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24 January 2017

This is the variant Sherlock Holmes that I write. I started writing very much in ‘old canon’ Holmes. (REPEAT BUSINESS, BEASTLY MYSTERIES, POISONOUS PEOPLE, FAMILIAR CRIMES) But while what I call the ‘Mandalay Variations” are still solidly old canon, they have something else – a cat. I’ve always considered, that were Holmes and Watson real, Watson would like and understand dogs, while also being an animal lover in general. Holmes on the other hand would like and understand cats, while regarding all other animals as ‘okay.’ And cats too would accept both, while knowing themselves understood by Holmes.
And that was where Emily Jackson (26, modest inherited personal income, esteemed freelance secretary) and her much loved brown Burmese cat, Mandalay, came in. Emily has a suite in a large old house, run by a widowed landlady, Mrs. Jane Knox. Emily was well educated, works because she does not appreciate being idle, and much of her work is the typing (and checking terminology, spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and producing work that an editor can read and make notes between the double spaced lines of) manuscripts at the author’s home.
Where the author is a cat lover and has a house, Mandalay may be permitted to accompany his mistress. Sonmething increasingly common as authors find he is a sensible animal, and that they can get more work done than if his owner must travel to and from her rooms each day. However Mandalay is a cat burglar. As are many cats, (particularly those of the Oriental breeds) he is prone to bring his mistress odd items he has found, as gifts for her.
Some of these are so odd or questionable that Emily calls on Holmes and Watson with them, having met the duo when she was kidnapped by a spy who believed she was in possession of unformation he required. That short story, A MISTRESS – MISSING, appeared in 2015, in a hardcover anthology trilopy out from the Uk, of new Holmes and Watson short stories. I loved Emily and Mandalay and didn’t want that to be the only story about them – and so it isn’t.
Since then I have written three novellas (SOMETHING THE CAT DRAGGED IN, CAT WITH A VESTED INTEREST, CAT WITH ENOUGH ROPE) and another story, (PINNED TO A CRIME) all of which appear in CATALYST. And, still enjoying the duo, I am working on another set, which, if my publishers likes them too, will appear, firstly one by one as three e-chapbooks, then as a book (working title CATACLYSM) which contains the novellas and a new short story too.
Mandalay is based primarily on my Octicat, Thunder, but also on my previous Ocicat Tiger, and on the siamese cats of several author friends. Not that the habit of hauling home strange things is confined to Oriental cats either. A year or so ago the major newspaper where I live printed a photo of a very smug-looking black and white feline posed behind a whole long line of items he’d hauled home, and I know of others. It seems that sometimes a mere dead mouse just won’t do. And so we have Emily Jackson and Mandalay. May you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy the writing.

The last three months haven’t been very wet. And the last month we’ve been swept over and over with gales, these leech the moisture out of the ground, and I have a nasty suspicion that this month, January, the gales have balanced the rain, and in effect we didn’t get any. So, as I say, I’m not absolutely positive, but there’s a feeling at the back of my neck that says ‘drought!’. So I sold all my spare ewes and lambs yesterday. I’d rather borrow stock to eat down surplus grass, than have starving animals, I’d rather get good prices right now, than almost nothing for starving stock later on. I’m just lucky I have a very small farm, and can afford to do that. Larger farms won’t, and if I’m right and a drought does come, they’ll lose – maybe a lot. There’s times when it pays to be a smallholder.

Recently I was reminded of how things change. A friend’s 12 year old granddaughter was moaning because her mother wouldn’t drive her to school – a whole kilometre away. I walked a mile and a half to Intermediate and High School five days a week. And I recall a friend’s father saying that he walked five miles to school in his day. At 30 and when I was living in the country, the local school there had a ‘pony paddock’ because many of the children rode to school. I said that, and the granddaughter’s eyes brightened. “I’d love a pony I could ride to school. Muuuum?” (There’s a saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same, I may have just helped demonstrate that…)

21 January 2017

I should say to anyone wondering where I’ve been of late, it’s been a very busy year. I wrote three and a half books, and much of my computer equipment piece by piece had terminal meltdowns. The outcome has been that I have replaced my printer, and my desktop, and am hoping to replace my laytop any day now.
On the 2016 book front, I had one book out, SHERLOCK HOLMES: POISONOUS PEOPLE, and three Sherlock novellas, they are now just out in print as well, in the form of CATALYST, (book) which includes a new short story. Wildside also has lined up to appear very shortly – my fantasy, BASTET’S DAUGHTERS, my next Holmes double, SHERLOCK HOLMES:FAMILIAR CRIMES, (both written last year) and I have turned in to them, SHERLOCK HOLMES:STRANGE EVENTS, and the first two of the next three novellas.
So far this year I have lined up on my schedule, the third novella and short story, (To complete CATACLYSM,) plus another fantasy, and the next Holmes double. So please forgive me if anyone thought I’d died. I haven’t, but between not being able to get letters printed, and running in circles writing, and cursing some technology, I wasn’t always up to date over 2016. I can’t promise. But I’ll try to do better this year.