Friday, June 29, 2012

My Downton Abbey Moment

We've been back from London for a month and I've yet to share any photos or memorable moments, so let me rectify that beginning with this post.  We are reasonably intelligent people and we realize that "Downton Abbey" was just a soap opera with wonderful clothes and a cool country house.  The plot was ridiculous and the characters were as subtle as a whack over the head, but we still tuned in for every episode.

We're sitting at the Fox and Hounds one evening, a lovely pub that became our "local" during our London stay.  It has everything a good pub needs, in my opinion:  an eclectic crowd, a resident German Shepherd, and a cozy, quintessentially English atmosphere. 

I find myself staring at a man across the room from me, wondering where I've seen him before.  I realize he is an actor I've seen recently.  I can even visualize him in a military uniform, but can't quite place the movie or tv episode.  Two days later I realize where I've seen him.  He's Dr. Clarkson from Downton Abbey.  In real life, he's David Robb.  There's the uniform I remember.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cover Design for India #3

Here's the cover design for India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Marquess of Tullibardine

I wasn't striving for historical accuracy when I introduced the Dowager Marchioness of Tullibardine in India Black and the Widow of Windsor.  Looking at a map of Scotland, I noticed the name "Tullibardine," and thought it sounded very Scottish.  I'm not sure why I chose to make my character a marchioness rather than a duchess or some other aristocratic rank, but I did (thereby violating my own rule about having easy names to type for my characters-I got pretty darned tired of typing marchioness).

Since I chose the title by chance, I was surprised to read the obituary of the 11th Duke of Atholl in The Telegraph while in London and find that his successor would be his oldest son, Bruce, "styled by courtesy Marquess of Tullibardine."  I suppose I should have consulted Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage.  I can only hope the new Duke doesn't take offense that I have co-opted his title for my own use.

By the way, the Duke of Atholl is the only person to have his own legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders.  Here is the current Duke inspecting his troops:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Typos, Errors and &$%*-ups

I just read a post on another writer's blog whose name I will not mention because, frankly, he sounds like the type of guy you'd avoid at a cocktail party.  He was opining on the topic of readers who find mistakes in books.  His response was to (a) blame the typesetter and/or copy editor and inform the reader it wasn't his fault, (b) tell the reader to never read another of his books, or (c) offer to return the reader's money.  Oh, yeah.  I think he also advised the reader where he/she could stick his/her little red pencil.  I thought I was sensitive to criticism, but sheesh, this guy takes the cake.

Fair enough.  It's not how I handle such communications from readers, but if you want to look like a prize ass, go ahead.  Because while those typos and grammatical slips might indeed be the result of someone else's inattentiveness, it's still your name on the book and your brand that's affected.  Why in the world would you alienate readers with such a defensive, snarky response?  And why elaborate on the topic for your blog, thereby alerting the rest of your readers to the fact that you are defensive and snarky and they can expect to have their heads taken off if they point out a mistake to you.  Wow.  Just, wow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Characters Get Their Names

I can't imagine India Black with any other name.  India has an exotic element that evokes adventure, and the surname Black, being simple and rather stark, complements India very nicely.  It's also true to the time period of the books.  The Victorians often named girls "India" in homage to its colony, considered the jewel in Britain's crown.  Her name also fits a major criteria for me:  it's easy to type.  If you're going to use a name hundreds of times, it better be something that doesn't require the skills of a contortionist to bang out.  That's why I chose the names "Harkov" and "Flerko" for two Russian characters in India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, rather than something like "Dargomyzhsky," for example.

Not long after the first book was published a reader from India castigated me on Facebook for using the name "India" for my prostitute heroine, saying that it was condescending to the "masses" of India.  I thought referring to people as "masses" a little condescending in itself.  I replied politely, explaining the rationale behind the name.  The reader responded that it was still an insult and would I please change India's name?

At this point, I was beginning to get irritated.  I wanted to point out the "masses" of India had rather more to worry about than my character's name, starting with poverty, illiteracy, absence of basic health care and a corrupt government and that perhaps if my correspondent was really worried about these folk, she should get off Facebook and do something useful in these areas.  But then I remembered this,

so I held my tongue.  Until now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reality Show for Writers

I'm thinking there should be one.  It would be riveting.  We could watch people staring at keyboards.  We could watch people swearing at keyboards.  We could watch people surfing the net so they don't have to write.       Things could get lively.  We could see people sitting in bars, nursing a drink and wondering aloud if they'll ever get published.  We could show the harrowing experience of receiving rejection letters.  We could fall in love with the nerdy IT guy who writes science fiction and the young librarian who's written a fantastic YA novel about werewolves, or is it vampires?  We could boo and hiss at the arrogant English major who writes literary fiction and looks down his nose at the other contestants.  The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Service Resumed (and puppies!)

Things haven't quite returned to normal around here, but by mid-week I should have wrapped up Mom's move and be ready to start work on India #4.  On Friday my editor emailed the cover for India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, which I'll post soon.  Publication date is February 4th, with the eSpecial out on December 31st.

In lieu of anything of real interest, have a puppy video to start the week.  These cuties are available at Germelhaus German Shepherd Kennels, where we purchased our last three shepherds.  And yes, I want them all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Service Interrupted

All is chaos here, as we're moving Mom this week and I'm running from dawn to dusk and feeling ragged.  Normal blogging service will resume on Monday.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Diamond Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating 60 years on the throne of the England which means that she has reigned longer than any British monarch other than Queen Victoria, who featured prominently in India's last adventure.  You may recall that India was not impressed by "Vicky."  I have a feeling that India would be an admirer of the present queen, whose grandmotherly appearance belies her indomitable personality.  In 1981, a young man fired several blanks during the trooping of the color.  Watch how calmly the queen handles this interruption to the ceremony.

The queen is a dab hand with a shotgun, and she looks very comfortable with this L85A2, the current British service rifle.

India would approve.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Death in the Quadrangle

DEATH IN THE QUADRANGLE – Eilis Dillon (1956)

The professors at the King’s University of Dublin are an eccentric lot: one is obsessed with rats in the buildings, another is a kleptomaniac, one is writing anonymous letters to the president of the college, and one is a murderer.  Retired Professor Daly is asked to present a series of lectures, but the president’s ulterior motive in inviting Daly is to ask him to find the person responsible for threatening the president’s life.  The president, Bradley, is not a likeable fellow.  The professors loathe him and it is not long before Bradley is poisoned.  Daly enlists Mike Kenny, a detective in the Guards (the Irish police force) to help him find the killer.

There are moments of wry humor in this book, and excellent depictions of the cloistered and insular lives led by the professors, but there is a dearth of clues and the solution to the crime, which is proffered by Kenny and not by Daly, is infuriating.  I’m fine with the detective piecing together a series of clues in a novel way and solving a crime by dint of his creativity and out of the box thinking.  I’m not fine with the detective arriving at a conclusion without a single clue being offered to the reader.  I might read more of these, but they’ll be very far down the list.

Eilis Dillon is an entry in my “Persons of Interest” category in Bev's Vintage Mystery Challenge.  Dillon wrote over 50 books in several different genres.  Death in the Quadrangle is one of only three mystery novels she produced.  Dillon had a difficult childhood in a family devoted to Irish independence.  Her uncle was executed by firing squad and both of her parents were jailed for their political activities.  There's an excellent remembrance of Dillon by her son at