Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category
Folks, I’m still — still! — dealing with The Sinus Infection from Hell (TM), which is why I wasn’t able to write an immediate blog about my recent book review for Vera Nazarian’s COBWEB BRIDE over at Shiny Book Review (SBR). COBWEB BRIDE is an excellent book about what happens when Death decides not to take anyone’s life until he gets his “Cobweb Bride” — all aspects of this premise are explored, including the darker ones. I gave COBWEB BRIDE an A and believe it’s perfect for lovers of dark fantasy with a bit of romance. But anyone who loves interesting, original books containing aspects of horror, romance, fairy tales, dark fantasy and historical fantasy should enjoy it.
Now, there are a few things to keep in mind before you pick up COBWEB BRIDE. As I said in my review, there are some really horrific things that Ms. Nazarian writes about — to my mind, the squealing of a pig after it’s been butchered but cannot due was among the most plaintive and heart-rending — and they will disturb you unless you have a heart of stone. (Then again, they’re supposed to disturb you. Trust me on this. )
The main reason to read COBWEB BRIDE, though, is because the most admirable characters — Percy, the Infanta Claere, and even Vlau — are admirable not only because of what they do (in Vlau’s case, in some ways it’s in spite of what he does), but because they keep on doing it no matter how difficult things are all around them.
Writing about that sort of persistence and making it work makes COBWEB BRIDE well worth the price of admission.
So please. Go read my review. Then go take a gander at the book . . . it’s available in e-book and trade paperback . . . and see if you don’t agree with me.
Folks, I’m a bit behindhand on letting you all know what I’ve been doing over at SBR lately. This is partly because I’ve been dealing with the sinus infection from Hell (TM), and partly because I’ve been trying to get everything caught up by the end of the year. (Yes, I’m still playing catch-up from that bronchitis I suffered in the spring.)
Anyway, today’s review over at SBR is for Mario Livio’s excellent BRILLIANT BLUNDERS, a scientific history that deals with the five biggest mistakes of five eminent scientists — Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin to thee and me), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein — and discusses these mistakes in the context of both the history of science and the particular scientist’s career. Livio’s writing is clear and concise, and is accessible to the layman without being shallow or stupid, a neat trick.
I also interviewed novelist and rocket scientist Stephanie Osborn for SBR a few weeks ago. This was a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred interview where Ms. Osborn discussed literacy and panic attacks right along with her own work, and talked a great deal about how she comes up with her plots for good measure. Do go take a gander at that, then read her books as soon as you can, too.**
Aside from that, my plans for this Black Friday are to stay far, afar away from any store (except maybe for the grocery store, as that should be safe) as I’m not interested in fighting with anyone over a toaster. Or a TV. Or even something I would really like to have, like a book card . . . no, life is just too short for such silliness.
(Besides, I can always go get the book card tomorrow, and the lines will be far shorter, too!)
Stay safe, everyone.
**BTW, I’d meant to get up something about the interview a few weeks ago, but this sinus infection from Hell (TM) is just not allowing me to do much, as I haven’t had the energy to do it with. I figured actually finishing the interview, then posting it was much more important than me coming over here to my own blog and discussing it — but as I always had intended to discuss it, today seems to be the day.
So if you haven’t already read the interview with Ms. Osborn, please go ahead and do so at your earliest convenience. You may learn something . . . or better yet, you may both learn something and find a new favorite author. (Stranger things have happened.)
Folks, tonight I wrote a review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always) for Karen Myers’ THE WAYS OF WINTER, book two in her Hounds of Annwn series. And because of the very nature of this review — where I called the book both “interesting” and “problematic,” something I don’t think I’ve ever done before — I needed to come right over here and give you all an after-action report even though I’m way under the weather (still) and obviously haven’t blogged all week until now.
I want to reiterate that I find Karen Myers’ work quite interesting. She has a nice way of plotting that for the most part works for me. I like her characterization. I thought the inventiveness of getting a rock-wight into the plot — much less the rock-wight’s child in the bargain — was stellar. And I truly believe she has a ton of potential.
However, when I see a book that’s not up to standard editorially — one that’s very far away from professional standard, to be blunt, in quite a number of respects — I have to say that.
It doesn’t give me any pleasure whatsoever to do so, mind you. I know that Karen Myers is a relatively new writer with a handful of books out (book four in her Hounds of Annwn series is due in a few months, I believe) and a number of short stories. She’s self-published, has a nice Web site, is doing many great things as an independent author and knows how to market herself impressively — all good.
It’s much easier for me to criticize someone like Debbie Macomber (with a hundred books out, or nearly) or Mercedes Lackey (with over forty books out) or even someone like Celine Kiernan, who like Myers was a new author with a few books out but was published by Orbit — so all of Ms. Kiernan’s unevenness in her plotline should’ve been fixed by one of Orbit’s professional editors long before it ever made it to the market.
Granted, I don’t particularly enjoy doing that, either, but at least I don’t feel terrible afterward as I did in the case of Ash Krafton recently and now Karen Myers as well.
As a reviewer, I have to say when I don’t like something, or my book reviews don’t mean a whole lot. (If every book got an A-plus from me, why would you want to read my reviews? You’d know that no matter what I said, it’s all the same sort of nonsense, right?) I also have to say something because it’s the only way a writer might change something down the line.
No, it’s not likely. But it’s at least possible.
As a professional editor, I can’t refuse to say when I think a book has not been well-edited. I’ve had to do this before with a self-published author (Cedar Sanderson and her fun YA urban fantasy, VULCAN’S KITTENS), and I’ll probably have to do it again for all I know.
But it’s harder for me, as a writer myself, to write a review that’s as mixed as the one I wrote tonight. I tried hard to point out all of Ms. Myers’ strengths — of which there are many — while also pointing out as many of the weaknesses I saw without giving too much away by way of unintentional spoilers.
Since you’re here, reading my own blog and this “after-action report,” I’m going to be a little more explicit about my problem with the way Ms. Myers ends THE WAYS OF WINTER. (If you do not want your reading spoiled, look away now. This is your one and only warning.)
My main problem was that Ms. Myers set up a thoroughly hissable villain, Madog, to get his comeuppance. She showed over and over again just how nasty this Fae was, why his loss would only improve matters, and what a terrible excuse for a sentient being he was . . . but then, rather than showing Madog getting what he deserves, Madog’s death occurs off-screen!
So you’ve set yourself up a nasty villain, who every reader is going to want to see die horribly. But then, you don’t really show him dying and only allude to it?
I realize Ms. Myers’ main character, George, was in no shape to narrate this. But she had another character, Seething Magma, who’d had several POV scenes of her own. Why not use Seething Magma’s POV to show this death so the reader will be able to fully enjoy Madog’s passing?
Then, this happens a little bit too early on to suit me also. George is grievously wounded by Madog, and his rehabilitation is important to see, I agree. But there’s really nothing else there other than some quiet wrapping-up stuff — good character moments for George and his new foster-son and his new wife, Angharad, to be sure, and I welcomed them.
But there’s nothing truly essential there. We don’t find out anything else about where Creiddylad is (one of the villains from book one, the sister of George’s great-grandfather Gwyn ap Nudd). We don’t see Seething Magma and her child reunite, really, either — again, it’s alluded to, but not really shown, that reunion, though we do at least see them together and presumably happy.
So the real emotional heart of the ending is Madog getting his comeuppance, which we don’t see. Then we get George’s rehab, which is fine, but there’s nothing to contrast it against — it’s all, “Well, we’re nearly at Xmas, and George is the best Xmas present his wife Angharad could ever receive,” but nearly all of that is in subtext, too.
If I didn’t like Ms. Myers’ writing so much, I probably would’ve thrown the very nice soft-cover review copy she so graciously sent me months ago across the room.
Unlike Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH, which was well-edited and competently executed (I didn’t like the romance, which I said), and Cedar Sanderson’s VULCAN’S KITTENS, which needed some editing work but the main plot points were very well executed and the emotional payoff scenes were all there, THE WAYS OF WINTER had a number of things I just can’t get behind.
And that’s a shame, because I do like Ms. Myers’ writing and want her career to succeed.
So that’s it — that’s why I gave Karen Myers’ THE WAYS OF WINTER a thoroughly mixed review with a “C” grade to boot. I hope you can understand why . . . but even if you can’t, it’s late, I still have the nasty sinus infection to deal with, and somehow I have to try to get some rest.
As far as upcoming blogs go, I still hope to write that baseball wrap-up blog I’d discussed (no longer timely, but perhaps interesting anyway?) and maybe write a blog about the Milwaukee Bucks in the bargain.
One final update: If I can ever get my late husband Michael’s two stories to format properly, I hope to have them up at Amazon within the next several weeks. This has been delayed partially due to being under the weather, partly because I’m very, very bad at formatting, and partly because what little energy I’ve had has gone toward the final, last-round edit of my book, ELFY, along with the edits I’m doing for a number of others.
I haven’t forgotten, and will not. I know Michael still has fans. I want them to enjoy his work. And I want Michael’s work to find new fans — so these stories will come back out, once I finally have clean files to upload.
Folks, this week I had the pleasure of reviewing Dorothy Ours’ new non-fiction epic BATTLESHIP: A Daring Heiress, A Teenage Jockey, and America’s Horse over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). The book is about Marion du Pont Scott, a horsewoman and heiress who owned the legendary stallion Battleship — the first American-born and -bred horse to win the British Grand National at Aintree, a particularly difficult and hazardous course. But it’s also about so many other things, including one of Ms. du Pont Scott’s other horses, Trouble Maker, a horse with such a vibrant personality that it quite comes through seventy-plus years after his final race.
As it’s late and I’m still fighting the same, nasty sinus infection I discussed in yesterday’s blog post, all I’ll say right now about BATTLESHIP is this — it’s likely to be on my Top Ten Books of 2013 list, right alongside Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels (new to me in ’13, at least) and Sean B. Carroll’s BRAVE GENIUS.
So yes, I do think if you love horses — Heck, even if you don’t — you should read BATTLESHIP without delay. Then come back and let me know if you cried, too, when the gallant Trouble Maker fell during his last race and never got up again. (Don’t worry. I won’t tell.)
Folks, I just reviewed Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). It’s a worthy sequel in many ways to the excellent BLEEDING HEARTS (previously reviewed at SBR), but it features one thing I had a really tough time getting past — an odd, almost completely nonsensical romance.
Normally, a book like BLOOD RUSH would be featured during SBR’s “Romance Saturday” promotion, but I just couldn’t do it this time because of the nature of this particular romance. Krafton’s main character in both books, Sophie Galen, has taken up with the brother of her former lover, Rodrian Thurzo, for reasons that aren’t well-rooted.
It’s tough for me to review a book like BLOOD RUSH, which does so very many things right as it has great dialogue, interesting plotlines, excellent characterization, and fits Krafton’s own DemiVampire (DV for short) into the prevailing “otherworld” mythos alongside better-known magical races such as Vampires and Werewolves (note that Krafton does not use an -s for either DemiVampire or Vampire), but doesn’t root the romance to the same depth as all the rest of it.
I actually put BLOOD RUSH down for a whole month because I was afraid of what Krafton was going to do with the nascent Sophie-Rodrian romance. Wisely, she found a way out of that morass (no, I’m not going to say how). But going there at all didn’t make any sense to me.
Krafton’s writing is so good, I expected better from her even though this is only her second novel. My guess as to why she’d put this strange romance into BLOOD RUSH is because she probably wanted to show that Sophie is just as human and fallible as everyone else despite having great power as an empath (which is why Sophie’s been called to become a Sophia, or wise counselor/problem solver, in the first place). If so, I can understand why she did it even though I still don’t like it.
As a reviewer, I have to mention it whenever I have big problems with a plotline, no matter how much I love the rest of the book. I did so recently with my review of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s DRAGON SHIP — those two are among my very favorite authors and have been so for a very long time. I did so, most spectacularly, in my review of Debbie Macomber’s HANNAH’S LIST, even though there was a time in my life where Macomber’s Heart of Texas series helped me get through a nasty divorce (this being long before I ever met my wonderful late husband, Michael).
It’s tougher to do this with a novelist with only two novels under her belt as compared to a pair of authors with over a dozen (Lee and Miller) or someone with over a hundred (Macomber). I don’t like doing it. But I do a disservice to myself and my readership if I fail to point out something I really don’t like, even if the rest of the book is good and I still plan to read the rest of the series.
Overall, my hope for the third book in the Demimonde series is that either Marek will somehow be able to come back to Sophie or another strong character completely unrelated to Marek or Rodrian comes into the picture and is a worthy match for Sophie. Anything else doesn’t make sense, and as a writer myself, I know I’d rather write a worthy foil for my romantic lead than someone who really isn’t up to par for this character, even if he might be a good match for 99 out of 100 other women.
Folks, I’ve rarely read such an entertaining, interesting, thought-provoking piece of nonfiction as Sean B. Carroll’s BRAVE GENIUS: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize, which is why I reviewed it this evening over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). Carroll’s conception is this — if not for the French Resistance, would we even know about Albert Camus or Jacques Monod? Would they be the same men? Would they have the same drive? And without them, would the Resistance have been anywhere near as effective?
Everything else in BRAVE GENIUS, including Camus’ sterling accomplishments as a writer and philosopher and Monod’s work with enzymes (and Monod’s later accomplishment as the writer of perhaps the most unlikely bestseller in the history of mankind, CHANCE AND NECESSITY), is subordinate to this premise. And Carroll makes a very good case as to why this was so, to the point that I compared his case a few times to Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS.
Here we have two men who were at the beginning of their careers in 1940 when the French government fell to the Nazis. (Carroll calls this “leading ordinary lives,” but I don’t really think any life is ordinary. I’d rather say that they were still important, driven men who hadn’t yet found their voices.) They were forged in the fire of the French Resistance, and without their efforts — Monod as “Malivert,” one of the top fund-raisers and activists in all of the French Resistance, and Camus as the then-unknown editor of the influential underground newspaper Combat – would everything have taken the same course at the end of World War II?
The World War II historicity here is palpable. The suspense is still there, sixty-plus years after all of Monod’s and Camus’s efforts. And it’s by far the standout part of the book, which it needs to be as this is Carroll’s central premise.
Overall, I think BRAVE GENIUS is one of the most interesting, most compelling pieces of nonfiction I’ve read all year. It’s not 100% perfect (which is why I gave it an A rather than an A-plus), but it’s riveting, especially in those World War II sections. Literally, if you open this book up and start reading, you won’t want to stop, even though some of Camus’s ideas (not to mention Monod’s research) takes more than a bit of thought to plow through.
That said, I think you definitely should continue on with BRAVE GENIUS no matter how long it takes you to finish it, precisely because those ideas are so important.
Really, if you’ve ever cared why existentialism as a philosophy matters (even though there’s evidence Camus hated the term and probably would’ve come up with another one, given time), or wondered what the French Resistance actually did during the Vichy appeasement besides the simple term “resist,” this book is for you. And if you want to know why Monod’s research was so important, or more about Monod’s book CHANCE AND NECESSITY (not an easy read to get through, but a book with more compelling ideas per capita than most), or simply want to know more about what these two important, influential men were like as people, this book is for you.
I couldn’t recommend this book more highly, in short . . . so go grab a copy of BRAVE GENIUS (from your local library, if nothing else) and start reading as soon as you can. Then come back here and let me know what you thought.
Folks, today’s review of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short) and it’s something special.
You might be wondering why that is. Well, today is the ninth anniversary of my beloved husband Michael’s death. It’s not easy for me to do much of anything on days like this, so if I feel strong enough and competent enough and capable enough to review a book, right there — in and of itself — you should realize I feel very strongly about it.
But more to the point, NIGHT CALLS is a heartwarming book that should delight all lovers of fantasy. It features a strong, capable young woman in Alfreda Sorensson who’s no one’s plaything; unlike the meek and mild female characters in Stephanie Meyer’s conception, Alfreda does for herself, thank you. And in taking on responsibility slowly, we can see how Alfreda grows and changes and learns . . . all good, all life-affirming, all an excellent message if you need one, but done in such a way that it’s subordinate to the story itself.
To write a novel that’s more than the sum of its parts is very difficult. Now, I’ve reviewed four of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels, and all four have been able to do this to one degree or another, in two different genres, no less — an outstanding record that I’ve rarely seen out of anyone not named Rosemary Edghill. And best of all, to my mind, is this — NIGHT CALLS is a comfort book in that there’s so much good in it, so much meaning in it, that it’s something that I can see myself turning back to read and re-read many times over the years — just as I’ve done with Rosemary’s TWO OF A KIND and MET BY MOONLIGHT and all her shared work with Mercedes Lackey, not to mention Rosemary’s excellent “Hellflower” series (written as eluki bes shahar) and her three novels in the “Twelve Treasures” series.
That’s the highest praise I can possibly give.
Now, why would I want to write all this on one of the most difficult days of the year? Well, it’s simple. Michael and I both loved to read young adult novels. We found them to be interesting, in the main, because seeing a coming of age story done well is, in and of itself, life-affirming. If you can do it with some humor and heart — as Patricia C. Wrede did in CALLING ON DRAGONS, say, or as Diana Wynne Jones did in her “Chrestomanci series” — so much the better.
And trust me, Ms. Kimbriel did exactly that in NIGHT CALLS.
It was reading books like Ms. Kimbriel’s that inspired me to start writing ELFY in the first place. Which is why I’m very glad to be able to read and review her work, even though until this last year I hadn’t a clue it was available. The good part about that is that I’ve read four of her excellent books this year, and all four of them — the three in her “Chronicles of Nuala” series and NIGHT CALLS — are likely to be on my “best books of 2013″ list.
This makes me wonder how many other excellent writers are out there that I don’t yet know about. (“More writers left to explore?” I say. “Whee!”)
And it also gives me some hope that my own writing career is not yet dead, even though my health this year has been terrible and I’ve been slow off the mark to get things done despite all the good will in the world due to that.
Anyway, that’s why I reviewed Ms. Kimbriel’s excellent NIGHT CALLS today. For hope. For inspiration. For the belief that despite bad things happening, good people can still win out.
And I think that if you give Ms. Kimbriel’s work a try, you, too, will be favorably impressed.
A Guest Blog by Stephanie Osborn, Author of the ‘Displaced Detective’ Series Featuring Sherlock Holmes
Folks, I feel like that guy on the José Cuervo ads (the most interesting man in the world): I don’t often have guest blogs, but when I do, I feature the most interesting, passionate writers writing today.
Case in point is today’s guest blog for Stephanie Osborn. She’s previously discussed her “Displaced Detective” series here at my blog, but wanted to discuss the origins of her excellent series today, especially as her book THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL is on sale right now over at Amazon for ninety-nine cents (yes, only $.99!) in e-book form.
In case you haven’t read her wonderful novels yet, here’s some links to my reviews of THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL, THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: AT SPEED and THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT over at Shiny Book Review. (Because I’m now a Twilight Times Books author, I cannot review the fourth book, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, via SBR as it would be a conflict of interest and we frown on such things. I do plan to review it soon here at my blog and over at Amazon.)
Stephanie’s written mystery, fantasy, children’s stories, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, speculative fiction — in short, she’s a writer. She’s also been a rocket scientist, which makes her novels about Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern day by hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick all the more realistic.
Stephanie’s novels deserve a wider audience, which is why I’ve again turned my blog over to her.
Now, without further ado . . . here’s Stephanie Osborn!
*************** Drum Roll Sounds Here **************
A note from Stephanie Osborn: It is my great pleasure to make another guest appearance in the Elfyverse. Barb is an amazing writer and editor, and I am so happy to have made her acquaintance through her review of several of my novels; she has become a special friend. We’ve been able to help lift each other up at times when things were down, and that’s so much better than trying to haul oneself up by one’s own bootstraps! I hope you enjoy my little cameo.
The Origins of the Displaced Detective
By Stephanie Osborn,
The Interstellar Woman of Mystery
I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that, well, I really AM one of those rocket scientists you hear about. With degrees in four sciences and subspecialties in a couple more, I worked in the civilian and military space industries, sitting console in the control centers, training astronauts, you name it; and I lost a friend aboard Columbia, when she broke up over Texas. So yeah, I’m the real deal.
The second thing you need to know about me is that I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan… aficionado, whatever word you prefer… since I was a kid. Someone gave me a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles for my birthday one year. I was in, what, third grade? With a hyperactive imagination. Scared me to death when I read it. But I loved Holmes immediately. If I could have done away with the scary story about the Hound, I’d have adored that book even then. It’s one of my favorites now.
By the time I was in high school, I’d discovered that big, single-volume compendium ― you know, the one with the rust-and-mustard dust jacket? If you’re a Holmes aficionado, you know the one I mean. If you don’t, go find it! I read it cover to cover. Wagged it around to every class with me, and every time I had 2 consecutive spare minutes, my nose was in it. Oh, I was devastated when I read The Final Problem. No, really: I went into mourning, like I’d lost family! And I could have turned handsprings for joy when I read The Empty House! Many years later, I acquired that same rust-and-mustard volume and placed it on my own shelves, where it has been read cover to cover many more times. I picked up what are known as “pastiches,” too, efforts by other authors to carry on the adventures, or create entirely new ones, or fill in gaps. (What did Holmes and Watson do when the Martians invaded? What about Jack the Ripper, and why did Watson never chronicle an adventure about him? Didn’t Holmes go after him? What really happened with the Giant Rat of Sumatra?) I watched television and movies ― to this day, I watch the BBC’s Sherlock, and CBS’ Elementary, and even the Guy Ritchie film franchise starring Robert Downey, Jr. And I have the complete set of the Grenada series starring Jeremy Brett, and a bunch of the Basil Rathbone films. Good, bad, or indifferent, they’re all Holmes!
Now, back in Arthur Conan Doyle’s day, they didn’t have all the breakdown of literature into genres that we have today. Today we have science fiction (or SF, with its many subdivisions), fantasy, horror, and such. But all those, in the Victorian era, were lumped together and considered speculative fiction, or “specfic” as it’s known today. As it turns out, many if not most of the Holmes adventures would be considered as specfic ― and I started thinking…
…Other people have “done” Holmes in Victorian-era science fiction…
…But I want to be different. If I write Holmes, I want to do something that’s never been done before…
…Aha. What if, somehow, I could manage to drag Holmes into the modern world to go adventuring?
How to do it…how to do it…
I researched and I studied. And then it hit me.
What if I use the concept of alternate realities, which more and more scientific data indicates are real, and I combine that with something called M theory in order to be able to access them…
…And I was off!
I already had several novels written but unsold by that point, and there was publisher interest in my first one, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. (Yes, I like to mix science fiction and mystery. It seems to come naturally to me; I’ve always thought a good SF story has a distinct element of the mysterious. That’s why I got dubbed The Interstellar Woman of Mystery by certain media personalities.) So I knew about writing novels: See, it isn’t about page count, it’s about word count.
Different genres define book length by different word counts. YA is relatively short, say 50,000-80,000 words. The romance genre generally defines a novel at roughly the same word count. But SF and mystery, for instance, consider a novel to run from about 80,000-110,000 words, maybe a smidge more. (Think about the thinness of a typical Harlequin Romance as compared to, say, a Baen military SF novel.) There’s an arcane formula that ties word count to final page count, and another that determines the list price from the page count. So these are important numbers, these word counts.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t go over; you can… provided your last name is something like King, Weber, or Rowling. Because publishers know those names will sell books regardless of length. Everybody else? Don’t be too short OR too long.
So I sat down to write The Case of the Displaced Detective, the first story in what has become my Displaced Detective series, described rather aptly as, “Sherlock Holmes meets the X-Files.”
Two months ― yes, you read that right, months, not years ― later, I’d completed the rough draft… and it stood at 215,000 words. Writing that manuscript was kinda like tryin’ to hold a wide-open fire hose all by yourself. I ate at the computer. I all but slept at the computer. That story just came pouring out. I couldn’t stop until it was all written. By the time I’d polished it, it had ballooned up to around 245,000 words, and I managed to whack it down to about 230,000.
But it was too big for a single book. And nobody could figure out how to cut it down without cutting out essential parts ― not me, not agent, not editor, not publisher. See, it was really two stories in one: it was an “origin story” of sorts, how Holmes came to be in the 21st century, AND it had a mystery. It needed all of those 230,000 words to tell the story properly.
In the end, my publisher and I decided to make two volumes of it. That’s why, when you look at the covers, you don’t just see The Arrival, or At Speed. You see The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, and The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed. There’s not a hard and fast break between the origin story and the mystery; in fact the mystery starts within days of Holmes landing in the 21st century in The Arrival, and he is still trying to come to terms with everything in At Speed.
Then I went on to write the next story, The Case of the Cosmological Killer.
And durned if the same thing didn’t happen! Only this one took a smidge longer, because it was interrupted by an illness. All told I think it took about a year or so. And so books 3 & 4 are The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident, and The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings.
I swear they’re not all going to be two volumes! In fact I just turned in A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, and it’s one volume only! I’ve started on book 6, A Little Matter of Earthquakes, and book 7, The Adventure of Shining Mountain Lodge, is mostly finished and awaiting the publication of 5 & 6. And I’m planning for adventures beyond that.
So in a manner of speaking, I suppose I’m still adventuring with my old pal Sherlock Holmes… only now he’s investigating mysteries that are more on MY turf! And I plan to do so until we both retire to the Sussex downs to keep bees!
* * * * * * * * * * * * (Insert hearty round of applause here.) * * * * * * * * *
Once again, thank you, Stephanie. I greatly appreciated your second guest blog, and I hope it will help you find a few more readers for your excellent books.
And if you haven’t read Stephanie’s books yet, take a gander at chapter one of THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL, chapter one of THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, or if you’re just not in the mood for Sherlock Holmes today, take a look at the first chapter of BURNOUT. (Then, for heaven’s sake, go buy her books.)
Folks, I was busy this past evening-into-morning, as along with my earlier blog about Johnny Weir and his anti-Sochi boycott stance I also wrote this review of THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . , a comic English historical romance written by three authors — Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway — over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).
Since I’m pressed for time, all I want to say right now is that I enjoyed THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . very much. If you’re in the mood for a fine and funny English historical romance with more than a few moments of outright farce — and really, who isn’t from time to time? — you will enjoy THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . , too.
Folks, this morning I was pleased to be able to review a very different type of book by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, THE GREAT PARTNERSHIP: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). Sacks’ thought is clear, compelling, and extremely interesting . . . but some of what he says will almost certainly annoy you as well.
That’s the main reason I call this a very different type of book, because religious scholasticism very rarely is either this understandable or with as many points of contention. Sacks explains things so well that most readers should get the gist of what he’s saying, but of course this particular book will work best for scholars of comparative religion and/or people who believe science and religion are far from incompatible.
Mind you, as I said in my review, Sacks is not the first to make many of these arguments. The author of many of them as revised for 20th Century thought is Mircea Eliade, who died in 1986. But Sacks is the first to do these ideas justice in a way that many people will find comprehensible, as Eliade’s thought processes are sometimes so opaque that other religious scholars and philosophers (as Eliade was both, just as Sacks himself is both) are still arguing over it all these years after Eliade’s death.
But Sacks is the first to make the argument that some of the odd dichotomies in the Christian New Testament are due to one thing: that the thought behind the New Testament was obviously Hebraic in origin (from the Hebrew language, in short), but the New Testament was actually written and popularized in Greek. What that means in the shortest form possible is this: Anyone who reads the Christian Bible In English (or any other contemporary language) is reading a translation of a translation.
For that insight alone, you should read Sacks’ THE GREAT PARTNERSHIP.
But be warned: Sacks does not like many aspects of contemporary life, and he’s not shy about saying so. Sacks is against same-sex marriage. He’s against what he persists in calling “abortion on demand,” a highly inflammatory statement. And he’s against assisted suicide, even if done by doctors on terminally ill people, calling it “euthanasia.”
Still, this is an important book that allows people who believe in science and religion to feel good about their beliefs. And as such, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Now, will you please go read my review? Then, if the book intrigues you, go to the library and get it. (Or better yet, buy a copy, as it’s now out in paperback.)
And do let me know what you think of it, once you’ve read it. (Either one.)