Author Archives: Narrelle
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!
“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.
I do love an adventure story. I love them even more when they feature two people adventuring together. They don’t have to be two human people – just two beings having mutual adventures is very much my jam. It’s the main appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories for me, and it’s the reason I was so delighted to have a story accepted into Clan Destine Press’s And Then… anthology last year.
Volume One of the anthology was published in December 2016. It contains my story, ‘Virgin Soil‘, a tale of gold rush shenanigans, dark magic, monsters and a shapeshifting man/rat.
My delight has grown exponentially by seeing my name in the Table of Contents alongside so many writers I admire. There I am, nestled between Peter M Ball and Dan Rabarts, whose story here, ‘Tipuna Tapu’, has just won the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction in the 2016 AHWA Australian Shadows Awards! I couldn’t be happier.
Although linked as adventure stories featuring dynamic duos, all written by Australasian authors, the settings and themes of the fiction in And Then… are otherwise a gorgeous sprawl across time and genre. Historical, contemporary, fantastical and futuristic in turns, in all kinds of locales, And Then… is a sparkling hoard of treasure.
A few of my favourite gems:
I loved the gritty noir feel of both Jason Nahrung’s ‘The Mermaid Club’ and Peter M Ball’s ‘Deadbeat’. Jason Franks ‘Exli and the Dragon’, with one protagonist essentially a sentient pillow, is witty and surprising, and displays Franks’s characteristic energy and originality. Lucy Sussex takes us to the jungle in ‘Batgirl in Borneo’, and is as always wry, clever and thoughtful. The collection is rounded out with Tansy Rayner Roberts’ ‘Death at the Dragon Circus’, a story of teeth and ways of flying, but also fondness and the search for a place to be yourself.
Each story in this anthology could easily be the launching pad for a series, and I’d happily spend more time with all these adventurers and the worlds they inhabit. Perhaps we can encourage the writers to do just that!
In the meantime, there’s And Then… Volume 1, with volume 2 to come, and all these worlds of adventure to explore.
Buy And Then… Volume 1
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Adventure Tales Volume 1 (Clan Destine Press)
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales, Vol I (Amazon.com)
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Adventure Tales Volume 1 (Amazon UK)
Cedar Grove Publishing continues to produce intriguing books that focus on diversity, in both writers and subjects. After books like The Soul of Harmony, Fast Pitch and Pin Drop, Cedar Grove’s latest offering is Sycorax’s Daughters, a horror anthology written by African-American women.
Sycorax is the mother of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but she’s never seen in the play. Despite this erasure, Sycorax’s presence permeates the story: the powerful witch who was banished while pregnant; through whom Caliban claims the island belongs to him; whose memory is used by Prospero to keep Ariel in line. These male characters speak for her in The Tempest, but in this anthology, Sycorax is given a voice.
But this anthology is more than interpretations of the legacy of a silenced African woman – it’s deeply informed by a history of real life horrors. From the forward by Walidah Imarisha:
“for Black people and other people of color, the history of slavery, genocide, white supremacy, and colonialism is the only true horror story, and it is one we continue to live every day…”
Regina N Bradley’s story ‘Letty’ is the best written and most chilling of the stories that visibly stem from this influence, but Sycorax’s Daughters contains other poems and stories to give you the creeps. Cherene Sherrard’s ‘Scales’ is a more satisfying examination of a little mermaid myth than Disney could provide, and Nicole D. Sconiers’ ‘Kim’ has a robust energy that makes it a favourite. ‘Summer Skin’ by Zin E. Rocklyn is suitably flesh-crawling, and the unusal cadances of Kiini Ibura Salaam’s ‘The Malady of Need’ linger. Tenea D. Johnson’s ‘Foundling’ takes a science fiction approach and shows a less supernatural kind of horror.
As always, some stories work better than others for me, and every reader will have their own favourites. But every story is an insight, and it’s given me a new list of writers to look out for.
Buy Sycorax’s Daughters:
- Sycorax’s Daughters Amazon Kindle
- Sycorax’s Daughters Amazon paperback
- Sycorax’s Daughters Bookdepository
- Sycorax’s Daughters Barnes and Noble
Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:
1.What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?
Ardent is the title of the book. Morello named the colour he invented for his feelings for Benedetto, ardent red. Originally, the title was Ardent Fire, but I had three titles with fire or burning in them, so I dropped Fire.
2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?
I have images in my head that don’t relate to actors—I don’t go looking unless someone, like you, asks. There are a few occasions when I’ve come across someone who reminds me of my characters without specifically looking. So I can’t really answer that.
3. What five words best describe your story?
Art, love, lust, murder, justice
4. Who is your favourite fictional couple or team?
I recently read all the books in Imogen Roberson’s Westerman and Crowther series, set in Georgian England. I do hope there’s more. They’re not a couple, but it seemed there were a few hints about that in the future in the last book—though I like them better as a team. I recommend this series highly if you like your historical mysteries with a lot of depth and complications.
5. What song always makes you cry?
Put me in a room with John Dowland while I’m creating a sad scene (like the last scenes in Ardent), and I’ll be typing with tears in my eyes, but other than that, music won’t do it for me—I’m just not a good crier.
In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a colour that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the colour gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.
About Heloise West
Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of thirteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.
Follow Heloise West:
- VelvetPanic blog
- Misadventures of the heart website
- Twitter @velvetpanic
In 2015, Clan Destine Press launched an Indiegogo fundraiser to create a fabulous anthology of rollicking adventure stories!
Just over a year later, on 31st December 2016, And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Volume 1 sprang into the world, arms upraised, TA DAAAAAA! to be at least one good thing in 2016.
Clan Destine invited some of Australia and New Zealand’s best genre writers to be part of the anthology, and I’m very proud to have been one of them. In Volume One, I keep excellent company with so many people whose work I admire: Sulari Gentill, Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Jason Franks, Lucy Sussex, Amanda Wrangles, Evelyn Tsitas, Peter M Ball, Dan Rabarts, Kat Clay, Sophie Masson, Tor Roxburgh, Emilie Collyer and Tansy Rayner Roberts.
This volume contains 15 stories of adventures: each with two heroes, each with a touch of something Aussie or Kiwi about them – but otherwise set across different times and places, from Goldrush Melbourne to outer space.
And Then… is edited by Ruth Wykes and Kylie Fox, with title page illustrations by Vicky Pratt and cover art by Sarah Pain
My story, ‘Virgin Soil’, teams a young man with magical powers with a shapeshifter, a man-turned-rat (or vice-versa; he doesn’t remember how he started). Some people might think they’re black magicians, and possibly they are, but someone has to do the dirty work, even on the side of the good guys. It’s set in 1851 during Melbourne’s gold rush years and involves virgin sacrifice – but maybe not the type you’re thinking of.
An excerpt from Virgin Soil:
Rain had made a mud creek of Queen Street, and the blighted stuff stuck like tar to boots of toff and toiler alike. All these thousands milling off the ships at the wharf were no ruddy help either. Sooner the fools were all off to Ballarat for the diggings, the better; or it would be, if there weren’t thousands more on their way, just as foolhardy.
Lucius wove in and out of the crowd, as mud-footed as the rest and more threadbare than most. He darted between the shifting bodies, dodging low to look under elbows and past waists, or stood on tiptoe trying to see over shoulders, and much luck to him, little titch that he was. Finally, he caught sight of his quarry. He shouldered between a burly blacksmith with his knapsack and a Chinaman late arrived from California’s Gold Mountain in pursuit.
‘Oi, Cato,’ said Lucius, coming up shoulder-to-shoulder with his wiry mate, ‘Put it away, eh?’
The accosted Cato, as grubby and as threadbare as his friend, raised an eyebrow at him, his clear blue eyes all bemused, until Lucius jerked his head at Cato’s rear endage, and at the long, slender, and slightly scaly tail that hung down low enough to be seen under Cato’s weathered Dutch pea jacket.
‘Oh, go to,’ Cato cheerily scolded his tail. He wriggled and the tail disappeared, not only from under the jacket but back into his actual flesh, ‘Alas, I forget to reel the whole in, sometimes.’
‘Well, it is a handsome tail,’ Lucius observed. His eyes were also blue, and sometimes he and Cato were mistaken for brothers, though there was no blood and 260 years between them. Yet they were brothers enough.
Cato plucked at Lucius’s sleeve. ‘There’s the fellow.’ He nodded at a strapping young lad of 19 or so standing with his whiskered father, directing the unloading of goods from The Lady Jane, new arrived from the old country, that had something more useful than gold-diggers on board.
‘Aye,’ breathed Lucius, head close to Cato’s, ‘That’s our virgin lad. It’s a shame. He seems a good chap.’
Fourteen people nearly trod them into the mud for standing still, so they lifted their heels and went with the stream a little way, till they could draw aside into the relative stillness of a cart awaiting a load. One of the horses blew a raspberry with its big hairy lips and gave Cato an affronted look, but horses never paid him much mind. Dogs were another matter.
‘If he is a good fellow,’ said Cato, his lips pursed in a way that made his whole face sharp, ‘Then he would not begrudge his sacrifice for the greater good.’
Lucius scowled, unimpressed with the argument. ‘And would you go whistling to your doom for such nobility?’
Cato, who had tried to do so once or twice, pushed his cheek against Lucius’s shoulder and rubbed. ‘There, there, my Luke. The deed must be done.’
‘I know. Don’t have to like it, though.’
Get And Then… (ebook)
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Adventure Tales Volume 1 (Clan Destine Press)
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales, Vol I (Amazon.com)
- And Then…: The Great Big Book of Adventure Tales Volume 1 (Amazon UK)
Paperback coming soon, as is Volume 2 in due course.
Whatever the end of the year means to you, generally it means a few lazy days and grabbing some time for a bit of reading. Whether you’re preparing to soak up the sun in the southern hemisphere, or rug up warm in front of the fire (or frolic how you please somewhere in the middle) it’s always a good time for a new book!
Naturally, I have some recommendations for you!
Narrelle M Harris has a bumper year
If you’ve somehow missed the excellent year I’ve had, may I draw your attention not only to The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, a Holmes/Watson romance set in Australia in 1893, but also to Wilderness, the third of my sexy spy thrillers about Martine Dubois and Philip Marsden.
In addition, there are the many wonderful anthologies in which my work’s appeared this year: Intrepid Horizons, A Certain Persuasion (queer interpretations of Jane Austen), The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories Part V: Christmas Adventures (traditional Victorian era Holmes and Watson) and A Murmuring of Bees (queer Holmes/Watson romance and erotica). In the next few weeks, Clan Destine’s And Then… anthology will be joining them with my 1851 fantasy, “Virgin Soil”.
That’s enough variety to keep you going for a few weeks, but if you’ve already been a champion and supported my work throughtout the year, I can also recommend some other fantastic books.
Narrelle’s 2016 recommendations
GoodReads stats tell me that I read 84 books this year, so I was clearly reading as fast and hard as I was writing. So many good books too! Here are some of my favourites:
Romance and Erotica
Herotica Volume 1 by Kerry Greenwood. Full of delicious queer love stories throughout history.
Albert’s Wars by Stewart Jackel. A bittersweet wartime love story. I cried.
Definitely Naughty by Jo Leigh. Short, fast, fun, sexy read!
Thrive by Mary Borsellino. This is the review in which I sang songs of praise to this book.
Are you there, God? It is I, Robot by Tom Cho. Tom’s work, like Mary Borsellino’s, is always an absolutely brilliant, brain-opening treat.
Trucksong by Andrew Macrae. Sentient trucks. Post apocalyptic Australia. So Aussie. So gritty. So good.
Monstrous Little Voices: These five novellas set in and around Shakespeare’s plays and life were an early gem and utterly brilliant.
- Coral Bones by Foz Meadows;
- The Course of True Love by Kate Hearfield;
- The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman;
- Even in the Cannon’s Mouth by Adrian Tchaikovsky; and
- On the Twelfth Night by Jonathan Barnes
Lady Helen and The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. Regency-era demon hunters, deft and fast-paced with fabulous frocks, manners that are not always impeccable and sexual tension you could cut with a knife!
The Time of the Ghosts by Gillian Polack. I didn’t think anybody could make me find Canberra interesting, but I was mistaken. Gillian Pollack does it effortlessly with the intriguing and marvellous tale of three older women, their protege Kat and all the ghosts becoming corporeal and dangerous in the ACT.
Tansy Rayner Roberts’ delightful novellas Glass Slipper Scandal: A Castle Charming Story, Unmagical Boy Story: a Belladonna University novella and Kid Dark Against The Machine. This woman keeps writing winners.
Pin Drop by Roz Monette. Life on the street for a young woman in America. Realistic but hopeful, with a positive ending.
Fast Pitch by Tim Martin and J Creighton Brown. I don’t normally go for sports books. I really loved this one.
Thyla by Kate Gordon. Tasmanian YA. An amnesiac girl is found in the wilderness. As her memory slowly returns, we learn why Tessa is a bit unclear on modern technology and what’s really going on with some missing girls from the school she now attends. Loved this one. Looking to get my hands on the next, Vulpi.
Ghost Girls by Cath Ferla. Set in Sydney’s Chinatown, it’s crime in a transient Australian community and it’s fantastic.
Livia Day’s Cafe La Femme series: A Trifle Dead, Drowned Vanilla and The Blackmail Blend novella. Set in Hobart. Tasty, tasty crime! (Livia Day is another name for Tansy Rayner Roberts, just going to prove that everything she writes is perfect)
The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim. Another crime novel exploring more diverse sections of Australia’s community. The splash of paranormal with the astrological charts just adds piquancy to the fantastic whole.
Richard III: The Maligned King by Annette Carson. I’m convinced. I’m now a committed Ricardian. What’s more, I think Henry Tudor is the one who did for the kids. Boo. Hiss.
Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanksi. Powerful and deeply moving.
Blockbuster! Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Lucy Sussex. Lucy breathes vitality and wry humour into this biography of a book.
Lives Beyond Baker Street: A Biographical Dictionary of Sherlock Holmes’s Contemporaries by Christopher Redmond is an incredibly useful book of the prominent, the famous, the influential and the infamous of the Victorian era. Handy if you’re writing Sherlockian fiction.
That’s probably enough to be getting on with!
Enjoy your reading, one and all, and I hope you have a relaxing break as we head into 2017, filled with excellent reading!
And please share your recommendations in the comments for holiday reading.
It’s only November, I know, but Christmas is coming anyway, with all the inevitability of sunrise, vampires in fiction, and a writer’s need for either coffee or wine (or both).
Speaking of writer’s needs, here’s a really neat gift idea for the writer in your life. Whether they’ve got thirty books under their sparkly belt or they’re still experimenting with style, form and pen name, you can’t go wrong with an inspirational journal.
And oh look, here’s one that Clan Destine Press prepared earlier!
The Journal of Infinite Possibility is a gorgeous little journal indeed. For a start, it’s full of pages waiting to be filled!
Mind you, the creators of this journal are writers and artists themselves and well know the terrifying tyranny of the blank page. That’s why the pages here aren’t exactly blank.
Instead, every page of The Journal of Infinite Possibility contains a picture, a quote, a prompt. Places to doodle when the words aren’t wording, images to colour in when doodles aren’t even doodling.
Actually, there’s plenty of space here for artists as well as writers, or for those scarily talented people who do both! They’ll certainly be inspired by the gorgeous covers and corner illustrations by Sarah Pain, Ashlea Bechaz, Vicky Pratt, Loraine Cooper and Ran Valerhon! (Two of that august list have created covers for my books with Clan Destine!)
A few of the pages are shown in part here so you can see how gorgeous this whole package is. The only real danger is that the writer who gets this won’t want to ink up the pretty pages. But ink it up, folks! Make it messy and crazy and bursting to full with your own ideas sparked by these words and pictures and blank spaces just begging to be decorated with words, lines, lists, scrawls, sketches and the seeds of something bigger.
What the hell. Don’t get it for some other writer. Get it for yourself.
It’s what I’ve done.
Improbable Press has a new anthology of Holmes/Watson romance stories, celebrating the celebrated sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his biographer, friend and (in these stories) lover John Watson.
Some stories are sweet, others steamy. Many involve cases. Some are set in the Victorian era while others take place in 21st century London. In some they are young men solving crimes, and in others they have retired to Sussex.
They all contain some sort of reference to bees or honey.
I’m utterly delighted to have both a short story and a poem in the book and to be in the company of other writers including Kerry Greenwood (the Phryne Fisher series) and Atlin Merrick (The Night They Met) as well as many excellent writers being professionally published for the first time.
Think of Sherlock Holmes and you think of mysteries, John Watson…and bees. While Arthur Conan Doyle sent the great detective to tend hives in retirement, here bees are front and centre in stories of love and romance, war and hope, of honey on the tongue and a sting in the tail. In tales of rare nectars, secret diaries, and the private language of lovers, bees may be the buzzing heart of the story…or as ephemeral as a murmur. What you’ll find in every tale are John Watson and Sherlock Holmes helping one another, wanting one another, loving one another.
To encourage a world where such love is seen for the precious thing it is, profits from “A Murmuring of Bees” will be donated to the It Gets Better Project.
Excerpt from my story, Nectar
After they’d been in the basement for thirty six hours, they weren’t joking any more. Sherlock refused to discuss his symptoms but John knew them anyway: the decreased sweating; the onset of muscle cramps; the increased respiration and the incipient fever. Sherlock was more dehydrated than John, and was betraying the signs sooner. Neither of them was critical yet, but they were far from comfortable.
After everything they’d been through together, it began to look like this was how they’d die. Together. Of thirst.
In the thirty-seventh hour, the storm broke out.
Rain spattered through the open window onto John’s face, waking him from a reverie that was more a stupor. He absently licked drops of water from his lips, and again: then his eyes were wide open. He lurched to his feet and staggered towards the window.
The pattering rain became a driving downfall. It ran in rivulets through the broken window.
John pushed his cheek against the wall, shoving the side of his mouth against a steady stream that gathered in a crack and poured down the bricks. Water flowed over his lips and tongue and down his dry, dry, dry throat. The water tasted of dust and brick and God knew what else, and it was the best water John had ever tasted in his life. He pooled a mouthful and swallowed it. Pooled a second. Swallowed it.
He tried to put his hands under the stream, but the chains wouldn’t let him get that close. So he pooled a third mouthful, larger than the first two, and held it behind pressed lips.
He took two strides to Sherlock’s side, dropped to his knees, and shook Sherlock awake.
Sherlock peered at him with weary perplexity. John tapped Sherlock’s mouth with his fingers. When Sherlock didn’t respond immediately, John poked his fingers between Sherlock’s dry lips to part them, hovered—his mouth millimetres from Sherlock’s—and then he opened his mouth to let the water dribble carefully down.
Sherlock made a small, desperate noise and swallowed the water. He tried to catch a spilled droplet with his tongue.
“Sorry,” rasped John, “Had a full mouth and couldn’t warn you. Wake up, now.” He was already moving back to the wet bricks; to the precious rivulet of rainwater.
After a small swallow, John filled his mouth and returned to Sherlock. He transferred the precious cargo into Sherlock’s cupped hands. Sherlock was sucking at his wet fingers as John returned to the window; came back ready to fill Sherlock’s palms again.
Sherlock tilted his head back. “Lose too much that way,” he croaked, and opened his mouth.
London rained on them for an hour. It was almost like she wanted them to live. For an hour, John went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He drank sips almost as a by-product of collecting water for Sherlock, and fed mouthful after mouthful of water to his friend. Buying time.
Sherlock revived a little with every mouthful, though his first strange thought on waking to John watering him mouth-to-mouth persisted.
What kind of flower actively feeds nectar to the bee?
The rain stopped, and John stopped, slumping in exhaustion beside Sherlock on the floor. They leaned against each other.
“Don’t thank me,” laughed John, “You’ll make me think we’re not getting out of this.”
Sherlock didn’t say anything.
“You’re welcome,” said John.
To find out how they are rescued (of course they are rescued!) and what happens afterwards, pick up A Murmuring of Bees and support a good cause at the same time.
Pre-orders for the 5 December paperback release are now available at:
- A Murmuring of Bees (Improbable Press)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Amazon US)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Amazon UK)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Barnes & Noble)
- A Murmuring of Bees (BookDepository)
A Murmuring of Bees is already available as an ebook.
- A Murmuring of Bees (Amazon US)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Amazon UK)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Nook Book)
- A Murmuring of Bees (Kobo)
- A Murmuring of Bees (AllRomance)
During my train adventures in late October, I spent a few days in Sydney, taking in the MAAS Museum and its excellent Large Hadron Collider exhibition, the splendid production of My Fair Lady and a marvellous little shop called The Martian Embassy.
The Martian Embassy is the Sydney equivalent of the The Time Travel Mart literacy project I visited in Los Angeles in July this year. (The Melbourne version, The 100 Story Building, doesn’t have an entertaining shopfront, sadly, but does the same good work with young people.)
The Martian Embassy is filled with bizarre and entertaining ‘Martian’ exhibits and artefacts for sale, which makes it a fun place to visit and shop. The proceeds all go to the programs run by the organisation behind the Embassy – the Sydney Story Factory.
Those programs are aimed at assisting young people in the area to changte their lives through literacy, creative writing and storytelling. The seating and tables at the back of the store host workshops, and there’s a library for attendees to use.
When I was at the Time Travel Mart, I bought a little booklet of stories written by the kids who did the workshops. The Martian Embassy offered the same chance to support their project here. Whelp contains stories, poems and essays by young people from Sydney.
Its forward is by one of my favourite writers, Benjamin Law. The stories are hugely varied, full of flair, humour, imagination and, from time to time, startling insight. Some of the tales are downright Kafka-esque! It’s fabulous to read the result of the project’s work with young people.
Next time you’re in Sydney, drop in to The Martian Embassy at 176 Redfern Street, Redfern NSW 2016. In the meantime, you can: