The Pirate flag flies!

I’ve been in my new house since August, with workmen crawling on the roof and under the floor most of that time, and I’ve had little to actually SHOW for it all since it’s mostly little things like strengthening the deck rail and making sure the toilet flushes.  Important, yes, but not much fun involved.

Until now.  The flagpole that was on the house when we moved in, but needed new fittings, is back in place with its hooks and ropes—and here is now the view from the skylight inside the front door:

Arrrgh, mateys!

(And God only knows what the neighbors think…)

New UK covers!

Pretty new covers from my UK publishers, for the paperbacks available the end of June.  (And thanks to all my friends at Facebook who tried to help me with converting to jpeg: it takes a village to raise a blog post!)

Laurie’s busy year: an annual report

2011 has been a busy year.  A ridiculously busy year.  A year so nuts, it has forced me to declare 2012 The Year of No.  Meaning that if you’re about to ask me to write a short story, participate in a seminar, or show up at your festival, I can only say that if you’re not on the docket already, you probably won’t be.

Here’s what I’ve done in 2011:

This represents eight writing projects—only the writing projects, you understand, not the conventions, engagements, book tour, or family stuff.  From the bottom up (I’ll put links, in case you want to read excerpts or order things):

1.  Volume one of The Grand Game, a collection of Sherlock Holmes writing that Les Klinger and I did for the Baker Street Irregulars.  I helped select and edit the essays, and wrote the introduction, which laid the groundwork for the collection’s organization along the lines of Biblical Criticism: “Textual, Higher, Radical, and Midrashic Sherlockian Criticism.”  It’s actually quite a clever piece, although if you don’t have a background in Biblical studies, it may not make a whole lot of sense.

  2.  “Beekeeping for Beginners,” an e-novella published in July that gives the meeting of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes from his point of view—the opening scenes of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice really didn’t tell the whole story.

3. Pirate King published in September, and although the actual writing of the book was done in 2010, the online activities associated with a new novel bulldozed my summer: contests, guest blog posts, and a free short story (“Parrot King”) are but the tip of the iceberg.  We’ve left the “Laurie ARrrgh! King” events up, here.  

4. A short story for a collection that originally bore the title, Fantastic Dicks, it being intended as a cross between fantasy and private investigator fiction—I had already committed to it when the editors decided on the less titillating title, Down These Strange Streets.  “Hellbender” was a ton of fun to write, totally different from anything I’ve for a long time, and has left me tempted to dip my toes into more SciFi.

5. A Study in Sherlock, published in October, makes for a very different kind of anthology from the scholarly Grand Game.  Les Klinger and I asked a bunch of writers who are not knows for their Sherlockian interests to write something “inspired by the Sherlock Holmes ‘Canon’.”  We had a fabulous time with it, and everyone is so happy with how it turned out, we will be (yes, already on the docket) doing a second volume.

6. The Arvon Book of Crime and Thriller Writing.  A little over a year ago, my friend Michelle Spring asked if I would co-author a book she’d agreed to do for the Arvon foundation in the UK, on crime writing.  Arvon is not known in the US, but in the UK it is a highly respected writing foundation that holds week-long courses on various kinds of writing, from crime to poetry, taught by two writers with a guest writer coming in mid-week.  Like most writers, I’d played with the idea of doing a how-to book, but decided I never would a) because I wouldn’t make the time for it and b) because I don’t do enough teaching to have a firm grasp on what is needed.  However, Michelle does, and this would give me a chance to say my part on craft.  It was a ton of work and taught me far more than I’d anticipated, but it’s now finished—we’ve just today (!) sent off the final draft.  It will be published on both sides of the Atlantic next summer.

7.  Volume 2 of The Grand Game.  Les Klinger did the majority of the work on this volume, and wrote the introduction, although I do have a learned paper in the collection itself, the key portion of a Distinguished Speaker Lecture given to the Baker Street Irregulars in 2007.  If you wish to read the definitive answer to the question of Dr Watson’s war wound (PTSD? Early onset Alzheimer’s?) here will be your chance.

8. And finally, Garment of Shadows.  The bulk of my writing time during 2011 was taken up with Russell & Holmes 12.5 (if we count Beekeeping for Beginners as the .5) which will be published next September.  As you can see from the photograph, this is still a manuscript, in the copyedit stage.  Which means that over the Christmas “holidays” I will be nose-down in paper, sorting out the copyeditor’s corrections and my editor’s lethal little penciled remarks that turn into entire plot problems.

9. And in January?  I start the next book, a sequel to Touchstone.


Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

For fear of giving away a spoiler to Pirate King, I will not go into details of where in the story talk turns to Pirate Queen.  (Which is not to be confused with the Broadway musical of that name.)  However, it is a tantalizing mention, and I thought International Talk Like a Pirate Day gave a good excuse to explore the idea a bit more.  (No spoilers, I promise!)

I recently posted elsewhere about women pirates, and mentioned my interest in two lady pirates found in Daniel Defoe’s A General History of the Pyrates:

Mary Read and Anne Bonny, alias Bonn, which were the true Names of these two Pyrates; the odd Incidents of their rambling Lives are such that some may be tempted to think the whole Story no better than a Novel or Romance.

Both Mary and Anne were born into poverty and had truly disastrous home lives.  Mary Read’s mother, “who was young and airy,” married young and had a son.  Soon thereafter, the husband died, and Mrs Read went to her mother-in-law, who agreed to support the family.  However, soon afterward young Mrs Read  “met with an Accident” (“which has often happened to Women who are young, and do not take a great deal of Care”) that drove her to take her leave of the family and go live with other friends for a few months.  While she was away, the son died, and she gave birth to her Accidental daughter.  So to preserve her Crown-a-Week Maintenance income, Mrs Read simply dressed her daughter in boy’s clothing and presented “him” to the grandmother, who seems not to have noticed that the child was a year or so less developed than he ought to have been.  Perhaps it was a short visit.  At night.

At any event, the grandmother eventually died, the maintenance ceased, and Mrs Read found Mary work, as a foot-boy to a French lady.  After a few years, “growing bold and strong, and having also a roving Mind” Mary first signed on board a Man of War, then moved to a regiment of foot soldiers and saw battle as a cadet, before falling in love with a cavalry officer, following him into danger any number of times before she more or less threw herself at him:

Her Comrade himself could not account for this strange Alteration in her, but Love is ingenious, and as they lay together in the same Tent, and were constantly together, she found a Way of letting him discover her Sex…. He was much surprized at what he found out, and not a little pleased.

I’ll bet.  As Defoe says, “the Story of two Troopers marrying each other, made a great Noise,” but eventually dear Comrade died, so Mary dusted off her men’s clothing and joined another foot regiment for a while, then went to sea, where she was taken by pirates.  She stayed with them until they surrendered to accept a pardon, then lived quietly on dry land until His Majesty asked for volunteers to sail against the Spanish, as privateers.  You won’t be surprised to hear that Mary was one of the first to step forward.

In the meantime, Anne Bonny, born out of wedlock in Ireland, ended up married in the Carolinas, where she met the pirate Rackam.  She set sail with him, dressed in men’s clothing.  Pregnancy interrupted their voyage, but after a few months in Cuba, she rejoined him, only to have her eye caught by none other than Mary Read:

Anne Bonny, who was not altogether so reserved in point of Chastity, took a particular Liking to her; in short, Anne Bonny took her for a handsome young Fellow, and for some Reasons best known to herself, first discovered her Sex to Mary Read; Mary Read knowing what she would be at, and being very sensible of her own Incapacity that Way, was forced to come to a right Understanding with her, and so to the great Disappointment of Anne Bonny, she let her know she was a Woman also; but this Intimacy so disturb’d Captain Rackan, who was the Lover and Gallant of Anne Bonny, that he grew furiously jealous, so that he told Anne Bonny he would cut her new Lover’s Throat.  Therefore, to quiet him, she let him into the Secret also.

But this ménage a trois was not the end of the story, by any means.  Mary became smitten with another young sailor, to whom “she suffered the Discovery to be made, by carelessly shewing her Breasts, which were very white.”  Not surprisingly, “the young Fellow, who was made of Flesh and Blood, had his Curiosity and Desire” raised.  Curiosity and Desire clearly ran both ways, because shortly after, when the Fellow challenged another sailor to a duel, it was Mary who showed up, two hours early, and killed the challenger.

Mary and Anne were both eventually captured, although both executions were delayed by conveniently timed pregnancies.  Mary died in prison, Anne had a series of reprieves and disappears from history, but it was Mary’s shipboard conversation with Captain Rackam (before he knew who, or rather what, she was) that condemned her:  “Were it not for hanging,” she’d said, “every cowardly fellow would turn Pyrate, and so infest the Seas, that Men of Courage must starve.”

Or indeed, women.

And just to titillate you as to possibilities, here’s a clip from the 1951 film, “Anne of the Indies”:

Quotes from Defoe’s A General History of The Pyrates, edited by Manuel Schonhorn.

Excerpts and entertainments to do with the world of Laurie ARrrgh! King are here. Pirate Queen has yet to be discussed with Laurie’s editor, but if you’d like a signed copy of Pirate King, there may still be some here.

St Louis, Denver, & New York (Times)

Since Thursday, I’ve been in St Louis for BoucherCon, the World Mystery Conference, along with 1600 or so other writers, editors, publicists, future writers, and just plain fans.  BoucherCon is a mixed conference, as much for fans as for people looking to learn something about the craft and the industry, and it’s often the only time of the year I see those friends that I met at…yes, BoucherCon.

This means that any thought I may have had of catching up on the sleep lost during the book tour went down the tubes the first night, when a party kept me awake until nearly midnight and a breakfast got me up before 6.  And so it goes.

But it’s worth it, every minute.  I’ve had a chance to catch up with a bunch of friends, had a very productive conversation with my editor and Les Klinger about A Study in Sherlock—and about a second volume for 2012, Another Study in Sherlock.  I also had a one-on-one breakfast conversation with said editor about everything under the publishing sun, from sick puppies (okay, that was a little peripheral to the publishing world) to ebooks to my unusually strong (considering the market, which is generally down dramatically from 2010) hardback numbers.  Sometime between coffee and the last crumbs, she came up with an entirely new project she thought would be good for me to do, which I promised to think about—after I get home!

And I got to meet new people.  Colin Cotterill, with whom I’ve worked over the past year since he’s in the anthology, and who is a funny and thoughtful panelist.  I met a quartet of authors over dinner: Carla Buckley, Chevy Stevens, Stephanie Pintoff, and Amanda Kyle Williams, a new writer whom I was glad to chat with a second time in the bar last night.  Good people, all.  Another new author, Taylor Stevens (no relation to Chevy, I don’t think) who wrote a thriller called The Informationist that’s getting a whole lot of buzz here, and which I’ve ordered already from my bookstore.  Then, dinner with Les, two good Sherlockian friends, and writers SJ Rozan, Dana Cameron, and Harley Jane Kozak.  I bought champagne for all, to celebrate being

#7 on the NYT list,

and Dana went on to win the short story Anthony award at today’s awards banquet, so a good time was had by all.

I’m up in my room at the moment, but I’ll return to the lobby in a while to participate in the gauntlet of leaving authors.  I don’t leave until the morning, so this afternoon I plan on spending with the manuscript of the next book, half of which I dutifully brought with me, and haven’t so much as glanced at it.

Or maybe I’ll have a long nap…

Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and to celebrate I’ll be at Denver’s Tattered Cover.  If you live in that part of the world, please dust off your three-corner hat and swashbuckle yourself down to the bookstore to join the party—I’ll be drawing a name for the Grand Prize, someone who has donated to the 826 Valencia page and who will be allowed to name a character (human, canine, or feline) in the next book.  If you haven’t donated yet, or if you’d like to increase your chances of winning (there are thirty other prizes, too!) the page is here.  Good luck—and tomorrow, change your Facebook language to “pirate”, give a parrot a biscuit, and don’t forget to Arrrgh!

Guest Post: The View from Fez

To wrap up our Pirate King virtual tour, today I’m posting over at The View from Fez. Enjoy, but don’t get too sidetracked in exploring their wonderful site.

Lucky Number Seven

Thank you for everyone who bought a copy of Pirate King this week, and put it at #8 on the 9/15 IndieBound bestseller list and #7 on the 9/25 New York Times bestseller list.  I am walking on clouds.

Parrot King Winners

We had so many gorgeous submissions for the Parrot King contest that I couldn’t possibly choose just one. So without further ado, the co-winners are:

Jenny Parks


Shirley Bomgaars.

Both will get a signed copy of Pirate King as their prize, and the two designs will be found on merchandise in the LRK Cafepress store later this week. Congratulations to you both, and thank you to everyone who participated!

Pirate King: the illustrated edition

 Excerpts from Pirate King, with illustrations:

Arabic architecture turns its back on the world, to create a cool and cloistered universe inside each set of walls.  I was standing in a tiled garden.

The house rose on three sides, layers of galleried passages that gave both a sense of intimacy and a plenitude of fresh air.  Three levels up, a honeycomb of silvery wood turned the sky into blue tile-work, mirroring the fine blue and white designs beneath my feet.

The gallery railings were bleached by time, the complex amethyst and vermilion designs on the ceilings had sheltered generations of inhabitants, the gilding was a faded glory, all the more pleasing for its age.  Over the intricately carved double doors leading into the house itself, mother-of-pearl inlays teased the eye inside.

The tessellated paving-stones of the courtyard climbed up along the sides to form tiled benches scattered with rich cushions, and at the back into a splashing fountain surrounded by garden—the style of house, riyad, means “garden.”  A pair of lemon trees were espaliered against the courtyard’s fourth wall, growing tall towards the sky-light; one could smell, if not see, the blossoms.

“They’re offering to do henna painting on us.  See that goop that looks like mud?  That’s pure henna.  When you trickle it onto the skin and let it dry there, it stains intricate patterns onto the skin.  It’s not permanent, one scrubs it away after a few days.  I’ve seen it before, done for weddings and such.  It’s pretty.  Anyone interested?”

We kept the three ladies of Salé busy for a couple of hours, trickling arabesques of mud onto hands, arms, and ankles.  When the trio descended below to their labours, leaving a bevy of Europeans oohing and aahing over the orange-brown tendrils woven over their pale skin.

I looked around and was hit by a startling thought: I was in a harem.

And if I stayed here much longer, I should die of boredom.

Piles of Pirates

The drama of the Laurie R. King Pirate King tour, in 16 seconds: