Posts Tagged Stephanie Osborn
It’s Romance Saturday at Shiny Book Review! So what could be better than another romantic science fiction/mystery offering from Stephanie Osborn?
Tonight’s subject is book 5 in her long-running, popular Displaced Detective series featuring Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Skye Chadwick-Holmes, A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. (Books one and two of the series were reviewed here; book three was reviewed here; and book four was reviewed here.) This time, Sherlock Holmes is summoned to merry old England without his wife, Skye, to consult on a perplexing case: the village of Stonegrange has died all at once, apparently of spontaneous combustion, and no one knows how or why. And for reasons of national security, Sherlock isn’t even allowed to wake her up to tell her what’s going on.
This is a problem, as Sherlock and Skye haven’t been married all that long (maybe a year, tops), and have just had a huge fight (as newlyweds the world over tend to do). The fight was over something minor, and if Sherlock had been able to tell Skye that he’d been summoned to England, it’s possible the two would’ve made up right then and there — but he wasn’t, and they’re both about to be in a world of hurt.
While Sherlock tries desperately to figure out what’s happened that’s caused Stonegrange to spontaneously combust, Skye is left at home in Colorado. Both are miserable, both try to write each other letters, but as their letters are considered classified on both ends, there are intermediaries between them and their letters to one another.
And their letters are not getting through, which adds immensely to their overall “frustration factor.”
Making matters even more dicey, the mystery of Stonegrange has a strong scientific component, so Sherlock needs Skye. And she’s not there, so solving the mystery is made that much slower and more complex, too.
Mind, Sherlock doesn’t know why Skye wasn’t sent for along with him. Neither do the people who guard Sherlock and Skye on a regular basis. And as the National Security Act has been invoked, it’s keeping them from talking with their counterparts as they normally would.
So that, too, is a mystery that both need to solve . . . but as they’re both extremely upset (Skye has fallen into a severe depression), it takes a bit more time than usual to get to the bottom of this problem.
Regarding Stonegrange, Sherlock goes undercover to find out who did this and why. He uncovers a few leads, but again realizes he needs Skye’s scientific expertise.
After quite some time, romantic and domestic matters are resolved and Skye’s back where she belonged. (So for romance readers, there is a “happily ever after” ending.) And a good thing, too, as Skye’s knowledge of physics is absolutely essential to the solving of this particular mystery.
As always with the work of Stephanie Osborn, her command of language is strong, while her knowledge of physics, England, and Sherlock Holmes trivia is excellent. Her pacing is good, the romance is outstanding, and the hard SF component (the physics involved) is explained well enough that I had no trouble figuring out what was going on.
The one quibble I had here is that the ending was a bit too gentle for my tastes. After all the sturm und drang Sherlock and Skye went through to get back into contact with one another, and then back to each other, I would’ve liked to see some retribution handed out to the person who kept them apart.
But everything else worked quite well.
Bottom line? It’s not everyone who can make cutting-edge physics comprehensible to the intelligent layman and write a kick-butt romance along with an absorbing mystery all at the same time, but Stephanie Osborn did just that in A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION.
One, final thought: If you love Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern-day and haven’t tried Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective novels yet, what’s stopping you?
–reviewed by Barb
It’s Romance Saturday! And considering it’s been a while since we last checked in with Stephanie Osborn’s inestimable Displaced Detective Series, which features the great detective Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern-day by hyperspatial physicist (and love interest) Skye Chadwick, what could be better than to discuss book four, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS? (Note that books one and two of this series were reviewed here, while book three was reviewed here.)
During the previous book, THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, our Sherlock and Skye got married, went to England for their honeymoon, and did their best to figure out whether or not a UFO was truly involved in a perplexing incident. But they also were contacted by an alternate universe’s version of Sherlock and Skye, who have a rather difficult problem of their own to solve. Simply put: the cosmos appears to be falling apart at the seams, and because other-Skye lost most of her original team due to sabotage, only the other-Sherlock is left to assist her. And while other-Skye and other-Sherlock do have feelings for one another, they are currently not lovers — instead, their relationship is that of rather strained good friends, albeit with a whole lot of sexual tension between them.
Anyway, other-Sherlock and other-Skye need our Sherlock and Skye’s help to figure out whether or not other-Skye’s equations are correct. Because of a twist of physics (crudely put, you can see any time that’s in the past from your own, and universes don’t always match anyway, time-wise), other-Sherlock and other-Skye are actually four chronological years older than our versions of the same. Because of that time differential, they are able to give our versions of Skye and Sherlock some space to get up to speed on the equations.
During book four, ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, our Sherlock solves what’s going on in the English countryside while Skye works with other-Skye and other-Sherlock to save the cosmos from complete and utter destruction. Which would make you think there’s no time left for romance . . . but actually, there is.
You see, our Sherlock and Skye are worried about other-Sherlock and other-Skye. The latter pair has been overworked and underslept for quite some time; further, neither of them is able to derive any comfort, physical or otherwise, due to all of the emotional baggage they both have picked up due to the disastrous events that took out nearly every member of other-Skye’s Project Tesseract team.
As our Sherlock and Skye just got married and are on their honeymoon, they obviously want to rectify this. But how can they do so without intruding on other-Sherlock’s legendary privacy and other-Skye’s tragic calm?
Anyway, even though it’s never fully stated in the text, the subtext is clear: our Sherlock and Skye do not want to see their other selves floundering like this.
So we have a triple-stranded plot going on. The first plotline deals with the wrap-up of the Rendelsham case. The second plotline deals with Skye’s efforts to check other-Skye and other-Sherlock’s physics equations (what I like to think of as “their homework,” in short). And the third, which overarches both of the other plotlines, is this: How can two extremely intelligent people like other-Skye and other-Sherlock, who’ve gotten off on the wrong foot romantically, make their relationship work?
One of the delights of ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS is in seeing these two strong characters be vulnerable in both sets of incarnations. Our Skye admits things to other-Skye she’s never said to anyone; ditto for our Sherlock and other-Sherlock. And because of this vulnerability, which is a direct outgrowth of their overall intelligence and strength, it’s possible for other-Skye and other-Sherlock to repair their relationship at the same time as they do their best to repair the cosmos itself.
And that, my friends, is exactly why ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS is such a delightful book from beginning to end.
There is only one quibble I had, though, and I needs must mention it: We don’t actually see what other-Skye and other-Sherlock do to fix the cosmos. We see all the preparation beforehand, yes. But we don’t see the actual events.
Mind you, it’s possible that it wouldn’t have made any sense to do so from an action-adventure perspective. (Which is why this is but a minor quibble.) Still, I would’ve liked to see a little bit more physics and a whole lot more of the sense of menace and danger while other-Skye and other-Sherlock actually fixed everything . . . and I didn’t get it.**
That being said, this is the best SF/mystery/romance I’ve read thus far in 2014. It has everything you’d want, and then some . . . and the romance between the two sets of incredibly intelligent people is to die for.
Bottom line? Anyone with a brain and a pulse who loves SF, loves mysteries, loves Sherlock Holmes and/or loves it when intelligent people find their true soul mates should adore this book.
— reviewed by Barb
**This, for the record, is the only reason ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS did not receive an A-plus.
One of the good things we at SBR are able to do from time to time is to interview writers, editors and/or publishers (well, so far we haven’t had one, but the year is young). Today’s chosen
victim — er, writer and editor, is the acclaimed Stephanie Osborn, author and rocket scientist, who consented to doing one of the most wide-ranging interviews we’ve ever had. Three of her novels in her “Displaced Detectives” series have been reviewed at SBR (here and here), while her nonfiction work with scientist and author Travis S. Taylor, A New American Space Plan, is reviewed here.
SBR: Ms. Osborn, thanks for coming to visit with us today.
Stephanie Osborn: Thank you for asking me!
SBR: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Stephanie Osborn: You know, I didn’t want to be a writer in my youth; I wanted to be a scientist and work in the space program. I’m not sure when I first decided to become an author. I had some notions about a possible novel franchise after the very first Men In Black movie, which I adored, and my husband Darrell encouraged me to pursue it. That’s when I discovered there were many books in me. But of course, the rights were all tied up, and the only publisher with the rights didn’t take unagented submissions, and being yet-unpublished, I couldn’t get an agent at that point. However, somewhere in there is when I realized I could do this, and that I liked it and wanted to do it.
SBR: Your most popular solo series is possibly the Displaced Detective series, which brings Sherlock Holmes into the modern day, where he solves crimes with the able assistance of hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick. How did you come up with the idea to meld both mystery and science fiction in this way?
Stephanie Osborn: Wow. You know, I really don’t know. I had gotten back into a spate of reading everything Sherlock Holmes I could get my hands on ― I’ve done that periodically since childhood, when I discovered Holmes ― but there wasn’t a book out there that was quite what I was looking for. So I decided to write it. I deliberately set out to do something different, to expand the range of what the Great Detective could do, and I think I succeeded rather nicely.
SBR: What’s so attractive about Sherlock Holmes, and what’s the key to Arthur Conan Doyle’s enduring appeal?
Stephanie Osborn: I really don’t know about Sir Arthur. That might sound kind of snarky or arrogant and I don’t mean it like that at all: I just don’t like to analyze an author’s work to the level that it would take to answer that question, because literary analysis always took the magic out of the book, to me. For whatever it’s worth, I think it has to do with his ability to generate these fascinating and unusual characters.
But Holmes was the first in what became a long line of characters like him ― though there were mystery and detective stories before him, he started the detective genre as we know it, AND he has a certain cachet due to his intelligence. I like to say that he had Spock Syndrome before there was a Mr. Spock to name it after.
SBR: Skye Chadwick, the heroine in the DD series, is a hyperspatial physicist. Explain how you came up with her character.
Stephanie Osborn: Well, that’s pretty simple. I wanted to give Holmes a female to interact with, someone to actually work cases with. After all, this is the 21st Century, and, well, equality, you know. But I recognized right off the bat that she would really have to BE his equal or he wouldn’t bother with her. Then I realized that if she was the scientist responsible for developing the project that brought him over from his home universe, she’d have to be bloody brilliant from the get-go, and he couldn’t possibly gainsay the fact. And the character formed from those beginnings.
SBR: What are books five and six in the Displaced Detective series going to be about? And what’s their ETA?
Stephanie Osborn: Book five is titled, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion. It starts out with a tiny village in England being wiped out – every living thing in it killed – by a phenomenon that appears to be a case of mass spontaneous combustion, but turns out to be something very different. Holmes is called in to investigate – without Skye – and hijinks ensue. I got the contract for it a couple weeks back. It should come out sometime in the Spring of 2014.
Book six is something that has been banging around in my head for awhile now, and this past weekend it congealed. I wanted to do a supernatural-based Displaced Detective story, something about a haunted something-or-other that Skye and Sherlock end up investigating, but I’d been going to set it in a European castle, either in the UK or on the continent. Well, I’d just been to CONtraflow science fiction convention in New Orleans, Louisiana! Wonderful, young convention, growing fast, lots of fun. Just as much fun, though, was going to the French Quarter and exploring. NOLA has the reputation of being the most-haunted city in the world, and it turned out to be perfect for that book concept. Scenes started coming to me as soon as we started walking around! I started writing it the next day, during the convention! It wouldn’t wait! It’s going to be called Fear in the French Quarter.
What was to have been Book six, now Book seven, is in work also. I call it A Little Matter of Earthquakes. Suffice to say that seismic activity is heating up in the Pacific Northwest, in a fashion that is not normal. When one of Skye’s friends is killed in a phreatic eruption of a Cascade volcano, she and Holmes go to the funeral and discover the abnormality. Skye’s curiosity gets the better of her, and soon they find that there’s about to be a very VERY large, not so natural disaster unless they can stop what’s happening. I have to finish six & seven before I can get any idea of a time frame for when they might appear in print. But it shouldn’t be long for either, I don’t think.
Book eight is actually finished, but it requires five & seven (and maybe six) to help it make sense. (Yes, I wrote ‘em out of sequence.) It’s called The Adventure of Shining Mountain Lodge. Rangers in Rocky Mountain National Park find an illegal immigrant in the middle of nowhere, in January, and he’s dying…of radiation exposure. His clothing is filthy with radioactive dirt. The FBI and the CIA are contacted, and the CIA believes it may have to do with rumors of a possible dirty nuke. Sherlock and Skye are called into the investigation, and they have to find out what’s going on and stop it before the rumors become reality.
I’ve been accused of giving my books jawbreaker, long titles. But that’s only for the Displaced Detective series; there, I’m trying to evoke the names of the adventures that Sir Arthur recorded: The Sign of Four; The Valley of Fear; A Study in Scarlet; The Hound of the Baskervilles; The Final Problem; The Adventure of the Empty House, etc. Other books, not so much. The Fetish, Burnout, The Y Factor, stuff like that. Granted, Burnout has a subtitle that renders it kind of lengthy, but the publisher felt it was needed.
SBR: Speaking of Burnout, what drove you to write that novel?
Stephanie Osborn: Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281 was my first novel. It’s a science fiction mystery about a space shuttle disaster that turned out NOT to have been an accident, and the ensuing investigation and cover-up. Its tag line is, “How do you react when you discover that the next Shuttle disaster has happened…right on schedule?”
It started off years ago when I was a payload flight controller for Shuttle Spacelab missions. A bunch of us were discussing what to do in the event of a “catastrophic malfunction,” and how we might be able to get the bird and its crew down intact. I went off still thinking, and eventually realized that, if said “malfunction” was in fact no accident, it might make for a good book. It made Amazon’s Top 25 Overall list, and Fictionwise’s top 25 science fiction, when it was released, so I guess other people thought so too.
The scary, distressing part for me was that in the process of writing the novel, and doing all the research to get it right, I pretty much predicted what ended up happening to shuttle Columbia on her final flight ― and she had a friend of mine aboard. Oh, I’m not saying that Columbia was anything other than pure, awful luck of the draw. But the overall scenario of re-entry, loss of thermal integrity, loss of aerodynamic stability, breakup…I got the orbital inclination, incoming trajectory, even the overflown states and debris field, all correct according to what really happened to Columbia. I…was not best pleased. My writing mentor had to talk me out of trashing the manuscript. I ended up dedicating the book to the Columbia crew.
SBR: Did your scientific background help you with Burnout? (Sometimes, here at SBR, even we must state the obvious. Apologies in advance.)
Stephanie Osborn: Oh, I couldn’t have written it without my science background, AND my experience working Shuttle program. I had to lay out a scenario that made sense on several levels, and that proved very complicated.
SBR: You’ve said that Burnout is in some senses the most personal novel you’ve ever written. Can you explain that?
Stephanie Osborn: Well, there was the Columbia connection, which was personal enough in that I lost a friend, Kalpana Chawla, and I lost the bird I worked with the most.
But the two main characters of that book are special to me. It’s kind of funny, really; I’ve been “accused” on numerous occasions of making Skye Chadwick, from the Displaced Detective series, my own personal “Mary Sue” ― meaning she’s supposedly a fictional version of me. Truthfully? She’s no more me than Holmes is; every character I write has some facet of me in it, or I couldn’t relate to the character well enough to write it. I’ve written a couple of books with strong female leads in them, and somebody always wants to make ‘em out to be my Mary Sue(s), especially if they have any sort of a science background. But Crash Murphy and Mike Anders, the protagonists in Burnout? Well, they’re different. If you combined them into one person and flipped the gender, it really WOULD be me. Astronomer and Shuttle flight controller, rolled into one. I’m fond of those characters. But nobody ever accuses me of making THEM Mary Sues. I guess it’s because they’re male.
SBR: Let’s talk about another series you’ve worked on where you’ve never once been accused of writing a “Mary Sue” character, the Cresperian Saga. What’s that about?
Stephanie Osborn: The Cresperian Saga is a series of books by several authors, about Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrials when their starship wrecks in our solar system. A few of the lifepods make it to Earth, but most of the crew (and it was a small city) dies in the disaster. Said alien lifepods land scattered around our planet, and the beings within use their shapeshifting abilities to try to blend into the general population.
The first book, Human By Choice, was co-authored by Travis S. Taylor (my writing mentor) and Darrell Bain. When it came time for book two, Travis and his wife were expecting their second child and he was snowed, so he bowed out. Lida Quillen, publisher of Twilight Times Books, tapped me to step in, so The Y Factor was written by Darrell Bain and myself, with Bain taking the lead. But Bain is up in years, and his memory isn’t what it once was; this series has a huge cast of characters over the entire story arc, and he didn’t like having to keep up with them all. I thought he was doing fine, but I suspect what it amounted to was that he just didn’t like keeping up with ‘em. I can understand that. So for book three, The Cresperian Alliance, I took the lead. I’m currently working on book four, Heritage. Hoping to get it out in the next six months or so. But it’s harder than my usual writing, because the concept wasn’t mine to begin with.
SBR: The Cresperian Saga sounds fun to read, but as you just said, it sounds extremely difficult to write as it wasn’t your original concept. What interests you so much about this series, and what makes it different from other “aliens versus humans” movies and books?
Stephanie Osborn: The concept of discovering an alien race when THEY crash into YOU, because they don’t know you’re there, is kind of different. And the problems that the aliens have with our form, our cultures, were to my knowledge unique.
SBR: How challenging was it to come into this series in Book Two, and how did that process work between you and Darrell Bain?
Stephanie Osborn: It was difficult at times, and fun at others. First and foremost was getting familiar with that world, that universe, and coming up to speed with the fictional tech. I respect Mr. Bain greatly; he’s a popular e-book writer, and I learned from him. But we have different philosophies, and sometimes we disagreed about what should be in the manuscript. Still and all, we’re both professionals, and we discussed and went back and forth, and what resulted was, if I do say so, a pretty darn good couple books.
SBR: You’ve also written some shorter works. One of them, Starsong, is meant for children. What sort of things did you do differently while writing this story, if anything?
Stephanie Osborn: My only change from the usual is in keeping in mind that it is a children’s book, and as such I have to be careful about: 1) the language used (both the basic,” not having characters cursing,” and vocabulary, choosing words that wouldn’t be over the heads of the readers) and 2) making the themes appropriate. I wrote it because my parents wanted me to write a book that my nephew (then in elementary school) could read. By the time it made it to print, he was in late junior high school and too old for it. Oh well.
SBR: How did you think up the mythos behind Starsong?
Stephanie Osborn: The same way I do all my stories…it just sort of comes to me. It’s a blend of Tolkienesque and Native American voices, when you get down to it.
SBR: Since Starsong is a bit of a departure for you, being fantasy and intended for children, how has it been received?
Stephanie Osborn: It’s been received very well, but has yet to find a large audience, unfortunately.
SBR: Another of your shorter works is The Fetish, a story from the Burnout universe. What brought that particular story to mind?
Stephanie Osborn: In Burnout, Dr. Mike Anders rather impulsively buys a lapis fetish necklace at a trading post on an Indian reservation during their efforts to get to Las Vegas undetected. The Fetish is the story of how that necklace came to be. It was an EPIC Award Finalist in the short category.
SBR: Tell me about your typical writing routine. When you’re coming up with a plot, how do you get everything to all come together in your head so you can write about it?
Stephanie Osborn: I spend a lot of time staring into space and daydreaming. Seriously. People watching me would think I was goofing off. But there are certain things I have to have in hand before I can start writing, or anything I set down is rambling gibberish.
I have to know my protagonist(s) AND I have to have the antagonist(s). The antagonist does not have to be human, or even a sentient being. Sometimes a force of nature is the best bad guy around. But I have to know who or what it is. And I have to have the names of the principal characters.
I have to have an idea about what the general problem is ― that is to say, what is the source of the drama, the conflict? Is there more than one conflict?
Once I get these things, once they come to me, then I will daydream a scene, whatever grabs me most about the conflict. It’s almost always a climax of some sort, possibly even the main climax of the book. And once I have that, then I can start writing. And it takes however long it takes. I can push it to some extent but I have to have those things, or it’s pointless to write. Better to go off and work on something I’ve already started. John Ringo is a friend of mine, and he calls this process “ideating,” or, “to ideate,” pronounced, “eye-dee-ate.” Sometimes brainstorming, either with my husband or another writer, can help this process along, and John and I have ideated together once or twice.
Now, if I AM writing on an existing manuscript, I will start the day’s work by going back to where I started writing the day before, or maybe a bit earlier. I will read through it, making sure it flows with what came before, and editing it for clarity, continuity, smoothness of wording, grammar, and the like. When I’ve read all the way through what I wrote the day before, I’ve effectively gotten into the flow, and I start in with writing the new material.
SBR: As you’re also an editor, can you discuss some of the books you have edited, at least so far as the types of books you’ve edited? What interests you about editing, and how is it different from writing?
Stephanie Osborn: Mostly science fiction of various types. Several were YA books. I’ve edited a number of books for my main publisher, Twilight Times Books, and a few more as a free-lance editor. I don’t think my publisher would want me to reveal which books I edited, but one of the free-lance jobs was just plain fun. Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was editing or just reading! The Flux Engine by Dan Willis is YA alt-history steampunk; it was a great book and I loved working on it. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
SBR: Let’s switch gears. You’re a well-known advocate for literacy. Tell me why this is so important to you.
Stephanie Osborn: I have always been a voracious, omnivorous reader. I cannot imagine my life without it. Reading is, and will be for the future of our culture, the primary means of communication of ideas and concepts and data between people. Without the ability to read and write, our civilization as we know it would collapse.
Unfortunately not only is illiteracy on the rise in our country, disinterest in reading is rampant among our young people. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have seen teens and twenties at science fiction and fantasy conventions walk by book dealers with noses upturned. I have had teens walk up to my table, scan my books with utter indifference ― or even contempt ― then pick up a business card and ask me to autograph it. If it isn’t a film or a game, they’re just not interested. After I left the space program, I used to do some tutoring, to get me out of the house mostly, and was shocked at seeing the same attitude toward great literature. Unfortunately, it’s an attitude I have encountered again and again.
How are we to continue our society, our culture, if the next generation doesn’t READ?! How do we communicate the most important concepts of our world? How do we teach them what works and what doesn’t? It isn’t possible to cram it all into a movie, into a game. The concepts of freedom, the lessons of life, good versus evil…this is the stuff of drama, of the great and less great literature. But they won’t read it, and in some cases, can’t.
There’s an old saying: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Trite, but true nonetheless. And it applies here doubly ― historically, societies whose literacy broke down tended to collapse shortly thereafter; and how can the kids learn history if they can’t or won’t read about it?
If this trend continues, I shudder for our people.
SBR: You’re also a well-known advocate regarding treatment for panic attacks and/or anxiety disorder. This is a disease that’s become more prominent lately, partly due to the efforts of NFL Hall of Famer Earl Campbell. What is it, why is it important to you, and what do you think should be done about it?
Stephanie Osborn: Panic attacks are horrible. They can feel like you’re having a heart attack or like you’re going to faint, and sometimes you wish you would. Faint, that is. Because then you’d be unconscious and not suffering through it. You’re scared, your heart pounds, you can’t breathe fast enough, your whole body either flushes or the blood drains away into the vital organs and you get light-headed. It can be pure, abject terror. And it can happen for no reason that you can see.
The tendency to have these attacks on a regular or frequent basis is known as anxiety disorder. There are different categories, depending on severity, acuteness of attack, and to some extent, cause of the attack, because it can have many causes.
Causes can range from things like PTSD; to problems in the brain’s amygdalae, which processes fear; to problems in utilizing neurotransmitters, particularly GABA, but also including serotonin. It isn’t fun, and the sufferer isn’t always able to control it.
As it turns out, I have anxiety disorder. It trends in my family, and I have had it off and on since I was a child. It comes and goes, and I can go for long periods of time, even years, decades, with no problems. Then something may happen to stress me ― an event, or an illness, or the like ― and it will come back and hammer me. I’ve had counseling for it and have learned various relaxation techniques, which help. But if a full-on panic attack jumps me unexpectedly, those techniques don’t work too well because they require me to concentrate on the technique, and if you’re panicked, you aren’t going to think too well. So I try very hard to catch it on the upswing by recognizing the symptoms and working to relax. I also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where the nerve network in the gut is exceptionally sensitive, and it’s tied into the anxiety disorder: an IBS attack can trigger an anxiety attack, and vice versa. In general, nobody but my family knows I have it, at least to see it happening. I don’t necessarily announce it to the world. But I don’t make a secret of it, either.
Interestingly, it is never DURING an acute, stressful situation that the panic or anxiety hits. If I’m in the middle of an emergency, I will work through the emergency and do whatever is required to get through the situation safely. After it’s over, I may go into a corner and hyperventilate for a few minutes! During that post-emergency time, I’m apt to shake like the proverbial aspen leaf, and all I want is to be quiet and try to relax. I may or may not have a full-blown panic attack. Having a trusted friend or family member nearby is usually soothing, if I do. And I may have recurrences of that, off and on for a few weeks, if something happens to remind me of the emergency.
I want to emphasize: it isn’t dangerous, for the person experiencing the panic or anyone around him. We won’t go ballistic or postal; we aren’t scary crazy people. In general we aren’t confrontational, because confrontation produces stress, and stress will bring on the anxiety. We’re far more apt to want to retreat to the bedroom and just be very quiet. And we aren’t having a heart attack or the like, though it can seem like it sometimes. In so far as I can tell, the very fact that you have anxiety attacks seems to be an indication of a strong circulatory system. I suppose it stands to reason. If it weren’t for the fear it creates, fear that can last for days, weeks, or even months, it probably wouldn’t even be worth a note in the medical books.
But if you know someone who has anxiety disorder, the best thing you can do, if you see him or her in a panic attack, is to take the person aside into a quiet, low-stimulus environment, and help ‘em settle down. Just a couple words to let ‘em know you’re there, you get what’s happening, and you’re there to help. Maybe holding a hand gently, or laying a hand on a shoulder. Don’t babble. In fact, other than the initial, “It’s OK. I’m here, and I get what’s going on,” you don’t really have to talk (unless the victim wants you to talk to help get his/her mind off the panic, in which case, keep the conversation light and away from the focus of the problem). The person experiencing the anxiety needs as little stimulus as possible, and needs to be able to focus on relaxation techniques. (Slow, steady breathing, in various cadences, is the best that I’ve found. If the person is having trouble, offer to count softly: “In… two… three… four… Out… two… three… four.”) When the patient begins to talk again, s/he is starting to relax. You can chat then, but keep your voice down and in a soothing pitch until the person is obviously relaxed again.
SBR: Getting back to your writing career, what sorts of awards have you been nominated for? (Not that this is the be-all and end-all, of course.)
Stephanie Osborn: I have been an EPIC Finalist twice, once for The Y Factor with Darrell Bain, and once for The Fetish. I have also been a finalist for a few other awards, not so prestigious. My experiences with awards have not been good in general — you generally have to pay a fee (the smallest I’ve encountered is $50) for every category you enter, and the final results tend, in my estimation, to be…unusual at best, questionable at worst. Like the time L. Ron Hubbard won a category for a book he wrote…over a decade after his demise. I’m proud of the EPIC finalists, and I consider that award an excellent one; I stay away from most others, these days.
SBR: Two interesting things have happened recently regarding your Displaced Detective series, as an omnibus edition has been released by your publisher, Twilight Times Books, and more interestingly yet, The Displaced Detective Suite, an album put together by composer Dan Hollifield, has also been released. How did these two things happen?
Stephanie Osborn: I couldn’t tell you how The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus came to be! That was a complete surprise from my publisher! I was on travel and when I got home she emailed me to surprise me with it. I’m very, VERY pleased, because this is the first omnibus that Twilight Times Books has ever produced, and I’m thrilled that it’s mine.
As for The Displaced Detective Suite**, it is a duly licensed “derivative” work, available in CD and mp3 download, from Amazon (CD), CreateSpace (CD), and Bandcamp (download). Bandcamp also has a lovely bonus track that comes with the album, but didn’t fit on the CD. The album itself is a blend of instrumental and electronica, and could readily be a film score. Each piece causes me to think of the scene(s) that inspired it, and they play out in my mind’s eye as the music plays.
How did it come to be? Well, I’ve known Dan Hollifield for some years; he’s a very talented man. He’s also a fan, particularly of my Displaced Detective series, and one day he presented a song to me on Facebook. It was a solo violin with background instrumentals, what later became the track called, “Meditations of a Displaced Detective,” and I immediately fell in love with it. It evoked a mental image for me of Holmes, yanked from his original life and plopped into the modern world, knowing no one, wondering how he was going to fit in, to make a life for himself. I could “hear” it as either what he would have played during that time if he’d had access to a violin, or what a movie director would use as the theme for that part of the story. I raved over it to Dan, and one thing led to another, and suddenly he was working on more music. Next thing I knew, we had a licensing agreement in place, and he was nearing completion on an album. I’m absolutely blown away by the music.
Since my husband is a graphics artist and does most of my cover art (as well as many other TTB books, and several other publishers too), Dan and I approached him for the album artwork. He agreed, and that was the last thing we needed. The day I got my own copy of the CD, I danced around the house before I even opened it!
SBR: (Not sure what to say to this, though admittedly we’d be tempted to do the same thing in your place.) Thanks again for this wide-ranging, comprehensive interview, Ms. Osborn.
Stephanie Osborn: Thank you most kindly for having me, and especially for allowing me to ramble!
SBR: Our pleasure.
** Note: SBR will feature in coming weeks our first-ever music review, the subject of which being Dan Hollifield’s Displaced Detective Suite. Stay tuned.
Travis Taylor and Stephanie Osborn’s A NEW AMERICAN SPACE PLAN is one of the more ambitious pieces of non-fiction I’ve read in a long time. Taylor, the self-described ringleader of the Rocket City Rednecks (a TV show on NatGeo), is a writer and scientist with multiple degrees who enjoys doing more with less, while Osborn is a scientist and writer whose books have been previously reviewed here at SBR (go here and here for further details). The two between them have created an entertaining and thought-provoking book that asks the question, “What would NASA be like if it were fully funded?” (And, for that matter, if NASA’s priorities didn’t shift with every different presidential administration.)
Taylor is known for his folksy style, and the book’s style is exactly the way you’d expect if you’ve ever seen him on his TV show. There’s a breadth and depth of knowledge here that’s startling to behold, but for the most part the narrative never lost me. The details are enough for most scientists without confusing the intelligent layman most of the time, which is a neat trick to pull off. And the arguments for a much bigger budget and a solid mission focus that doesn’t depend on what President happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time are compelling and well thought-out.
The main problem with NASA right now, according to Taylor and Osborn, is that there’s not enough money to do what’s necessary. The space shuttle program has been dissolved, and there seems to be no real focus aside from the information gleaned by the Mars Rover. The International Space Station has some real implementation problems (including the wiring being different in various aspects of the station), and is not funded equally by every country that has sent astronauts into space — in fact, the United States has paid far more money for the International Space Station over time than every other country combined, according to Taylor and Osborn’s math.
Yet rather than the US keeping its “first among equals” status when it comes to the knowledge of space and space exploration, for whatever reason the US has backed off giving NASA enough money to figure out a new mission — a new way forward. Both Taylor and Osborn have worked for NASA in one form or another (perhaps not directly, but as contractors), and are cognizant of all the problems that derailed more consistent applications of American ingenuity and drive when it comes to space.
Taylor and Osborn also point out the many economic benefits, both past and present, that are accorded by the US being the leader in aerospace engineering. And it worries them, significantly, that the US currently has no simple and well-funded way forward, especially considering the ominous symbolism of the space shuttles being grounded.
Put bluntly, most Americans no longer see astronauts as “rock stars.” At least, they don’t see contemporary ones as such — Buzz Aldrin, the late Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, now those guys still have that rock star quality, but the new astronauts are mostly devoid of that. Yet these are people who risk their lives to go into space, whether it’s at low-earth orbit like in the space shuttles, or in a higher orbit as with past programs, or in going to the Moon. Astronauts have died in attaining their goals to go into space, and their bravery in continuing to go despite the “Challenger” disaster, despite the destruction of the “Columbia,” and of course the destruction of “Apollo 1” back in 1967, should be celebrated.
This lamentation for simpler and better days, when astronauts were celebrated for their bravery — along with the arguments for more money and a consistent mission for NASA (perhaps set up along nonpartisan lines) — shows that above and beyond the United States’ need for a new space plan, we also need to figure out our priorities. It’s obvious that both Taylor and Osborn do not appreciate what’s going on today, politically. They view the way the US Congress and current Obama Administration treats NASA as a type of political football, and they believe that must end.
They also think that Americans should regain our trust in the space program, something that is hard to argue with. And they wish that Americans could recapture at least some of our lost optimism, because with that we could create many jobs (the space program has always created solid jobs that pay a living wage for ordinary Americans without multiple PhDs), regain our foothold in space and show that the United States can again be first in innovation.
All of this is a powerful message, and it’s delivered in an easy-to-understand way.
There are a few drawbacks here, though. Every great once in a while, things descend into formulas, ratios, or lists. The lists are comprehensible to intelligent laymen, but the other two may not be. And it is a bit odd to see this in a book that’s not meant for other specialists — but perhaps this was the only way the authors could come up with to describe what they meant.
Still. It may as well be “technobabble” to anyone outside the authors’ specialties, and is the one and only one thing I found to criticize here (aside from a possible math quibble that was brought up already over at The Space Review).
Look. This is a book that everyone should read regardless of politics. The authors are both literate and entertaining writers, and their collaboration has resulted in a book that will teach people why the United States still needs a space program. Much less why that program should be fully and consistently funded on a non-partisan basis.
Bottom line? If you love science fiction or good, solidly researched non-fiction, you really owe it to yourself to read A NEW AMERICAN SPACE PLAN.
— reviewed by Barb
Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series is about Sherlock Holmes as transported to the modern day via the hyperspatial physics of Dr. Skye Chadwick. In books 1 and 2 of this series, Holmes and Chadwick solved some mysteries, then fell in love. (These books were reviewed here.) So what happened next?
Lucky for us, Ms. Osborn’s third novel in this series has just been released by Twilight Times Books; it’s called THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT. Here, we have a possible UFO, another mystery — was a local farmer killed by the UFO, or not? And if not, who killed him, and for what purpose? — and we also have more romance between Holmes and Chadwick, along with a new threat to the entire cosmos, which only Dr. Chadwick may be able to solve.
THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT (for short), is packed with action and plot, but it may not seem that way at first. After a jam-packed introduction, the book quiets down to show more of Holmes and Chadwick’s romance — something I found very welcome — but this isn’t as idyllic as it seems, either. This is because Holmes’s subconscious is working overtime; he keeps dreaming that he and Chadwick are separated by a thin barrier, and he doesn’t know why.
This important plot point is disguised because Holmes and Chadwick are about to make their romance official as they’re about to get married. While these two intensely private people want a very small service, their friends of course all want to be there, so there’s some minor conflict there (which ends up getting resolved favorably); then, the newlyweds retire to England to deal with the latest incident at Rendelsham — the possible UFO that’s been sighted there — while Holmes tries to figure out why farmer James McFarlane is dead. (Was it the UFO? And if not, what else could possibly have happened?)
In similar fashion to some of the mysteries in book 1 of this series, THE ARRIVAL, anything Holmes turns up regarding the death of McFarlane only leads to more questions. (My guess is that most of these additional questions will be answered in book 4 of this series, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, which is due in 2013.)
But there’s an additional problem; as Holmes and Chadwick dig deeper into this “UFO” that everyone is worried about, Chadwick gets contacted by her “other self” — that is, a Dr. Skye Chadwick from a different dimension. That Dr. Chadwick also invented the Tesseract, and also “imported” Sherlock Holmes before he could get killed on the rocks of Reichenbach Falls — but that Chadwick and Holmes did not have a lengthy romance, much less get married. Worse, the incident in THE ARRIVAL that killed one of our Chadwick’s team ended up killing most of the other-Chadwick’s team, including Chadwick’s best friend in any dimension, Caitlin Hughes, which has had a terrible effect on other-Chadwick’s morale.
This is the main reason why other-Chadwick has contacted our Chadwick-Holmes; other-Chadwick needs help to figure out why the multiverse seems to be on the verge of imploding or exploding. (This isn’t exactly what’s happening; the universes being in danger — the cosmos, in short — has something to do with the use of the Tesseract device. By the time other-Chadwick comes to our Chadwick-Holmes, things have rapidly worsened. Thus other-Chadwick’s solution.) And because both universes that contain a version of Chadwick and Holmes are fairly close, if our Chadwick-Holmes cannot help other-Chadwick, it’s possible that these two universes will end up disappearing — and taking much, if not all, of the rest of the multiverse out with it.
Once this happens, Chadwick-Holmes starts to work feverishly, something that disturbs her new husband Sherlock Holmes something fierce. They have a small argument or two (neither have the temperament to get extremely irate, which is probably just as well), mostly because Holmes doesn’t understand why his wife is working so hard. He believes our Chadwick-Holmes should be able to take more rest, preferably with him, and continue working on their marriage — but the sense of urgency is real. (Note that Holmes isn’t being obnoxious here; it’s part of the plot that the various universes have to synch up by time — that is, because the universes can look “forward” and “backward” in time, universes must pick whatever time they look into another universe, so other-Chadwick and other-Holmes are able to give our Chadwick and Holmes some extra time to solve this problem. But as our Chadwick explains via mathematics and logic, the other-Chadwick/other-Holmes can only give them a certain amount of extra time.)
So, what happens next? We get a cliffhanger, that’s what, though it’s not packaged as a “usual” cliffhanger due to the gentle nature of how THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT ends. (Further reviewer sayeth not.)
Overall, the romance in THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is superb, especially when contrasted against the failed romance of other-Chadwick and other-Holmes. The physics, once again, are rock solid, yet understandable for the intelligent layman. And the underlying mystery as to what happened to farmer McFarlane, much less how Holmes gets to the bottom of the various layers of this newest case, is extremely interesting.
Thus far, Ms. Osborn’s writing quality has continued at a very high level. Which is why despite the quiet section that lasted nearly 75 pages (yet contained very many plot points that were vital to understand what happened for the remaining 200+ pages of the book), THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT held my interest from beginning to end.
Bottom line: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is a fine addition to the Displaced Detective series and does not disappoint. (Can’t wait for book 4. Write fast, Ms. Osborn!)
— reviewed by Barb
Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series is about Sherlock Holmes as brought into the modern era by a well-trained team of scientists led by hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick. The first two books in Osborn’s series are THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL and THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: AT SPEED.
The first novel, THE ARRIVAL (for short), is about Holmes’s first experiences in the modern era. He was brought to our world because Chadwick’s team was tuned in on him as he went over the Reichenbach Falls. While the team was only supposed to observe, Chadwick couldn’t help but intervene; she’d been trained in the past to help others as a reserve police officer, and due to that training, she couldn’t just let Holmes die. But lest you think Holmes is coming into a world where no one knows him, think again; Chadwick’s Earth realizes that Holmes, in our world, is fictional, but believes that Robert A. Heinlein’s “World as Myth” concept was on to something. That’s why they went looking for a universe where Holmes was real in the first place.
Now, you might be wondering, how did Chadwick manage to grab hold of Holmes despite being in a different universe altogether? She did so through the top-secret Tesseract device, which is how her group of scientists can safely observe multiple universes. Before Chadwick grabbed Holmes, no one was quite sure what would happen if a modern-day person transferred — briefly or otherwise — into a universe that wasn’t his or her own. Obviously, since Chadwick and Holmes both survived going to a different universe than the one he or she was born, this can’t help but cause some major plot complications down the road — interesting ones, that rely as much on science as they do on the knowledge of Holmes as the world’s detective par excellence.
So, we have multiple universes. We have a fictional character, Holmes, who’s been given a thorough and realistic grounding in a non-fictional universe due to the “World as Myth” concept (Osborn references Heinlein exactly, though the concept itself is probably much older). We have a very competent hyperspatial physicist in Chadwick, who becomes Holmes’s best friend and confidante in fairly short order, and does so in a thoroughly logical fashion. Yet because Chadwick is still a reasonably young woman (in her late thirties, as is Holmes), and because she’s extremely bright and appreciates Holmes for his mind as well as his body, it’s obvious a romance is possible between the two whether Holmes realizes it at first or not.
And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s a very nifty mystery at the heart of the story, to wit: why, after Holmes is brought forward in time and across universes, is it that the Tesseract Project runs into serious distress? Is this because there’s a group out there who wants the technology for itself? And if so, why cause this specific sort of trouble at all?
These questions will be answered, thoroughly and enjoyably, but as in most Holmesian mysteries, they only lead to more and broader questions. And while logic chain follows logic chain amidst Holmes getting up to speed with our modern-day language, culture, idioms, etc., the deepening friendship between Chadwick and Holmes helps to keep the reader focused while giving Holmes an understandable motivation to fully integrate himself into our present-day reality.
And there’s a good reason why Holmes needs to do this; if he goes back to his own time and universe, he could potentially cause all sorts of problems with that universe. Yet even the smartest and best-prepared man in the world — or of all the multiverse — has to feel melancholy from time to time considering he’s away from everything he knew. All the people. All the settings. Everything. Which is why Holmes’s ruminations matter, even though there aren’t many of them; they help remind the reader that Holmes is real, as real as Chadwick, and has just as many things to worry about as anyone else. (If not more so.)
Osborne’s next book in the series is AT SPEED (in the short form), where Holmes and Chadwick must figure out what the bad guys who caused the Tesseract Project to stall out are actually doing. These bad guys have a funny tendency of coming up dead in ways that seem beyond prediction; it’s elementary, my dear reader, that the world’s greatest detective is both needed and necessary to solve this mystery. Because before Holmes and Chadwick can stop the bad guys, they first have to understand what they’re all about or they haven’t a prayer.
Of course, by this time, Holmes and Chadwick have become extremely close. This is a good thing, as the bad guys have caused them to go “on the run” (if you can call being in a first class hotel such) and to stay hidden; they’re thrown together, and of course their relationship both deepens and runs into some rough spots. This is because Holmes is in love with Chadwick, yet isn’t easy on himself as he believes for the most part that physical love is exalted way too much, while being companions and friends is not. And Chadwick’s had her own share of problems in the past, mostly because she’s a brilliant woman who hasn’t been able to find a man who’s up to her weight, intellectually speaking, so the fact that their relationship has turned sexual means there are realistic complications aplenty.
One thing to keep in mind here; the first book is closer to a “normal” Sherlock Holmes mystery in that there’s little sex (though there is love of the agape sort) and it’s closer to a traditional action-adventure plot. Here, there’s still action and adventure, but the romance is a big part of the plotline, so you must be aware of it or you won’t appreciate what happens even though it makes perfect sense.
Now, is this “explicit” sex, as one Amazon reviewer put it? I don’t think so. This is PG-13 sex, not R or X-rated stuff; this is what you’d see out of any committed couple who cares about each other, nothing more and nothing less. So don’t let it put you off.
Getting back to the mystery, of course Holmes ends up having to go back to his own continuum as that’s where the clues are. But he can’t stay long due to the fact he really should’ve died (and would’ve, had Chadwick not grabbed him); what will he do in his universe? How will what he does synch up with Arthur Conan Doyle’s “resurrection story” (i.e., the last story of Sherlock Holmes)? And what will happen to Chadwick after she sees it all?
Ultimately, the mystery is solved with a traditional Holmesian explanation at the end as to why the bad guys were doing what, and what Holmes believed they were planning to get out of it. (Chadwick puts in the traditional Watson parts, albeit with a flair all her own.) And the only remaining mystery is, will Holmes stay with Chadwick, or not? (Hint, hint: feel free to expect a happy ending.)
Ultimately, both of the first two books in the Displaced Detective series are faithful to the Sherlock Holmes milieu and mythos. Holmes acts like himself, albeit with a bit more heart than head; the romance between Holmes and Chadwick makes perfect sense in context, and the mysteries being solved are appropriately complex. That’s why they’re such a pleasure to read.
Bottom line: buy these books, whether you love science fiction, Sherlock Holmes, realistic romance, or just enjoy cracking good yarns. (You’ll be glad you did.)
Grades: THE ARRIVAL — A-plus; AT SPEED — A.
— reviewed by Barb
One further note: Osborn’s next novel in this series, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, will be reviewed next week here at Shiny Book Review.