Eighty-one of the country’s top writers wrote essays, stories, and words of praise for their favorite shops, which were then illustrated with charming drawings, in My Bookstore. I talk about my local, Bookshop Santa Cruz, and how a damaged town came to life because of them. If you’d like me to sign a copy, you can get one from Bookshop, or from your own favorite local.
[A letter, to those of you who don’t see my News.]
I’m not sure if you, my dear Friends and Readers, have all just been super busy with the new academic year, or too swept up in the election to focus on anything but else, but the deadline is fast approaching for a contest that so far has only generated one response. And although it’s a lovely entry, I was really really hoping to have some new panels to put into the new, professionally-created video of The Travels (Travails?) of Russell & Holmes. (Here’s Sabrina’s, of Dreaming Spies. Gorgeous, no?)
There are prizes!
A complete set of signed Russell & Holmes paperbacks,
including Mary Russell’s War & Other Stories
Four full-sized broadsheets for framing
(“A Venomous Death,” “Birth of a Green Man,”
Pirate King movie poster, and “Dreaming Haiku.”)
A collection of 8½ x 11” art from
“The Illustrated Russell & Holmes” (including the four above)
Any scene, any book, from The Meeting in Beekeeper’s Apprentice to the balloonist uncle or Christmas tales in Russell’s War. Acrylic or needlework. Photoshop or Pastels. You simply need to have your image meet the colors of the frame like Linda has done here:
Please, let’s make this a really fun project that can become a proper video on YouTube, showing the world how the Friends of Russell know how to have a good time!
The deadline is now October 20th. Instructions and the frame to print off are here.
And please, please tell all your Russell-loving friends!
Many and many a year ago, in a (LR)Kingdom by the sea, we started celebrating various events (new books, Library Week, St. Swithun’s Day) by running contests. Some of these involved art, others words. We did crossword puzzles, pirate haiku, Russellscapes, “My Dream Library”—you name it, we’ve done it (next up: videos.)
When we moved the web site this past spring, one of my demands was that these “fan” contributions be preserved. Despite the huge number of bytes all that art took up, despite the need to find high-res files for some of the older pieces, despite the hair-pulling of any number of programmers, developers, and (yes) authors, we kept our hands on all that art.
And now it’s there. Most of it anyway (let me know if we’re missing yours!) and more of it will be added as we locate missing files or fiddle with those we have to make them less minuscule. Take a look at our new FUN STUFF tab on the web site, beginning with the soon-to-be-reinvented Maryorama (the art piece formerly known as Russellscape.)
Some of the art is by Team LRK (ie, me and the Photoshop Guru, Robert). Much of this (my web people had to shift me to a bigger, faster server) is of a printable size, in case you feel like framing a Pirate King movie poster for your wall
for your book group.
There are also printable crossword puzzles, some samples of fan cosplay and tattoos, and even the original proposed cover for Beekeeper’s Apprentice that caused the author to quit before Russell’s memoirs even got underway.
And of course, the Maryorama (Russellscape), with a (yes!) contest, for prizes of a complete set of Russells (including the mouthwateringly gorgeous Mary Russell’s War) or some of those printable posters in full size. The contest is in its last days, since it closes the 15th, so sharpen those pencils, run your mind over your favorite scene from the Memoirs, and get yourself creating.
Or puzzling, or printing, or just enjoying the amazing work of the Russell & Holmes community. Start here.
The kind of books I write are always a compromise. If I did the kind of research I feel they deserve, a novel would take me three, four, six years and stretch to eight hundred pages. This invariably leaves me with a dozen areas where I’m spreading a small amount of research very thin, and with each publication day, I hold my breath, thinking this will be the time Someone Who Knows will wheel out the Big Bertha of scorn and blast me to smithereens.
Take, for example, Dreaming Spies. Parts of the story involved haiku.
Sweet city of minds
Her spires dream, wrapped in earth’s folds
June gilds the lily.
Now, I am no poet. And I know just enough about the subtleties of this form to know that I know nothing. The haiku I wrote for the chapter heads are by way of a jest.
So it tickled me considerably to find my childish efforts taken…well, maybe not seriously, but with serious attention, by a man who knows his haiku. Michael Dylan Welch teaches the form, he wins contests, he’s literally written the book(s) on haiku. And to my astonishment and thrill, not only did he leave his heavy critical artillery unloaded, he is polite about my haiku efforts! I mean, he likes the story itself, calling it a terrific read, but instead of lowering a weighty boot on these silly and puerile encroachments on his area of expertise, when it comes to my (ie, Haruki-san’s) definition of haiku, he calls it “accurate and informed, although basic.” And of my haiku themselves, he says, “Occasionally, one rises slightly above the others in quality.”
Woohoo! I feel as if the kind gent gave me a three foot tall silver trophy when he says, “…we can give the author credit for trying.” His full review (which is attached to a marvelous web site) is here.
Ah: my blushes, Watson!
Neck deep as I am in a first draft, nonetheless I’m due to extricate myself this week from the blizzard of paper scraps that is my study to appear in public, face scrubbed and carrying on normal conversation (as opposed to muttering vague bits of dialogue under my breath.)
Thursday night I’ll be in San Francisco, at the Ferry Building Book Passage, to talk about The Murder of Mary Russell. One of my favorite bookshops, with a Peet’s next door and every flavor of ethnic takeaway you could desire a short stroll away.
And on Saturday I’ll be manning (yes, I regard the verb man as gender-inclusive) the Mystery Writers of America NorCal booth at the second annual Book Festival in Berkeley.
I’m only scheduled to be there in the afternoon, but in fact I’ll probably be there most of the day, so come down and see us, at #4 Writer’s Row, and join a whole city of people who adore books!
In the meantime: back to my mutterings…
So, what’s a book to you? Electronic ink on a screen? Or paper, black ink, and the texture of the cover against your fingers? The words are the same, right? Sure—but the experience isn’t.
For just under 70 years, the Folio Society has made “editions of the world’s great literature, in a format worthy of the contents, at a price within the reach of everyman.” A Folio Society book is the ultimate reading experience: the tactile pleasure of crisp print on quality paper, with illustrations that lead the reader further in and words that engage the mind.
Proof that we can still do things right in a modern age.
I was thrilled to be asked to write an introduction to the Folio Society edition of Josephine Tey’s A Shilling for Candles. I’ve long loved Josephine Tey. This subtlest of writers crafts slim stories with complicated people moving through the most diabolically clever of plots. A murder mystery without a murder. A policeman who spends a whole book on his back in a hospital bed, investigating two victims five centuries dead. Or in the case of A Shilling for Candles, an actress in the spotlight who craves the quiet life.
We expect a crime writer to be clever. We open a mystery anticipating a turn of plot that takes us by surprise, characters with unexpected layers, a solution that makes perfect sense—in retrospect.
What we don’t expect is sly.
Josephine Tey is sly—sly in its meaning of sleight-of-hand, those deft turns of phrase and character that cause one afterwards to look back, frowning slightly over a thing glimpsed at the corner of the eye…
This is a gorgeous book. I particularly love the way Mark Smith’s illustrations don’t so much illustrate as they evoke. Such as this one, where you can feel the way the reporters are crowding in…
If you love your bookshelves, you should consider treating yourself to a copy of this, to pet it and preen…and to read, again and again.
The Folio Society’s page is here.
One of my favorite times on the recent tour for Murder of Mary Russell was the launch, when friends near and far gathered to celebrate the publication–and to admire the amazing donning of Victorian garb by Caroline Bellios, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Fashion and assistant director of the Fashion Resource Center at SAIC.
I got in touch with Professor Bellios when I was looking for a fun way to launch the book, and a search for Victorian cosplay enthusiasts that began with The Victorian Society of Chicago ended up with a whole lot more.
Professor Bellios started off dressed in her combinations, stockings, and shoes (once you put on a corset, you don’t want to be bending to fasten your shoes…)
She laced on her corset with the assistance of her sister, Joanna Bellios Wozniak, playing the role of lady’s maid. First Caroline worked the front hooks of the busk, then let out her breath while the laces in back were drawn tight, after which she could tie the long strings. She noted that those corsets we see in museums, which give rise to the belief that all Victorian women had 20″ waists, would in fact not have been laced all the way together, but instead would be separated by a few inches. (Which may be something of a relief, although that doesn’t account for those tiny shoes one also sees…)
Then came the petticoat–which in 1879, the year Clara Hudson meets Sherlock Holmes, would have been relatively straight, since the fashion was for the long line rather than the exaggerated hips of the crinoline era.
It was followed by the underskirt and the skirt itself, with ruffles (removable for cleaning–the streets were filthy!)
After the skirts came a many-buttoned bodice
then the jacket with its long, snug sleeves.
In 1879, hoops were long gone and even bustles were (temporarily) in abeyance, replaced by ruffles that emphasized the smooth front and dramatic back line of the skirt:
We now added a hat:
..and with a small reticule fastened to her wrist, had the very model of the Victorian lady, out to conquer the world:
Professor Bellios even brought a few actual vintage garments, including gorgeously delicate silk 1920s undergarments, and a Victorian corset and pair of bustles, one with wires, the other composed of tightly-stuffed linen rolls (horsehair, probably).
This really was a thrill, and I owe a Victorian boat-load of thanks to Caroline and her sister, to Anderson’s at Naperville, and to long-time friend of Russell and photographic genius John Bychowski, who took all these photos except the last. (John is also a moderator in the Book Club.)
Today (or yes, maybe Tuesday…) is the birthday for the man who changed the English language, William Shakespeare. There’s a fascinating article over on the New York Post about the near-disappearance of all that genius (thanks to The Passive Guy for the link), where only the determination (and financial commitment) of two friends led to the publication of the Folios.
By the 1620s, his plays were no longer being performed in theaters. On the day he died, no one — not even Shakespeare himself — believed that his works would last, that he was a genius or that future generations would hail his writings.
He hadn’t even published his plays — during his lifetime they were considered ephemeral amusements, not serious literature. Half of them had never been published in any form and the rest had appeared only in unauthorized, pirated versions that corrupted his original language.
Sobering, especially for those of us publishing in the digital era, electronics being the very definition of ephemera…
And speaking of The Bard of Avon, many of us in Santa Cruz were saddened when our longtime annual event, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, lost its support and its home at UCSC. And perhaps even more of us were heartened when news came that a new venue had been found, with a new name: Santa Cruz Shakespeare.
They’re building a new home, deep inside De La Veaga Park, which is only a couple of miles from my front door! Suitably enough, the first season will be blessed with Midsummer Night’s Dream (always best in an out-of-doors venue) as well as Hamlet and Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending Orlando.
My friend Lisa Jensen (author of the fantastic Alias Hook) has a fuller blog post about the building process, here. And Santa Cruz Shakespeare will keep us up on their progress here. Send them a donation, if you’re interested in keeping The Bard in Surf City.
See you in the forest of Athens, with Puck and the wedding-goers…
I’m involved with a fundraiser and program to help stop violence against women.
First, there’s a Russell Basket.
This includes a signed hardback of The Murder of Mary Russell, a copy of Dreaming Spies, and one of the gorgeous big Dreaming Haiku posters, all in a handsome Random House book bag. They’re requesting a $75 donation, and it’s not a raffle or drawing, it’s first come first gone, and there are only ten: for details, go here.
Second, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on Sunday night.
That’s right, you can watch and chat while I visit you in the comfort of your own home (no, you don’t need to tidy up first, or even get out of your pyjamas.) There’s various instructions, but if I can handle it, I’m sure you can. That’s Sunday night, 8:30 Eastern Time, and we can all sit around with our Easter baskets and compare who got the best chocolate eggs. For details, click here.
Back before Christmas, I mentioned here that the Goodreads community were feeling out interest in a Beekeeper’s Apprentice “infinity scarf“. Well, it’s taken a while, but the good lady who makes the things has put up a sales link, for a limited edition, limited-time sale of the scarf. It is printed with the beginning of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and although I haven’t seen one left, I have to say it looks really lovely.
The sales link is here. I’d recommend you not wait too long….