I’m writing a scene today where Portia catches sight of a suspect standing on the platform of a London tube stop, and I always like to watch this video when writing about that specific setting (and I’m very lucky such source material exists).
It’s from the 1930s, and hosted by the Kinolibrary Film Collections:
For those of you following along with the development of book 4 in the Portia Adams series, I think I’ve got a new tentative title: The Detective and the Spy.
It turns out the spy that Portia runs into in act 1 of the story, is becoming quite significant to the storyline. He started out as a Christopher, but in reading more about spies in the 1930s, I’m becoming enamoured of naming him after Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series. Ian’s middle name is Lancaster, so here’s my question for all you fab fans out there, what do you prefer as a spy name?
In other news, I wrote an article for a fantastic Sherlockian magazine called The Magic Door and it’s featured on the front cover of their spring edition!
In the article, I highlight the themes that appeared in letters between Arthur Conan Doyle and his editor. The universality of the themes like writer’s block and arguments over editing made me feel even closer to ACD and I think make for an interesting piece. Click on the graphic to read through the PDF version of the magazine.
Suffice to say we LOVED it. What a great story, and what a fantastic actor at the perfect time in his life to take on such a role.
I won’t fill this space with spoilers because I respect a good mystery too much but I will tell you that the story respects the original canon and still manages to give us a side of Holmes that we don’t often get to see – the emotional side. It’s like in removing Watson (who only shows up from the neck down in walk-bys) Holmes had to fill in that role of both writer and emotional character.
Not surprisingly Sir Ian McKellen handles both with aplomb and the supporting cast add to the screenplay in the best way – not taking away from the mystery or the man, but truly supporting an aging legend.
I give this movie the full five sensible heels:
N.B.: Also, the movie is set in 1937 which is right in Portia’s wheelhouse – which was also a lovely treat!
There truly is a name for everything on the internet. I was searching around this morning for a phrase to describe the feeling where you’re reading over your umpteenth edit of a manuscript you know off by heart and you’re not even seeing the words anymore.
That feels apt, but to take it further, the same way snow blindness has a scientific name (Photokeratitis) I am coining a new term for writer’s blindness Verbameakeratitis. Verba mea is latin for ‘my words’
In my own case, as I get ready to hit <send> on my second-edits for Thrice Burned, I find myself using these tricks to ‘see’ my own errors and catch them before inflicting them upon my poor editor/publishers <again>.
Read Aloud – this is something they teach to every first year journalism student (I should know, I was one) and it really does work. You are much more likely to catch an error if you have to read your words aloud.
Read your writing on a different machine – I find PDFing my document and reading it on the iPad helps me not slip into complacency. I’ve caught lots of typos that way
Know thy faults. I have a bad habit of adding stage direction (usually eyebrows a-waggling) so I do a search of the document for my own bad habits.
Read the document in order: just because you’re SURE that first chapter is pristine, do not feel you can skip it. Read the whole story as if you were a first time reader to really SEE the mistakes.
Check all dates and locations if you write historical fiction – this is a big one. Make sure every instance of a date is double-checked and makes sense.
What are your tricks for avoiding Verbameakeratitis ?
This blog post is inspired by the incredible Beverly Wolov, whom I met at the GridLock Conference last month. During a panel discussion she revealed her gift of fashion history, and I had to stop her afterwards to talk to her about the 1930s, Portia, and all the fashion issues I have. If you know me at all, you know my preferred outfit is a comic-book t-shirt and jeans, but I am expected to write descriptive scenes about Portia and the fashion she would be wearing in 1930s London.
Beverly, lovely lady that she is, not only read Jewel of the Thames, but came back to me with all kinds of suggestions for future outfits/fabrics/styles for the characters in my book series!
She also sent along the images in this blog post from her collection of fashion books and magazines that I intend to harness in my writing.
Beverly is a guest photographer and researcher at the Smithsonian (Yes THAT Smithsonian) and has an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian Institute-Corcoran College of Art and Design where her studies focused primarily on the history of fashion, of lace, and material culture.
Enjoy the fabulous images below and expect to see them incorporated into Thrice Burned and No Matter How Improbable very soon!
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 357
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 355.
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 354
1928-1930. John Peacock. Costume 1066-1990s. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1986 and 1994. p.117
1928-1930. John Peacock. Costume 1066-1990s. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1986 and 1994. p.116.
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 57
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 64
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 65
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 58
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 68.
I’m about to head off on my great August adventure – meeting my brand new niece and then touring around with Portia Adams – so if YOU or any of your FRIENDS are in the fine states of NY or VA, please come down and say hi !
Also, if you could alert your friends in the area to these events I’d be much-obliged!