Category Archives: novella

Narrelle’s summer reading reclist

While not everyone gets a break over summer, it’s always a good time for a reading recommendations list. And given I managed to read (as of 24 December) 159 books and novellas in 2018 (let’s see if I can make it 160 by NYE), I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you!

Seasonal delights

I don’t generally make a point of reading seasonal tales, but I’ve read a few that delighted me in different ways this year. If you’re looking for something a little different, may I present:

Merry Happy Valkyrie: A Holiday Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s Christmas, Jim, but not as you know it. Norse mythology, Tasmanian snow in summer, secrets and a movie studio making Xmas schmaltz. What could possibly go wrong apart from, you know, everything? TRR never fails to be delightful, and she’s particularly and vividly charming with this gorgeous story!

Unchaining Krampus by JP Reedman. It’s Christmas. It’s a fairytale. It’s horror and demons and goblins and self rescuing princesses. It’s a hoot.

Christmas Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce by Brandon Witt. I discovered this author through the Facebook MM group I haunt. It was cute and a lot of fun to follow Paxton Peterson’s meticulous planning all go to ruin through a snowmobile accident and the delicious advent of a handsome neighbour.

The Miracle of the Lights by Cindy Rizzo. Christmas isn’t the only festival that can fall this time of year. Rizzo’s sweet story is about two Hasidic Jewish girls in love, losing each other and finding each other during Hanukkah in New York City.

Patreon Novellas

One of the reasons my count is so high is that I’ve been reading lots of wonderful shorts and novellas from the writers I support on Patreon. I love Seanan McGuire‘s fantasy work and every few months I get a new one.

Another joy is the work of Tansy Rayner Roberts – and I’ve sung songs to her before in this blog. For those who listen to podcasts (I never had time) Tansy podcasts many of her books before releasing the ebook, so you can get in ahead. A recent absolute gem is Tea and Sympathetic Magic, a sassy, smart, funny, brilliant regency-style story of. Well. Tea and sympathetic magic. Read an excerpt on Tansy’s website.

I don’t restrict myself to her Patreon stories – I’ve also this year loved to pieces her Creature Court prequel Cabaret of Monsters (backed through a Kickstarter), Girl Reporter (the latest in her superhero series), the  and all the parts of the Belladonna University series.

Basically, you will never go wrong with a Tansy Rayner Roberts story.

Young Adult fiction

This year I finally got to Ellie Marney’s Every series, and tore through Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move. Set in modern Australia, the stories are a clever reworking of Sherlock Holmes influences while also being their own thing entirely. Of course I love them.

Alex Marchant (who edited the recent Richard III collection, Grant Me the Carving of My Name) first came to my attention as the author of the very fine Ricardian YA adventures The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man. I’m looking forward to a third in the series, and recommend the first two very highly.

Romance! Adventure!

I’ve adored Emily Larkin‘s work for a while now and loved The Spinster’s Secret, My Lady Thief and Primrose and the Dreadful Duke.

In a similar vein, I’ve discovered Erica Ridley – more sassy Regency heroines, thank you!

Rohase Piercy’s My Dearest Holmes was recently re-released, after being one of the first officially published Holmes/Watson love stories, back in 1988.

A twist on canon-era Holmes/Watson has just come out from Improbable Press – K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather. Holmes is a queer woman, Watson is a queer man: bisexuality is a thing, and so is BDSM in the Victorian era. I loved it.

Non-Fiction

I also read some wonderful non fiction –  the account of the Burke and Wills expedition is thoroughly examined in The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd.

Vikki Petraitas’s The Frankston Murders is an account of the murders that took place in Frankston in 1993 – compassionate and thorough, with a focus on the women who died and their families and communities.

Transgender Warriors : Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by the late Leslie Feinberg and Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century by Graham Robb are both a little difficult to get, not being available in ebook form, but I learned a huge amount from both of them for current and upcoming books, and I recommend them thoroughly.

That’s probably more than enough to be getting on with! If you have any recommendations of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, my very best wishes to you all, and my hopes that this whole planet has a happy, hopeful, sunshiney new year.

Location: Hardware Lane

This post first appeared on my Patreon for my Fly By Nighters supporters on 6 April 2018

My first confession is that this image is not actually in Hardware Lane, which runs parallel to Elizabeth Street (between Queen and Elizabeth Streets) starting at Bourke Street and going through to Lonsdale. Between Lonsdale and Little Lonsdale, it becomes Hardware Street, even though it’s shorter than the Lane.

The paved Lane between Little Bourke  and Lonsdale Streets is closed to traffic, because it’s full of outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants. At one end, a  nightclub called Khokolat has operated out of a basement premises at #43 since at least 2005.

At the other end, The Golden Monkey – another downstairs bar, decorated 1920s Shanghai style and named for the a statuette in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – is at the other. It opened in around 2007.

These days, Khokolat and a costume shop are opposite the most excellent Kirk’s Wine Bar, but in 2009 it was just one of several more generic cafes on the street.

It’s great for me that both those places were operating in 2009, when Number One Fan is set.

But that doesn’t explain the photo above.

That, my friends, is a promo photo (taken on Niagara Lane I think) for Hardware Lane Costumes, located on the first floor of 43 Hardware Lane. That puts it above Khokolat and, for my purposes, right next to an invented office where Frank and Milo have, in 2009, just set up a little space to manage business and answer fan mail.

How will I be using these locations in the story? I’m not entirely sure yet, but if I don’t get one of those boys into a princess costume at one point, I don’t even know myself.

In the meantime, with both Hardware Lane and Hardware Street postively lush with excellent cafes like Kirks, Hash, The Hardware Societe and La Petite Creperie, I’ll have somewhere pleasant to sit and plot to my heart’s content.


My Patreon supporters are helping to fund the writing and production of the Duo Ex Machina series. Number One Fan will be the third book in the series, and a brand new addition to it!

Cover reveal: Sacrifice

My novella Sacrifice (second in the Duo Ex Machina series) has been edited for reissue, and is presently being published every fortnight on my Patreon for my ‘Backstage Pass’ supporters.

Willsin Rowe has already done a fabulous cover for it, and I couldn’t wait to share it, so here it is! That’s Frank looking messy on the left, and Milo being all pretty and well coiffed on the right.

The last chapter of Sacrifice will go up on my Patreon in around July, and then the new version of the ebook will be made available to all my supporters, and a week or so after that it’ll be generally available.

If you want to read the first Duo Ex Machina story, Fly By Night, you could either pick up the ebook at one of these stores:

Or support my Patreon and get Fly By Night (and other upcoming novellas and collections) as a welcome gift!

Melbourne Music: 2009

Over on my Patreon, the Duo Ex Machina novella Sacrifice is being released in fortnightly chapters. It’s all scheduled and the cover will be revealed later in March.

In the meantime, I’ve started work on the brand new book in the series.

The next Duo Ex Machina novel, Number One Fan, will be set in Melbourne in 2009, five years after the end of Sacrifice.

One of the things I’ve been looking up is when various music venues began operating. I don’t want to have them popping up in one of those little, intimate music venues doing secret show if that venue wasn’t open yet!

I’m still deciding which real life venue I might use (if I decide to use a real one) for a particular sequence – partly because I’m still deciding what kind of music one of the boys is doing for a side project.

Cherry Bar (pictured, featuring my niece’s band Bronze) is one obvious pick. It’s been around since 2000 and has a great reputation for (and history of) nurturing local talent as well as hosting intimate events for big name acts, after parties and – once – saying no to Lady Gaga rather than oust a local band who’d booked the stage. Wikipedia claims that Noel Gallagher liked the venue so much he offered to buy it in 2002.

The building above it caught on fire in 2008. Cherry Bar only suffered water damage but it took six months to get the wiring fixed. However, it was definitely open and rocking again by 2009.

It’s such a classic Melbourne venue too – down an alleyway called AC/DC Lane. It got that name in 2004, in plenty of time for the setting of this novella, after being burdened with the tedious ‘Corporation Lane’ for most of its named life.

Another possible location for the scene is The Toff in Town, a venue on the second floor of a well-known ‘vertical laneway’, Curtin House on Swanston Street. (Curtin House is also home to Cookie Bar, the Metropolis bookstore, boutique fashion and a rooftop bar that’s a cinema in summer.)

The main bar features railway carriage-style booths, from which you can press a buzzer to summon a waiter for your order of sharing plates and excellent wines. The music venue is on the other side, featuring live music, DJs, album launches and the occasional comedy show. It would be perfect for a soft launch of the proposed joint project, especially is the music is a bit more alternative and distanced from Duo Ex Machina’s pop oeuvre.

The Toff, by the way, is named for the detective in John Creasey’s books from the 1930s-70s. The Toff was the Honourable Richard Rollison, the high-born amateur detective who mingles as easily with the rough types as with the gentry. Since Milo and Frank keep falling into crime plots very much against their will, there’s something very pleasing about using this venue as a location. (The Toff pictures here, by the way, are all publicity photos provided by the venue for my old Melbourne Literary App, which is no longer available.)

I have one more nominee for a 2009 location for a music event, and that’s The Blue Diamond Club. Designed to look like a Manhattan speakeasy but run on the 15th floor of a Queen Street office building, it had a lot of pizzazz and a sense of the theatrical. I actually used it in a scene in Walking Shadows, where various vampires converge, Gary proves not to be completely useless in a fight, and a vampire falls off the balcony. Good times.

The Blue Diamond was created in 2006 by Henry Maas, famous in Melbourne as the owner of the Black Cat cafe in Fitzroy, its companion music venue the Night Cat, and as the lead singer of jazz-funk-salsa band The Bachelors From Prague.

The Blue Diamond had a big blue (fake) diamond on a turning pedestal as you stepped out of the lift, and you always had the feeling that if James Bond wasn’t seducing secrets from Russian spies in one corner, then surely The Saint was insouciantly plotting somewhere to steal a lot of boodle.

Over time the Blue Diamond became less smooth and stylish speakeasy, where you had to be a member to get in (which we were), where everyone dressed up in the groove, and the mood was mellow, to a broader, less distinctive and much less atmospheric venue. I suppose a theatrical demeanour can only make so much money.

I’m at the end of this 2009 music reminiscence and I think I’ve now answered my own question.

Look out for a scene in Number One Fan set at The Toff in Town. Who knows, we might even get an action sequence out of that rooftop bar.

[A version of this post first appeared in my Patreon on 16 February 2018]