Tell us about yourself and the types of books you write.
I wrote Rumble in the Tunnel through an indie press and I have gained nothing from it, not one penny, but I got worlds in experience. It was a collection of short stories, some poetry, an historical fantasy, and several interconnected tales of the genre “Appalachian or Southern Gothic”. I’ve written several in-depth essays and articles about karstic (cave) watersheds. To prove I wasn’t crazy enough, I cranked out a voluntary thesis on saltpetre mining and an analysis of the first discovered three-toed sloth titled What is this Thing, Thomas Jefferson? That one I’m still the most proud of because it was a massive detective hunt and it turned into a nesting box full of twists and turns. This year I did flash fictions for e-presses and I’m loving the challenges.
You Buy Bones is the first, opening salvo in the Test of Professionals series, which I’ve almost finished proofing. A Yard-centric POV of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, segueing into a Yard-centric view of Watson during the Hiatus. I’m enjoying setting the stage for the long-term satisfaction of bringing in Mary Watson and Colonel Hayter.
Personally? I’m a Jane of Trades, because my curiosity wants me to try everything. I draw (but never as much as I want) and my online gallery is here: here If I could, I’d drop it all and illustrate books and magazines…but first I have to figure out how to put together this drafting table I bought at Goodwill…My dream job would be to work in a cave somewhere, doing science-y stuff, or maintaining a wetlands wastewater facility.
What makes your stories different from other Holmes’ pastiches?
Sherlock Holmes and Watson are the giant celestial bodies around which orbit the other planets and moons. These people usually do not see Holmes and Watson every day, but they are profoundly affected by their experiences with them. Most work is through the POV of Scotland Yard, who deal with crime in a very different way than does Holmes—but at the same time their duties are very different from his. The differences are at times oppositional, sometimes harmonious, and often conflicting but there is respect and some affection all around. I love using the Yarders to talk about Holmes and Watson because it lets me show how smart both of them are. David Marcum calls my stuff “Scotland Yard’s Tin Dispatch Box” and that’s about as accurate a description as it gets!
When you’re not reading Conan Doyle, who’s your go-to author or genre?
Ben Aaronovitch’s geographical fantasy Rivers of London. Jeffrey E. Barlough’s Western Lights series—the best elements of ACD, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Jane Eyre, Mary Shelley, HP Lovecraft, and Thomas Jefferson put into dark fantasy. On the Great Authors whom have passed, I go back to the Patron Saint of Weird Tales’ Manly Wade Wellman and re-read his master craft for a recharge. His Sherlock Holmes and the War of the Worlds I’m convinced was written because he lost a bet or a dare. I’ve only read it once. Being a sucker for a good mystery with historical detail, I swallow up The Haunted Ballad books by Deborah Grabien, and the Penny Spring/Sir Toby mysteries (Margot Arnold). I blame all of this reading, every last bit of this, on my formative years with The Tell-Tale Lilac Bush, Ruth Ann Musick’s 3-volume collection of oral folklore (mostly ghost stories) of WV and PA. In short, clean style she wrote down stories that kept us kids up at night. With the lights on. In the closet. Clutching flashlights for protection. Hugging the dog.
Do you have a favourite fellow pastiche writer? Who and why?
I’ll plea a tie. 1) David Marcum read early and wrote late and he is making up for lost time. Delightfully cerebral and cool, his Holmes. You feel his Watson’s little notebook is never far from his writing hand. I’ve often said he’s accomplished the impossible with raising the bar on the genre—beats me what his encore will be, but I want to be there when it happens! David’s work “explands” (explains/expands) how Holmes really IS. Get on a diet of his books and you’ll sense that Holmes was truly ahead of his time, pushing the development of criminal science to a much faster schedule in order to meet the escalating threats of global crime.
2) Westron Wynde, an online fan fiction authorix, has a voice of Holmes most of us would kill for. Her realism has grit; you can smell the soot and feel the bashed knuckles. She is one of the few writers who remembers the era still depended on a working relationship with animals and she compels our empathy. She reminds us they were living, feeling, and breathing machines to adore or destroy. Animals are part of her Holmesian web, be it Watson speculating on the canal loach, a puppy baiting attack hounds, or a mare with PTSD. When she posts that I can’t be responsible for my blood pressure. No one “wins” a single victory in her stories—they are earned or given freely!
Other than Holmes, who is your favourite detective?
Tough one! For television? Christopher Foyle! In modern horror, but ultimately Charles Sheffield’s fictional account of the real-life Erasmus Darwin, a delightful Georgian era Doctor-detective, gourmet, meddler, natural scientist, inventor, and rocket-designer. If you haven’t read the late, great Sheffield’s work, do. This is Charles Darwin’s grandfather, and he is a true treasure. I can’t read his summary of the Loch Ness Monster: “What in the name of Linnaeus is it?” Without laughing out loud. This fellow could stand toe to toe against Holmes any day—so long as Holmes wasn’t between him and his supper. His “Watson” is Pole: a retired soldier, man of reason, logic, and treasure-hunting. For a free short story, go here: http://www.baen.com/Chapters/074343529X/074343529X.htm?blurb
Who are your heroes (real life or literary)?
Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby, the doctor who listened to an unknown Shawnee medicine woman on the cause of milk sickness (it killed her family and Abe Lincoln’s mother), and proved it with the scientific method. She saved a lot of lives but her proof wasn’t recognized until 1928—55 years after her death.
Mary Jane Heaster. Back in 1897 her daughter was murdered by her new husband, and this woman very bravely went forth and pushed for a murder trial. She claimed that her daughter’s ghost was seeing her every night with a broken neck; this led to the first autopsy in the county (nearly causing a riot) and proof that her neck was indeed broken. You can believe she really heard and saw her daughter’s ghost, or you can believe Mary took the evidence from the suspicious behaviour of the husband and extrapolated what had really happened, going public with the supernatural as her vehicle for getting the investigation. It is the only known case in American history where the words of a ghost were used as evidence in a murder trial!
Your favourite quote, Sherlockian or otherwise?
“If you must be a leader, be a bridge!” –Gaelic