Review: Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

My June of Happy Reading continues! And it’s worth noting that Happy Books are not only found in the zhuzh of magic-infused Regency romances by Emily Larkin, the deeply satisfying verve of Fake Geek Girl or the delight in the release of books I loved.

Happy June reading also resides in collections of amazing SF like Defying Doomsday, a Twelfth Planet Press anthology that funded through a Kickstarter campaign. TPP has composed other great anthologies that are diverse, inclusive and have superbly high standards, like Kaleidoscope.

They’re in the process of another Kickstarter to fund Mother of Invention, an anthology of stories about gender and robotics that I’m very excited about. As of writing this, there are 70 hours to go and they’re in stretch goal territory. I recommend it!

The blurb

Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world.

The book

You’d think an anthology with 15 stories about the end of the world would be a bit of a bummer for Happy June reading, but you’d be wrong. For a start, the very idea of Defying Doomsday is happy-making, full of perspectives and experiences that don’t often get a look in.

And while some of the stories find the world ending no matter what you do, the end is met with courage, wit and humanity by people whom other books have already written off when the apocalypse comes.

Protagonists in these stories bring their realities of cystic fibrosis, autism, blindness and deafness to survival. Some are neurally atypical. Some were born without limbs. Each and every one of these people, and their friends and family, is a complete person with skills, insights and imagination to meet, survive and/or thrive in the end of the world.

I suppose you want me to pick some favourites. Shame on you. They are all my favourites, though all in different ways. A few tastes of the deliciousness, however:

Roberts’ Ditmar-wining “Did We Break the End of the World?” is an obvious golden child, given I’m a huge fan of her work. Smart, funny, lively, sassy, with a bit of a twist and a whole lotta gumption. She packs so much personality into the characters that I would happily read whole books with them.

“Tea Party” by Lauren E Mitchell is also a corker, set in the remains of a former hospital and the residents who were getting treatment at the time of the apocalypse. Now they take turns in doing the ‘shopping’, to find the medications that everyone needs to function – antidepressants, antipsychotics, insulin, even denture glue. Filled with humour and sympathy, it’s a little quirky and immensely likable.

Samantha Rich’s “Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” introduced my pet phobia, though this time the spiders are aliens. Still creepy as, though, and Emm, who goes foraging on a skateboard, is braver than I’ll ever be.

Jane and Sam in KL Evangelista’s “No Shit” are a delight, and it’s so nice to see a post apocalyptic world where people don’t band into gangs of destructive arseholes all killing each other. Instead, their story is inventive, fun, warm and even joyful, Crohn’s notwithstanding.

“I Will Remember You” by Janet Edwards rounds off the collection with a poignant story of a human cull, perpetrated by aliens.

But don’t tell the other stories I picked these ones to showcase, because I honestly do love them all.

Awards!

Another bit of June Happy for this book is how well it did in the Ditmar awards at the  2017 National SF Convention, Continuum 13. Defying Doomsday tied with Dreaming in the Dark for Best Collected Work and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ contribution, “Did We Break the End of the World?” won the Ditmar for Best Novelette or Novella.

TPP has also now instituted the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award to further recognise and celebrate work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Buy Defying Doomsday

Kickstarter

Support the Kickstarter campaign to fund Mother of Invention. (Ends 1 July 2017)

Review: Resisting Miss Merryweather; Trusting Miss Trenthem; Claiming Mister Kemp by Emily Larkin

Catching you all up with some of my Happy June reading, because part of it was catching up with all the Baleful Godmother stories by Emily Larkin I hadn’t yet read before launching into Ruining Miss Wrotham!

I’ve already said how much I loved the first in the series, Unmasking Miss Appleby, and I’ve also read The Fey Quartet, which follows the stories of Maythorn Miller and her three daughters, the progenitors of the faerie gift that keeps on giving.

When Ruining Miss Wrotham came out just when I needed a happy book, I gobbled it up pretty quickly, and then went back to the intervening tales – Resisting Miss Merryweather, the second in the series, is a novella, as is #4, Claiming Mister Kemp – and it was seeing that the series included an M/M romance that made me keen to see what Larkin was going to do with it all.

Resisting Miss Merryweather

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Faerie godmothers do not exist.

Thus proclaims the facing page of each of the Baleful Godmother series, just before launching into a story where a woman descended from Maythorn Miller’s three daughters either has received, or is about to, her faerie gift from a resentful Faerie queen. These women must choose well, or risk madness and death. Even when they have a gift, life isn’t necessarily made easy.

In this novella, following up on Unmasking Miss Appleby, we meet Anne Merryweather – known as Merry to her family and friends – and her encounter with Barnaby Ware.

Ware is on his way to meet his estranged friend Marcus Cosgrove and his new wife – none other than the Charlotte Appleby of the previous book! Barnaby is grappling with the way he cuckolded Marcus with Marcus’s devious first wife, and is unable to forgive himself although his friend is certainly ready to forgive him. But that betrayal means that Barnaby doesn’t think he’s fit for love. He thinks he’s irredeemable. Merry thinks he’s wrong, and sets out to prove it.

Readers of the first book in the series will know what Marcus’s betrayal was, and how he was not entirely to blame. He’s a very hangdog character for a while, though it’s easy to see his more admirable qualities. Fortunately, Merry – Charlotte’s cousin, whose father was a dancing master and her mother a noblewoman – has got plenty of joie de vivre for them both.

An accident while exploring a cave brings all these unhappy events and unresolved guilt to a head. Between Marcus and Charlotte Cosgrove, the sparkling Merry (and her imminent Faerie gift), self-respect, trust and hope are restored, love is declared and happiness ever after is achieved. It’s a charming, snappy, happy read. Just the ticket for #happyjune.

Trusting Miss Trentham

With Trusting Miss Trentham, Larkin goes back to a full length novel to tell the story of Letitia Trentham, a wealthy heiress, still unmarried because she’s turned down every offer of marriage ever made to her. She already has her faerie gift, you see. She can tell truth from lies, and no man has ever wanted to marry her for love. Only for her wealth.

She’s resigned herself to never knowing love when Icarus Reid comes into her life. Reid is a former soldier, traumatised by dreadful events at the Battle of Vimeiro. All he wants from Letty is for her to use her unusual ability to find out who betrayed him and his scouts before the battle – who is responsible for the deaths of his comrades and something worse that happened to him.

Letty finds herself challenged out of her ladylike comfort zone, pretending to be someone she’s not, doing things she never thought a lady would do, to find out who betrayed this troubled man, and perhaps bring an end to his nightmares.

Letty is lovely – a woman who is profoundly tied to the necessities of truth, who finds herself committing little falsehoods in pursuit of helping this emotionally scarred war veteran. She learns about herself and the sometimes too honest Reid, including his darkest secrets. For all that she’s so aware of how much lying people do, she’s kind, spirited and will always stand up for those who need protection. Especially if they’ve been unjustly accused of wrongdoing. She, after all, can tell if they’re innocent.

I loved the way Larkin explored Reid’s experience of PTSD, long before the term was ever applied to traumatised survivors. I also loved the attention she paid to creating Letitia Trentham, who has endured a lifetime of disappointments in men who don’t see her, only the way her wealth can give them ease and repay their debts. Instead of being bitter, Letty is strong and kind. Her determination to find the truth of what happened in France, motivated by compassion, is a nice counterpoint to Reid’s more despairing need to find the truth. His slow recovery is well handled – not too pat. Letty’s connection with and love for him can’t save him, but she can help show the way to safety at last.

I enjoyed the crossovers hinting at events in the next book in the series – Claiming Mister Kemp – so that the series is loosely tied together by more than the theme. We even get to meet Barnaby and Merry Ware again!

There’s grit and pain in Icarus Reid’s story as he confronts people on the trail of the traitor, but there’s also hope and redemption, led by Letty’s kind but not naive heart and mind.

Claiming Mister Kemp

There was so much to love about this novella, but I confess I found it occasionally uncomfortable. Being set in the regency period, attitudes to homosexuality were naturally going to affect the storyline and the way in which Lucas and Tom interacted.

Lucas Kemp’s twin sister has recently died, and he’s still overcome with grief. When his childhood friend Thomas Matlock returns from the war in France in which he came too close to death, Tom’s decides to act on his love for Lucas, which he is certain is reciprocated.

It is, and we know it is from early on, but Lucas is also struggling with shame about his desire for Tom, as well as all the grief he bears from the loss of his beloved sister Julia.

In so many ways this is Larkin’s usual charming, witty love story, with just a touch of the magic that is such a feature of the other stories in the series. The nature of Lucas’s discomfort with his desire, however, means some of the intimate scenes with Tom are what might be tagged ‘dubious consent’. Tom sometimes pushes past Lucas’s “no” and it later becomes a “yes” but I confess a preference for clear consent. Tom promises never to push Lucas beyond what he wants, but he skates very close to and occasionally over that line for my preferences.

But Lucas’s heart is definitely saying yes, even if his brain is throwing up walls, so ultimately, they work themselves out and even find they have the support of family who just want them to be happy.

That unreconciled discomfort I feel is at least counterbalanced with some loving scenes, some wonderful crossover moments with the preceding book, Trusting Miss Trentham, and after trials and anguish the happy ending.

I hope Emily Larkin continues to write love stories for all kinds of people, and I’m very much looking forward to #6 in the series, Discovering Miss Dalrymple.

Reading Miss Larkin

Visit Emily Larkin’s website – where you can join her mailing list and get The Fey Quartet and Unmasking Miss Appleby for free.

Buy:

Resisting Miss Merryweather

Trusting Miss Trentham

Claiming Mister Kemp

Ruining Miss Wrotham

Review: The Wizardry of Jewish Women by Gillian Polack

I’m still reading only happy books for June, but a thing that made me happy recently was discovering that Gillian Polack’s The Wizardry of Jewish Women was getting a reissue with a new publisher!

The book was originally published by Satalyte Publishing, but not long after it was launched, the press had to close down. As the book was no longer available, I decided not to review it and frustrate anybody who wanted to get hold of it.

But now it’s available again as an e-book through Bookview Cafe, a cooperative publisher run by authors from across a range of genres. Bookview Cafe’s authors include Katharine Kerr, Vonda N. McIntyre and Ursula Le Guin, so you know they’re onto something.

I’m so pleased Wizardry is available again because I loved it. I’ve enjoyed Gillian Polack’s intriguing blend of the everyday and the magical before, in The Time of the Ghosts, Ms Cellophane, and The Art of Effective Dreaming.

The Wizardry of Jewish Women – the blurb

Pink tutus, sarcasm, amulets and bushfires: that is suburban fantasy in Australian cities. It is magic.

Life is never quite what it seems, even without the lost family heritage delivered to Judith and Belinda in boxes.

Judith (who owns the haunted lemon tree and half the boxes) wants an ordinary life. Mostly.

Belinda wants to not be so very worthy. If Belinda weren’t Judith’s sister, and if it wasn’t for bushfires and bigots, Belinda’s life would be perfectly ordinary. Judith will tell you so. You don’t even have to ask.

Belinda’s friend Rhonda has a superpower. Each time she sees the future or reveals deep secrets, seekers for the ‘New Nostradamus’ come closer to destroying her life. Her hold on normalcy is very fragile. So is her hold on safety.

Judith and Rhonda are haunted, Judith by her past and Rhonda by her gift of prophecy. Will they ever come into the sunshine and find happiness?

The review

The Wizardry of Jewish Women is primarily set, like The Time of the Ghosts and Ms Cellophane, in  Canberra. It seems an unlikely city, full as it is of bureaucracy, windswept suburbia and a reputation for Olympic Level Mundanity – but it’s one of Polack’s special skills to taken what seems to be a grey surface and fill it with subtle colour and disturbing undercurrents. It certainly makes me see my old hometown in new lights when I visit.

The story begins when Judith and her sister Belinda inheret a box from an apparently disreputable grandmother and discover a scrap book of hidden Jewish magic, recorded in a kind of hidden message. Their histories and their actions with the book’s contents are obscurely bound up with those of Rhonda, whose prophetic insights have turned her into a recluse.

Each woman faces domestic difficulties as well as wider threats, from the very real-world danger of Australian bushfires and oppressive exes, to the more creeping, opaque threats of lurking but tangible evil and the consequences of magic.

Polack weaves an inexorable web of subtle detail and slow reveals. What begins in humble Australian suburbia, populated with middle aged women who are agitated with where they are in life and the family and friends that surround them, has the oddness creeping in before long. Small strangenesses, fleeting discomforts, hints of threat and threads of something sinister build and build until protagonist and reader both are confronted with the need for action.

The Wizardry of Jewish Women is a fine example of Polack’s skill with this kind of world-building, taking us from intimate domestic life and troubles to the still-intimate peculiarities of her finely drawn characters’ intersections with magic and devilry.

Along with all the virtues of the writing and tone as a well-crafted piece of fiction, the book springs from an Australian experience that departs from the mainstream, inspired as it is by Polack’s own Jewish heritage and experiences. It’s woven from more diverse cultural threads than the usual Aussie milieu and offers a richer, deeper view of Australian culture and experience as a result.

Wryly humorous, very human and steeped in both suburbian realities and fantastical strangeness, The Wizardry of Jewish Women moves from quietly engaging to absolutely gripping before reaching its satisfying conclusion.

It’s a fabulous little book. You should read it.

Get The Wizardry of Jewish Women in Mobi or Epub formats at Bookview Cafe. 

Review: Fake Geek Girl by Tansy Rayner Roberts

As mentioned in my review of Ruining Miss Wrotham, I’m on a kick of reading only happy books for the month of June, as an antidote to the bleakness of the world and some deeply disturbing and unhappy books I’ve read in the first half of the year.

Along with more of Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series, which I’ll review a bit later, I pounced last weekend on some short fiction by one of my favourite writers, Tansy Rayner Roberts.

Roberts has some fantastically fun short story series going on at present, including the Castle Charming series (Glass Slipper Scandal is the first one of those) and the Belladonna University stories, the first of which is Fake Geek Girl.

The Fake Geek Girl of the story is a rock band, headed by the charismatic Holly, who writes songs inspired by the geeky life of her twin sister Hebe despite the fact Holly doesn’t really get the geek life. The songs are ironic. Possibly. The band’s drummer, Sage, is Hebe’s ex.

They’re all good friends – though cracks are starting to appear as Sage frets that Holly’s about to break up the band to go solo. Fellow bandmember, Juniper, has her own set of issues, Sage and his uni flatmates are looking for a new roomie, Hebe might like a guy she’s met if he’ll stop mistaking her for her sister, and Holly might be hooking up with an awful ex.

The action is set at Belladonna University, which splits its curriclum between the Real (that is, magic studies) and the Unreal (which is mundane stuff like engineering).

The tale unfolds with characteristic energy, sharp wit and cracklingly good characterisation. If it wasn’t enough that I adore the writing, in this book everyone has agency, the narrative boldly tramples over stereotypes and cliche, and it flings a bucketful of glittering fresh narrative confetti everywhere. To put the fruit-and-feather Carmen Miranda bonnet on top of the glory cake, Fake Geek Girl ends with a song lyric that makes want to sing. It speaks to my heart, no lie.

Actually, a while back, as a result of supporting Roberts’ Patreon, I read the second of the Belladonna University stories, Unmagical Boy Story, before I got to this one. It didn’t harm the reading of this book, which contains a reference to the characters who appear in Unmagical Boy Story. I am very thrilled to see, however, that the third Belladonna University story, The Bromancers, is currently being podcast on the Patreon. Soon it shall be released in ebook form and it shall be mine, I tell you, miiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

In conclusion: if you’d like a happy read, for the month of June or at any other time, the Belladonna University series, starting with Fake Geek Girl, is right up there in glitter and song. It’s a positively joyful thing.

By the way, I’m all ears for Happy Reads. If you have any recommendations for books that fit the bill, leave a comment!

Review: Ruining Miss Wrotham by Emily Larkin

Ruining Miss Wrotham is the fifth in Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother historical romances. Like the splendid Unmasking Miss Appleby before it, it’s set in the Regency period and follows the story of a descendent of a woman who used a faerie wish to grant her female descendents a wish of their own on a significant birthday. Wishes are always granted but are not always wisely chosen – this faerie godmother is baleful indeed. Some wishes for faerie gifts end in madness and death.

I went ahead to read Ruining Miss Wrotham without first reading the intervening books of the series, but it interfered with my enjoyment not a single jot. This story is as well crafted and energetically paced as the first, with crisp characterisation, wonderful wit and rich period detail, yet all with a modern sensibility. No swooning heroines here, and the heroes are strong and kind.

The Blurb

Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.

The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.

But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.

Ruining Miss Wrotham follows Eleanor – otherwise known as Nell – as she tries desperately to find her sister, who really is a ruined woman, having run off with a soldier when she was fifteen. Sophia’s ruin has tainted Nell as well, ending her engagement to Roger, Earl of Dereham. Abandoned by their father, Sophia has been left fending for herself, and her letters to her sister have been intercepted and destroyed.

But Nell has finally received a long-delayed letter from her sister, and she’ll do anything she must to save her. But it’s still a week until her 23rd birthday, when she’ll wish for the faerie gift of being able to find people. Until then, she’s relying on Roger’s cousin, Morcedai Black, the illegitimate son of the previous Lord Dereham, because a week might be too long.

Nell learns that, despite his reputation as  rake, Mordecai Black is a decent man, and though he’s had lovers he has never ruined a woman. He’s also in love with Nell’s vivacity and repressed penchant to be unconventional, but his proposal is rejected because she finds him dictatorial. She’s had quite enough of men telling her what to do.

But she’s falling for him too, and decides that if she’s ruined by association anyway, what would it matter to take the next step?

Ruining Miss Wrotham takes our characters across England and too unsalubrious parts of the world in the desperate search for Sophia and her baby. It also takes Nell and Mordecai through their own histories and growing connection, through danger and the arrival of the faerie gift, which doesn’t go as planned.

It’s an emotional ride, but with the comfort of knowing it will arrive at a happy ending. It was a much-needed balm after I’d finished reading the dark and depressing The Handmaid’s Tale and The Little Stranger in the weeks before.

Ruining Miss Wrotham has launched my Month of Reading Happy Books as an antidote to the preceding two and the state of the world generally, and I couldn’t have made a better choice!

Get Ruining Miss Wrotham

 

Cover Reveal: Near Miss

I’m excited to reveal the cover of my next work of fiction – a Clan Destine Press Encounters short story. Near Miss is full of romance, sex, fabulous hair, rock music and political yarn.

Near Miss

Glory is a rock chick. She’s fierce. From a distance she keeps seeing a gorgeous woman with fantastic hair.

Ness is a hairdresser. She was named for the Loch. She’s been admiring the lead singer of Glory Be for ages.

Fate keeps preventing them from meeting, until the night of the yarnbombing in Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens – a night that knits their lives together.

*

Near Miss is due out in July 2017

Cover art by Willson Rowe

 

Review: Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

One of the things I enjoy about Tumblr is that you never know what surprising new thing will cross your path. One day on my dash, amid all the posts about incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, people being thrilled by Yuri on Ice (it’s charming; I loved it) and The Science Side of Tumblr, a post about Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses artwork came past putting some vapour-brain who claimed no woman of colour ever invented a thing or amounted to much.

Following the links I discovered that Jason Porath had once worked as an animator for Dreamworks. The idea for his series of the women of history and legend who deserve to be better known came from Jason and his fellow animators discussing the questions: Who is the least likely candidate for an animated princess movie? (Hence the ‘Rejected’ in front of ‘Princesses’ in the title.)

Porath kept suggesting women he’d learned about that the rest of the crew had never heard of.  “I thought that should change,” he says in the forward.

The result is a book of nearly 100 women of history and legend (some smudging that line) who were powerful, cunning, determined, inventive, deadly, ambitious, righteous, and altogether superbly badass.

Each entry is illustrated with a portrait in an animated-princess style, though the subject matter isn’t necessarily Disneyesque. Each is coded with markers to note how graphic the content will be, from a nice good defeats evil green to warning for violence, abuse, rape and self harm, so that readers can better choose what to share with their kids.

Sounds grim at times, but Porath has a flair for storytelling and a sassy wit, in the footnotes as well as the text. His breeziness doesn’t ignore the more troubling parts of these women’s fates (or sometimes very stabby behaviour). They’re not all good women, but they are women of note who should be better known.

Of course, some of them are well known to me, like Ada Lovelace and (thanks to Netflix’s Marco Polo series) Khutulan, but most were new to me.

One reviewer questioned the historical accuracy of some entries, but Porath provides a bibliography and I look forward to investigating more about these women, now I know who they are.

I read my copy on my Kindle app on the iPad so I could better enjoy the colourful art.

 

Buy Rejected Princesses

More Rejected Princesses

Coming in 2018! Sherlock Holmes in modern Melbourne!

On the heels of my last Sherlock Holmes story announcement comes a new sale!

My Sherlock Holmes Alternative Universe story, “The Problem of the Three Journals”, has been accepted for Volume 2 of The Baker Street Irregulars anthology, published by Diversion Books.

Here’s Volume One: Baker Street Irregulars: Thirteen Authors With New Takes on Sherlock Holmes

“The Three Journals” is set in modern Melbourne; John Watson is former army medic, now a barista with a fine moustache and a penchant for vintage suits. He co-owns The Sign of Four cafe with his flatmate Sherlock Holmes, a perpetual science student (and violinist for the indie band The Devil’s Foot). They are a pair of savvy Melbourne hipsters who solve mysteries in between pouring shots.

The anthology is currently scheduled for a Spring 2018 release!


Extra! Extra! May crimewriting workshop in Ballarat

For readers and writers in Victoria, I’ll be conducting a workshop in Ballarat on 23 May 2017.

The event is free but you do need to book a space. Book through Eventbrite now.

Review: Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin

When I first began to read romance fiction, Anne Gracie’s Regency romances were the first to show me how great the genre could be – huge fun, cracking pace, a sense of the period setting while keeping the protagonists real and vivacious to modern me.

Now I have another favourite modern Regency romancer – Emily Larkin. If Unmasking Miss Appleby is anything to go by, I’ll be gulping down her ‘A Baleful Godmother’ series like there’s no tomorrow.

Unmasking Miss Appleby begins with a familiar enough notion – the intelligent, sweet heroine, sadly orphaned, who must now be raised by unsympathetic extended family, denied her rights and modest inheritence, treated as a burden and repressed by rigid conservatism.

The little twist here is provided by a baleful godmother who, on Charlotte Appleby’s 25th birthday, suddenly appears to grudgingly grant a gift of faerie. It’s all the result of some favour done a few generations back, and the faerie would be thrilled if she can make Charlotte regret her choice of gift, but Charlotte’s no idiot. She asks all the right questions and, mindful of her yearning for independence and for useful occupation, she negotiates for the gift of metamorphosis. She promptly transforms herself into a male body and goes off to apply for the job of secretary to the abolitionist, Lord Marcus Cosgrove. It’s a job more dangerous than usual, considering Cosgrove’s enemies, but Charlotte – as Christopher Albin – is keen for employment, believes in the cause and has a secret faerie weapon.

There proceeds a brilliant gender-smeared adventure and love story. Charlotte’s sheltered life as a woman becomes exposed to the more earthy knowledge that a man is expected to know. She has to learn what her new body is like (and has to change back into a woman the first time she needs to pee, because she can’t quite work out how it works with her ‘pego’). Marcus thinks Albin is an oddly sheltered young man, having to explain so much, like the activities in the brothel where they go to fetch Marcus’s wastrel of a cousin.

Charlotte learns about a whole new world as Marcus holds these man-to-man talks. She discovers her own body, in both its gender expressions, and in her plan to rid herself of of inconvenient desire for her boss go well until they don’t, and she falls in love with Marcus Cosgrove.

Marcus’s life isn’t simple. He was betrayed by his wife, who subsequently died tragically. As an abolitionist, he has enemies. Someone plots against his life – but is it the threat from his political enemies, from those who might suffer financially from an end to slavery, from his former best friend, his late wife’s distraught brother, or that wastrel cousin, who will inherit title and estates if Marcus dies without producing an heir.

The story twists and turns; there’s danger and violence. Every time Charlotte shifts her shape into a new form, she has to learn how each new body works (I love the sense of these scenes – Charlotte suddenly as a sparrow having to practice flying because she initially gets vertigo). But she grows as a person while learning how best to protect herself and the man she loves, and the causes they both hold dear.

Bright, vivacious, funny and clever – I had the best time reading this book and can’t wait to read more in the series.

Get Unmasking Miss Appleby

One of the great joys of this lovely book is that you can actually get the e-book for free if you sign up to Emily Larkin’s reader newsletter.

This will also let you get the four-novella prequels, The Fey Quartet, which tells the love stories behind the favour Maythorn Miller did to be granted these grudging wishes from Faerie, and what happens to her and her three daughters, Ivy, Hazel and Larkspur. I’m thoroughly enjoying these stories too!

News: Sherlock Holmes short stories and CrimesceneWA

“I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler.” Mycroft Holmes, ‘The Greek Interpreter’.

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing a lot of Holmesian fiction of late – sometimes in short stories where they are the traditional epic best friends, and sometimes as a romantic couple. (I maintain that all interpretations are valid interpretations.)

Whichever approach I take, the world’s most famous crime fighting duo solve crimes and bicker amiably, and are enormous fun to write.

I’m delighted to announce two upcoming anthologies in which I have Holmes and Watson stories (the epic best friends approach).

Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook is due out in hardcover in November 2017, but the cover was recent revealed along with the list of contributors and the editor, Christopher Sequeira.

Bonnier Publishing’s blurb on the fully illustrated anthology says:

It’s 1890. Holmes’s fame has spread even to the colonies, and he and his stalwart chronicler Watson are swept up in an array of mysteries Down Under. They find themselves summoned from place to place, dealing with exciting and unique mysteries in every corner of this strange island continent.

All the stories are original and are set in Australia. My contribution, ‘The Mystery of the Miner’s Wife’, is set in Ballarat. I’m so excited to be in the company of Lucy Sussex, LJM Owen, Kaaron Warren, Steve Cameron, Jason Franks, Kerry Greenwood and others.

Keep an eye out here or at Bonnier’s imprint, Echo Publishing, for more news closer to the release date.

But wait, there’s more!

I also have a story in MX Publishing’s latest anthology of canon-era Holmes stories. ‘The Case of the Temperamental Terrier’ appears in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part VI: 2017 Annual, which is due for release on 22 May 2017.

Proceeds of the book support the Stepping Stones school for children with learning difficulties that operates out of Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw.

Here’s an excerpt from my story:

“I swear Mrs Hudson, some days after the park, it’s like he’s a different animal!”

These words, overheard as Mrs Hudson spoke to her friend on the front step of 221b Baker Street, were the herald of one of Sherlock Holmes’s oddest cases. In fact, Holmes and I, on our way to a programme of violin concertos in the city, would have passed both women by had Mrs Rees not added, “Though the next day he’s always back to being Charlie the snap-hound again, more’s the pity. Miss Darrow likes him better with some snap, she says. Of course, he doesn’t snap at her. ”

Holmes abruptly ceased his stroll and regarded the white Aberdeen terrier at Mrs Rees’s feet with curiosity. Charlie was a common sight each morning as Mrs Rees, the housekeeper from 189 Baker Street, took her mistress’s pet to the park. The dog was notorious for his dour disapproval of the street boys who frequented Baker Street and his stern persecution of the park squirrels.

Charlie cocked his head and regarded Holmes with as much impudent curiosity as that with which Holmes regarded the dog.

“And which animal does he seem to be today?” Holmes asked.

You can pre-order the paperback or hardcover at:

My final bit of news is that I’ll be a guest at CrimesceneWA in September 2017. You can follow the convention and announcements as they happen at CrimesceneWA’s Facebook page.