Box 850 done – time to transcribe!

Mi6
Mi6

It’s still a tentative title, but Book 5: Box 850 is done.

Box 850 is the colloquial term for the British Intelligence Service, specifically MI6, which wasn’t actually acknowledged as existing until 1994.

At the time of the book, the Chief of MI6 would have been Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair (1923–1939) and operated at the time out of  54 – Broadway, off Victoria StreetLondon.

It seems that MI5 concentrated more on internal threats, and MI6 more on external, but in the case of Mr. Howard, it is not made clear what his connection is to the Secret Service, it is only intimated that he comes from those offices. MI5 has its own colloquial name: Box 500 (after its official wartime address of PO Box 500).

Mi5
Mi5

So I suppose I could scoop that as a name instead. What do you think? I don’t know why but Box 850 sounds cooler and more mysterious than Box 500. But maybe that’s just me.

Another little bit of Latin

a little bit of latin
a little bit of latin

I am going to need this note from my would-be art thief in Book 5 (tentatively titled Box 850), so I started exploring it:

How about this for an evil note from our would-be art thief?
I wait for you to be in your most joyous celebration
and that is when I will strike
and take back what is mine
the archer of my village
and you will never see me
or know I was there
– Zeus

So in Latin (Lord send me someone who can make this accurate please) could be:
Exspectabo te laetus in celebratione
et quod suus cum percutiam
et retro quid nostra
in pandus mei castellum
et numquam videre me
vel scio erat

– Zeus

Why having an editor really is vital

Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)
Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)

My editor Barb is all kinds of fabulous but she made a couple really good catches this weekend while doing a final vet of Books 1-3.

1. In Book 3 I make reference to a District Attorney in Scotland. Turns out Scotland didn’t call their District Attorneys that at all, especially in 1930; after a bit of research, I think the character could be what is called a Procurator fiscal who “present cases for the prosecution in the Sheriff, District and Justice of the Peace Courts” .

Sound right? I will have to do some more research to be sure.

2. In Book 3 again, Portia refers to the fate of one of her earlier clients, Mr. Barclay as “living out his days at Wandsworth Prison.” Thing is, as Barb pointed out, Mr. Barclay was proven to have pre-meditated the murder of his father, and perhaps would have been given the death penalty rather than life in prison.

The Death Penalty in England was not abolished until 1969 according to Wikipedia.
Two current (for the book’s setting) examples given in the Wikipedia article were:
  • 1923, 9 January: Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, in London’s Holloway and Pentonville Prisons respectively, for the murder of Thompson’s husband. The case was controversial because, although the two lovers had discussed the possible elimination of her husband in advance, Thompson did not directly participate in the murder for which she was hanged.
  • 1931, 3 January: Victor Betts for murder committed during the course of a robbery. The case had established that a person need not be present when a crime is committed to be regarded as an accessory after the fact.[45]
BUT
“Between 1900 and 1949, 621 men and 11 women were executed in England and Wales. Ten German agents were executed during the First World War under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914,[6] and 16 spies were executed during the Second World War under the Treachery Act 1940.[7] “

I <think> I am safe in leaving Charles Barclay, a member of the elite of London, son to a highly respected judge, to live out his days at Wandsworth.

Historical accuracy

Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction seems to be about a careful weaving of facts that can be verified and the stories you tell around them. This is most evident in Philippa Gregory‘s books about the royals in Britain, a series of books I think I own entirely in hardcover (demonstrating my respect for them).

In an interview posted on AbeBooks, she says ” In historical fiction, you have to imagine conversations that may have happened, based on the historical facts.”

I wonder if that also extends to deaths of historical figures where the cause of death goes undocumented (as far as I can tell through my research)?

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…

 

 

Possible artwork

From Wikipedia: Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers

One possibility for part of the collection at Lancaster House in 1931 is this piece by Sir Joshua Reynolds entitled: Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers.

It was created in the late 1700s and was sold in 2005 for £2.5 million.

Dimensions: 238.7 cm × 184.2 cm (94.0 in × 72.5 in)

Watson and the Shark

Another option is for Watson and the Shark, which has the added link to Portia that I like, but less of an ability to easily play with the title (more cryptic than I mean it to be, but I don’t want to give away the premise of the first chapter of the book – sorry!).

This oil painting came from the same era exactly, but was painted by John Singleton Copley. The vertical copy of this piece is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It was sold off in 1963.

Dimensions 182.1 cm × 229.7 cm (71¾ in × 90½ in)

Problematic for a few reasons: it never seemed to make it into the London Museum (and therefore never made it to Lancaster House), there are three copies, making it less valuable and like I stated earlier, the title is harder to work with.

Apollo from Pompeii (statue, from getty.edu)
Apollo from Pompeii (statue, from getty.edu)

An additional piece that I could relate to the first painting above is the bronze statue of Apollo from the ruins of Pompeii. The following text and image is from getty.edu: “In June 1817 the majority of the Apollo, broken into three pieces, was found just north of the forum in Pompeii, not far from the Temple of Jupiter … its reconstruction was complete by 1825.

So if this could have been in the collection at Lancaster House (which I suppose it could have been, on loan from some museum in Italy I have been unable to find so far) then this could mesh nicely with the kernel of a story I have in my head.

Dimensions: 147 (h) x 55 (w) x 114 (d) cm

I’d like to know the weight of this statue, but have been so far unable to find that.

Scouting locations

In addition to always keeping my map front of mind, I spent most of today researching (yay – Wikipedia is back!) appropriate locations for Elaine Barclay’s extravagant wedding.

Elaine is of course from Book 2: A Case of Darkness, and has returned for a brief cameo in the form of her wedding that will take place in Book 5, which I am currently writing.

Lancaster House layout from Wikipedia
Lancaster House layout from Wikipedia

I think Lancaster House (renamed from its original name Stafford House in 1912) is an apt location for both such an event and for the items I need to be present during the reception (mysterious enough for you? 😉
One of the main reasons to use this building is that “From 1924 until shortly after World War II, the house was the home of the London Museum, but it is now used for government receptions and is closed to the public except on rare open days.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Perfect. Next step: figure out what could have been part of the collection being housed at the Lancaster House in 1931.

Guns and Fashion

Just finished transcribing ‘Thrice Burned!’

That seemed to take forever, but I think it was because I was adding so much stuff on the way. Its the longest story so far, but I think it holds interest all the way through – will have to see what the first readers of it have to say on that and everything else.

I still feel like I need to speak more to the beginnings of a relationship between Benjamin Charles and Portia, but I am looking for reasonable places to insert that character development.

NOTE: Rethinking Benjamin Charles’ name.. seems too plain to me.

Luger Pistol (image from Wikipedia)

I also need to do some more research into guns and fashion in the 1930s (which, now that I think about it, is a much better title for this blog post, so I’m changing it!).

I’m thinking the Luger P08 Pistol might be reasonable for Portia to start carrying (in book 5, already started) but it might be too big or have too much recall, I need to know more about it. Certainly, it seems readily available at the time, and was still a popular sidearm into the second world war.

Ideally, I would want a pistol that I could link some kind of history to (though not as having belonged to her grandfather’s (Webley’s No.2 .320 calibre bore) but one I can link backwards at some point. I’d like it to be as easy to use as possible, with bullets readily available in London, but knowing so little about guns, I’m going to have to depend on the internet, and your help dear readers to sort it all out.

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!

Transcription
'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.