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You know the place. It's where deities and divinities and avatars go when they've clocked off and they need a casual after-work pint or a quick remedial stiff one or some casual conversation with their peers before going home to the family.

So Christ is sitting there nursing a nice Pinot Grigio (he gets so tired of red wine, you have no idea) and he's saying to the gods and near-gods at the bar with him, "You know what really gets to me, though? The tat. The kitsch. The dashboard ornaments, the endless dodgy art -- "

"I saw that doll," says somebody down the bar past Mithras and Izanagi: a god with his hood pulled up and a long cloak that looks and flows like shadow. "With the puffy sleeves and the crown."

"The Infant of Prague, yeah. Take my advice, do not do apparitions after hours in Prague, it's something about the beer they brew there, what those people will do to you after the fact just does not bear considering. But you know what's worst? The 'Sacred Heart.'" He actually does the air quotes, which leave little traces of (appropriately) red fire. "On the front of me, outside my clothes, like I've had some kind of bass-ackwards transplant. Usually with rays of light coming out of it. Aorta and vena cava and wobbly bits all aglow. There is nothing that does not appear on. Lunch boxes. Key chains. Night lights, do you believe that? How many kids' nights have been ruined by having that thing glowing at them like a refugee from a Bill Cosby skit? You should see some of the stores at CafePress. I'm amazed they haven't done My Sacred Spleen yet. Except probably none of them can figure out where it would go." He rolls his eyes. "I have it way worse than any of you."

Mutterings of agreement run up and down the bar. Then a voice speaks up.

"I got that beat."

Read more... )
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A Wizard Abroad New Millennium Edition cover
Teenage wizards Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez have been working the New York suburbs for nearly thirty years now, through nine novels' worth of adventures. As the dawn of their fourth decade in print draws near, the long-planned updating of the Young Wizards series continues with the Ebooks Direct release of the fourth novel in the series: A Wizard Abroad. Abroad, like So You Want to Be a Wizard (book 1 of the Young Wizards series), Deep Wizardry (book 2), and High Wizardry (book 3), now appears in a New Millennium Edition that's been extensively edited and updated for the present century. You can find out more about the update project as a whole here. All nine books will be updated by the end of 1Q of 2013, and all brought into alignment with the new (2008-2011-based) timeline. If you've already picked up copies of the first two New Millennium Editions, you can grab A Wizard Abroad here. Alternately, if you haven't yet acquired any of the new editions, we're offering a four-volume "box set" of the first New Millennium Editions at a slightly lower price than buying all four separately.
New Millennium Edition Four-book set
(For those interested: book 5 of the series, The Wizard's Dilemma, is now in edit and will be available around mid-February of 2013.) A little about the story:
There's magic across the Atlantic... NitaCallahan's mom and dad are beginning to get the idea that she and her fellow wizard Kit are "spending a little too much time together". So -- explaining that they want to give their daughter a little vacation from wizardry -- they pack Nita off for a month-long stay with her eccentric aunt at her farm in Ireland. But this turns out to have been a bad move on Nita's parents' part, since Ireland is even more steeped in magical doings than the United States.
Nita, initially certain that she's going to be bored out of her mind, soon finds that the serene beauty of the Irish landscape is deceptive. The ghosts of men and beasts and other beings -- including what seem to be heroes, ancient gods, and even the Powers that Be -- confront her at every turn. And her attention to strictly wizardly business during this crisis is somewhat distracted by the dark and edgy Ronan Nolan, a local teen wizard with uncomfortable secrets... and an agenda that might possibly include Nita.
 
Along with a group of Irish wizards both young and old, Nita and Kit (who joins her in Ireland) are drafted into an increasingly desperate battle with the Lone Power in yet another of Its many forms. The fight is a personal one, as always -- but this time there's more at stake than usual, as the ancient Enemy of life attempts to submerge the everyday Ireland in an older, more dangerous one: a place where human beings are fairy tales, and the legends and monsters of Celtic myth are a deadly reality....
Reviewers say:
"Duane seamlessly interweaves encounters with creatures from legend with glimpses of modern Irish life and teen culture... So clever and well reasoned that readers will have no trouble suspending disbelief." (School Library Journal)
"An engaging fantastical tale... Definitely worth reading." (Book Trust)
"Suitable for a wide range of readers. The colourful descriptions and imaginative characters create an exciting read... found it difficult to put the book down." (Platform)

To sign up for our shop's mailing list and be informed of new releases in the New Millennnium series (and other offerings), click here.
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Oh, cousins, you could NOT make this up. The theory espoused by this (almost certainly) Thin-Lipped White Guy With A Two-Dollar Haircut is that Romney lost because he didn’t get the Slut Vote.

Women make up about 54% of the electorate.  It is very hard to win without winning that segment, or at least losing it only narrowly while winning men big. While the right usually wins married women, the fact is that married women constitute an ever-decreasing share of the female population.  Women want to delay marriage as long as possible so they can “have it all,” and usually “have it all” means “have as much hot alpha sex as possible without any consequences.”  And thus, less married women and more sluts (not that these two groups are mutually exclusive, per se)

This doesn’t begin to hint at what else is in this guy’s (unsuccessfully privatized) G+ posting. If you’re a person of color or a spoiled suburban brat-princess, he’s got you figured out too. Just go read it. 

(eyeroll) I. can’t. …EVEN.

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I did my first ebook collection of short fiction a bit more than a year ago, and Uptown Local and Other Interventions seems to have pleased a lot of people; so a little while ago I started thinking about doing another ebook that would gather together other short work I'd done and had fun with in recent years.

I wanted to wait a little while to find the common thread that bound all the stories together, though, before I put the collection out there. I can't believe it took me as long as it did to notice that all the stories I'd pulled together had a strong fairy tale component: and those that didn't were ghost stories.

In retrospect it shouldn't have been a surprise. Fairy tales are probably the subfamily of fantasy that I love the best: the house is full of them, in collections and compendia from every culture you can imagine. And many of my books have had fairy tales at their roots (Stealing the Elf-King's Roses and Raetian Tales 1: A Wind from the South being the most obvious of these). And the timing for a collection of fairy-tale-based fiction isn't bad, I suppose, with the genre suddenly so hot in popular culture. (Well, all right, not "suddenly", really: this has been going on for a couple/few years now.)

As for the ghost stories, I've always had a bit of a yen for those; and of course as we come up on Hallowe'en this particular line of thought resonates more strongly than usual. Modern ghost stories in particular have an attraction for me, and when I realized that I already had one or two of those in this putative collection, I thought I'd round it out by adding the longest one I'd ever written -- a screenplay, as it happens.

So here's Midnight Snack and Other Fairy Tales, and here's what it contains:

  • First Readthrough: How you do the casting for a fairy tale… and what can go wrong while you do.
  • The Dovrefell Cat: Your pet polar bear may sometimes be a problem… but there’s one night of the year when he shines.
  • …Under My Skin: Some first dates just don’t work out the way you think they will: not at all.
  • A Swiss Story: Lots of people from that part of the world have something from “during the War”. But not many have anything like this…
  • Blank Check: A most unusual client turns up at one of the world’s oldest banks with an impossible request… which nonetheless must be fulfilled.
  • Don’t Put That In Your Mouth, You Don’t Know Where It’s Been: A would-be worshipper of the Triple Goddess has her upcountry ritual disturbed by something very odd.
  • The House: A school science project examining gingerbread as a structural element turns into something way more personal.
  • Cold Case: A cop who won’t take no for an answer meets a murder victim who’s even more stubborn than he is.
  • The title work, Midnight Snack: “Dad came down with the flu that week, so I had to go down to the subway and feed the unicorns…” (Along with the story of how it got censored.)
  • And completing the collection, a full-length feature film screenplay, Dead & Breakfast: a ghost story with computers.

Want a copy? Click here. (Or on the image at the top.)

…As with all our ebooks, this one is DRM-free and can be moved from device to device at your pleasure. Also, for the same flat price, we offer an all-format bundle containing various versions of the major ebook formats, so you can find out what works best for you. (And if you have multiple devices this is good too: we don't see any reason why you should buy the same book twice just because you have a Kindle and a Nook or whatever.) Just choose "All Format Bundle" in the dropdown menu on the book's page at the store.

Enjoy!

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(aka, Double Chocolate Courvoisier Torte with Brandied Buttercream Filling and Two Icings [Brandied Nutella Frosting and Cream Cheese & White Chocolate Ganache Glaze])

(...Fic first. Recipe after.)

Mycroft... knows that power, especially when it leans so close to the absolute, must be constantly tested to prove that its foundations are sound. Its bearer's weak points must be laid bare, examined, reinforced, then stress-tested again. And for Mycroft, cake is a weak point. It would be irrational to deny it.

So when it comes time for him to do the quarterly assessment of his strengths and his ability to manage his weaknesses, not just any cake will do. He requires something truly dangerous, a veritable Moriarty among cakes... so that his mettle can be tested, and proven not wanting, at the highest possible level. And finding the worthy antagonist for such tests has occasionally proven as much fun as the test itself...
Read more... )
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For no particular reason whatsoever, we're doing a quickie sale on March 26 / 27.


From now until 23:59 Hawaiian time on March 27th, everything in the store will be 60% off. 

   All the ebooks in our catalog are included -- you can browse the catalog here to see what we have to offer. Newest in the store are the Peter Morwood "Horse Lord" prequels Greylady and Widowmaker, and my new ebooks Raetian Tales 1: A Wind from the South and Stealing the Elf-King's Roses: The Author's Cut; and of course we also feature the 9-volume Young Wizards International Edition complete sets.


 All you have to do to obtain the discount is use the discount code / coupon code FLASHSALE during the checkout process. (Instructions about how and when to put the code in are here.)
 


 Thanks for visiting!



 



 


Magic Number offer:  We're at order number #3412 at the moment. If you complete order #3500 in our store, you get it free! (More info here.)



 


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The Fall begins
ATTENTION ALL: please read the spoiler warning below before clicking on anything in this post. Thanks! :)

There it is: right now possibly one of the most familiar images in the TV-fannish regions of the Intarwebz, one which is routinely greeted by many of those who recognize it with miserable sighs, in some cases with weeping and wailing, and (in many forums and online havens) with the gnashing of teeth and anguished cries of “MOFFAAAAAT!!” ...


...For a decade or so now, Peter and I have had the privilege and constant delight of being friends with a very gifted German screenwriter by the name of Torsten Dewi. Torsten worked closely with us on the miniseries Die Niebelungen (which aired in the US on SyFy under the title Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King), and was the source of endless good advice and encouragement all through what turned into kind of a crazed process.

In more recent years, besides his continuing TV and film work (he was, in particular, the man who introduced the telenovela concept to Germany with Lotta in Love), Torsten has become a most popular and prolific blogger on TV, film, and media in general. Some weeks ago he let us know that he and his Very Significant Other, the beautiful Britta, were going to be taking a holiday this month; and rather than let his blog at Wortvogel.de go quiet, or do a bunch of canned postings, he asked me (among various others) whether I'd like to do a guest piece for him. I immediately said yes, and almost as immediately knew what I wanted to do for him: for "The Reichenbach Fall" had just aired.

Here, then, is a link to what I wrote for Torsten --  a general overview of Sherlock, and some notes about issues that have developed over the past two seasons, and particularly in the wake of the most recent episode. Please note that this blog is absolutely overrun with detailed spoilers for everything in series 1 & 2 up to and including exact specifics of events in "The Reichenbach Fall." So you've been warned.

Otherwise: enjoy!
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Dreamwidth friends: I tried to mirror this post here, but the form can't handle the Scrippet formatting: so please pop over here to see the post. Thanks!

 



 

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Sherlock and John

I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for many, many years. I don’t even really remember when I first started reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal tales of the world’s first and greatest consulting detective, though it has to have been fairly early – probably when I was twelve or thirteen.

There is nothing unusual about loving Holmes. Millions of others have done so before me, with good reason. What’s come up for consideration for me at the moment are the closely associated issues of what Doyle did to his most famous creation, and the fans’ reactions to what he did:  with an eye to what’s going on at the moment at the BBC.*

SPOILER WARNING: though this blog is going to be fairly general, you should be warned: if you have NOT read the Sherlock Holmes stories up until now, and are also watching the BBC’s Sherlock simply as serial drama and have not seen The Reichenbach Fall as yet, then you’d better read no further until you’ve seen it and have come to terms with the result.

Anyway, I spotted this posting on tumblr this morning, and it started me musing.

you know I wonder if back in the day when The Final Problem came out Victorians were sending out letters with “Dear sir, have you read the latest Holmes story yet? I simply cannot handle it. I have cried an unseemly amount of tears. I cannot. Oh God.” and then there’s just a big ink scribble because keysmashing wasn’t an option
[little drawings of crying people in the margins]

When you write, naturally you hope that what you’ve written will have an emotional impact on the reader or viewer: the more profound, the better. But sometimes the profundity of the response can get scary -- and this was as true in the pre-online world as in the hyper-interconnected literary world of today. Arthur Conan Doyle ran into the sharp end of this problem as his career was trending upward toward what would be seen by some as its peak. Readers these days who’re more familiar with the written than the writer are often surprised to discover that Doyle didn’t think much of his Sherlock Holmes stories as compared to the historical novels that were his passion.**

As so often happens in the writers’ world, Doyle had ideas about what his best works were -- but the general readership and the critics had completely different thoughts on the matter.  People went crazy for the Holmes stories, whereas Doyle’s historical novels tended to get fairly lukewarm reviews. (And today they are largely forgotten. If you can name even one, you’re either a Doyle expert or an unusually thorough reader.) This situation drove Doyle up the wall, though he didn’t routinely share that info with the reading public. With other writers – and he was friendly with lots of them -- he was a lot more forthcoming about the disappointment. Otherwise he kept it quiet.

More annoying for him in the short term, though, was the fact that quite soon after the stories started making their initial splash, Doyle started receiving mail intended for Sherlock Holmes. Hundreds of letters came in containing praise, presents (though fortunately no cocaine), pleas for help, requests for interviews or autographs. Of course Doyle was here the recipient, many times over, of a backhanded compliment. Happy the writer (so other writers would say) who can create a character so compelling and rounded that people start corresponding with him, her or it as if he/she/it were real.  Doyle was aware of the irony, and tried not to overreact; when he was in the mood, he’d sometimes get playful when answering Holmes’s mail “for him”, signing it “John Watson”.

But increasingly this confusion of identities became an annoyance, as not only readers but sometimes even critics seemed increasingly unclear on the difference between the writer and the written. One critic, the American poet Arthur Guiterman, wrote Doyle a bit of doggerel suggesting that Holmes’s opinions about literary detectives were actually Doyle’s:


Illustrator Sydney Paget's Holmes

Sherlock your sleuthhound, with motives ulterior,
Sneers at Poe’s ‘Dupin’ as ‘very inferior’!
Labels Gaboriau’s clever ‘Lecoq’, indeed,
Merely ‘A bungler’, a creature to mock indeed!
This when your plots and your methods in story owe
Clearly a trifle to Poe and Gaboriau,
Sets all the Muses of Helicon sorrowing.
Borrow, Sir Knight, but be candid in borrowing!

Doyle’s response in kind was polite but (to my ear) none too amused:

But is it not on the verge of inanity
He the created, the puppet of fiction,
Would not brook rivals nor stand contradiction.
Where I, the creator, would bow and revere.
So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle:
The doll and its maker are never identical.

(When I read this I immediately heard Sherlock!John Watson’s voice saying, “He’ll outlive God to try to get the last word.”  Doyle would have agreed that the line was right on the money as regards Holmes. But from the writer side, I also wonder if Doyle wasn't a little annoyed here at Guiterman "not getting the meta". A fictional detective twitting other fictional detectives for their failings as if he was a real person? That takes a special sense of humor, and a certain level of auctorial cojones. )

…Over time this kind of error, by itself, would have become irritating enough. But there were other stresses in place. Doyle was under increasing personal pressure as Holmes’s ascent into the position of one of literature’s great characters began gathering speed.  Doyle’s father – with whom his relationship had always been problematic – was institutionalized and close to death from chronic alcoholism. Doyle's wife’s health, always delicate, had become much more so since the birth of her first child. And the periodical publishers who’d been bringing his work out were terrified of anything happening that might slow down the output of their cash cow. After all, the appearance of Doyle’s name on a copy of the Strand Magazine would routinely boost its circulation by 100,000 copies. Once when Doyle returned to London from France on the cross-Channel ferry, he found every fellow British passenger he saw “clutching a copy” of the Strand... and he knew why. Just imagine yourself into his position for a moment. You're famous. You're rich, and getting richer. And you hate what's getting you that way...

Trying to relieve a little of the pressure as gracefully as he could so that he’d have time to do the writing he did want to do while coping with the trouble at home, Doyle tried scaring off the Strand's editors by setting truly insane prices for his Holmes work. But this tactic backfired: his publisher just whipped out the checkbook and paid Doyle his asking price. With his wife’s medical expenses to think of, and halfway through the building of a new house, Doyle gave in to the pressure… but with rather ill grace. He was feeling increasingly trapped by the necessity of servicing a character who was rapidly becoming perceived as more real than his creator. In 1891 Doyle wrote to his mother and said, in passing, “I think of slaying Holmes… and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.”


He never liked that hat anyway.

She wrote back and said “You won’t! You can’t! You mustn’t!” And for the time being, he didn’t mention the issue to her again. But while visiting Switzerland that year, Doyle was already location-scouting for the solution to what he hoped would be his Final Problem with Holmes. As early as 1892 he went walking among the clifflike ice-towers of the Findelen glacier near Zermatt, and discussed the impending character assassination in the abstract with his fellow walkers, one of whom argued against it earnestly but without making a dent in Doyle’s resolve. In 1893 he visited the Reichenbach Falls for the first time, and there he made his decision. “It was a terrible place, and one I thought would make a worthy tomb for poor Sherlock, even if I buried my bank account along with him.”

Doyle headed back to England in August and started work on “The Adventure of the Final Problem”. If there had been any last-gasp chance that Holmes’s death sentence might have been commuted – any last resurgence of Doyle’s ambivalence toward his troublesome character, for he admired him as much as he resented him --  I think it was destroyed by the traumatic events of the following month. Doyle’s wife developed a severe cough and chest pain. A local physician was disturbed enough by this to refer her to a specialist in Harley Street, and Louise Doyle was quickly diagnosed with the form of tuberculosis of the lungs then known as “galloping consumption” – the worst form, normally quickly fatal. What kind of a blow this was for Doyle, who as a doctor should have recognized the symptoms long before, you can imagine. In any case, he wasn’t the kind to give up easily no matter how bad the diagnosis looked. The preferred treatment – for those who could afford it – was relocation to Switzerland for a prolonged “high altitude cure”. Some time between the last week in September and the beginning of November 1893, when Doyle and his wife arrived at the mountain TB sanatorium near Davos, the Consulting Detective and the Napoleon of Crime plunged down the Falls together, and Arthur Conan Doyle closed the book on Sherlock Holmes.

Or so he thought. The public responded with a massive uproar that amazed everybody, especially Doyle. Twenty thousand people canceled their subscriptions to the Strand. Hate mail arrived at the magazine’s editorial offices by the sackload. Thousands of people wrote Doyle directly, begging him to reverse Holmes’s death. Many people took to wearing black armbands in the street, in mourning for Sherlock Holmes.  The death of the world’s first consulting detective was taken up by the wire services and reported all over the world as front-page news. Obituaries for Holmes appeared everywhere.  Petitions were signed and “Keep Holmes Alive” clubs were formed. Not since the demise of Dickens’ Little Nell had a literary death had such powerful effect right across the whole language area of its readership, and not since then had a fandom made itself so obvious in its grief. The like would not be seen again until the deaths of Spock and Dumbledore.

Doyle resisted the pressure as best he could, thinking it would surely taper off after a while. But it was unrelenting, continuing for years: his creation had already become more powerful than he could possibly have imagined. In 1903, having in between reluctantly written and published "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (as a backstory "untold tale") to huge acclaim, Doyle finally relented and wrote "The Empty House", in which the Final Problem was revealed not to be as final as previously thought. Which leaves us looking toward the present day, and the BBC’s Sherlock.


Jeremy Brett as Holmes: Paget could have drawn him
The structure and chemistry of the situation is naturally different here, as the new series is both restatement and celebration of the original, wittily and unflinchingly updated for the 21st century.  Now, in 1893 almost no one knew what Doyle was planning to do to his creation at the Reichenbach Falls (this despite the news having been sneaked in a magazine called Tit-Bits the previous month:  possibly the readers dismissed the news as impossible). Obviously things are different now. Yet over in Tumblr -- that great hotbed of unbridled and completely indulged fandoms -- there've been a lot of messages over the past couple/few weeks either begging DON’T SPOIL ME, or foreshadowing the inescapable results sans spoilers but with a sort of gloomy yet desperate relish.  (In reaction to the DON’T SPOIL MEs I’ve seen a few astonished queries along the lines of “WTF, haven’t you read the stories?!”  -- and I keep having to remind myself that yes, it’s entirely possible that lots of people haven’t.  Or haven't even seen the excellent Jeremy Brett Holmes of the 80’s. Brett has until now been the definitive Holmes for me. Now I find myself strangely torn.)

But there’s no question that the fans are as attached to Sherlock (and to John Watson) as ever the readers of 1893 were to the version in what Holmes fans were the very first to refer to as “the Canon”.  And they have good reason. It certainly helps to have such a strong cast, with such range, and scripts as tough-minded and elegantly constructed  as these have been. But again and again you have to come back to the strength of the actors. Writing the last twenty pages of the "Reichenbach Fall" script must have been a bitch, and probably a bitch again and again, as it got hammered on to make it as perfect as it could be. But even a strong script can be deprived of a lot of its striking power by bad acting. Fortunately "Reichenbach" had no such problems, and if we got down to it, doubtless Peter and I could argue for hours over whether Benedict Cumberbatch’s or Martin Freeman’s performances were more powerful or heartrending in those final scenes. Probably it’s a great timesaver that we don’t roll that way: we’re quite happy to just get on with business while waiting for 2013 – there being a peculiar pleasure in watching another writer do what he does uniquely well. (And that's as far as I'm going in the analysis direction on this episode or this series. Enough electrons will splatter themselves across the screens of far better or more driven analysts than I in the days and weeks to come.)

 

Elsewhere in the online world, though, and particularly on Tumblr, the grief is breaking out all over. And it’s wrenching, some of it: despite knowing that Sherlock miraculously (“one more miracle, Sherlock…”) did not take the fall. All you have to do is follow this link to see some of the more recent reactions. Some are philosophical. Some are inchoate. Some threaten to assault the writing staff. (And this too has its resonances: think of all the hate mail that poor Doyle had to deal with, not to mention the one report of the lady who hunted Doyle down in the public street and clouted him with an umbrella.) Many of the postings are eloquently fraught.  There is a lot of Figuring It Out stuff going on. And what fascinates me most is that, in this  somewhat-alternate Canon, the grief is fairly evenly split between Sherlock and John – and not just among those preoccupied with the slashiness of the pair. (“Bachelor?  Bachelor? Confirmed bachelor??!” …Never let it be said that Moffat and Gatiss are afraid of committing unabashed and wickedly cheerful fanservice when it bloody well suits them.) Friendship and its durability, and sacrifice and its price, are the main themes being discussed. Whatever else can be said about a TV show, any entertainment that gets people to discuss such issues in depth and detail is surely worth watching.
Meanwhile: I'm looking forward to sitting down in a couple of days and reviewing the episode, shot by shot, and doing some Figuring It Out stuff myself: for it's always a pleasure to watch professionals at work, while trying to second-guess them a bit. And who knows... maybe my avatar needs a black armband.

ETA: Once again at Tumblr, see also this charming development -- not just the fandom speaking, but a new metafandom: Believe in Sherlock (Doyle was friends with J. M. Barrie: the creator of Peter Pan would probably also be charmed.)


*Disclaimer: yes, I’ve written for the BBC.  And I had a great time.

**Most of the biographical material above comes from Martin Booth’s excellent bio The Doctor, The Detective and Arthur Conan Doyle. It contains a ton of info that isn’t found elsewhere, and I heartily recommend this biography to other Holmes fans who’re looking for more information about Doyle’s complex and busy life, and the way Sherlock Holmes affected it. In particular, this bio was the source for some background information that turns up in On Her Majesty’s Wizardly Service / To Visit The Queen.

 

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In the dimness he woke and knew it was too late. Morning never came so late unless the world was ending.

Fortunately, he knew what to do about that.

He blinked and ruffled his feathers, looking around. This was his place. Surrounding a patch of grass were two holly trees, a pine, a cypress whose branches all went the wrong way, and much shrubbery, mostly beech and thorn. The shelter was good here, even on nights like last night. And in the holly, food appeared hung up: good food that tasted of fat and meat. It was all his. Later, when it was time for sex, there would be someone else who’d get some of it. But right now, he owned it.

This cold white stuff on the ground did complicate matters. It came and went without warning, and here it was again. Now, others who might have spent the morning scratching around the ground instead of stuffing themselves full up here would be turning up in his territory, eating his food. His feathers ruffled up again, this time with rage at the thought. Bastards. Bastards. Kill them all.

He hopped up onto the branch that had the best view across the patch of grass and into the bushes, and sang. Bastards! Who wants a piece of me? Come and get it! Because this was when it had to be said, no matter how much you might have preferred to sit quiet with your feathers fluffed up, conserving your heat. The dim sky was already paling toward that too-cold blue. It would be a bad day, cold, everybody and his family would turn up here trying to get at the tree food, which was what you needed this time of year if you meant to stay alive until dusk –

And suddenly he heard the harsh dark cawing coming from across the hardened path, across the wall, in the wood full of tall starved pines. He shivered. Not so early, he thought, what are you doing up at this hour? But he knew. That one wanted the tree-food too. It had come for it before. Now, in the silence before the morning wind, he heard the flapping of the wings.

Hastily he turned to the food cage, ate a few mouthfuls, felt the fat melt down his throat like blood, like life. Almost before he finished, the darkness had landed with a noisy thrash of leaves and branches up in the holly. A huge expressionless black eye gazed down at him.

He sang. It was almost all he could do. It’s mine! Stay away, or I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you! But the outcome was hardly so simple. The black-headed, white-backed shape with the axe-like beak bounced down another branch, and another, its eye on that tree food, that meat. It liked meat too. He’d once seen it zoom down onto the pond and simply pick up a baby duck and fly off with it. I’ll kill you if you get any closer! Don't push me! I will!

It came closer. It was winter, it was death, the shape now only one branch of holly away. He sang as if life depended on it: because it did. If he had enough to eat, the sun came up. If the sun came up, the world was safe. It was as simple as that. Go away! I have to eat the food or the world will end! I’ll kill you to keep that from happening! Monster, go away, don’t make me rip you up -- ! He fluttered at the monstrous gaping head, enraged, desperate.

A clacketing, rattling noise from behind. The black eye went wide, the death-pale bulk roused its wings and flapped clumsily out of the holly tree. Desperate with relief, he flung himself at the food-cage again, and ate with frantic speed as the sky paled brighter, toward day-blue: and between mouthfuls, he sang at the top of his lungs, shuddering with relief and triumph. Bastard! I warned you not to mess with me! Victory! Victory!

The sun peered up over the far hill. The shadows fled. He gorged himself as the black bird flew off, and stopped, and shouted again, Victory!

...She stood there with her teacup in one hand, looking out across the back yard snow at the dot of red breast deep in among the holly branches, pecking furiously at the suet in its little cage. “Boy,” she said to the husband, back in the kitchen, “listen to that little guy. You’d think he’d just won World War Three.”

“Yeah. Where’s the milk?”

The door closed. On the snow, the sun of the shortest day shone.

Victory!

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Just a note for those interested: we're having a quickie sale over at the Ebooks Direct store today. From 0001 to 2359 Hawaiian time, everything in the store is 50% off with the discount code THURSDAY. This includes the 9-book Young Wizards International Edition complete sets, and the new Horse Lords prequels Greylady and Widowmaker* from Peter Morwood.

Have fun!

*I typed Windowmaker the first time. Argh.

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It's been in the works for a good while now, so it's a pleasure to announce that the new revised ebook edition of Stealing the Elf-King's Roses -- which anticipated CSI-style forensic drama and introduced it for the first time into a SF/fantasy setting -- is now available in the Ebooks Direct store.

(ETA: to celebrate the release of STEKR’s new ebook edition, we’re also offering a limited-time 30% discount on the nine-volume complete series package of the Young Wizards International Edition ebooks. See below for more details.)

The new edition of Stealing the Elf-King's Roses comes with an afterword that talks about the evolution of the book, and also with the worldbuilding notes that set up the histories of the sheaf of universes where the story's set.

From the afterword:

As usual, when you look at a work almost ten years after you’ve written it, you find things that the almost-ten-years-on writer really wants to fix. There are little edits all through this edition, and some material that was edited out in the original edition has been restored; but in particular, the last few chapters have been rewritten to clarify exactly what the heck is going on.

Previous readers of my work will know that I have no trouble at all playing Cosmic Conkers – i.e., banging two universes together and seeing which one breaks first -- but this situation was big and complex even by my standards.  I hope the revisions satisfy both old readers returning to a favorite work, and new ones reading it for the first time. (In particular, some readers have mentioned that they’ve never read the book because the original cover gave them the idea it was a romance. I hope the new cover will have remedied this.)

...Every now and then people ask me when I’m going to do another book in this worldset. Until now the answer had been, “I’m not sure where else I can go with this.” Now, though, after the revision, I begin to see some ways forward. We’ll see how this realization plays out over the next year or so.

-- While it's always dangerous to ask a writer what his or her favorite book is, I have to admit to having a soft spot for this one -- maybe because I spent more time working on the project than on almost any other in my career: so I'm delighted to be able to relaunch it now, in this new and improved version, in e-format. Right now the book is available in the two main ebook formats, .ePub (for the Nook, iPad and Sony Reader) and .mobi (for the Kindle and all MobiPocket-friendly readers). We'll be adding more formats to the selection at the Ebooks Direct store over the next week or so, and in early December we'll be launching the book in the Kindle Store at Amazon and other online facilities. You can read an excerpt from an early chapter here, if you like.

Also: as mentioned above, to celebrate the release we’ll also be offering, for a very limited time, a 30% discount on the complete nine-volume set of the Young Wizards International editions — as above, in .ePub and .mobi formats, and a bundled download that contains both. Just use the coupon code ROSES at checkout to get the discount. (Info on how to use discount codes at the store is here.)

Enjoy, all!

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

“Not On My Patch” is the first of a series of planned YW short stories scheduled to be published together in late 2012 in a one-story-per-month anthology entitled The Wizards’ Year.

We’re offering “Not On My Patch” to advance readers this year as part of an effort to help UNICEF celebrate the 60th anniversary of its annual Halloween “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” campaign. “Not On My Patch” is now available for reading on the Young Wizards website! If you want to read it, here’s what you need to do:

Go to DD’s donations page at the UNICEF USA website and make a donation of USD $5.00 or more directly to Trick or Treat for UNICEF. (Donors from outside the USA: please note that the “State” dropdown has a “none” option at the very bottom of the state list. Choose that so that the form will allow you to fill in other info and complete the donation. Don’t forget to change the country dropdown, too.)

Once you’ve donated: the UNICEF USA website will send you an email confirming your donation. When you receive it, just forward a copy of it to this email address:

youngwizards4unicef@gmail.com

We’ll immediately send you back a link to a web page where you can read the story or (on October 29/30) download an e-reader-friendly file (.ePub / Sony Reader & Nook, .mobi / Kindle, and .lit / Microsoft Reader formats). The email will also contain a password that will enable you to open the page.

Until Halloween 2011 is over in the USA (at 00:01 Hawaiian Standard Time on November 1st), only direct donors to UNICEF at DD’s UNICEF USA page will be able to read the story. However, on November 1st, “Not On My Patch” will go on sale at DD’s online Ebooks Direct store, where all proceeds from the story will continue to be donated to UNICEF. The story will continue to be available until November 30th, at which time it will be withdrawn and will not be available again until it appears as the October story in the anthology The Wizards’ Year in late 2012.

Thanks for investigating our plan to help make a difference in the 60th birthday of the “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” campaign!

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

Absolutely no reason for it, but just for today, October 10th: 50% off everything at the Ebooks Direct Store with the discount code NOREASON. Pass it on.  :)

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

I started suspecting some weeks back that we might be close to losing Steve Jobs. I never suspected we were this close, though. This morning's news comes as a shock, and is a source of great sadness.

From the time I first got my hands on an Apple product some three decades ago -- I was lent a IIc by a friend -- I realized that these machines were something unusual and special,  especially in terms of being forward-looking and easy to use. And later on, when other friends would come to me for advice on the subject, I would often recommend that they think about getting an Apple. (Bob Greenberger, for example, can vouch for how, in company with a group of  DC Comics folk, I happily cooperated in dragging Len Wein into an Apple dealership on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the goal being to make him buy a Mac.)

I can't now remember when the idea came to me that the Powers that Be in the Young Wizards universe might have a favorite brand of computer. But then the issue came up during the outlining of High Wizardry... and knowing a little of the thinking that supposedly lay behind the Apple logo, there was no other possible candidate for the branding on the computer that would house the version of the Wizard's Manual offered to Dairine.

Over subsequent books -- and as new devices like the WizPod occasionally added themselves to the series -- a few fans here and there have speculated that I must be a very serious Apple geek, or (humorously)  that I was being paid by the company for the product placement. Lest anybody should be having doubts about this, people should know that the only money that's ever changed hands between me and Apple would have been when I bought my first iPod some years back. All the computers in our household are PCs of one strain or another, and most of our phones are Android-based. But that doesn't mean that I haven't had my eye on the new iPod Touch for a while... since if it's good enough for my characters, it's certainly good enough for me.

I very much doubt Steve Jobs ever knew about this affectionate running gag. If he had known, I don't think he'd have minded, as I suspect he'd have understood what I was saluting: a certain visionary quality about both the objects he helped create and the thinking behind them. In any case, the trend will be continuing. In the next YW book, the first WizPads will be appearing casually in the background (along with some perhaps predictable interplatform sniping from wizards more firmly in the Android camp). And with today's events in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if somewhere along the line there's a mention that the Powers that Be have recently "reclaimed an out-assigned member of their design team" for important work elsewhere.

...As the wizards would say: Go well, cousin Steve. And thanks for reminding us that it really is possible to change the world for the better if you just keep deciding every day that you're not going to take "no" for an answer.

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
(EDITED [Sep 29 AM] TO ADD: Got some sorrowful emails from folks this morning saying “HEY I WOULD HAVE HELPED YOU BUY YOUR CHAIR IF I’D HEARD ABOUT THIS IN TIME…” So, okay, we’ve extended the 50%-off offer for another 12 hours. But that’s it.  :) Those of you who were sorry you missed out, go on and get yourself something, and then I can get not only the chair but, let’s say, a nice throw to go over the chair… (which the cat will probably shred. Well, better the throw than the chair…) Thanks again, everybody!)

I have this recliner chair in which I curl up and do a lot of my writing. Well, I had this recliner chair.

Last night I sat down in it and something went SPROING in the base, and it nearly chucked me onto the floor. It is now officially very, very busted: it wobbles and rolls like some kind of bargain-basement thrill ride. The only one who can sit in it now is the cat, and even he gets wobbled around when he jumps up on it. (You should see his face.)

The sooner I can replace this thing, the happier it’s going to make me. So for one day only, we’re offering all comers a 50% discount off everything at the Ebooks Direct store: the Uptown Local anthology, the Young Wizards International edition singles and 9-book bundles, even Peter’s “Tales of Old Russia” series. All you need to do to get the discount is use the coupon code BUSTEDCHAIR at checkout.

We’ve never done a discount offer this deep before, but our web lady Lee said “Well, if you really want to replace the chair when you go out to
do the shopping on Friday, better do something drastic!” So here it is: a day’s worth of drastic. :) If you’ve passed through the store before and thought “Maybe later”, knock 50% off what you saw and see if the result might now be “Today’s the day!”

So the clock starts ticking… now! (And to those of you who’ll be taking advantage of the offer: thanks in advance!)
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

Thinking about it quite hard. All of you who're in the NY area at the moment... please be safe. Storms of this intensity that have hit the Island in the past have changed its terrain. (See this sequence of images for details.)

Don't play around with this one. If you're on low ground, get out of harm's way.

(And people further down the coast, don't think I'm not thinking about you too. Do what you need to do to be safe from this. ...But I could hardly be blamed for thinking first about the place where I grew up and lived through a couple of hurricanes of my own.... a place that, after all. is just a big heap of sand and rubble that a glacier dumped and then went off to do other things.)



(The storm track map above isn't live: please click on it to go to the live one.) Or use this link.)

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

For those who might be interested: all the books at our Ebooks Direct store are now available in multiple-format bundles. We're not charging extra for this, as I don't see the point. (It's not like we incur higher shipping costs for shoving an extra file into the download or anything....)

For most books in the store -- i.e. the Young Wizards International Editions and Peter's "Tales of Old Russia" series, among others -- this means that you can download bundles containing both the .ePub and Kindle / .mobi formats, at no extra cost. For the "Door Into..." group and the Tale of the Five Omnibus, this means you get .ePub, .mobi and Microsoft Reader .lit (we'll be rolling the .lit format out to all our other ebooks over the next month or so, and when we do, those too will be included in the bundles).

To celebrate this improvement, we're offering a one-week discount on everything. Use the coupon code BUNDLE at the checkout and get 20% off your whole order. (Oh, and BTW, all the books and short fiction at the store are DRM-free. Just so you know...) And thanks again to all our customers! You people rock.  :)

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

My husband likes to smell good in lots of different ways. As a result, he collects colognes -- almost none of them the big names familiar in high-street shops and department stores. What P. mostly likes are less well known fragrances like the Extract of West Indian Lime from Geo F. Trumper's, or the terrific "Number Six" made by Caswell-Massey, a former favorite of George Washington's (the Marquis de Lafayette sent him some: the company apparently still has the sales order).

Just about his only venture into mainstream fragrancing has been at the Crabtree & Evelyn end of things. But this has proven very frustrating over time, as he keeps finding colognes there that he likes, and almost as soon as he finds them, C&E  in turn discontinues them. Their "Gentlemen's Cologne" was the first of his favorites to go this way (and though it was an okay fragrance, I can't say I wept too much over this, as the stuff was so heavy on the bitter aloes and myrrh that kissing him was like getting up close and personal with a nail-biting cure).

But they also discontinued one that was way more pleasant, and had an interesting history. "Hungary Water" is short for "Queen of Hungary Water", a modern version of what may be the oldest compounded fragrance on record (the OED citations go back to the 1500's; the fragrance itself may be much older, dating back to the 1300's or thereabouts depending on which Queen you think you're dealing with). It's really terrific, a fresh clean aromatic scent; but P. won't use it because the one bottle is all he's got. And in this economy, our original plan of eventually taking the stuff to Paris and hiring a parfumier to analyze and reproduce it is going to have to wait.

Now surely a fragrance this old and venerable hasn't simply vanished. While I've found some homebrew-y versions out there on the web, I'm not entirely convinced of their bona fides. Some of them get confused and base their preparations on a vinegar-based re-invention of the stuff that dates back to the 1980's or so. Others get kind of carried away with legends about the Queen or the prospect of the stuff's possible curative properties. ...Though so did Culpeper. Check out this quote from his 1693 Pharmacopeia Londoniensis:

"The water (containing an infusion of spirits) is admirable cure-all remedy of all kinds of cold and humidity-induced head ailments, apoplexies, epilepsies, dizziness, lethargy, crippleness, nerves diseases, rheumatism, flaws, spasms, loss of memory, coma, drowsiness, deafness, ear buzzing, derangement of vision, blood coagulation, mood-induced headaches headaches. Relieves toothache, useful for stomach cramps, pleuritis, lack of appetite, indigestion, obstruction of the liver, obstruction of the spleen, intestinal obstruction and contraction of the uterus. It receives and preserves natural heat, restores body functions and capabilities even at late age (saying has it). There are not many remedies producing that many good effects. Use internally in wine or vodka, rinse temples, breath in with your nose."

(Wow, Nick, is there anything this stuff doesn't do?)

Anyway, while the above variants are interesting in their way, my normal response when trying to find the best version of a traditional fragrance is to try to figure out where the source is, and get some there (as, for example, what you would consider the trope namer if this was going to be TV Tropes: if you're into cologne, you go to Köln / Cologne, where they have for centuries made 4711 and its great rival Farina, and there are huge noisy tussles in the media as to which one is most traditional or best).

So theoretically, for Hungary water, it makes a certain amount of sense to look around for it in Hungary. All I need to know now is: what is Hungary water called in Hungary? Does it have a Magyar name, or are they using French terminology for it (which was commonplace enough in previous centuries)? And if the stuff is still distilled there, is there one Hungary water that claims to be the original one / best?

When we have enough data, and especially if there are more than one of these colognes extant, we can hunt them down, try them out, and see which one is nicest. Anyway, if anyone has info about this, please let me know.

Thanks in advance!

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

The nice folks at Shopify have rolled out a new feature that allows us to offer discounts on specific items or specific collections at the Ebooks Direct store.

So we're testing it out this week by offering a collection discount on Peter's "Tales of Old Russia": 25% off the books in the series.  Just use the coupon code OLDRUSSIA at checkout. (Details on how to handle coupon codes at our store are here.) Buy just one or buy them all, you get the discount.

Disclaimer: I seem to have married these books' author.  :)  Nonetheless I can honestly say that they are great stuff. In particular, Mar'ya Morevna -- warrior, sorceress, and Fairest Princess in All the Russias -- is one hot number. You do not screw around with Mar'ya Morevna.  (Well, not unless you're Prince Ivan...)

(...BTW, other store discounts announced earlier, like the STARLIGHTGUILT discount mentioned over here, are also still  working.)

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