When an Idea Has Eight Arms, It’s Hard to Let Go!

May 6, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Ellen Byerrum

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Sherlocktopus Holmes, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Aside from one middle-grade mystery, my books have been written for adults. So why did I just write and publish my first children’s picture book? Maybe it’s a rite (or write?) of passage.

We reach a certain point in our careers and feel the urge to break out with something new, whether it’s penning a thriller or aiming a work at a younger crowd. Sometimes we simply have to leave our comfort zone or take a break from our norm. In fact, since I started working on Sherlocktopus Holmes: Eight Arms of the Law, other mystery writers have asked me how to proceed because they too wanted to write a children’s picture book. We all have that great idea that we are convinced would be perfect, and we want to prove we can do it.

So, it was with Sherlocktopus Holmes.

Writers’ ideas can come from anywhere. Something from out of the past, a snatch of conversation overheard on the subway, the bus or the department store, a story in the news—or in my case, from a dream. Writers always have multiple ideas jumbled up in their heads. So why does one survive and jump ahead of all the others? All I can say is, I’ve had an octopus with a story following me around for many years. And I finally wrote a story for Sherlocktopus.

Ellen Byerrum

The seed of the idea came to me in a dream, and I mean that literally. I was deep in snoozeland one night, shortly after my first mystery was published. In the dream, I was visiting my publisher’s offices in Manhattan. My then-editor was telling me that the manuscript for my next book in the series was “fine,” but what the publisher really wanted now was “a crime-fighting octopus.” I was stunned. “They want WHAT?!” I said. I woke up and shook my sleeping husband to complain. “NOW they want a crime-fighting OCTOPUS!” He replied, half asleep, “Well, I guess that’s Sherlocktopus Holmes.” My husband can be clever, even half-asleep. He went right back to sleep, but the idea and the name stuck in my head and wouldn’t let go. When an idea has eight arms…

It wasn’t an easy path. First, I tried writing a children’s story in prose, but it didn’t soar; it didn’t even swim. This story cried out for rhyme and rhythm. In addition, I realized that I might be using words that children wouldn’t know. But I certainly wasn’t going to talk down to them because children are smart and they love big words. Big words can be fun! But they needed fun definitions, and to match the tone of the book, those definitions had to be rhymed and metered as well. Words like MYSTERY:

A MYSTERY is something that we don’t know.
Like WHO took my book? And WHERE did it go?

Do you want to know something funny? Writing this book, working with my talented artist Jacqueline Berkman-Glatigny and incredible designer Bob Williams, took almost as much time and anguish as one of my Crime of Fashion Mysteries. Still I persevered, and here we are.

What’s the story about?

Sherlocktopus Holmes, the smartest octopus in the ocean, teams up with savvy starfish Dr. Flotsam to seek Sally’s missing doll, thrown into the water by her naughty brother Steven. Complications arise when the doll is stolen by a succession of mysterious sea creatures: an otter, an eel, and a squid. Following clues, Holmes and Flotsam explore the Shark Park, the seahorse races and other dark places in search of the doll. At last they encounter a red herring offered by the devious squid known as Squid Pro Quo.

Will there be more Sherlocktopus books? At the moment I don’t know, although I do have a couple of titles in mind. We’ll have to see if there’s an audience for stories about a very smart crime-fighting octopus. Do let me know what you think!

To enter to win a copy of Sherlocktopus Holmes, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “sherlocktopus,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2020. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email be sure to include your mailing address in case you win-emails will be deleted when the contest is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went last week!

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Ellen Byerrum is a novelist, a playwright, a reporter, a former Washington, D.C. journalist, and a graduate of private investigator school in Virginia. Her Crime of Fashion Mysteries feature a savvy sleuth named Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter who solves crimes with fashion clues. There are eleven books in her series, with more to come. Byerrum has also written a suspense thriller The Woman in the Dollhouse with plans for a sequel. Most recently, Byerrum published her first children’s picture book, Sherlocktopus Holmes: Eight Arms of the Law.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. The cover is so cute and I know I would enjoy reading it and so would my two grandsons. Thanks for your great generosity. lindamay4852@yahoo.com

  2. Love how you came up with the idea for the book. This is something my niece would enjoy! tWarner419@aol.com

  3. Thank you so much for having me here today. Funny how writing blog posts makes me think different things about the writing process.

  4. Sounds interesting! Hope it becomes a series. Count me in!

  5. My grandsons would love this!

  6. We have a winner!


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