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UPDATE…Sent out the winners’ copies in Goodreads Giveaway…

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So I went to the post office today to send out the copies to the Goodreads winners. One of the winners is in Australia and the postage was more than the book costs. I hope the winner enjoys it.

SH&RTNofWV Front cover

GOODREADS Giveaway is over!

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Thanks to everyone who entered the Goodreads Giveaway for my latest novel, “Sherlock Holmes and the Return of the Whitechapel Vampire”. Over 2100 people entered and I will be mailing out the winners’ autographed copies tomorrow.

Congratulations SAMANTHA and MARIE!! Don’t forget to write a review as soon as you have read the books!

The invitation goes for anyone who has read my work to review it — either on Goodreads or on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble.

What’s that comma for?

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Although I’m not certain what the source was, I created this handy-dandy little checklist for comma usage early on in my writing career. I still use it from time to time, although more a gentle reminder than as a check_list. I hope you will find it useful too.

Comma usage blog

As an aid in using this checklist, I’m also including definitions of some of the terms used above. No offense implied should you already be familiar.

Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses: An adjective clause is restrictive when it limits the thing it refers to and is therefore essential to the sentence. Example: The store accepted returns that were less than sixty days old. If an adjective clause adds non-essential or extra information it is non-restrictive and should use a comma followed by which to introduce it. Example: Julia’s scarf, which was purchased three months ago, was not accepted as a return.

Introductory dependent clause: A group of words including a verb and a subject but does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone, which introduces a sentence. Example: When I worry, I eat.

Example of non-restrictive clause in the middle of a sentence: The book, which was on the table, was on fire.

Appositive: A noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. Example: His hat, a billycock, was askew. His girlfriend, a short girl with flaming red hair, sat down beside him.

Parentheticals: A parenthetical is a statement or reference that is incidental and could be properly enclosed within parentheses (hence the name). Example: Parentheticals, for example, require commas.

Transitionals: Words and phrases used to connect one idea with the next. Example: The fingertips contain numerous nerve endings. To illustrate, pick up that branding iron.

Conjunction: A word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause. Example: In his pocket he had a coin, a ring, and a piece of twine.

Independent clause: A clause (group of words consisting of at least a noun and a verb) that can stand alone as a simple sentence. Example: His car started smoothly and he took off for home.

My evolution in outlining…

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Because I am not the most methodical of creatures, I often struggle with organization when writing a novel. I’ve used outlines, pictographs, spreadsheets, and mind maps. None of these has been completely satisfactory to me. So, I thought I would offer up to anyone interested in writing, some of the ways I’ve combined the usage of a few of these methods.
First off, I like an outline. It helps me understand the order of things including where they are and where they should be. Here is an example of my first outline for “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire”

WV Outline Ver 5 0 (2)

Obviously this is a Word document and as such has its limitations, particularly when the structure of the story changes to any degree. When I started to write “Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers” I decided I needed something a bit more dynamic, and so I attempted to use a spreadsheet form of outline

SprdshtOutline

But this two was overly cumbersome when scenes or chapters needed to be rearranged. Then I discovered an inexpensive program that helps deal with these details. Again, I have to thank Jane Friedman for introducing me to it. It’s called Scribner, and here is a screen shot of it that shows some of the features.

Scribner

What I like best about it is that I can take entire scenes or chapters and move them around at will. Also, if you are using it to actually write your work, its intended use, you can capture references, web sites, pictures, other files, etc., and have instant access to them from within the program. This is a colossal time saver, especially in the beginning when you are doing a lot of research.
So, across three novels, I’ve gone from a Word outline document, to an excel file outline to a specialized software application, all because my mind is less organized than a bowl of soup. I’m not promoting any of these methods, but each does have its advantages and disadvantages. I expect in my next novel, I will adapt the way I use these today into something different for the next book. Someday, perhaps, I’ll hit upon the perfect solution. I wonder if I’ll share it with the world, or keep it to myself. Hmmmmm…

WHODUNIT?: THE UNIVERSE IS DYING (SPOILER ALERT: DARK MATTER)

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Recently I read an article saying scientists last year published data that the universe is dying. Don’t panic, apparently it’s been dying for the last 10 billion years and will continue to die for trillions more. So this isn’t the news that grabbed my attention.

DarkMatterMap

What I found more fascinating than a dying universe was the postulation that dark energy was causing the expansion of this dying universe to speed up. And that dark matter is a substance that keeps our own galaxy from flying apart. These ideas seem to me to be counter-intuitive, but then they were predicted by no less an Einstein than Einstein, so who am I to doubt?
Anyway, this got me thinking about how in almost every culture, every genre, every folk tale, darkness is equated with evil. And then to find out that dark energy is speeding up the demise of the universe is to me, quite shocking and a bit revelatory. I mean, it tends to imply that we have an innate sense of the universe and the place of darkness within it. So, rather than saying that evil is negative energy, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that evil is possessed of dark energy.

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This gives thought perhaps to having an evil genius or race of aliens who use dark energy in ways we use (should we call it) light energy, with the theme of Good vs Evil becoming an actual battle between darkness and light for the very life of the universe.

It was just a thought.

Chapter 1, Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire

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Today’s post is about the first chapter in SHERLOCK HOLMES and the WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE, my first novel.

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This novel was initially titled “The WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE” and was begun not as a Sherlock Holmes mystery (which some might have guessed who have read it) but as an apologist for Jack the Ripper, the reasoning being that in the Victorian era, it would be less a crime, perhaps, for a vampire, who was unable to cease being a vampire, to act on his instincts and murder the least of humanity. In that way, he might, and indeed in the story did, rationalize his actions as being somewhat humanitarian, even if the acts were performed by someone who wasn’t exactly human.

It reminds me a bit of a tee-shirt I saw recently, where a would-be victim was protesting to a bear who wanted to eat him, “But I’m a vegetarian!”, to which the bear replied, “I guess that makes me a humanitarian.”

At any rate, my method was to try and show this vampire as a somewhat sympathetic creature trapped by a cruel fate, which he did not choose. I also wanted to show, over the course of the three novels, how the events and how they unfolded changed the vampire, that even after six hundred years of existence he could grow and change from a singular predator, as you will see in the first chapter, to something more by the end of the series. I hope the reader would agree. So here, with my comments bracketed [author comments] thusly, is Chapter 1, Fresh Hope (yes, this is a play on Star Wars, Chapter IV, A New Hope…please don’t tell Disney, or George Lucas):

June 30, 1888
[dates are very important in the first novel as I tried to remain very true to the actual dates of the Ripper murders and all dates support that effort]

Her arm dangled as he lifted her from the bed. A single drop of blood remained on her still warm pillow, a silent witness to her last moments. Cradling her body, he carried Marguerite from her room above Le Chat Noir down the back stairway to his awaiting coach. Mademoiselle Dubois, he knew, would not be missed for several hours. To avoid discovery he would deposit the young prostitute’s remains in the one place he knew she would not immediately be found, the Seine River.

Running through the center of Paris, the Seine was ideal. Not only was it a convenient receptacle that would not immediately give up its secrets, but it would also corrupt her body to beneficial effect disguising the true nature of her attacker.

The blood he’d so recently ingested would sustain Baron Antonio Barlucci during the long trip back to his villa outside Milan. It was from there he administered his affairs as one of the wealthiest financiers in Europe, known internationally as the Pope’s banker. But before leaving Paris, he directed his driver to the Academy of Science where a young American doctor was about to give a lecture that piqued the baron’s curiosity.

[a driver, one might ask? What would entice a man to aid and abet a vampire? This will become clear, at a later time.]

His carriage ambled along Le Quai du Tuleries, the clacking of the horse’s hooves against the cobblestones clinging to the humid night air. Movement near the water’s edge caught the baron’s eye; he watched as two policemen, their trousers rolled up their legs, worked to pull a body from the river. “Mon dieu!” The cry echoed up from the river giving it a disembodied quality, “She’s like the others.”

The coach passed a police wagon parked near the water. Two detectives stood beneath a gas lamp. A second voice, addressing the detectives, called out, “Her throat’s been cut nearly through.”

Settling back in his coach the baron smiled, confident his latest victim would not be found till he was well on his way back to his villa.

This centuries’ long game of fox and geese he played with legal authorities across Europe was one he could not afford to lose. At the dawn of his affliction, eluding even crude law enforcement agencies proved a challenge. As time wore on, the agencies became more adept, but fortunately they lacked the sophistication to effectively incorporate lessons learned the way the baron could. His intellect and patient observation allowed him to stay two steps ahead of detection. The immense fortune he amassed down through the centuries, further insulated him from suspicion. One advantage of being a vampire in this modern age was the reluctance of law enforcement to believe in him. Tonight as he watched the detectives and police officers discover the refuse of his appetites, he knew not only would he not be held accountable, but also his involvement would never be suspected.

When he arrived at his destination, he strode unnoticed into the lecture hall. The baron’s fashionable but modest dress allowed him to blend seamlessly into the elite assemblage of Europe’s scientific community. With dispassion he took his place in the rear of the hall.

Curious but cynical, the baron watched and listened to the charismatic speaker at the lectern deliver his discourse titled “Dispelling Folk Lore with Science”. As the young doctor spoke, describing his methods and the success he’d achieved on the Dark Continent with a variety of blood disorders, the baron’s interest became more acute—an interest soon to have a crucial influence over both their destinies.

[this, then, becomes the baron’s inciting moment, where he begins to hatch a plan that will at last free him from the agony of being a vampire. Far from being a creature lusting for the blood of his human victims, the baron yearns to be free of what he has come to see as a dualism, both human and monster, with the monster being the blood lust within.]

With every word, the baron became increasingly convinced that this was the young man for whom he’d been waiting. As he watched, he thought about how patient he’d been for this moment to arrive. He thought back to his awakening in the early thirteenth century when the Inquisition would have burned one such as he at the stake. Unaware at the time just how long this curse would last, he watched as the world around him marched forward with inexorable sluggishness. He watched and waited as the world crept from the dull nescience of the dark ages, through the renaissance of enlightenment, and ultimately into the modern industrial age. Finally after six centuries, it appeared science had freed itself from superstition, attaining the dimension necessary to liberate him from the burden he’d so long carried.

[Science is the cure for ignorance; a theme throughout the novel]

The baron exited the hall with guarded exuberance before the lecture was over. The journey back to his villa in Milan was a long one and he was anxious to return. He would need time, time and research, in order to put into action the plan now formulating in his mind. As he climbed into the back of his coach, he had his driver stop in the middle of the deserted Pont Neuf on his way out of Paris, one final bit of business to tend to.

[Though no mention is made of this, Pont Neuf is the bridge over the Seine that crosses the western tip of the Ile de le Cite, where Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Templar Knights was burned to death.]

The overcast Parisian sky conspired to conceal his actions as the baron removed the lifeless body of Marguerite from her temporary crypt. Effortlessly he carried her to the edge of the bridge. Without ceremony he lifted her over the stone railing. Pausing only long enough to ensure no one would see or hear he relaxed his grip, allowing her body to slip into the black water of the Seine. His dark business concluded the baron retired to the back of his coach for the journey home.

[Contrast his callous disposal of Marguerite with the gentle manner in which he removed her from her bed—man or monster?]

 

This first chapter is short, but does two things quite well. It shows a vampire who can be cold and callous with his victim, and holds out the hope of a flicker of humanity still burning within his breast.

Paths to Publishing…

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When I decided to re-boot this blog, one of the things I wanted to accomplish is to bring together some of the articles and blogs that I’ve found especially useful. But I didn’t want to just post other bloggers’ stuff. Even though I would naturally give credit where credit was due, I felt that would be plagiarizing, so I’ve decided that if I use another blogger’s graphics or articles, I would request permission to do so as well as link to the original article in their blog. I feel in doing this I’m being as ethical as I can possibly be.
And I’m thrilled that this first graphic is from a blogger I have the utmost respect for, Jane Friedman. I’ve been a fan of Jane’s blog since I started down this road and one of the most interesting graphics I’ve seen was one Jane developed that shows where on the publishing continuum a writer exists. I was actually surprised to find that I was to the left, graphically speaking, of the self-published authors.

Jane graciously has granted me permission to reprint her graphic, showing the Key Book Publishing Paths, in my blog. You can find the original article on Jane’s blog, here. I had planned to have the graphic only, but it apparently is not of high enough resolution to read as a jpeg, so I’ve decided to show the low-res graphic and provide the PDF of the graphic. I found it to be very interesting.

The Key Book Publishing Paths by Jane Friedman

 KeyPathsPublishing

Also, you may find Jane’s book, Publishing 101, an interesting read. I know I did.

 Next week I plan to post the first chapter of “SHERLOCK HOLMES and the WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE” with commentary. Don’t miss it!! Tell your friends!!! Buy the book!!!!

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