Writer’s Ethics by Christine Duncan

By now much has been written on the wiki leaks scandals.  Debbie Wasserman Schulz has resigned, and been given a job by the Clinton campaign.  And

Which Holmes to Use?

The thing (problem? Curse? Blessing?Challenge?) with writing a character that’s already well known is how much do you base it on other people’s interpretations?

Now ACD (Arthur Conan Doyle) just gave us a little bit of Martha Hudson and Mary Watson, and all future interpretations tended to be just in the background. All the portrayals are quite different, so when I came to write about them, I took ACD’s few words, and made the rest up out of my own head.

But Sherlock Holmes – ah, now he is different. He is a very clear character in the books, and yet every interpretation is subtly different. (the same could be said of Poirot, or Hamlet). So which one do I think of when I write him? William Gillette first, iconic portrayal, who fell in love and got married? Basil Rathbone’s confident, rather sexy Holmes? Peter Cushing’s commanding presence? Douglas Wilsher’s broken hero? Benedict Cumberbatch borderline sociopath? Or Jeremy Brett’s complex, layered, quicksilver portrayal of a man tortured by his own brilliance?

Actors have a gift to read a text, and bring out qualities and influences the reader can’t see. It’s one thing to read the words on the page, another to stand up and say the words, and make them believable, and alive. Therefore, good performances bring a whole new view on the original character – still Holmes, but a different angle. Which one could I use? Which one would I see when I wrote my Holmes?

All have qualities I admire, and like. They were all influences, because I didn’t just want the Holmes from the book. That is Holmes seen through Watson’s forgiving, idolising eyes, as the brilliant hero, with the great heart behind the great mind that we see only once. That is not the Holmes I need. I need Sherlock seen through Mary and Mrs Hudson’s eyes – still brilliant, but flawed, exasperating, and yet, in a way vulnerable, questioning himself in a way Watson would never see.

So I looked at all the portrayals and in the end, settled for Jeremy Brett, with a hint of Benedict Cumberbatch. That gives me my flawed, irritating, and yet loved hero. It gave me a Sherlock Holmes Mary and Martha could care for, whilst being annoyed by him. (And I have to admit I love writing the Mrs Hudson and Sherlock Holmes scenes).

Oh, and as for Doctor Watson? Complete mash-up of Edward Hardwicke and Martin Freeman. Perfect.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Writers Online Rules by Christine Duncan

I have been noticing how rude many people seem to be over the smallest issues in social media, but I was startled to read in the editor’s section of this month’s Good  Housekeeping that some of the subjects of their articles have been harassed online. These people had done nothing wrong. They were survivors of potentially fatal illnesses who told their stories through the magazine

. And yet, people online treated them badly.
I bring this up because I believe we as writers need to think about our own work carefully. You never know who is reading it or what their reactions will be.
I think that as writers we need to be careful what and how much we reveal online. We want to connect with our audience, but we need to balance that with protecting our own privacy and that of our families.

Sigh. And I wish it didn’t have to be that way.

The Wheel Of Fortune

It seems to me that everything happens in cycles.

No, not bicycles, or motorcycles. Pay attention!

When something is happening to you, it seems as if this will be the way it is forever. But I’ve been learning about cycles (as a woman, a monthly cycle is something I really have to pay attention to).

So, when I don’t feel like writing, I don’t despair and think I’ll never write again. Give it a few days and I’ll be back to normal. And there’s a few days every few weeks when I write like a demon. When I feel down and miserable and am convinced I am the worst writer in the world, I’ve learnt to ignore that feeling. Just a week and that’ll pass. Writers block is only temporary.

Some cycles come in days, some in hours, some in weeks, some in years. But there are cycles. This too shall pass.

Unfortunately this also applies to the good times, so I’ve learnt to make the most of the high points, to get me through the low points. Just hang on in there, or, alternatively, make the most of it. The Wheel of Fortune turns, and it’ll all change sooner or later.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Free Promotion Education by Christine Duncan

Whenever I have needed a skill that I’ve lcked, I’ve gone to the library for a book. Of course, YouTube has videos, and the web is full of articles, and those are wonderful if you need to fix something but they fall short when you need to know more than just how to balance your check book. So I was delighted to see that my library is now offering Lynda. It offers courses on things like how to do 3d illustration, or how to do accounts payable. For free.
The course I’m interested in is digital marketing, with information on how to develop a marketing plan, training in SEO, and google analytics among other things. This is supposed to be about 23 hours of coursework, so I’m struggling with how to fit it in, but how cool to have this option for FREE. Don’t you love libraries?


I’ve been taking refuge in books. There are terrible things happening in the world. Shootings and bombings and political upheavals and every time I watch the news, my heart sinks a little more.

So, I need a refuge. Not a hiding place. I don’t want to stop noticing the news. I just want a place where I can get away and breath for a while. And that is books. Because if I watch the television or go online, I find myself drifting towards the news. But books – I can forget the world for a while in books.

But a good book also helps us understand the world. Even a book that is in no way relevant to what is happening out there can show us a new viewpoint, can make us see the world slightly differently, give us comfort, soothe our pain, change our mind.

Jane Austen has been castigated for not writing about the Napoleonic wars in her books, but she understood that whilst terrible things are happening, the world still goes on, and perhaps people need to be reminded of that.

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett. It’s my place to hide from yet another shocking headline. And it’s a reminder that life goes on, people still eat and sleep and fall in love and do their jobs. It seems as if the world is falling apart, but it isn’t, not just yet.

I think this has always been the magic of books. It’s a place to go for a while, just until we’re ready to deal with it again, and they give us the knowledge to cope with the world.

So if you don’t feel you can write because of the terrible things happening, remember, somebody, somewhere, needs your book to get through the day.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Not Because I’m Morbid

I’ve heard it has been said to crime writers – though not to me – why do you write about something so morbid?

Well, it’s because when we see something morbid, or horrifying, or disturbing, we want to know why. News reports hardly ever cover this. I’m not talking about the motive. I mean the social situations, the background of everyone involved, the upbringing – all the little details that contribute towards the final picture. That is what a crime story does. It explores the reasons for the actions, not just the actions themselves.

A good crime book is also about bringing order to chaos. A crime brings disorder and uncertainty to a community. A crime solved restores order and calm. And that’s what most crime books are about – not just the crime, but the detection of the crime.

So, OK, crime books can be gruesome, and morbid and all the other accusations levelled against them. But they can be about justice and understanding and truth too. They are about the story of the people caught up in a crime, in the most horrific event of their lives. That is why we write about it. Not because we are morbid, but so we can understand it, and then fix it – at least on the page.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby