Thursday, July 28, 2022

Research to Schnitzel

 The truth is, I do a hideous amount of research. This is mainly because my plots are fairly wild, and I use historical facts, from events of worldwide importance to what kind of socks men were wearing that year to anchor my stories in reality.

Roulette Salon, Monte Carlo

     Am I methodical? Not in the least. Basically I have one text file, into which all my historical facts are thrown like a meat grinder to be turned into sausage later. Some of it's meat, some of it's spice. Would you like a glimpse at some of the ingredients? I thought you might. 

    Here's a small sampling of my notes (in no particular order) for my present project, 

The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart:

Gould married Sinclair on May 1, 1922.

November 9, 1922 — Tomb opened

They were married in December 1922 Ali Famy

On March 14, 1923, they legally remarried— Rudolph Valentino, divorced in 1925.

cartouche by Terry Ward



the nearby tomb of King Seti II, with 

cluttered trestle tables and Thonet bentwood chairs pressed tight against the ancient relief


“Well, sir, if it isn’t too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you’ll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain, every one of them."


There was a sensational shooting affair at Leeds Tuesday sequel to the death Miss Helen Mary Nind, the music teacher, wha found poisoned in a Leeds hotel during the week-end. 


Dr. Scott's results in the examination of the brown marks upon the walls of the tomb are interesting - his examination proves them to be of the nature of mould from infection of some kind.


Arthur Mace never returned to the tomb. He contracted pleurisy which led to pneumonia. He nursed his health assiduoudly, but died in 1928.



1922 BUGATTI TYPE 23 TORPEDO SPORT Top Speed:

London taxi, 1920s
62 mph

-



Beginning in February 1924, she accompanied Valentino on a trip abroad that was profiled in 26 installments published Movie Weekly over the course of six months`


State - How much fuel you've got. Mother requests, "Say your state". Responded to in the form of hours and minutes of fuel onboard til you "splash". You respond"State one plus two zero to splash" = 1 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

Flying in the 1920s was also an uncomfortable experience for passengers because it was loud and cold, as planes were made of uninsulated sheets of metal that shook loudly in the wind.

Junker interior

The average journey time by train between Paris Gare de Lyon and Meiringen is 6 hours and 53 minutes, with around 20 trains per day.


              ********


The pictures are, of course, research as well, and I download a LOT of them. These I treat with so little method that I usually have to wind up seeking them out again on the internet when I need to consult them. It may seem like chaos, but that's an accurate reflection of my mind. In the end, it's schnitzel.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

All the cool kids are doin' it


 Now hear this.

 Now hear this.

The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle is now available  for pre-order from Audiobooks.com in audiobook format (obviously), suitable for listening to, or...listening to louder.

Avoid the Sept. 6th crush, pre-order now.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Golden State Gabfest

Up for more talk about 
The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter, as well as a peek at my nearly-completed next next Holmes epic, 
The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart, and even a whisper of what's to come after that?

Then tune into:
for all the lowdown.


 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

No 'Rithmetic Involved

 Miss my dulcet tones?

Want to get the lowdown on my latest novel The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter, AND my upcoming novel,
The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart
?

Then hie thee to Readers and Writers Podcast for the double scoop treatment.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Coming Soon

 

Okay, I can FINALLY announce that the audiobook version of The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle is "coming soon" --"soon" meaning in September.

From Tantor Media.

Also, Eliza Doolittle Day is May 20. Mark your calendar!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Beach Read

Fishing Boats on the Beach by Vincent
 

After rigorous analysis and testing, I'm happy to report that 

The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter 

has been designated by the Beach Reading Association as 100%

Beach Readable


Because of this designation, you are hereby guaranteed to enjoy this read on any beach in the world, from Cozumel to St. Tropez to Bondi Beach, without fear of sun-bleaching or sand-scratching.* 

Enjoy your summer!

*not water-proof


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

King Tut: Fact or Fiction?

       Historical fiction thrives in the space between fact and rumor. I'll give you an example from the next Sherlock Holmes novel I'n working on, The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart. There were a number of deaths attributed in the years after Tutankhamun's tomb was opened which were attributed by believers (of whom Conan Doyle was a prominent and vocal member) to "the curse of King Tut."

Hugh Evelyn White
     One of the more violent deaths, in 1924, was that of Hugh Evelyn White, a scholar
and translator of ancient Greek, and a popular lecturer at the University of Leeds. He was also an Egyptologist, and among the first to visit the newly opened tomb in 1923. 

     His story is quite a gruesome one, and it can be found all over the internet: he wrote a suicide note in his own blood on the wall of his office, blaming the curse for his action, then hung himself above his desk. A terrible realization of the curse.

     Except it didn't happen that way. If you take the trouble to read the newspaper obituaries from the time, you find that he stepped out of his house, hailed a taxi, and asked to be taken to the house of a physician, Dr. Maxwell Telling. He would never arrive there.

     The driver heard the gun blast (how could he not?) and turned to see White falling forward. He sped to the nearest hospital, but White was pronounced dead an hour later.

     He had left a suicide note. Though not in blood, and not mentioning King Tut, it was certainly problematic. Here's how it read:

“I knew there was a curse on me, though I have leave to take those manuscripts to Cairo. The monks told me the curse would work all the same, Now it has done so.”

No one knew what papers he referred to, or who the monks were.

     But here's the rest of the story: White was about to appear at the inquest for another suicide, one Mary Helen Ninds, a music teacher, who was desperately in love with Mr. White, and had threatened in a letter to take her own life if he did not return her affections. He had written her back, threatening to go to the police if she threatened suicide again.

     Did he feel guilt over the girl's death? Had there been a love affair, or even any relationship at all between the two? Could she have been carrying his child? We can only speculate, and speculation becomes fertile field for a historical novelist. We can let our imaginations run away, stitching together fact with whole cloth.

     And where did the story of the bloody suicide note and the hanging surface from? Again we can speculate. First, one must realize that Lord Carnarvon, who paid for the expedition, had sold exclusive rights to coverage of the excavation to the London Times--which meant that every other paper in the world was boxed out of the biggest story in the world, and when journalists don't have a story they will sometimes... make up a story. The whole "curse of King Tut" story was catnip to them, and anything and anyone involved tended to get twisted, exaggerated, aggrandized.

     Now how prevalent this wild story might have been at the time is also impossible to say. When I say that you can find the story all over the internet, we all know that the internet loves nothing better than a good story and will spread it like Nutella on a spoon. Ubiquity on the net has nothing to do with authenticity.

     But it does have everything to do with fiction. Seeing the kind of wild rumors that were floating around at the time points the way for one's own wild rumors to plant in the story--as long as they are labeled as rumors, not as fact. We have to play fair with the reader.

     And the truth is, there are always wild rumors and wild surmises associated with any historical event. Misinformation is not a modern invention. And while we should do our best to separate fact from rumor, our characters are under no such edict. Let them mix it up.

     (Don't forget the monks and the papers.)


 



Page settings Search Description Options Custom Robot Tags

Tea and Crumpets

 

Actually, you're not going to get tea OR crumpets, but you can get a nice conversation about The Strange Case of the Ditch Painter and cabbages and kings with the crew at Beyond the Trope 

HERE.

Monday, May 02, 2022

The Man in the Long Black Coat

 "There was Bruant, striding up and down the top of the bar in the same costume we’d seen in the posters, a gamekeeper’s outfit with a scarlet shirt and scarf, an opera cape and wide-brimmed black hat. He pointed a rattan cane at us and said, “See how they gawk? Like sheep about to be sheared! Muttonheads!”

The crowd laughed. “What are you laughing at?” said Bruant, picking out a balding little pickle of a man in front of him, “You’ve already been sheared to your pink-and-white hide. And the rest of you smell of sheep dip!”
The crowd roared at every word. These were hardly the denizens of the underworld I’d expected to see. They were stock clerks and assistant managers, wine merchants and lace manufacturers, the shank of the bourgeoisie, along with their mistresses and perhaps a few daring wives. They had climbed the butte of Montmartre to come and be scandalized and insulted by the three-penny poet of the bateaux. Bruant gave them good value for their money. A piano player in the corner by the bar banged on the keys, and Bruant tore into a song.

--The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter

Monday, April 25, 2022

King's River Life Review + Coal Tar

 

A new review of The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter:

"The mystery is filled with twists and turns, and there is even a bit of an added mystery in
the epilogue. If you are looking for a new Sherlock Holmes story that is a bit different then you are used to, be sure to check out The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter."

For the full review, check HERE.

Plus, a bonus article in which I take on the burning issue of Sherlock Holmes and coal tar derivatives!

"Instead of painting gods and heroes, kings and queens, they could paint street scenes, picnics by the river, water lilies, dancers, the whole joyous repertoire of everyday life for which we have come to love the Impressionists and with a whole new palette of bright synthetic colors to mix from."

Read it all in King's River Life Magazine.

Swoopers and Bashers, oh my!


 I'll admit right here and now:

I'm a swooper.

How about you?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

On entering Arles





 "I tripped over the threshold into the cafe, cutting a slice out of the early-morning silence. An old billiard table commandeered the center of the room, the baize worn down to the slate. It was flanked by a dozen granite-top tables. One of last night’s patrons was passed out face-down at a table near the door, with the reek of vomit rising from him. A small bar stood at the far end of the room beneath an old station-clock; its drip-drop tick-tock was the only answer to my call of good morning."

The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter

Thursday, April 14, 2022

At War with the Ants

 Here's a blast from the past. 

A screenplay which I wrote in 2010 was subsequently filmed by our local community college, BPCC. And now, barely 12 years later, there's a trailer up on Youtube. If you're curious, it's called At War with the Ants

Check it out.

And I guess, just in case you're so wowed by the trailer, that you'd like to see the whole movie, Go Here to buy.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Umberto Eco

 

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”

― Umberto Eco

Thursday, March 17, 2022

First Book

 I haven't nagged you about First Book in a while, but they're putting books into the hands of kids who would otherwise go without. 

If you can, consider giving. You can learn more HERE.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

King Tut and the Bugatti

 And then again, some facts in historical mystery are simply a matter of grinding it out. For instance, when you need a car to get your heroes from Luxor to Cairo as quickly as possible. The train simply won't do. This happens in The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart.

First of all, you should realize that without the car, Tutankhamun might never have been discovered. Lord Carnarvon, the sponsor of the dig, was mad for cars early on. The faster the better.

And in 1903, he had the dubious distinction of being in the world's first car crash. A

Lord Carnrvon

bad crash, with a crushed skull and a broken jaw, and lacerated lungs, which left him prone to severe lung infections. Doctors recommended he spend his winters in a dry climate--say, Egypt? He fell in love with the place, fell in love with Egyptology, and finally decided to get into the tomb-digging business. He hired a fellow named Howard Carter, and the rest as they say, is history.

But back to my problem. Where to get a car? Our heroes came to Luxor aboard a dahabeah (another whole story). Well, it's true, I could make up any car owned by anybody. I wouldn't even have to name the kind of car. But historical fiction is made up of these thousand details which anchor our stories in reality, and create a bond of trust between writer and reader.

So I decided to make the car Lord Carnarvon's car, left garaged in a tomb (which is where they did keep them) when he went to Cairo and died. So what kind of car would Lord Carnarvon have driven?

This was actually easy to uncover, since Carnarvon was so well known for his love of cars (and horses and yachts). Of course, I could have gone with a Ford, since he had provided one for the dig, but I, wanted a fast car. Before the end of his life, Carnarvon was into Bugattis (although he had just purchased a Bentley, which he never got the chance to take home.)

Bugatti. That's just brimming with sexy. (Although to tell you the truth, I know zero about cars and couldn't tell a Bugatti from a VW Bug.) A Bugatti would do.

But now I needed a Bugatti made before 1923, when Carnarvon died,

And I needed a four-seater, which could carry five in a pinch.

And fast. Faster than a train, which I already knew made the trip from Luxor to Cairo in about ten hours.

Which is about how long it took me to find my Bugatti. (And I get down on my knees and praise the internet every day.) I looked at a lot of Bugattis. Most were two-seaters. Some, for racing purposes held only one. I found a few that might be four-seaters, but I couldn't be sure from the pictures. And while the specs told me what horsepower they were and how many cylinders they had, not a single one mentioned the number of seats.

So as the sun was rising, I found it. The 1923 Bugatti Type 23 Torpedo. Lots of pictures, including one of the back seat.


Sold. That is, if I could just find out--yes! Top speed 62mph. And since my driver is a professional racer, I'm going to posit that she can make it to Cairo in under seven hours.

Now I just have to decide whether it gets them all the way there or breaks down in the desert. Which would mean I'd have to get under the hood of the thing. 
Um... I'm thinking they make it.

Friday, March 11, 2022

King Tut: Fact or Fiction?

 

       Historical fiction thrives in the space between fact and rumor. I'll give you an example from the next Sherlock Holmes novel I'n working on, The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart. There were a number of deaths attributed in the years after Tutankhamun's tomb was opened which were attributed by believers (of whom Conan Doyle was a prominent and vocal member) to "the curse of King Tut."

Hugh Evelyn White
     One of the more violent deaths, in 1924, was that of Hugh Evelyn White, a scholar
and translator of ancient Greek, and a popular lecturer at the University of Leeds. He was also an Egyptologist, and among the first to visit the newly opened tomb in 1923. 

     His story is quite a gruesome one, and it can be found all over the internet: he wrote a suicide note in his own blood on the wall of his office, blaming the curse for his action, then hanged himself. A terrible realization of the curse.

     Except it didn't happen that way. If you take the trouble to read the newspaper obituaries from the time, you find that he stepped out of his house, hailed a taxi, and asked to be taken to the house of a physician, Dr. Maxwell Telling. He would never arrive there.

     The driver heard the gun blast (how could he not?) and turned to see White falling forward. He sped to the nearest hospital, but White was pronounced dead an hour later.

     He had left a suicide note. Though not in blood, and not mentioning King Tut, it was certainly problematic. Here's how it read:

“I knew there was a curse on me, though I have leave to take those manuscripts to Cairo. The monks told me the curse would work all the same, Now it has done so.”

No one knew what papers he referred to, or who the monks were.

     But here's the rest of the story: White was about to appear at the inquest for another suicide, one Mary Helen Ninds, a music teacher, who was desperately in love with Mr. White, and had threatened in a letter to take her own life if he did not return her affections. He had written her back, threatening to go to the police if she threatened suicide again.

     Did he feel guilt over the girl's death? Had there been a love affair, or even any relationship at all between the two? Could she have been carrying his child? We can only speculate, and speculation becomes fertile field for a historical novelist. We can let our imaginations run away, stitching together fact with whole cloth.

     And where did the story of the bloody suicide note and the hanging surface from? Again we can speculate. First, one must realize that Lord Carnarvon, who paid for the expedition, had sold exclusive rights to coverage of the excavation to the London Times--which meant that every other paper in the world was boxed out of the biggest story in the world, and when journalists don't have a story they will sometimes... make up a story. The whole "curse of King Tut" story was catnip to them, and anything and anyone involved tended to get twisted, exaggerated, aggrandized.

     Now how prevalent this wild story might have been at the time is also impossible to say. When I say that you can find the story all over the internet, we all know that the internet loves nothing better than a good story and will spread it like Nutella on a spoon. Ubiquity on the net has nothing to do with authenticity.

     But it does have everything to do with fiction. Seeing the kind of wild rumors that were floating around at the time points the way for one's own wild rumors to plant in the story--as long as they are labeled as rumors, not as fact. We have to play fair with the reader.

     And the truth is, there are always wild rumors and wild surmises associated with any historical event. Misinformation is not a modern invention. And while we should do our best to separate fact from rumor, our characters are under no such edict. Let them mix it up.

     (Don't forget the monks and the papers.)



Monday, March 07, 2022

Tom Stoppard

 "The whole art of movies and in plays is in the control of the flow of information to the audience. . . . how much information, when, how fast it comes. Certain things maybe have to be there three times."

--Tom Stoppard

Friday, February 25, 2022

Lagniappe: The Monument

 A new fairy tale for Lagniappe:

“You should have a monument,” said his grand wazir, Yezdigerd. 

“A monument? I like the idea, Yez. But what sort of monument?” 

     “A statue carved out of a mountainside!” 
     “Too unrefined.” 
     “A palace built in the clouds, constructed of angels’ wings!” 
     “Too ethereal.” 
     “A pyramid greater than the pyramids at Giza!” 
     “Unoriginal.” 
      Yezdigerd subsided. “I’m sorry, my lord. They were only suggestions. I’m not an artist.” 
      “Yes, Yezdigerd!” cried Yildiz. “That’s what I need! An artist!” 

Reading Club


 Full disclosure:

She's my sister. 
But do you realize how hard it is to get relatives to read your work?

Reading Club



Snowed in? 
Have I got a good book for you.

 

Edward Albee

 “Read the great stuff, but read the stuff that isn't so great, too. Great stuff is very discouraging. If you read only Beckett and Chekhov, you'll go away and only deliver telegrams for Western Union.”

― Edward Albee

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Midwest Book Review: the Dutch Painter

 From MBR:

A welcome addition to the growing library of Sherlock Holmes stories, "The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter" by Timothy Miller does full justice to the exploits of that master detective which was originally created by Sir Conan Doyle. A 'must read' selection for all dedicated mystery buffs, as well as the legions of Sherlock Holmes fans, and also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), this paperback edition of "The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter" from Seventh Street Books is an especially and unreservedly recommended for all community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Aaron Sorkin

 

"I like dialogue. It sounds like music. What the words sound like are as important to me as what the words mean."

-- Aaron Sorkin

Monday, February 14, 2022

I'm not insane!

Have saber, will travel.
I mean, I had this figured out long before any German scientists.

"The story of van Gogh's madness was part of a coverup, the authors say, by none other than van Gogh's friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin."

For the full article, 
check out NPR 


Scion Society hazing

 The admissions test was brutal.
First they blindfolded me. Then:

(Actually I just had to give my name)
1) They asked me whether the train from Paddington at 8.30 would get me to Devon by noon.

2) They asked me to discern five different types of tobacco ash by smell alone.

3) They asked me to recite "The Great Rat of Sumatra" word for word.

4) They asked the middle name of Watson's fifth wife.

5) They asked me in which story Holmes first mentions "the little grey cells."

6) They told me to put on a deerstalker cap backwards.

7) They swore me to secrecy.

But I passed! I'm now a member of the Crew of the Lone Star Barque Society (based in Dallas). I can put a swagger in my step.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Claude Levi-Strauss

 

"Language is a form of human reason, which has its internal logic of which man knows nothing."



Contraband

 Psst! I just got my copy of Maus

It literally came in a plain brown wrapper. Keep it on the downlow, willya? They're coming down hard on readers, and I've already got Beloved and Ulysses against me.

Friday, February 11, 2022

You say goodbye, and I say hello.

 

Which one are you?
As an artist, which are you?

Lennon or McCartney?

The raw or the cooked?

I mean, there are those artists who want to dig into themselves, confess themselves, use themselves as their source material. And then there are artists who hide behind their art, who use their art to please, to put on a hundred different masks. I think it's true no matter what medium you work in: writing, acting, painting, etc.

Of course art by it's very nature is a kind of hiding; even if it is a revelation, it's always at one remove. One can always deny it if questioned by Pilate. Yet it is also an invitation to follow the clues, no matter how tortuous or obscure, to the soul. So there's a dialectic involved.

I adore Lennon, but I'm definitely a McCartney, hiding behind the mask of Dr. John Watson. (Not that an artist can't occasionally break the mold: McCartney's Yesterday or Lennon's For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.)

Reflections on Reflections

 There comes a time in every draft of a novel when things start to click together, to reflect each other. For instance, did you know that King Tut photographer Harry Burton preferred sunlight for his pictures? Which meant he had to use a complicated setup of mirrors and reflectors to bring the sun INTO the tomb. (I didn't know this, and had to rewrite that whole section.)



But then I realized that must have been the exact method used by Geoffrey Hodson, 50 pages earlier, to create the illusion of dancing fairies!

Research always shows you the way.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Memorabilia

 I'm not really one for memorabilia, but I figure I owe these guys something.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Benedict Cumberbatch

I like Benedict Cumberbatch. I like Sherlock. How could I not? But the truth is, I have no news about either subject. I have no special insights into either phenomenon. I have no whimsical tales to relate. I'm simply pandering, hoping that a picture of this dashing young man will garner my blog more followers. Hey, it's worth a try.

Thanks, Benny.

 

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

The Strange Cases of Strange Cases

 Of course, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the inspiration for the title of my first (and therefore my second) novel. I should perhaps have done my research further. It turns out there are a lot of "Strange Case" titles out there, and I am now chained to them for all eternity, like Marley's ghost with his cashboxes. And some of the titles are a wee bit...well...


HUGO SPROUTS AND THE STRANGE CASE OF THE BEANS
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE RICKETY COSSACK: AND OTHER CAUTIONARY TALES FROM HUMAN EVOLUTION
THE RABBIT REPORT: THE STRANGE CASE OF THE MISSING GINGER
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE SPOTTED MICE & OTHER CLASSIC ESSAYS ON SCIENCE


These are just some of my new bunkmates. But my favorite, hands down, is this title:


I haven't read the book, and I never will, because it couldn't possibly live up to its title. Perhaps you've read it and enjoyed it. Let me know. It's definitely a brother from another mother. Now excuse me, I have to get back to work on The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart.









Where to start with Agatha?

 If you've always wanted to read the Queen of Crime, but didn't know where to start? Here's an excerpt from an excellent primer:


The shocker

If you’re looking for an ending that shook contemporary readers and is still capable of jolting the unsuspecting reader today, then settle down with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The eponymous victim is a neighbour of Poirot’s and his sudden, violent demise brings the detective out of retirement.
                                               --Janice Hallett


For the entire article, check out The Guardian.