Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dana Cameron--Mycroft Holmes and Fangborn World

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It is always such a treat to have the multi-talented author Dana Cameron as one of

our guests on JRW. You know you can count on Dana for something fun and interesting, and when I saw the title of today's post I couldn't wait to read it! So without further ado here is Dana on:

Mycroft Holmes, Spies, and My Fangborn World


Recently, our own Hank Phillippi Ryan mentioned my fascination with all things Sherlockian.  Last week, at the Femmes Fatales blog, I wrote about how I came to write my Sherlockian pastiche story, “The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet, ” and the challenges ofcombining Arthur Conan Doyle's world with my Fangborn urban fantasy 'verse.  Today, I write about spies and Sherlock Holmes's (arguably) smarter brother and how they might fit into my Fangborn universe of heroic werewolves, vampires, and oracles.

 Everyone has a favorite Sherlockian character or story, apart from Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, of course.  I personally am most intrigued by the characters that make the biggest impact, but from the shadows.  For me, that means Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother and a titan in both brains and body.  Sherlock describes him to Watson at first as having a position in the British government but later reveals that “occasionally, [Mycroft] is the British government.”  Mycroft is virtually a human computer and and his specialty is “omniscience.”  Recently, I was honored to be a part of the inaugural meeting of the

Diogenes Club of Washington, D.C., a scion society  devoted to Sherlockian pursuits and named for the private club that Mycroft founded (here I'm sporting my club badge)

My interest in Mycroft also stems from my infatuation with spies and spying. It was the glamorized, mythologized fictions that spoke to me first (most of my Barbie dolls were chemists or spies), but it was a paper I did in high school that sealed the deal from the non-fiction point of view when I wrote about the Special Operations Executive.  The SOE was formed at the request of Winston Churchill in 1940 to spy on and sabotage the Axis powers in Europe; the SOE was the foundation of what would eventually become MI6.  Because of their irregular and “ungentlemanly” tactics—commando skills, criminal techniques, and all-around dirty fighting were their preferred methods—and their headquarters in Baker Street, the SOE referred to themselves as the Baker Street Irregulars.

 They took their name from the original Baker Street Irregulars which, you probably know, were the creation of Arthur Conan Doyle.  Sherlock Holmes needed a covert network of spies to aid his investigations through the mazes of 19th-century London.  He paid homeless children for their information and their ability to move about unseen; they were, sadly, all but invisible in the streets of the capital.  Because of these connections—Mycroft's important role as a clearinghouse of information in the government and the children's use of their criminal skills—other fiction writers have suggested that Mycroft was actually the founder of the British Secret Service and that the “M” of James Bond fame refers to his name and was passed down as a title.

 In my short story, “The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet,” I combine the world of Sherlock Holmes and my own Fangborn world of superhero vampires, werewolves, and oracles.  Their own covert activities—secretly fighting evil and protecting humanity—made that a natural avenue for me to explore while writing about Sherlock's Baker Street Irregulars.  

Mycroft's role in the British government made me wonder what Britain's official stance on the Fangborn would be and his “omniscience” made me wonder what he knew about the hidden history of the Fangborn and their powers.  Finding those connections offered me endless fun mashing up these two worlds.

So, Reds and readers:  who is your favorite Sherlockian character?  Favorite story or adaptation for the screen?

Dana Cameron can't help mixing in a little history into her fiction.  Drawing from her expertise in archaeology, Dana's work (including traditional mystery, noir, urban fantasy, thriller, and historical tales) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her third Fangborn novel, Hellbender, will be published in April 2015 by 47North.  Her most recent Fangborn short story is a Sherlockian pastiche; "The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet" was published in October.  Her story, "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars," featuring Pam Ravenscroft from Charlaine Harris's acclaimed Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, appears in DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse.   Www. danacameron.com

DEBS: Dana, so jealous of the badge!  But LOVE the idea of Mycroft being the originator of M!! You can certainly imagine that Mycroft in Mark Gatiss's portrayal in Sherlock. As for favorite characters, I think mine would have to be Watson as he is written in the original Conan Doyle stories, and as he's played--very true to form, I think, by Martin Freeman in Sherlock.

REDS and readers, what about you?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Philosphy Quiz

DEBORAH CROMBIE: (Tales from the Road, Part 1) 

As some of you may know, I've been on tour for TO DWELL IN DARKNESS for a month now (today I'm waving at you from Baltimore,) and while it hasn't exactly been On the Road, it's been fun and I've had some lovely and interesting--and surprising--experiences. Here's one I thought I'd share with you.

If you're a writer on tour in a bigger city and your publisher is very nice to you, you might have a media escort. A media escort picks you up at airports, gets you settled in your hotel, takes you to your book signings and media interviews and generally takes great care of you. Over the years, getting to know my media escorts, and often seeing them on subsequent tours, has been one of the real treats of touring. And on this tour, something unusual happened.

As one of my media escorts delivered me to the airport, she handed me a bound journal and opened it to a blank page, then gave me a pen. "Write down your life philosophy," she said. "Don't think about it for more than a few seconds, and don't look at the other entries before you do it. Just a sentence or two."

I wrote the first thing that came to mind, added the date and signed my name.

Only then was I allowed to look back through the other entries, and some of them were pretty amazing. I'm still thinking about what I wrote and what I read.

So here's my challenge, dear REDS: Write the first thing that comes into your mind. Don't think about it for more than a minute. Don't read anyone else's entries until you've written your own, and I won't add mine until everyone else has chimed in. It will, I think, be very enlightening to see what we come up with, and to challenge our readers to do the same.

LUCY BURDETTE: Work like a fiend and keep learning. Surround yourself with kind, generous, funny people. And fur-coated creatures. Eat what you love but exercise accordingly. Give as much back as you can afford.

RHYS BOWEN: My life philosophy is actually John's family motto. Inter Utrumque tene--steer a middle course. Everything in moderation--that means bacon on Sundays, a little chocolate, one glass of wine. As I've aged I'd add two other thoughts. Take time to smell the roses and only do what gives you joy.

HALLIE EPHRON: My philosophy - Of course you can. And (can I have two?) What goes around comes around.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You never know. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Money doesn't matter. Not that it isn't very good to have some. But all my best experiences and most worthwhile decisions have happened when I push the concept of money - getting it, keeping it, spending it - to one side.

DEBS:  So what did I write in the book?  Give what you would like to receive. A version of the Golden Rule, I suppose, and of Hallie's "What goes around, comes around," but so interesting what first pops into our heads.
I don't know that I always live up to my motto, but it's a nice reminder to try. And I LOVE all of our philosophies.  

So, readers, what about you? You'll have read ours, but without too much deliberation, give us yours, in a nutshell, and we'll see what gems you have to share.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Poster Child for Persistence: Meet Jack Getze!

LUCY BURDETTE: If anyone thinks getting a book published is a cake walk, I beg you to read this essay by our friend Jack Getze. He's a model of persistence and good humor and we're delighted to welcome him today!

JACK GETZE: No one's called him immortal, but it's easy to imagine my funny-mystery series protagonist as a zombie. Despite being dead and buried in1987, then again in 2008 after a brief revival, my anti-hero stockbroker Austin Carr keeps clawing back from the grave.

Scruffy, naïve, cocky, shady, scumbag, accursed and a hot mess are a few of the terms Goodreads reviewers have used to describe Austin. Obviously, not everyone's glad he's back. Too bad you humorless villains, Austin's first new adventure in six years, Big Mojo, is being published any day now by Down and Out Books.

And guess who gets a share of the blame? Why none other than the Seascape Writers class of 2013, the mighty critique group engineered by Jungle Reds Hallie and Lucy, with a late assist from Hank. I was the only male there. I had my ears pinned back a few times, but a much improved Big Mojo manuscript emerged, a tale without prologue and a story in which scenes got "unpacked." Thanks ladies. If it's a flop, I'm not blaming you.

Austin first appeared in my writing in 1985 --  almost thirty years ago. It was my third winter as a Jersey bond salesman, and writing it all down seemed a good way to make sense of a world where prices, yields and commissions were so important. Our top salesman announced to the floor one day he was doing “big numbers” that month (earning large commissions), and I told my desk buddy, “I’m going to write a novel some day called big numbers. It’s all this business is about.”

I started Austin Carr's first adventure the next morning before dawn, and placed him in an older Jersey town, near but not on, the Jersey Shore. Like Austin, I'd recently moved to such a place from southern California, and Austin's perceptions about Jersey being tougher were very much my own at the time. Probably more perception than truth. And probably more the result of a former newspaperman unexpectedly having to feed his new family on a one-hundred-percent commission sales job.

Luckily for you mystery readers, Austin's strange mindset gave way to more interesting tales I heard from my Jersey co-workers: Men being yanked off fishing boats by giant Bluefin tuna; a stockbroker who married a dying client's rich new widow. That first version of Big Numbers took two years to write and earned a New York agent, but no publishing deal. After a year the agent gave up and Austin Carr was dead. Unlikeable. I stuck him in a drawer and started something else.
Twenty years later (I'm not kidding. TWENTY YEARS!) another agent was working with me on a thriller about a bark-smoking Cahuilla Indian. When this second agent declared the latest version of my Indian tale a total disaster, she suggested I needed to work on something else for a while, clear my head of "whatever you were thinking." After asking what other stories I had in the drawer, she said, "I like the stockbroker."

Something clicked for me this time (2006), an obvious but heartfelt way to make my anti-hero more likeable, and although my agent was thrilled, said very encouraging things, New York still wouldn't bite. After a year of rejection, and at my agent's suggestion, Austin ended up with a small regional publisher.

It's been seven years since the first Austin Carr Mystery Big Numbers was published, six years since the second, Big

 Money, came out. And while the third novel was written, Big Mojo never saw the light of day. My agent planned a move to greener publishing pastures, but we ended up stuck in the mud of a crashing world economy. From 2009 through 2012, nobody would consider our series. "My boss would fire me if a bought a story with a stockbroker protagonist," one editor and friend told us privately.

All that changed in 2013 when Eric Campbell of Down and Out Books agreed to re-ignite the Austin Carr Series. Zombie time. Last year he published new editions of Big Numbers and Big Money, and now Big Mojo will finally see daylight. Woohoo! D&O has some well established writers in the stable, including Robert J. Randisi, Reed Farrel Coleman and Les Edgerton, so I'm thrilled to be included.

Any other writers have a similar experience with a story or character? Tell me how long one of your people festered in a drawer, and three commenters will receive a copy of Big Mojo, Big Numbers or Big Money, either eBook or paperback, their choice of one book.

About Big Mojo: Wall Street's miasmal garbage washes up on the Jersey Shore when a small time broker falls in love: Is he attracted to the beautiful lady -- or her brother's inside information? Held spellbound by an auburn-haired beauty with a get-rich-quick, insider trading scheme, Austin Carr knocks down a beehive of bad-acting Bonacellis, including the ill-tempered "Mr. Vic" Bonacelli, who wants his redhead back, and local mob lieutenant Angelina "Mama Bones" Bonacelli, architect of a strange death trap for the fast-talking stockbroker she calls smarty pants. To survive, Austin must unravel threads of jealousy, revenge and new affections, discover the fate of a pseudo ruby called the Big Mojo and slam the lid on a pending United States of America vs. Austin Carr insider trading case. Can Austin and his Jersey Shore mouthpiece possibly out maneuver the savvy U.S. District Attorney from Manhattan? Will anything matter for Austin ever again if Mama Bones flips that switch?

Find Jack on his blog, or Goodreads, or Amazon

Jack's Bio: A former reporter for both the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Jack Getze is Fiction Editor for Anthony nominated Spinetingler Magazine, one of the internet's oldest websites for noir, crime, and horror short stories. His Austin Carr Mysteries BIG NUMBERS and BIG MONEY were re-issued by Down and Out Books in 2013, with BIG MOJO due in 2014 and BIG SHOES in 2015. His short stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, The Big Adios and Passages.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's it like when your book becomes a movie? Um, strange #DeborahDonnelly

LUCY BURDETTE: Deborah Donnelly was one of my first writing pals--and I miss her and her quirky wedding planner mysteries. So I was delighted to hear that her first-ever book has been made into a movie--and I begged her to tell us about it...

DEBORAH DONNELLY: Veiled Threats, the first title in my Wedding Planner Mysteries, is going to air on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on October 19. I’m thrilled - no surprise there. The surprise, at least to me, is what a long strange trip it was from page to screen.

Back in 2005, a cousin of mine gave Veiled Threats to a buddy of his, an independent film producer. I say that as though I know what "independent film producer" means. I don't, not exactly. But I was delighted overjoyed ecstatic to get that first phone call from the producer, and waited eagerly for the option to be negotiated and the check to arrive. 

I waited until 2007.

But was I ever happy to get that check! And happy every year thereafter, as the option was renewed again and yet again and yet again. There were nibbles from a studio here and there, there was a tug on the line every once in a while, but mostly the years just went by. Then at last came a plot twist: Hallmark was interested. Interested enough to make a movie? Well no, not yet. But willing to talk about it.

That was in 2012. Are you doing the math here?

From time to time over the next eternity, I'd get a bulletin from my agent. The talks with Hallmark were "continuing." Then they were "promising." At one heady moment the talks were even "advanced." Mostly, the talks were slowwwwww.

Then suddenly the talking stopped and, oh joy oh rapture, a screenwriter was hired. Was I consulted about the script? Do I look like J.K. Rowling? I went back to waiting.


Finally, early in 2014, filming began with Vancouver B.C. standing in for Seattle. I was not invited. But I was paid. Not quit-your-job money, but not nothing. Plus I had the exquisite experience of going online and seeing my very own character, wedding planner Carnegie Kincaid, heading up a cast list on IMDb.

Carnegie, who I invented out of my own head, right there on IMDb! And there was my smoldering attorney Holt, and my irrepressible reporter Aaron, and…


Whoa, wait just a darn minute. Aaron is supposed to be shorter than Carnegie, that’s part of the comedy in my romantic comedy/mystery. So how come the actor playing him (second from left) is four inches taller than Erica Durance, who’s playing her?

And what’s this guy Switchblade doing on the cast list? I never wrote a character named Switchblade. And where’s the fan favorite Boris the Mad Russian Florist? And don’t tell me they’re really going to call the movie “Wedding Planner Mystery.” I thought that was a placeholder, not the actual title!

Aha. Now the realities of TV movie-making were starting to sink in. They get to call it what they want. This is not a film OF my book, it’s a Hallmark movie based ON my book. So a photo shoot on the slopes of Mount Rainier was probably a no-go. Not to mention that underwater sequence beneath Carnegie’s houseboat. And of course they couldn't jam all the subplots into a single movie. As for my not-especially-graphic sex scenes, well, this is Hallmark, after all.

So. Let’s just say that having one’s 350-page book transformed into a lower-budget, two-hour, family-friendly movie is a lesson in patience, gratitude, and acceptance. I’ve been ever so patient. I’m exceedingly grateful. And on October 19 at 9 pm Eastern, 8 pm Central, I’m going to switch on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and settle down with a bowl of popcorn, heavily seasoned with acceptance. I hope you’ll join me.

Deborah Donnelly is the author of Veiled Threats, Died to Match, May the Best May Die, Death Takes a Honeymoon, You May Now Kill the Bride, and Bride and Doom. Read sample chapters on her website and more about the movie here.

And PS from Deborah: Good news! The Hallmark movie's in the New York Times. Not such good news! They don't look upon it any too favorably. Now I'll admit, they have a point about the chirpy perkiness and the perky chirpiness. But better that than the criticism leveled at the other movie mentioned. "Humorless gore"? Bleahh. Anyway, all publicity is good publicity, right? 

Breaking news: Kathy Reel is the lucky winner of FAIL by Rick Skwiot! Shoot me an email lucyburdette at gmail dot com and we'll arrange the drop!