Monday, February 6, 2017

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

"Curious Incidents:  More Improbable Adventures", Mocha's long awaited second volume of Sherlock Holmes paranormal fiction has arrived, and I'm proud to say I am one of the contributing authors.

The theme of this volume places Holmes in environments other than his native Victorian England.  The authors approached this from a number of angles.  I've only had the pleasure of reading the first three stories of the anthology so far:

"The Case of the Tainted Blood" by Liese Sherwood-Fabre
"The Case of the Burning Man" by Lucy Blue
"He-Who-Knows" by Derrick Belanger

I enjoyed them all immensely and look forward to reading the rest of the anthology.  The three authors used very different and extremely imaginative visions of alternate reality to depict alternate versions of Holmes and Watson in different time periods or historically alternate versions of their own time period.

Liese Sherwood-Fabre depicts Holmes and Watson as vampires in an alternate 19th century in which the world suffers a vampire apocalypse.  I loved it. Vampiric Holmes was still Holmes, bored out of his wits and contemplating suicide for lack of crimes to solve.  In a world of the undead, murder and robbery are things of the past.  Holmes finds a challenge to test his razor sharp investigative skill in a plot involving humans killing vampires.  Holmes, that paragon of goodness now finds himself on the side of darkness, working against the cause of humanity.  But, his characteristic attention to detail remains undiminished by his altered circumstances.  A problem is a problem, and Holmes finds the chase as addictive as he now finds blood.  A mixture of an intriguing case with a supremely bizarre premise and delightfully quirky characters makes this one a gem.

Lucy Blue takes it a bit further by introducing Holmes and Watson to each other in another sort of alternate reality:  a 1950's Micky Spillane-type urban noir involving a brutal murder, a knock-out of a doll spilling her guts (literally and figuratively) on a dark, rainy night.  A case involving a WWII mystery from Holmes' past, an old enemy with apparently dark mystical powers, a secret coven of white witches and a mystery surrounding a rich dame with plenty to hide.  Watson is black.  Holmes has a secret of his own.  Bigotry in all its forms and evil in its purest form are dealt with in a fast paced, tightly plotted mystery which pits Holmes' intellect against a supernatural menace the existence of which his stubbornly rational mind refuses to accept.  It was an incredibly enjoyable ride.

Derrick Belanger's approach was the least conventional of all.  Holmes is not Holmes and Watson is not Watson, at least not by name.  They are rather wise men, shamans of sorts in an aboriginal stone-age world which is afflicted by a mysterious monster that no one understands.  No one but the wise man He-Who-Knows.  His name doesn't have to be Holmes for us to know who he is.  His keen logic and deductive wit is his calling card.  It seems every era needs a Sherlock Holmes.  He takes whatever form is needed.

I rather took the easier route.  I used the original, unmodified Holmes and Watson and simply transplanted them bodily from the familiar surroundings of 221 B Baker street into a wild ride through future time periods in the company of a time traveler.  Rather than creating a modified Holmes who was at home in his alternate universe, I wanted to see the old familiar Sherlock trying to cope with unfamiliar surroundings and adapting his deductive methodology to alien worlds.  I had fun with it because it had the spirit of adventure to it; like Jules Verne, a ride into the otherworldly and unfamiliar.  Watson provided the wide-eyed wonder and child-like curiosity, while Holmes, as always, coolly and unerringly mapped his path through his new world.

The other entries I mentioned delved more into the inner space of the mystery that is Holmes himself.  His human weaknesses, his flaws, his hidden vulnerabilities.  Mine was more a straight-forward adventure story.  It may have lacked the daring of the others, as I was focusing more on concept than character, I'll admit.  In my own defense, I may feel inclined to treat another author's character (especially one as immortal as Holmes) with kid gloves, hesitant to speculate about or tamper with the familiar defining features of the character.  Mainly, I was just enjoying myself immensely.  I only hope I've provided as much reading pleasure for others as I found in the other stories I've mentioned here.

Support Your Small Presses!

Most of us here at Mocha Memoirs write for multiple small presses. There are many reasons to choose the quirky, independent atmosphere of a small press where the author is treated like a member of a family rather than a number on a ledger sheet, but it is also harder to make a living here.

And it can be disheartening -- I received royalty notification from one publisher of a penny for six months sales.

Or scary -- another publisher I know received word over the weekend that Amazon was closing their Kindle account and would not pay out anything for the last quarter of 2016. After some tense hours, it was resolved as an error on Amazon's part, but, as you can imagine, the authors were very worried.

Why am I telling you all this? So you can see that this business is a very fragile one. One of the biggest third-party sales sites went under in December with little warning and very little recompense.

Two days after I released my latest self-publishing project I had to send two DMCA letters to pirate sites. TWO DAYS. I wonder if they had more downloads than the two I've sold on Kindle...well, three, if you count the one I bought myself.

My point here is this. If you love the work of your favorite small press author, show them. Buy our books from the small presses who take the chance to publish them. We will all appreciate your support.