My Australian publisher, Clan Destine Press, is having a massive book sale this month! Most of the books are in paperback as well as ebook, and there are some corkers available, all at 50% off.
If you’re a fan of the Phryne Fisher TV series, the author of the book series, Kerry Greenwood, also writes fantasy and erotica. Her Delphic Women series explores Medea, Electra and Cassandra. Her brand new collection, Herotica, is full of stories about heroes and beautiful men having fabulous sex.
I cannot sing enough of the praises of Mary Borsellino’s brilliant work. Not ever. Her Thrive is one of my favourite books ever – challenging and full of pain but also beauty, love and redemption. She’s awesome. She also writes lovely erotica.
Alison Goodman, of the famed Eon series and the new Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, has an Aussie SF/Crime novel with Clan Destine called A New Kind of Death.
RC Daniels’ The Price of Fame is rock and roll, crime and the paranormal in St Kilda!
So if you want to try some new reading and see the amazing books Australian writers have to offer, now is a great time to fill up your shelf or you kindle with a bunch of brilliant stuff!
When vampires and an Australian setting combine in the imagination of a great writer, you betcha I’m going to be there, reading the hell out of that thing.
I’m a little late to the party, mind you, since Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust somehow escaped my attention when it was originally published as a digital-only book with Xoum. Thank fang that Clan Destine Press pounced and published both Blood and Dust and its sequel, The Big Smoke, in 2015.
Nahrung, who wrote the excellent Salvage, sets the first of his ‘Vampires in the Sunburnt Country’ series in outback Queensland, the last place you’d ever expect to find rival gangs of vampires who are traditionally fatally sensitive to sunlight.
Kevin Matheson, a mechanic who works at his parents service station in the tiny and slowly wilting country town of Barlow’s Siding. But then a car pulls in, containing a policeman who isn’t, his dying partner and a body in the boot that, despite the steel sticking out of his chest, isn’t quite dead.
Things go from bad to personal apocalypse pretty quickly after that, with rival gangs having bloody shootout, and Kevin’s family caught in the middle. Kevin’s not the only one to die that day, but he’s the only one who crawls out of the earth, transformed.
Blood and Dust provides plenty of both as Kevin struggles to adjust to his new state, and to understand the deadly rivalry between the nomadic vampire bikers he’s fallen in with, and their rather more organised-crime-type vampire enemies from Brisbane. Kevin’s desperate to save the family he has left, and to survive in a world he doesn’t understand. He’s also determined to balance the books with Mira, the vampire who is trying to use him to trap the Night Riders and is a threat to his own family.
Nahrung brings his own touches to the ever-changing milieu of the vampire story. Here, blood is more than nourishment for vampires. It carries memories, and ways of linking the vampire to those from whom they drink; and especially those they drink dry. It’s a fabulous new take on both the addiction and the dangers of blood-sucking. The way that blood sharing can communicate not only memories but particular skills also leads to some very cool passages. Kevin might be the new vampire on the block, but he’s picking up some mad skills along the way.
The characters are complex and often surprising, both the vampires and their human ‘red-eyes’ who have extended life from blood sharing, but aren’t yet turned. Taipan, the first indigenous vampire character I’ve ever read, and Kevin’s maker, is fascinatingly complex and contradictory, as is Reece, the not-policeman and Mira’s favourite red-eye, who brought all this disaster down on Kevin’s head with his appearance at the servo.
Elements of Blood and Dust reminded me of Australian films of the 70s, depicting oppressive heat and simmering violence in the outback, though with a much broader (and very welcome) diversity. There’s a dash of Mad Max, a soucon of Wake in Fright, and maybe even a tiny taste of Thirst, though all transformed and written with Nahrung’s deft hand with dialogue and character.
The whole story barrels down its hot Queensland highway, full throttle, guns blazing, until its grim and bittersweet ending.
Fortunately, if, like me, you can’t wait to find out what happens next, The Big Smoke is already printed and awaiting your immediate perusal.
Picking up amost immediately after the last page of Blood and Dust, we find Kevin heading towards Brisbane and the reckoning he intends to have with those who have torn apart his life. Naturally, the course of true revenge never runs smooth. He and Reece are both dancing dangerously around enemies new and old, trying to find a way to win.
Just as Blood and Dust evokes the raw and violent Aussie films of the 70s, The Big Smoke, set in Brisbane and on the coast, has a feel of the more recent run of Australian films exploring urban violence, though with that air of organised crime rather than mere bogan thuggery. There are still gunfights aplenty, and the grittier battle for power between the rival city gangs. The politics are complicated and nobody can be trusted. Kevin’s put the wind up them all, with his recent successes despite his recent arrival, combined with his blood determination to make someone pay for all that he’s lost.
The story takes a couple of unexpected turns, and the ending is both unexpected and satisfying.
Obviously these books are a great read if you’re after the novelty of an Australian take on the vampire novel. They’re also gritty, action-packed dramas, filled with great, complex characters – not least of which are the rural Queensland landscape and the city of Brisbane.
Buy Blood and Dust
- Blood & Dust (Amazon ebook)
- Blood and Dust (Clan Destine ebook)
- Blood and Dust (Clan Destine paperback)
Buy The Big Smoke
I really like Goodreads. I love keeping track of the books I’ve read (and reread) just for my own interest.
My stats this year say this is the most books I’ve read in a year since starting to keep track – 63! Looks impressive, and I’m pleased to see it’s a good mix of classic and contemporary work, reading in crime, romance, horror, fantasy, humour and graphic novels.
Twenty-nine of the books were written or edited by women. Of the books by blokes, most were either by PG Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle or the comic book team of Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, the guys behind Unshelved, a comic set in a public library. (I read 10 of their collected editions, having backed the digital publication of same in a Kickstarter.) And not to be too wedded to binary genders, I’ve added a lot of new writers to my lists this year, particularly in the anthologies I’ve read.
Highlights of the reading year
I seem to either have good luck in the books I choose to read, or I’m very easy to please, as I thoroughly enjoyed most of my reading this year.
I have my favourites of course, the cream on top of the creme de la creme: Treasure Island, which I read for the first time ever, and PG Wodehouse’s hilarious and extremely unreliable memoir, Bring on the Girls, co-written with Guy Bolton. A Pride of Poppies, an anthology of queer love stories set in WWI, was beautiful and touching and sometimes funny and sometimes so sad and all of it was amazing.
In non-fiction, I loved Ruth Goodman’s How To Be a Victorian for its insights, as I’ve been writing a book set in the era. I also finally got around to Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments, a book about the Milgram obedience experiments by Gina Perry, which I picked up years ago at Clunes Book Week. It uncovers the circumstances behind the experiments, how they led to stricter ethical guidelines for psychology studies and how they don’t really teach us anything that we’re told they teach us.
In crime, Livia Day’s The Blackmail Blend is a terrific short story and I must read the novels in the series, and Emma Viskic promises to be a great new Australian crimewriting talent with Resurrection Bay and her deaf protagonist, Caleb. I also loved Alison Goodman’s A New Kind of Death, an SF/crime hybrid, and I aim to read more of her work too.
I also finally read a Chuck Wendig novel, Blackbirds, and found it as profane and funny as I find his excellent blog, Terrible Minds. I’m looking forward to more of his work (I have three on the Kindle for 2016!)
The Day/Night They Met
And two of my very favourite books of the year? Companion pieces by the same author, Wendy C Fries. In Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – The Day They Met, Fries gives 50 new ways for the famous friends to have met for the first time, across eras from the Victorian to the modern day.
Writing as Atlin Merrick, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Night They Met the same author gives us 19 ways those two men met and fell in love. It’s the first Holmes/Watson romance to come out of Improbable Press, and it’s a marvellous start for a publisher that aims to celebrate queer readings of the Holmes-and-Watson legend.
How else was my reading year broken up?
Twelfth Planet Press
Among the books by Australian women, I read the final three collections in the Twelve Planets series, Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love, The Female Factory by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett and Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin – all three showcasing remarkable talent in specfic and horror. Twelfth Planet Press always produces amazing books, and if you’ve missed this twelve-book series I recommend you hunt it down or get the books in digital format (including my own Showtime, number 5 in the series.)
As part of my research for writing The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, a Holmes/Watson romance due out this year with Improbable Press, I reread the entire Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an education in going back to the source material.
The same could be said of my first-time reading of Treasure Island, which I’d only seen in screen versions before, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I haven’t read since I was a kid. I also read a lot of PG Wodehouse, who is always a great comfort in times of stress, and finally a Jane Austen that wasn’t Pride and Prejudice – Persuasion. (I began this year with Mansfield Park, which I didn’t particularly enjoy – I want to slap everyone in it. Do other people have this reaction?)
Forensics and True Crime
In further pursuit of research for my Holmes/Watson novel, I also spent a lot of the year reading up about the history of forensics and other related non-fiction books, primarily The Nutshell Studies, The Science of Sherlock Holmes, the three volumes of The Century of the Detective by Jurgen Thorwald (The Marks of Cain about fingerprinting, Dead Men Tell Tales about forensic science and Proof of Poison about toxicology), now out of print – I was lucky enough to pick up two of them at Clunes and found the third on eBay.
I ended with A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley and based on her TV show about how murder became such a national obsession for the Brits.
I thought I’d read more romance this year, but perhaps it’s just that I have read a lot of books where romance is part of a crime plot or some other fusion. Besides Persuasion and the aforementioned The Night They Met, I also enjoyed the unconventional princess-in-the-tower story, Her Silent Oath by Julia Leijon, and some excellent queermance.
A Pride of Poppies, as also mentioned, was very moving, while Jane Elliot‘s Smoothie, an action-romance for a lesbian couple, was a lively read. Tyler Knoll’s Just for Fun by AB Gayle was just sheer silly-crazy fun.
How about you?
I hope your reading year was also filled with old favourites, new discoveries, unexpected knowledge and ideas to spark other reading or your own writing. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!
I 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:
Resurrection Bay (Five Mile Press)
Resurrection Bay (Booktopia)
Resurrection Bay (Readings)
Resurrection Bay (Kobo)
Resurrection Bay (iBooks)
In 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:
- Encounters (Amazon.com ebook)
- Encounters (Amazon.com paperback)
- Encounters (Amazon.com.au ebook)
- Encounters (Amazon.co.uk ebook)
If you get the book, it would be great if you could leave a review as well!
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.
Speaking 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.
In 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.
I’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.
In 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.
Not 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.
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
This 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!
If 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.
You 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.
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!
And 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
These 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.
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
- Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met: 50 New Ways the World’s Most Legendary Partnership Might Have Begun (Amazon.com)
- The Day They Met (Amazon.uk)
- The Day They Met (Book Depository)
- The Day They Met (MX Publishing)
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.
The last few months have been good to me, writing wise, with a couple of things published.
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.
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’.)
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:
- Clan Destine Press
- Homecoming: a Talbott & Burns mystery (Clandestine Encounters) (Amazon)
Another 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!
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.
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.
In 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:
Finally, 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.
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.