Category Archives: short stories

Lost and Found 1: Bootless

Walking around any town, any village, any city, I’m always aware of the idea of the unknown history of a place. Who has walked this way before me? What worker, thousands of years ago, paused at the foot of this same pyramid? What Roman soldier took a breath as he stood by this wall back when this was Londinium?

Hidden histories aren’t just separated from me by time. People walk past every day, and I sometimes find myself wondering who they are and what their story is. That woman who is smiling as she talks to someone one the phone; that teenage boy who looks so sad: what dramas or everyday histories are unfolding for them? As a writer, and therefore a student of human nature, I can’t help but wonder.

And sometimes, the world at large leaves unexplained artefacts behind. Signs of some other story of which I can only see a single line. A sort of punctuation mark in what could be a comedy, or a tragedy, or some bizarre adventure.

I’m always fascinated by the discovery of random articles of clothing. Over the years I have seen shirts, single shoes (sometimes broken, sometimes not), pairs of shoes, baby’s bibs, single socks, underwear for both women and men, once a pair of good quality black dress trousers, and most recently, boots. I always wonder how these items were separated from their owners, and whether the separation was amicable.

Some things seem obvious (or at least likely) and often the implied story is, let’s face it, a bit sordid, probably involving too much drink and fumbling liaisons between horny friends and lovers.

Still, my brain being what it is, I sometimes think of other stories to attach to this random paraphernalia I see in the streets. Being a writer of fantasy and horror, my brain sometimes supplies fantastical options.

Take this pair of boots, found placed neatly by the bin next to the bookshop at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets one Saturday morning.

My first thought was that some wicked witches clearly don’t feel terribly comfortable in ruby red slippers, so well-worn walking boots seemed like a fair option. An opinion perhaps not shared by any gingham-clad poppets who may have accidentally crushed said witches to death. I would have thought a sturdy pair of walking boots would have been a better choice to wear while tramping off to find the Emerald City, but maybe they clashed with the dress.

Otherwise, I like to think of these boots as belonging to a rare creature who visited this fair city from some other-wordly realm. Having arrived and adopted a more suitable physical form for this environment, this charming and curious creatue (in the guise of a young Frenchman, perhaps – there are a lot of French visitors in Melbourne these days) spent a few days exploring a human city. Perhaps saw the art gallery. Perhaps lobbed into the Toff in Town to discover this thing called blues music.

And when it was time to leave again, our psuedo-French wraith discarded his disguise, allowing the clothes he’d spun from smoke and cobwebs to blow away. Only the boots, which were real human boots and had been required to protect his delicate feet from the strangely hard and unforgiving surfaces of this city, were left. So he put them to one side and, regaining his true form, wafted down the grates to rejoin the creek that once ran where Elizabeth Street cuts through the city (and still runs its secret way below the asphalt, and thence into the Yarra). Perhaps he’s out at sea now, in some peculiar watery world, failing to convince anyone he knows that there is such a thing as a tram.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Mid Year Review

2012 has been an interesting year so far. By interesting I mean, of course, ‘astonishing’, ‘fantabulous’, ‘exhausting’, ‘exhilarating’ and, quite possibly, ‘TOTALLY ACE!”

2012, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

ONE. March 2012: Showtime

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned how excited I was to have Twelfth Planet Press invite me to submit to their Twelve Planets series. It was nothing compared to how excited I was to have my submission accepted. After months of work with the publisher, Alisa Krasnostein (a World Fantasy Award winner for her work with TPP) and my editor, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Showtime was released on International Women’s Day. It’s had some great reviews, but more importantly, I’m personally very proud of the work that went into those short stories. For fans of The Opposite of Life, there’s a Gary and Lissa story set at the Royal Melbourne Show. The book also contains a zombie story, a ghost story and a more traditional vampire story set in Hungary, inspired by my travels to that country in 2010.

You can buy Showtime from Twelfth Planet Press.


TWO. April 2012: Melbourne Peculiar

When I’m not writing fiction (or doing the day job) I’ve been known to create apps. My first one, Melbourne Literary, came out a few years ago. Clearly a glutton for punishment, this year I finally finished my second app – Melbourne Peculiar, a guide to everything that’s a little bit strange about this town.

I’m fond of the tagline: Melbourne is stranger than you know. Because it really is.

The app is a fairly personal collection of the things I find odd: things like floral clocks, and hidden anti-consumer messages in shopping malls, and arcane shops and memento mori jewellery. You can even learn about the resting place of the inventor of Vegemite, discover where to get spam, get eggs and truffle oil for breakfast or find a famous composer’s whip collection.

You can download Melbourne Peculiar for Apple iDevices or for Android devices.

THREE. May 2012: The Witches of Tyne

A little while ago, I had the great good fortune to win cover art by the fabulous Les Petersen. Since all my other projects already had covers in the pipeline, I thought it would be the perfect time to release a special omnibus edition of my out of print fantasy novels, Witch Honour and Witch Faith, which had been released in hardback in the US in 2005-2007.

So in between writing and editing books and apps, I set about editing the two novels (doing a bit of an adjective and adverb cull, since I’d become a more concise writer since these were published) and adding several short stories and even song lyrics as extra. The result is The Witches of Tyne. It looks terrific, and I’m proud of the result. Extras will be forthcoming in the shape of an actual song to go with the song lyrics, in due course.

In the meantime, you can get The Witches of Tyne from Amazon.com

FOUR. June 2012: Walking Shadows

And hello June! On Friday 8 June, Clan Destine Press and I will be launching Walking Shadows, the long-awaited sequel to The Opposite of Life.

Walking Shadows will be available as an ebook as well as a print edition: stay tuned for links post-launch!

The cover blurb is from Charlaine Harris’s blog about The Opposite of Life:

“A most unusual vampire novel…if you can get this book, do. It’s really a refreshing take on a common theme.”

Which is pretty darned cool.

So thank you, first half of 2012, for being especially fantastic. The latter half may be technically a little quieter, but I’ll be hard at work on the third of the vampire books, so with luck 2013 will contains booky goodness as well.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.