Pirates are “go”!

So, have you enjoyed our little break from All Things Laurie?  Or did going cold turkey disturb your world too much?

I hadn’t actually intended quite such a long break without Muttering at you, but it took me nearly a month after getting home from Portugal/Morocco/France/England/book tour to get my life in some kind of order and the suitcases back in the closet.

And since then, I’ve been writing.

In two weeks the book has gone from the 70 pages of typescript that I did in Lisbon to a bit over 200 pages.  I’m beginning the last third of the first draft, grabbing at all the threads and trying to braid them into a story that makes some kind of sense.

This is a Russell book, my third in a row.  [Pause for cheers.]  I don’t normally like to do the same characters two years in a row, far less three, but my publishers asked me if I’d mind, and although I did in a way, in another way I didn’t.

Because it would force me to do something different.  [Pause for murmur of consternation.]

I’ve only repeated one year’s characters the following year a couple of times, and for one of those repeats (The Moor and O Jerusalem) the second one was already written, so it was just a rewrite.  With the other pair, The Game and Locked Rooms, they were miles apart—in setting (ageless India versus Prohibition-era  San Francisco), flavor (exotic romp v. dark and internal), voice (strictly first person for The Game, several chapters of alternate POVs with Locked Rooms) and, well, everything.  That made writing two in a row less noticeable.

Than came The Language of Bees, and because I thought people would throw things at me if I made them wait two years for the continuation of the tale, I dove into The God of the Hive.  Which would have been fine except my publisher really wanted another one, and I was faced with the problem of how to live with these characters for a third year without doing something really vicious to them.  I mean, I haven’t reached the point yet of Conan Doyle, pushing his protagonist off the Reichenbach Falls, but I could begin to feel the urge stirring in the back of my mind.

So I threw my mind a bone and told it to go fetch.

That bone was the idea of comedy.

Now, I think of the Russell and Holmes stories as somewhat comic to begin with.  The books delight in an undercurrent of silliness, while solemnly playing the Sherlockian game of treating it all as God’s Honest Truth.  What Dorothy Sayers called a county cricket match at Lords, where outright burlesque can only spoil it.

Except that with the next book, I’m taking a step closer to outright burlesque.  A rather large step.

It’s called Pirate King, and yes, it’s a reference to The Pirates of Penzance.  Russell gets dragged into the world of Twenties film, with a company making a movie about a movie about the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera.  And although I don’t talk about what I’m doing with a book until I’ve finished the first draft, I will admit that the book has a talking parrot.  And a number of unlikely people falling in love.

However, I’m determined to drive through the first draft before I leave for my British God of the Hive tour (watch for details here) in less than four weeks, which means spending my days at work.  Normally with a first draft I set myself a goal of 1500 words in a day, trying for 2000 but not worrying too much if it’s only 1250.  The past two weeks I’ve managed 2500 most days, and four or five days it’s been 3000.  Which amounts to either five hours of feverish typing or seven hours or more labored word production.

So you will, perhaps, excuse me for being a little preoccupied.  I do intend to return here more regularly very soon, starting a series of posts called “Writing Tools.”

Thanks for hanging in there, and if you’re curious about what’s going on day to day, I generally fling a quick post onto Facebook several times a week.

Happy summer reading!


  1. Tarasa on June 18, 2010 at 6:44 am

    So good to see you Muttering again and Pirate King sounds delightful.

  2. Chris on June 18, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Burlesque…Hmm. Now THIS could be fun! Seriously, this sounds great – and it’s only a year away (runs away quickly, LOL)

    Hope to see you at the Lit & Phil again, too. 🙂

  3. Teresa on June 18, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Glad to hear from you here again. Any words from you is fine. Now please don’t throw Holmes off the Reichenbach Falls. He’d be forced to confront you with something like a “been there, done that” comment.


  4. Kathy Warren on June 18, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I’ve always thought of Holmes and Russell’s discussions as part Nick & Nora Charles, part Laurel & Hardy, so I look forward to reading more! I haven’t heard yet from my brother in law – the die hard Sherlock Holmes fanatic – since giving him “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” but I’m sure you will have yet another fan!

  5. Karen Bock-Losee on June 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I always pre-order your Mary Russell books becuase I just HAVE to be one of the first to read them, but I really miss Kate Martinelli and wonder how she and her family are doing (hint, hint.) Folly and Keeping Watch also struck a chord with me – I shared those books with many friends.

  6. Chèli on June 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

    First, let me tell you that I am thrilled that there will be another Russell book coming so soon!

    These are basically the only books that my husband “reads”. I get them at the bookstore and read them and then when we take a trip I borrow the audio ersion for him to listen too and of course, I “suffer” through a re-read while we ride along the highway.

    I can’;t thank you enough for the wonderful stories that keep Holmes alive and bring him to a point of humanity with Russell.

    Thank you, thank you , thank you!

  7. Margaret Wood on June 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    I had hoped your silence meant you were having a REAL vacation! You deserve a great one.

    But I can’t help being thrilled that another book is in the works. Although I love the Russell and Martinelli books, I think Folly is your best.

    How about a book set in Greece or its islands? It would give you a good excuse to vacation there.

  8. Kerry on June 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    A talking parrot in a Russell? My cup runneth over!

  9. Kathy on June 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Another Russell? I didn’t dare hope after two in a row. I have to admit I’ve never really warmed up to Kate Martinelli, but it maybe time to try her again. I love your Russel & Holmes and sometimes feel I’m back in the day of serials with the women tied to the train tracks and villians twirling their mustaches…a more sophisticated version, of course. Thank you so much!

  10. Meredith on June 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Golly gee whiz, Missus Wizard! I was going to plead for a tiny book tour to (gasp) Southern Cal. But anybody who’s writing That Fast, this is No Time to Shift the Pattern.

    And a talking parrot? G and S? will Holmes and Russell end up with movie roles? this is too good! best//Meredith

  11. jen on June 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    So excited for another Russell book! I feel very spoiled at the idea of three in a row.

  12. RussellHolmes on June 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I have been waiting and waiting for another Russell book to sink my teeth into and this next one sounds quite yummy!

  13. Kimberly on June 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Good heavens, no need to apologize for Creating Goodness. The next books sounds like fun. Looking forward to it.

  14. MicheleRC on July 1, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    [Pause for cheers.]

    YAY!!!!!! “And there was much rejoicing…”

  15. RuthC on July 9, 2010 at 10:33 am

    It is, it is a glorious thing! I can’t wait for Pirate King. But will we ever hear about the events in Japan? Between The Game and Locked Rooms?

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