Tag Archives: Stephanie Osborn

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Book Review of “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion”

I sort of dropped the ball with my Weekly Writers’ Ramble, what with the craziness of the last few months. I shall now make all efforts to get the ball bouncing again.

After I finished my dissertation draft, and before I discovered the file was corrupted and panicked (If I disappear again, this is why.), I picked up Stephanie Osborn’s newest release in the Displaced Detective series, “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion”. If you like, you can meander over to Amazon for the blurb. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

This is book five in the series, and personally I found it likely her best so far. Whereas the first few had some slow pacing in sections, this book kept the story moving  right along. It is well written, well edited, and the author makes excellent use of language and dialect with her characters.

In Book 5, for once, all of existence is not at stake. We can’t always go about blowing up the multiverse, you know. Still, terrorists are at work, and it is up to Sherlock, MI-5, and eventually Skye to ferret them out.

The story opens with Skye taking a simple solo case, which inadvertently triggers a marital spat. The ensuing events take their toll on both husband and wife, as each of them begins to doubt the other. It’s a case of she said A, he heard B and he said X and she heard Y sort of thing.

With Sherlock working without Skye, readers get to see him take on a case in much the same fashion as when he reined on 221B Baker Street.

Some readers might wonder where all the physics went. After all, isn’t this science fiction? You bet. Hang in there. After all, Skye can’t solve a problem she doesn’t even know about. Once she joins Sherlock on the case and has time to breathe, the physics commences.

The series demonstrates growth in both characters and at the end we get the sense that it will be far harder to rattle their faith in each other after this. It’s a fun read with familiar characters and the series simply keeps getting better. If you like genre mash-ups, give this a try!

displaced detetive

Guest Post: Stephanie Osborn

Today I heartily welcome Ms. Osborn, a fellow scientist and writer as she shares some writing tips on American vs. British English. I confess that I read so much classic British literature as a child that I got in trouble a few times for spelling words using the British spelling rather than American. Not everyone, though, is as familiar with the similarities and differences.  I’ll let Ms. Osborn go into it.

Stephanie Osborn

American English and British English, and Learning to Write Both

By Stephanie Osborn

I’m sure you’ve all seen it.

We in America would say, “I don’t recognize this caller ID on my cellphone; I thought this app specialized in emphasizing identification. Could you wake me up at seven in the morning? Everything has been taken care of, but I have to run over and see Mom before the announcement is publicly known.”

But a Brit would say the same thing like this: “I don’t recognise this caller ID on my mobile; I thought this app specialised in emphasising identification. Would you knock me up at seven in the morning? It’s all sorted, but I have to pop over and see me Mum before the announcement is publically known.”

It’s the difference between the American version of English, and the British version of the same language. Sometimes people who travel back and forth between the two countries — the US and the UK — have been known to remark, “We speak the same language, but we don’t.”

And the difference encompasses terminology, slang, and even spelling.

Did you know that J.K. Rowling was made to change the name of the very first book in the Harry Potter series before it could be published in the USA? The original title, the title you’ll find on bookstore shelves in London, is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But publishers felt that Americans might not recognize the alchemical reference, and so it was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And you may, or may not, be familiar with the use of “trainers” to mean athletic shoes, or “jumper” to refer to a pullover sweater. Cell phones are “mobiles” and refrigerators, regardless of brand, are “Frigidaires.” (I suppose this is analogous to our referring to all disposable facial tissues as “Kleenex” and cotton swabs as “Q-Tips.”)

Americans may call it a plow, but Britons call it a plough — that was even a major clue that Holmes found in one of the original adventures, denoting the suspect wasn’t British as he claimed. There is, it seems, and has been for something like a century and a half at the least, a tendency for Americans to eliminate so-called silent letters and spell more phonetically than our British counterparts. But at least Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only had to write in one version thereof.

When I started writing the Displaced Detective series, which has been described as, “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” I made a deliberate decision: If the speaker was American, dialogue (and later, thoughts and even scenes from that character’s point of view) would be written in American English. If the speaker (thinker, observer) was from the United Kingdom, dialogue etc. would be written in British English. This has held true right down to the book currently being released, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, book 5 in the series (with at least 3 more in work, and more in the planning stages).

The series itself traces the exploits of Sherlock Holmes — or one version of Holmes, at least — when he is inadvertently yanked from an alternate reality in which he exists in Victorian Europe, into modern, 21st Century America. In his particular alternate reality, he and Professor Moriarty were BOTH supposed to die at Reichenbach, so if he is returned, he must die. Thus, he wisely opts to stay put and come up to speed on the modern world. Working with Dr. Skye Chadwick, her continuum’s equivalent to Holmes and the Chief Scientist of Project Tesseract (the program responsible for his accidental transition), Holmes ends up being asked to investigate unusual and occasionally outré situations.

In his latest foray, after an entire English village is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, London contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Holmes goes undercover to find a terror ring. In Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and mustangs, believing Holmes has abandoned her. Holmes must discover what caused the horror in Stonegrange and try to stop the terrorists before they unleash their bizarre weapon again, all the while wondering if he still has a home in Colorado.

The cast of characters includes an American FBI agent, several members of the US military, two entire units of MI-5, and more. All of whom have to be rendered in their appropriate version of English.

Simple, you say? Just set Word to use the British English dictionary.

Right. Except then Skye, Agent Smith, Colonel Jones, and the other Americans would then be speaking Brit.

“So set both dictionaries operational,” you suggest.

Great idea. I’d love to. But Word doesn’t have that option — the two dictionaries would conflict. And even if it could use both, how would it know whether an American or an Englishman were speaking? More, one of those characters — Holmes himself — actually uses a somewhat archaic form of British English, in that he is a man of the Victorian era, and speaks in such fashion. So I am really using three different forms of English.

Well, the end result is simply that I have to make sure I read back through the manuscript very carefully, looking for places where either I’ve slipped up, or autocorrect replaced the British with the American equivalent (which it does every chance it gets). I’m also pleased that my publisher has assigned me a regular editor who is quite familiar with the British version of English, to include the euphemisms, exclamations, and general slang. She’s been amazingly helpful, and I do my best to stay up to speed on the latest version of slang in both the US and the UK.

So what has been the response?

Well, I’ve had one or two Amazon reviews refer to “misspellings,” and there’s one venerated author (of whom I like to refer as one of the “Grand Old Men of Science Fiction”) who is currently reading the first couple of books in the series and is amazed that I even attempted to pull such a thing off, let alone that I’m doing it.

Other than that, it’s rather strange; not one reader has volunteered the observation that I am writing in two different forms of the English language. Yet the sense among fans of the series is that I have captured Doyle’s tone and style, despite the fact that I do not use a first-person Watson narrative, or the fact that we see what Holmes is thinking, at least to a point.

I believe the reason is because, subconsciously, readers are picking up on the fact that Holmes speaks, thinks, and observes in proper, Victorian, British English. Even when referring to more modern conveniences, he maintains a solid British presence. Consistently. Throughout.

That’s precisely what I intended, from the very beginning.

I love it when a plan comes together.

A Case of Spontaneous Combustion (Displaced Detective)-  Excerpt

Prologue — Changes in Routine

 Stonegrange was a little old English hamlet in the County of Wiltshire in the Salisbury Plain of England, much like any other such ancient British village: a tiny central square in the midst of which crouched a hoary, venerated church, surrounded by a few small shops, and residences on the outskirts tapering off into the surrounding farmlands. On Sundays the church was full, and on Thursdays the outlying farmers brought their produce in to market. The occasional lorry carried in other supplies, and the Post Office ran every day but Sunday. So small was the village that the constable wasn’t even full time.

Still and all, it wasn’t very far from a main thoroughfare, the A338, that ran through Salisbury and on down to Bournemouth and Poole, and it wasn’t uncommon for lorry drivers to stop for a bite in the local pub, or even park their rigs in an empty lot just off the square for a good, safe night’s rest. Sometimes they even used the lot to hand off cargo from one freight company to another.

So no one thought twice when a flat-bed trailer showed up overnight in the lot, a large wooden crate lashed firmly to its middle. The locals figured it was either a hand-off, or someone’s tractor rig had broken down and been hauled off for repair, while leaving the cargo in a safe place.

* * *

Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, horse trainer, detective, and one of the foremost hyperspatial physicists on the planet, answered the phone at the ranch near Florissant, Colorado.

“Holmes residence,” she murmured. “Skye speaking.”

“Hi there, Skye, Hank Jones here,” Colonel Henry Jones, head of security for Schriever Air Force Base, greeted the lady of the house from the other end of the line. “If you don’t mind, grab Holmes and then hit the speaker phone.”

“Oh, hi, Hank,” Skye replied warmly. “Good to hear from you, but I’m afraid I can’t oblige. Sherlock’s not here right now. Billy Williams called him down to the Springs to update him on some new MI-5 HazMat techniques; I completed my certification last month, but Sherlock had a nasty little cold and missed out.”

“Oh,” Jones said blankly. “Well, are YOU available?”

“Um, I guess so, for whatever that’s worth,” a hesitant Skye said. “Depends. Whatcha got?”

“Murder in the residential quarters at Peterson,” Jones noted, grim. “Suspects and victim were all Schriever personnel, though, so I get to have fun with it. Joy, joy.”

“And you could use a bit of help?”

“‘Fraid so,” Jones sighed. “As usual, I’m short-handed right now. The Pentagon never seems to get the fact that ‘Security’ means ‘document control,’ ‘police force,’ ‘guard duty,’ ‘investigation,’ and half a million other different jobs all rolled together, on a base like this.” He sighed again. “Listen, is there any chance you could meet me down there in about an hour or so, have a look around the crime scene yourself, then call your husband in when he’s available if you need to? As a favor to me? I need to get rolling on it A.S.A.P.”

“Um, okay,” Skye agreed after a moment’s thought. “Yeah, I can at least get started on it, and collect the initial data for Sherlock. Maybe even come to some basic conclusions and formulate a theory for us to work on. Gimme the address and I’ll buzz on down…”

* * *

The trailer remained where it was, off Stonegrange’s central square, for two days, and still no one thought to question. After all, tractors had mechanical difficulties just like the residents’ own autos and lorries, and sometimes those difficulties took a few days to repair. So no inquiries were made. The trailer was ignored.

Until, at precisely 11:02 p.m. three nights after its arrival, the crate emitted a soft, reverberating hum. No one was near enough to hear it, however—at least, no one curious enough to bother checking it out. Exactly five minutes later, a loud zap! sounded from the box.

Stonegrange was as silent as the tomb the rest of the night.

The next morning, the flat-bed trailer was gone.

~~~End Excerpt~~~

Check back soon for a review of the talented Ms. Osborn’s “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion”.


Book Review- The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed

I shall bookend this week with another review. This one is for book two in the Displaced Detective Series by Stephanie Osborn. This past Monday I reviewed book one. 

***Contains a few spoilers***

Book two, The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed, picks up right where book one left off. The heroine, Skye Chadwick spends a good portion of this book recovering from a gunshot wound received in book one. Sherlock finds himself torn between the principles of logic and reason and his emotions. While Holmes and Chadwick believe they thwarted the spy ring’s attempt to sabotage the Tessaract, they still must identity the members of the spy ring and determine the motive for the sabotage.

The romance holds center court in the first half of the book, but the mystery and the danger surrounding it influences the motivations of each character. As clues are slowly revealed, the plot unfolds and tension mounts. Even toward the end of the book, the insecurities of each character makes for romantic tension, as one isn’t sure they’ll find common ground.

In regards to the mystery, they end up chasing their quarry across dimensions to prevent catastrophic damage to multiple continuums, and in the process of their investigation Holmes and Chadwick each end up injured multiple times. Moriarty in any continuum is not a fellow one wishes to trifle with.

The book is primarily character driven and written to mimic Arthur Connan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes writing style. The pacing makes one feel the passage of time, and the frustration that comes with having to wait for the next information tidbit, rather than making it seem as if complex investigations magically wrap up in twenty-four hours. Another thing I liked, was that the characters are not “super people”. You know how in so many stories the hero or heroine face overwhelming odds and escape without so much as scratch? Holmes and Chadwick each earn their fair share of bruises and they feel it. One winces as it seems they spend a good portion of the story recuperating from yet another mishap.

If you enjoy fast paced, action pack stories, I’d suggest you read another book. If, however, you enjoy character driven stories where mystery and science entwine with romance, give this series a shot.


Book Review- The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival

Today I’ll be doing a little something new. As the title informs you, I’ll be reviewing a book. I might have watched Bambi a few too many times as a kid and taken Thumper’s mother’s advice to heart, because I hate giving anything but positive reviews. I’m also rather picky when it comes to books, which is another reason I have not embarked on a review before.

Thankfully, this is a good review, as I greatly enjoyed the story. I love genre blending and I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes long ago when I was maybe eight or nine and saw the old black and white “Hound of the Baskervilles” on television. When I discovered it was an entire series, I, of course, proceeded to read them all. When I ran out of books to read during the summer, I never minded re-reading Sherlock Holmes.

As I mentioned in my post about my haunted phone, I’ve been immersed in all things Sherlock Holmes of late. That would include the lovely Ms. Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective Series.

Displaced DetectiveI shall forewarn you that this is NOT a typical Holmes mystery where he runs around solving everything with poor Watson wondering how he did it. Dump a Victorian era genius into the modern world and things get interesting rather quickly. What I enjoy the most is that this is not simply a mystery. Ms. Osborn blends mystery, science fiction and romance– yes, ROMANCE. So those of you who balk at the idea that Mr. Holmes might be more than a walking logic computer, clearly you have yet to see CBS’ Elementary, where Holmes sinks into  grief-fueled drug addiction when Irene Adler, “The Woman” dies. Of course, I shan’t give any spoilers for that.

If that peaks your interest, you may very well enjoy The Arrival. Written to mimic the style of the original Conan Doyle books, the narrative captures the attention from page one and weaves a tale of parallel universes where a figure from literature in our universe is a living breathing individual in another. By accident, he gets brought here when the heroine, Dr. Skye Chadwick, instinctively intervenes to save him, rather than letting him fall to his death at Reichenbach Falls. Over the course of events, the reader finds out that in that particular universe, Holmes did not survive, as he had in others. Sending Holmes back is impossible without collapsing the universe, so he is kept here and Dr. Chadwick is assigned to integrate him into modern society. Of course, a project with potential to change events across multiple universes attracts the interest of some nefarious individuals. Cue Holmes’ investigatory interest as intrigue unfolds.

While another reviewer remarked on the numerous scene divisions, or as he said “random squiggly things”, I did not find them distracting, as they served to demarcate a change in point of view, which happened perhaps more often than in modern writing style.

Ms. Osborn’s characters explain the physics very well, effectively suspending my disbelief.  The tension does not build rapidly, as it does in many modern action adventure works, but more subtly as bits of the mystery are woven into place. The tale ends at an emotional climax and with partial resolution of the conflict. The cliff hanger ending seemed perfectly calculated, not unlike an especially intense TV series episode that’s a 2-parter.

Another bit I enjoyed about the book was that it contained a few words which might be termed “five-dollar words”, meaning words not normally used. I can hardly imagine being around a space-time physicist and the great Sherlock Holmes and NOT adding a few words to my lexicon. In this case, Kindle readers will get a chance to use that dictionary feature

The author uses all-caps for emphasis. As it is not used overly much, I did not find it distracting, especially as I’ve been known to do the same thing (*cough* prior paragraph*cough*). I found that the italicized script was particularly small, but this is a publisher formatting thing and not something the author has control over. I tend to overlook things of that nature. If you have trouble reading small print, I suggest buying a hard copy rather than the ebook.

If perchance you are interested in checking out the series, The Arrival is on sale for a limited time.