All posts by Narrelle

Lockdown Fiction: The Dancing Bees

Improbable Press’s latest prompt included bees, and then I thought of that old tradition that the bees must be told when their keeper dies. And then I thought of Sherlock Holmes being away during WWI as a spy. And then I thought of John Watson. And then I thought of this.

The Dancing Bees

It is spring and we bees work, we fly, we gather pollen for our colony, for our queen.  We nourish, we protect, we select and serve our queen.

Our Keeper is away and in his stead, his own worker-drone-queen protects the colony.

The wingless four-limbs are nothing like the hive; and our Keeper and the Other are sometimes like a bee, sometimes like the flowers. We know, from springs and summers and some sunny autumn days that they have stamens, and pollen, which they gather or sometimes let fall to earth (though no new flower ever grows from this seed).

Our Keeper and His Other are not like bees at all, and for many turns of the sun now, our Keeper has been gone.

Soon, soon, His Other will come to tell us. He will keep the tradition.

He will tell the bees that our Keeper is dead.

We are puzzled that he has not already done so. His Other sits wilted among us, many days. He Keeps us as our Keeper would, with faith though less skill. He sighs our Keeper’s name among the hives.

“Sherlock misses you.”

The Other means that he misses our Keeper too. We know this. He sighs. He wilts. Sometimes he leaks, wet salt on his face. This leaking he shares not with other wingless ones, but only with his fellow workers (fellow drones, fellow Queen; our Keeper mates with him, so the Other is maybe a Queen; or maybe our Keeper is the Queen of his colony-of-two. As we say, the four-limbs are peculiar and will not succumb to correct roles).

We the bees know that far away is danger. Dances waggled from the unfathomable distance tell us.  The dances come from the colonies near the stone hive, which is clustered by the river up north and filled with four-limb drones and workers (and a male Queen; we will never fathom them at all). The stone hive is smashed by falling black clouds, and the air is filled with dust and great cries. Such danger!

Our Keeper is in the danger, further even than the stone hive; across the Great Salt Wet. He told us before he left, that he would fly far, so far, to gather strange pollens, to waggle the dance of its knowledge to his Male Queen and the Drones and Workers of the stone hive.

We miss our Keeper. His Other misses him. We wait for the telling. For word that it is time to Farewell the Keeper with the solemn, grave dance of goodbye.

Here he comes today, the Other. Today he comes to tell us, and become our new Keeper.

Take courage, Dear New Keeper.

He walks on his two back limbs (so ungainly, more than ever today, poor unbalanced drone-worker-queen without his Keeper. He will Keep us now our First Keeper is gone, but who will Keep him now?)

His Sorrowing Other comes to wilt and sigh and leak among us today.

But no! The Other sorrows not, though he leaks and sighs. He does not wilt. He stands tall as a tree, that little hedge upon his face stretches happy with his mouthpart.

“He’s coming home. The war is over and he’s done his part, and Sherlock is coming home. Today, tonight, soon! By God, he’s coming back to me. To us. Sherlock is coming home!”

He sits among the hives, a flower waiting for the sun to shine on him; waiting for his drone-worker-queen to gather his pollen; waiting to be whole with his colony-of-two once more.

Around him, we bees dance, we waggle the news to all our kin and to our queen: Our Keeper returns!

No need for the Goodbye dance now, no. Today we dance a greeting, and rise up in a cloud as we see him arrive through the garden gate. His Other rises with us, and walks, then runs (unbalanced still, his hind limbs stiff with age and with sitting) to his Keeper.

Like bee to pollen, like flower to sun, like the colony to the hive he goes, they go, and embrace, and we dance, we dance, for our Hive is whole again.

Lockdown Fiction: New Moon

This week, the Improbable Press prompt drew a song out of me. (Check out the site and try the prompts yourself!)

I’ve been thinking about werewolves a lot, for an upcoming story, and this is the lyric that happened.

It might also apply to vampires, actually, but mostly it was written for a new werewolf.

Yes, I have a melody for it.


New Moon

Shine on, shine on
Little darlin’
Night is comin’ soon

Don’t let shadows
On your shoulder
Take away the moon

Darlin’ do not hunger for the sun
Let me tell you, darlin’
It’s for you the moon was hung

Lift your head up
Little darlin’
Sing to the starry sky

It is only a
Trick of vision
To see through the lie

Darlin’ do not hunger for the sun
You can feel it, darlin’
It’s for you the moon was hung

Shine on, shine on
Little darlin’
Night is comin’ soon

Don’t let shadows
On your shoulder
Keep you from your moon

Review: The Sugared Game by KJ Charles

I discovered KJ Charles in March 2019 – a friend had raved about The Henchmen of Zenda, and when someone whose taste in books allies very closely to your own, you listen to their raves. I actually began with a few other books first, but five books later I was ready to be a lifelong reader. The Henchmen of Zenda – a brilliantly entertaining take on The Prisoner of Zenda, only with the sympathy firmly in the henchmen’s camp – convinced me, if I needed any further convincing. Which I didn’t.

In the 18 months since being introduced to Charles’ work, I’ve read almost everything she’s published. I keep meaning to write about each of her series and standalones, but I’m not sure what I’d say beyond “another bloody brilliant book by K.J. Charles!”

Which brings me to The Sugared Game, the second in The Will Darling Adventures trilogy.  I could just say “another bloody brilliant book by K.J. Charles!” but that’s hardly helpful. So.

The first book of the series, Slippery Creatures, introduced us to Will Darling, a returned WWI soldier trying to adjust to civilian life, who has just inherited a bookshop from his uncle. He meets Kim Secretan, a very posh fellow with a difficult past who, it seems, can never be entirely trusted. Their sexual attraction is undeniable, but so is the fact that Will has fallen into a thick and deadly plot involving a criminal gang, the War Office, some even shadier goings on that Kim seems to be part of.

The Sugared Game continues the fabulously outré pulp fiction adventures that began in Slippery Creatures: the Zodiac gang with its code names and ruthless cohorts are still operating, despite the distinct blows delivered by Will and Kim in the previous book. The gang’s head, Capricorn, is still out there, though the focus this time is on the Aquarius.

Kim, as slippery a creature as ever tied an exquisite suit, has not been in touch with Will for a few months as the book opens, and Will is hurt and furious in equal measure, despite no declarations having been made. His best friend Maisie, however, has made fast friends with Kim’s fiancée, Phoebe (it’s complicated) and Maisie’s genius for clothing design is giving both women new opportunities.

Celebrating the new business potential at the High Low night club, however, Will is thrown unexpectedly into Zodiac dealings once more, and vulnerable, shifty, unreliable, gorgeous Kim is suddenly back in Will’s life. Inevitably, Will gets tangled up in this ruthless game – which he wouldn’t mind so much if Kim didn’t keep on hiding so much and lying the rest of the time. Their fragile intimacy – their mutual attraction and desire – could easily be the making or breaking of these men and the vicious gang they’re trying to dismantle (or just survive).

Charles once more delivers a cracking adventure story populated by gritty, really real people, despite the fantastical pulp/007 style plots. When Kim and Will clash, it’s not some silly misunderstanding that would be cleared up if only they would talk. (Though, yeah, Kim’s incapacity to do that isn’t a help.) The obstacles they have to overcome for the adventure, and for their personal lives, are real, embedded in personality, values, motivations that make sense and forces both internal and external. This makes the resolutions to both adventure and love story incredibly satisfying.

Slippery Creatures resolved one story line and took Kim and Will on a step forward in their relationship. The Sugared Game brings them on another step, while the Zodiac storyline is addressed in more detail along with consequences for Kim and Will as well as Maisie and Phoebe.

I’m eagerly looking forward to the third in the trilogy, Subtle Blood, due out later this year. I have no doubt that Kim, Will, Maisie and Phoebe will be tangled up in deadly adventures once more, facing believable and difficult personal issues, and that the conclusion will be as hard-fought-for, and as deeply satisfying, as everything she writes.

Buy The Sugared Game

Buy Slippery Creatures

September Price Promotion – Grounded

In a world where wings give everyone the freedom to fly, an artist born wingless uses her art to show the winged world the wonder of the ground. But when she meets a recently injured police officer who finds himself grounded, they will both learn that there is more than one way to soar.

From 1 to 30 September, Escape Publishing is offering Grounded at a special price on Amazon Australia for Australian and New Zealand readers! This ebook is available for only $3.99 until the end of the month!

To make the deal even sweeter, I’m offering a separate promotion of my own (to Australia-based readers only)!

If you reblog this post, you’ll get one entry into a competition to win one of three Dangerous Charms items of jewellery, inspired by Grounded.

If you buy Grounded at the special offer this month, message me with proof of purchase via the Contact page (under About Narrelle) or via @daggyvamp and you’ll get 10 entries in the draw.

Get Grounded from Amazon Australia for $3.99 until 30 September!

On offer are a necklace and two sets of earrings, to be posted anywhere in Australia for three winners.

NOTE:
The Dangerous Charm jewellery promotion is only open to people based in Australia, as I’m not able to post small items overseas under the current Covid-19 Australia Post restrictions.