Wednesday, June 24, 2015


About four years ago, my TV producer friend asked me to write a series about Sherlock Holmes. She wanted to produce a television series in which Holmes shows up in the 21st century in the San Francisco apartment of a young woman, and together they solve crimes. Her only other requirement was that there be another man involved, a younger man named Watson, whose job was to maintain some of the old Victorian houses in the city, and was so good at that, he was nicknamed “Doc.”

Having read all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the detective, I agreed to do it and I wrote three chapters of the first book of a series, which my friend hoped to use as a springboard to her TV show. Alas, less than a year later, it was announced that not one, but two, TV series featuring Holmes were underway. We know them now as the British SHERLOCK, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and ELEMENTARY, the American series.

However, the idea intrigued me and I decided to write a series of novellas based on Doyle’s stories. I finished writing the first book that year, and then, after January, 2014, when the courts declared Holmes was in the public domain, I wrote two more. My friend having retired and no longer interested, I invented the rest of the novella backstory myself. My young woman was an orphan adopted by a Hollywood movie star, who named her Sheridan Holmes and told her she was a descendant of the fictional Holmes. Besides “Doc” Watson, there’s a grandmother who writes romance novels and owns the Victorian house they live in and, when “Sherry” decorates her flat to resemble 221-B Baker Street in London, the ghost of Holmes himself appears. Plus, there’s both mystery and humor.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the three novellas are now available and, during July, they’re free, one at a time, as e-books on Amazon. A STUDY IN AMBER goes free tomorrow, June 25, until June 29, THE SIGN OF FIVE will be free July 2 through 6, and THE RED HERRING July 9 through 13.

Naturally, I’m not the only writer who took advantage of the Holmes character no longer being under copyright, and hundreds of books have made their debut. However, all of those stories keep  Holmes in the 19th century. I reimagined them in the world of movies, automobiles, computers, microwave ovens and cell phones.

And what fun I’ve had. No trunks full of Spanish coins and jewels. No pirates, no horse-drawn carriages racing through foggy London streets, no kings who need Holmes’s advice and talent for deduction. Just a clever man with a sharp mind and a young woman who must carry out his wishes in her own clever, but modern, way.

And if you enjoy my take on the subject, do write a review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I wanted to amuse myself today, but perhaps I’ll have amused you too. Or given you a reason to keep writing.

1. The road to hell is paved with “Works in Progress.” Philip Roth

2. We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Ernest Hemingway

3. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Elmore Leonard

4. I try to cut out the parts people skip. Elmore Leonard (Read all ten of Leonard’s rules.)

5. Work is writing. Everything else is odd jobs. (Many authors)

6. Writers live twice. (Many authors)

7. A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. Richard Bach

8. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and open a vein. (Various authors, various suggestions)

9. The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lighting bug. Mark Twain

10. Substitute “damn” for every ”very” in your work. The editor will delete it and then it will be perfect. Mark Twain

11. Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E. L. Doctorow

12. I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. James Mitchener

13. I love writing. I hate the paperwork. Peter De Vries

14. The best time for planning a book is while doing the dishes. Agatha Christie

15. Heinlein’s Five Rules for writing: (Dean Wesley Smith suggests following these.)
Rule #1. You must write.
Rule #2. You must finish what you start.
Rule #3. You must not rewrite, except to editorial order.
Rule #4. You must put on the market what you write.
Rule #5. You must keep it on the market until it sells.

Time for me to follow this good advice and actually write.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It’s the oldest question authors are asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Also the most popular. Since we hear it so often, many of us might have stock (even snarky) answers, like, “A wizard comes in the middle of the night and drops ideas in my head.” Or, “They come from an IDEA BOOK, which is out of print.”

The rest of us don’t mind telling readers, or anyone who asks, how the inspiration came to write a particular story. We enjoy remembering the moment, and, talking about our books is our favorite topic anyway.

My first book was THE GREEN BOUGH, the memoir of my husband’s aunt, who was a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913. The e-book recently took part in an Amazon Countdown promotion priced at $.99, but, although that ended yesterday, it’s still available in both e-book and print. Being a memoir, the events chronicled came from Aunt Gladys herself, and I’m indebted to her for having such an adventurous early life.

Next came CHOICES, based on the nineteen years I sold my husband’s artwork at art shows and fairs all over the San Francisco Bay Area. The characters and their stories in that book were the result of observation and/or my imagination. I simply thought about a person and asked myself, “What if?” Such as, “What if he really killed his wife?” Or, “What happened at the Gay Ball?” Or, “Why did she cheat on her husband?”

So, real life is a great plot generator. Plus, real life often involves travel. To Hawaii, London, Paris, Rome, or to New Orleans by train. I’ve used all of those places in my books.

Three years ago, the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic spawned ideas that found their way into my novel COLD APRIL, and my experience founding and running an investment club was responsible for my novella, THE WEDDING GUEST.

The Kentucky Derby plays a major part in my novel BEATING THE ODDS, currently in an editor’s office. Wouldn’t it be great if that book got published the same year a Kentucky Derby winner went on to win the Triple Crown? And after 37 years? (See last week’s sports news.)

The fact is ideas are everywhere because people and their interesting lives are everywhere. There’s a saying, ”Love makes the world go around,” which is proved every day, as men and women find each other and fall in love. That’s why thousands of romance novels are published every year.

How about you? What did you do recently that could be turned into a story other readers might like?