This cafe, at 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne , is named for the man who reputedly first smuggled coffee beans out of Yemen (and consequently brought joy to the world).
A version of BBB appears in the first chapter of Number One Fan. The cafe isn’t identified by name in the story, but the cosy, industrial ‘distressed’ look of the walls, the metal scoop that is a door handle and, of course, the inverted forest of chairs hanging from the ceiling are reflected in the look of the story version.
In 2009, BBB was run by the owner of North Melbourne’s St Ali, another great Melbourne cafe. (In 2019 it gets its house roast from Seven Seeds, another Melbourne coffee superstar.)
It’s tiny, with one communal table and a few stools scattered around periphery benches. The only food it serves are a few pastries, which are also excellent. I rarely have to queue for coffee, but there can occasionally be a short wait while visitors armed with guide books come to take pictures of the ceiling’s bristling chair legs and of course the coffee.
I prefer other people to make my coffee – an espresso-machine cafe latte is da bomb! – but we get their house blend and their decaf for making plunger coffee at home, for those hours when *gasp* BBB is closed!
I suppose it’s cheating to call it research to drink here, but I’ll do that anyway, because that makes me happy, and you should do the things that make you happy, right?
Because it’s tiny, there’s not always somewhere to sit and enjoy watching the staff being so professional and the Melbourne coffee crowd being so very appreciative of their excellent brew.
Instead, bring a Keep Cup or equivalent, get your coffee to take away, and sit on the steps of the Melbourne GPO (though not at its own excellent cafe on its terrace, obviously). Contemplate your delicious sins while watching the trams, and decide if you’ve done enough of them.
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.
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!
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 Krampusby 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 Spruceby 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.
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.
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.
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.