Saturday, June 4, 2022

Moving Is . . ..

Been busy! But I'll be posting again soon. Here is my advice, though: Don't move three times in two years. 

We do like our new house, it's great to see old friends and neighbors in Sacramento, and we are savoring our last weeks in Portugal — all with friends we love in both places. So I can't complain. 

Meanwhile, I'm working on a new book and submitting earlier stuff.  Now . . . if you're a writer, I'd definitely advise doing that while moving three times in two years. It sure beats house work!

See you soon with updates. Maybe even pictures! We are in the midst of a festival that begs to be photographed. 

Please update me with your news. I hope all is going well. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

ELEVEN QUESTIONS FOR HEATHER EDWARDS

Here is the interview with Heather Edwards I promised in my last post with. Heather is the author of the early reader I found so charming: Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie. And here she is with her own cat named Sherlock, who is not the Siamese cat in the story, but who has that crafty detective look, in my opnion. 

   


1. The two cats in your book, Fluffy and Spot, have distinct cat personalities: Are you a “cat person” when it comes to pets? You seem to have nailed their traits.

 Aw, thanks! I like to think I’m an “equal opportunity” pets person, as I love all animals. But having said that, I have five cats, and only one dog.

 

2. What inspired you to write this mystery? Did you idly observe a couple of cats and decide to make them sleuth wannabes? Or was it just a case of thinking, “Someone should write a story where a cat wants to be Sherlock . . . what if . . .?

I’ve always enjoyed kids: reading to them, being with them, sharing adventures with them. I’ve tried writing adult novels in the past, but I realized a few years ago that I wanted to write for the people I enjoy most: the kids. And, because I know a lot about Sherlock Holmes, along with its many “inside jokes” among the fandom, I thought it would be fun to write a kids book that would make the adult Sherlockians chuckle as well. 

And I think most of us would agree that if Sherlock Holmes was an animal, he’d be a Siamese cat.

 

3. How long did the story take from start to finish?

I started it a few years ago during “Nanowrimo.”  Then I put it aside; I wasn’t sure I wanted to write books for children. I told myself  I’d get back to it when I was less busy. Of course, for so many of us, the “less busy” days came during the Covid lockdown of 2020. I picked it up again then, and finished it in the early months of 2021.  It's interesting to read of a published book that's the actual result of NaNoWriMo! Well done!

 

4. Are there other adventures for this duo in the works?

There is! “Sherlock Cat and the Thwarted Thespian” is the working title for the second one. In that book, one of the boys (sorry, I can’t tell you which one!) will accidentally become part of a community theatre production! 

 

5. What is your usual writing process?

I know that a lot of writers need absolute quiet when they write. Weirdly, having other people near me (but not necessarily talking to me) makes me more productive. Working in coffee shops or restaurants is the perfect scenario for me; I like the background noise, and the energy of the people around me. 

 

 

6. You did a good job of blending cat traits with personality traits of Holmes and Watson. Was that difficult to do?

 Sometimes it was tricky! Often I had to remind myself, “cats don’t have opposable thumbs” or “cats don’t really know how to giggle.” At times I pushed that boundary a little, but I think the readers will forgive me. 

 

7. Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan?

I am! I know that most people of …*ahem*… a certain age were introduced to Holmes through the work of the amazing Jeremy Brett. But I was late to the party, apparently, because Benedict Cumberbatch was my first “Sherlock.”  I’ve read the original books and many pastiches, and have watched many Holmes screen adaptations as well. 

 

8. The illustrations for this book are just marvelous. Did you know Amanda Downs before the book came out? Or was this a case of the publisher connecting you?

I love telling this story! Amanda and I are both members of our local Sherlock Holmes society, the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota. Before this, we had met a few times through the society, and I had been a longtime fan of her art. When I had originally started the book a few years ago, I had asked Amanda if she would want to illustrate it. She wasn’t interested at that time. 

When my manuscript was complete, I asked Amanda if she’d read it over, just to make sure it sounded all right. She agreed and a few days later, she sent me this incredible sketch of Holmes and Watson as cats. I couldn’t believe it! It was absolutely how I’d envisioned them! 

After my manuscript was accepted by MX Publishing, my publisher asked if I knew someone who might be willing to illustrate the book. This time, Amanda agreed, even though it meant she’d have to crank out all these illustrations in less than six months (while juggling her full-time job and a young family as well).  But she did it, and I will be forever grateful to her. 

We got together a couple of months ago to sign some Kickstarter copies of our book, and it struck me that we hadn’t actually seen each other for several years, and that we had gone from casual acquaintances to partners during that time.

 

9. Have you always wanted to write children’s books?

My mom- who is 80 now- has literally been telling me to write children’s books for 30 years, but I never seriously considered doing it until the pandemic hit in 2020. When we were locked down in our homes, I started reading children’s books aloud and live-streaming the readings through Facebook, and I was surprised at how many kids would tune in every night to listen. I was so inspired by the authors I was reading (especially Barbara Park, who wrote the Junie B. Jones series), and I realized I would love for children to be reading my book as well. So I dusted off the Sherlock Cat story I’d started a few years before, and finally finished it. 

 

10. Do you have a website? How can readers contact you?

I don’t have a Web site, but I just opened an Instagram account:  https://www.instagram.com/sherlockcatwashere/  

 

11. Any advice for unpublished writers?

“… Write like you’re running out of time.” I know this is a well-known line from Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” but when I first saw this production, that lyric really hit home for me. We aren’t given an infinite amount of time on this earth. If you want to write, then do it right now. 


Great advice for any writer or artist, for sure. Thank you Heather, for taking time for this interview. Best of luck with the continued success of this book and I'll look forward to the next!


        (For those who wish to order the book click HERE)


Readers, is there any activity you can apply that advice to? ( "……. like you're running out of time.)


Are you a pet person? If so, cat? Dog? Something more unusual? Do you take part in NaNoWriMo?


Friday, April 22, 2022

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. Really.

I would like to take credit for the above line, but it comes from a charming book for early readers by Heather Edwards, the author of Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie, illustrated by Amanda Downs. One look at the cover tells you you are in for a good ride.


            Spot, a Siamese cat named by his owner, Mary, when she was only three, and Fluffy, the family’s orange cat, lead normal cat lives until one night the electricity goes out. When the father decides to read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes aloud to his family by candle light, it only takes one or two adventures to inspire Spot to plan a new life: He will become Sherlock Holmes. Fluffy will be the new Dr. Watson and record their adventures. 
            So begins this thoroughly delightful tale. 

            When you’re a detective, everything looks suspicious. Soon Spot, uh, Sherlock, is at the window, pondering happenings next door: Why haven’t the Petersons been seen for days? Why is their dog, Toby, digging holes in the yard at night? What did he drop in the hole? Who is the unknown stranger fiercely commanding him to get indoors? Enigmas multiply until, worst of all, Sherlock’s favorite mousie goes missing. 

            Eventually these mysteries and others are solved, but not before the two sleuths get into a series of adventures that had me laughing even the third time I read this charming book.

            Heather Edward has managed to weave together familiar Holmes and Watson traits with thoroughly believable cat behavior. The plot twists are clever. The humor is both subtle one moment, zany the next. And Amanda Downs’ adorable illustrations come to life all through the story. 

Kid will love this book. And, as an added bonus, it’s an excellent introduction for young people to learn a little bit about Sherlock Holmes.  


It's for sale at Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback, and you can buy it HERE. I am hoping to get an interview with the author and illustrator in the future. 



How about you? Have you read any books lately that had you laughing? Have you read any that you just had to read again? Please share. 








Monday, March 21, 2022

Spring, Chopin, Ukraine, and Queen Victoria


      
























Yesterday was the first day of spring, and I was motivated to finally snap photos of one of the succulent plants on our enclosed balcony, because it has burst into wonderous bloom. 

On another note, I have always been a lover of Chopin's music, although I can't really name compositions by number or by type (whether etude, nocturn, or whatever else). But when I hear Chopin played, I almost go into a dream state. His music always affects me that way.

So what has Chopin to do with Queen Victoria? Or a flowering plant? 

Chopin lived in France in his later years, and he is known as a "romantic" composer, not a Victorian composer. And the year Victoria came to the throne — 1837 — was the year he ran off with his lover, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupinhe, best known as George Sand. The relationship lasted a mere two years. (There were women before and after Ms. Sand, but not as famous.) And poor Chopin, who always had bad health, died in 1849, 10 years after they parted.  

Of course, Victoria had nothing to do with the start of their famous relationship. 1837 was mere coincidence. But he did meet the queen in 1848, the year of the French Revolution, when he went to London. He played for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Stafford House, and apparently the couple came up to him afterward and spoke to him, which was a rare occurence for them. 

What started me thinking about Chopin and the when and whereabouts of his latter days? A simple video I saw on a Facebook friend's post. I have been watching and reading news about Ukraine daily, both in English, and in Portuguese (Google Translate at hand), to the point of obsession. Portugal has taken in more than 10,000 refugees from Ukraine, according to the count three days ago. Quite a large number have come to Braga, and an organization here that was sending supplies to Ukraine is now dispersing them to the refugees in the city. My heart breaks daily for that land, once full of beautiful cities now being reduced to rubble. I so admire the bravery of those who are fighting for their lives and for their land.

For me this video — the one that started me thinking about Chopin and his place in a historical timeline — captures what it means for the life you love to be bombarded daily — a pianist playing Chopin amidst the wreckage of her home. I hope you will take the time to watch and listen. It's short.

You can listen to her beautiful playing HERE.

Meanwhile, here is a picture I took of one area of the gardens along Avenida da Liberdad: A single pink tulip rising out of a bed of white cabbage. In troubled time, scenes of beauty can remind one to hope. May this little flower do the same for you. 





Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Juxtaposition of History

         This blog is named Victorian Scribbles and the original idea was to write about all things Victorian—which normally we associate with England. You know: cobblestone streets, London fog, Victoria and Albert, Tennyson and all the famous Victorian poets, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes. What is strange to realize is that just short of the midpoint of Victoria's reign, the Civil War was raging in the U.S., and the following aftermath built up in southern states to what later became Jim Crow.

         Just recently I read Vicki Lane's new book, And the Crow Took Their Eyes, in my opinion, a masterpiece. 

When I think of the Civil War, in the past I've always imagined a unified Confederacy. But that wasn't the case. Slave owners fought to preserve their way of life, but a large proportion of of villagers in small out of the way places didn't have any desire for war. They had no desire for slaves, didn't want to be dragged into any fighting. They just wanted to be left alone and get by. If they did join the Conferate army, often it was at gunpoint. More often, they just vanished into the woods and hills until the recruiters left.

One such place was Shelton Laurel in North Carolina, where thirteen men who wouldn't fight were suspected of being Union sympathizers and were massacred. Apparently the history is factual, the massacre famous, but the story Lane tells is through the eyes of five fictionalized characters, all with different voices. And, fiction being a powerful tool for truth, the story unfolds, voice by voice, showing the ravages of war that alter communities and don't end when the shooting stops. It's a heartbreaking read, but a valuable one, and the writer's mastery of language and culture of the area make the community and the individual characters come alive for the reader. This is one of the best books I've ever read. 

If you click on the title above, you'll be taken to the book itself. Go there, please.


What books have you been reading? Please share.



Friday, January 14, 2022

Back from the Holidays

 

This year marked our very first Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day in Portugal. We had lovely holidays, sharing Christmas Eve with our "Portuguese family" and Christmas week with a series of Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp get togethers with family and friends so far away. Thank goodness for the Internet. It does help close the distance so wonderfully.

Here is Christmas Eve with our "Portuguese family." What delicious food we had - a traditional Xmas Eve Portuguese meal! And wonderful company as always. Our hostess took the picture, so, alas you can't see her. The woman to your right is her mother. The young woman is her daughter. And across the table from the daughte ris her husband. They are such terrific friends. 



We also indulged in binge reading, since Covid kept us more indoors than out ("outdoors" being reserved for our daily walks.) As a result, for a while I will be sharing reviews of some of the books we read - most of them mysteries, and many on this blog related to Sherlock Holmes since his major era was the Victorian Era.

But first I have to share with you a charming children's book that you can back in a Kickstarter Project:
Sherlock Cat and the Missing Mousie. I had the opportunity ro read an advance copy, and it's just delightful! 

The book is already up on Amazon and you can pre-order if you wish, but it won't be released until March. Once it does come out, I'll review it here as well as on Amazon.

And here is the link to the Kickstarter project if you are interested.  


A more serious review of a "thriller" type book (i.e. dead bodies and the hunt for a killer) will be on my Fourth Wish blog tomorrow.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. I will look forward to reading your posts and catching up on your news. Any good reads you discovered, please share. 

Take care and stay well. 



Thursday, December 23, 2021

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM BRAGA, PORTUGAL

 WISHING YOU & YOUR LOVED ONES A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

                                 "FELIZ NATAL E UM PROSPERO ANO NOVO"






SEE YOU NEXT YEAR WITH SOME GOOD NEWS. 😊