop, they didn't believe the dialogue, they didn't believe the characters. As such, it is my least successful novel.

But hey, them's the breaks, kid.

Would I do it again? I don't think so, not without at least spending time in the location. I know it can be irritating when a someone writes about your home town without doing the work. Google Earth just don't cut it.

I am still proud of it, though. I did what I set out to do, even though I kinda broke that pesky golden rule.

Yup, I'm a maverick that way.

Friday, December 04, 2020


 I 'm late posting today. I intended to write about my river trip, but there were a number of interruptions yesterday and today went the same way. So I'm going to repeat an old post that seems strangely apt right now: 


I'm not a total wimp. Not spectacularly brave either. My tastes in mysteries are decidedly on the side of physiological literary mysteries. I hate books with no plot. Even if the writing is exquisite, if there is no story I feel cheated. I also lean toward "mean streets" in mysteries rather than cozies.

So I was surprised at my reaction to the beginning of a book a couple of days ago. A rape was so obviously going to take place and I simply could not stomach it. I laid the book aside. I was reading it in bed. Bedtime reading is a well-established habit and I've learned that certain kinds of books keep me awake. If a book is too upsetting it interferes with a good night's sleep. Which means I will be sluggish and unhappy the next day.

The next afternoon I resumed reading the book. It's terrific! I'm not going to identify it right now because I haven't finished it and will review it when I'm done. Here's what impressed me about the dreaded rape scene; it was not described after all. Yes, it took place, but the focus of the book was on the downfall of a young man who was a non-participating bystander who is bribed by the wealthy family the men involved to keep information to himself. The details of the crime emerge slowly as does the consequences of his disastrous choices.

It's a tale of intricate vengeance wrought by the father of the damaged young woman who committed suicide because of the rape.

Part of my reluctance to continue the book that first night was because this book is so well-written, which means literary, I suppose, which I'm beginning to equate with sad unsatisfying tales. I'm fed up with powerful, wealthy people getting away with anything and everything in literature as well as in real life. I'm disheartened by the number of books where such people are never brought to justice. It's a class issue and it's becoming more obvious all the time in our society.

The book has great characterization and I have hopes that the protagonist who is slowly growing in courage and a thirst for justice will decide to do the right thing. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Evildoers used to be identified as such. I want those days back.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

My trusty notebook

Fifteen years ago, in a used bookstore in Portland, Maine, I stumbled upon a copy of The Wasteland: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, for the glorious price of $7. The book was published by Harvest in 1971. I’ve never seen another copy anywhere, and, believe me, with tape holding it together, I’ve looked.

I’m fascinated by Pound’s annotations –– cross-outs, notations, and comments like “often used” in the margins. Yes, I’m witnessing genius in action, reading Pound’s marginalia, but moreover, I’m intrigued by the inner workings, the mind processing, the pen gliding.

Joan Didion said somewhere, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” There’s some of that in Pound’s cursive, in his declarative commentary. We’re seeing Pound experience the great text before the rest of us, processing, thinking on paper, responding as a first reader.

I, too, like to think on paper. I think I always have. As a dyslexic, I stuttered as a kid. Writing things down alleviated that. I didn’t stutter when I wrote. And the page is a place where I go to think. Tom’s great post this week about reading with a critical eye, got me thinking about my journal, the place where I go to ramble (mentally) about plots and characters and generally figure things out before setting hands to keyboard. That’s not to say I outline or prewrite. No, I’m not that organized. And, frankly, my mind just doesn’t work that way. I journal to solve problems, as the photo I’ve shared here might indicate. If you can read my henscratch, you may see question marks. I’m asking questions and thinking through answers to a plot problem. I’m writing dialogue in what might be a scene.

Just, as Didion said, writing things down to learn what I think in my trusty notebook.

Everyone should have one.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Random Thoughts


by Sybil Johnson

My head is filled with random thoughts about nothing in particular. I’m pretty focused when I’m writing or working on a plot for a story, but outside of that lots of odd thoughts pop into my mind. Here are some of the most recent ones.

Welcome to my mind.

- I woke up the other morning with the words to “If I Had a Hammer” running through my mind. (1963, Trini Lopez) Doesn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out where that came from with its lyrics about hammer of justice and talking about love between brothers and sisters all over this land.

- smitten – Have you ever thought about the word smitten? It’s a past particple of to smite. Smiting someone isn’t a very nice thing: to attack, damage or destroy by blows. It also means to affect sharply with great feeling. I think most people use smitten to mean someone who is deeply in love with someone where it’s very obvious to everyone around. I find it interesting that it derives from smite. Sometimes being smitten with someone can be destructive.

- How should cats wear pants? This one didn’t come from my mind, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since Ellen talked about it on her talk show. In the photo on Twitter ( I opt for A (pants goes over the back legs with a hole cut for the tail). B just seems stupid. (pants goes over both legs and around the whole cat). Hard to explain. Look at the picture.

- Is cereal a soup? Heard about this one on Ellen, too. Apparently, it’s been making the rounds on the internet. Of course not, I say. Advocates say there are cold soups and cereal is served in a bowl. Really, I shake my head on this one. Still occasionally pops into my head.

- English words with be- prefix. I feel like we don’t use these words enough. bedim (to make dim), besmirch (okay, that one we use), belittle (another one we use). Maybe we should bring more of them back to common usage. How about bedew (to wet with or as if with dew)? belaud (to praise usually to excess)? befog (to confuse)? befool (to make a fool of)? bedaub (to ornament with vulgar excess is one meaning)?

- agitate – to discuss excitedly and earnestly is one of its meanings. One that I never really thought about until I was doing a workout video and the leader talked about agitating meaning talking. Hmmm...

Those are some of things going through my mind recently. How about you? What random thoughts have you had recently? 


On another note, Merriam-Webster announced its word for 2020. It’s pandemic. They decide the word based on statistical analysis of words that are looked up in their online dictionary. Not terribly surprising that they chose pandemic.’s word of the year is also pandemic. The American Dialect Society will be voting on their word of the year on December 17. You can register to view the livestream vote here:

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

To read or not to read; that is the question

by Rick Blechta

I have two sons. One is an avid reader. One is not.

Recently I got into a discussion about reading with my non-reading son. His first comment was, “I don’t know when I last read a book.” I have a good idea that it was way back in 2006 and he read my novel When Hell Freezes Over which I had dedicated to him. His assessment, by the way — if I’m remembering correctly — “It was pretty good.”

To me, 14 years (and counting) with not one book read is appalling to contemplate. I love him just as much, but I don’t understand how he does not enjoy reading. If you’re visiting Type M, I naturally assume you are an avid reader. Am I right in feeling this way towards someone?

I decided to engage him on this subject. “Why don’t you enjoy reading?”

“It takes too long. I enjoy movie and TV shows much better and I don’t have to commit so much time to it. Reading is boring.”

While I picked my jaw off the floor, he went on to say that watching movies accomplishes the same thing anyway. “You’re still watching a story, and movies can do it so much better — and quicker — than books.

I couldn’t disagree very much with that, except I don’t think watching something unfold in front of your eyes is necessarily better than reading a description of the same thing and then having to imagine it. First off, you’re involved; you’re supplying something that’s needed. Watching a movie, you’re completely passive in that regard.

And that’s the crux of the matter: use of imagination. With a movie, you’re watching a director’s imagining of the story being presented.

Extending this idea further, it’s this way with an performing art. You’re a non-involved viewer of someone else’s imagination.

I’ll put on my musician’s hat on here, if I may. Watching a performance of a symphony orchestra, as an example, is to experience a conductor’s interpretation of the musical works being presented. In effect, the conductor is “playing” the musicians. But there’s also something hidden, something magical at work here. Each musician in the orchestra is also adding their little bit of imagination to what they’re playing — within parameters, of course. It is a wonderful thing to sit inside this mass of artistic humanity and experience the energy that is produced when humans work together to make music happen. In the best of circumstances, it is breath-taking.

The same sort of thing goes on when a movie is filmed, or a play is staged, whatever. Actors often talk about the experience of bouncing off their fellow actors’ performances.

However, for the audience, it doesn’t change. One remains on the outside looking in. The energy can be felt sometimes, but really can’t be participated in.

With books, though, the reader must participate. Imagination is required to interpret what the writer has first imagined — and that is a very wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Now, to figure out some way to get my son to enjoy reading as much as I (and his older brother and my wife) do.


By the way, the typeface used to set When Hell Freezes Over’ in the cover above, is my non-reading son’s hand. I turned it into a font. I call it Jan Casual.