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