Category Archives: Cool Projects

New Anthology: Oz Is Burning

B Cubed Press’s fundraising anthology Oz is Burning has been released, just a little behind its original timing to coincide with the NZ Worldcon!

B Cubed commissioned the stories as a response to the devastating bushfires of February 2020 (how long ago that seems now) and a portion of the proceeds will be going to WIRES.

Australian and New Zealand writers were asked to submit stories of a post-apocalyptic world. My own contribution, Harvest, has a little fire, a little water, a few seeds and a certain amount of mindful weeding. (My Patreon supporters got a sneak peek of the story earlier in the year).

If you read the ToC reveal in April, you’ll see that Oz is Burning contains stories by some of ANZ’s best writers of specfic and horror, including Gillian Polack, Kyla Ward, Lucy Sussex, Jack Dann and Jason Nahrung (who recently won an Aurealis Award for his PhD thesis!)

Oz is Burning – edited by Phyllis Radford – is already available for Kindle and is likely to be on other platforms soon.

Help to support the writers and WIRES by getting a copy!

New: Dangerous Charm Jewellery

Some of you may already have noticed an exciting new addition to the Narrelle M Harris Mortal Words website! I’m here to tell you how it happened.

When you’re a writer for both the corporate sphere and the world of fiction, your world is mostly made up of words. When reading is a primary past-time, that’s every so many more words to the glorious language cloud that inhabits my brain. Mostly I love it and have few complaints.

But sometimes I long for some creative hobby that isn’t so wordy and that gives me chance to exercise other parts of my febrile brain.

Last year, I decided to make some cross-stitch bookmarks as rewards for supporters of my Patreon. It was huge fun even if time consuming (it takes a lot longer to make a hand stitched bookmark than you might think). I had bought a lot of charms to hang off the end of some bookmarks as little weights, and at the end of the Patreon exercise, I still had a lot of these in my new craft stash box.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I remembered my good friend KRin of Pink K Designs makes jewellery. She’d already been fabulous, helping this craft novice learn how to cross-stitch, and was just as wonderful in taking me under her wing and teaching me how to make earrings.

Well, gentlefolk, I took those lessons into my body and soul and promptly went absolutely nuts with delight! I began to make all kinds of earrings inspired by books – my own and others’.

I’ve made Holmes and Watson earrings, often matching different charms to reflect two characters or aspects of a story. I’ve got guns, violins, bees, caduceuses and magnifying glasses in pairs or sets. For Kitty and Cadaver I’ve matched musical themes (treble clefs, guitars, drums and violins) with paranormal themes (vampires and skeletons). Ravenfall matches vampire, doctor and artist charms.

The Secret Agents series is reflected in cupcakes and guns (and coming soon, motorbikes and guns) while Duo Ex Machina continues the music theme, though I’m looking for coffee charms to reflect the Melbourne side of that equation! I have feathers for Grounded and even Richard III and wolf and bat earrings for Scar Tissue and Other Stories.

I’m branching out too, with Ineffable Husbands designs, things inspired by Shakespeare. There’ll be more of those classical inspirations coming soon.

In due course, I’ll be offering earrings as part of the rewards in my Patreon. In the meantime, I’m having a blast exercising my creative impulses in colours and, effectively, pictograms. In a world that’s become very stressful, it’s so soothing to sit with a tray of charms and beads and listen to a podcast (words again!) while I assemble sets of earrings that reflect the books I love to read and write.

(While I’m here, I can very highly recommend the gentle, delightful ABC Radio National podcast The Fitzroy Diaries, created by Lorin Clarke, daughter of the much-missed John Clarke. His spirit may continue in her, but her voice and talent are all her own!)

Rather than being a drain on all my creative impulses, making jewellery turns out to spur them and to feed a need I didn’t know I had. There is such joy in the act of making things.

If you want to see my creations (and maybe buy one or two – I’ve got to fund the purchase of new charms and beads somehow) you can visit Dangerous Charm now!

Short Film: All Bite and no Bark

The inaugural Bendigo International Short Film Festival was held on 23 November 2019 – and I was part of it!

I knew about the festival because I know John Richards, who was running it. At a different event (in October, in Castlemaine), he commented that not many people had sent in films for the competition element – a short film under 15 minutes in which the word Bendigo had to either be spoken or appear during the film.

“It’s so easy, though!” said John. “You can make a film on a phone these days!”

Well, who can resist a challenge like that? Not me, obviously. On the train back to Melbourne that afternoon I came up with a Twilight-zone-ish plot, and by late that evening, after five attempts, I’d ad libbed my way through a Found Footage story. (Ad libbed because I wanted to give it a fresh, just-telling-a-yarn quality, for ‘Kate’ to tell a story in exactly the way I would.)

The production values aren’t great so I wasn’t convinced I should enter it. I shared it with John anyway, for a laugh, and he convinced me it was good enough to be submitted.

So, All Bite and No Bark was entered into the 2019 Bendigo International Short Film Competition, and was screened on Saturday 23 November with a gratifying amount of laughter at the right moments, and gratifying hush at the end.

I’ve shared the film on some other social media, but here it is in all its ad libbed, iPhone quality glory!

The festival was fantastic, by the way – some truly inventive and wonderful films in both the International Shorts and the Competition Shorts (and if you ever get an opportunity to see The Starey Bampire, don’t miss it!)

This isn’t all about me showing off my first short film. Oh no! This, dear readers, is an opportunity for you to see how easy it can be, and to encourage you to prepare your own entry to next year’s Bendigo International Short Film Festival Competition!

You have a year to prepare! (I’ve already got a new idea, with a script this time!)

Visit Bendigo Short Film Fest or their Facebook page to keep an eye on what’s happening during the year and when entries open for next year’s film event!

I hope to be competing with you in it!

The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Melanie Roylance

Nathaniel Parker, Angel Parker and Melanie Roylance

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

In my previous posts, I interviewed actor Nathaniel Parker about his dual role as producer and performer in the short film and then writer/actor Angel Parker. This time I interview an old friend who found herself co-producing the film with Nat.

Melanie Roylance

1.       What inspired you to become involved in making Annabel Lee?

As you know, we had some eccentric yet brilliant English teachers at high school who introduced me to Poe’s works. I was fascinated by his stories, especially his early forms of my favourite genre, detective fiction, which he is largely responsible for popularising.

When Nat announced he was filming Angel’s adaptation of it, my curiosity was piqued. Some friends were contributing to the film in different ways, and I initially intended to make a small contribution. So, to be honest, it was more an accident than a conscious intention to become so heavily involved.

People may call it fate, or serendipity, but sometimes in life things come along that you simply have to do, and this was one. I have respected the Parker family for many years. I first saw Nathaniel Parker as an actor in Piece of Cake back in the late 80s, and in the 90s I wrote an essay for uni about his father, Sir Peter Parker, former chairman of British Rail. What struck me about both was that in industries not renowned for honesty or compassion, they valued social justice and family above all else, and over the years managed to stay true to their principles.

So when Nat announced he wanted to do a project with his daughter, I admired that. My father died when I was in my mid teens, so I knew it would be important for Angel in later years to have the memories of making it with her dad. I also understood why it was important to him, so wanted to help make that happen. I thought of a way to help them raise money, so wrote to Amy and it went from there.

After Nat recovered from the shock that someone half way around the world wanted to help, he treated me like an integral part of the team, and I soon became involved in a lot of the non-creative aspects of bringing it together and marketing it.

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

Interesting question. Poe’s obsession with the macabre and the link between love, loss and death that are exemplified in Annabel Lee is compelling. As social creatures, I think people from any era are motivated by a need to be accepted and loved. To quote from the poem, people harbour a desire to love “with a love that was more than love”.

The poem touches on so many common emotions – happiness, passion, hope, anger, despair and that horrid nagging fear that love and happiness are illusory and will be snatched away. Everyone can identify with the poem and empathise with Annabel and E.

3.       What were the most challenging parts of producing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

For me, being based half way around the world was difficult. The time difference meant most communication was asynchronous, which was frustrating at times. More annoyingly, I would have loved to be a part of it on the ground, and to have been able to go to Devon to see it being filmed. I am a very hands-on, practical person, so would have happily been the general dogsbody around the set doing whatever was needed.

But raising funds, creating the website and providing moral support and encouragement can be done remotely, so it worked out okay. And I was fortunate that the initial screening was in London at a time I was there, so it was wonderful to see it for the first time with everyone else.

4.       What did you love the most about making it?

That’s an easy one. I loved being involved in something creative and completely different to other work I have done. To be able to work with engaged and interesting people like Nat, Angel and Amy was a bonus. It was exciting to see all the elements come together. The night of the cast and crew screening, everyone was nervous and worried that their bit would be what let the whole thing down. It was great to see the pride on their faces watching the film and seeing it all fall into place.

Art, whether it be painting, music, literature or film, is about creating a moment where people are transported into another realm and return somehow enriched. I think Annabel Lee accomplishes that in spades.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

Everything we do teaches us something, and often things we never expect to discover. As a newbie to filmmaking, I learnt an enormous amount about the technical side of it, particularly all the post-production work.

With a background managing industrial supply chains, I tended to see the film as a project with tasks and resources that needed juggling to meet deadlines. Working with creative people I soon found that they view things in a much more holistic manner where the art is paramount to the task. So I learned the value of patience, which has never been my strongest trait, and one I need to keep working on – a lot. But I also hope I helped others see the value of planning and thinking about contingencies. Art, and life for that matter, need flexibility and are enriched by the input of a diverse range of people.

And perhaps the biggest lesson was that if you want to do something different, go for it. YOLO might be a cliché, but I don’t want to be on my deathbed regretting not seeking out new experiences. Besides, you never know where opportunities lead.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

Two things. Firstly, that Angel (Parker) and Alex (Bhat) are impressive young actors, and in Angel’s case also a very promising screenwriter, and I hope the film promotes their careers.

Secondly, I hope audiences look beyond what is presented on the screen and think about the complex issues the film raises about love, sacrifice and trust. In an increasingly manic world, we need to hold true to certain values, perhaps the most important one being the enduring power of love.

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

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