Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bringing Sherlock Holmes to Life in 2012

There’s no denying it: in the past few years, Sherlock Holmes has gathered up so much momentum that he’s blasted out into orbit. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and Steve Moffat & Mark Gatiss’s Sherlock became cultural phenomena overnight. The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate authorized Anthony Horowitz to write a new addition to the Canon. And now, with the advent of e-book publishing, there are more Sherlockian pastiches than ever.

Plus, his adventures just won’t stop being fantastic. He fights alleged witchcraft, faces off the Queen of Fairies, remains in combat with Dracula, fires off texts on his mobile… When you get right down to it, Sherlock Holmes is a very big action hero.


There’s also a pervasive idea that one must reimagine the stories to get a Sherlock Holmes fit for the modern audience. After all, we’re a culture that’s been inundated with a Hollywood mindset. Two generations have grown up with Star Warsand Star Wars’ fast pacing. Modern novels reflect that fast-paced mindset. Allow a film or a novel to ramble… and you run a definite risk of losing your audience.

What does that mean for the Great Detective? Guy Ritchie & Co. believed it means that you have to amp up the action, lose the “stuffiness” of the insidious iconic image—in their own words, “Reinvent Sherlock Holmes.” Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss dreamt up a Sherlock Holmes set in modern London that would be as heavily influenced by the present day as the Canon was by its own era.

I’m not saying that either idea is actually wrong. I’m not here to say that.


The fact remains that neither adaptation of Sherlock Holmes sticks very closely to the source material. In fact, very few adaptations have. Furthermore, out of the many dozens of actors that have portrayed the Great Detective since the 1890s, only Peter Cushing, Jeremy Brett, and Clive Merrison have actually portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the original stories (barring the numerous versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles).

So why don’t we ever get a fresh retelling of the Canon on screen? Did Granada raise the bar too high, or do people just want to do their own thing with Holmes? And why don’t we ever get a fresh retelling of the Canon in print?

A harder question to ask, I know. But with so many details that Sir ACD, ironically, messed up—including entire plot points and devices—one would think that some brave soul would try to tackle the Canon without going so far as to alienate the stories from the original material.

Now, to be entirely fair, I do know of two people who have done so. Michael Hardwick’s The Revenge of the Hound takes place in 1902, uses the story “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax,” and serves to settle such points as Watson’s Edwardian marriage, Holmes’s refusal of knighthood, and his retirement. Marcia Wilson, known better to those of us on FF.N as aragonite, has her own cycle of books (only the “prequel,” You Buy Bones, published thus far) centered on Lestrade, his fellow Yarders, and Watson that fills in quite a lot of blanks in the Moriarty/Great Hiatus story arc in the Canon. Best of all, these two authors are magnificently faithful to the original stories.

And that’s where yours truly is working hard to be. You’ve seen me bandy around the terms “epic” and “saga” in conjunction with my series-in-progress, Deliver Us from Evil. I’ve also billed it as historical suspense/thriller, because these books are in no way actual mysteries. It’s the influence of Hollywood rearing its head, but it’s Hollywood with a distinct twist—I’m not veering away from the source material. In fact, I’m in bed with it.

Deliver Us from Evil, Book I: Mortality starts out with the beginning of the Culverton Smith Case. We meet Victor Savage, we watch him die, we watch Holmes himself fall prey to Smith’s cunning. We get that awful conversation between Holmes and Smith from Holmes’s point-of-view. And then we find out that Smith was being backed by Moriarty.

Behold—Mortality’s tie-in to the events of “The Final Problem.” At the outset of the novel, Holmes and Watson are less than seven months away from Reichenbach. Book II will cover Reichenbach and hopefully clear up some problems with the original story. Books III and IV will go into the trials and tribulations of Holmes, Watson, and Scotland Yard during the Great Hiatus. Book V will deliver a modified “Empty House” as well as a clearing-up of the mysterious figure known as Colonel Moriarty.

In regards to what I’m doing with Deliver Us from Evil, I like to think of Sherlock Holmes himself as an antique watch. The watch needs some dusting, some polish, has some parts that don’t work and need replacing… Sherlock Holmes is like that. He just needs a little TLC to shine brighter than ever—in his original glory. No steampunk tales or 21st century retellings need apply to make Sherlock Holmes an action hero… or antihero, as the case may be.

There’s a reason why Sherlock Holmes has endured, why millions have loved him for one hundred and twenty years. There’s nothing wrong with falling in love with Rathbone’s WWII-era Holmes, RDJ’s steampunk Holmes, Cumberbatch’s modern Holmes… but understand that you’re not falling in love with the original. Because the original awaits adventure in a sitting room that’s gaslit and protected from Victorian smog…

Because the original lives in a world that is, for the most part, always 1895. And that, dear reader, is where Sherlock Holmes’s greatest adventures will always be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Future Sherlockian Novel LIST

Yep, here it is. Prepare to be shocked at the insane amount of project ideas you’re about to see.

The Deliver Us from Evil Saga

Description: Almost definitely a five-book series now, Deliver Us from Evil (a.k.a. DUE) covers the events in the lives of Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade from October 1890 to Autumn 1894—the Culverton Smith case, Holmes’s employment by the French government, Reichenbach, the Great Hiatus, the publishing of the Adventures and the Memoirs in The Strand Magazine, the Moriarty trial, Mary Watson’s death, “The Empty House,” and the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland.
Target Dates: An ongoing project for the next few years. Possibly one book per year, with a small chance of Mortality making it to press before Christmas.

Book I: Mortality
            Scotland Yard and Dr. John Watson struggle to prevent the goal of London’s greatest crime lord: the destruction of Sherlock Holmes.

Book II: The Road to Reichenbach
            Caught in a terrible war, Sherlock Holmes finds that the choices he makes will have far-reaching consequences.

Book III: To Take Up the Pen
            With Holmes gone and his reputation maligned, Dr. Watson sets out to honor his memory in The Strand Magazine.

Book IV: Those Dark Hours
            As Holmes and Watson approach a final confrontation, they must wonder when the cost will become too high.

Book V: Dawn’s First Light
            When Holmes and Watson reunite, they set out to defeat their one great enemy left: Colonel John Moriarty.

The Sons of Sherlock Holmes Series

Description: A nine-book series focusing on Davy Wiggins and the boys known as the Baker Street Irregulars, from their inception in 1880 to their continuation in World War I.
Target Dates: N/A

Book I: The Twelve Apostles
            When a young detective rescues a street boy, they join forces to create one of the most famous detective forces ever.

Book II: The Silent Army
            No storyline available. The book covers the progression of the Irregulars from meeting Dr. Watson in 1881 to meeting his fiancé in 1888.

Book III: His Father’s Son
            No storyline available. The book focuses on Davy Wiggins’s coming of age and his relationship with his mentor/father-figure, Sherlock Holmes, especially as Reichenbach looms. Might also cover the events of the Ripper Case.

Book IV: Children’s Crusade
            No storyline available. Ought to be basically the same as the once-projected novel, An Irregular Point of View, covering the Irregulars during the Great Hiatus. The name comes from the fact that, for the first time, the Irregulars are heavily targeted by the Moriarty syndicate, even the children—which leads to Watson’s disbanding the group.

Book V: The Prodigal Father
            When Sherlock Holmes returns to London, he finds that he must heal more than his relationship with Watson.

Book VI: The Irregular’s Wife
            No storyline available. When attempts are made on the life of Wiggins’s wife, he enlists the help of his employer. The catch? The young Mrs. Wiggins is a common street girl, and not even she has a clue why someone should look to murder her.

Book VII: Our Twilight
            No storyline available. As Holmes thrives, so do the Irregulars… But. The world is entering into the 20th century and is growing more dangerous as it does.

Book VIII: The Breaking of the Brotherhood
            No storyline available. In Autumn 1903, Holmes retires and moves away to Sussex. The Irregulars are left devastated. Can Wiggins, long since a consulting detective in his own right, hold his old band together?

Book IX: Once and Future
            No storyline available. With the onset of World War I and Holmes’s employment in British Intelligence, he sets out to reunite the Irregulars. But many, including Wiggins, enlist in Kitchener’s Army. The new generation of Irregulars that forms will be spearheaded by none other than Helen and Sherlock Watson, the eldest of Dr. Watson’s children.

The Boyhood of Sherlock Holmes Series

Description: From Sherlock’s birth to the famous meeting in St. Bart’s, 1881, follow the first twenty-three years of Sherlock Holmes’s life—his loves, hopes, joys, and losses.
Target Dates: N/A

Book I: The Little Violinist
            No storyline available. Sherlock’s first few years of life, seen from not only his POV but also his mother’s and brother’s.

Book II: A Threefold Cord
No storyline available. Young Sherlock forms friendships village girl Anne Middleton and Irish Tinker Breandán Delaney, creating memories that will remain with him for the rest of his life. (Eccl. 4:12)

Book III: Lord of the Manor
            No storyline available. With Father in London and Mycroft in Cambridge, Sherlock has been man of the house since he was ten. But now, as he enters his teens, he learns about leadership, the use and abuse of authority, and the responsibilities that come with being in-charge.

Book IV: Detective in the Making
            No storyline available. Separated from kith and kin for the first time, Sherlock struggles to find his feet at Cambridge. He finds a friend in Victor Trevor and eventually becomes enamored with the idea of becoming a detective.

Book V: Hours Yet ‘Til Dawn
            No storyline available. Just after quitting Cambridge to set up in London as an independent detective, Sherlock’s parents die in a fire, and he knows it was deliberate. The nineteen-year-old sets out to find his parents’ murderer and comes to know Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade in the process.

Book VI: The Passing of an Era
            No storyline available. As young Mr. Holmes struggles in his fledgling career, he makes a lasting friend in the Welsh-Jewish Annie Rhys but loses Anne Middleton and Breandán Delaney. The next three years of his life are lonely… until he meets first Davy Wiggins and then, several months later, John H. Watson, MD.

The Sherlock Holmes and the Great War Saga

Description: Yes, originally, this was meant simply to be a novel. But WWI? With Holmes in British Intelligence, the Watson children heading the Irregulars, Watson and Wiggins on the frontlines, and Lestrade & Co. still in the harness, you have all the makings of an epic series.
Target Dates: N/A

Book I: An East Wind
            No storyline available. As Europe gears up for the most devastating war yet in history, Sherlock Holmes returns to London to enlist Dr. Watson’s aid against German spymaster Von Bork. The next month will be the hardest either have known in years, for Watson and Wiggins are leaving with Kitchener’s Army. Holmes resumes residence in 221B for a final time as he goes fulltime with British Intelligence, and Helen and Sherlock Watson round up a new generation of Baker Street Irregulars, including Inspector Lestrade’s youngest child, Michael.

Book II: Valleys of Fear
            No storyline available. The war drags on. Watson, Wiggins, and the sons of Scotland Yarders stay in touch with their families. Holmes does good work in Room 40; Helen, Sherlock, and Michael do their part not only in aiding Holmes but also in solving their own mysteries. And then one of the Zeppelin raids on London destroys the Watson home…

Book III: The Quest
            No storyline available. When Lt.-Colonel Watson goes missing in 1918, Holmes and Helen set off together to find him. Along the way, Helen rescues a severely injured Wiggins, and Holmes witnesses the death of another of his original twelve Irregulars.

The Greater Love Duology

Description: A possible duology, anyway, this story is very much an Alternate Universe. Many Sherlockians have read or know of tales in which the Great Detective is no longer the Great Detective but a criminal genius. But, as I told my Apprentice mentor, I wanted to write one that portrays the beauty of the friendship between Holmes and Watson even under nearly impossible circumstances… And one that sees a damaged young man come to redemption through brotherly love. This will actually be a fleshing-out of “88. Wicked” from AMM.

Target Dates: The initial novel will likely be started as soon as the Mortality manuscript is complete. You can thank my longtime beta-reader and BFF teenelizabeth for that.

Greater Love: A Tale of Redemption
Discharged from the army, lonely Dr. John Watson seeks to befriend a young criminal genius. (John 15:14)

Possible sequel: Greater Love: A Tale of Miracles
            After years of success as a private detective, Sherlock Holmes is endangered when details of his criminal past threaten to emerge.


Beware—here be AUs!

Have Yourself a Chaotic Little Christmas
Description: I mentioned this one about a month ago—not a novel, but a collection of short stories. Allow me to reiterate: “Those of you keeping track of the Sherlockian part of FF.N probably saw the advent calendar challenge in December. That was hilarious fun, and I plan to edit my own Christmas collection in hopes of publishing it in time for next Christmas. This anthology includes vampires (not what you think, trust me), Jack the Ripper, Moriarty, Mary getting the better of Holmes, picnics in graveyards, WWI, the Irregulars, Lestrade, Irene Norton, Kitty Winter, and whole lot of delicious crack!”
Target Date: I’ll get it edited and filled-out, and then see if MX Publishing will take it for this November. (Not December, as part of the fun of the original challenge was reading a new story each day of December!)

            Sherlock Holmes finds himself trapped in the spirit realm when his archenemy ensures that the detective was never born.
Description: Yes, this is that nameless AU idea I had last fall, in which the Great Detective finds himself in limbo thanks to a certain mathematical genius in the FINA era. It’s up to Sherlock, Mycroft, Watson, and Lestrade to restore the time-space continuum and return Sherlock to his physical form.
Target Date: N/A

            A modern detective finds herself trapped in London 1890, and her way home may be through Sherlock Holmes.
Description: Yeah, that one. Y’know, I got caught up with Mortality and forgot all about poor little Merged. Well, that, and my ideas and drive for the story were floundering. I’d still like to do it sometime, though—I certainly still like the idea of Holmes/Kathleen. They were just plain cute together.
Target Date: N/A

Breaking through the Darkness
            A blinded Sherlock Holmes must learn to be a detective without his eyesight.
Description: You might recall this one, too—a projected fleshing-out of AMM AU “14. Blind”. Once again, thank you, Mam'zelleCombeferre, for pointing out what should have been obvious to me—“This could be an interesting whole story.”
Target Date: N/A

Not a Marrying Man
            As Sherlock Holmes embarks upon the adventure of matrimony, he must learn to make his fledgling family a priority.
Description: Mm-hmm, that one, too. What can I say? I still like Holmes/Agatha. I once said that the germ for this idea was “my incorrigible romanticism and insatiable desire to see Sherlock Holmes married. Originally, yes, this was going to carry a mystery or an adventure that had echoes the Moriarty gang. However, I realized that the story would be stronger if it focused on Holmes’s struggles to balance his life between his work and his marriage. One of the antagonists might actually end up being cocaine (AMM readers might recall a few stories on the subject).
Target Date: N/A

Brother and Sister: The Detective and the Doctor’s Wife
            Sherlock Holmes finds an unlikely comrade in his biographer’s wife, Mary Watson.
Description: If you’ve read AMM or Mortality, you know that I regard the relationship between Holmes and Mary to have a brother/sister chemistry to it. The idea for this novel was born out of a desire to fill in the blanks between SIGN and Mortality. I want to explore the development of a familial relationship between Holmes and the woman who, in his eyes, took his best friend away from him. This would include the Ripper Case, the Watson wedding, Mary’s miscarriages, and a few instances in which she proves herself to be quite useful, indeed.
Target Date: N/A

Sherlock Holmes and the Rulers of Darkness
When Sherlock Holmes investigates a haunted site, he realizes that his fight will be with “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Description: What, you didn’t think I’d leave it out, did you? Allow me to reiterate that the novella idea is inspired by Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland and Ephesians 6:12. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Again, think Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. It’ll be like that.
Target Date: N/A

Helen of London
            Being Dr. Watson’s firstborn can be difficult; being Sherlock Holmes’s goddaughter can be even more so.
Description: An anthology of short stories about Helen Watson and her father/daughter relationship with Sherlock Holmes. Will range from Helen’s infancy to post-WWII and include the Sussex Downs, WWI, Holmes and Watson giving up smoking in the ’20s, their deaths in 1937, and Helen’s reactions to the Basil Rathbone films.
Target Date: N/A

Sherlock Holmes and the Great War: The Leave-Taking
            When Kitchener’s Army leaves London, Sherlock Holmes and several Yarders are there to see them off.
Description: This novella will cover the departure of Kitchener’s Army as seen through the eyes of Geoffrey Lestrade, Tobias Gregson, Stanley Hopkins, Roger Bradstreet, Peter Athelney Jones, Alec MacDonald, and Sherlock Holmes. Each of these men are seeing a loved one leave for the war, and each of these men are scared. The Great Detective surprises them all by being the one to break down as the train pulls out.
Target Date: N/A

…That’s all of them. Wooow. Were you keeping count? Thirty-four. Thirty-four. Can you believe it?! That’s more than enough to keep me busy for ten years at least! At this rate, I’ll be writing nothing but Sherlock Holmes for the rest of my life!

Not, mind you, that I’d really mind.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sherlock Holmes Meets Peretti/Dekker: No Ghosts Need Apply

     For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ephesians 6:12

We all know that infamous line: “No ghosts need apply.” The Great Detective did not want to get mixed up with business potentially involving “vampires”. Since that line was published in 1924, however, there has been no end of stories forcing Holmes to deal with the paranormal. From battling Count Dracula to being half-fairy himself and defying the queen of fairies to going back in time to witness both the Crucifixion and the risen Christ, Sherlock Holmes, with his staunch heroism and vast intellect, has found himself a magnet for the supernatural.

Stories, both published and fanfiction, have made Holmes deal with ghosts, whether debunking their reality or being forced to admit it. But… what if the ghosts Holmes is hired to investigate… are not human, either living or dead? What if they were something much more powerful?

Recently, I was looking over an old Christmas present from my grandma: Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland. Once, last summer, I had the vague idea to write a short story in which Holmes debunked the reality of ghosts in one of England’s documented haunted castles. This time, however, I had a bigger idea.

What if ghosts are real, but not actually the spirits of dead humans? What if they’re actually demons? What if they were causing people to die or go insane in the late 1890s in a particular area, and what if Holmes figured out the truth?

Well, you get something that’s a cross between Sherlock Holmes and the works of acclaimed Christian authors Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, known for their tales of spiritual warfare.

It’s a wild idea, I know, but I have a page’s worth of story outline, including some fairly thought-out, mentally-constructed scenes. One such is a rather intense moment when Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade witness a man actually being possessed by a demon—need I say that even Holmes is left shaken? Anyway, it’s an idea that I really like, and it’s going on my list of future Sherlockian novels. Which reminds me: next time, I’ll have to draw up a list for you all, complete with storylines and a tentative schedule. This will include the novel ideas you’ve seen in various posts in the past as well as quite a few novel ideas you haven’t seen before. The length will probably shock you—for that matter, it’ll probably shock me!

     Watson glanced over his shoulder at Holmes, and smiled. Sherlock Holmes was now standing, head thrown back, arms flung wide as if to touch the sky.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Skyfire Unleashed... on deviantART!

Yes, it's true! I'm starting to upload digitally-colored versions of the illustrations for AMM. I think fans will be pleased with the results. Please, check me out!