I grew up influenced by musicals, and that may be why I now write so many stories with music in them.
As a child I learned piano and though that fell by the wayside – partly because my family kept moving house and moving the cheap old piano along with us was a bit of a palaver – I’ve always enjoyed playing around with lyrics and songwriting.
In the 80s, when I discovered fandom and film music, I ended up collaborating with Fiona Thompson (nee Undy) on a Blake’s 7 filktape called Voices from the Past.
Decades have passed since then. I still can’t play the piano, or really sing, but fandom led me back to songwriting once more. I wrote lyrics for an alternative universe Sherlock Holmes series and then started writing lyrics into other stories.
I wrote lyrics for songs relating to the Witches of Tyne series. Then I wrote them for the first Duo Ex Machina novella, Fly By Night, to go alongside the lyrics of songs by About Six Feet (used with their permission)
Then a few years ago, spurred on by those fan-inspired lyrics on AO3 and how much people liked them, I wrote more and more music. (I’ve since dragged both Blake’s 7 and Holmes filk into the worlds of Kitty and Cadaver and Duo Ex Machina.)
Further novellas in the Duo Ex Machina series – Sacrifice, Number One Fan, Kiss and Cry and the current (and final) story, Little Star, all contain songs that I wrote, because it’s easier to do that yourself than get permission to use other lyrics. Also because I love it!
It’s been my delight in recent years to work with Jess Harris of Bronze to bring Kitty songs to life in their performances and recordings.
I’m now aiming to work with another musician – music producer Joshua King – to transform the Duo Ex Machina songs from lyrics on a page to songs in your ear!
To this end, I’ve set up as Ko-Fi account to raise funds to pay for studio time, singers and musicians. I’ll be updating the site each week with lyrics, my a cappella versions of the melodies and examples of words-to-music that have come out of previous collaborations!
If you have a few dollars to spare and would like to support new music in Melbourne, you can donate below!
Fundraising through Dangerous Charm
If you prefer to wear your support, I’m also putting the proceeds of any jewellery sales from Dangerous Charm (which includes jewellery inspired by Kitty and Cadaver and Duo Ex Machina) directly into the song-making bank!
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!
I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my upcoming fourth Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Cry.
Set in 2014, Kiss and Cry sees musicians and life partners Frank Capriano and Milo Bertolone facing new challenges. Milo is taking part in a celebrity ice dancing show for charity; Frank is a busy music producer. They’re both working too hard and losing touch with the love that has kept them strong for so long. At the same time, some odd things are going on with other participants in Icing It! What new and unlooked-for danger threatens them now, and is it worse than the miserable estrangement they’re going through?
Kiss and Cry is currently being serialised for my $3 supporters on Patreon. That will finish in February 2020, when all Patrons will get the book as one of their regular awards. Soon after, it will be available for general sale.
In the meantime, this is the lovely cover by Willsin Rowe, who has created all the new series covers to date.