Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Breakfast at Whistlecreig

I haven't really given you a broad piece of Vivi & Farnham to digest since first announcing Anon, Sir, Anon. I suppose you will be wanting chunks now and then like I've done with all the rest of my stories. Here's the thing: I'm not certain how much I'll be able to share (as far as large pieces) once the mystery gets rolling. You can never be over-careful with those things. This bit, however, is the perfect way to introduce you to two of my principle characters and their personalities, ways they interact with other people, etc. Also, it gives you to the tone of my novel which is decidedly cozy-Wodehousian-with-a-bit-of-dry-Christie-for-good-measure. It is going to be serious in parts, but the overall tone is what you see below. Enjoy this relaxed me to write it. Oh. And to reward you for your patience in reading all the way through (and for any comments/critiques you might want to provide afterward) I present you with two sketches of Vivi & Farnham. They are probably not good likenesses of my people, and they're not very good sketches at any rate, but they are inspirational to me and that's why I made them.

Farnham watched his niece at the stove, fascinated at the way she appeared to have taken up residence in the kitchen. He’d always heard that women transform a home but he’d never liked the idea. Now, however, it appeared that “transformation” meant much in the way of well-cooked food, dustless furniture and someone to talk to, not--as his fellow bachelors were fond of saying--dumping a chap on his head, tossing his cigar boxes, and snipping his curtains to fashionable shreds.
Genevieve wasn’t a pretty girl--her mouth was too small and her nose too snub. Farnham knew that but somehow as he watched his niece moving through the motions of making breakfast without a hint of the sense of imminent crisis with which he cooked, he thought he’d at last found a woman who didn’t set him on edge.
But, “See that you don’t burn the rashers,” was the only compliment he dished out.
Genevieve took up a fork and turned the bacon in the pan till it gave a maddened sizzle. “There’s no worry it’ll burn--it is all fat and no meat. Where do you buy your bacon?”
“I shall buy it at Hilton’s from now on.”
“Their pigs look happier.”
Farnham didn’t have an argument for this - he’d wouldn’t know what a happy pig looked like. “Are you my housekeeper now?”
“Someone has to do it, dear.”
He resented this Mab for calling him “dear” in that motherly tone. “I have Allen for that.”
“Allen is a butler.” She smiled that curious smile of hers where the left side of her mouth quirked upward and removed a tray of puddings from the oven. “And butlers resent housework.”
“He’s never complained.”
“They never do, but they retaliate in a million different ways. I know, dear, I took over household decisions for Mama on my twenty-third birthday. Ours invariably rubbed Father’s black shoes with brown polish until we discovered that he’d been made to cook muffins for breakfast every Thursday. Put him right off his tea and the inner peace of the household was intricately bungled till I figured out where things had gone awry..”
The smell of the frying bacon and hot puddings knotted Farnham’s stomach, but from hunger or those bang ulcers he couldn’t tell; the thought of eating meat turned his stomach to a hotbed of pain. “I don’t think I can manage bacon this morning.”
“Heavens no. This is for me.” Genevieve forked the crispy rashers onto her plate and lifted a pudding from its tin bed, settling it beside two fried eggs.
Farnham resented girls with healthy appetites. “Where’s mine?”
She nodded at the stove. “Just there. I’ll fix it for you in a tick.”
“Can’t I have a pudding?”
“Not with your ‘bang ulcers’. Yes, you’ve been speaking aloud. I’m putting you on a strict diet of porridge and camomile tea with perhaps a bit of scone if you’re quite an angel.”
He drew himself up. “Farnham of Whistlecreig is never an angel.”
“Then you’ll have to do without scones.”
“Bang it.”
“Now about this murder.”
“Yes, I was wondering when we’d get to speak about that.” He rubbed his palms together and felt the pain in his stomach fading as anticipation of exploring the thing rose. “We’ll pop round to have a look at the body after breakfast, shan’t we?”
“Your call. I’m not experienced in these matters. What is the proper ettiquette? Wait until noon and stay no longer than ten minutes, or don’t wear white after Michaelmas?”
“Do you know you’re a menace? ‘Better three hours too soon than a minute too late’.”
“You know best, dear.”
Don’t call me that.” His fist clenched almost against his will and shook out his fingers with a shaky laugh. “Sorry.”
She made a face. “No, I’m sorry - I had almost settled in my role of maiden aunt before I was uprooted and sent here and I’m used to sweetening my conversation to suit fretful children. Well, if you are to tell me what to call you, I’m afraid I must have my preferences too.”
“You don’t want to be called Genevieve?”
“Do you like it?”
He was shocked to see a shy, girlish look flit over her face as if she wanted to hear what he thought--really wanted to hear. “’s a fine name. Fine. If you like it, that is. If you don’t like it then...we’ll call you something else.”
“Call me Vivi, please. No one does. It’s always ‘My eldest, Genevieve’ or worse yet, ‘Genevieve - the capable one.’ I’m tired of being capable - it means they’ve given up on me. Call me Vivi.”
He saw the set of her jaw and the weariness behind her eyes and since he was not entirely heartless, he guessed the story of the battles she’d fought over the labels. “Vivi then.”
They had a hum of silence then--an absence of conversation, rather--filled with the homely, comfortable sounds of bacon fat hissing in the cooling skillet and silverware against china as Vivi set out a few dishes on the table.
“I didn’t know what dishes you usually used but I like the china.”
“As do I. Family heirloom.”
“Really?” She smiled and set his silverware beside his bowl of porridge.
The steam curled upward and filled Farnham’s nose with the wholesome scent of oats and milk. This, he thought, his stomach could handle, and it was nothing like the clods of rocky oatmeal Allen made sometimes. “Shall we pray?”
Vivi folded her hands and bowed her head. Sunlight from the window behind her made an aura over her head till she looked like the paintings of angelic children saying prayers before bed that he’d seen sometimes in the cheaper stores. All this Farnham took in at a glance, for he was accustomed to seeing and digesting a thing in as long as it took most men to straighten their ties.
He closed his eyes and let the rare peace fall over his shoulders. “Dear Lord, for our food we thank Thee. For our comfort, our home, our lives. May we never forget to serve Thee with our hearts and souls, and may you guide our footsteps this day. Amen.”
As Farnham dolloped honey on his porridge, he reflected on the beauty of rote prayers. Certainly he made up his own prayers--constantly--but there was a steadiness in the repetition of the same words he’d prayed every meal for the last forty years that the made-up ones lacked. It was the difference between stepping into a church under construction and a cathedral that had stood six hundred years, steeped in worship.
“The murder victim--who was she?” Vivi asked, bringing Farnham’s mind back round to the day’s business.
He grunted and flicked his napkin. “Most bodies don’t come with calling cards. How should I know?”
“Doesn’t anyone carry identification? I’d hate to be murdered and no one know it was me.”
“Remind me to get Allen to sew a label on your coat-sleeve.”
Vivi forked into her pudding and ate it while Farnham watched, idly swirling his porridge. He was thinking about what the Police Inspector had told him. “’s...not going to be pretty.”
“I should think not; it’s a murder.”
Farnham slapped the surface of his porridge with the back of the spoon. “Her face’s quite...”
“Quite what?”
“Bashed in.”
Vivi chewed and swallowed then wiped her lips with her napkin. “Poor darling.”
“Wouldn’t you rather stay here?--As your uncle I want to protect you, you’ll understand, but I’m not demanding you stay.”
She smiled at him sweetly. “You’re a chivalrous old goose, but I want to come. Maybe I can be of some use.”
He wouldn’t go that far, but there might be something after all in what she said about butlers feeling resentment when forced to do work out of their proper line--Allen might not take kindly to toadying for a lady. “All right,” he said, and took a spoonful of porridge with the same dutifulness with which he took castor oil. “You can come along.”
“Eat it all. I’m going upstairs to primp and when I come back I expect the bowl to be empty.”
Farnham sighed. “Are you my nursemaid now?”
“Aren’t I? I think it was in the job description.”
Bang it. The girl was right.

And that, dear people, is your first goodly chunk of Anon, Sir, Anon. Now, I give you the sketches I promised in wretched photo-quality because I was too lazy to scan them:

This is obviously Vivi. She's labeled. She's not terribly attractive but there's something approachable about her, wouldn't you say? She's short as well--a fact mentioned elsewhere but that you might want to know.
And obviously this is Vivi & Farnham upon Vivi's arrival and subsequent appearance in the Tribunal at Whistlecreig.
 Pardon the absolutely wretched quality of these images. I just thought you might like to see what they were like. And I do hope you enjoyed the bit I call "Breakfast at Whistlecreig". Toodle-loo!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Utterly Baffled Tag

All right! No blog party is complete without a tag that you can take back with you to your own blogs, so I've concocted a tag for you with quite a lot of intriguing questions! The rules are simple: Fill out the questions of your own blog and come back here and comment to tell me you've done your post so the rest of us can run over and check it out! Also, thanks a million to all those who have entered Chatterbox! We have 13 entries to this blog event in its first month of life so I think it's been a rousing success! Now, on to the questions. I have answered them below as well!

1.) You are writing a mystery novel and decide to base the detective off of one of your writing friends: who do you choose?
2.) If you and the best of your writing-blog friends were living out a mystery, which of you would be most likely to end up as the victim?
3.) If you decided to write a mystery (or if, on the other hand, you do write mysteries) would your style fall under thriller, terror, literary, historical or cozy?
4.) Who is your favorite mystery-author?
5.) What is the best mystery you've ever read?
6.) If you were going to be in charge of solving a mystery, where would you want it to be set and what would the circumstances be?
7.) You walk into a library and find a body on the floor. Your first reaction:
8.) Your second reaction:
9.) What do you say when the policeman tells you that you are the prime suspect in the murder?
10.) How does your answer effect the powers that be?
11.) Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle walk into one of those Solve the Murder Dinner Theatres and sit down and start to spoil the fun by solving all the mysteries before anyone else and shouting the answers to the crowd: do you retaliate and if so, how?
12.) Post a quote from your favorite mystery//mystery author:

1.) You are writing a mystery novel and decide to base the detective off of one of your writing friends: who do you choose? This is actually an uber-easy question. I would choose Mirriam Neal because come to think of it, she would be a truly original personality for a sleuth. Actually, she'd make an awesome detective - one everybody would love to read about because she's just a mixture of Too Darn Cute & Impossibly Clever. Abigail Hartman would be a close runner-up because she's methodical and observant and rational which (as far as the method and perhaps rationality goes) Mirriam is not.
2.) If you and the best of your writing-blog friends were living out a mystery, which of you would be most likely to end up as the victim? Oh! Let me think for a sec....hummm....there would probably be an attempt on Jenny's life first, but I think that she'd surprise the villain by being rather unkillable. Thus, I think the first victim would be Katelyn Sebelko (poor darling!!) because there is no reason anyone would want to harm her, and that would make the mystery so complex.
3.) If you decided to write a mystery (I am) would your style fall under thriller, terror, literary, historical, or cozy? Cozy, definitely. Also loosely historical. I doubt it will ever become strictly historical albeit the mystery happens in the 1930's, but it will likely deal loosely with historical events as they pop up in the natural timeline of my character's Life & Times.
4.) Who is your favorite mystery author? Oh gee. I have really enjoyed what of Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey stories I've read and then again, the little of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels, but as far as being able to speak authoritatively on a broad scale, I'll have to stick with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
5.) What is the best mystery you've ever read? Hmmmm. I would have to say The Five Orange Pips by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because I kinda have a thing for unsolved mysteries. And as far as being somewhat of a mystery, though not really qualifying, I adore The Scarlet Pimpernel and I didn't know the YOU KNOW WHAT was YOU KNOW HIM in the final scenes. So it qualifies in my book.
6.) If you were going to be in charge of solving a mystery, where would it be set and what would the circumstances be? Oodalolly. It would be set Lake District of England/Scotland and the circumstances would be that a body was found in broad daylight sitting upright in a rowboat moored in the middle of the lake. It would seem easy to solve except for the fact that there was a fishing competition that day and not a single person of all 50 competitors saw the boat moved into place. Furthermore, news footage of the event doesn't show it either.
7.) You walk into the library and find a body on the floor. Your first reaction: I would freeze on the threshold of the room and get very quiet. My heart would sink and I'd tip-toe over and probably prod the body with my foot (assuming it was facedown) to try to see who the heck it was and whether he was really dead or simply in a swoon.
8.) Your second reaction: I would perch on the edge of the desk, heart pounding, trying to sort out who to tell and how on earth the murder was committed. Then I realize the murderer might still be in the room and I scuttle off to phone the police.
9.) What do you say when the policeman tells you that you are the prime suspect in the murder? "Murder I might write, but I would never commit murder. I'm a christian, first of all, and secondly, I'd never be brave enough. Besides--I don't hate him; I don't even know him!" (Notice I would be flustered and not thinking coherently or cleverly."
10.) How does your answer effect the powers that be? Oh, they'd think I was sassing them and lob me off toward the station. Abigail Taylor would bail me out because she always does bail me out of everything else, and eventually my name would be cleared even though evidence of my shoe had been found on the body. (Note to self: never prod a prostrate form with your foot, okay?)
11.) Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle walk into one of those Solve the Murder Dinner Theatres and sit down and start to spoil the fun by solving all the mysteries before anyone else and shouting the answers to the crowd: do you retaliate and if so, how? I would at first be annoyed, but upon recognizing who it was, I'd probably sit there laughing helplessly and thinking what a fine blog post it would make, and then I'd edge closer and strike up an acquaintance and possibly go out for icecream with them afterward.
12.) Post a quote from your favorite mystery author:(AH! So many from which to choose!)
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Well that was jolly good fun. I hope you join in, as I'm eager to read your answers to these questions. Toodle-pip and cheers, everyone. I've got to go be useful now since breakfast is almost ready.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Write Your Own Christie Contest!

I happened to pop over to to look up a few facts to another Utterly Baffled post when I saw this contest advertised on the site: Write Your Own Christie
Essentially, springing from the opening scenes from A Murder is Announced, there is going to be a chance every single month to collaborate on a "new" Christie murder; each month a chapter will be chosen by the panel of judges as the next installment in this new novel. The funny thing is, this novel will end up being a pieced-together affair with chapters written by different people all over the world, yet because of how to contest is set up, it will be cohesive and brilliant! For the successive chapters, you will need to read all the chapters written and "published" so far on the site to keep up with the proper clues and mystery. One winner (one chapter) will be chosen each month, and the winners will be invited to a special dinner at the end of the ten-month contest with the judges, among whom is Agatha Christie's grandson! 
The deadline for the first chapter is tonight at midnight.


Rum thing...I might actually try out. Remember there's a chance every month to win! :D

If you are interested in this fascinating little contest, you may check out the rules and registration here. If you want to read the opening scenes on which Chapter One must be based, please head here

And if you're stuck there thinking, "Well heavens, THIS is a stupid idea," then I will just inform you different with this little paragraph:
      In 1931, in a literary game of Consequences, Agatha Christie and thirteen other members of the 
Detection Club contributed a chapter (and a proposed solution) to a collaborative detective novel 
ultimately called The Floating Admiral. 

So there and humph. 

Entry costs nothing, so will you dare and take the chance with me by midnight? ;)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Essential Fairness, Deceptive Cunning

Welcome to Day Two of The Utterly Baffled blog party! the giveaway is still open so if you're wanting to enter, please do! You can find the Rafflecopter with all its ways to win below.
Every mystery-writer's blog party needs a post with general How-To's, right? Or at the very least, guidelines from the best on what comprises an excellent mystery. Sorry to break it to you (and me) but usually our entirely wonderful idea for a mystery is not near as complicated, baffling, and intricate as it needs to be. We're looking for more Poirot, less Nancy Drew.

Earlier this fall I was in the library and stumbled across P.D. James Talking About Detective Fiction. Yes, that's a title of a book - I didn't actually stumble across her inside my podunk library literally talking about detective fiction. If I had, that would have come into a blog post far earlier than this! Anyway, it was through reading that little book that my love for mysteries was rekindled, and I got the bug to write one of my own. It's less a How-To and more of a sweeping view of the history of detective fiction, and what makes a mystery good. I copied 7 1/2 pages of quotes into my writing journal just because they were so wonderful and if the copy had been mine, you can be sure it'd be criss-crossed with underlinings and notes. (Much to the horror of some of my comrades who NEVER write in books, I am an avid underliner. Neatly, though.) I sat down to write a post about the essential components of a mystery novel and then I realized that P.D. James is a much better authority on the subject, so I am pilfering quotes from her book and presenting them to you with comment by yours truly.
"One function of the setting is to add credibility to the story...if we believe in the place we can believe in the characters. In addition, the setting can from the first chapter establish the mood of the novel, whether of suspense, terror, apprehension, menace, or mystery. We have only to think of Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, of that dark and sinister mansion set in the middle of the fog-shrouded moor, to appreciate how important setting can be to the establishment of atmosphere. The Hound of Wimbledon Common would hardly provide such a frisson of terror." -P.D. James Talking About Detective Fiction
"The detective, whether professional or amateur, needs a domestic setting if the reader is to fully enter fully into his life, and most writers provide for their detective a known and familiar place in which he can be at home." -Ibid.
I have to admit that I love to know about the characters' home-life. Which reader, having read Sherlock Holmes would be content to visit London without trying to find 221B Baker Street? Or, having read Miss Marple would fail to look up St. Mary Mead, only to discover Agatha Christie had invented the place? And yet, she wrote the village so realistically that many have been fooled, I'm sure. In creating Whistlecreig Manor and its "feudal" village, I hope to create a vivid, familiar society for Vivi and Farnham that my readers will grow to love. In keeping with the theme of atmosphere, I love James's advice as to writing the scene of finding the body:
"When an author describe a room in the victim's house, perhaps the one in which the body is found, the description can tel the perceptive reader a great deal about the victim's character and interest...for this reason the place in which the body is found is particularly revealing, and I regard the description of the finding of the body as one of the most important chapters of a detective novel."
In another bit of P.D. James's book, I cracked up at her recital of Ronald Knox's mantra for detective fiction:
"...the criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the narrative but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow. All supernatural agencies are ruled out. There must not be more than one secret room or passage. No hitherto undiscovered poisons should be used or, indeed, any appliance which needs a long scientific explanation. No Chinamen must figure in the Story. No accident must help the detective, no is he allowed an unaccountable intuition. The detective himself must not commit the crime or alight on any clues which are not instantly produced for the reader. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, should be slightly, but no more than slightly, less intelligent than the average reader, and his thoughts should not be concealed. And, finally, twin brothers and doubles generally must not appear unless the reader has been duly prepared for them."
This passage is generally a good example of avoiding cliches. I think the reference to Chinamen referred to hard feelings toward Asians in the 20's-30's (during the golden era of detective fiction) rather than any reason why including an Asian antagonist would be poor mystery-writing nowadays. She continues with general guidelines for writing a plausible mystery that I have already found most helpful:
"The suspects should, I feel, be sufficient in number to provide the puzzle, and more than five is difficult if each is to be a credible living and breathing human being with motives that the reader will find convincing."
"What we can expect is a central mysterious crime, usually a murder; a closed circle of suspects, each with motives, means, and opportunity for the crime; a detective, either amateur or professional, who comes in like an avenging deity to solve it; and, by the end of the book, a solution which the reader should be able to arrive at by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel with deceptive cunning but essential fairness."
"...deceptive cunning but essential fairness." I love that line because on it hangs the whole of detective fiction. Writers of mysteries have the responsibility of presenting all the clues (I feel like Conan Doyle broke this rule frequently) and yet disguising them in such a way that their readers seldom guess the solution. My brother was always the one to figure out the mystery; I preferred watching the clues arise and then come into one big, baffling, beautiful solution at the very end.
I have no idea why I thought I ought to be the one to create a big, baffling, beautiful solution. And yet, I'm extremely anxious to see what comes of Vivi & Farnham and I love the power behind deciding a Who What When Where Why and then complicating it on purpose to baffle your dear little brains. I'm going to have such fun with this and I'm not going to tell my brother (Daniel) or my sister (Sarah) the answer to the mystery...if I can keep them guessing, I'll have met my goal.

Deceptive cunning, essential fairness. 

Thanks, P.D. James. You're an inspiration and I do wish I could literally stumble into you in my library and ask your opinion on Vivi & Farnham. To the rest of you, you really ought to read this book. And to the REST of you, if you feel generous and want to buy me Bloody Murder by Julian Symons, I won't complain.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Utterly Baffled: A mysterious blog party!

First  of all, I wanted to announce that the winner of Elizabeth Ender's book, Ransomed, is Emily Chapman! Emily, I will send Elizabeth your email address and you two can discuss how best to get your prize to you. Thank you to all who entered and congratulations to Emily. Now we get to have fun and hjinks with the official start to my Utterly Baffled Blog Party. I have no official cut-off date for this party; it is a mystery! (Bwaha. Do you see what I did there? HoHO)

As I said in my Introductory Post , this party will be full of tips on writing mysteries, some of my favorite mystery authors, quotes, pictures, tips, a little bit of everything. Last night I sat down to make a prize for the giveaway....I very specifically wanted a really cool prize and I wanted it to be handmade in The Warren. You know how much fun it is to sit down and make something come out just right? Well that happened.

In a couple hours I had created a prize specifically for this giveaway that I know you will all be dying to win:

When inspiration is burning, you're writing like a fiend, and you're not quite certain you want people barging in, forget a "Do Not Disturb" sign; telling all and sundry "The game is afoot" is so much classier. Think about it: Shakespeare started the trend and Sherlock Holmes took it up. You can join in their footsteps with this lovely, decoupaged wooden plaque.

Okay. Admit it. It's even more adorable with the tiny little magnifying glass inspecting one of my old earrings, right? I think so. And this Sherlock Holmes-inspired bit of nicety could be yours if you enter the giveaway below! In The Warren, I would price this at $25, so you are getting a wonderful chance to have it free! Details for entry are all in the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of the post.
Noir Rachel & Cricket
I found myself swarmed over by Cricket as I was taking photos for this post...hence the blog party photo obscured by the curve of her tail. (Which actually ended up working out nicely so you're not hearing me complain.) She's such a....I don't even know what she is. A pickle? She insists on sitting right where she's not wanted and likes to lay over my shoulders like a mink stole. A live one.

Silly cat.

Well, well, well. If you want to enter for a chance to win the Sherlock Holmes-Inspired Door Hanger, all the information is below. If not, then I think you're a wee bit silly but I suppose you might have your reasons. All people do, it seems.
Genevieve looked at the forbidding knocker--a leopard’s head with the teeth bared to admit an iron ring--and a certain stubbornness peculiar to her nature cropped up: she would not be put off by some jumped-up actor who went about nailing furious leopards to his front door.
-Anon, Sir, Anon

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anon, Sir, Anon

   "The fireplace, the butler, and a wing chair stood at the opposite end of the room: a tribunal of domestic comfort that had assembled to judge this intruder of their peace. In the wing chair sat a man she could take to be none other than Mr. Orville Farnham. He looked at her and fingered his chin, eyes slitted consideringly."                                                          -Anon, Sir, Anon
I am here to inform you that The Baby is taking a nap until the new year. There are some exciting things ahead for me, my writing, and this blog, and I decided that writing The Baby requires all or nothing -- it doesn't thrive under pie-crust promises and a kisses. Just like a real kid takes all a parent's concentration, The Baby wants an iron fist.I cannot spare an iron fist until the new year so though I'm not sacking The Baby for eternity, it is removed to the side for a good long nap so I can stop worrying about it and focus on the things on which I need to work.
Having cleared that aside, it is time to introduce you to the new brain-child I mentioned very briefly last post. Anon, Sir, Anon, is my new project at 3500 words in the main document, plus a few here-and-theres in my writing notebook. The first in a potential series of concerning niece-uncle detective pair Vivi & Farnham, Anon, Sir, Anon is a 1930's murder mystery set in Northamptonshire, England:
Shakespearean actor and private detective Orville Farnham has been confined to his home, Whistlecreig, by doctor's orders. The extended family sends a niece, Genevieve Langley, to play nursemaid in order to get her off their hands, as Vivi was voted Most Unlikely To Make A Brilliant Marriage. Farnham is none too pleased with the prospect of a female intruding on his life at Whistlecreig.When a murder occurs within a constrained space of time and leaves a small pool of suspects--each with excellent alibis--Farnham is called and Vivi finds herself entangled as one of the last witnesses to see the beautiful actress, Lillian Bertois, alive. It is soon evident that not only does Vivi have a penchant for being present at crucial moments, she has a liberal dose of brains that are put to use in assisting her uncle with solving the mysterious death of the woman in the blue cloche.
To set the things off, I've made a few graphics of some of the cast! Just remember that they are arranged in no order of importance. I won't give you any sort of hint that might set you off on your own conclusions. Not yet. This is a mystery and I'm going to start it off properly by saying that I will play fair--all the necessary bits will be in place--but you won't figure it out till you read the book.

As time goes on I'll be making more of these graphic things because they're just so much fun. And I can't really think of anything that goes with Farnham better than a big fat armchair and his intense energy exemplified in one of his favorite phrases. He's a man of impeccable character, ever polite but always having the last word. For the next week I'll be doing a series of posts on detective fiction (and a giveaway!) to celebrate the start of the new regime of Vivi & Farnham. Over the next while as I write this book, you'll grow to love them, I'm sure. I am looking forward to introducing you to life at Whistlecreig, writing detective fiction, and so many more wonderful things. Stick around and if you want to start a conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media, use the hashtag: ViviandFarnham. See you around!
"Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there arsenic still for tea?"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are we to have a Watson?

Some people are intolerable, drubbing boors. And then you have A.A. Milne who has so much sensible back-chat to say about everything that my opinion for him grows by leaps and bounds:

"Are we to have a Watson? We are. Death to the author who keeps his unraveling for the last chapter, making all the others chapters but a prologue to a five-minute drama. This is no way to write a story. :Let us know from chapter to chapter what the detective is thinking. For this he must watsonize, or soliloquize; the one is merely a dialogue form of the other; and, by that, more readable. A Watson, then, but not of necessity a fool of a Watson. A little slow, let him be, as so many of us are but friendly, human, likeable."
-A.A. Milne speaking on the subject of detective fiction
Oh for more people like the creator Winnie-the-Pooh. I want to marry someone who makes up words like "watsonize"; such a man would be a wonderful companion. Or perhaps what I need--being the one who already makes up words--is a man who will laugh at me and put the word into circulation.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"We're glad the Dauphine is so pleasant with us."

"Letters of odious I should think them."
-Caroline Bingley

But letters of business sometimes do fall our way, and in its own fashion, this post is halfway a letter of business.
-Ransomed Giveaway
I want to remind all of you that you still have a few days left in which to enter the giveaway from Elizabeth Ender's book Ransomed. If you *have* entered, remember that the mandatory entry is to leave your name and email address in a comment below. Spread the word! You all love free books, I know. I mean, who *doesn't* love a free book? Also, Ransomed appears to be an exceptionally good book and you will not regret taking the time to enter. Thirdly, I made this giveaway disgustingly easy which means that if you don't enter, you're a wee bit lazy.

You are all wonderful; Chatterbox (in its very first week of its very first month) already has 10 entries! If you missed out on what exactly Chatterbox is, do go to the post and give it a read!

 I hope to be able to dig down deep this next week and get quite a lot of writing done. Most of my feedback for The Windy Side of Care is home and the expected changes must be made before I can polish it up for the final time and send it off to Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The Baby is going through mental agonies. Like Jenny with her Gingerune, Baby is requiring a feat of mental strength that I have not quite found yet. I may shelf The Baby for a few months and work on the other projects that are rendering me ineffectual.We shall see. As far as those "other projects" go, all I can say right now is, "Anon, sir, Anon".
A regular bachelor’s pad, Whistlecreig was, and though Farnham prided himself on feeling little but physical pain, a faint, resentful twinge cropped up toward this unknown female barreling toward him on the 12:55 out of Darlington.
 You will get an explanation sooner than later because certain people (Meghan. Ahem.) have been smiling knowingly and if there's one thing I can't stand it's the be patted on the head paternally. Though I don't mind so much when it comes to people excited about my Projects. :)

-Listening To-
Andrew Peterson. A close family friend died very unexpectedly this Monday. Thank God he knew Jesus and loved Him dearly, but that doesn't make it hurt much the less for the wife and seven children he leaves behind. There are so many of Peterson's songs that fit the situation...truly a blessed man.
The Scarlet Pimpernel Musical. This is something I am purposely exploring because you know how much I love TSP, and how much I bet I'll love the musical. When getting into new shows, there is always that awkward moment of "I don't know ANY of these songs!" but then you sit long enough and are suddenly singing along - I'm in that stage.

Charity Klicka's blog. This is a gal that works in the same building as my brother and I've met her once or twice. For a long time I've followed her on Pinterest and loved the things she pinned, and today I found her blog. She is having an autumn reading challenge as well as giveaways of various books & book-lover packages each week; this week is The Wind in The Willows. Check it out - it is well worth your time! :)

And now for the un-business part of this post: favorite quotes from everywhere. I am a sucker for beautifully-worded things and I've come across many in recent days. I thought I'd dump them here for you to enjoy alongside me. :) 
“We shall creep out quietly into the butler's pantry--" cried the Mole.
"--with out pistols and swords and sticks--" shouted ther Rat.
"--and rush in upon them," said Badger.
"--and whack 'em, and whack 'em, and whack 'em!" cried the Toad in ecstasy, running round and round the room, and jupming over the chairs.”  
-The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
“Secrets had an immense attraction to him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.”-The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
“It'll be all right, my fine fellow," said the Otter. "I'm coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there's a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch it.” 
-The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
"Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror - indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy - but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august presence was very, very near.”
-The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
 “If God made everything, did He make the Devil?' This is the kind of embarrassing question which any child can ask before breakfast, and for which no neat and handy formula is provided in the Parents' Manual…Later in life, however, the problem of time and the problem of evil become desperately urgent, and it is useless to tell us to run away and play and that we shall understand when we are older. The world has grown hoary, and the questions are still unanswered.” 
-The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
“To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick.”  
-The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
“The adult must seem to mislead the child, and the Master the dog. They misread the signs. Their ignorance and their wishes twist everything. You are so sure you know what the promise promised! And the danger is that when what He means by ‘wind’ appears you will ignore it because it is not what you thought it would be—as He Himself was rejected because He was not like the Messiah the Jews had in mind.” 
-A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
“Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe.” 
-A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
“His jest shall savour but a shallow wit, when thousands more weep than did laugh it.”
-William Shakespeare's Henry V
“Cheerily to sea; the signs of war advance:
No king of England, if not king of France” 
-William Shakespeare's Henry V 
“We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have match'd our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard."
-William Shakespeare's Henry V  
I am in love with Henry V right now. Honestly. Have you ever read such rousing words? The play is full of them and by golly it's marvelous. In the past month I have watched both the Kenneth Branagh version and the Tom Hiddleston version. Both are beautiful productions and I love it. Which have you seen? Which do you prefer?
“Oh, it has all the modern conveniences: mice, mold, damp, draughts. You name it, Farnham has sent off for the latest patented model.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with "Ransomed" author Elizabeth Ender

Earlier this fall, author Elizabeth Ender agreed to do an interview with me for The Inkpen Authoress. An interview complete with a giveaway of her debut book, Ransomed

I have not had the chance to read this book yet, but everything that I have heard about it tells me that Ransomed is a book worth reading. And it has a beautiful cover and you know how important covers are to me.
   Both of them have promised to protect me. My Lord is not here. The Stranger is. One said I would die if I left; the other says I cannot live unless I go...And to go with one means to forsake the other. 
   Do I stay or go?
   This is my choice. 
At long last, I would love to present to you Elizabeth Ender speaking on her story, Ransomed:

1. As a first time self-pubber, what was the hardest part of the process?
 Probably finding the time! Trying to self-publish as a full-time college student applying to medical school was, perhaps, not one of my more brilliant ideas. Getting breaks lined up with my illustrator's time frame and figuring out all the endless details that appeared out of seeming nowhere was definitely a challenge. Formatting was also somewhat of a nightmare, but, oy I learned a lot. :)

2. What was easier than you expected?
The final editing. After messing around with it every couple years on my own, I hired as an editor an author whose writing style I loved (Rachel Starr Thompson) and sent her the story rather expecting it to come back in pieces. How little she actually marked up and suggested changing, and how big a difference those changes made, surprised me. 
 3. How long did it take you to write Ransomed?
I wrote it when I was about thirteen, and I'm pretty sure I wrote it in not more than a few sittings. Since then, however, it has been through many beta-readers, several re-writes and much, much editing. Also, much sitting on a shelf, so the answer to that is somewhere between a few days and a decade.

4.  What was your first thought upon holding a copy of your book in your hands?
I ordered about three proof-copies before I was satisfied with my formatting job (which all said PROOF COPY on the inside), and then ordered a large order for people I knew personally. That order did not come until right before I left for medical school, so my reaction when picking up an actual a finished version of my book was honestly, 'It's finally here!' LOL. I think if the process had not been quite so long and if I had not been involved with every step of the way, there would have been a bit more awe. :)

5. Who did the fabulous cover-art and how did you decide you wanted to use that artist?
Louie Roybal III , who also illustrated the inside! I contacted several illustrators but kept running into dead-ends, and was somewhat on the desperate side when Jessica Greyson suggested him. I contacted him, and he was generously willing to give me a price cut since I am donating all net profits to ministry.
(Rachel: What a cool idea...I love that, especially since Ransomed is an allegory!)
6. In a world of consistently-growing technology, what are your feelings on e-books vs. their paper counterparts?
Personally, I spend enough time on the computer that picking up a book in paper form is a treat. As of now, I don't intend to publish an e-version of Ransomed, both because of time-constraints (formatting a different version is not high on my list of things I want to do :) and because, as an illustrated short story, I really do not see Ransomed as made to be read on a computer. But perhaps that belief is colored by my own memories of my mom reading to me as a child, and the hours and hours I spent curled up with a book. :) (If anyone has a different opinion I would be interested to hear it.)

7. What style book is Ransomed, and can we expect any future books to mirror its flavor?
It is a first-person short-story allegory set in the Middle Ages. :) Neither short-stories nor allegories are among my typical writing categories, though I do have a few first-person novels, and several involving castles and kings, etc. What I believe does tend to bleed into my writing, and I think all my novels can be classified as explicitly Christian, though perhaps not as extremely as this one. :) They will all probably be rather more different from this than alike, though.

8. Do you like pickles?
The answer to that question for most of my life would have been a rather emphatic 'no', but in the past month I have eaten both kimchi and swordfish and actually liked them both...Now I will say that, given that I sometimes like pickles with other foods, at some point I may begin to like them plain. :)

9. Do you drink tea or coffee? (This is a mandatory question for new interviewees on The Inkpen Authoress)
Good question. :) Tea, yes. Coffee, no. (Or not yet; we'll see what medical school does to me. XD)

10. Do you have difficulty hearing your words read aloud?
I tend to have a difficulty reading my words just feels incredibly awkward and makes me royally self-conscious. I guess I have not often heard other people reading them...but I think for my longer stories it's a good idea -- hearing what people stumble over or how it sounds in someone else's voice is really good for catching trouble-spots. :)

Many thanks to Elizabeth Ender for letting me run her through the wringer with my questions. If you would like to try your hand at winning a copy of Ransomed, follow the instructions below! A winner will be chosen and notified on Thursday, October 24, 2013.

Mandatory Entry: 
Follow The Inkpen Authoress and leave your email address and name in a comment below. (2 entries)

Follow-Up Entries:
 Follow Elizabeth Ender's blog (2 entries)
Follow me (@Rachelswhimsy) on Twitter (1 entry)
Share this interview on Facebook (1 entry)
Buy a copy of Ransomed (and come back to tell me about it.) (5 entries)

Have fun, and let's all thank Elizabeth for taking the time out of her hectic med-school life to chat! 
Elizabeth Ender. Current med student with a big imagination and unfortunate time-management issues. Lover of horses, cats, and sometimes puppy-dogs. Also a private pilot, because there is absolutely nothing like flying. Daughter & sister (family is forever). Music is necessary to my continued existence. Addicted to reading like I am to breathing. Story-teller, because it's in my blood. A child of the Most High King, because He loved me, created me, and made me His own through the precious blood of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.