221b Con Book Club!

Book Cover Final

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that 221b Con, the Holmes-themed convention happening April 10th-12th in Atlanta, Georgia, has selected my first Sherlock Holmes novel, The Detective and The Woman, as their official book club selection. I’ll be on hand at the con to lead a discussion about the book. Until then, MX Publishing is offering 20% off any of my books at mxpublishing.com using the coupon code 221bamy

For more information about the convention, check out 221bcon.com

Pastiche vs. Fanfiction

The debate that wouldn’t die.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece laying out my viewpoint that pastiche is anything Sherlock Holmes-themed that is faithful to Doyle’s characters. Since then, my opinion has evolved and changed. I’m going to re-articulate it.

Just today, I hear of Sherlock published this piece, which does a great job of explaining the viewpoint that pastiche should be a word reserved only for works that directly imitate Doyle’s storytelling style. (By that definition, as a reader and book reviewer, I personally prefer Holmes-themed works that are not pastiche about a million times more than most of those that are, but that’s a topic for another time.)

I don’t have a massive quarrel with IHOSE’s definition–technically. The problem is, words are not used in a vacuum, especially not in fandom. Somebody has to decide which works are “enough like Doyle” or “trying hard enough to be like Doyle” or “traditional enough” to warrant the word. Works that “fail” someone’s subjective test are, all-too-often, relegated to second-class status: In other words, fanfiction. This is the ugly little secret, and I’ve been seeing it happen ever since I entered the Sherlock Holmes world as an adult.

Let’s make one thing crystal clear. All pastiche is fanfiction. Breathe into a paper bag and repeat: All pastiche is fanfiction. Anything written by a fan of something, inspired by that something, is, by definition, fanfiction. There is nothing inherently negative, suggestive of low quality, or second class about fanfiction. It’s been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Fanfiction is a perfectly good word, and pastiche, however you choose to define it, is a perfectly good word. The problem is, human beings have a nasty habit of taking perfectly good words and giving them very problematic contexts, contexts meant to exclude and shame others.

This is what I’ve seen happen over and over with the pastiche vs. fanfiction issue. (To be clear, I am not saying everyone who espouses the use of the word “pastiche” is prejudiced or intolerant. Many are lovely. However, the culture of exclusion around the term is one I’ve observed repeatedly for years.)

Fandom context means that pastiche, as much as we’d like it to be, isn’t just a technical term for a type of fanfiction. All too often, it’s an in-word, a word used to describe what some consider to be the only “right” way to express creativity in the Sherlock Holmes world. Sure, there’s a catchall category for what those “other people” (often times young people, people of different gender, millennials, people of the Internet generation) create, but it’s not high and mighty pastiche. That word is only for the works of correct people, who write what they’re supposed to write.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. If I had my druthers, we’d call it all fanfiction and stop acting like “fan” and “fandom” are only words that apply to new enthusiasts, instead of being really broad words that have open arms to welcome all who are enthusiastic about something, regardless of age or duration of interest or any other factor.

Some of us write fanfiction that is published and sold. Others of us write fanfiction that we kindly share with the world free of charge. Still others write fanfiction that is only for our own eyes and enjoyment. It’s all creative. It’s all part of the Holmesian experience, and none of it deserves to be categorically excluded. (Of course we all have opinions about what we prefer or what is better and worse, but that has to do with personal taste and preference, not excluding entire categories of creativity because they don’t fit our mold.)

I know it’s not going to happen. Pastiche is not going to disappear as a word, and I’ll probably still use it in certain contexts, even though I wish fanfiction would suffice. But honestly? Please form your own opinion. This post is not intended to feed into the idea that there’s one right way to think about fandom concepts or a correct way to be creative.

If someone says to you, with that trademark disdain in their voice, “That’s not pastiche; that’s fanfiction,” smile at them and say, “Thank you. That’s an amazing compliment.” Because it is. Fanfiction is awesome, and when you create it, you’re awesome too.

How to purchase my novels of Sherlock Holmes:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Holmes: An Open Letter

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TO: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

221b Baker Street

London, England

Dear Mr. Holmes,

As an avowed part of your adoring public, it has come to my attention that today marks your birthday. It is no secret that you are not particularly fond of marking the day, which is understandable. I doubt I would be overly excited to be one hundred sixty-one either.

I wonder how you will celebrate. Drinks at the pub? A trip to the moors? Viewing The Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes with your brother? Or perhaps a quiet day with Mary Russell, who, I hear tell, shares your penchant for immortality.

I think, really, you’ll probably play chess today with the old specter who haunts Baker Street. No one much minds him any more. We live in an age when ghosts are nostalgic remnants of a bygone time. He will walk up the seventeen steps and greet you as an old enemy—after a hundred years, do old enemies become friends?—and the two of you will sit down with kings and pawns between you, remembering the days when the city was your battleground.

We who form your public are fond of saying that it’s always 1895 in your world, but that’s not quite true, is it? That illusion is for us, for those who would escape into the pages of your friend’s embellished words. But you live beyond those pages, and that year cannot define you.

Sometimes we writers try to make you immortal through logical means. We invent serums and spells and incantations, but all we really need are our words and our imaginations. You live in every year when we envision you there; you take any form our narratives can construct; and you live forever because nothing can die that is remembered.

I’m quite sure you find immortality absurd, but lest you deny the power of the words we give you, let me whisper “Norbury” in your ear. You were once a man alone; you became an ink drawing colored in by the softening lines of friendship. You met the world through the pen of another.

You are still meeting that world the same way. Dr. Watson is also immortal, you know, only today he wears more faces than your disguises ever created. He looks out through the laughing eyes of my rainbow-haired friend. He has thousands of Tumblr followers. He works days at an employment agency, and at night his fingers ache from penning the words he can’t keep inside. He rides public transportation, earbuds blasting heavy metal into his brain, journaling the outline of his next story. He’s a university lecturer who narrates your tales to freshmen purely for love of telling them.

Millions mark your birthday—in apartments, pubs, libraries, and schools. After all, who better to celebrate your day than the ones who love you most of all? For being one of the most seemingly aloof men of literature, you certainly played a masterful trick, Mr. Holmes. You made the whole world your closest friend, and in so doing, you made yourself live forever.

Many happy returns to you and to us.

——–

How to purchase my novels of Sherlock Holmes:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Sherlockian Gift Guide

It’s that time of year, when we’re all scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gifts for family and friends. Here are a few of my recommendations for the Sherlockians in your life.

1) Gifts for Readers:

A Scandal in Bohemia by Petr Kopl

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I reviewed this astonishingly beautiful graphic novel here. It’s gorgeously illustrated, well written, and would be a treasured gift for any Sherlockian, particularly those who enjoy Holmesian visual artwork.

How to purchase:

Scandal In Bohemia is available through all good bookstores including Book Depository (free shipping worldwide), Amazon USA, and Amazon UK.

Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri

Jewel of the Thames

I reviewed this well-written book here. Jewel is not a direct pastiche. It’s a Holmes-inspired collection of mysteries starring a new detective named Portia Adams.It’s clever, entertaining, and a truly stunning debut by the author. It’s likely to please Sherlockians whose love of mysteries extends to the wider world of detective fiction.

Purchase it in hard copy or e-book here

The Detective and The Woman series by Amy Thomas

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My series features Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler as they take on cases in Florida, on the Sussex Downs, and in Metropolitan London. Each book stands alone, but as a trilogy, they tell the story of a slowly-forming partnership between two strong-minded, intelligent characters who begin as enemies and work toward friendship. Many Holmesians of various ages have enjoyed the series so far, and it would make an enjoyable gift for the Sherlockian readers in your life.

How to purchase:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

2) Gifts for Creatives:

Sherlock Holmes book scarf. Get it here

Book Scarf

221B Journal. Get it here

221B Journal

Sherlock Holmes Detective Stamp Set. Get it here

Stamp Set

3) Gifts for the SherLocked:

Sherlock Limited Edition Gift Set. Get it here

Box Set

Holmes and Watson Friendship Rings. Get them here

Rings

221B Wallpaper T-shirt. Get it here

T-shirt

Graphic Novel Review: A Scandal in Bohemia by Petr Kopl

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My first exposure to this book was hearing that it had been voted Graphic Novel of the Year in 2013 in the Czech Republic for its original version. Now that I have my hands on the English translation, I can absolutely understand why.

First, the English translation is fully competent. Had I not known it was a translation, I doubt I’d have realized it. I didn’t find it in any sense distracting.

Second, and most important to me as a reader, is that this isn’t just a retelling of Sherlock Holmes stories that someone slapped illustrations onto. I have seen graphic novels like that, and I do not appreciate them. A well-crafted graphic novel is not the same thing as a traditional book. It’s an art form of its own, and when it works, it’s transcendent.

This book works. The artistic style is detailed, beautiful, and suited to the material. At times, it’s humorous and charming, but ultimately, it furthers the story in a dynamic way, as  it should.

The Holmesian stories (not just “A Scandal in Bohemia,” but others as well) are told in a surprisingly complex and engaging way, proving that a medium many do not associate with Holmes can do more than justice to the material.

The bottom line: This is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read, and it deserves the accolades it’s received. As the holidays approach, this book would be a fantastic gift or stocking stuffer for any keen Sherlockian.

Scandal In Bohemia is available through all good bookstores including Book Depository (free shipping worldwide), Amazon USA, and Amazon UK.

_________________________________________________________________________

A copy of the above-reviewed work was provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

How to get my newest book:

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

How to get the previous two books in the series:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

In Praise of Mary Russell

She’s the heroine of the Holmes novels by Laurie R. King. She’s been one of my role models since I was a teenager. Also, move over Poppins, because she’s practically perfect in every way. If you have yet to meet Mary, either run immediately to your local bookstore or click your mouse over to Amazon and nab The Beekeeper’s Apprentice immediately.

Want to learn more? My fellow Baker Street Babe Ardy wrote this awesome post about her and why she rocks our Sherlockian socks off.

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This amazing sketch of Mary is an original, gifted to me by the insanely talented Chris Schweizer. Learn more about him and his art here.

Finally, a personal statement on what Mary means to me and to my career as a writer, excerpted from a longer essay:

One gift Russell gave me is something I can barely put into words because it’s changed my life so hugely. In 2011, something in me urged me to give NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a try. I was unsure of what to write about, and my interest in Sherlock Holmes pointed me toward pastiche, but it was Mary Russell who gave me the courage to try. Her existence made me believe I could actually write a full-length, complete novel about Sherlock Holmes with a feminist twist—Irene Adler was as much of a main character as Holmes. I finished, and, much to my surprise, my novel The Detective and The Woman was picked up for publication soon after. My two subsequent novels starring Adler and Holmes were published in 2013 and 2014. I have no doubt that Mary Russell is a major part of the reason I’m a published, vocational author today, a blessing so big I can’t quantify it.

Mary Russell taught an awkward teenager to dream, a young woman to endure, and an adult to embrace creativity and take up the vocation I’m meant to inhabit. She has been my companion, my role model, and my escape. She’s accompanied me through every challenge, and her strength has become part of who I am. I will be forever grateful for the privilege of knowing her.

____________________________________________________________________________

How to get my newest book:

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

How to get the previous two books in the series:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

Date A Girl Who’s Sarcastic: A Parody

A while ago, there circulated two very beautiful pieces titled, “Date a Girl Who Reads” and “Date a Girl Who Writes.” In order to understand the following parody, at least take a look at “Date a Girl Who Reads” by Rosemary Urquico, but the other piece, by Tanza Loudenback, is also excellent, and I owe a huge writing debt to both.

Still, just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean my somewhat warped sense of humor ceases to function, and something about the flowers, kittens, and rainbows in the above pieces kind of broke my brain. As a result, it is my pleasure to present to you:

Date a Girl Who’s Sarcastic

You should date a girl who’s sarcastic.

Date a girl who’s sarcastic. Date a girl who spends her time reading demotivational posters, who can’t wait to share the Hugh-Manatee meme with you. Date a girl who shares puns just to annoy the people who hate them.

Find a girl who’s sarcastic. You’ll know she’s sarcastic because half the time, you won’t be able to tell if she’s serious or not. She’s the one lovingly poring over episodes of “Parks and Recreation” to find the perfect April Ludgate quote to put in someone’s birthday card, the one who quietly cries out in triumph when she decides on a Ron Swanson instead. You see that weird chick watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the fiftieth time? That’s the sarcastic one. They can never resist Monty Python, particularly the part about The Knights Who Say Ni.

She’s the girl using her camera phone to post a picture of the misspelled coffee shop sign across the street.  If you take a peek at her mug, there is no latte art. She hates latte art. Sit down. She will glare at you. There is no “might.”

Do not buy her a cup of coffee. She prefers tea.

Let her know what you really think of “What’s Up, Doc.” See if she remembers that “Love Story” parody line at the end. Understand that if she says she likes “Airplane,” it’s only for the wittiest lines. Ask her if she loves Dwight Schrute or would like to be Dwight Schrute.

It’s easy to date a girl who’s sarcastic. Give her seasons of “MASH” for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of irony, in poetry, song, and preferably polka. Give her Thurber, Fry, Laurie, Izzard. Let her know that you understand that snark is love. Understand that she knows the difference between sarcasm and outright derision, but she’s going to try to make her life as ironic as possible. It will totally be your fault if she does.

She has to roll her eyes somehow.

Do not lie to her. If she understands sarcasm, she will know you’re lying and laugh at you for it. Loudly. Behind words are, often, idiots.  It will not be the end of the world, but it will probably be the end of your relationship.

Fail her, but do so in an entertaining way. Because a girl who’s sarcastic can overlook a lot as long as it’s charmingly absurd. Because sarcastic girls know that all things must come to an end, but at least let it be a funny end.

You should be very frightened of taking yourself at all seriously. Girls who are sarcastic will end you with their wits. They have already thought of 3,000 ways to murder Edward Cullen in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who’s sarcastic, keep her close. When you find her up at 2am, guffawing over “News of the Weird,” hold her close enough to see what’s on her computer screen so you can laugh too. As long as you can keep up, nobody’s losing anything, except some strangers who have already lost their dignity.

You will propose at a restaurant, like a normal person. Or you will make your proposal look like a divorce, like they did in that one “Portlandia” episode that’s her favorite.

You will laugh so hard you worry for your cardiac health.  You will have extremely clever and ironic children who scare their classmates. She will introduce your children to Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, maybe in the same day. You will gigglesnort your way through old age, and she will recite “My Family and Other Animals” under her breath while you try to clear the ice off your deadlocked car.

Date a girl who’s sarcastic because your ego needs to be brought down a peg. You deserve a girl who sees the irony in everything. If you can only give her seriousness and normalcy, she’s better off alone.  If you want the absurd and the more absurd, date a girl who’s sarcastic.

Or better yet, leave her alone. She’s already having way too much fun being single.