Sherlockian

Sherlockian, also known as Sherlockiana and Doyle Pastiche, is a genre of derivative fiction based on the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a wildly popular character, capturing the imagination of readers like few others. Dracula may be the only rival to Sherlock’s claim as king of derivative fiction.

The Sherlockian genre has spawned numerous books, short stories, graphic novels, movies, TV series, and even musicals. Currently, the genre enjoys immense popularity as a movie franchise starring Robert Downey, Jr. and two TV series, BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’s “Elementary.”

Whether published professionally or uploaded to an amateur archive, Sherlockian is fan fiction. It is derived from another author’s work and written for an established fan base. Before you decide to jump in, keep in mind not all of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain and his heirs are asserting their rights when applicable. This Economist article explains the situation in more detail.

What is it about Sherlock Holmes that is so appealing? Is it his cold, analytical personality balanced with an enjoyment of disguises and a Bohemian lifestyle that includes an unfortunate addiction to cocaine? Holmes is deeply brilliant, heroic and flawed, making him a larger-than-life character that can be hard for readers to relate to.

John Watson may be Doyle’s true stroke of genius. Watson’s ordinary intellect and heroic inclinations, combined with a loyal personality, allow the reader to place herself in the good doctor’s shoes, being alternately astonished and aggravated by the unconventional Holmes. Sherlock is the amazing friend who sweeps you off to an exciting adventure.

While much of the genre puts this winning combination to good use, there are many other novels and stories that do not. For example, in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, Watson is mostly out of the picture as Holmes takes on a young female apprentice who later becomes his wife.

Other stories and novels put the focus on secondary, minor and fictional characters. These include:

The two links below will give you access to extensive lists of professional Sherlockian fiction.

If all this puts you in the mood for the real deal, you’re in luck. Many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and stories are available to download for free, in a variety of formats, on the Project Gutenberg website. Click here to go to the Sherlock Holmes archive.

A special note of thanks goes to my good friend and Sherlock Holmes fan, Teacher Jennifer, who provided me with lots of helpful links and information.

Food and Romance

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a freebies list. I haven’t downloaded much, either. I’ve been reading actual, physical books. *gasp!* I blame it on my trip to San Francisco, where I spent some quality time in the most excellent Borderlands Books. If you love speculative fiction and are in San Francisco, you’ve got to go to this bookstore. You can thank me later.

Now that my Kindle has had a chance to cool off, I decided to check out the Amazon freebies. I found lots of new stuff, which is always nice. Several yummy-looking, free-for-now cookbooks caught my eye, particularly one based on the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

I also noticed that Harlequin is releasing ten free romance novels on April 1. Hopefully, they’re not fooling with us. LOL! *cough* Anyway, keep in mind that when you click the link, you will have “bought” the book, but it won’t download until April 1.

All these books are listed below. Enjoy! And have a great weekend.

  The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games
Savor the post-apocalyptic world of Panem one dish at a time with The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games. Offering 187 recipes, this cookbook serves fans an authentic taste of the Hunger Games trilogy, whether foraged for in the impoverished District 12 or devoured at the lavish banquets of the Capitol.

  The Parthenon Cookbook: Great Mediterranean Recipes from the Heart of Chicago’s Greektown by Camille Stagg
This collection of terrific Greek recipes, from old favorites to unique house specialties, is also a tribute to the oldest restaurant in Chicago’s fabled Greektown, a landmark innovator of legendary dishes like saganaki and the first gyros in Chicago. Filled with colorful history and lush photographs, the book features 40 of the restaurant’s most popular recipes from all courses, appetizers to desserts. They include Feta a la Soto, Marathon Salad with Shrimp, Moussaka, Sokolatina, and more. In addition, Greek wine pairings are included as well as full Greek dinner menus with tips for entertaining.

  1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes by Sue Spitler
This new edition of 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes is completely revised to reflect current food trends and cooking preferences. The introduction will adhere to American Heart Association guidelines and will include the new FDA nutritional guidelines, with comments on the importance of exercise as part of a total healthy lifestyle. In general, recipes will be easier and faster to prepare with fewer ingredients and more concise cooking methods. Recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less will be identified throughout the book with an “express veg” icon. The “super foods” that boast high nutritional, antioxidant, and phytochemical qualities will be emphasized in recipes—blueberries, kiwi, pomegranate juice, melons, citrus fruit, edamame, leafy dark greens, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, beets, tomatoes, bell peppers, beans and legumes, nuts, flax and hemp seeds, whole grains, and soy and dairy products.

  The Apple Cookbook by Hillbilly Housewife
“An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away” I’m sure you’ve heard that saying a time or two. Apples are a great fruit that’s not only healthy, but also very versatile and frugal. I can almost always find some great apples on sale at the store. Occasionally we’ll also buy a big box of apples from a local orchard and store them for use in the winter. Apples keep well in a dry, cool place, but with all the cooking and baking, the never last very long at our house. In this apple cookbook, you’ll find recipes that range from sweet to savory.

Harlequin Free Books (pre-order now, will download April 1)

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Friday Bargains and Freebies

I’ve been posting a lot of writer news lately, but this is also a blog for readers. I love to read and I have an eReader packed with all kinds of good stuff from both traditionally published and independent authors.

The reason I usually post Kindle freebies is because I have a Kindle and the Kindle app is available for all kinds of devices. I don’t want people to think I’m Amazon biased and I do look for other eReader resources. Part of the problem is that Amazon is nicely set up for bargains and freebies. They’ve made it part of their business model. Barnes & Noble, not so much. It’s hard to find the cheap thrills on their website. Apple has gotten a lot better in that regard, but it’s hard to include those links since iTunes isn’t web-friendly.

So, eBook retailers, if you’re out there, please note: free and bargain books have made me purchase more books than I ordinarily would have. They have pointed me at authors I might not have noticed. If I like a book, chances are I will buy that author’s next book. If I really, really want a book, I will probably buy it at full price.

Today, I have two websites to share for readers and writers, but particularly readers.

The first is Indies Unlimited. This is a website for readers and writers of independently published books. Every Thursday, they host Thrifty Thursday. In the comments section of that day’s post, independent authors can add links to their books costing $0.99 or less. Every Friday is Freebie Friday. In the comments section of that day’s post, independent authors can add links to their free-for-now books.

The links for this site are below. The links for Thrifty Thursday and Freebie Friday are only good for those dates, i.e., 3/14/13 and 3/15/13. You must visit the main site each week and click on the new posts for that week.

The second is BookBub. This is a free service that sends daily emails containing lists of free and bargain eBooks. You can choose which genres you want to receive and you can also choose the format, including Kindle, Apple, Kobo, B&N, Sony, etc. If you don’t want to receive an email, you can also find book deals on their website. I’ll have to say that while I don’t like retail email, I do look forward to my daily BookBub message. The links are below.

To receive information and deals throughout the day, you can like Indies Unlimited and BookBub on Facebook and follow Indies Unlimited and BookBub on Twitter.

Camp NaNoWriMo

You probably know about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) an annual event that takes place every November. It’s a competition, a challenge to write 50K words in 30 days. You may not know about Camp NaNoWriMo. Think of NaNoWriMo in a low-key setting where you set your goals. To quote a message from Chris Angotti of the Office of Letters and Light, the good folks who bring us NaNoWriMo:

We want to invite you to a writing retreat—a serene, supportive place you don’t have to move a muscle to get to… Okay, well, maybe your link-clicking muscle:

Camp NaNoWriMo, now in April and July 2013!

We just reopened the gate for next month’s session, and whether you’re a canoe kingpin or tenting tenderfoot, we’ve got a few new things to show you:

Flexible word-count goals. Your choice, from 10,000 to 999,999.

Rebel- and script-friendliness. Write a memoir, blog series, frenzied script, or anything your creative heart desires.

Looking for that push to start your novel or finish it? Have you always wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo, but were put off by the 50K challenge? This could be for you. You can sign up for the April session on the Camp NaNoWriMo website.

Whether you’re planning to join a cabin at the camp or are saving up energy for the November frenzy, I found a couple of free-for-now writing guides that could help with both events.

  30 Daily Tips for NaNoWriMo: No Fail Formulas To Finish Your Novel by Tara Maya
NaNoWriMo is National Writer’s Month, when writers from around the world sit down and try to finish a novel (at least 50,000 words) in a month. There are many books and blogs with Daily Prompts for NaNoWriMo, and they’re good books, but they contain a high percentage of Cheerleading to Content. I’m not bashing a good cheer (Go, Team Writer!), but these prompts include a higher ration of Grit to Goodwill. These are my best No Fail Formulas, most of which I’ve shamelessly stolen from all the best authors I love.

  2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
Expanding on her highly successful process for doubling daily word counts, this book, a combination of reworked blog posts and new material, offers practical writing advice for anyone who’s ever longed to increase their daily writing output. In addition to updated information for Rachel’s popular 2k to 10k writing efficiency process, 5 step plotting method, and easy editing tips, this new book includes chapters on creating characters that write their own stories, practical plot structure, and learning to love your daily writing. Full of easy to follow, practical advice from a commercial author who doesn’t eat if she doesn’t produce good books on a regular basis, 2k to 10k focuses not just on writing faster, but writing better, and having more fun while you do it.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Sword and Sorcery

Sword and Sorcery is a genre of action, adventure and magic. Readers expect heroes and villains who can accomplish feats of amazing physical and supernatural abilities.

For a novel to be considered Sword and Sorcery, it requires conflict that will be resolved by the use of blades and magic. Therefore the setting must be in an actual or alternate time period before the use of gunpowder, unless gunpowder is being used as a sort of combustible magic potion rather than in guns.

There are obvious similarities between Sword and Sorcery and Epic Fantasy. So, what’s the difference? Epic Fantasy usually involves a high stake quest that will either save or destroy the world. Sword and Sorcery involves smaller quests, such as rescuing a kidnapped prince or retrieving a lost treasure. A kingdom can be at stake, and sometimes a whole world, but the protagonist is primarily concerned with her personal quest.

A common trope for the genre is bulky, heroic swordsman versus slinky, devious sorceress. While there are books along those lines, there are many others that deviate from that tired stereotype. Even Robert E. Howard, creator of the Conan series, liked strong, heroic swordswomen, such as his characters Red Sonya and Agnes de Chastillon.

Sword and Sorcery books featuring strong female protagonists include the Tiger and Del series and many of the books by Tamora Pierce.

The antihero is a common protagonist in this genre, which makes sense since the stakes are personal rather than universal. This type of character may do good despite himself, but will also walk away after causing a lot of harm. Sword and Sorcery antiheroes include Elric of Melniboné, Corwin of Amber, and Magiere of the Noble Dead Saga.

Interested in reading Sword and Sorcery? I don’t blame you. It’s fun stuff! Popular authors include Lynn Flewelling, Terry Goodkind, Poul Anderson, C. L. Moore and R. A. Salvatore.

Genre fans may also want to check out these websites:

Below you’ll find a few free-for-now Kindle books to give you a taste for the genre. Among these includes “Stone of Tears,” the second in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of the Truth series. I checked and the first book isn’t free.

  Stone of Tears (The Sword of Truth #2) by Terry Goodkind
With Darken Rahl defeated, Richard and Kahlan head back to the Mud People to be married. As they wait for their wedding day to approach, they discover three Sisters of Light are pursuing Richard, intending to take him back to the Old World to be trained as a Wizard. Additionally, unbeknownst to Richard and Kahlan, the veil has been torn and the Stone of Tears has entered the world. According to prophecy, the only person who has a chance at closing the veil is the one bonded to the blade, the one born true.

  Dralin by John H. Carroll
There are many cities in the world of Ryallon that know the touch of despair and evil, but none like Dralin. Towers of wizards rise high into the air, shrouded in the mists of magical smog. Poor sleep in the alleyways, becoming deformed by pollution. Life is short for many. Throughout all of it, the cunning and dangerous members of the City Guard do their best to keep evil and crime from destroying the citizens of Dralin. Trained to fight in streets that make no sense, they keep wickedness from taking over completely. A young woman fleeing her past makes Dralin her destination. A young Guardsman with his own dark history hopes to make a difference in a city that is without hope. Are sorrow and despair their only destiny, or can love redeem them? Two young girls raised in this city learn life’s hard lessons early. Will they be defeated by its evil?

  Demonsouled by Jonathan Moeller
Banished for fifteen years, the wandering knight Mazael Cravenlock returns home at last to the Grim Marches, only to find war and chaos. His brother plans a foolish and doomed rebellion. His sister hopes to wed a brutal and cruel knight. The whispers speak of living corpses that stalk the night, of demons that lurk in darkness, and a sinister snake-cult that waits in the shadows. Yet Mazael’s darkest enemy waits elsewhere. Within his own tainted soul…

Product Details  Pale Queen’s Courtyard by Marcin Wrona
Kamvar, a soldier, has lost his way. Leonine, a thief and sorcerer, has forgotten that he had one to lose. When the daughter of a High Priest finds herself exiled and hunted across the entirety of conquered Ekka, both men will remember who they are, and the country’s invaders will learn that memories, unlike temples, are not so easily torn down.

  The Darkslayer: Wrath of the Royals by Craig Halloran
When recklessness provokes a Royal household, Venir and his friend Melegal the thief are forced to flee the city. In pursuit, the Royals soon unleash some unusual powers against them and start to close in. Can Venir and Melegal survive the impending doom that is about to befall them? Only Bish knows, but Venir has been secretly keeping evil forces at bay for years. He is the Darkslayer, a man possessed by a mantle of power he cannot let go.

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Middle Grade Fiction

After my last post on Young Adult (YA) fiction, I decided Middle Grade (MG) should come next in my series of genre articles. I’ll start by posing a common question, what is the difference between Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction?

The easy answer: MG is for tweens, older elementary and middle school students, while YA is for high school students.

You may notice there’s a fuzzy spot in the middle of this answer. A given person doesn’t suddenly turn into a more sophisticated reader upon graduating middle school. Older tweens may want to read YA and younger teens may still be reading MG. This middle ground also gives some wiggle room for the age of the protagonist. While typically no younger than eight or older than twelve, a MG protagonist can be as old as fourteen.

So, what defines a Middle Grade book? The protagonist should be the same age as the target readership. The voice should be that of a young person going through the awkward  stages of puberty and adolescence. A MG protagonist is a child becoming a teen, not a teen becoming an adult. This involves a protagonist finding his place in the world while his body is growing and changing. Family and friendship have more emphasis than romance. There will be little to no sexual references and what there is will not be explicit. The books also tend to be shorter in length.

MG books can be about serious, controversial subjects that are of issue to that age group. “Choke” is about an eighth grade girl drawn into the Choking Game, a recent phenomenon where kids choke each other to get high.

Like YA, MG is a wide umbrella with many subgenres such as literary, horror, science fiction, mystery and humor. Examples, in order of genre, include “Wonder,” “A Tale Dark & Grimm,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Liar & Spy,” and “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.”

Certain MG novels appeal to tweens, teens and adults, such as “Harry Potter,” “Artemis Fowl” and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” It’s interesting to note that these are all series where the protagonist ages from tween to teen. As they grow older, their issues and self-identity change as well. Does this mean the later books become YA fiction? No. They become that magical word, “crossover” and the series will probably be placed in more than one section in a library, bookstore or online store.

I recently had a conversation with a library worker. She told me that the Harry Potter books fly off the shelf in the teen section. However, in the middle grade section, the earlier books in the series are always checked out, while the later books remain on the shelf. While this is hardly a scientific study, it is an interesting indication that younger readers prefer a younger protagonist.

Interested in learning more about MG or finding good books to read? Check out these websites.

HarperCollins Children’s is offering a free sampler of Middle Grade fiction. It’s available for download in a variety of formats.

  Awesome Adventures for Kids Middle Grade Sampler
Embark on a totally awesome adventure with excerpts from six extraordinary stories in one comprehensive ebook sampler! Experience magic and mix-ups with Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver; enter the enchanting wilderness of Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis; meet an unlikely hero in The Otherworld Chronicles: The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton; learn recipes with a twist in Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood; prepare to save the world with Cold Cereal by Adam Rex; and go on a wild family road trip with The Genius Files #2: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman.

Young Adult

I’m back home and eager to continue my series of blog posts about genre.  It seems natural to jump back in with one of the hottest genres around, Young Adult or YA.

Wild, impulsive behavior, hormones bouncing off the walls, soaring emotions, dark secrets: this is the stuff of young adult novels. It is the fiction of firsts. First crush, date, kiss, job, failing grade, drink, smoke, sexual experience, rejection, the list goes on. Think of one of your milestone firsts and chances are it happened while you were a young adult.

It may be helpful to define the term, “young adult.” In terms of the genre, a young adult is an adolescent, a teenager, typically of high school age, between 14- and 18-years-old. There’s some breathing room on either end, but a protagonist younger than thirteen would be considered Middle Grade and one older than nineteen would be a New Adult.

Voice is particularly important in YA fiction. As you read, you should be hearing the voice of a teen telling her story. A novel written as a memoir, i.e., an older person telling the story of his teen years, is not YA because the voice is that of an adult reliving his youth.

The YA protagonist should also have a keen eye for adult hypocrisy.  Teens are often censured by grownups that talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, and they are fully aware of this. A sense of alienation from and aversion to the adult world is crucial to the YA voice.

Many subgenres fall under the wide YA umbrella, including historical, romance, literary, dystopia, fantasy and horror. Examples, in order of genre, include “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing,” “Anna and the French Kiss,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Divergent,” “Tithe,” and “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.”

Few subjects are taboo in YA and some books deal with difficult, sensitive topics, such as drug use, promiscuity, suicide, cutting and bullying. “Speak” tells the story of rape victim who calls the police during a blow out party. Unable to say what really happened, she is shunned and becomes a social pariah. In “Living Dead Girl,” a kidnap victim tells the horrific story of her life as a pedophile’s plaything. It’s not all heavy weather in YA and there are plenty of books based around adventure and romance, but even these can brush on hard topics that are of concern to teens.

YA novels are written for and marketed to teenagers. The phenomenon of the YA genre is that many of the readers are adults. According to a 2012 article in Publishers Weekly, adults bought 55% of YA books. Not surprising, since parents must be buying books for their kids. However, of that number, 78% purchased the books for themselves. YA books such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” became blockbuster hits because of their crossover appeal.

Has YA run its course as a hot genre? Apparently not. In sessions at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I learned that sales are still brisk and new books are constantly being acquired. To paraphrase one editor, there is a consistent, yet changing readership as children grow into teens and seek out YA novels.

Interested in learning more? Here are some great websites to check out.

  • Young Adult Books Central is a great place to find the latest books and reader reviews.
  • Adult YA readers may enjoy Forever Young Adult, “a site for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A.”
  • Teen readers should check out Teen Ink, an online magazine and teen community.

Below you’ll find a few free-for-now Kindle books to give you a taste for the genre.

Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle
Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore. After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate. Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

  The Sword and The Prophet by Missy LaRae
Fifteen year old twins Lily and Tyler are on a mission. Escape from their abusive mother, hop a train to Charleston, South Carolina, and don’t get caught. They’ve been kept in virtual seclusion their entire lives, and in one night make a break for it and succeed. However, something isn’t right with their new Aunt and Uncle, and they realize they’ve escaped one nightmare and stumbled into something even far more sinister and deadly.

  Adventures In Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris
Sixteen year old Kait Lenox has a reputation as the weird girl in her high school, mostly because of her ex-best friend turned mean popular girl, Ariel, but maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Kait has a hobby crashing funerals. At one of these, Kait is outted by the most popular guy in school, Ethan Ripley. Yet, instead of humiliating her for all the world to see, he asks for her help, and Kait finds herself entangled in a murder mystery. Not only is the thrill of the mystery exciting, but more importantly Ethan knows her name! A little sleuthing is well worth that!

  Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck
Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem–her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, has to wear lame homemade clothes, and has no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem. Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempt to completely ruin her life?

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.