Sunday, August 21, 2022

Beneath the ice

Monet-The Break-up of the Ice
      I want you to think of the book you're reading right now as a river, frozen in the night. You can read everything on the surface of the river. That means all the craft
which were yesterday busily plying the river, which have now come to a halt, frozen in place. It means fallen branches and other riverside detritus, partly submerged in the ice. Most important it means the general shape of the river, sinuous and taut at the same time, easily followed and anticipated, at least until the river bends out of sight.

     Perhaps you can spot adventurers on the ice, those familiar enough with its depth to risk ice-fishing or skating along, carving out their initials with the blades of their skates.. It's not for everyone, but watching them explore can help you understand the river better.     

     You can also see something peculiar to you, which is your own reflection, your surroundings, your sky, yourself. You are part of the river, a vital part. You bring your positioning, your angle, your history, without which the river is not complete.

     Here's what you rarely glimpse, though, unless you happen to be a writer, versed in a special way of seeing the river of the book. What we see is the the river beneath the ice, still alive, still flowing, still breathing, still teeming with all the aquatic life. We see words not chosen, passages scrubbed, streams converging and parting, rising and falling. We can't see them crystal-clear, of course, but we are always conscious of the book as a living, ever-changing, ever-busy thing, and we understand how mud or sand or rock in the river-bed fashions the entire river, how the entire-eco-system blends.

    For the writer, a book is never a finished thing, it's always wriggling in the hand. Is there another way to accomplish this attitude? I can't answer that question yea or nay. I'm not even sure it's useful to the reader, no matter how dedicated. But one thing I'd like you to keep in mind: the book is ALIVE.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Made you look!

This is my definition of art,

straight from Aristotle:




Saturday, August 13, 2022

Salman Rushdie

 "A sigh isn't just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can."

- Salman Rushdie

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.


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 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.)


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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 


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