Character Profile: Chief Inspector Archer

Onward down my list of characters (the full list of Character Profiles can be found here), we come next to one of Portia’s first fans Chief Inspector Archer:

ArcherFULL NAME: Dillon Breen Archer, Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police of London, more colloquially known as Scotland Yard. Archer also teaches at King’s College and Queens College on criminology, and criminal law.

AGE: in 1929 he is 64-years-old, born in January 1865.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Pale blue eyes, thick glasses, 5’7″ tall, average build with a small pot belly, grey thinning hair + a handlebar moustache.


EDUCATION: Basic schooling in London, joined the force as a Constable in 1884 at the age of 19, went to war at the age of 49 as a Sergeant, and resumed his work at the Yard after, working his way up to Chief Inspector. He started teaching at the Colleges in 1925.

PREFERENCES: Doesn’t smoke, drinks casually, is a moderate man in many ways.

SOCIALLY:   Married with a wife who worked as a nurse during the first World War, when he was a Sergeant in the Royal Army. Three daughters are all married and living in London, with whom he is still very close. Archer worked with Holmes and Watson in the first few years of his employment with Scotland Yard and is pre-disposed to be supportive of Portia Adams both for her intelligence and connection to Dr. Watson (the only connection he knows about).

PS: You’ll notice the actor whom I hold in my head when writing about Professor Archer is Giles (which I really wanted to give Archer as a first name, but just couldn’t do it) from Buffy. It is no coincidence that the relationship between the Slayer and her Watcher is one that springs to mind when I think of Portia and Archer, so it makes sense in my head that Anthony Stewart Head represents Archer on the page.


Character Profile: Sergeant Michaels

The next character I thought I would flesh out a bit (the full list of Character Profiles can be found here), is the complex character of Sergeant Michaels:

FULL NAME: Jeryl Hudson Michaels, Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police of London, more colloquially known as Scotland Yard.

AGE: in 1929 he is 41-years-old, born in May 1888.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Deep -set brown eyes, 5’9″ tall, thick through the torso (250lbs), greying hair but still mostly black .


EDUCATION: Basic schooling in London, joined the force as a Constable in 1907 at the age of 19 and has worked his way up to Sergeant.

PREFERENCES: Prefers beer, smokes copiously, works continuously, seems to have no social life beyond the cases he pursues and the men around him.

SOCIALLY:  Parents both dead, no spouse or children, fiercely loyal to his country and the Constabulary, especially to the men who serve under him. Though he was too young to work alongside Holmes and Watson, has very strong views on both men, negative towards Holmes and positive towards Watson. He starts off the series disapproving of Portia Adams, but by the end of their third case together, has come to respect her. By the end of the sixth case he is now seeking out her aid.

Character Profile: Dr. Gavin Whitaker

…and onto the mysterious but beguiling Dr. Whitaker next (for all the Character Profiles I’ve created so far, head here).

gregory3FULL NAME: Dr. Gavin Whitaker, former King’s College student, assistant Professor at Kings, County Coroner often used by Scotland Yard.

AGE: in 1929 he is 24-years-old, born in March 1905.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Brown eyes, 6’3″ tall, strongly built, lean, with sharp cheekbones and a naturally haughty expression.


EDUCATION: Scholarship student to King’s College where he excelled, and graduated at the top of his year.

PREFERENCES: Classic style, darker clothing, prefers champagne to wine, doesn’t drink beer, enjoys tea shops, drinks black coffee. Has personal interest in crimes involving poisons.

SOCIALLY: Orphaned since birth, Charles grew up never knowing his parents, and had to fight his way up the good chain, to the point that not only is he a highly respected professor in his field, but he has also made forays into the stock market that despite the depression going on around him and around the world, he has made a considerable amount of money for himself in 1930. In 1931 he is invited on a speaking tour of Austrian universities.

Character Profile: Annie Colson

Further to my new category on character profiles (the full list here), I thought I would take on the winsome Annie Colson next:

annie2FULL NAME: Annie Helen Colson, reporter for The Sunday Times.

AGE: in 1929 she is 20-years-old, therefore born in May 1910.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Light blue eyes, 5’5″ tall, hourglass figure, bright blonde thick hair cut short in a pixie style, inquisitive face.

LOCATION: East end of London on Spital St. where she lives with her younger twin brothers whom she cares for in her father’s absence (he lives and works in the States and sends money back to support them).

EDUCATION: Basic schooling in London, freelanced for The Sunday Times in 1929, was fired that same year and re-hired in 1930.

PREFERENCES: Prefers white wine, enjoys shopping and clothing, favours rosewater, wears makeup and enjoys looking feminine. Out of all the characters, she suffers most from the reality of the Great Depression, trying to feed three mouths on her salary and being out of work for part of the casebook ‘Thrice Burned.’

SOCIALLY: Mother has died, father is abroad, cares for twin 12 year old brothers (in 1930) and is dating Constable Brian Dawes since 1930.

WordPress Daily Prompt: page 82 of the nearest book


It is important to be pithy

The prompt: Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

The book: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R Tolkein

No, answered Frodo, coming back to himself, out of darkness, and finding to his surprise that it was not dark, and that out of the window he could see a sunlit garden.

Whoo. An interesting sentence to start a blog post on, but actually, a pretty easy one, because I had been thinking about this a lot in my recent transcription: the complexity of my language. Tolkien writes, well, complex sentence structure, and obviously didn’t worry about how many commas were in his sentences or how long his paragraphs went. Some of his ideas go on and on and on — sentences that in any English Lit class I’ve taken would have been edited to a third of their length – forever ruining the magnificent tale he wove around Middle Earth.

I struggle with this myself (not to compare myself to Tolkien, but he IS  a hero of mine), because I want to be clear and pithy, but I also want to be true to the writing of this character, which since the beginning of the series, has had a very formal voice.

How do you balance that in your writing? The ‘natural voice’ in the story and worry of tiring your reader out with a sentence that is longer than a tweet?

A challenge for clarity

A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 -- the image was also used on the covers of the passenger lists of the day (Swann Galleries)
A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 — 
 (Swann Galleries)

I was separating out my first ten pages of Book 1 today to start submitting to potential publishers (yes, it is time to start praying for me friends) and I was challenged for details on how Portia left New York by ship and landed in London.

So, to clarify, she took the S.S. Minnetonka II from NY to London on January 18, 1929. How can I be so exacting with my times? Glad you asked, because you wouldn’t BELIEVE the detail you can get from the internet.

This is a listing of ships that left New York bound for London in 1929 and this is some photos and details about the Minnetonka!

Read more about the Atlantic Transport Line here.

It is amazing how much information you can find at the tip of your fingers!

Back to editing… yes, I’ve read these ten pages 100 times, yes, I must read them 100 more times…



Relevant Links

Time to start writing that query letter methinks:  this site called AgentQuery had some interesting suggestions:

Paragraph One—The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in. The best way to understand how to write a hook is to read the loglines of the titles sold by agents in our free searchable AQ database.

Paragraph Two—Mini-synopsis: This is where you get to distill your entire 300 page novel into one paragraph. Lucky you. We’d like to offer advice on how to do this, but really, it just takes practice, hard work and lots of patience. Then, like we said before, get your friends to read it and if their heads hurt afterwards, go back to the drawing board. We don’t envy you. We really don’t. Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal.

Paragraph Three—Writer’s bio: This should be the easiest part of your query. After all, it’s about you, the writer. Okay, so it’s a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never been published, never won any awards, hold no degrees from MFA writing schools, and possess no credentials to write your book. No problem. The less you have to say, the more space you have for your mini-synopsis. Always a plus.

Your Closing: Congratulations! You’ve finished your query letter. As a formal closing, be sure to do two things. First, thank the agent for her time and consideration. Second, if it’s nonfiction, tell them that you’ve included an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters for their review. If it’s fiction, alert the agent that the full manuscript is available upon request. And in case you still don’t believe us, we want to reiterate: don’t query agents until you’ve finished your full fiction manuscript. Agents will want to read the whole novel before they offer representation to you and your book.

First draft of The Invisible Box done!

'Oh transcription, you difficult child!'

So draft 1 of Book 4 is done! Phew! Working title: The Invisible Box… not loving that, but rolling it around in my brain while I start transcribing the story, and you have to have a filename… so let’s go with that one for now.

EDIT: How about Thrice Burned instead?

I like the ending, which is surprising because I was worried about it all the way up until I wrote it, but I don’t think it was too convoluted, so we’ll see how it is received.

But there is a whole bunch of key stuff that’s going to have to be inserted into the middle for that ending to make sense.


Too many mysteries to tie together?

Sigh, Book 4, and I have to tie together clearing Annie’s good name, solving the whole arson thing and dealing with a brand spankin’ new Arch Nemesis. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Why did I do this again? Oh yes, character development. Everyone who read books 1-3 tells me they want to know more about Portia, and that is why this book is so bloody complicated.

Ok, so the whole Pigeon thing.. how about if two chefs at the Palace were feuding and one accused the other of using pigeons in the chicken pot pie instead of, well, chicken? Ok, Annie reports this, the accused Chef is summarily dismissed, Annie’s story is retracted because the feud is discovered, and now this disgraced Chef is struggling in the market. Oh, but the crown prince misses his chicken pot pie (which was chicken after all that) so the kitchen staff try and fail to make it to the original Chef’s standard. They are forced to head down to the market and purchase a contract with the original Chef to create his masterpiece once a week for the Prince.

What if the bitter cuisinier decided to really stick it to his former employer and ACTUALLY serve pigeon in his much sought after pot pies? That would work, but wouldn’t he be arrested or at least run out of town for doing that to the Royals? Yeah, that’s where this goes off the rails. Who hires a vindictive Chef who’s been outed for switching pigeons for chickens? Um yes. Problem. Unless the next person who hires him values his culinary skills and has no love for the British Royals…. hmmm..

Keeping track of it all

PortiaRereading an earlier draft of Book 1 I just realized that I contradicted myself in Book 2, so how about we use this space to keep track of some basic data on Portia Adams, eh?

FULL NAME: Portia Constance Adams, AKA P.C. Adams, Consulting Detective

PARENTS: Charles Eagle (deceased), Marie Adams (deceased)

AGE: in 1929 she is 19-years-old, therefore born in July 1910

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Blue eyes (from her grandfather and mother), tall, dark hair, slim build, right-handed.

LOCATION: Previously, San Francisco and then Toronto, now, 221B Baker St. London, in the Marylebone district of the City of Westminster in London

EDUCATION: Basic schooling in Toronto, along with private tutors, now in King’s College studying Law (started in 1930)

PREFERENCES: Doesn’t like the color pink, adores books and reading, is messy (in terms of living habits), doesn’t like red wine, likes champagne, doesn’t like pea soup, can’t really cook.

SOCIALLY: Has no close friends other than Brian Dawes, and her guardian Mrs. Jones. A new friend has developed in Annie Coleson as of CaseBook 4, and she now has a Bloodhound named Nerissa.