April 18, 2012

Guest Post: Mary Reed

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:29 am

Nine for the Devil

I am interested in writing teams–mother/son, husband/wife, as in the case in today’s guest post–just how do they DO that? And I’m also interested in the historical fiction that so many readers of this blog love and have pointed me to.  Today’s guest post has both.

The husband and wife team of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, whose Moment appears here, have been penning a successful historical mystery series across many volumes. Today they discuss what writing a prequel to a successful series is like, as well as what innovative offers their topnotch independent press is taking part in. Welcome back to the blog, Mary & Eric!

Mary Reed

Our Byzantine mystery Four For A Boy is the fourth book about our protagonist to be published by Poisoned Pen Press. However, it is the prequel to our chronicles of detections carried out by John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian.

It was this way. During prior books we had mentioned John, a free man caught and enslaved by Persians and subsequently sold to the palace administration in Constantinople, regained his freedom through rendering a very delicate service for Justinian. However, we had not described what this service had been in any of the previous books, so when editor Barbara Peters suggested writing a prequel and telling the story, we decided to do so.

Four For a Boy not only explains how John re-won his freedom and began his journey to high office but also the manner in which he met a number of characters, including some who are now close friends.

It’s set at the time when an ailing Justin is still ruling the empire but Theodora and Justinian are waiting impatiently in the wings.

One of the main characters is a villainous type based on Theodotus, a real person who held the office of City Prefect and was called The Gourd– but not to his face — due to his hideously misshapen head.

The historical Gourd was believed to practice magick and overall had a very brutal character. We had great fun explaining the manner in which he accomplished his magick, such as how he is able to plunge his hand into boiling pitch without injury during a banquet at which Theodora is the guest of honour. The incident is described thus:

“Whose hand do you propose to use?” Theodora asked with an alacrity that made John wonder if she’d played magician’s assistant during her former career.

Theodotus flexed his stubby fingers. “Whose hand? Why, it will be my own!” Suiting action to word, he plunged his bared arm wrist deep into the bubbling mixture.

A high pitched babble of alarm and shock surged around the room. More than one guest looked hastily away.

John looked away also but toward the window. His keen hearing had caught the sound of someone running across the garden.

A collective gasp drew his attention back to Theodotus. The Prefect had withdrawn his arm from the boiling mix and was waving his apparently uninjured hand triumphantly.

He formed a fist and hammered at the air. “This is the indestructible hand that reaches into the darkest alleys to choke the life from the murderous bastards who lurk there! Why do you think they whisper my name with such dread? They know my powers. They fear me. And rightly so!” He glared at
his guests.

All in all, the Gourd was a bad egg, so we don’t think he would have objected to our portrayal of him, given when people fear a person in power, more power is granted to the latter. Which would certainly
have suited the Gourd!

In the same book we describe how John flies for a brief period although it is by utilising practical means rather than magick. We returned to magick in Six For Gold, wherein the diminutive Egyptian magician Dedi claims responsibility for sheep committing suicide –they belonged to a man with whom he is feuding — not to mention performing the miraculous cure of a crippled man through the medium of a human-headed snake oracle and summoning an air-borne flaming demon.

And yes, all is explained in due course.

Being counted among those who always want to know what happened in the end, I am happy to reveal Four For A Boy includes an afterword relating the later life of the historical Gourd. And without giving anything away, it turned out to be a good demonstration of what we nowadays call karma.

The husband and wife team of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer published several short stories about John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, in mystery anthologies and in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine prior to 1999′s highly acclaimed first full length novel, One for Sorrow. Entries in the series have been honored by a Best Mystery Glyph Award, an honorable mention in the Glyph Best Book category, and was a finalist for the IPPY Best Mystery Award (Two For Joy), nominations for the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (Four For A Boy and Five For Silver), and a Glyph Award for Best Book Series (Five For Silver). The American Library Association’s Booklist Magazine named the Lord Chamberlain novels one of its four Best Little Known Series.

Poisoned Pen Press is currently offering 99 cent downloads of the
first books in several of their authors' series
http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/discover-mystery/

Our Byzantine mystery Four For A Boy is among them, although just to
be confusing, it was the fourth book about our protagonist to be
published by the press. However, the matter is easily cleared up: it
is the prequel to our chronicles of detections carried out by John,
Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian.

It was this way. During prior books we had mentioned John, a free man
caught and enslaved by Persians and subsequently sold to the palace
administration in Constantinople, regained his freedom through
rendering a very delicate service for Justinian. However, we had not
described what this service had been in any of the previous books, so
when editor Barbara Peters suggested writing a prequel and telling
the story, we decided to do so.

Four For a Boy not only explains how John re-won his freedom and
began his journey to high office but also the manner in which he met
a number of characters, including some who are now close friends.
It's set at the time when an ailing Justin is still ruling the empire
but Theodora and Justinian are waiting impatiently in the wings.

One of the main characters is a villainous type based on Theodotus, a
real person who held the office of City Prefect and was called The Gourd
-- but not to his face -- due to his hideously misshapen head.

The historical Gourd was believed to practice magick and overall had
a very brutal character. We had great fun explaining the manner in
which he accomplished his magick, such as how he is able to plunge
his hand into boiling pitch without injury during a banquet at which
Theodora
is the guest of honour. The incident is described thus:

"Whose hand do you propose to use?" Theodora asked with an alacrity
that made John wonder if she'd played magician's assistant during her
former career.

Theodotus flexed his stubby fingers. "Whose hand? Why,
it will be my own!" Suiting action to word, he plunged his bared arm
wrist deep into the bubbling mixture.

A high pitched babble of alarm and shock surged around the room. More than
one guest looked hastily away. 

John looked away also but toward the window. His keen hearing
had caught the sound of someone running across the garden.    

A collective gasp drew his attention back to Theodotus. The Prefect had
withdrawn his arm from the boiling mix and was waving his apparently
uninjured hand triumphantly.

He formed a fist and hammered at the air. "This is the indestructible hand
that reaches into the darkest alleys to choke the life from the murderous
bastards who lurk there! Why do you think they whisper my name with such
dread? They know my powers. They fear me. And rightly so!" He glared at
his guests.

All in all, the Gourd was a bad egg, so we don't think he would have
objected to our portrayal of him, given when people fear a person in
power, more power is granted to the latter. Which would certainly
have suited the Gourd!

In the same book we describe how John flies for a brief period
although it is by utilising practical means rather than magick. We
returned to magick in Six For Gold, wherein the diminutive Egyptian
magician Dedi claims responsibility for sheep committing suicide --
they belonged to a man with whom he is feuding -- not to mention performing the miraculous cure of a crippled man through the medium of a human-headed snake oracle and summoning an air-borne flaming demon.

And yes, all is explained in due course.

Being counted among those who always want to know what happened in
the end, I am happy to reveal Four For A Boy includes an afterword
relating the later life of the historical Gourd. And without giving
anything away, it turned out to be a good demonstration of what we
nowadays call karma.





10 Comments »

  1. That is great, that you work together so well! Iam looking forward to reading this!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — April 18, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  2. THIS. IS. A. MUST. HAVE.

    omg love it. buying right now.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — April 18, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  3. I don’t see it on the Poisoned Pen site?

    Comment by SavvyBlue — April 18, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  4. Savvyblue, we appreciate your interest in John, thank you. The relevant PPP page is
    http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/s=Four+for+a+boy&cat=104
    but if you have difficulty accessing it, you can find
    the novel at the usual online suspects!

    Comment by Mary Reed — April 18, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  5. Awesome! Thank you for the link. I got FOUR FOR A BOY for now, and will start picking up the others after. Love this kind of reading!!

    Comment by SavvyBlue — April 18, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

  6. Sounds great Mary and Eric!

    Thanks, Jenny.

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — April 18, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  7. When it comes to spinning true magic(k), there’s no pair better than Mary Reed and Eric Mayer. And the excerpt also (sort of) explains why Mary is always first when you’re looking for someone to pitch in.

    Comment by Jeffrey Siger — April 18, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  8. From another married team. Who has the strongest vote? We send each other e-mails.
    Irene (Nash Black)

    Comment by Nash Black — April 19, 2012 @ 9:37 am

  9. I am a big fan of Mary & Eric’s John the Lord Chamberlain series and I would encourage anyone with an interest in entertaining mysteries to give them a try. I have enjoyed the first eight books in the series but I can’t get to Nine until my wife finishes with it. (I was in the midst of two other books when it arrived from Amazon and then she grabbed it before I could get to it.)

    Comment by Jim — April 19, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  10. Our thanks for these kind comments, which lifted spirits no end on one of “those” days.

    Nash, our method is if A feels a certain scene should not be included (or that it should be), if B has no strong feelings either way, A gets to choose. The big question is always what is best for the work in progress and we’re both ever graceful in defeat (smile).

    Mind, when asked about this method Eric has been known to darkly hint that we also lock up the knives and make sure there are strong hinges on the door before we start writing….

    Comment by Mary Reed — April 20, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

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