“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)
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.
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)
Modern LGBTQ+ fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s novels.
Thirteen stories from eleven authors, exploring the world of Jane Austen and celebrating her influence on ours.
Manifold Press’s anthology of queered Jane Austen short stories became available on 1 November 2016. Some of the stories use Austen’s characters in their original setting; some are modern takes on Austen’s tales; and some are original characters in the Regency period.
My contribution to the anthology, ‘Know Your Own Happiness’, is a modern take on Persuasion. It’s the story of Cooper West, who was persuaded by his brother four years ago that it was easier to pretend to be straight than admit to being bi and having a boyfriend. It was a stupid decision that cost him the love of his life, Archer Flynn. Now out, recently dumped and still harbouring regret for his lost love, Fate and Cooper’s cousin Kate are about to intervene.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Come to my book group with me on Thursday, Coop,” Kate told her melancholy new flatmate.
Cooper sighed and shook his head, resisting the inevitable.
“C’mon,” she wheedled. “You’ve been lying around the flat like a depressed slug for eight weeks. So it didn’t work out with Ruby.”
“Or with Shen, or that boy with the mohawk,” she added, “or … Helena wasn’t it, before that, and Mandy? They were about the same time, anyway, and before that Isla, Poppy … “
He grunted again. More of a snarl, really.
“Okay, so you’ve had a run of miserable luck. Shake it off. Read a book, eat something with vitamins in it, have a fucking bath, spritz up your sad hair and come out with me on Thursday. We’re reading Jane Austen this month.”
Cooper made a noise like it was the end of the world, and the end-times smelled like cheap dog food. “Aren’t you meant to make this sound appealing?”
“What’s not appealing about Austen, you cretin?”
“It’s all fucking bonnets and county balls.”
“Shows what you know,” Kate sneered back. “It’s all sass and snark, though I will admit there are bonnets. And you like balls, don’t you? As well as boobies?”
“Ha fucking ha.”
“No, really Coop. You smell like a school bathroom. Scrub up, pull on your glad rags and come to book club. You could meet a lovely girl. Or a lovely boy. With or without bonnets. Besides, if you don’t, I won’t have anyone to be my wingman at the club after. And I need a wingman.”
“You said I had a face like a wet week and to stay the hell away from you when you were on the pull.”
“That was last week. This week I need a wingman. So get up you lazy, mopey sod, and read this.” She tossed a pre-loved paperback at him, “And gird your loins for Captain Wentworth. He’s hot. Imagine Hugh Jackman in tight breeches.”
Cooper took up the copy of Persuasion and leafed through the first few pages. “All right,” he said, unenthusiastically, “I’ll come to your book group. I’ll even wash.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Kate, with a little air punch. She grinned, then sobered at Cooper’s frown. “Really, Coop,” she said, “it’ll be good.”
Cooper smiled at her, giving her some crumb of effort in exchange for hers.
His cousin patted his shoulder and it made him want to weep.
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened? I mean … you came back with one bloody suitcase, and Ruby sent four boxes over, and that was it. Most of your stuff was still here in your room. My spare room.” She shook her head. “Your room. You never really moved in with her, did you? That was the problem.”
Cooper looked at his feet. “It was a manifestation of the problem.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“Is it about what happened when you came out to your mum and dad?” Which was why Cooper now lived in Kate’s spare room on such a regular basis.
“Before then. But. I don’t want to talk about it. I messed up. I ran away because I was scared of losing everything, and lost it anyway when I stopped pretending I wasn’t bi. So.” He shrugged. “I’ll get over it.”
Kate stooped to kiss his forehead. “You’re a good guy, Coop. You’ve got a good heart, and a good brain. It’ll get better.”
He nodded and smiled, more successfully than last time.
He was better than he’d been after abandoning Archer. He was better than he’d been after his family abandoned him. It would get better again. Not as good as it had been with Archer, but better.
You can get A Certain Persuasion here:
- A Certain Persuasion (Amazon Kindle)
- A Certain Persuasion (Amazon paperback)
- A Certain Persuasion (Amazon UK)
- A Certain Persuasion (Amazon UK paperback)
- A Certain Persuasion (Smashwords)
- A Certain Persuasion (AllRomance)
- A Certain Persuasion (Kobo)
- A Certain Persuasion (Nook)
I’m delighted to announce that I have another short story coming out this year. What’s more, it’s in a Sherlock Holmes anthology that is raising funds for a school housed in Arthur Conan Doyle’s old home, Undershaw.
The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V: Christmas Adventures is the latest anthology from MX Publishing. The book is, as the name implies, the newest of the MX anthology series containing trraditional, canon-era adventures, with sale proceeds all going to support the Stepping Stones school for children with learning difficulties. (This means that I and my fellow writers have waived payment to ensure the maximum funds go to this project.)
The anthology is edited by well-known Holmesian writer, David Marcum, and its contributors include Wendy C. Fries (author of The Day They Met), Denis O. Smith and James Lovegrove, with forwards by Jonathan Kellerman and Steve Emecz, among others.
You can back this project up until 21 October 2016 on its Kickstarter. (After that date, you’ll be able to get the anthology, along with its predecessors, online at MX Publishing or through Amazon.)
There are plenty of options, including a PDF, a paperback or a hardcover copy of the book. You can even back it by getting Volumes 1-5 as a paperback or hardback set.
Find out more or back the book at:
As a bit of a taster of what you’ll find in the anthology, here’s an excerpt from The Christmas Card Mystery:
The mantelpiece was as cluttered as ever with pipes and the Persian slipper, a few stray plugs of tobacco held against his morning smoke, unopened correspondence, the clock, a collection of curved wooden shapes of obscure function, and a retort containing pale yellow fluid sitting in a cradle – some half completed or completely forgotten experiment, no doubt. The morocco case was thankfully not to be seen. An engaging case, then.
Sitting among all of this habitual detritus were five Christmas cards, each depicting scenes of a macabre humour. A frog that had stabbed its fellow, two naked-plucked geese with a man on a roasting spit, a wasp chasing two children with the unlikely subtitle A Joyous New Year, a savage white bear crushing an explorer in A Hearty Welcome, and a dead robin which read May yours be a joyful Christmas. The latter at least hearkened to the Christ story, the rest to a certain black wit about Holmes’s profession.
It seemed likely to me that one card had been sent by Lestrade, others by Gregson or Jones. I took up the card depicting the frog-murder but found it inscribed merely with To my dear friend at the top and Mrs Inke Pullitts underneath. The script was disorderly, as though done in haste, and struck me as more a masculine than a feminine hand.
I was startled out of my examination when the door flew open and Sherlock Holmes strode through it, a dozen newspapers under his arm.
“Ah, Watson, I see you are making yourself at home! No, no, my dear fellow, go right ahead, and tell me what you make of my Yuletide correspondence while I pour us a brandy. It’s a cruel day out, and my blood’s in need of warming.”
He abandoned the papers over the arm of his chair. His pale cheeks were rosy with the cold he’d just escaped, and his grey eyes sparkled with the merriment I had long associated with an intriguing case.
“I had thought our friends at Scotland Yard were sending you cards,” I admitted, “But I realise I must be quite wrong. They’ve never sent you any before now.” In fact, Holmes rarely received such personal missives, except from me and Mary or his brother Mycroft Holmes. “Did you retain the envelope?”
Holmes placed two glasses on the table and fetched five envelopes from beneath a book on folklore. The topmost he gave to me. I examined it closely – it was addressed in the same untidy hand as the card to the attention of Mr S Holmes, though scrawled so untidily as to appear to read ‘Mrs Hulmes’. The paper was inexpensive, matching the quality of the card, and bore no return address. The corner of the envelope was marked, fore and aft, with a peculiar indentation, as though it had contained something other than the greeting. I saw a similar mark upon the matching card. I sniffed the paper, as I had seen Holmes do in his investigations, but it told me nothing and made me feel foolish. I couldn’t bring myself to dab the tip of my tongue to the paper, another of Holmes’s investigative techniques.
“What was in it?” I asked.
Once more – you can find out more or back the book at:
Kerry Greenwood may be best known for her Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman series, but she has written far and wide, including SF, fantasy and her Delphic Women trilogy, retelling the stories of Media, Cassandra and Electra.
The fabulously diverse and busy Ms Greenwood also takes great delight in romance, including queermance, and has just launched two books of Herotica – that is, ‘heroic erotica’
Clan Destine describes the first volume of Herotica as ‘tales of love and lust between heroic and adventurous men across the ages from Ancient Egypt to a future in space’. Kerry Greenwood describes it as ‘wonderful stories of gorgeous gay men shagging each other senseless in impeccable historical settings’.
Both descriptions are delightfully accurate, and it’s a wonderful thing to read so many stories of men falling in love and getting a happy-ever-after (with an occasional ‘happy-for-now’) ending. I love a happy ending and given the mainstream’s habit of presenting queer stories full of punishment and pain, these stories were an especial joy.
Greenwood has cleverly – and quite charmingly – followed storytelling conventions of the eras in which the stories are set. In tales set in classic ancient cultures, men tend to meet, declare their undying love for each other on the instant and then dedicate themselves to one another thereafter. Stories in later eras have the protagonists generally taking a bit of time to get to know each other, before, bless them, declaring thir undying love and dedicating themselves to one another for life.
The 36 stories start with two men conducting a symbolic battle between Horus and Set and the evacuation of Atlantis; they end with spaceships, androids, heavenly beings and earthy, loving humans. In between are Romans, Greeks and Welsh druids; there are time travellers and summoners of demons; there’s Leonardo Da Vinci, William Shakespeare and Noel Coward; Holmes and Watson and King Arthur’s Court; wars and peacetime, humour and drama; and above all, love.
It’s inexpressibly charming that all the stories and their couples having happy endings (though some are a little bittersweet). Most of the do indeed have these ‘gorgeous gay men shagging each other senseless’, but their communion is rarely explicit, full of the sweetness of love as well as passion.
Favourite stories include… well, all of them. But that’s not especially helpful, so I’ll single out a few.
- The Library Angel is a love story for booklovers. The Angel presides over an afterlife where all the storytellers and those who loved, and saved, knowledge find their rest, along with all the lost books. This is where our heroes from the burning library of Alexandria find themselves, and it sounds like paradise to me.
- Aqaue Sulis is one of the stories that ends with notes indicating the story was built on little hints from real life (in this case, an unusual grave from the borders of Roman Bath). In the story, two people have been pulled through time to the Minerva Pool from their respective futures and forge a new life in their new shared past.
- The Devil’s Bargain sees a scholar summoning a demon to ask for love. Of course, demons can’t be trusted, but things don’t turn out quite how either the summoner or the demon predicted.
- Salai and Mentzi is the story of two of Leonardo Da Vinci’s household and the last days of the Great Master’s life. Salai is the name given to the man who was the model for Da Vinci’s last great painting of John the Baptist.
- The Secret Diary of Dr John Watson, MD is of course a story after my own heart, with its reading of Holmes and Watson as a love story.
- Do Not Despair is not likewise a Biggles story, but it’s Biggles-esque and full of derring-do as well as heroic love.
- I Never Got the Hang of Thursdays is a space opera of a story: it’s a lot of fun and pays tribute to a lot of humorous forebears, including Douglas Adams and The Princess Bride. A sexy space pirate is always good value.
- Spaceships Other Planets has an awkward genius and his longsuffering best friend finally working their secretly-in-love selves out. I love this sort of thing better than chocolate!
These are particular favourites, but all the stories are a delight – and for all that the theme is consistent, they each have a fresh story to tell, proving Kerry Greenwood has hundreds of stories yet to tell us.
Which is by way of saying that I need to get my hands on volume 2!
Buy Herotica Volume 1
For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
I first heard that six word story when Mary Borsellino told of how she had found it so terribly sad that her friend, artist Audrey Fox, decided to subvert the gloominess of it. Since they both enjoyed monster stories, Audrey used that as an inspiration to illustrate the story in a way that gave it a happy ending (a version of which you can see here – Audrey redrew the picture for my blog!).
Of the picture, Audrey says, “I was really just using my imagination and thinking about what else the story could mean that wasn’t ‘sad baby tragedy’.”
Now, the saddest part of this whole thing is that the Hemingway part of it isn’t true. Ernest Hemingway’s writing of the tragic six-word novel is an urban legend.
A very similar story actually dates at least to Hemingway’s own childhood, when a newspaper classifieds section titled Terse Tales of the Town published the item, “For sale, baby carriage, never been used” in 1906. Similarly worded stories popped up again every few years in newspapers.
Whether the bet with Hemingway ever happened (and if it did, whether Hemingway quoted this story deliberately) is unclear – but that version of the story is ascribed to literary agent, Peter Miller, who first told it in 1974 – after Hemingway’s death – and then published it in a 1991 book. It was just the latest in a long line of stories about that story, but it’s the one that stuck.
The idea of writing something so perfectly pithy over lunch is an appealing legend, but the perfection and pithiness of the six word ‘novel’ remains, whatever its origin.
I don’t think it spoils the tale to note that Hemingway didn’t create it. I love the fact that this little notion first popped up in 1906 (if not earlier) and proceeded to grow, little by little, acquiring embellishments as it rolled down the years, until it grew to the story of a dinner party and a bet and a writer of terse words.
Or until it grew to the story of terse words, a sad friend, and an artist who decided to turn the whole thing on its head.
It’s a great reminder that many stories never stop being told, and never stop growing in the telling. It’s a reminder that stories can mean different things to different generations and that sometimes, if you look at an old story in a new way, it can grow into a whole new meaning.
Sometimes with tentacles.
You can find some of Audrey’s art, and other art that she likes, on her Tumblr.
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!