GUEST POST: Thomas Fortenberry on Chasing Sherlock Holmes

Hey there kittens! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!  On my blog today I’m hosting one of my authors from An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. His name is Thomas Fortenberry and he’s a phenomenal writer!  He dabbles in spy stories and H.P. Lovecraft, two things I just love in a writer.  This article originally appeared on his own site:   http://thomasfortenberry.net/ but he’s letting me lift it for my own purposes today.


AVAILABLE NOW!

AVAILABLE NOW!

I’m pleased to see you’ve made it through the fog-shrouded streets of London to cozy little 221-B. Now, take a cup of tea and pack your pipe, gather round the fireplace in a comfortable chair, and let’s talk about our dear old friend, Mr. Holmes.

There is cause for celebration as a new anthology has arrived, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I am proud to admit I contributed a tale to it.

I had an absolute blast writing a story for this collection. It was an opportunity at which I jumped, because Sherlock Holmes is one of the literary icons I have spent a lifetime admiring, yet who rarely become available to explore or write due to ever-increasing (-ly insane) copyright laws. I am still waiting on a chance to have adventures with Doc Savage, for instance. Just recently I thought I had an opportunity to write a James Bond tale, but it turns out I had to be Canadian. So close, yet so far north of litigation. As my Grandfather explained to me as a child, Ca Nada means, “Nothing here.” I expect nothing there for me, Mr. Bond.

Therefore, you see, these chances can be extremely rare. The case of Sherlock Holmes is newly won as he has entered the public domain this year. Voila! We write.

Crafting Sherlock Holmes tales have a few intrinsic difficulties. Most obviously, there is the mystery. Sherlock Homes is the world’s most famous detective, hence, this will be crime story that needs solving. But, more on this in a moment.

Next is the fact that these are period pieces. Luckily I love history, so in my case this proved quite fun. Any excuse to research a given era or culture. I read up on English history, specifically the Victorian and Edwardian Eras. My challenge was not to get lost in all the details. For instance, when Holmes and Watson needed to get across town, I started researching different types of conveniences, and then found myself studying styles of carriages, how they are pulled and how they are made, and then begin thinking of ways to include in the story a certain stitching in the seats, or wheel and axle, or breed of horse, and… you begin to see. It is always a matter of trimming back hundreds of hours of research into a few pertinent details rather than, literally (ar-ar), a flood of historical proportions.

Then, the most wonderful portion is also the most difficult. The attraction of these types of serial tales is the characters themselves. From pulp adventures to cozy mysteries, these are self-contained universes. Half the fun of reading one is to get to see what Fritz cooks for Archie and Nero’s dinner, or what Monk and Ham are fighting over this week while Doc is ensconced in his lab developing his next great invention, or what tomb Amelia and Radcliffe are exploring when the next corpse is discovered. It isn’t just the mystery that draws us in, it is the familiar banter between Holmes and Watson in the comfort of their 221-B domicile. This is what I loved writing, but also what I found most daunting, because it was not my own world and yet I had to honor it explicitly. Therefore, I reread every Holmes short story and novel in preparation for this write. That was the best way to pick up the flavor of their speech and nuances of their relationship. Because, in my opinion, it is paramount to honor these characters as they are created and the world they inhabit.

Furthermore, whenever possible and for my own enjoyment, I mention or embed characters from other worlds in most of my stories and did so here. I love writing cameos. So several non-Sherlockian people were featured in this tale, some from my own writings and some from others. Enjoy hunting those “Easter eggs,” as my children say. In this particular tale, since this was an historic Holmes horror, the confluence of subgenres lent itself to certain types of crossovers.

Now, back to the mystery. I love mysteries, but in the case of Sherlock Holmes it is a wee bit difficult to write simply because he is the Great Deducer (Deduceretur) or Cluemeister (to coin some fun). That is, how do you craft a mystery when the protagonist is constantly figuring it all out before you want to reveal it? Hard times, indeed. Nevertheless, it is a joy to write with such a vibrant, intelligent character. Also, since this had a slight supernatural vibe to it, I was able to keep Sherlock in the proverbial dark, exploring unknown territory as well.

All in all, a fantastic time. I hope you enjoy reading the stories in this new anthology as much as we did crafting them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Thomas Fortenberry is an American author, editor, reviewer, and publisher. A Pushcart Prize-nominated writer and history teacher, he has also judged many literary contests, including The Georgia Author of the Year Awards and The Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction. A lifelong fan of Sherlock, mysteries, and Pulp Era adventures, he is very honored to participate in a crossing of two of his favorite “worlds,” that of Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos.  He can be found strolling the internet on his website: www.thomasfortenberry.net.


EXCERPT From “The Hunt of the Red Boar” by Thomas Fortenberry

Another cry arose from the tortured soul below and I could tarry no longer, pondering my strange weapon of choice. I ran down the stairs to face our threat.

Downstairs I found Holmes engaged in a struggle. The Lord of the manor was wrestling with my friend, bending him back upon a table whereupon a young lady was strapped. Wild-eyed, black hair bristling atop his head, the tall Lord Eoforred looked to be quite insane. He was throttling Holmes and slavering somewhat whilst making incoherent sounds. It might have been articulations, but if the sounds were words all I could fathom were random noises, like snarls and grunts. I fully believe, to this day that this once noble man had gone stark raving mad.

A naked lady, obviously Eoforred’s maid, was tied to the table. For modesty’s sake, I tried to look away. As I did my eyes were drawn to a book in the corner. It was a large volume, lying open upon a stand near the head of the table like a Bible in a church. Only this was no Bible. My vision seemed to be pulled into it, as if it were a well drawing me down. My blood froze and my breath caught, for most bizarre of all, from its pages there emanated an eerie darkness. A living shadow rose into the air. This shadow seemed to shift and grow, almost like some figure attempting to stand.

I was terrified beyond words, but the young lady’s screams wrenched me from my reverie. But she screamed with ample cause. A… thing was crawling up her naked body. It was a creature, a living nightmare of slimy, grayish-green skin. It seemed to be like an octopus, only more odious. It crawled upon a writhing mass of appendages from a large, ornately-carved ceramic bowl placed between her bound feet. The thing moved in a sinuous manner up her chest, smearing the blood-soaked pentagram carved into her flesh. It wrapped its tentacles around her neck, and constricted her flesh. Her scream abruptly ended.

GUEST POST: Horror, Suspense, and Urban Fantasy by Gail Z. Martin

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I’m so privileged to have the talented Gail Z. Martin today talking about horror, suspense, and urban fantasy as part of her Days of the Dead Blog Tour!


How do you decide whether a book is horror, suspense or urban fantasy? Does it matter? Do you care?

I categorize ‘suspense’ as something like The Woman in Black or Rose Red—creepy and atmospheric with a lot of implied threat and monsters in the shadows so that your imagination does the rest. Personally, I favor these over the blood and gore fest kind of movie. I like the way the tension builds.

In many ways, I think the suspense movie is the darker cousin of a mystery. You think something is wrong, but you don’t have the information to prove it, so no one believes you, not even you—until it’s too late. Usually, there’s an old scandal or injustice awaiting long-delayed vengeance. Often, the protagonist is drawn in against his/her will but not actually kidnapped or taken by force. The main character doubts intuitive warnings, and by the time he/she is convinced that something bad and spooky is going on, it’s too late. Suspense specializes in the movement you almost see out of the corner of your eye, the shadows that are a little too dark, the chair that rocks by itself. The individual images aren’t horrific in and of themselves, but they play on your nerves, building a sense of impending doom from an enemy you still haven’t seen so you don’t know how to fight.

I’ve heard it said that horror creates a sense of helplessness which is key to the impact. The monsters are bigger, the blood flows in rivers, and especially toward the ‘goreno’ end of the genre, too much is never enough. Horror plays on revulsion as much as helplessness, with a dependence on the demonization of physical deformity that may cue primal reactions but doesn’t live up to our enlightened best.

Horror is also often heavily moralistic. Teenage sex leads to dismemberment. Not reading your map carefully leads to death by cannibal hillbilly. Not being where you belong results in really bad stuff. Teenage girls should never answer the phone when they’re alone in the house. In that sense, they are the inflated version of the warnings you probably got from your mother. Lock the doors. Don’t talk to strangers. Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged. Check your gas tank and tire pressure. Don’t be alone in dark places. Break the rules and bad things happen.

Some experts say that horror is one way we as a culture deal with DEADLY CURIOSITIESuncertainty. (I’ve never heard if it’s just Americans, or everyone. We might just be weird.) Supposedly there are studies that prove that when the economy is bad, monster and horror movies come back into vogue. Maybe it’s a way for us to project our real-world worries (that we can’t do anything about, thus making us feel helpless) onto the silver screen, where we still feel helpless but it’s okay because it’s just a movie. Gotta love catharsis.

And then there’s urban fantasy. To me, urban fantasy borrows a lot from suspense (as well as noir/detective) and adds in elements of horror. That can be played for laughs, as with Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shambles zombie detective, or played with British wit, like Simon R. Green’s Nightside, or played for straight horror, like the early Anita Blake books and some scenes in the Harry Dresden books. (One reviewer who read my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy complained it gave her nightmares!) Urban fantasy plays on our uneasiness about the big city (or our qualms about how well we really know our neighbors, even in a small town like Sookie Stackhouse’s Bon Temps).

Urban Fantasy gives us much worse explanations for the movement in the shadowed alley than a mere purse snatcher. The genre tells us that while we might be safe in the light, the night is still ruled by beings much older and hungrier than we are. The use of ancient mythological figures and monsters as well as beings like the Fey and vampires reminds us that humans are a young race and that we don’t know nearly as much as we like to think we know.

To me, I think the scariest thing that suspense, horror and urban fantasy provides is knocking our pride down a few pegs. We don’t know everything. We don’t have it all figured out. We aren’t really top of the food chain. Money, power and privilege isn’t worth a flying rat’s ass if you can’t outrun a zombie. Gated communities won’t keep out the walking dead. The things we put our trust in to save us can’t rescue us from the worst situations. Maybe now and then, we need a horror movie to remind us of that.

Pass the popcorn.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

Treats not Tricks! Enjoy a super-scary excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Monstrosities http://bit.ly/1ZG0TMW

Trick Or Treat from my friend John Hartness’s Quincy Harker series Raising Hell Chp 1  http://bit.ly/1MEMFSQ

More Treats! Dragon’s Lure excerpt http://www.sidhenadaire.com/books/DLEmberling.pdf

Plenty of tricks! And excerpt from my Retribution Deadly Curiosities short story in the Athena’s Daughters anthology http://w.tt/1sipN0O

About the Author

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.