It’s been over a month since I last participated in Friday Fictioneers, and it’s good to be back. As always, please read other stories and add your own, using the link at the end of the story!
It’s been over a month since I last participated in Friday Fictioneers, and it’s good to be back. As always, please read other stories and add your own, using the link at the end of the story!
As it is the beginning of a new year
and as I am trying to avoid grading homeschool Algebra, now is as good a time as any to do one of those reflective/prospective posts we only write to seem cool love so much. I’ll keep it brief(ish).
2015 brought the release of both GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE and HEIR OF KORADIN. Sometime around Thanksgiving, I turned in the last of the content edits for the final book in the Chasmaria trilogy, CHILD OF THRESH. I also had the immense fun of participating in and winning WRiTE CLUB 2015. (Go, Commando!)
2016 presents at least as much reason for excitement. In February, I’ll be presenting a session titled “Dear Teen Writer” at a literacy conference that expects to draw around 1,200 teachers and others interested in promoting literacy. I also plan to attend the Dallas Fiction Writers Conference. Not only will this be my first writers conference, but I’ll get to meet my amazing editor face to face! CHILD OF THRESH is set to release in August, so there will be a cover design wishlist to consider, acknowledgements to compose, a little more proofreading, and a whole lot of emotions to sort through.
For the past several months, I’ve been working on a new contemporary YA series. The major mental plotting phase is over. Now, I’m drafting the second book of an eventual quadrilogy and adding details to a rather lengthy outline to ensure nothing gets forgotten. It’s a totally different project from the Chasmaria books – and quite an unexpected one, at that – but I’m enjoying it every bit as much. Just ask my Wise and Wonderful
and Slightly Weary of Hearing Me Ramble Sister. I haven’t set any specific goals for this project, other than to get the story right – all four books of it – before entering the query stage. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but when a story is worth telling, it’s worth telling well, and I’m willing to take my time on this one. That said, the words are coming quickly, which is always a delight.
Also a delight is the sight of one’s four children gathered around the dining room table, each working on a story of his or her own. I’ll close with that image and this thought:
If you have a story to tell, tell it and tell it well.
Then get ready for the next story, because it’s sure to come, whether you’re ready or not.
Wishing all of you a happy year filled with the best kinds of stories!
Today on the blog, we have fellow Anaiah Press author Carrie Dalby, whose debut novel, Fortitude, recently released. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing a little about the process of researching and writing your Young Adult Historical Fiction novel.
Thank you, Lisa, for having me on you blog today. I thoroughly enjoy the Chasmaria series. It’s an honor to be here to talk about my debut novel.
Fortitude is a historical YA that took five years of research and plotting for me to write the first draft. I was working on another manuscript for the first several years, but I devoted much of my reading and study time to researching 1898 and the Spanish-American War. Library trips, special book orders, reading microfilm—I did it all. And though I’m not a historian, I enjoyed every minute of it, even finding the historical facts that soured my stomach.
Learning about the deplorable conditions the American troops lived in throughout Florida while waiting to disembark for war was the spark that began Fortitude’s journey. Recently drained swamps for campsites, over-crowding, disease… more soldiers died in Florida that year than in battle on foreign soil.
The other killer in the Florida camps was deadly riots. Soldiers from around the country were squeezed into unhealthy camps in a racially divided state that lived by the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. The locals and many of the other troops despised seeing African-American men in uniform, especially the decorated Buffalo Soldiers. Fresh volunteers didn’t like being outranked by people they considered inferior and the townspeople didn’t want to serve them when they were on leave.
The riot scene in Chapter Twenty-five is based on an actual riot that took place on June 6, 1898 after white volunteers from Ohio “decided to have some fun” by snatching a two-year-old African-American boy from his mother, spanking him, and then using him for target practice. It was sickening to read so many different accounts about it, but I had to use the scene to depict just how extreme the attitudes were.
As fate would have it, I wrote the first draft of that chapter in early July 2013, when the George Zimmerman trial was happening in Florida. Anger, fear, and screams of injustice on the news echoed the voices of the past as I wrote—often with tears in my eyes.
Art imitating life?
History repeating itself?
Not learning from mistakes?
Truth is stranger than fiction?
All these and more are possibilities. What I do know is that a friend loaned me something I never would have chosen to read—a biography about the founder of the Girl Scouts. Within that book there were a couple pages about the miserable conditions the troops lived in at the Spanish-American War camps in Florida, where Juliette Gordon Low and her family tried to relieve some of the suffering. The story of those soldiers shouted at me from the pages and sent me on a research journey that lasted years and uncovered many difficult truths from American history. Facts we can learn and grow from, hopefully preventing painful history from being repeated.
Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Anaiah Press: TBA
Born and raised in California, but a resident of Mobile, Alabama since 1996, Carrie Dalby is a homeschooling mom with a love of literature for young adults and children. Some of Carrie’s favorite volunteer hours are with Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author workshops.
A GRACEFUL CHICKEN
We stand on the patio, a circle of raised eyebrows. If no one else will ask, I will. “What is it?”
Pete waves a hand at the mass of golden feathers and wire. “Duh, Grace, it’s a chicken.”
“It was a chicken.” Jason kicks a broken wing.
Nathan crouches to tinker with the wires. “You might fix it.”
“So it can do what, cross the road?” I wish I had a sister, even a brother with some sense.
“We play Lewistown Friday.” John holds the chicken up, like Mom does to check if a shirt will fit me. “Team Lewiston just got an unexpected mascot.”
Just the other day, I was thinking it would be fun to write a story about a “Backup Plan” marriage – two people who promised to reconnect so many years later and marry each other if they weren’t already married. Today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt provided the perfect opportunity to play with that idea. (And don’t worry, Wise and Wonderful Sister, this is a way, way, way back burner story idea!)
Thank you for reading and please do leave any constructive criticism in the comments section!
Mr. and Mrs. Right
We used to wait for the bus here. Four short years, thirty long years ago. We carried each other through countless high school crushes—two of hers to every one of mine—but we never loved each other, not like that.
Tiny wrinkles stretch across her forehead and shoot from her amber eyes like rays from the sun.
“You’re bald,” she says, as if the mirror hasn’t been telling me the same for years.
I pull the ring from my pocket, a promise we made thirty years ago. “Sorry you never found Mr. Right.”
She takes the ring and slips her hand into mine. “Maybe I did.”
They dance on your grave, them sweet l’il angels we made together. Your mama thinks it’s sweet I bring ’em here every year, like some kind of memorial to the dead.
“It’ll help them remember their daddy,” she says.
I just nod like I ain’t still trying to forget all you did. If it weren’t improper, I’d dance on your grave myself.
Ain’t no memorial to you, whether you be singin’ in glory or writhin’ in some fiery lake way down deep. I memorialize the livin’, me and my girls and everyone who never had the guts to fight back.
Robert Perret’s story “The Canaries of Clee Hills Mine” appears in the newly released anthology An Improbable Truth: The Supernatural Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. A sample of his story appears at the end of this post. Be sure to read it, and check out the complete anthology, published by Mocha Memoirs Press.
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Mocha Memoirs: http://mochamemoirspress.com/store/
Why We Need Sherlock Holmes in an Improbable World
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” SIGN
Sherlock Holmes’s famous maxim was delivered during the investigation of a locked room murder at Pondicherry Lodge described by Dr. Watson in The Sign of the Four, one of the strangest cases in the Canon. It is an extension of Holmesian deductive reasoning, to imagine all the possibilities and then eliminate them one by one. Elsewhere in SIGN Holmes claims “I never guess. It is a shocking habit,—destructive to the logical faculty.” but he is always guessing, he just makes every guess he can think of all at once and then waits to see which pans out. He is famous for being super skeptical, but he begins from a place of complete naiveté in which all things are equally possible. That is why Inspector Athelney Jones collars the wrong man – he looks at the evidence and draws the most reasonable conclusion – while Holmes, the supposed hyper-rationalist, imposes no reason at all upon the scene and simply asks “What if?”
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outré results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” IDEN
Sherlock Holmes manifests fully formed, conducting clandestine research in a laboratory at St. Bartholemew’s Hospital, an institution with which he has no formal affiliation, but which he simply haunts when the fancy strikes him. The Canon almost never looks back previous to Watson’s introduction to Holmes, so we know nothing of Sherlock’s formative years, other than some allusions to the fact that he at least attended a college at some point. (GLOR) He has no parents, no defining childhood moments, no origin story. We do eventually meet his brother Mycroft in “The Greek Interpreter”, but this only serves to further illustrate Sherlock’s isolation. The brothers, it appears, may go years at a time without communicating, and what little contact they do have is perfunctory. Mycroft, while employed in the intelligence service of Her Royal Majesty, sits alone in a back office of The Diogenes Club, a social club where socializing is prohibited, every bit as removed from the world as Sherlock lying in a drug induced haze on the floor of 221B Baker Street. What compels the Holmes brothers to be in the world but not of the world?
“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
Sherlock Holmes simply is – a manic force driven by curiosity and boredom and ego. Perhaps Holmes is so open to the improbable because to him all of existence, including the affairs of people, is equally improbable to begin with. He peers in at us through his famous magnifying glass from somewhere outside the common human experience. Statisticians talk of The Law of Very Large Numbers in relation to improbability. As long ago as 1866, the British mathematician Augustus De Morgan wrote, “Whatever can happen will happen if we make trials enough.” Professor Emeritus of Mathematics David Hand¹ describes in a 2014 Scientific American article “Math Explains Likely Long Shots, Miracles, and Winning the Lottery” that this law corrects for the human misperception that any given event is unlikely because it seems unlikely to happen to us. The example he gives is the classic “Birthday Problem.” Statistics tells us that, in a group of 23 people, there is a better than 50% chance that two people share the same birthday, which seems, well, improbable. This seems so improbable because most of us naturally translate that statement to means that if I walk into a room with 23 or more people, there is a 50% chance that someone has the same birthday as me. If that were true we would constantly be meeting people who share our birthday. But the statistic actually just addresses any one of the 23 people having the same birthday as any of the other 23 people. To be honest I don’t understand the math behind it, but it has been a fun statistics fact for decades, so I will assume it holds up. What this illustrates is that many things we consider to be improbable only seem so because we always insert ourselves into the equations and we lack the imagination to grasp Very Large Numbers. For instance, it may seem very improbable that you would be pickpocketed by a monkey, but if you consider all of the pockets and all of the monkeys over all of the time that monkeys and pockets co-exist, it becomes almost inevitable that someone will be pickpocketed by a monkey. (In case you are wondering, yup. Go ahead and Google it.)
Holmes achieves some of his most amazing deductive results when he disregards what is likely to have happened and ask as many “What ifs?” as he can without presupposing limits. For instance, in The Sign of the Four Holmes out-deduces Inspector Jones because Holmes is not limiting his thinking to things likely to have happened to the heir of a contested estate in the locked room of an English manor house. Jones ignored the key piece of evidence because it did not fit with that person in that place and that time. Jones saw a solution that met his preconceived criteria, but he did not observe the one thing in the room that pointed to the truth. Jones did not ask “What if?,” his police-trained mind was hung up on “how” and “why” and because of that the wrong man was arrested and the true murderers almost got away with their crimes and a fortune.
We need Sherlock Holmes, the iconoclastic, misanthropic genius precisely because he inspires us to ask “What if?” We, like Inspector Jones, are tied to the cosmic wheel of the ‘dull routine of existence.’ Incredibly improbable in its own way, but as we slog through our daily routines – jobs, bills, schooling, chores, hunger, pain, grief, fatigue, love, joy, life, death – we have to accept the commonplace at face value. We, as mere mortals, can’t ask “what if?” at every turn and reconsider everything we encounter from scratch. Holmes, sitting outside of the human experience of space and time, with his fingers steepled, gazing at us through hooded eyes, can challenge every assumption, observe the wonderful chain of human events, and then reveal the truth to us as a pithy aside. Holmes as a character transcends Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and withstands a postmodern assault of vampires, zombies, Elder Gods, femme fatales, aliens, Adolf Hitler and anything else us mere mortals can throw at him because his raison d’etre, asking the eternal “what if?” transcends genre and medium and culture and time. Sherlock Holmes is the restless mind that follows every clue, undaunted by improbability.
¹ Sherlock Holmes held a Professor of Mathematics, James Moriarty, in great esteem, considering the man’s prodigious genius to equal to his own. Dare we do any less?
About the Author
Robert Perret is a devout Sherlockian and librarian living in northern Idaho with his wife and children. He loves the Canon and the RDJ portrayal at the same time. Deal with it. He writes both traditional pastiches and weird Sherlock Holmes stories. Past artistic endeavors include creating a comic strip about an anthropomorphic popcorn maker and winning an Innovative Haiku contest with a poem that involved a frog and a pond. He may provide a Sherlocku upon request.
From “The Canaries of Clee Hill Mines” by Robert Perret
Holmes placed a hand on my arm and we came to a stop. I could see him close his eyes and slow his breathing. Lacking his Eastern training in meditation I did my best to make as little noise as possible. I saw Holmes jerk his head to one side ever so slightly and then a moment later I felt the gentlest of winds stir the hairs on my right hand. I looked down at that hand and was surprised to see the pistol it was holding shaking erratically. Even my fingers had gooseflesh and it was then I realized with a shock that I was terrified so far beyond reason that my mind appeared to have disassociated with my body. Holmes began smoothly stalking down the passage from which the wind had blown. I looked down and saw my feet clumsily stomp along one after the other. As we progressed down the tunnel I heard a clicking sound like crickets in the distance. I think my mind read it as an indication that we were exiting the mine to return to the surface, for I found myself strangely soothed. However as we progressed the clicking became chattering and scraping and squealing and my terror returned. We saw an opening to a larger chamber ahead and the inhuman sounds now echoed all around us. In the lamplight I saw a strange constant movement ahead.
“The royal chamber,” observed Holmes. When I failed to give a sensible response he continued. “I’ve taken to studying bees as of late. Admirable creatures. Truly superior. But I digress. We have followed a proverbial worker bee back to the royal chamber. I suspect we will not be welcomed.”
As we crossed the threshold all noise and activity stopped. In the silence we could hear the sound of water dripping from overhead into an underground reservoir. Around us, on every possible surface of the cavern, like bats, were hundreds of the uncanny Feeders. They regarded us with their milky, dead eyes. Holmes continued in and pointed his lantern around, taking in the ceiling, the walls, the floor and then moving to the lake. He gasped.