Category Archives: Improbable Press

2018: My writing year – and my year to come: 2019

On the brink of a new year, I’m looking back on 2018 with satisfaction and maybe a smidge of exhaustion. 2019 looks to be just as full of writing challenges and delights!

In case you missed anything, I’ve summarised my writing year below – and teased with some of my upcoming projects for 2019!

Thank you all for your support during the year – 2018 was fraught in many ways, but I hope it brought rewards as well. May 2019 bring you more of what you love, and more of what heals you.

<3 Narrelle

2018

Holmes and Watson in Love

My second Improbable Press Holmes/Watson book came out in June. A Dream to Build a Kiss On is a single story arc told over 100 stories of exactly 221 words each and the last word of each story begins with b. 221b. 🙂 It’s the first of a series of 221b stories for IP. (The second was A Study in Velvet and Leather, which I adore.)

Writing 100 stories in that format, and with a contemporary setting, was a challenge which I enjoyed immensely. I may even take it up again later next year!

Music

Although not yet published, Kitty and Cadaver made an official debut with a song! “The Rain Song” appears about half way through the book. The band Bronze has released it on their EP The Razorback Five Track.

(And yes, one of the songs on the EP is inspired by that Ausploitation horror film, Razorback!)

Here is “Rain Song” – a song about precipitation which is also a spell to make it rain!

Short Fiction

I sold a few Holmes and Watson stories during the year: in one, I recast them as contemporary Australian hipsters in “The Problem of the Three Journals“, solving crime and serving excellent coffee, for the Baker Street Irregulars: The Game Is Afoot anthology.

A Gentleman’s Disagreement“, a sequel to “The Blue Carbuncle”, is a more traditional story from Dr Watson’s point of view, in

I admit the most fun I had with short fiction this year was my contribution to Grant Me the Carving of My Name, a collection of stories about Richard III edited by Alex Marchant and designed to raise funds for the Scoliosis Association UK.

One of my very few science fiction tales was published this year too – “Earworm Armageddon“, told from the PoV of a deaf protagonist, was picked up by Jay Henge publishing for Wavelengths.

Patreon and Duo Ex Machina

My most massive achievement this year – in term of words and time – was setting up my Patreon, through which I’ve re-edited and re-published my two M/M crime novellas, Fly By Night and Sacrifice.

These novellas were first published in 2004 by Homosapien Press. Now I’ve repackaged them as the Duo Ex Machina series, and the third (and brand new) novella, Number One Fan, is being published in fornightly chapters for my Patreon supporters. (Thanks guys!)

I also prepped a few reprinted stories and wrote a whole slew of fresh ones for the Scar Tissue and Other Stories collection for my Patreon supporters. (Thank you again – you guys are the best.)

My patrons received the book in November, and the official release (a co-production with Clan Destine Press) is scheduled for around February 2019, after a few delays pushed it back.

2019

Three books!

So before the year even begins, I have writing news for 2019. There’s Scar Tissue and Other Stories for February – which, among other things, contains short stories set in the Ravenfall, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, The Vampires of Melbourne series and Kitty and Cadaver universes!

Then in March, the third Duo Ex Machina novella, Number One Fan, will finish its chapter-by-chapter run and be prepared for an ebook release.

Pipping that one at the post will be Grounded, a spec fic romance about two people who can’t fly in a world with wings. Escape Publishing has done a beautiful job of the cover and I’m excited to see this book released on 20 March!

Still to come

Of course, this only brings us to March. I’m sitting on an announcement for a short story that’s been accepted – when the anthology is officially announced I’ll send out the news first in my new newsletter, Mortal Whispers.

The first novel I’m working on for the year (now that Grounded is all edited and ready to go) is Kitty and Cadaver.  I’m hoping for that to come out mid year in time for some SF conventions in June.

I plan to tackle the third in the Vampires of Melbourne series, which will coincide with a re-release of the first two books as ebooks with new covers.

I’ll also be working on the fourth Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Cry from April onwards.

Folks. It’s gonna be another big year!

Quintette of Questions: K. Caine

Today I ask five questions of Holmesian romance writer, K. Caine:

K. Caine

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

The title is A Study in Velvet and Leather– and surprisingly, this is one of the titles that I agonised over the least! The perfect title, for me, is evocative and visual, preferably has more than one meaning, and fits the style of the piece.

Because I was writing canon-era Sherlock for this work, I wanted a title that would evoke that genre. I was re-reading A Study in Scarlet at the time, trying to sink back into the wonder that is moving in with Sherlock Holmes—so that solidified the first half of the title. From there, it was mostly about picking words that were symbolic of the story.

Velvet and leather are two fabrics that represent the two prominent female characters in the book, so A Study in Velvet and Leather it was!

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

I didn’t need to think hard about the answers for this one—I already had my reference images downloaded! It’s definitely Tom Hardy for John Watson, with the same quiet feminism that he displayed in Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s got the right build for John, and it’s all too easy to imagine him with the moustache and the period clothing just quietly listening, watching Sherlock and trying to keep up.

And then Tilda Swinton would be my Sherlock Holmes—she’s got the sharp cheekbones, the piercing eyes, and the tendency to menswear that Sherlock shares, and there’s something about the intensity of her presence that’s both really unusual for women, and also very, very fitting for Sherlock as a character.

3. What five words best describe your story?

“Man in love, doesn’t realize.”

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple or team?

The gang from Leverage are everything that a team should be—the entire series is a showcase of exactly how good a found family can be, right from the very first episode. Throughout the series, we get to witness a group of different people with different interests—and sometimes, entirely different plans as to how to go about something—figure out how to work with each other instead of against each other, and how to support each other through tough jobs and the stresses and traumas from life having not been that particularly kind.

That’s the kind of thing I look for in my team or couple dynamics—mutual support, snark and wit, and the gradual developing belief that your team is always going to do their best to have your back, no matter what you’re going through, and even if you aren’t your best self at the time.

5. What song always makes you cry?

Hands down, it’s La Dispute’s Woman (reading). The song is evocative of the wistfulness that marks the majority of the book—that sense that you can be physically close to someone (even, dare I say it, roommates) and still feel as though you are continents apart, and the other person is forever out of your reach.

See the lyrics here.

About A Study in Velvet and Leather

Sharing a flat with Sherlock Holmes should not have posed a problem for John Watson–after all, Watson is gay, Holmes is a woman, and the arrangement is financially convenient. But when Holmes takes a complex case involving Irene Adler and a scandalous photograph, she turns to Watson for assistance.

The case leads them everywhere from the opera to a secret Victorian BDSM club, and Watson soon finds himself questioning his partnership with Holmes, his sexuality, and his understanding of himself.

About K. Caine

K. Caine is a queer writer from the Canadian prairies whose work encompasses multiple genres, including romance, erotica, horror, and speculative fiction. After having taken a decade-long break from writing entirely, K. Caine is back, and is completely engrossed in creating stories characterized by deep points of view, high emotional stakes, and layered foreshadowing.

Armed with a psychology degree, and more stories about glitter in strange places than are really necessary, K. Caine brings themes of feminism, sexuality, gender, non-traditional relationships, and mental illness into stories. A Study in Velvet and Leather is K. Caine’s first published book.

Caine has wild and varied ideas about what comes next, but is currently procrastinating on Twitter.

Buy A Study in Velvet and Leather

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Review: A Study in Velvet and Leather by K. Caine

The second volume in Improbable Press’s 221b Series (the first was my own A Dream to Build A Kiss On) is the splended A Study in Velvet and Leather, due for release on 1 December 2018. An advance review copy was coaxed into my greedy little fingers, though, and promptly gobbled up.

K. Caine may have written a female Sherlock and male John in a canon-era setting, but  her tale departs wonderfully far from a traditional telling of thie enduring pair.

John Watson, invalided war doctor, is gay. It’s a surprise to find Stamford’s flat-hunting friend is a woman, but she’s an unusual one. Sherlock is a consulting detective, dressing most often in men’s attire and (we later learn) a reader of Sappho. They move into Baker Street together.

John narrates their life together: his increasing involvement in Sherlock’s cases and John recovers his health, along with his fascination for Sherlock’s methods and curiosity about so much that remains secret and unsaid about Sherlock’s life. John also records his bemused yet growing devotion to his astonishing flatmate, recording but not always understanding Sherlock’s response to him.

But as John develops his surprised and secret feelings for this remarkable woman, an undercurrent from Sherlock’s unspoken private life breaks the surface. The case involves “the well known adventuress” Irene Adler, a compromising photograph, and a private club. The meaning of velvet, leather and many of Sherlock’s mysteries will come to light.

One of the many glories of this book – which include engaging characters, the gorgeous flow of the writing and an exploration of the fluidity than can exist in gender and sexuality – is how seamlessly K. Caine uses the 221b ficlet format to tell a single story.

The 16 chapters of the book are subtly separated into 221-word sections, the last word of each section beginning with ‘b’.  This meets the rules of a 221b ficlet, yet is so smoothly done that the reader may not notice it, as the story’s rhythm moves so gracefully.

A Study in Velvet and Leather is one of those delicious books where you can’t decide whether to gulp it down in one go, or sip it slowly to make it last.

I’ve never been a sipper, though – and I was so involved in Sherlock and John’s adventures and feelings, so invested in them too – that I gulped that story down in a few hours one Saturday. The conclusion was both fantastically satisfying and left me yearning for more of these incarnations of Holmes and Watson.

A fabulous bonus to the whole story is the series of Appendices, in the form of notes between the two. I seriuosly can’t get enough of this fluid John and Sherlock. Additionally, the artwork by Avid Branks is sparing and elegant, and contains little clues of its own .

Which makes it doubly awesome that K. Caine is now writing another Improbable Press book with them, Conductivity.

I can’t wait.

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Review: My Dearest Holmes by Rohase Piercy

In 1988,  author Rohase Piercy did something remarkable and controversial.

She published a book in which Dr John Watson was in love with Sherlock Holmes. (Whether Holmes reciprocates is the grand question of much of the rest of the book.)

Boy, did some people find that idea challenging. The Daily Mail seemed to think it would cause the fall of England, though the Guardian responded with bemused good humour.

Many readers who had thought about the queer possibilities of this literary partnership were delighted.

The book

A preface by Dr Watson is followed by part one, ‘A Discreet Investigation’, in which a case leads Holmes and Watson to the demi monde, a tangled case of blackmail and the question of whether Sherlock Holmes has noticed that his client and her intimate friend are in fact a lesbian couple.

Told canonically from Watson’s point of view, Watson’s unrequited love for Holmes and attempts to deal with his unrequited affections become central. Does Holmes know of Watson’s dangerous leanings, or to whom they are directed? Will Watson’s ‘indiscretions’, the way in which he tries to manage his hopeless desire, destroy their friendship?  Or will Watson find a way to live with his nature while protecting both himself and Sherlock Holmes’s reputation?

Watson’s resolution to this crisis with Mary Morstan (who has secrets of her own) isn’t the end of the matter, however. The second half of My Dearest Holmes, ‘The Final Problem’, deals with the aftermath of Watson’s solution, as well as the events at the Reichenbach Falls and ‘The Adventure of The Empty House’. It’s a far cry from the stories Watson wrote for The Strand, which are necessarily inaccurate to protect their original clients as well as Watson’s deeply troubled heart.

30th Anniversary Edition

2018 marks 30 years since My Dearest Holmes caused such consternation, and so Rohase Piercy has published an anniversary edition. The new edition is framed with a foreword by Charlie Raven, exploring the changes in attitude to LGBTQ relationships in the intervening 30 years, and a final essay by Piercy – “Sherlock Holmes: a Decadent Detective?” – on the gothic and decadent origins of the character.

This reprint of My Dearest Holmes comes into a world where queer readings of Holmes and Watson are not so rare – Improbable Press even specialises in Holmes♥Watson fiction!

How does it stand up, 30 years later?

The Review

Reader, it is wonderful. An angst-fest for sure, but splendidly paced, and full of teasing moments. Some canon-esque humour gets in there, and some entertaining reworkings of the stories we know, shifted to become the history of “what really happened” in this telling.

Holmes is as ineffable as ever, often fond of his friend, sometimes unkind, and a stickler for not getting sentimental about things. Along with John Watson, you can’t tell how Sherlock really feels about his friend.  What, if anything, does he feel, and what might he be repressing? How much does his use of the cocaine bottle relate to everything he never says?

Watson’s inner turmoil is compassionately explored, as is the world under the surface of respectable London, with loves and liaisons not accepted by the mainstream but definitely humming away in the shadows.

There are cases of course (where Holmes is, there too are puzzles) but the true, unexpressed feelings between these two great friends and colleagues is the largest puzzle of all, and it’s only resolved in the last few chapters.

Piercy’s writing, like the best new Holmesian adventures, mimics the tone of Conan Doyle without becoming clumsy or cliched. My Dearest Holmes has a style reminiscent of Doyle and is easy to read in that regard.

Which is great, because I gulped it all down. There’s a lot of hurt before we get any comfort at all, but it’s well told and not without lighter, warmer moments.  And while subtle in its execution, the payoff is worth the wait.

Buy My Dearest Holmes

More about Rohase Piercy