Be as smart as Sherlock Holmes!
Welcome to one of the December 6th stops on the blog tour for The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes, Vol 4 by Liese A Sherwood-Fabre with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, author guest posts, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Author Guest Post
How I Fell into Nonfiction Writing
Outside of a few professional research monographs and other work-related projects, I never intended to publish non-fiction. In my case, however, non-fiction writing developed as a natural outgrowth of my fiction writing. A few years ago, I had the idea for a story about Sherlock Holmes and how he became the “world’s most famous detective.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle provided very little about his character’s origins. In one story, Holmes shares that his ancestors were country squires, and his grandmother was the sister of Vernet, the French artist. That information along with having a brother named Mycroft represented the extent of his history and provided basically a blank slate to create a series around him and his family.
With these few bits of information about Sherlock’s background, I began researching England in 1867 when he would have been 13. A friend who writes historical romances directed me to a few books on life in Victorian England, and that led me to more as I investigated life as a country squire, the rural judicial system (because squires also held positions as magistrates), and forensics in the mid-1800s.
As I continued with the book, I realized I had amassed a great deal of material that might be of interest to both other writers as well as fans of Sherlock Holmes. I prepared a short essay on country squires and how such an ancestry would have affected Sherlock Holmes’s development and offered it to various Sherlock Holmes societies for their newsletters with a promise of a monthly offering for future publications. These societies are quite organized with a worldwide structure. About fifteen of these “scions” agreed to reprint the essays on a regular basis.
At the beginning of my third year of essay writing, I considered how to reach an even larger audience and decided to pull the first twenty-four together for indie publication. This inspiration led to The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes. Ambitiously, I also designated it “volume 1.” After all, I was already into year three—the first portion of a future “volume 2.” I have continued the research and the essays for newsletters and have now just published volume 4.
Through the years, I have learned a few things that are useful for this type of writing:
- Recall your high school research projects and re-acquaint yourself with footnotes and bibliographies—easily formatted with current word-processing software.
- Consider creating an endnote as well as a footnote version. Some newsletter editors have a hard time with footnotes. I send both versions to each editor and let them choose the format.
- Wikipedia should not be your only source. (There are some high school and college teachers who just had apoplexy and would say it should never be a source.) Where possible, track down the original source to confirm the validity of the information presented in online references.
- Include a picture (a special request from more than one newsletter editor). I have an account at a royalty-free site where I always find something that goes along with the topic and attach it to my article.
- Be prepared for corrections. More than once, I’ve been called out for typos or other errors (sometimes factual). When that happens, I thank them for pointing it out and send out a corrected e-copy to all, when needed.
I have found this effort quite rewarding in so many ways. I have made new contacts, learned some things I might never have encountered otherwise (did you know that dogs have separate nostrils for breathing out and breathing in?), and always have some interesting trivia to share. With volume 4 now out, I already anticipate at least one more volume in the future. It is becoming harder to find an appropriate topic each month.
And all because Holmes kept his family shrouded in as much mystery as the cases he was called in to solve.
About the Book
The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes
Essays on Victorian England Volume 4
by Liese A Sherwood-Fabre
Published 6 December 2022
Little Elm Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Page Count: 140
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Be as smart as Sherlock Holmes!
Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales include many references to everyday Victorian life that are no longer part of current readers’ world. What Holmes would have eaten from a can while searching for the hound of the Baskervilles, Watson’s enjoyment of a yellow-back novel, or the proper use of a gasogene would have been common knowledge to the Victorian contemporary but compels modern readers to run to the nearest reference book. These twenty-five short essays pull such items from the past and expand on their significance in the story. As an additional bonus, this book contains an essay on the role of scandal in Holmes; cases, originally appearing in a collected volume of essays on feminism and agency. After enjoying these concise treatises on Holmes’ world, readers will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the times and the life of the world’s greatest consulting detective.
Transgressions: Scandal in the Canon
The threat of scandal appears in almost a quarter of the tales in the Canon. In four of these cases, clients seek Holmes’ assistance to avoid exposure of a Victorian norm violation: three involve letters to previous lovers; the fourth, an attempted theft of an item entrusted to a banker. In the other ten, as Holmes solves the mystery, he uncovers evidence that, if revealed, would cause a scandal for someone entangled in the case. In many of these tales, the mere threat of such publicity is enough to force them to do another’s bidding (such as paying blackmail or changing a will). That committing murder is considered a better solution than suffering the negative public reaction to such revelations indicates the power certain Victorian social norms carried (and still do) within certain social strata.
While many behaviors may be unacceptable (stealing, for example), not all are scandalous, and even disreputable behavior can be tolerated under certain circumstances. Ari Adut in On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art defines the public experience of scandal as “an event of varying duration that starts with the publicization of a real, apparent, or alleged transgression to a negatively oriented audience . . .” Three basic elements must exist to form a scandal: the transgression, someone to publicize the offense, and a public who cares or is interested in the offense.
The danger of scandal played an important role in maintaining proper Victorian social conduct, and in several of Holmes’ cases, was suffcient to force some to break the law themselves—including murder. Understanding what makes a scandal and why avoiding such exposure in Victorian times provides greater depth and understanding of the motivation behind the crimes Sherlock is called in to solve or prevent.
About the Author
Liese Sherwood-Fabre knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD, she joined the federal government and worked and lived abroad for more than fifteen years. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career, garnering such awards as a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest and a Pushcart Prize nomination. A recognized Sherlockian scholar, her essays have appeared in scion newsletters, the Baker Street Journal, and Canadian Holmes. These have been gathered into The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes essay collection series. She has recently turned this passion into an origin story series on Sherlock Holmes. The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, the first book in The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series, was the CIBA Mystery and Mayhem 2020 winner.
Liese A Sherwood-Fabre will be awarding a $20 Amazon, Apple or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
|Dec 5||Deborah-Zenha Adams||Dec 6||Rogue’s Angels|
|Dec 6||Westveil Publishing||Dec 7||Long and Short Reviews|
|Dec 8||The Avid Reader||Dec 9||Sandra’s Book Club|
|Dec 12||Dawn’s Reading Nook||Dec 13||All the Ups and Downs|
|Dec 14||Aubrey Wynne Timeless Love||Dec 15||Fabulous and Brunette|
|Dec 16||Literary Gold|
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