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.

 

More mapping

Screen cap modification of a Google Map
Portia's London

Still working on learning about Portia’s London, so I started a map (available here).

In Book 4 she makes her way out to a farm that has recently been burned to the ground. I need it to be in Sheep-farming land, so I picked Sussex county as a location where Southdown sheep grazed. Read more about Sussex county on Wikipedia here.

The Chalk Downlands (also called the South Downs) area seems to be decent farmland for sheep farming.

The Amberley railway station was built in 1923, so she could have taken a train from Victoria station in London to Amberley to get to the Coombs farmhouse. It would have taken about an hour to get there.

For the church in book 6, i’m thinking about All Hallows by the Tower http://www.ahbtt.org.uk/history/

Quelling the flames

What kind of flame retardants existed in 1927?

Borax 20 Mule Team
Borax 20 Mule Team

There was this product called 20 Mule Team Borax made in the States and ‘commonly available’ for usage as a household cleaner.

Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Borax has a wide variety of uses. It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is also used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound for fiberglass, as an insecticide, as a flux in metallurgy, a texturing agent in cooking, and as a precursor for other boron compounds.

– as taken from the Wikipedia article here

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..

A streetchase

Book4, writing a street chase, and since 221B Baker Street doesn’t really exist in London (at least as a townhouse, not as a Museum), I’m working with the area instead.

So, running South down Siddon’s Lane and then West towards Chagford Street – that makes sense right?

I need someone from London to actually help me before I go ‘un-suspending’ people’s disbelief with erroneous directions.

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. As of the explosion at the beginning of The Detective and the Spy, Portia has about 90% of her hearing back in her right ear, and only about 60% in her left.

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. She had a brief almost-affair with a spy named Ian Lancaster while on the run from MI6.

Nihil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio

“Nihil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio” – Petrarch

(Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive cleverness)

I was trying to figure out where I got the idea for casebook 3 and the missing child, and googled ‘letter in plain sight’ because it is the key element I remembered.

Amazing machine that it is, Google’s first search result was for The Purloined Letter, an Edgar Allen Poe story I read as a child, and the story I had been thinking of when writing Book 3. I remember being fascinated by the idea that people could be fooled into not seeing the very thing they were looking for when it was purposefully left in plain sight. An interesting concept.

Unfound, image created by C-Dog on the Dark Tower forum
Unfound, image created by C-Dog on the Dark Tower forum

That is actually the second homage.

The first is for the working title: Unfound.

I’ll give you a hint if you’re not sure where that comes from;

Btw, that graphic to the left was created by C.Dog on the Dark Tower forum found here (and if that’s not the biggest hint ever, then, well, I can’t help you any more ; )