Saturday, October 24, 2020


September 12, 1876 
Edinburgh, Scotland 
Queen’s Care Charity Hospital

 New patient admitted today. 23 yo female committed to custody by husband after >6 months of hallucinations, vivid nightmares, delusions of being watched, touched, etc. Patient has history of “religiosity” and involvement with Spiritualism but delusions amplified during the spring, after loss of 3rd pregnancy in late trimester. 

Dr. Douglass asked me to conduct initial assessment. 

Mrs. Anna McInnis appeared well composed and rational at our first meeting. She had been allowed to retain her own dress and shoes; her hair was clean and neatly arranged. When I entered her room she stood at the window, head leaning against the wall, looking out the narrow window in some reverie.

“Mrs. McInnis?” I said, when she did not turn at the sound of my entry. “I am Miss Fairweather. I assist the doctors in their treatment of female patients. Would you like to talk with me about the events that brought you here?”

Monday, August 10, 2020

A New Lucky Strike?

 Cheyenne Evening Star—Thursday, August X, 1880 

A New Lucky Strike?

According to a reliable source, this reporter has learned that a party or parties unknown delivered a sizable sample of pure gold quartz ore to Heinzler & Heinzler Assayers last week. While Heinzler Sr. would not confirm or deny the existence of such a sample, nor less its purity of weight, the unnamed source intimated the sample tested at the highest percentage Heinzler had ever personally seen, indicating a strike that, if accessible, could rival the Homestake in Dakota Territory. 

But where did it come from? None of the usual geologists or front-men for the great investors were known to be in town. Certainly Mssr. Heinzler would not break professional confidentiality by disclosing the name of his customer. So we are left to speculate…

Union Pacific Seeks Workers

Meanwhile, in Joss Houses, gambling dens, and laundries from Cheyenne to San Francisco, agents have been recruiting Celestials with mining or explosives experience. But for what operation? Not for Rock Springs or Carbon—  

To this reporter’s best knowledge, the U.P. has not actively recruited American labor for the past two years, being largely intent on driving out the labor unions by importing hoards of Celestials. Typically, Chinese do not apply via recruiters, being more often rounded up and imported in via steamer ship and cattle-car by their own better-connected countrymen. That someone is recruiting Chinese miners already located in America, and doing it without going through the usual Chinese Bosses, may indicate a need for secrecy?

At any rate, whoever is recruiting these workers and assaying this gold ore, obviously wishes to keep their venture a secret, to the extent that the average newsman has a Chinaman’s chance of uncovering their identity. But this reporter being no average newsman, stay in touch for further developments…

Monday, April 20, 2020

noir fiction vs gothic romance

Is there a rule or convention or expectation that every installment in a series of novels has to be the same type of story? I mean what trope is the determining factor? As long as each book in the series has the same setting and mostly the same characters, does it matter if one volume leans more toward action and the hero's journey, and the next is a romance, and the third is a dystopic allegory, and the forth a war story?

I was told once by a beta reader that Curious Weather had "too much romance" for the type of book it was. This assessment, I must assume, was based on the fact that The Curse of Jacob Tracy was a weird western—a boy's adventure book, to be blunt—with no sex and only the barest allusion to romance.

So, naturally, I doubled down on the love story in Curious Weather because the whole point of that book was that it IS a romance, albeit a gothic one.

What are the tropes of the gothic romance? Well, Barbara Michaels is/was my favorite of the modern writers, and she did a batch of supernatural-flavored ones in the 80s, so I take her as my guide.

1. Told from the POV of the heroine, who's out of her usual milieu due to a family shake-up of some kind—or in the modern stories, a professional change.

2. The heroine's new milieu is hostile or threatening in some way, because of isolation, locals, or roommates—or all three.

3. There is at least one love interest, usually two. These two heroes are foils for each other; one seemingly, the other unsuitable in some way, both attractive and/or menacing by turns.

4. Usually the charming love interest turns out to be the villain.

5. There's a mystery afoot, or some deep dark secret.

6. The heroine's efforts to solve the mystery or uncover the secret lead her further into danger.

In many ways it's the same plot as a hard-boiled detective story, just with the gender roles reversed.

I'm pleased to say that Curious Weather alternately embraces and subverts all of these tropes, sometimes both, and you could make an argument that it brings in elements of the noir novel as well. As for the idea that there might be "too much" romance in a noir story... have you read any Mickey Spillane? or Robert B. Parker?