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Review: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

resurrection-bayI love a good yarn set in my hometown. I love books that are deft and go at a cracking pace and offer twists that are seem so natural just moments after you’ve gone WTF? I love books that reflect diverse characters with great depth and texture. I love books that portray experiences outside my own. I love books that finish with a sense of satisfaction and yet as though the characters and their lives will go on after I’ve put the book down.

It’s hardly a wonder then, that I loved Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay so completely. I got so excited by developments when I was a quarter of the way through it, in fact, that I started sending tweets to the author along the lines of [engage allcaps] HOLY MOTHER OF HADES THIS BIT, THIS BIT, THIS BIT RIGHT HERE, OH. MY. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!

Fortunately, the author seemed to respond well to my gleeful flailing over a few days.

So now, dear reader, I will flail gleefully at YOU.

We meet Caleb Zelic holding the blood-soaked corpse of his childhood friend, Gary, a policeman who was doing some work for Caleb’s security business on the side. It’s a few pages before we realise that Caleb’s difficulty communicating with emergency services isn’t only due to shock – Caleb is deaf, though he doesn’t like to draw attention to the fact.

From this distressing beginning, things just get worse and worse for Caleb. Filled with guilt for the death of his friend, suspected by the police and desperate to not be one of the bodies that is starting to pile up, Caleb and his partner Frankie seem always a step behind. It soon becomes clear that it’s not certain who they can trust. Is Caleb’s drug addict brother part of this awful mess? Who is Scott, who is implicated but whom no-one seems to know?

The action takes place around Melbourne and the coastal town of Resurrection Bay, where Caleb grew up. At one stage I was on the #86 tram, reading, when one of the characters was also on the tram. (And yes, reader, I did have an idle look around for him. Just in case. But he wasn’t actually there. Under the circumstances, this was probably a Good Thing.)

Caleb is a terrific lead character – likeable and capable, but flawed. His stubbornness can be admirable at times, but it’s also the thing that leaves the people he loves just a little outside. Because he relies on more than his “hearing” (via fallible hearing aid and lip-reading), he sometime sees more than he wants to say. He sometimes turns away so he doesn’t have to read things he doesn’t want to know. He tends to keep a distance between himself and other people. But you live in his world while you read – the anxiety of not always catching what people are saying, the patronising way people can be when they realise he’s deaf, and, oh hell yes, the strangely silent world of fighting for your life when one of your senses is barred to you. (Viskic notes in her afterword that she worked closely with people in the Deaf community to ensure Caleb’s sensory experiences were accurately reflected.)

Frankie, his partner, is a woman with challenges of her own, as an alcoholic ex-cop, and Caleb’s ex-wife, Kat, is a fabulously strong, dynamic character – a Koori woman, an artist, who is not impressed with his sometimes selective communications.These two very different and very textured women are an excellent foil to Caleb’s strengths and failings.

With these great characters, the Victorian location, and the punchy writing, you’ve got it all – crime, danger, love, heartbreak, betrayal, murder, hope, violence, and enough surprises to keep you wolfing down the words right to the very end.

I look forward to more from Emma Viskic in future, and, I hope, more of Caleb Zelic.

Buy Resurrection Bay:

Paperback

Resurrection Bay (Five Mile Press)

Resurrection Bay (Booktopia)

Resurrection Bay (Readings)

E-book

Resurrection Bay (Kobo)

Resurrection Bay (Caleb Zelic Book 1) (Amazon)

Resurrection Bay (iBooks)

 

 

New release: Encounters edited by Jessica Augustsson

EncountersKindleCoverIn my mid-year review I mentioned a new SF anthology, Encounters, in which my story Show and Tell would appear – and now Encounters has been released into the wild!

Ever since Robinson found a stranger’s footprint on his solitary island, literature—and especially Science Fiction and Fantasy literature—has been fascinated by meeting the Other. In Encounters, the second speculative fiction anthology by JayHenge Publishing, you can find out what happens when different species, populations, times—or even objects—meet.

My story, Show and Tell, is about the most exciting Show and Tell day EVER, which comes about because Mandy has taken a cursed mummified hand to school for the event. (Dadda didn’t say she couldn’t; mostly because Mandy was much too wise to ask first.) The question is, who is more at risk? Class 1B, or the hand?

Encounters is available in paperback as well as e-book format from all the Amazons, of which these are a few:

If you get the book, it would be great if you could leave a review as well!

June 2015: The Mid-Year Review

upcoming Improbable booksWith the recent zhuzhing up on my blog, I thought it was time to do another of my Mid-Year reviews as a round up of what’s been happening this year, and what’s coming up in the next twelve months.

If you’ve come here from one of my other blogs, you’re aware that I’m trying to streamline all my social media (of which I have way too much) so that I can spend less time on social media admin and more time on writing the very many writing projects I have lined up like ducks at a shooting gallery. Or like tequila shots at the bar. (Either way, it’s going to be messy.)

So welcome to the new-look Mortal Words blog, where I will write about the usual writing/reading/Melbourne/travel/as-the-whim-takes-me stuff – and to which I will add posts on music, Kitty & Cadaver related projects, stuff related to romance and erotica (which I also write) and more stuff-as-the-whim-takes-me. I may also repost some of the posts from the other two blogs here, for consistency and linking purposes and the like.

The first bit of housekeeping news to share is that my publisher, Clan Destine Press, and I are in the process of changing the name under which I publish my romance fiction from NM Harris back to the full, real me – Narrelle M Harris. Apart from the extra social media work generated by the split, we figured that since I usually write very action-oriented plots for my romance and erotica, it’s not really that different from my usual work (except raunchier in parts).

We’re also talking about getting some of my out-of-print work tidied up and more easily available too. I’ll announce those when the details are worked out.

TandB A Paying Client smallestSpeaking of my erotic romance stories – two have been released so far this year! The second story in the Talbott and Burns Mysteries, about the two-man Scooby gang of Elliot Talbott and his boyfriend Jack Burns was released in February. A Paying Client sees the lads investigating possible witchiness on behalf of their first-ever paying client, a housewife from Reservoir. Naturally, things don’t run at all smoothly.

BirdsFinal_v_smlIn May, Birds of a Feather was released – the first of the Hammer and Tongue series about Alice, an engineer, and her linguist girlfriend Nerida.

There will be more stories for both series in due course, and more for my sexy spy couple, Philip Marsden and Martine Dubois (including one set in Canada in the wilderness!).

I also had a short story, The Birthday Present, published in the Queermance 2 anthology, (last year, Late Bloomer was published in the first Queermance anthology). The anthology was published in partnership with the second Queermance Festival, held in Melbourne in February 2015.

(You can find buy links for all of those stories and my other books on the Shop page!)

I’m waiting on feedback before completing the final draft of my first erotic romance novel, Ravenfall – paranormal action adventure with vampires, precognitive dreamers, a fox spirit and a spate of murders. That one features James Sharpe, vampire, and Gabriel Dare, an artist.

ImprobablePressI’m also absolutely delighted that my pitch for a Holmes/Watson canon-era romance adventure set in Australia was accepted by new Holmesian imprint, Improbable Press – because queer readings of Holmes are not at all new, but a publisher for those kinds of stories is. The Adventure of the Colonial Boy will come out in 2016. Now to write it! If you want to keep track of that, and the other books being released (starting with The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes by Atlin Merrick, launching in October) you can Like the Improbable Press Facebook page. IP will run a variety of competitions, too.

EncountersKindleCoverIn Short Story news – my story Show and Tell will appear in a digital anthology, Encounters, later this year. I’ve also been writing short stories to submit to other anthologies, including Clan Destine’s And Then… due out next year. I’ll post as and when (I hope) those are accepted!

Alongside all of these projects, I have notes for more books (including a third book in the Gary and Lissa vampire series – I haven’t forgotten! – and a second book in the Kitty and Cadaver series).

Kitty and Cadaver itself is with an agent, but I am slowly working on scoring the melodies for the songs used in the book, and looking to collaborate with musicians to arrange, perform and record them. Already Ann Poore has done a lovely version of Gretel’s Lullaby on the harp. Those who were at Continuum 11 last weekend saw (and bought) the beautiful jewellery that was created from broken musical instruments, too.

omnivoreNot content with writing books, short stories and music – I’ve also been experimenting with design at Redbubble. I have a range of designs available, some of which include song lyrics, or personal mottos, or text relating to the romance writing (the Adventurous Hearts line).

And finally, I recently spent a few days in the Wimmera region of Victoria, visiting libraries and talking about Growing Up Reading or doing writing workshops on Killer Opening Sentences. But that’s a post for another time.

Support your local writer

12840582_sSo. A friend of yours – maybe a close friend, maybe just an acquaintance you quite admire, maybe an actual relative – has just had a book published. Perhaps their first. Perhaps their latest.

It’s entirely possible that you love this book. It’s entirely possible that you will buy it, hard cover, hot off the stands, read it and tell everyone you love it, etc etc etc.

It’s also entirely possible that you won’t like it much. That it’s not really your genre, not your cup of tea, not what you love in a book.

But you love that person, or like that person, and you want to be supportive somehow.

Here are some tips on how to support the writers you love, and the books they write (which you may also love).

Buy the book

mgapcoverThis is one of the first, best things you can do. Support your writing friend by putting your money where your mouth is. Buy the paperback, or buy the ebook (or buy both). And if it’s not really your thing? Psst. You don’t really have to read it.

I mean, yes, of course, read it. Books are written to be read, and the writer in your life hopes you’ll read it, and hopes you’ll love it, or like it, or at least not hate it. But if it’s really not your thing, you’re at least helping to boost the signal. It’s still worth something.

I can’t afford to buy the book; and it’s not my kind of book; and isn’t buying it and not reading it a bit shifty?

Well, yes, there are reasons both financial and personal that can bar you from buying your friend’s book. But there’s a really cool standby technique for this:

Get your library to buy the book!

thedaytheymetIf you lack funds, or bookshelf space, there’s a cool thing you can do that will support that writer with sales (and therefore income) and still give you a chance to read the book (or not read it, as the case may be).

GO TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY AND REQUEST IT.

In fact, I’ve just done that with The Day They Met. (Despite the fact I already have the e-book and have the paperback coming!)

I went to my local library, found out how to request books, then I logged in and I asked for that book! I used all the necessary details I could find on Amazon (Full title, publisher, publication date, ISBN etc) and put that in the system and said HIT ME UP WITH THIS AWESOME SHERLOCK HOLMES BOOK, IT’S WHAT MY TAXES PAY FOR BABY, GIMME GIMME GIMME. Only in more formal language.

NilByMouthYou can even do this if you already own the book, because it’s a great way to help people who do not know and love your friend to be exposed to their work. This can be especially important if their book is not your cup of tea – people who really love that lapsang souchong stuff are out there this minute, scouring libraries for their delicious beverage of choice!! HELP THEM FIND IT!!

Hell, if you can, go to your siblings’ libraries, your parents’ library, your school or uni, GO TO ALL THE LIBRARIES AND ASK THEM TO GET IT IN FOR YOU.

This sells books for publishers and authors. This exposes books you love to wider audiences who may not hear of it otherwise but might see it on the shelf or in a search.

Feedback Do’s and Don’ts

Of course your writer friend would love to know that you loved the book but… yeah, sometimes you don’t. What to do?

Well, don’t lie. Dishonesty isn’t a great thing, and it’s a downhill road for a friendship. (Especially when you might feel you’re expected to support your gushing with quote from favourite bits.

(And here’s a word of advice for writers – don’t ask people what they thought of the book. If they love you but they don’t love your book, it puts both of you in an awkward position. Here is the only occasion on which Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell is an acceptable policy.)

However, you can say how proud you are of your friend, or comment on how great they must feel. Comment on the effort if not the words in question.

And for goodness’s sake, if you spot an error in the text, a typo or a factual error in the final published work, DON’T SAY ANYTHING.

There will be plenty of people who have no emotional investment in the personal relationship who won’t hesitate to bring those things up. The thing to remember is that you are supporting a friend here, and errors that have slipped through the editing and proofreading and all those things to be in the final product are there for keeps now. The book has been published. It’s too late to fix them. You can’t recall the entire print run to fix a bloody typo! Leave it to those whose job it is to review and critique to do that. Chances are your writer has already seen that goddamned typo on page 47 and is praying like billy-o that no-one else has noticed. Don’t be the one to burst their hapless bubble.

Reviews!

If, on the other hand, you really really loved the book, and you have honest to god things to say about it – by all means, give some  encouraging feedback or, better yet – write a review. On Amazon, Goodreads, on your blog, whatever site is selling the book. Reviews help people who are, once more, looking for their particular literary beverage, find that book and decide whether or not to buy it. You don’t have to write a long analysis, though if you feel it’s in you, go for it.

(I should add here that there are many books I’ve loved but not reviewed because my time is finite, so lack of feedback on my part is not necessarily lack of literary love. Just lack of literal time.)

Support means you get new work by writers you love!

f2m The Boy WithinAnd whether or not you know the writer, if you love a book, support it. Spruik it and review it and share the love, because the noise-to-signal ratio out there is high, and every little boost helps. Very few of the thousands of writers out there make a living out of writing fiction. Help a few of them at least make enough to buy a celebratory cupcake.

More importantly, good reviews and good sales will encourage them to write another book, and encourage publishers to publish it as well, so you can enjoy a new book by the writer you love! EVERYBODY WINS!

In short – support every writer whose books you love. Especially new writers, those out there for the very first time.

SPREAD THE WORD.

SPREAD THE LOVE.

Some hot recommendations

devilThese are books by people I know, and like and love – and whose books I do, in fact, love. I’ve bought said books in paperback and in ebook form (and in both when they’re available sometimes). I’ve reviewed them on Amazon and Goodreads (or this blog) and I’ve asked my local library to get copies in. And now here I am, spreading the word and spreading the love.

And remember my motto – I may be biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!

  • The Day They Met by Wendy C Fries – 50 short stories on alternative ways Sherlock Holmes and John Watson may have met. Each and every story a gem, and many that had me laughing madly on the tram to work.
  • Mind the Gap by Tim Richards – a fantasy action-adventure with Egyptology, dreamscapes and trains. Snappy pacing, real serial-adventure with cliffhangers stuff and engaging characters.
  • Nil By Mouth by LynC – one man’s experience of an alien invasion of earth. Thoughtful, unexpected, human, compassionate, horrifying and deeply humane in turns.
  • The Devil’s Mixtape by Mary Borsellino – Part horror story, part declaration of love for non-conformists, especially those who embrace being outside the norm.
  • f2m: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, the story of a transgendered boy learning how to be true to himself.

Take this opportunity to support the writers you love and tell me your hot recommendations!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – The Day They Met by Wendy C Fries

thedaytheymetBefore I begin my review of this book, a few confessions.

I adore Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I’ve confessed this before, so it’s probably not much to admit to here, but I’m naturally predisposed to look kindly on new Holmesian stories.

Wendy Fries is also a friend of mine, and I have loved her writing since I first read it. Her style is vivacious, funny and wickedly witty, and then she goes and stabs you right in the feels before kissing it better.  I find her work exciting in a similar (though not identical) way to the work of Mary Borsellino, of whom I have also waxed lyrical.

Fifty short stories is a lot to write, so Wendy asked people to throw prompts at her. I threw, she caught, she turned the prompt into something hilarious and perfect. I’m a bit delighted with the acknowlelgement in the back pages.

Those confessions being made, I neither embellish nor lie when I tell you how very much I loved this book, The Day They Met.

Produced by well-known Holmesian publisher, MX Publishing, these 50 short stories all retell the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, in different ways, in different times. (Because surely, such a great friendship, which has endured and flourished in the 128 years since their adventures were first published, would always have been destined to begin, somewhere, somewhen.)

Each short story is a little delight: tightly written yet painting very clear, incisive pictures of the two men (and what’s more, the supporting characters) as they meet for the first time.

Some stories are filled with humour – I was caught giggling on the tram to work more than once – and others with a very human insight into loneliness, courage, need and pain. Holmes and Watson were, in Conan Doyle’s original stories, two lonely men in search of a companion and purpose, and Fries evokes those hidden, driving needs extremely well, in between the deliciously outré crimes and their discovered shared sense of humour.

Fries has a background in writing non-fiction – in health, high tech and personal finance – which means the hints of crime and strange cases carry a flourish of intelligence and knowledge that add weight to the airiness with which they are scattered into the tales. Adding to that anchor of plausible cases and causes for meeting, we have Fries’ undeniable love of language, which can result in something playful becoming surprisingly heartfelt, and of course the reverse.

The tales roll trippingly off the page – they are very spritely indeed – and are full of sly and clever references to canon, whether set in the 19th century or the 21st.

If I’m willing to admit to a fault to The Day They Met – and I’m reluctant to do so – it probably lies with the reader: the impulse to gobble down 50 short, sharp, rich treats at once is both glorious and a bit overwhelming. Anybody who has eaten an entire box of fancy chocolatier chocolates at a sitting will know the feeling. (Not that I have done any such thing. No. Not at all. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. Tra la laaaaaa).

Luckily, unlike wee chocolate treats, a book can be re-consumed. The Day They Met is beautifully built for this. If you have an inhuman constitution that can resist the read-at-a-sitting impulse, you’ll enjoy dipping in and out of the book as the mood fits. If you’ve bolted the boxful already, well, you’ll have the pleasure of revisiting this tome of treats at leisure, perhaps taking your time to choose the flavour of your adventure.

Shall it be this vintage piece set in 1883 where they meet arguing over who has the rights to a hansom cab; or that tale of a man with PTSD who needs a clever, understanding man to short-circuit the terrors invoked by an intrusive tannoy? This 1886 glimpse of Holmes and Watson as children, or that 2008 introduction to Watson’s propensity for terrible titles. This bittersweet morsel, or that tangy observation, or perhaps this faintly bizarre one that appears to contain a couple of nuts?

Whether a lover of original canon or someone new to the Holmesian fold through BBC Sherlock, Fries’ range of stories has something to offer you. There’ll be adventure, laughter, courage and even the solution of bizarre and cruel crimes, in 50 bite-sized pieces.

And always and forever, there will be the Great Detective and his Boswell by the hearth at 221b Baker Street.

Buy The Day They Met

Find out more about Wendy at:

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Recent publications: erotica, essays and scars

The last few months have been good to me, writing wise, with a couple of things published.

Scar Tissue

One is a story about life and the scars it gives us. It’s a complete departure from form, as it’s non-genre and not romance either. Scar Tissue is still a love story of sorts, but it’s about family and redemption. Like so many of my stories are. You can read it in issue #49 of online magazine Mildred.

Homecoming

Two other stories are in my expanding (I was about to write ‘burgeoning’) field of erotic romance.

(I’ve now that I’ve started writing erotica that everything I write has a double meaning, and not always a subtle one. To quote Tom Lehrer, ‘When correctly viewed, everything is lewd’.)

homecoming (1)So, in March 2014 (in time for the Queermance festival) my M/M adventure/romance Homecoming was released by Clan Destine Press. Some nice reviews of it so far include:

“The author truly excels at capturing the emotional components of intimacy along with the physical aspects. I can foresee many more adventures for these two with no danger of them becoming tired of each other or boring the reader. They have wit and charm enough to take them (and us!) through many more adventures.” – Lin S – Amazon.com

“‘Passion and adventure together’ is absolutely right. Sweet and sexy story with lovely writing and some dangerous crime-solving as well! Both the leads are incredibly appealing: the steady protector Jack and the willowy and joke-cracking but secretly vulnerable Elliot. But the best part is what a good team they are, both in their investigations and in bed, and how much they care for and adore each other. Lots of fun. Highly recommended!” – Shadowphoenixfire – Goodreads

I always enjoy Relle’s Australian settings, which are fair dinkum while remaining distinctly urban. There’s always a real feel of life as it is lived in Australia today. Her characters are interestingly layered as individuals and well juxtaposed as a pairing. Her plot, meanwhile, keeps the pages turning.” – Julie Bozza – Goodreads

So that’s very lovely. If you want to get it (and it’s only a few dollars), Homecoming (A Talbott & Burns Mystery) is now available at:

Late Bloomer

Queermance-Vol-1-CoverAnother M/M story is in the Queermance anthology, where I share digital pages with writers like Kerry Greenwood and Matthew Lang.  Late Bloomer is the story of a rather melancholy judge, his night-blooming garden and his gardener, Jake.

Queermance Anthology  Vol 1 is available at:

Sex and Intimacy

If you’re interested in how I approach writing erotic romance and sex scenes, I wrote about Sex and Intimacy for the Queensland Writers Centre in March in issue 237 of their magazine.

Kitty and Cadaver

I’m also still publishing Kitty & Cadaver online – the entire book is written and the last part is scheduled to go up on 2 June. I’ll be looking for a publisher after that, and if/when it’s accepted the story part of the site will come down – so go over there and read it (and leave comments) while you can!

kittybannerFB

 

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Expendable and Showtime: e-available!

Kitty banner smallGood morrow, good readers! It’s mid July and things that I write continue to wriggle out into the world at every opportunity.

Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse continues to appear, one part at a time, every Monday. The second part of Chapter Three went up on 15 July. If you haven’t checked it out, you can start at Chapter One here.

ExpendableIn the meantime, the second of my erotic spy stories has been published. The Secret Agents, Secret Lives series began with Double Edged, and the story of Spymaster Philip Marsden and his lover, Agent Martine Dubois, continues in Expendable. As the blurb says:

Secret Agent Martine and her spymaster lover, Philip Marsden, are back in action and on the trail of international bad guy Bartos Rigo. Will they have to compromise their love or their honour to get the job done?

You can get both books in digital format from Clan Destine Press for only $1.80 each. Double Edged is also available on Kobo. 

Expendable will follow its footsteps there soon.

In the meantime, you can also get both stories for Kindle on Amazon.com:

Showtime_smlFinally, my Twelfth Planet Press contribution to the Twelve Planets series, Showtime, is now available for Kobo along with a stack of other Twelve Planets titles. These include collections by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Margo Lanagan and Kaaron Warren, who has just won the Shirley Jackson novella award for Sky, which appears in her Twelve Planets collection Through Splintered Walls.

If any of you feel so moved, it would be great if you wrote reviews for any of the Twelfth Planet Press or Encounters books on GoodReads, Amazon or Kobo (or all three!)

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: A Brighter Spark by Mary Borsellino (AWW Challenge 2013 #4)

brighter sparkReaders of this blog will know how much I adore Mary Borsellino’s horror fiction. The Wolf House and The Devil’s Mixtape remain two of my very favourite works.

Have I mentioned how versatile that writer is, though? Have I? Because she is. Not only does she write amazing horror, she also writes fun and sexy erotica with wit and intelligence.

While her latest, A Brighter Spark, hasn’t the complexity of her longer genre work, the deceptively simple story addresses a very modern human issue: how do you know when you’re a proper, fully functioning adult? And why would you want that, instead of the freewheeling excitement of being young?

Suzy is a single mum of kids in their awkward teens, and feels like life is slipping away from her. She doesn’t feel like a proper grown up, but the mad joys of her youth are obviously well behind her. Feeling at a dead end, Suzy meets the gorgeous and possibly perfect Daniel, and a one night stand blooms into the potential for something more. But Suzy fears she can’t possibly live up to him, just as she fears that being a proper adult means leaving behind all the fun stuff forever.

Suzy is likeable and you can readily identify with her as she stumbles through the difficulties of learning what responsible adulthood really means. Daniel is indeed a picture of perfection, but with just enough charm and a little geekiness to make him very appealing. As always, Borsellino does a pitch-perfect job of creating the teenaged characters and their relationships with the respective parents.

A Brighter Spark is a light, fun read, populated with appealing characters, good humour and some distractingly passionate scenes.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Don’t Fence Me In (or, Narrelle’s adventures in new genres)

Secret Agents, Secret Lives vsmlI sometimes sort-of-joke in job interviews that I haven’t had a career path. I’ve had a career meander. I’ve pottered about, taking jobs on the basis of my skills and interests at the time. Sometimes my interests were basically ‘I need to pay the rent’. I have been a bank teller, a customer service person, a kitchen hand and, for one awful and soul-withering afternoon, an outbound telemarketer.

But then I found the courage to break out of all those jobs that I did not love to write for a living, at least in the corporate sphere. I took my rather patchy background and wove a narrative through it of me as a writer: of letters to clients, of training materials, of articles for social clubs. Thank goodness for those three years I spent teaching English as a Foreign Language in Egypt in Poland, which got me through the door.

But even my corporate writing career has been eclectic. I’ve written abstracts for a news-gathering service; educational materials and advocacy texts for an aid agency;  brochures, newsletters, taglines and marketing texts for an advertising company. For a year I was a journalist who wrote about supermarkets and convenience stores and related products (and I’m still unreasonably excited that I got to interview Stephen Twining of Twinings Tea). These days I’m a quality assurance editor, being paid to be pernickety about other people’s grammar.

Cold BloodFrankly, if I’m all over the place when it comes to my day-job career, it can hardly be  a surprise to anyone that I’m just as eclectic in my vocational writing. So far in my non-office writing career I have produced crime, fantasy and horror fiction.  I’ve written a true crime essay  (part of the recently re-released Cold Blood) and two non-fiction smartphone apps. I’ve written a play. I’m currently writing songs with my talented niece, Jess Harris, for a new book project.

And my latest unexpected foray into new genres?

I’ve become a writer of erotic fiction!

I haven’t always been a fan of the genre. I read a lot of romance novels that made me want to stab one or both protagonists, but I don’t believe in dissing a genre I haven’t actually read. As much as most of the books I read left me cold, though, I would sometimes find books that were fun, with great characters and rollicking plots. I also kept meeting smart, funny, confident women who enjoyed the field. I must be missing something, I thought. So I asked the Twittersphere for advice and it delivered Anne Gracie to me. Oh. So that’s what all the fuss was about. That was what a good, fun, saucy romance story could be!

When Lindy Cameron, my publisher at Clan Destine Press, approached me about writing for the press’s new Encounters line, I thought: why not? I haven’t written in that genre before, but it’s an element of some of my previous books. And it’ll be a challenge. It’s good to be challenged. It’s obviously very hard to write romance and erotica well, and I want to find out if I can do it. I want to find out if I can write a believable romance as the central point of a story, and if I can write an explicit sex scene that isn’t utterly risible.

Let’s face it, most of my books contain an intense relationship of some kind – often a romantic one, though not always. Exploring human relationships is a significant part of my plots.

Thus – ta da! – I have added a new genre to my literary ensemble. Double Edged is the first short story in the Secret Agents, Secret Lives series. Other stories are being prepared for that and another series in Clan Destine’s Encounters erotica stories, written mainly by writers better known from other genres – including Kerry Greenwood, of Phryne Fisher fame.

To delineate this genre from my other work, I’ve opted to publish the stories under a simplified variant of my own name – NM Harris – rather than my stripper name (Heidi Hillside, if you’re interested). After all, I don’t have children to protect from my own reputation, and I’m actually pretty proud of my efforts in the genre.

But you know me – I love a bit of adventure! Double Edged is full of action, sacrifice, explosions,  spy shenanigans, swordplay and sass. And that’s before we even get to the saucy scenes.

I’d love it if you’d come on this surprise foray into love and adventure with me. (And I hope you like it if you do. It’s only $1.80, so it’s worth a try!)

And let’s all wait with bated breath to see what genre I’ll be writing in next!

Double Edged by NM Harris

Martine Dubois is a disgraced cop whose main sin was to trust a partner she should not have trusted.

When spymaster Philip Marsden, who has a painful past of his own, recruits Martine as an agent, it’s her chance to find redemption, and a chance for both of them to find love – unless duty kills them first.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

bloodywatersI have been telling people lately that I don’t think there are enough books in which rock and roll saves the world from monsters (which explains a recent project of my own: if there aren’t enough of ’em, I’ll just have to write one!). At the one day Oz Horror Con, I met Jason Franks, a comics writer whose first novel had just been published. Rock and Roll? Check. Monsters? Check. Saving the world? Well, only sort of, but still, it sounded like the very thing! I promptly bought  Bloody Waters for my Kindle.

Franks, on his website, says that Bloody Waters isn’t like other stories about rock and roll and the Devil that you may have heard. “The stories you know are about the price of selling out. Bloody Waters is about the price of keeping your integrity. Also, pop stars, demons, sorcerers, and mafia priests. Mostly, though, it’s about music.”

And what a little corker this story is! Fast-paced, funny, exciting and a smashing good read, Bloody Waters is all about rock legend in the making, Clarice Marnier. She’s focused, uncompromising, brilliant and totally badass. She goes around making hardcore rock music and offending people left, right and centre. It’s true, with the help of her laid-back boyfriend Johnny, who is a warlock, she had to make a deal with Satan in order to get a recording contract, but the talent and the drive are all hers. And she didn’t make a deal to give up her own soul, either. She’s not stupid. Of course, deals with the devil are never quite what you think they are. Come to that, though, the devil isn’t necessarily quite what you think he is either.

The story zooms along at a cracking pace, and the whole Satan, demons, souls and monsters business is very much at the periphery at the start, slowly building in frequency and intensity as the story continues. You have to wait to the last chapter to find out the whole of what the Devil is up to, and the answer is both a little surprising and very fitting.

The characterisation is terrific, especially Clarice’s complete hard-assery. I think I’d like to meet her, except that she frightens me a little. She’s smart, capable, in charge and absolutely will not put up with any of your bullshit. She’s not incapable of kindness, but she does seem incapable of tact. I wish I’d written her!

Franks’ description of music, the eponymous band Bloody Waters, Clarice’s band mates, the other bands, the humans and demons scattered throughout the music industry and all the supporting characteres are superbly yet sparingly described. Chapters are broken up into sub-chapters, almost like a series of albums and EPs, and the layout keeps the story barrelling along, even while the key underlying story takes its time to unfold. It’s a terrific balance to have achieved.

I had seriously good fun reading this book, with its earthy language, wicked humour, unexpected turns, guts-and-glory rock and the stupendous Clarice and her slightly terrifying, uncompromising integrity. Highly recommended!

Get Bloody Waters from Amazon.com

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.