Who is Thomas Carnacki?

{Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili on Pexels.com}

I thought I was reasonably well-read, but I never heard of ghost hunter Thomas Carnacki or his creator Anthony Hope Hodgson until a few days ago, when GreyDogTales.com announced their intention to do a Carnacki anthogy. The proposed pay was high enough to pique the interest of my mercenary soul, so I read the Carnacki stories that were in the public domain and available free online. After reading the comments of other authors as to how much and how long they’d enjoyed these stories, I felt more ignorant, like I should have read (or at least heard of) these stories before, either in school or some bookworm friend recommending ‘you’ve got to read this!’

After six or seven stories and reading the Wikipedia article twice, I decided Carnacki was like Time Tunnel and UFO, where if you hadn’t been a fan when you were young, you were unlikely to like them as an adult.
Thomas Carnacki is a paranormal investigator in Edwardian England. He might appeal to the Steampunk crowd, as he uses such equipment (his Electric Pentagle and cameras) as were logically accessible to him in those ancient days.

In my younger days, I wrote a great deal of fanfic. (Younger is a flexible term — highly subjective — technically I was younger yesterday than I am today). I wrote it without any expectation of financial renumeration, because I liked the characters, be they the crew of the Enterprise or Jonny Quest and his family. If I complete the story I have started about Thomas Carnacki, it will be because of the promise of profit (a thing without honor except in one’s own pocket) rather than admiration for the character.

Carnack invites four friends for dinner and gives them a good meal. After dinner, they adjourn to the parlor, where he tells them of his latest adventure, then chucks them out with a jovial “out you go.” I fail to see the appeal. Perhaps, not having read all the stories, I haven’t found the right one to appeal to me… yet.

Happy Happy Joy Joy We Get to Spend the Night in a Motel.

It’s three degrees outside. We’ve been worrying about the pipes freezing and breaking. Well, they did. We had the kitchen sink running a trifle so it wouldn’t freeze. But it wasn’t the kitchen. ‘Twas the upstairs bathroom. It’s dripping down into the kitchen … right over the oven.

My husband and son have turned the water off so the problem won’t get worse and he’s on the phone with the home insurance people. The plumbers are allegedly on their way to assess the damage.

I don’t know how much this will cost to repair. I hope we don’t need to spend too long in a motel. Maybe I should go pack a day or two of clothes to be on the safe side.

THREE CHEERS for Conway Services (great plumbers) and Fast Dry. The broken pipe in the attic is replaced. Dry Fast’s dehumidifier not only took care of all the water on the kitchen floor, but acted as a white noise generator, giving me a good night’s sleep.


{image via Luna}

Beauty and the Werewolf is the sixth book in Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms fantasy series. Lackey has been one of my favorite authors and favorite songwriters for years. B&tW was a fun read – not Lackey’s best novel, not her worst (I don’t think she’s written a worst yet). ‘Twas a trifle predictable, but I actually liked that. As a stroke survivor, finding a book predictable means my cognitive therapy is improving enough to recognize tropes and foreshadowing.

I would not recommend reading this book unless you’ve read at least one or two other novels in the series. The 500 Kingdoms are basically Fairy Tale Land. They are controlled by The Tradition – a powerful, persuasive force that tries to control people’s lives by pushing them into the path of least resistance, by repeating how things have happened in folk & fairy tales. As ’twas done before, so shall it be done again. Most everyday, ordinary people are unaware of the Tradition, but witches, wizards, sorcerers, etc. are Very Aware of it. In fact, they spend much of their time trying to gently steer the Tradition so it doesn’t steamroll over people who are minding their own business.

Isabella Beauchamps is the oldest daughter of a wealthy merchant. She has a vain, fussy stepmother and two sweet but featherwitted half-sisters. Or are they step-sisters? I’ve already forgotten. (Minor brain damage, y’know.) Sorry, stepsisters. I just checked. Bella is training with Granny, not her grandmother, but a local wise woman/herbwife/cunning woman in the hopes of becoming an herbalist herself someday. Unfortunately, on her way home from Granny’s, Bella is attacked by a werewolf. This means it is necessary to be quarantined to see whether or not she has been infected with lycanthropy. From the Tradition’s point of view, Bella has fallen into a Monster-and-Maiden story. From the reader’s point of view, Bella is living through a variation of Beauty and the Beast.

Godmother Elena, the heroine of The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight, attempts to help Bella, but she has more than one kingdom to supervise, so she can’t spend all her time on one merchant’s daughter in a small, unimportant duchy.

The Duke’s Gamekeeper turns out to be more three-dimensional than he seems at first. Bella is capable of recognizing her own flaws, and attempting to learn from them, and Duke Sebastian turns out to have more depth to him than one might suspect at first glance.

A little over 400 pages. Enjoyable. Bella is not as perfect as the average Lackey heroine. She has a few flaws that make her more believable.

The Jailbird Side of the Family

My daughter is an APSU Gov. Her English professor was telling her class about the African tradition of the griot and assigned a genealogical project to the class. Before my stroke, genealogy was one of my hobbies. I haven’t touched it since my brain damage, but when my daughter asked about great Aunt Anne, I was pleased to help her research Antinomian Anne. She consulted the college library as well as her feeble old Ma, of course.

Anne’s younger sister Katherine Marbury Scott (our ancestress) also had legal problems, as did their father, the Rev. Mr. Francis Marbury. None of the three ever heard of the adage that “discretion is the better part of valor” nor did it occur to them that telling authority figures that they were wrong, dead wrong, and probably going to Hell was at best, indiscreet, and at worse, unwise to the point of being hazardous to one’s health. Since A, the Internet is forever, and B, I don’t expect to live to see my grandchildren, let alone to be able to discuss things with them, I am posting the research she and I did for the benefit of my future grandchildren.

The Rev. Mr. Francis Marbury was jailed two or three times. Anne Hutchinson, was excommunicated and exiled from Massachusetts. Katherine Scott was flogged. All because none of the three could keep their mouths shut.

Once upon a time there was a parson named the Rev. Mr. Francis Marbury.  He was a clergyman, a scholar, and a playwright.  (Doubtless where you inherit the theatrical gene from.  He and his first wife had three daughters, and he and his second wife Bridget Dryden, had fifteen children, including the infamous Antinomian Anne, and her younger sister, your ancestress Katherine Marbury Scott.  Unusually for the time, Rev. Marbury taught his daughters to read and write, and encouraged them to think.  This later got both of them into trouble.  Bridget Dryden Marbury was a midwife, and definitely taught Anne midwifery.  She may or may not have taught Katherine.  Francis Marbury (1555-1611) lived during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.  After attending Cambridge University, he was ordained as a deacon in 1578 and as a priest in the Church of England in 1605.  Although a member of the Church of England, he leaned toward Puritanism, which at that time was a school of thought rather than a separate denomination.  He took to wife Bridget Dryden and sired several daughters (and a few sons), including Anne  (1591 – 1643) and Katherine (born circa 1607-1610, died 1687).  Both girls married wealthy merchants who shared their wives’ excessive piety.

Sir William Marbury, MP + Agnes Lenton

Francis Marbury + Bridget Dryden

Anne Marbury + William Hutchinson                                       Katherine Marbury + Richard Scott    15  children                                                                              6 children including Mary

Mary Scott + Christopher Holder   

 Mary Holder + Peleg Slocum   

  Joseph Slocum + Susanna Wanton 

(Susanna Wanton was the daughter of Governor John Wanton of Rhode Island.  The Slocum cousins were so proud of this that they kept recycling Wanton as a name or middle name for their sons until my generation, when they finally gave up the habit)

Joseph Slocum + Susanna Wanton

John Slocum + Hannah Brown

Joseph Wanton Slocum + Rhoda Stoddard

John Wanton Slocum + Sarah Hagerman

Wanton Slocum + Philancia Bostwick

John Wesley Slocum + Barbara Jane Smith

Nellie Slocum + Robert Grant Murrie

William Murrie + Verna White

Gerald Murrie (Grandpa Jerry) + Laura Mullens (Grandma Laura)

Susan Murrie + Edward Macdonald

Caitlin Macdonald Ian Macdonald

Future great-grandchildren and future grandchildren, remember when doing genealogy of your own, start with the Eight Greats. Everyone has eight great-grandparents. (Well, not all the Accampo cousins have eight great-grandparents on account of cousin-marriages.) Mine are Nellie May Slocum, R. Grant Murrie, John White, Mariane Hansen, Arnold Mullens, Emma Agar, Carswell, Campbell. Start with yourself and your parents, then their parents (your grandparents), then their parents (your great-grandparents). Once you’ve got from yourself to your Eight Greats, future descendants, you’ve got a good foundation. I’ll try to remember to print out my research before I die to leave to you, but I don’t want to deny you the fun of investigating yourself.

Katherine Marbury Scott

Anne Marbury Hutchinson, image via Wikipedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/Anne_Hutchinson_on_Trial.jpg

Katherine Marbury Scott was my ten-times great-grandmother. She has her own Wikipedia page. She was the daughter of the Rev. Francis Marbury and his wife Bridget Dryden, the wife of Richard Scott, and the younger sister of the infamous Anne Hutchinson. She was a distant cousin of Poet Laureate John Dryden and author Jonathan Swift. She was also the mother-in-law of the Rev. Christopher Holder, who was arrested, had his ears cropped, and was flogged for being a Quaker preacher in a Puritan town. Remember, the Puritans and pilgrims came to the New World for their own Freedom of Religion, not for religious freedom for all.

She was one of the first people in Massachusetts to convert to Quakerism, possibly the first female convert.

“In 1658, [Gov.] Winthrop ordered that the three Quakers were to have their ears cut off as a warning. Katherine and her daughters risked their lives by protesting, with Katherine confronting Governor Endecott in person and telling him he would go to hell for his “barbarous act.” Katherine was imprisoned for three weeks, publicly stripped to the waist, and given “Ten Cruel Stripes with a threefold corded knotted Whip.” Her daughters, sixteen year old Mary and eleven year old Patience, were imprisoned for a month for taking separate actions in support of imprisoned Quakers. It is possible that they harbored Quaker fugitive Mary Dyer, who was hanged in 1660, as she was known to have been taken in by two sisters in Providence with the surname of Scott. (Wikipedia)

Bouncing, Bouncing, Bouncing

{image via Pixaby}

I know a “Real Writer” is supposed to work on one story at a time, but I have a bad habit of bouncing between stories. I was working on an SF novella, Captain’s Claim, and a Regency Romance, Twenty-Five Pounds a Year. Now I’m teetering between two fantasy novels, The Armsmen of Tremance and Dame Margery Spicer. I also scribbled a page of a different romance novel, The Shilling Suitors. I researched and attempted to outline a western, “Whiskey and Willowbark Tea.” I’m like the leprechaun in Finian’s Rainbow, if I’m not near the story I’m supposed to be working on, I work on the story I’m near.

No wonder I’m over half a century old and I still haven’t finished my first novel.

Would you waste rent money on any of these?

Remember, anytime someone buys a book, that’s money they’re not spending on rent/mortgage or groceries. Never take readers for granted.

Elevator Pitches

A handful of bandits are given a chance to redeem themselves as honorable armsmen. The Armsmen of Tremance

A country baron cuts off his nephews with the proverbial shilling and shocks Society by leaving his fortune to the vicar’s daughter. The Shilling Suitors

A spice merchant marries her bodyguard. Dame Margery Spicer

An abandoned wife takes a job as governess to three uncivilized brats to support herself and her son. Twenty-Five Pounds a Year

{image via Parallel Universe Publications)

Fans of Sword and Sorcery are invited to buy this book (I need the royalty money). SFWA members are invited to nominate my story, “Trolls are Different” for a Nebula Award.

Attempting to Plot

There are two main types of writers: pantsers and plotters. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. Plotters plot out what’s going to happen, step by step. As Kipling said, “There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.” I am a pantser, but I want to learn how to plot. I think it would improve my writing.

Every major character (not just the Main Character) needs Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

Goal: What does the MC want?

Motivation: Why does the MC want this?

Conflict: Why can’t the MC achieve her goal?

Three step Oversimplification:

Problem: Something is wrong. The MC has a problem.

Struggle: The MC attempts to solve the problem, but fails.

Resolution: The MC solves the problem.

Five Plot-Point Outline

  1. Inciting Incident What happens to set the story in motion?

2. Plot-point #1: How does the MC react to the Inciting Incident?

3. Midpoint: Major obstacle that keeps the MC from resolution.

4. Plot-Point #2: What is the fallout from the Midpoint obstacle?

5. Climax: final outcome of overreaching obstacles

These are similar but not identical to Christie Wild’s Plot Like a Marathon System.

1, Sign-Up (before you can enter a marathon, you must sign up) What starts the action?

2, Starting Gun (the race starts) and the MC is in action

3, the Halfway Point (13.1 miles in a marathon) The MC has made noticeable progress toward her goal.

4, Hitting the Wall (exhausted, sore, ready to quit) The MC hits a major obstacle.

5. Crossing the Finish Line. (crossing the fiinish line) The MC lives happily ever after, or dies, or resolves the situation in some way.

.  The Signup Let’s say you’re not a runner and your coworker signs you up for the annual team charity 5k. Dang it! Now you gotta run the thing. I mean, you could back out, but you’d let everyone down.And a marathon? They won’t let you cross the start line unless you have a bib on. And the only way to get a bib is to sign up for the race. The only way to cross the finish line and get a medal is to register for the race. You gotta SIGN UP! In a novel, something always happens that changes the character’s world. It’s often an announcement, invitation, arrival, or a discovery.If you take this one plot point away from your storyline, the story would never have happened. You wouldn’t have a story.

2. The Starting Gun The starting gun goes off, the race starts.  You’ve started running the marathon.  Your main character (MC) has reached the point of no return.  His/her adventure has begun, and they must go on.  This usually begins with the MC doing something/taking action.

3.  The Halfway Point In a marathon, this is in 13.1 miles.  In a novel, it’s when the MC has made some progress toward her goal.  (Lots of wiggle room – not necessarily at the half-way point of the novel, but should be at least a third of the way thorough the book.)  Nine possible midpoints (others are possible)

A.  Discover important clue.

B.  Obtain important tool necessary to achieve goal.

C.  Meet an important person.  For example, Moana meets Maui.

D.  Arrive at important location.  For example, Dorothy arrives at the Emerald City.

E.  Get another person to agree to help.  Example, Maui & Moana, or the Cowardly Lion joining Dorothy.

F.  Receive help from another character.

G.  Fall in love.

H.  Escape from danger.

I.  Rescue someone else.

4.  The Wall.  Hitting the wall is that point of a race where a runner is convinced they can’t go any further.  They’re out of breath, their legs hurt, they want to quit.  The wall is the point where something detrimental happens to the MC, causing them to feel down & defeated, unable to go on.  Example, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, alone, abandoned by His disciples.

5.  The Finish Line is the climax of the story.  When the runner crosses the finish line, the race is over.  When the MC achieves her goal, the novel is over.  (There may be a few paragraphs or pages of cleaning up loose ends.)

The Lester Dent Pulp Fiction Plot Formula let Dent, the creator of Doc Savage, buy a yacht during the Great Depression. It breaks a story into four parts, not five. I’ve yet to be able to apply it to a story, but I reread it occasionally, hoping I’ll eventually suss it out.

A Little Gem

{image via Parallel Universes Publications}

As a short story writer, I don’t deal with reviews as often as novelists do. I repost all the “reviews are love” memes on Facebook, but since my stories are normally just one piece in an anthology of stories – one flower in a garden, I seldom have my prose mentioned specifically.

However, “Trolls are Different” in Swords and Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy, Vol. 1 was favorably mentioned by both Jason Ray Carney and Craig Herbertson. Also by Richard Fisher.

 “Trolls are Different” is not conventional sword and sorcery but nevertheless a compelling tale about defeating enemies via “poisoned hospitality.” J. R. Carney, on Amazon.com

“Trolls are Different” by Susan Murrie Macdonald, is a little gem involving a head village lady in some subtle diplomacy to sort out the bad guys. The tale departs some way from a conventional fantasy tale but loses nothing by this. C. Herbertson Parallel Universes Publications Blogspot

“Trolls are Different” by Susan Murrie Macdonald

Foreign soldiers are invading. This typically leads to theft, murder, and rape. But Marana has a bold plan. It will take cooperation from everyone. Can she reason with a battle hardened army? Richard Fisher, on Amazon.com.

I am personally consider “Trolls are Different” my best story so far. I intend to be shamelessly immodest and nominate it for next year’s Darrell Award. If you belong to SFWA (I don’t yet, maybe in a year or two), you have my permission to nominate the story fora Nebula Award, if you feel so inclined. (I don’t expect that to happen, but I won’t complain if it does.)

“Trolls are Different” was inspired by Mercedes Lackey and Tarr Troll [Jennifer Haskell, author of Swamp Tales and Swamp Stars]  Lackey is, of course, the best-selling author of the Valdemar series and the Elemental Masters books.  Jennifer is a nice lady in Louisiana who dresses up as a swamp troll for Louisiana Renaissance Festival and the Mid-South Renaissance Faire.  Lackey once had one of her characters refer to a hedge-witch she’d known who used weak power well, more effectively than a powerful sorceress used her vast power to less effect.  Thus I came up with the story of a hearthwitch, who was also a village headwoman, who teamed up with a troll shaman to defeat an overwhelming enemy.  The story was originally written with Sword and Sorceress in mind, but being a painfully slow writer, by the time I finished the story, Sword and Sorceress had gone to an invitation-only anthology, and although Sword and Sorceress #30 was my first sale at professional rates, they have not issued me an invitation to resubmit to a future volume … yet.

Most of the stories in SWORDS AND SORCERIES: TALES OF HEROIC FANTASY, VOL. 1 are very Robert E. Howard-ish. If you like traditional sword & sorcery, suggest to your friends and family that this book would be welcome beneath your Christmas tree. It would make me, my fellow authors, and my editor very happy if you bought a copy for yourself and/or for gifts for friends and family.

Susan Murrie Macdonald at Castle Gwynn, Tennesse Renaissance Festival {photo credit, Ian Macdonald}

My Stories So Far

§ “Black Agnes,” posted on Celtic Nations Magazine, posted November 2020

§ “French Cooking and Fibs,” Under Western Stars, published by Western Fictioneers, October 2020.

§ “Trolls are Different,” Swords and Sorceries, published by Parallel Universe Publications, September 2020

§ “Dick Dibble’s Birthday,” Space Force: Building the Legacy, published by Midland Scribes Publishing, April 2020

§ “Mighty Huntress, Itty Bitty Writing Space, published by Browncoat Publishing, 2019

§ “The Lung-Ma’s Tests,” posted on Sirius Science Fiction, posted October 2019

§ “The Narwhal” and “Sir Tristan the Brave,” Wee Tales, #8,  published by Golden Fleece Press, June 2018

 §  “Gremlins,” Cat Tails: War Zone,  published by WolfSinger Publications, March 2018

§  “Tell Me My Story,” The Caterpillar, issue 20, Spring 2018.

§ “The Kissing Bridge,” posted on Paper Butterfly, posted February 2018

​§ “Donald, Where’s Your Taxes,” More Alternative Truths, co-written by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, published by B Cubed Press, November 2017

§  “Erzabet and the Gladiators,” Heroic Fantasy,  published by Flame Tree Publishing, July 2017

§ “Freckles and Long Neck,” Bumples issue #43,  co-written by Ian Macdonald, published by Bumples.com, June 2017

§  “As Prophesied of Old,” Alternative Truths, published by B Cubed Press, April 2017, a Darrel Award nominee

§  “Captain’s Claim,” published by eSpec Books, October, 2016

§  R is for Renaissance Faire, published by Highland Heather Press, May, 2016

§  Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid, published by Highland Heather Press, Jan. 2016

§  “The Piper’s Wife,” Sword & Sorceress #30, published by MZB Literary Trust, Nov. 2015

§  “Two Princes” and “Vixen’s Song,” Barbarian Crowns, published by Horrified Press, July 2015

§  “Thank You, Thad,” Supernatural Colorado, published by WolfSinger Publications, Jan. 2015

These are the stories I have published thus far. Some are semi-pro, some are professionally published. I have two others that have been accepted, but not yet published. “The Lizard-Men from Outer Space” in B Cubed PressTales of the Space Force and “The Silkie Who Loved Buttermilk Biscuits” in Tales from OmniPark from House Blackwood. Like many female SFFH writers (Rosemary Edghill, Lois McMaster Bujold, Leslie Fish, et al.), I started with fanfiction and “came up through the cargo hatch.” For legal reasons, I am not linking to my fanfic stories at FanFiction.net nor AO3.Those stories were written for my own pleasure, based on character and situations I do not own, nor have any legal right to use. I have also had a handful of filk songs in Lee Gold’s Xenofilkia. I also write articles for Krypton Radio’s website: as “Morbid Minx,” I am KR’s obituary specialist. My editor and I would be pleased if you Followed Krypton Radio, listened to our music, and read my articles. We would be ecstatic if you donated to Krypton Radio’s Patreon Fund. (Information about Patreon is in the little blue box at the bottom of most Krypton Radio articles.) For myself, I would be happy if you bought, read, and reviewed some of the anthologies containing my stories.

Upcoming projects: I am currently dividing my attention between a science fiction novella called Captain’s Claim, an expansion of the story of the same name listed above, and a Regency romance novel, working title Twenty-Five Pounds a Year. When one or the other is finished, I’ll blog about it, tweet about it, heck, I’ll yell so loud they’ll hear me across the river in Arkansas. I hope you’ll buy those, too.