Monday, April 12, 2021

The Power of Voice

 Here's a link to an excellent column by Patricia MacEnulty of the Historical Novel Society called The Power of Voice in Historical Fiction.

Here's a snippet:

"I start by asking the character, what’s going on? What is she worried about? How does she feel about the situation she finds herself in? And most importantly, what’s she going to do about it? Usually I’ll get some kind of response. Sometimes the answer is a complete surprise."

Good stuff, eh? Okay now: the paragraph I didn't quote?--is some very nice words about my novel. What restraint on my part! How modest! How self-effacing!

Go READ it already.

Stranger Day


 Unfortunately, Stranger Day festivities have been canceled this year due to, uh, circumstances. Some have even accused last year's festivities of, uh, exacerbating circumstances. To which we reply with a resounding, uh, uh, hummnnnuh.

Join us next year, April12th (unless we've met) for all the fun and unfellowship the day deserves.

The Begging Bowl

I've gone and done it. I've signed up with Buy Me a Coffee, which, if you're not familiar with it, is a simple method by which you can drop a dime--no, that doesn't sound good--drop six bits on me in appreciation for what you see here. It's mainly for readers of my Lagniappe feature, but on Blogger I'm not able to assign de widget to de specific page. 

(According to my stats, some of you are reading it, or have at least wound up on that page by pure accident and run shrieking into the night. You might give me a hint.) 

Of course, you do not have to give a wooden nickel. I am not so easily discouraged and will continue to accost you with material one way or another. But if you feel an itch to do so, I will toast you as I down each cup of delicious Jamaica Blue Mountain (if I should make such largesse. JBM is not for the cheap seats.)

There's a little yellow button on the side of the page, along with all the other junk. If you feel insulted by the very idea, let me know in the comments below. I'm not wedded to the idea, and those used coffee grounds are good for three, four days. Thanks.

(There's a new Lagniappe feature soon to arrive.)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Raymond Chandler

 

"The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off."

                                                           –Raymond Chandler

You've Got to Pitch a Pastiche or Two

 I've stated ELSEWHERE that I haven't read many Holmes pastiches yet, and why. But I'm curious, and not yellow. I'm interested in what are--not necessarily your favorite--but the one or two pastiches you would foist upon your best friend to hook then on Holmes pastiches forever. Your friend may or may not have ever read any any of the canon. 

I suppose I should stipulate that your choice should not feature Sherlock's brother, sister, wife, daughter or third cousin, at least not in a starring role, but should feature Sherlock Holmes himself, with or without Watson.

Nor, just in case you suspect me of dealing from the bottom of the deck, should your choice be my own pastiche, The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle. (Frankly, I'm being selfish. Once I've hung up my own spurs, I want a nice list of the best pastiches to turn to.)

As for myself, I still adore the first Holmes pastiche I ever read, the inspiration for my own work, Nicholas Meyers' The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which pairs the finest detectives of the 19th century, fictional and real,  Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud, in a ripping yarn which also gives us insight into the shaping of Holmes's character.

So leave your choices in the comments (along with your reasons for them if you like) and I'll feature them in a future post. Thanks!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

In the bowels of the night...


 I don't know about other first-time novelists, but I will confess here that in the lonely hours of the night--every night--I scour google for mention of my book, and sometimes I come up with some truly odd ducks. I decided to share one of those I came across last night. It's by one of those many sites that offers your book as a free download. (My publisher assures me that such sites afford you nothing for free except the opportunity to have your information stolen, possibly your credit card, in exchange for a nasty virus. I'm not sure that's true of ALL such sites, but it's a comforting thought.)

The flowery encomiums of my book are lifted from one such site. It is possibly the most fawning review ever written. And I was half-way through the second paragraph, soaking it all in, before I realized the review was not about my book at all, in fact had nothing to do with my book. I was able to elide over "useful information and life tips", but ran up on the reef at "This memoir..."

In case you haven't read my book, it could in no light be mistaken for a memoir...unless you assumed that I was Dr. John Watson.

I assume that this was a real review which has come unmoored from its original book, and been drafted into service for any book you might have been searching for. It's a wonderful review for anyone, as long as you ignore things like nouns and possibly adjectives. As a matter of fact, with a little judicious trimming, this could make boffo advertising copy.

The author beautifully combines beauty and truth in an elegant and effective way..."

Why, it's positively Keatsian!

Friday, April 09, 2021

Sidney Lumet


"Except in two cases, every writer I've worked with has wanted to work with me again. I think one of the reasons is that I love dialogue. Dialogue is not uncinematic. So many of the movies of the thirties and forties that we adore are constant streams of dialogue.

Of course we remember Jimmy Cagney squashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face. But does that evoke more affectionate memory than "Here's looking at you, kid"?

          –Sidney Lumet

3 Comments


12 Masterworks


Remember these twelve paintings, all by French masters, all from a certain period. Most were hanging in the Louvre in 1890. Remember what happened to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in 1911?



 

--The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter



For Writers: the Theory of Myth

 You've all heard of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, made popular in interviews with Bill Moyers, but have you heard of Canadian critic Northrop Frye's theory of myth, elucidated in his Anatomy of Criticism

Frye holds (as does Campbell) that myth is the basis for all literature, and all literature can be categorized as one of four archetypal genres or mythos: comedy, romance, tragedy and satire. Further, he associates each genre with one of the  four seasons, sharing the cyclical nature of seasons. Moreover, each genre can be merged with its adjacent: thus comedy gives rise to comic romance, romantic comedy, comic satire, satiric comedy, and so on. 

Each archetype gives rise a different relationship between the hero and society. For instance, in comedy, the movement is the hero's integration into society; in tragedy, his expulsion from society. In romance, the audience identifies with the hero; in satire, the audience looks down on the hero.

Further, the hero of each genre moves through six phases, literary structures which can be derived from each mythos-- moving from innocence to experience, from fantasy to reality--but the hero experiences each of them differently, colored by their their genre.  In each phase, two of its structures are influenced by the preceding season,  two by the succeeding season. There is a downward movement toward tragedy, an upward movement toward comedy                                            

All this may seem a little complex, but it's really quite elegant, describing the general shape of, well--every--story. This is not meant to weigh you down, but to gives you the tools to satisfy the audience's genre expectations (which are bred in the bine) or to subvert them. 

Perhaps a diagram will help, Luckily, I happen to have one handy.

You can see, for instance how in the third phase of comedy, the young hero is triumphant: how romance evokes the quest theme, how the hero finds victory in tragedy, while satire engages the victory over common sense. The book is rich with examples of each of these phases.

Again, this is analysis of what has gone before, not a prescription for your next project, any more than music theory should get in the way of writing a song. Study of structure is meant to reveal, not to hamper. If you have any questions on this admittedly incomplete summary, just leave them in the comments below, and I'll try to address them.



Thursday, April 08, 2021

Reader's Club

Some kind words from:

The Cozy Tea Cottage
A place to enjoy a cuppa, a little nibble, read a good book, or solve a puzzle.                                                                        
             
                                                                                           cozy_tea_cottage 

What are you reading? I've just finished this thoroughly enjoyable mystery from Timothy Miller and Seventh Street Books. It's a wonderful collaboration of characters from two classics. 

 What if Eliza Doolittle was never actually transformed into a proper lady? What if, instead, she was replaced? And if so, what happened to the real Eliza Doolittle? 

 Well, that's what Colonel Pickering has asked Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to find out. And along the way, the story is joined by some of my other favorite historical characters (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what have you been up to?) 

 If you enjoy historical fiction, a good mystery, and spending time with some interesting characters, you'll love The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle!