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:
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]
In preparation for working on a short story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I’ve picked up some books to give me insights into late-Victorian queer culture and society’s attitudes towards it.
Victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality (and to a whole bunch of things) is usually deeper and more textured than a cursory glance would indicate. And while it’s true that terms like ‘gay’ and queerness as it’s currently lived and experienced were not how Victorians understood them, that doesn’t negate the fact people who would probably now identify on that spectrum were managing their lives, one way or another.
Which all brings me to this reading matter, designed to help me understand more about how queerness was experienced and lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so that I can translate those experiences for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a world where they have declared their love and physical desire for each other.
I tend to read books on these topics with a block of sticky notes at hand, so I can mark ideas I want to get back to.
The book pictured in the header, Catharine Arnold’s City of Sin: London and its Vices, is already festooned with notes for me to return to when I do the next round of research, which will be to go over marked passages and decide what to use and how.
One note in City of Sin refers to the pornography people could obtain in Holywell Street, including homosexual and lesbian representations. William Dugdale is noted as a “prolific publisher of filthy books” and further on, Arnold refers to the practice of pornographers having to smuggle their books into the UK, risking fines and imprisonment.
I have made a note that the unexpurgated copy of Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights is very probably in John Watson’s private book collection. He’s an earthy man, after all, with a penchant for gambling and whisky. Why not a little saucy literature?
Further on I’ve marked the pages about the ‘telegraph boys’ who made extra money by having sex with men. The role of the Turkish baths (which Holmes and Watson frequent in canon) in homosexual liaisons is discussed 25 pages on from that.
I expect to read more queer-specific details of London life in the three other books pictured above, and will doubtless leave those pages bristling like a paper-based porcupine in due course.
I’ve already started with Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb, and even the introduction has provided some valuable insights.
How will these snippets and suggestions be used? Will they become significant plot points or background detail?
At this point, who knows? But by filling up my brain with some of that colour, texture and depth, I hope to introduce just enough research to make the stories feel authentic and engaging without presenting them as a series of lectures of What I Learned About Queer Victorians This Summer.
NB: A version of this post originally appeared in my Patreon on 2 February 2018.
Hello all. I’m already bolting out of the gate in 2018 with a series of projects that promise to keep me chained to the keyboard all year. Yes, that is the sound of me cheering. I quite like my keyboard.
Besides working hard on the day job, I spent January preparing the re-release of the second book of the Duo Ex Machina series, Sacrifice. My Patreon supporters are getting the re-edited chapters of that book every two weeks, and when completed, they’ll get a thank you copy of the book and it’ll go on general sale.
Now that the individual chapters are scheduled in Patreon, I’ll be working on the third and brand new novella in the Duo Ex Machina series, Number One Fan.
One of the other things I’m working on is the expansion of Grounded (a sample of which was posted for Patreon supporters in December). The things I’m writing into it are slotting in very naturally, and now I wonder why I didn’t include them in the first place. I hope to have completed these edits by the middle of February and soon after be ready to resubmit to the publisher who asked to see a longer version.
I’ve also devised a cover for the proposed short story collection, Scar Tissue and Other Stories. It will contain some of my (edited) Lost and Found flash fictions and reprints of older stories. I’m also planning a number of brand new stories too – a few more Lost and Founds, and a some other short stories, perhaps set in the universes of Ravenfall and Kitty and Cadaver
Scar Tissue and Other Stories is planned to be a reward for Patreon supporters once I reach my first goal of $100/month. I’m not quite there yet, but if you’d like to help me reach that goal (and access reward copies of books, sneak peeks of works in progress and other exclusive content) that would be grand.
These aren’t my only planned projects for 2018. Among the others are:
A re-release of The Opposite of Life
Writing the third of the Gary and Lissa books so that there’s a trilogy
A series of short stories for Clan Destine Press – The She Wolf of Baker Street
A story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy
Working with a UK artist to develop a potential picture book.
Ambitious, I know. But I’m full of ideas! With fortune and good planning, I might even get all these started (and some even finished) by the end of the year.