Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I'm 46. How the Hell Did That Happen?

It seems like I blinked and suddenly I'm 46. Great. One year closer to death. I still haven't figured out what life is all about. I guess if I haven't figured it out by this time I never will, so just sit back and not give a rat's ass about it.

Sadly, life has in no way shaped up to it's expectations. I'd love a refund.

Meanwhile, enjoy the video I have stuck in my head, "Mother's Little Helper" by the Rolling Stones. Substitute books and sweets for little yellow pills and you have me. I remember listening to this song when I was a kid and thinking, "I'll never be like that." HA! Shows you how stupid I was when I was young.

"What a drag it is getting old!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

10 Reasons Why Jeremy Brett Was the Best Sherlock Holmes Ever

Today would have been Jeremy Brett's 82nd birthday (he passed away in 1995.) In honor of this bittersweet event, I'm posting here an older article that was originally published on the now-dead Helium and Yahoo Voices. Enjoy.
There have been over 150 actors who portrayed the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes since 1899, when the play Sherlock Holmes premiered, starring William Gillette.  Each generation sees more actors tackling the role on television and on film.  But only one actor can be the best Sherlock Holmes of all time. 

For many, that actor was Jeremy Brett (1933 – 1955.)  He portrayed Holmes from 1984 to 1994.  After the first episode aired, critics and Sherlockians began crowning Brett as the best Holmes ever.  All the other actors can just take their magnifying lenses and go home.  Why was Brett the best? Glad you asked.  Here are ten reasons why.
One: Just Look at Him

The public’s first visual interpretation of Holmes was done by illustrator Sidney Paget.  Brett and the producers of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes studied the original Paget drawings.  Take a look at this comparison of Jeremy Brett’s Holmes and the original Sidney Paget drawing of a key scene in “The Naval Treaty.”  They’re nearly mirror-images of each other.  Brett helped choose his wardrobe in order to keep them as authentic as possible.

Two: I Mean, Just LOOK at Him

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was amazed (and annoyed) by the huge piles of fan mail that came not for him, but for Sherlock Holmes.  Many were from women.  Although Doyle wrote that Holmes sneered at women, was a confirmed bachelor and celibate throughout his career, women were magnetically attracted to him.  Brett was the first actor to capitalize on this sex appeal by adding a simmering volcanic intensity to his performance.  For example, in “The Copper Beeches” his Holmes reaches out to stroke a governess’ hair – and then just as slowly withdraws his hand, like a snake sticking out its tongue to taste the air.

Three: Sense of Humor

Until Brett’s Holmes hit the small screen in 1984, Sherlock Holmes was considered a cold fish who rarely cracked a smile, let alone laughed.  However, Doyle portrayed Holmes as often laughing.  In “A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes laughs so hard that he “was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in the chair.”  Brett picked up on that.  His Holmes was still intense and at times deadly serious, but he also was quick to laugh and even quicker to flash a wide smile.  His series also added little comic touches not seen in the Doyle stories but keeping entirely in Holmes’ character.

Four: Hand Motions

Brett was trained as a stage actor.  One of his mentors was none other than Sir Lawrence Olivier.  Brett learned that hand motions can tell the audience as much about a character as dialogue or plot.  Doyle also wrote that Holmes would throw his hands about or leaned on them in contemplation.  Brett developed an entire dictionary of hand motions in order to show Holmes’ moods.

Five: Dealt With That Darn Cocaine Addiction

Up until The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the Great Detective’s cocaine addiction was mostly ignored by stage and screen.  (The movie The Seven Percent Solution (1976) was a notable exception.) However, Doyle wrote that Holmes injected cocaine (then spelled “cocaine”) for most of his career.  Brett showed his Holmes before and after injecting.  When he realized that children were looking up to Holmes, he had his Holmes quit during the episode “The Devil’s Foot.”
Six: Worked With Doyle’s Daughter

Some scripts such as “The Devil’s Foot” were approved by Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Doyle’s daughter.  One of Brett’s most prized possessions was a letter from her stating, “You are the Sherlock Holmes of my childhood.”

Seven: Micromanaged Most of the Series

When Grenada Studios hired Brett, they weren’t just hiring an actor.  They were also hiring a scriptwriter, set designer, makeup artist, camera man, location spotter and fact finder.  In other words, Brett wound up micromanaging the series from Day 1.  When the money and accolades started coming in, Grenada let him.  When his health became very bad in the early 1990s, he finally decided to let the other people on the set make some decisions.

Eight: Stayed in Character Outside of the Set

Stories abound about Brett finding it difficult to switch from being Holmes back to being Jeremy Brett.  Some actors would actually be shocked when Brett would switch from himself to Holmes.  Holmes was a stern taskmaster and never suffered fools gladly.  Staff from the Manchester Hotel where the crew stayed during filming claimed that they loved waiting on Brett but dreaded having to wait on Holmes.

Nine: He Helped Write a Killer Sherlock Holmes Play

In honor of Holmes’ 100th anniversary, Brett hired scriptwriter Jeremy Paul to write a play about the relationship between Holmes and Watson.  The first version of the play was written by Brett himself.  It consisted of him talking into eight hours’ worth of cassette tapes.  Paul then whittled the play down to two hours.  The result, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, provides a startling yet somewhat affectionate portrait of Holmes himself.

Ten: Brett Never Thought He Did Any Good

Brett was never satisfied with his portrayal of Holmes, although he would lash very defensively at critics of his work or of the series in general.  Brett would state in 1989 that Holmes was the hardest role he ever played, even harder than Macbeth.  His Holmes evolved, unlike Doyle’s Holmes.  Doyle’s Holmes was a marble statue and Brett was the cracks in the statue, making it even more precious than when it was in pristine condition.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

It's Been Over a Year Since Release of Not the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

As, the title says, it's been over a year since I self-published my eBook Not the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Amazon's Kindle. It has been one of the worst experiences of my pretty shitty life.

I put my all into it. I worked harder at this than at anything I've done before.

And it still has not sold more than 30 copies.

Despite the four and five star reviews. Despite giving away 20 or so copies for reviews/promotional purposes. Despite following all of the advice successful eBook authors give. Despite buying an ISBN number. Despite joining the damn Goodreads authors forum to ask short questions and get what turned out to be worthless advice (like "get a professional editor -- they're cheap at $1000 a book.")

I love writing. However, I can't make a plugged nickel at it. It's become a lost cause. I don't even know why I'm bothering to write this blog post. Not only has my blog failed to sell, I can't even find work writing online content anymore. What happened, Internet? Why did you break up with me?

Writing has become a nightmare. It's like my unrequited love for horses. Me owning a horse or even going for one last ride is never going to happen. I'm too poor. Same as with trying to make a living at my writing. Years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer estimated that an author needs to spend around $10,000 of their own money  in order to have any chance of  making a profit from a single book.

I'd love to  write another eBook, but what's the point?

Meanwhile, I've been taking care of my crippled mother. She pays my bills. I don;t get a salary or spending money from her (hello, IRS) but she pays my bills. Any money I do make goes into paying my medical insurance (which has announced it will be dropping me on New Year's Day 2016). If I break my back writing, the blood-sucking insurance company gets it.

When do I start to get any benefits from my hard work?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My 10th Anniversary of Returning to America

It was on this date 10 years ago that Pony (then 13 months old) and I touched down on a jam-packed USAirways flight from Gatwick. Pony had a much better flight than I did -- and my seat cost a damn sight more than her place in a huge crate donated by British Airways (I kid you not. They GAVE it to us after hearing my story.) Soon after that flight, USAirways stopped allowing dogs on trans-Atlantic flights. I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but I can't help but wonder what Pony did during her time in the crate with the flight crew.

I had spent the last five years homeless in England because I'd fallen in love with what then I thought was "my soulmate" (ugh) and who turned out to be a monster. Both Pony and I got beat up by this guy. I finally left him for good on 26 December 2004 (same day as the Asian Tsunami, coincidentally) and tried to live with Pony as an illegal alien in the Bath area. I finally threw in the towel in the first week of August 2005 when my home in the woods (called a bender) was burnt down and the fire officials thought it was arson. I contacted Mom and she took me and Pony in.

So, ten years later, what have I learned?

  • I felt most at home in England when I was homeless than I do homed in the US
  • Like Barbie, I can't seem to hold down a steady job
  • Meeting Peter Gabriel never grows old
  • Writing a book is a million times easier than selling a book
  • Unless it involves money, no one really cares what you think, feel, do, or say
  • Fantasies change. Ten years ago, I used to fantasize about having a stable full of sexy guys to ride. Now I fantasize about being the last human being on earth because that's the only way I'd every get a horse.
  • Life seems empty until you have someone to take care of.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It's Okay to Hate Your Job Sometimes

We've all been there -- we worked all our lives to get a particular job and after years, months or even weeks, you start to hate that long-desired-for job with every fiber of your being.

We just don't all admit that we hate our jobs and this leads to guilt which leads to more job hatred which leads to more guilt which leads to --

Well, you see where it goes.

Don't think this will ever happen to you? Think again. IT WILL. I don't care if your job is to eat too much, sleep to much and spend too much money, there will come a time when the thought of going to work will make you damn near suicidal.

And I was one of you.

I used to think that if only I could make money as a writer, I'd always love my job. And you know the old saying, if you work at what you love then it isn't work.


Work is WORK, no matter how well it's dressed or how fat it's bank account. If you HAVE to do it, you will eventually loathe it.

For example:

About ten years ago, when I was stuck working at Macy's (which eventually lead to a breakdown -- but that's another story) I read a biography of Dorothy Parker. She was one of the most original and gifted of American writers. However, her not-so-secret-secret was that she HATED writing. And I promised myself that I would NEVER hate writing in the way Dorothy Parker did.

You know what happened next.

Flash-forward ten years later and I'm staring at the ever-dwindling online content writer's market and wishing that I NEVER HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN.

For the last few months, I've had to stop writing for money due to my Mom's deteriorating health. Caring for her (and the dogs, and the fish and the laundry and etc.) left me feeling absolutely exhausted. Who can string a sentence together when you can barely keep conscious (unless you're Charles Bukowski, but only HE could pull that off.)

I felt damn near suicidal for hating my  job (well, my PAID job. My MAIN job is taking care of my Mom and the pets.) Hating my job felt sacrilegious somehow. I mean, I longed to be a writer all my life and now I managed it and now I hated what I'd pinned my hopes on for 45 years.

But now I've gotten over it and managed in the last week to find a few paid online writing gigs. And life goes on. Remember that hate is the other side of the coin of love.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pony's 11th Birthday!

Today is Pony's 11 birthday. We spent a long day doing puppy things. I had hoped to post a recent photo of Pony but I still cannot get the digital camera to work ( I bought it at Christmas.) Oh, well. This photo was taken in late 2005.

Pony's eyebrows are now pure white.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

I Can't Figure Out How to Promote Not the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Hi, there, Readers. I apologize once again for not having blogged in ages, but things have been going rapidly downhill here at the Sherwood household. Despite my rather boastful last post, I have not been able to find any new writing work in over a month. My Mom has gotten still worse and needs constant care (bathing, nail clipping, dressing, feeding, laundry, listening to her kvetch, making sure she doesn't fall and fracture more bones -- all that sort of good stuff.)

I did try to get into the state program for giving funds to unpaid caretakers, but the state dropped the program on January 1, 2015. They kindly did not let let me know until April 16, 2015 (after going through several interviews with no less than three state employees.) So, I'm like a kid again in that my Mom is paying all my expenses (which I am very embarrassed about but cannot seem to change.)

Which brings us to the reason why this post has the title it does -- I have not been able to afford any promotional services for my lonely little eBook Not the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  Sadly, it does  not matter how well-written or entertaining a book happens to be in order to make money. It has to be promoted to death in order to make any money.

In between sessions taking care of Mom and the pets, I have been trying to learn how to promote my eBook myself. It's like trying to learn Klingon. I just figure this stuff out.  So I give up. (For now.) I was hoping I could write a sequel but so far that doesn't seem like a realistic option.

Two good things happened to the eBook since I last posted:

  1. It got a 4-star review (out of five stars)!
  2. It was accepted into the Library Journal's SELF-e program. No, I'm not entirely sure what that means, either. But the word ACCEPTED sounds good, doesn't it? I thought so. And you get to download a nifty logo, too (see illustration, above left.)
Back to banging my head against a wall.