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Narrelle’s 2016 Holiday Reading Rec List

2016-banner

 

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

alberts wars 2Herotica 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!

Science Fiction

THRIVE coverThrive 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.

 

Fantasy

12th nightMonstrous 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 kid-darkghosts 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.

Young Adult

Pin Drop by Roz Monette. Life on the street for a young woman in America. Realistic but hopeful, with a positive ending.

fast pitch coverFast 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.

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Crime

DrownedVanillaGhost 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.

Non Fiction

Richard III: The Maligned Kingthe-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.

Clan Destine Press’s Foolish April Sale

Clan_Destine_logoMy 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.

There’s my vampire novel set in Melbourne, Walking Shadows, and my erotic romances, but since this isn’t all about me, let me give you some recommendations!

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 sinTHRIVE coverg 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.

Want more of an Aussie vampire fix? Jason Nahrung’s Vampires in a Sunburnt Country series is terrific.

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 DanielsThe 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!

Review: Blood and Dust & The Big Smoke by Jason Nahrung

blood-dust-webWhen 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.

the-big-smoke-webFortunately, 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.

Read more:

Buy Blood and Dust

Buy The Big Smoke

Writers’ Insecurity? Stake that vampire in its cold, dead heart!

No doubt the topic of writerly insecurity has been covered before. And it will be again. And we will probably all quote Neil Gaiman’s story about calling his agent to say how awful his latest book was.

But the thing is, this writerly insecurity is a persistent infection. It’s a nasty little bastard that makes life hard. So we need to innoculate ourselves frequently. It’s not a waste of time to repeat the story. It’s a damned survival skill.

I read that story of Gaiman’s years ago, and it was a kind of lifeline to me. The news that Neil Gaiman experienced the same doubts that I did was a revelation. The fact that his writerly insecurities happened so often that he talked about hating every single word as simply a regular phase of writing made me feel so much better as a writer.

I mean, if Mr-Hugo-Nebula-Carnegie Winner feels that way too, then it’s obvious that I’m not alone, and that all writers must get attacked by the same collywobbles in much the same way.

Furthermore, that means that the voice in your head telling you that what you’re doing is rubbish is not necessarily telling you the truth, and that the little bastard is certainly not your friend.

Obviously, it never hurts to assess what you’re working on, and to work on it till your fingers bleed and your eyeballs dry out from staring, to ensure you are doing the best work you know how. But if you are working like a Trojan already, then chances are that the snide little voice in your head is what one playwright called a ‘Vampire of Doubt’.

In the musical [Title of Show] there is a whole song and dance sequence about the self-doubt that creeps in. With wit and nifty harmonies, the song Die, Vampire, Die identifies that voice of doubt and disparagement that whispers in your ear to “give up, you’re no good, blah blah blah” and gives some quite good advice about it.

(Here it is – with a language warning!)

 By the way, one of my favourite bits of the lyric, which is a spoken section, is:

“Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, It’s the voice of reason.”

We are always all too ready to accept our vampire of doubt as the Voice of Truth. And it’s not.

Of course, writers need to develop a rational and balanced sense of our work, to know when it’s not coming together as planned, when to do better. But we need to learn to separate the rational practice of improving as writers from the simple fear that we’re not good enough.

If you want to improve as a writer, then write more. Write differently, experiment, play around with ideas, push yourself, ask for external feedback, collaborate.

Start, continue, finish – then start again.

But don’t let the vampire of doubt make you stop.

Stake that bloodsucking bastard right in the heart and keep on writing.

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.

What We Do in the Shadows

What do you get when you cross Flight of the Conchords with vampires?

Perfection, that’s what.

The Potency of Vampires

9E2A6655Today’s guest blog is by Kevin Powe. Kevin is an international voice actor based in Melbourne, Australia. He’s been the voice of Judge Dredd, a farm of singing animals, a daemonic e-sports announcer and much more. He is currently developing an animated series. He loves great stories in all forms, and things that go bump in the night, in every sense of the word. You can find Kevin being most active over at his Facebook page. Come say hi!

I remember my first real experience with the potency of vampires. I’d had glimpses before; shadowy figures flickering at the edge of my awareness; cheerful Peter Pan-like monsters lurking in collapsed hotels, but it was only hunting this sickness back to its origin, Van Helsing style, and reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula that really drove it home.

I’ve always loved the implied morality tale in vampires being trouble brought upon yourself, literally by invitation into your home. But it was in that amazing, horrifying scene with Dracula at the foot of Jonathan and Lucy’s bed that I saw them as the ultimate transgressor; a predator faster, stronger and more mysterious than any of its hunters, and so erotically charged.

Reading back over the scene to refresh my memory while writing this post, I was surprised to see the eroticism in the imagery; that terrible inversion of breastfeeding as an invasion of Lucy’s body in such a private place, rather than in any magnetism inherent in Dracula himself. Unf. So many layers.

Vampires have been bestial and unthinking for us, regal and reclusive, erotic and irresistible, have stood in for our fear of AIDS, fear of death, of stagnation, of our own free will unchecked, our looming energy crisis.  They’ve even been creepy, relatively gormless eternal companions who love baseball.

It’s such a fertile ground for variation, for telling different stories. After picking up a copy of our lovely host Narrelle Harris’ The Opposite of Life finally, I’m really looking forward to tucking into it for exactly that reason. And doubly so for evoking the feeling of Melbourne so strongly. Fiction that slips an awareness of setting and a love of a place you know has a special place in my heart.

If you dig clever, well-crafted writing – and I’m guessing you do, given your perusing of this blog, I would also highly recommend Strange Loves: Vampire Boyfriends by the wonderfabulous Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows. It’s a Gamebook Adventure by Tin Man Games. Gamebook Adventures are a modern update of the old Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy books you might remember from the 80s, where you are an active participant in the story you’re reading, able to make choices that alter the direction the story takes. It’s part story, part game, and you can play/read them on most iOS and Android devices, as well as your computer.

Vampire Boyfriends takes a sly tilt at some of the bigger, crazier vampire stories around, and gives you license to steer your life toward some pretty wild destinations, like becoming a vampire hunter, best-selling novelist, or a vampire yourself. And you get Miellyn’s fantastic writing along the way.

Speaking of which: if you’re of a writerly persuasion (and there’s a strong chance again given that you are given that you’re here) Miellyn is on the cusp of launching Tonic Industries with Hilary Heskett Shapiro, her writing partner (in crime).

Tonic is a story consulting business focusing on helping develop ideas or evolve existing content. It’s not out there yet, but you can keep an eye on Miellyn’s doings over at Gorgeous Robot. I’d highly recommend it as both Miellyn and Hilary are two people who really know their game, and Miellyn is one of the most generous people I know with her wisdom. When preparing for the GenreCon 2013 panel I was on with Narrelle last year, Miellyn sent me some wonderfully comprehensive writing advice that was a huge help to a narrative novice like me!

So, why are vampires on the brain for me currently, when zombies are the monster du jour? * **

Because I’m privileged enough to be given a chance to play in another author’s take on vampires, as I’m currently finishing up an audiobook of Karen Fainges’ Destiny Sets, which has its own unique take on the relationship between vampire and prey. You can find Karen over here. It’s not the first time I’ve had a chance to play in the broader world of vampires, either. My first audiobook was The Keeper back in 2011, which is a wonderful love story that dealt with themes of morality, immortality and companionship in a touching way. (It’s worth warning that the story has some religious elements, which did offend some surprised listeners)

Once you’ve dealt with the challenge of delivering both sides of a fairly descriptive sex scene in an audiobook, it’s difficult to get stumped going forward.

While I love the wild variation of vampires, to me they’re at their most potent as mysterious, sensual predators. Outsiders who are able to move undetected amongst us for a time. A lot like the drifter gunslinger archetype, which I also have a huge soft spot for.

What are vampires when they’re at their best (worst) for you?

FOOTNOTES

* Check out this episode of the GeeksOn podcast for an interesting class-based deconstruction of monster mythology by David Brin

** Du Jour means seatbelts.

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: Bread and Circuses by Felicity Dowker (AWW Challenge 2013 #7)

bread and circusesFelicity Dowker is the writer who made me see the potential of the zombie story. Previously, zombies had just been hulking, mindless brain-eaters, good as a metaphor for mindless mass threat (an analogy for overconsumption or the way humanity self-anaesthetises, or even the fear of Alzheimer’s) but not much more.

Then I read her short zombie love story, Bread and Circuses, and the whole genre changed for me.

I’ve read a lot of excellent zombie fiction since then, and tried my hand at a zombie story myself, but Bread and Circuses remains one of my favourites.

How good was it, then, that Ticonderoga Press scooped up this fabulous writer of horror (and winner of awards) to produce a collection – Bread and Circuses: stories by Felicity Dowker?

SO GOOD is the answer you are looking for.

This collection is replete, from start to finish, with tales full of rage, creeping horror and, almost surprisingly, the notion of love both as a destructive and a redemptive force. The eponymous Bread and Circuses and Jesse’s Gift most readily exemplify that particular theme, but elements of it arise in Red Delicious, To Wish on a Clockwork Heart and Us, After the House Came Back.

The settings for Dowker’s horror are often urban, revolving very much around the home, around children and relationships. Domestic violence features strongly as a theme, as does love and revenge. The whole is imbued with a sense of female power, as well as the consequences not only of abusing others but of willingly surrendering your autonomy (and therefore safety) to another.

Each story has its own voice too. While some names or notions may recur, there is great variety in the types of story being told. Some are drawn from fairy tales, others from mythology; yet others are very contemporary in their conception. Zombies and vampires are represented, as is the horror circus trope, but there are touches of steampunk, of traditional fantasy (dragons and wizards!) as well as urban myth and the great tradition of revenge tragedies.

Felicity Dowker is one of Australia’s best new voices in horror fiction, her powerful feminist approach giving the genre a good deal of…well, fresh blood. Be creeped out, disturbed, challenged and thoroughly (if sometimes unwillingly) captivated!

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 Next Big Thing

You may have seen the blog chain winding its links around the Australian writing community lately. Tansy Rayner Roberts tagged me (read her contribution here) and here is my effort at answering the standard questions. I actually have two concurrent projects (actually, three, but the third involves short stories, so I thought I’d leave them out of it) so it got a bit complicated. Apparently, complicated and way too busy is my thing. Free time is anathema to me.

What is the working title of your next book?

I have a couple of projects going simultaneously at the moment, which is madness, I know. Believe me. They’re not even the only two projects I’m developing.

One project is the third Gary/Lissa vampire novel, with the working title of Beyond Redemption. The new project is being developed under the title Kitty and Cadaver.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Kitty and Cadaver came about basically because I love books in which rock and roll saves the world from monsters. There aren’t nearly enough of them, so I decided to write one.

Beyond Redemption is the third in a trilogy and will finish the Gary and Lissa’s story.

What genre does your book fall under?

Both of them are urban fantasy books. Well, I suppose Kitty and Cadaver is urban fantasy come rock opera.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Toby Truslove

For Gary and Lissa, I’ve been thinking lately that Toby Truslove (Outland, Laid, The Strange Calls) would make a good Gary, if he chubbed up a bit. For Lissa, an actress named Maya Stange (Garage Days) has a great look.  (Actually, I think they’re both older than the characters, but they fit with my ideas of the characters.) Magda Szubanski was always the model for the vampire queen Magdalene, of course.

I haven’t got that far with the characters for Kitty and Cadaver yet.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I will cheat by writing very long sentences.

Beyond Redemption: Gary is at the end of his tether, then he gets an idea that is either completely brilliant or completely stupid, particularly in light of the latest ructions in the vampire community and the return of Lissa’s mother.

Kitty and Cadaver: The surviving members of the rock band with a mission to save the world from monsters stumble across the zombie apocalypse in Melbourne, but need to find a new lead singer with a magic voice before they can confront the undead as well as their own demons.

Maya Stange

Maya Stange

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Beyond Redemption will come out with Clan Destine Press. I don’t know what will happen yet with Kitty and Cadaver. I’ll be approaching an agent when I have a completed manuscript ready to go, but Clan Destine has expressed interest in that as well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m still working on them both, but first drafts usually take me 12 to 18 months, since I write them outside my day job hours. I’m hoping to go down to three days a week in day job hours in 2013, so maybe I’ll get these ones done more quickly for a change.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Obviously Beyond Redemption is on a line with the other vampire novels, The Opposite of Life and Walking Shadows.  Comic, non-romance urban vampire books in general, I suppose.

Kitty and Cadaver will be a bit like other rock ‘n’ roll saves the world books: Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps and The Last Days, and Emma Bull’s The War for the Oaks come to mind. (If anyone has recommendations for other books along these lines, I’d love to hear about them!)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

For Kitty and Cadaver Rock ‘n’ Rooooooooollllllllll!!

More helpfully: I’d been noodling about writing lyrics (and a bit of music, but it’s been a long time since I played an instrument) to stretch myself and I loved doing it. I last wrote songs for some Blake’s 7 filk about thirty years ago, though I’ve dabbled a bit in the interim. But I loved doing it so much that I wanted to do a story that used music a lot more.  Music, magic, monsters: a perfect combination, surely?

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Music will be an integral part of Kitty and Cadaver, and I’m working with my niece, who is a musician, on developing songs that will be used in the stories. So it’ll be a multimedia bonanza!! Woooot!

Read other Next Big Thing entries in the blog chain!

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: Triangle by MKA Theatre

Triangle: Elizabeth Nabben pic by Sarah Walker

Elizabeth Nabben in Triangle; picture by Sarah Walker. Photo courtesy MKA Theatre.

You all know me by now. If there’s a whiff of the vampire around a bit of theatre, I’m knocking enthusiastically on the door yelling “Let the right one in!” demanding, like any good vampire, an invitation to the revelry.

MKA Theatre’s new production, Triangle, came to my attention with words that sounded something like ‘it’s a play about a vampire who lives in a tree in Edinburgh Gardens.’ How, I ask you, could I possible resist?

Triangle is certainly not a traditional vampire story, but it carries all the hallmarks of the genre: temptation, passion, ennui, blood, transformation and death.

It’s also witty, engaging and utterly riveting.

The vampire (Elizabeth Nabben) appears on a large wooden swing, representing her tree in Edinbugh Gardens. These ideas are a great symbol to be getting on with: freedom, playfulness, nature and the outdoors aren’t necessarily what we’d associate with the undead, but this vamp isn’t quite what you expect either. She is enthusiastically focused on the best-worst supermarket in the world, Piedemonte’s in North Fitzroy, where she gets the couscous she likes to eat and sometimes sees Chopper or Vince Colossimo pretending to shop. There’s a dangerous undercurrent to her, though, and a definite sense of the macabre. It’s no surprise that couscous is not the only thing she likes to eat.

The vampire’s strange, cool-blooded freedom contrasts sharply with the comfortable, cosy, claustrophobic life of the mother (Janine Watson) who is clearly being driven to destructive extremes by the banality of her bourgeois life in the inner city, with her son (whom she mostly refers to, disassociatively, as ‘the child’) and her despised, inattentive husband. She doses the kid up on caffeine and scorns her husband for thinking little Finnegan simply suffers from ADD. She plans to leave, to take action, but never seems to actually do anything.

And then she takes the enormous pram to the Gardens, can’t stop crying, and meets a hungry woman…

Their world gets a bit stranger after that as the story splits into multiple lines. The characters in each storyline are slightly different, their paths vary a little, and then a lot, and one path leads to giving in to an ordinary life while the other… doesn’t.

Glyn Roberts’ script is full of energy and wit, especially when humour springing from the ordinary and banal collides with scenes of raw carnage. The living are muted and half dead while the dead are vibrantly alive.

Eugyeene Teh’s fabulously simple set is excellently employed by director Tanya Dickson. Nabben and Watson display terrific physicality as well, orbiting each other around the spare stage. Their movements – languid, sharp, mirrored or disconnected –  are never overdone, but never wasted.

The production leaves me with thoughts about the way a life that’s affluent but dull can contrast starkly with the violent but undoubtedly fully alive choice to embrace dramatic change. The mother at one stage cries out that at last she’s doing something, and even if what she’s doing at the time is a terrible thing, that sense of finally acting, actively choosing the path of her life instead of bumping along full of rage and resentment, makes her a much more appealing person.

I’m sure I’d have other insights into this terrific, gruesomely horrific-wonderful play in a few days time, but you need to rush along to North Melbourne to see it before then. You really do.

Triangle plays until 4 August 2012 at MKA’s pop-up theatre at 64 Sutton St, North Melbourne. Performance starts at 8pm.

Tickets: $25 full; $20 concession, at the door or online. It’s very popular, though, so buying beforehand is wise. Visit MKA to book.

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.

The Wolf House returns!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Mary Borsellino’s work. Her last book, The Devil’s Mixtape, was one of my favourite books last year (along with The Hunger Games).

The publisher of Mixtape, Omnium Gatherum, has had the great good sense to take Mary’s previous work, The Wolf House series, and republish them.

The Wolf House books are vampire novels, but they are also about rock music, love, compassion, betrayal, revenge, being afraid and being hopeful. More, too, because Mary Borsellino has grand, passionate, intelligent ideas about humanity and love. Her themes are always complex and deep.

There are five books in total in the series, and Omnium has released the first two so far: Origins and Overtures and Roads and Crosses. Both books are available in both paperback and as ebooks for Kindle.

If you love vampire fiction, Australian authors, strong and imaginative writing, fresh and brain-buzzing approaches to the mythology, and deft, sharp characterisatio (or any combination thereof) you should definitely pick up The Wolf House!

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.