What can you find here? Reviews of new and not quite so new Sherlock Holmes novels and collections. Interviews with authors, link to blogs worth following, links to where you can purchase my books and some reviews of my work garnered from Amazon sites. Plus a few scary pics of me and a link to various Lyme Regis videos on YouTube...see what we do here and how....and indeed why!!! Next to the Lyme Regis Video Bar is a Jeremy Brett as Holmes Video Bar and now a Ross K Video Bar. And stories and poems galore in the archives.

Sunday 20 October 2013

An Interview with Claire Daines

Claire Daines has just had her first Sherlock Holmes novel published and I caught up with her recently.

I very often find it hard to find the time to write, but you have a young family, now extended by one to care for. How do you find the time?
I hold it up at gunpoint! It helps that the three eldest are at school and pre-school five days a week, and I’ve gotten very good at typing one-handed with the baby on my knee.
Are you a structured writer, writing at a set time and place? Do you just open up the laptop and let it come to you?
Not structured in the least, but my family always knows where to find me: constantly tapping away on my laptop at the dining room table, one of the few spaces available for writing.  I hate to feel like I’m not achieving anything, so I usually keep several projects on the go at once. If I run out of steam for one, I can switch to another. I also make sure to carry pen and paper with me if I’m going out anywhere.
Why Sherlock Holmes?
You know how certain characters just stay on your radar all your life, and you can spot a reference to them a mile off, no matter how slight? For me, Sherlock Holmes has always been that character. The very first Holmes story I ever read was ‘Silver Blaze’ when I was still in primary school. It was in a book of various mystery stories: Father Brown, the Thinking Machine, and so on. I must have read that book a thousand times while growing up – it’s probably still in my parents’ attic somewhere. Funnily enough, the next major ‘Holmes moment’ that I recall was at 10 years old, watching Michael Caine blunder about beside Ben Kingsley’s Watson in ‘Without A Clue’!
I love Sherlock Holmes because of his brilliant mind, but also because he is so obviously not a mere ‘brain without a heart’. His humanity is clear in every story, despite the cold, logical fa├žade he tries to present – which itself is such a very human thing to do!
Your novel 'A Study in Regret' has now made its way into the world. How did the premise of this work come  to you?
To answer, we have to travel back in time to the beginning of 2012. I had recently found a certain fanfiction website, and was blown away by not only the sheer quantity, but also the quality of some of it. After reading Discworld for several days straight, I turned on a whim to the Sherlock Holmes section in the hope that it would be just as good... and oh, it was! Some of those authors, I could barely tell the difference between their writing and Doyle’s, and I loved being able to read all those wonderful new adventures. With one particular writer, ‘Aleine Skyfire’ (who is now my best friend and co-author!), I was waiting impatiently for each fresh installment of the Holmes serial she was writing. After reading one chapter in floods of tears, I found myself idly wondering what it would be like for Holmes if Watson hadn’t survived Reichenbach...
The prologue from ‘A Study in Regret’ was the immediate result of that idle thought. It literally poured out of me, I’d never written that fast before in my life, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was crying my own waterfall from start to finish. And that was all it was ever going to be, a one-shot scene. But then before posting it up on my fanfic page, it occurred to me that it would be polite to at least show it to the author who had inspired me to write it, just in case she felt it was too much like her own work. I was astonished by Skyfire’s enthusiastic response: she loved my one-shot, and begged to know what would happen next. By that point, I was curious as well, so I decided to keep writing and see... I never dreamed then that a published novel would be the outcome!
I think my other main reason for the book’s premise was perversity. Sherlockians often opine that the death of Watson would automatically be the death of Holmes, and I wanted to prove that theory wrong, at least in my own head-canon. I felt there needed to be at least one Hiatus story where Holmes could show himself to be Watson’s equal in that regard: eventually pick himself up after the loss of his dearest friend, with the help of his remaining loved ones, and carry on – keep the faith, however much he might dislike that duty at times.
Like myself, you have dabbled with putting Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who together. What prompted you to do this?
Actually, it was Sky’s idea – and when she suggested it, I was over the moon! After all, which of us Doctor Who/Holmes fans hasn’t daydreamed about those two meeting and working together? We’ve had loads of fun since then torturing ourselves and our beloved characters (well, I say ‘our’!). We’re about halfway through the first season, with a second planned for next year. It isn’t all fanfiction, either – we’re also working on our first fantasy novel. One of the main challenges we have in writing together is that I’m in New Zealand, and she’s in the States – two different countries and time zones. Thank God for the internet!
Is there another Holmes novel on the cards?
Oh, yes – quite apart from the sequel to ‘Regret’, I have a separate Holmes novel in progress, set during the 1908 London Olympics. Let’s just say that a retired Holmes and Watson will learn a great deal about a certain English colony...
In general, is your family understanding of your, shall I call them 'obsessions'?
That’s a very good word for it! Mostly yes, although the dirty looks can pile up at the same speed as the laundry and dishes. I have a bad habit of shutting out reality in favour of fiction at the worst possible times – the main reason I write in the dining room, I’m forced to keep a connection with the real world during the day.
When not writing yourself, which writers do you immerse yourself in?
Terry Pratchett – I love his Discworld fantasy series. Georgette Heyer is another favourite, with her lighthearted Regency romances. I have a very large soft spot for children’s books – the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series got me through two bouts of post-natal depression, reading them always makes me feel better about life in general.
If you have such a thing as a typical day, how would it go?
When I get one, I’ll let you know. Seriously, in a house with three adults, five children, and one Cairn terrier, mostly with conflicting schedules, Chaos reigns supreme!
How do you see your writing future?
Much the same as the present, although I do dream of having my own study one day... I would also like to try writing for younger children, which I’m reliably informed takes even more skill than writing for adults. Luckily, I have my own test audience!
You can find Claire's debut novel on Amazon UK, Amazon US. Other links to follow.
Thanks Claire.

Friday 11 October 2013

THE ABYSS: A Journey with Jack The Ripper

The Abyss: A Journey With Jack The Ripper will be published on December 9th! A dark tale as befits the subject. It is a slim volume which details episodes in a fictional Jack The Ripper's life. In addition to this we hear from the five 'canonical' victims in their own words as if they were telling their stories after their murders. There are a few asides to do with Whitechapel life and the 'voices' which inhabit the killer's brain more and more. Fact and fiction in fact and different to anything I have done before, yet I commend it to you. Two excerpts:

A butcher’s in Fulham Broadway needed an assistant, yes, the work was beneath him, but he took it for the money and the sheer joy and exuberance he felt when carving, slicing and cleaving. No artist could have been more enamoured of their brushwork than he was with his butchery skills. The knives became part of him, like an extension of his own arm, cutting through the flesh. And the very smell of the carcasses and the blood, it gave him a pleasure that he had never known before. To the horror of his cousin he would arrive home covered in blood. She may have guessed that he slept in his bloodied apron; if she did she said nothing.

            When he was not working, he paced the streets, covering miles and miles of the city, taking in the sights and sounds, living and breathing them. The city lived for him as an entity of its own; it had an extraordinary heartbeat of love, regret and lives both futile and satisfied. A city which sold itself to all and sundry like a common whore and enticed lovers anew with promises and riches. A city which had no need of sleep for it was continually refreshing itself, re-inventing itself almost, appearing to be all things to all people. Within its walls you could find fortune, you could find wealth or an early grave. The city gave life and snatched it away when you least expected it. He was mesmerised by it, but he was young and the city had yet to deal him the harsh blows it would.
Liz Stride:
I was no stranger to the court mind you, eight times I was up there, drunk and disorderly they said, but what the hell harm was I doing? None to anyone, but me. Your English courts are always slanted against foreigners, you see us as heathens I think. There was a policeman I knew who would point me in the direction of home wherever that might be at the time and send me on my way, but others would drag you off to the cells kicking and screaming. Sometimes when I was released I would go back to Michael, but he was often as drunk as I was. So much for his protective ways. I had a flaming row with him; I forget what it was about, probably money. I had been making some decent money with my charring and cleaning. Not decent money as the likes of you might make, but good enough for me. Rack my brains as I might I don’t know why we argued, it was either money or drink so let’s just say it was one of those shall we? I got out and left him to cool down and headed to the doss house in Flower and Dean Street. On the way I met an old friend and we agreed to meet at the Bricklayers Arms the following evening. He was just a friend I knew from Stepney way although I was sure I had seen him recently in Dorset Street, nothing had gone on between us, but he was a nice enough fellow, good looking and charming. Tried to look my best for him, put on my nicest clothes and then found I had lost my hair brush. Would you believe it? No one at the house would let me borrow theirs. Still, it was windy and wet so I dare say it would have made no difference anyway. We had a few drink at the Bricklayers and he was quite amorous which was odd because he had never been that way with me before. I didn’t object mind. Like I said, he was a nice fellow. When I agreed to go with him if you know what I mean, he said you would say yes to anything and say anything apart from your prayers. Do I need to say my prayers then I replied. Yes Liz I’m afraid you do he said with a smile.
Available to pre-order: Amazon UK  Further links to follow when I have them!!

Thursday 3 October 2013

What news from Lyme?

I hear you ask. And here it is. Completed new novella 'The Abyss' two days ago and dived back in for some fine tuning yesterday. It is a tad dark and certainly different to anything I have done before. For instance there is no place for Holmes and Watson. A mix of fact and fiction told by different voices. An excerpt:
When he was not working, he paced the streets, covering miles and miles of the city, taking in the sights and sounds, living and breathing them. The city lived for him as an entity of its own; it had an extraordinary heartbeat of love, regret and lives both futile and satisfied. A city which sold itself to all and sundry like a common whore and enticed lovers anew with promises and riches. A city which had no need of sleep for it was continually refreshing itself, re-inventing itself almost, appearing to be all things to all people. Within its walls you could find fortune, you could find wealth or an early grave. The city gave life and snatched it away when you least expected it. He was mesmerised by it, but he was young and the city had yet to deal him the harsh blows it would.

            His first lesson would be the simplest of all; don’t get caught. Simple, but for some so difficult to put into practice. And with so many things, he learnt the hard way. Next door to the butcher’s there was a laundry. The businesses shared a common yard. He was often to be found sharing time with some of the laundry employees and occasionally being invited into their canteen. Canteen they called it, but it was one very small room, no bigger than a cloakroom, which seemed to be its chief purpose. He spoke little, but he listened, oh how he listened to them prattle on about their sad little lives.        There were nuggets of gold amongst the conversational dross. I’ll tell you people, I don’t trust no bank, I keeps all of my money under the bed. What money is that Fred; you piss it all up the wall down the pub each night? I’ve got some put by, don’t you worry about that. You’re lucky Fred, I spend what I earn, and look here’s last week’s wages in my pocket. I like to keep my money with me at all times. Which pub do you drink in, Fred? Oh yes I know it. We must have a drink together one night. It’s a fair step from my place mind; still, if I have too much to drink I could always kip at yours eh? These people were so easy, so very easy. He was careless though. A wallet in a coat pocket. A pilfering of a pound note. Daylight, a crowded laundry. He was seen. The Magistrates Court was unduly lenient, he had a story to soften their hearts, that came easily to him too. Still, he had to serve two weeks in prison and his employment at the butcher’s was at an end. On his release he walked to Emily’s, a long enough walk for one weakened by incarceration. Emily and the dashing Captain knew well enough his release date, for his meagre possessions were stacked neatly by the door. Not the stoutest of doors. And Emily’s dresses were not made from the strongest material for his knife cut through them like butter. For many years Emily would recount this story and think herself extremely fortunate not to be at home that day.
Again, in the spirit of being different yesterday I also started a new book, a comic novel set in contemporary Lyme Regis. An excerpt:
The old house had always been known as the ‘old house’ apparently. There were other houses of course, some of them old, some of them even known as the old house, but for the purposes of this story, the old house will be a reference to this old house. The house where Michael Hamilton lived with his wife, Judy and their two daughters, Katy and Annabelle. We find them in the breakfast room, only so designated because they were having their breakfast in it. Yesterday for instance it was the mud-covered boots and dirty, smelly coats room. The day before it was, “Who the hell spilled all this water?” room.
 “Do you think all curses are gypsy’s curses? Is it a requirement recognised by law do you think?” Michael asked of Judy, realising that his daughters, as so often, would have no idea what he was talking about
 “Is this about old Mr Williams again?” Katy sighed.
 “Too right it is. If someone tells you your house is cursed you tend to sit up and take notice.”
 “Didn’t the estate agents mention it?”
“Yes of course, don’t you remember their description of the kitchen; Spacious and fully modernised with its own curse.
“Very funny, Mike. I think if you Google it you will find that curses died out along with the Tudors or the Stuarts.”
“Don’t be too sure. I have told you how my mother was cursed by a gypsy on her very own doorstep.”
 “Not her caravan?” Judy asked, lifting her eyebrows all the way to the soon to be painted ceiling in the spacious, fully modernised kitchen.
 “I was referring to my mother as you well know. She was only twenty-five, not a nice age to be cursed. Especially to be cursed with a violent death. Poor Mum.”
 “Mike, she died last year. She was seventy-six!”
 “Even so, a curse is a curse whether it takes a year or fifty years to work.”
 “I think there are more violent ways to die than in your bed during Today on Radio Four!”
 Judy poured some more orange juice into the jug, nominally for gravy, but happy enough to multi-task. Katy pulled a face and shivered as she took a sip, sometimes the fridge doubled as a freezer.  Mike looked intently at the juice as though he had seen it for the first time.
“Any additives in there Judy? You know how hyper Katy can get. We don’t want her bouncing off the walls do we?”
 Katy, as in response to this, placed one of her fingers into Annabelle’s boiled egg, prompting both a slap and a flood of tears from her sister.
“Katy, what are you doing?” asked her dad.
 “Bouncing off the walls, Daddy.” she squealed.
“My daughter, the comedienne,” mused Michael.
Katy and Annabelle resumed their status, a state resembling sisterly love, temporary of course, but heartfelt for as long as it lasted. This spirit of sibling peace and love could last as short a time as five minutes or as long as a whole week. A week was indeed their personal record aided by various bribes and sweeteners from their exasperated parents. Left to their own devices, three days of relative harmony would be as good as it could possibly get.
“What shall we do today?” asked Judy, “A walk into town? Then onto the beach?”
“The beach, the beach,” the sister’s shouted in another display of sibling harmony, short-lived though it may prove to be.
 “Right then, off you go and get ready while Daddy does the washing-up.”
 “Why does Daddy always wash-up?” asked Annabelle.
“That’s easy,” said her mum, “come here I will whisper it to you, it’s….because I don’t.
 The girls raced upstairs to hopefully don their best behaviour along with their clothes. Their footsteps up above echoed through the old house, the soon to be replaced carpets did nothing to deaden the sound. Only the sound of children dressing can raise the decibel level to that of heavy machinery at work. Two pairs of feet came clomping down the stairs. If racing down stairs ever became an Olympic sport than Katy and Annabelle Hamilton were sure to be future gold medallists. Their coats bore witness to the difficulties in matching button to button-hole, a skill that can take years to master. To be fair, they had mastered the almost mystical art of shoelace tying, a feat that even some adults can have problems with. Not that we are referring to Michael Hamilton here, although he has a fairly unique way of tying laces that causes many an observer to burst into uncontrollable laughter. In vain does he point out that his laces achieve their ultimate aim, that of being tied.
            “Are we all ready?” asked Judy, surreptitiously looking at Michael’s shoelaces and suppressing a giggle. “Right, let’s link arms, best foot forward and let’s sally forth.” (Sally Forth, although no doubt an admirable woman, does not figure again in these pages, so all in all I think it’s best to forget her.)
And I have elected to stand for town council here......will keep you posted on how that goes!!!