Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Siren Song - a Para Kindred #flash

This is instalment that's part of the Immanion Press blog hop, a short piece that's a prequel to my story, The River Flows, which appears in the Para Kindred anthology. See the Immanion Press Facebook page for more details. Also, I'll post my secret question below, so if you visit the Facebook page, you'll see details about a prize to be won (valid for June 2014).


I followed Zenith south. It seemed the best thing to do after we barely survived the bomb blast in Rotterdam that took so many of our friends.

“Europe’s gone for shit,” he told me. “We must make like rats.”

Zenith was nothing like a rat. Tall and whiplash thin, he had skin like burnt sugar and large, expressive eyes – brown, like a doe’s – but there was nothing soft about his nature.

The voyage was beyond awful, and we scuttled about the ship’s hold, eluding capture. Zenith turned it into something of a game. All I wanted was to feel sold ground beneath my feet again, and to put distance between ourselves and the humans, whose stink contaminated the vessel.

Perhaps it was the combination of seasickness and what bad food we stole, but my dreams were troubled. A siren voice tugged at the edges of my awareness, and gave me no rest, so that I tossed and muttered when I was sleeping. Calling me south.

When I told Zenith about this, and that I feared that our quest was ill starred, and that perhaps we should disembark before we made port at the Cape of Storms, he only laughed at me.

“I should call you Ulysses and tie you to the mast,” he said.

“Who’s Ulysses?” I asked, puzzled.

“Never you mind,” he told me.

The cargo ship docked in the early hours of the morning, and all I could make out of the city was the dark bulk of a flat-topped mountain with a scattering of lights like lost stars at its feet.

We slipped between the dockworkers unloading crates and had one bad moment when four off-duty workers tailed us as we departed from the quay.

“Hey, pretty boys with the long hair. Are you girlies?”

“Moffies!” another brayed.

Zenith kept his arm around me as we hurried from these rough men.

“I don’t see how this place is better,” I muttered.

“Hush now.” He kissed my cheek. “You’ll see. There are no others here who call themselves Wraeththu. Things will be better.”

Zenith found us lodgings in the garret above a tavern that did double duty as a whorehouse. At night, when he was working in a nearby bar, I lay awake listening to the shrieks of laughter, murmurs of lovemaking, and, occasionally, stifled sobs.

I meant to find work, but the teeming streets frightened me. Besides, the few times I did explore on my own made Zenith anxious. He filled my head with awful tales of outside.

I confined myself to our room, and lost myself in silent contemplation. My only visitors were the pigeons with their beady yellow eyes and metallic-sheened plumage. I never tired of watching them strut and preen, and I flew with them when they stretched their wings and glided between the sullen buildings.

“Be patient,” Zenith told me. “I am saving money so we can rent rooms in a better part of town.”

“How much do you have now?” I asked, suspicious of how long it was taking him to find enough for a deposit.

“All I ask is that you trust me.”

Aruna was my sanctuary, when I allowed myself the abandon of our inner landscapes of starburst passions, and vortexes of power that dragged me into constellations of euphoria. I spread my wings wide and soared to the sun, Zenith my shadow, twined with my soul and consuming me with his hungry flames.

Afterward we’d cling to each other, and my entire existence contracted to the contours of his lips and the small scar on his left brow.

“What are you humming?” he asked me.

I hadn’t even known I had a song until I stopped.

“It makes me sad,” Zenith said.


He wouldn’t say. Instead he brought his mouth down on mine and his breath tasted of sunshine and autumn leaves.

Five weeks in that miserable garret and every time I asked Zenith how much longer, he told me to be patient. All the while the song at the boundary of my dreams grew more insistent. One night I woke with my legs hanging over the edge of the sill. The cobbles gleamed wetly beneath the light of the moon, suspended above. Vertigo almost tilted me over and I pulled back inside, my heart racing.

The melody shivered at the limits of my perception, more felt than heard, and when I pulled down the sash window, a stranger’s face was briefly superimposed over my own – gibbous like the moon.

Zenith slept, lost in whatever dreams had snared him in their silken skeins. A sly smile quirked his lips, and I watched him a while, washed out by the light of a single candle. An impulse led me to his bag, where he kept his money. I had to see it for myself.

There was no promised roll of notes. What I did find was a handful of copper and a few silvers, as well as stubs from a place called Table Bay Taverna. The ink smudged off on my fingers, but I could still make out the words: Bright Fella, Startling Arrow, Grey Mane…

Without turning on the light, I sat there while that single candle guttered, and I traced the words and spoke them under my breath as though they were invocations. I pressed the stubs to my nose and inhaled…

Men sweating crowded around a small flickering screen wreathed in cigarette smoke beer stains on the floor tiny horses running down the straight tickets clutched in oil-stained hands anticipation elation disappointment

I didn’t need to ask Zenith where the money had gone. This time, when the siren song only I could hear bloomed in my soul, I added my voice to its threnody.

Zenith did not wake, even when I shut the door behind me. Nor did he race after me. I became a shadow, headed to the north and this new continent’s arid interior, and for once, I felt no fear.

* * * *

Super secret question: What birds grace Taym's windowsill? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Formative Reading Experiences

I've been tagged by Short Story Day Africa about my formative reading experiences, so here goes...

What is your earliest memory of books and reading?

The house where I grew up was filled with books, and one of my earliest memories involves pulling books down from the shelves and being frustrated because I couldn’t read the stories. The whole idea that someone might have the wherewithal to sit down and write an *entire* book seemed magical to me. I couldn’t wait to read, and was able to do do so from a young age – I was way ahead of my peers in that regard.

By the time I was 12, I’d read through The Lord of the Rings in its entirety, and I was completely smitten. I knew then that one day I wanted to write my own stories, in my own made-up worlds.

Second only to that was my voracious reading habit, of up to a book every two days, which meant I was constantly at the library. Wherever I went, I’d lug at least one or two books around with me. I also managed to avoid getting invited to all future family weddings, because I once took a book into the reception after the ceremony. What can I say? I was bored and books were (and still are) far better company than people. And I was never invited to family functions with *that* side of the family ever again. Achievement unlocked!

As a small child, what book/s were your favourites?

I absolutely adored my Story Teller tapes and listened to them until they were stretched. My favourite story was about Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams, that was one of the stories that had been adapted for the Story Teller format, but I remember crying my eyes out at the Oscar Wilde stories about The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince. Looking back now, I realise what a treasure trove this collection was, because it instilled a love for storycraft and introduced me to a wide selection of tales from around the world.

But I loved The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, and CS Lewis’s Narnia books also captivated me. Charlotte’s Web by EB White was another favourite, but I also obsessively read anthologies of animal stories, especially if they had to do with cats.

Where did you grow up? Do you have a particular memory of a library, bookshop or other place of books in your hometown?

I grew up in the seaside fishing village of Hout Bay in the Cape Peninsula. Back then we were an isolated community. My family used to farm there, and I suspect I was of the last of the locals to eventually leave once the valley became fully yuppiefied. Nowadays Hout Bay is nothing like it used to be, which makes me sad. My mom used to teach at Kronendal Primary School and I’d have to hang out there and wait for her to finish. Bored out of my mind at the age of six, I started volunteering at the local library – just packing away the children’s books or sitting in a corner hunched over a book paging through pictures. Consequently, I’d spend large chunks of my time at the library, a place that was often a sanctuary for me, as I was often bullied by the “cool” kids.

Even during high school, I often spent more time in the library at Wynberg Girls’ High School than I did hanging out with my peers. I’d while away hours paging through old copies of National Geographics or even the high school journals. Even now, I’m able to digest facts at a glance and often surprise myself with some of the bizarre stuff I remember. Books are time capsules too, and offer fascinating glimpses into the past or possible futures.

I miss the time I had as a kid to just get lost between the shelves. When you’re young, you really live under the illusion that your time is limitless, and when I stepped into the pages of books, I always returned with the sense that I could go out and do anything.

As an adult, in the role of parent or caregiver, what has been your experience with children?

I don’t have children, but when young ones visit my home, I always go find a pile of books for them to look at. Some kids are like me when I was that age, and we don’t hear a peep from them for the entire time that their parents are visiting. I like those kids, and I get what they’re experiencing when they get lost in those books. And they’ll definitely be invited over again. If they’re reading, it means they’re willing to discover new worlds.

And as an aside, all these questions relate to my most recent release, The Guardian's Wyrd, which is exactly about a kid who loves libraries a little too much... (But he's no Bastian Balthazar Bux)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Turquoiselle by Tanith Lee #review

Title: Turquoiselle
Author: Tanith Lee
Publisher: Immanion Press, 2014

Sometimes I wrestle with the books I read, and Turquoiselle by Tanith Lee was one of those titles that both infuriated me and fascinated me by equal measure. Mainly because I ask myself, “Why is this book making me feel this way and what does this say about me as a reader?”

I often feel that many books nowadays give up their secrets too quickly. This is not one of those books. We enter Andy Carver’s world and from the get-go it’s not very clear who this man is nor what his motivations are. In fact, I suspect that Carver hasn’t ever truly bothered to scratch beneath the surface yet, so in that regard is not an easy character to relate to or indeed like.

The story’s pacing is slow and gradually reveals clues to Carver’s past: his troubled childhood and how he came to work for an organisation called Mantik, whose purpose I don’t even think Carver understands or cares to uncover.

Carver exists in an eternal present and has no strong interests about anything or anyone beyond himself. He is a narcissistic cipher, and perceiving the world through his eyes is almost maddening. He has no friends, and how on earth he even got it together to get married, I don’t know. Unsurprisingly, his marriage is dysfunctional, and it doesn’t seem to bother him.

I feel as if Carver merely goes through the motions of life because society and his work expect it of him. The only quirk of his personality is that he occasionally indulges in small bouts of kleptomania – always  taking small, unimportant items that he then stashes in a shed in his back garden.

Of course things do begin to take a strange(r) turn in Carver’s life yet he remains passive – waiting to see what others do first before he reacts. This passivity nearly drove me nuts, but I’m glad I persisted in seeing the story through to its conclusion. People behave strangely around Carver, and I had no idea why. I needed to find out. Granted, this gets revealed later, so I don’t want to ruin it for you with any spoilers, suffice to say that there are a few reversals to do your head in.

Now to get down to the meat and bones of this story. This novel is most emphatically *not* for everyone. I was simultaneously reminded of Twin Peaks and William Burroughs – every gradual unfolding was languid and surreal, and seemed unrelated, random and dreamlike.

Lee’s writing is not so much about the narrative structure, but also about the oppressive sense of claustrophobia and mystery apparent in her setting. As always, her descriptions are lavish, detailed – to be savoured.

I think longstanding fans of Lee’s writing will be right at home. Me, I’m dithering on this one. Loved it and felt resistance at the same time, but realise it’s most likely because I’ve been lazy in my choices of reading matter of late. This book required effort on my part. I kept thinking of The Magus by John Fowles while reading Turquoiselle, and probably for good reason. Make of that what you will.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Guardian's Wyrd print cover unveiled

Wow, it's been a crazy three weeks, but I've had an awesome time touring the blogosphere at some fantastic authors, readers and librarians. So, a huge thank you to all concerned, and if you missed the dates, I've included them at the end of this post.

Now for the good stuff. Today is the cover reveal for the print cover. You might want to know why I am running with two publishers. Well, it's simple. Wordsmack here in South Africa is primarily a digital publisher, and they've been responsible for getting The Guardian's Wyrd into a bunch of different digital platforms, especially related to mobile technology, which is one of the reasons why I was so keen to work with them.

The print version, however, will be handled by Dark Continents Publishing, and my awesome team there (so, a big thank you to Sylvia, Tracie and David). So, keep following me for updates related to release dates etc.

Once again, I've had the honour of working with the highly talented South African illustrator Daniƫl Hugo, who has developed the uncanny ability to read my mind. I reckon he's done a fantastic job connecting with Jay and Rowan, don't you think? Then a big thanks goes to Icy Sedgwick, who handled the cover design.


A Jay and Rowan short story.

May 26, 2014: Author Sonya Clark features me at her blog, where I share a little background.

May 27, 2014: A character interview with Jay September over at author Suzanne van Rooyen's blog.

May 28, 2014: Editor Tracie McBride asks me some pointed questions about my craft and TGW.

May 29, 2014: Five important things you should know about Sunthyst, with thanks to book blogger Tammy February for having me over.

June 1, 2014: The mah-vellous Zoe Whitten has yours truly over for a little chat about heroes, good and bad.

June 2, 2014: Then Icy has me sit down for a bit of a Q&A.

June 3, 2014: Storyteller Rab Fulton also has me over for a few questions.

June 4, 2014: In which I discuss my creative process over at Autumn Christian's spot.

June 9, 2014: An appearance over at Amy Lee Burgess's blog:

June 10, 2014: A guest spot over at Cat Hellisen's where I talk about boy heroes, tropes and twists.

June 11, 2014: Matt the Teen Librarian asks some really twisty questions.

June 12, 2014: Last stop over at DC Petterson's blog, where he finishes off with a little Q&A.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Party – a Jay and Rowan #flash story

“This is a very bad idea,” I told Rowan as we plodded up Andrews Road. The Hill from Hell I liked to call it. My calf muscles were screaming.

There was enough moonlight for me to see Rowan’s grimace. “This party means a lot to me,” he said.

“I don’t care,” I said. “And I don’t see why you’re invited to parties all of a sudden.”

My friend was the class geek, the one who was the butt end of all the pranks and teasing whenever I wasn’t there to look out for him.

“Angela invited me,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Knowing Rowan, he had made all of this up. Angela Fourie was the most popular girl in our grade. Everyone except for me seemed to be obsessed with her. Okay, she was kinda cute, but she wasn’t my kinda cute.

“She sent me a Facebook invite.”

“Does your mother know you’re on Facebook?”

“Shut up.”

“The only thing that’s saving you is that Oryxis and your mom believing you’re sleeping over at my house,” I said. “If they hear that we sneaked out ...”

“You sound like Oryxis now, blah, blah-blah-blah.” Rowan made little talking hand movements. “We’re just going for a little while.”

I growled at him but bit my tongue. Besides, I needed my breath for the last stretch of road before we got to the security gate. If Rowan’s claim that he had an invite (of course I hadn’t received one) wasn’t all a pile of dog poo, then we’d be allowed in past those hallowed gates to Tierboskloof. If not ... Well, we could go back to my place and play console games or something.

I waited next to Rowan while he sweet-talked the security guard at the gate. My mom had brought me here a few years ago when she was visiting a friend, and then they hadn’t had all the security.

I allowed myself to relax a little. Rowan would be safe enough.

As his Guardian, I had to look out for him, just like Oryxis made sure nothing happened to Persia, Rowan’s mum. They were royalty in exile, from the magical kingdom of Sunthyst, and how I had gotten myself tangled in their lives was definitely another story for another time. (That’s if you wanted to cue The Neverending Story.)

But Angela confirmed that we were on the guest list, the security guard buzzed us through, and we followed the avenue up until we reached our destination. We could hardly miss it. The music was pounding doef-doef. Yay, my favourite. Not. I was already cringing and wishing I’d brought my earplugs by the time Rowan rang the doorbell. Squeals of laughter sounded from the other side.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked him.

“Sorry?” he said, cupping his ear to me.

Whether he genuinely couldn’t hear me or if he was just joking, I decided to ignore him. My night had been ruined, in any case. I could only ride it out until the bitter end.

Fay opened the door and blinked at us with heavily made-up eyes, and my heart did a little jig.

Okay, Fay was my kinda cute. My mouth went dry but that was okay, Rowan did all the talking and got us inside.

Oh. My. God. Fay.

Things were looking up. Definitely. Just about everyone from our class was here, and then some. I didn’t recognise some of the older skate punk guys who were hanging out on the balcony smoking cigarettes and trying to look cool.

“Now what, wise guy?” I asked Rowan.

He shrugged and pointed to the kitchen. Drinks, I suppose. Angela’s parents were loaded, so they could afford to let their daughter throw big house parties. Not an adult in sight ...

Loads of fun, but things could also go horribly wrong if we weren’t careful.

Rowan, of course, was completely oblivious to all the dynamics around him – all the more reason for me to look out for him.

Everyone was helping themselves to fruit punch in the kitchen, and I made Rowan dilute his with more orange juice before we headed out to the balcony. From the smell of things there was already way too much vodka in the punch.

It was like we had some anti-cool device strapped to us. The kids sort of shuffled out of our way so that we clearly stood on our own – outcasts. We might as well have that tattooed on our foreheads.

“Happy now?” I scowled at my friend.

Rowan sipped at his drink and tried not to grimace. He obviously wasn’t used to hard tack, for all the times he bragged about sneaking beers from Oryxis’s stock. The stuff tasted pretty vile, so I took small sips. I didn’t want to get drunk. Not here.

Just as I feared we’d be standing around with nothing to do the entire night, I heard it in a brief lull between dance tracks: one of the most beautiful sounds in the world – a softly played classical guitar. The mystery musician was sitting on another patio to our right, screened by a thick stand of wild banana.

The next track started up and I grabbed Rowan’s sleeve. “C’mon, we’re not going to stand about like a pair of lost farts in a perfume factory.”

I didn’t give Rowan a chance to argue and all but dragged him with me down a small flight of steps into the garden then around the vegetation to where a girl was sitting cross-legged on a pile of cushions. It was Fay, and she had a nylon-string guitar clasped to her chest.

“Hey,” she said.

“You’re not going to get heard over the music.” I gestured behind us.

“It’s fine. It’s still better than being out there with all the posers.”

Rowan made to go into the room behind Fay.

“It wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” she told him.

He froze. “Why?”

“Angela’s in there with Tom.”

Rowan tried and failed to hide his disappointment. I hid my smile behind my hand.

“Yeah, I know. Sucks. She asked me to keep chips out front.”

“That’s just twisted,” I said.

Fay gave a little shrug and played a trill of notes. “It beats getting hassled by boys out there.

Mike’s been trying to make me do shooters.” She stuck out her tongue.

“Mike’s an idiot,” I told her and sat down next to her. “Whose guitar is that?”

“Angela’s brother’s. He’s gone overseas. I always play it when I visit.”

“You’re anti-social.” I smiled at her.

“So are you.”

Well, that was one way of chatting up a girl.

As it turned out, Fay and I shared a bunch of similar favourite bands and we took turns showing each other different songs on the guitar. I hadn’t even known to speak to her at school, but thanks to the party, we were good. Fay and Jay – it had a nice ring to it. We had a laugh about that. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice that Rowan had wandered off. The first we heard of any drama was when the music got turned off and there was shouting.

“Where’s your friend?” Fay asked me.

I swore, and my “Spidey” senses as I called it were tingling – I knew on a gut-deep level that whoever was responsible for the disturbance, it was Rowan. He was in trouble.

“Crap, crap, crap!” I muttered under my breath as I rushed through the bedroom behind us and into the house. Fay and I had been so busy talking music we hadn’t even noticed when Angela and Tom had finished whatever it was that they’d been doing. Not that I cared.

My main concern now was saving Rowan from getting beaten up. That kid couldn’t hit a fly if his life depended on it, and it wasn’t difficult imagining a dozen scenarios varying in degree of horror – Rowan with a black eye; Rowan with his front tooth knocked out; Rowan with a broken hand ...

All these scenes ended the same way: Jay having to “please explain” to Persia, who could possibly literally fry me with whatever weird magic she kept up her sleeve. If she knew we were even here ...

There was a circle of kids out front in the driveway, and for a moment I thought the boy sprawled on the ground was Rowan. But it wasn’t.

Mike lay there, moaning. Big-ass bully Mike, who was at least a head taller and twice as large as Rowan. I couldn’t help but gape, as surprised as Rowan, who stood there over him rubbing at the knuckles of his right hand.

“Angela’s dating Tom, you douche,” Rowan spat. “When she says she’s not interested in seeing you anymore, she means it.”

Some of Mike’s friends, eyed up Rowan and were muttering among each other, and it was at that moment that I figured it would be a good idea if we went back to my place to play console games. Less chance of Rowan causing any trouble.

“I’ll see you on Monday,” I told Fay.

She gave me a knowing smile and melted back into the house, clearly uninterested in what was going on out here. Well, there went my chances of having something with a girl tonight. Plus she’d been sending out all the right signals.

I sighed and ploughed through the crowd and grabbed Rowan by the elbow. “C’mon, mate, we gotta chuck.”

He glared at me but didn’t bitch, thank goodness.

I cast one look behind me, but Mike’s friends were too busy helping him up off the ground.

Then I groused at Rowan, “What did you go and do that for?”

Rowan’s grin was devilish. “That was payback.”

“Dude, seriously, what would you have done if his friends had piled into you? You were outnumbered.”

“You’re here now.”

“Dude.” I shook my head. Had he honestly thought I’d haul his ass out of the fire? No. He was right. I would. Even if I got hurt.

Running footsteps from behind had us spin around. I tensed then relaxed. It was only Angela coming up the driveway.

She was breathless and grabbed both of Rowan’s hands in her own. “Thank you! I can’t believe Mike was such an idiot.”

Then she kissed him. Full on the lips.

Before either of us could respond, Angela dashed down the driveway again, leaving us reeling.
“What was that?” I asked in disbelief – Rowan, getting lucky with the girls?

Rowan just smiled and touched his fingers to his mouth. “I don’t know, but her lips tasted like cherries.”

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monsters by Ilsa J Bick #review

Title: Monsters (Book #3 of The Ashes Trilogy)
Author: Ilsa J Bick
Publisher: Quercus, 2013

While having read the preceding books in this trilogy may not be essential, as author Ilsa J Bick does provide character details in the front- and back-matter, this hefty tome as a standalone might prove daunting. We are presented with a large cast of characters, who have a lot of history behind them. Primarily, we follow the story arcs of Alex, who lives with a brain tumour; Chris, who’s got a bit of a thing for Alex; and Tom, an ex-soldier, who also has a bit of a thing for Alex. Herein lies the now almost standard love triangle in young adult fiction.

In addition to this trio, we also get glimpses of other viewpoints via the plucky little Ellie and the tragic Peter, among many others. This large cast of names and relationships is confusing at first, especially as Bick kicks off the novel with Alex’s near-drowning and dramatic rescue in a rapidly flooding mine. There’s no easing into things.

The story is as follows: A few months previous to the events in Monsters, there was a mysterious event referred to as the “Zap”. At the same time, most youngsters developed zombie-like tendencies to eat people. Cue the zombiepocalypse, and the few survivors embroiled in a desperate bid to remain uneaten and to make a life for themselves after the lights have gone out.

As if the existing Changed weren’t bad enough, Bick now introduces freaky evolved Changed, that seem to be under the control of someone who doesn’t have the Spared’s, as the survivors are known, best interests at heart.

Monsters is an ambitious work. The story might not appeal to squeamish readers as it often sinks into an orgy of violence and cannibalism that makes William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as tame as a Disney cartoon. The overarching narrative is also not easy to follow – chapters are short, often end with cliffhangers, and shift from character points of view at a dizzying frequency. Also, by the end, I was hoping for some revelation as to what caused the “Zap”, as well as the Changed, and I suppose I’ll have to keep wondering. It would have been nice to understand why the Changed had some of the characteristics that they did.

Granted, Monsters is filled with plenty of action which does build to a tension-filled conclusion, but getting there exhausted me, most likely due to having to familiarise myself with all the plot arcs and names. There is a lot going on – and you’re advised to read the entire series to get the most value out of this epic.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell #review

Title: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Author: Joseph Campbell
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 1972

Most of the authors with whom I work end up with me telling them they should read this book. Granted, the last time I read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces had been when I was in my late teens, so I figured now was a good a time as any to reacquaint myself with his work.

At the heart of all myths and legends, if I were to summarise Campbell’s book, lies one story, otherwise know as the Monomyth. In its most popular form, you’ll see it in episodes IV to VI of Star WarsGeorge Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell.

It matters not which culture you look at, be it North American Hopi, ancient Celt, Greek, Hindu or Christian, for that matter, there are common elements present that speak to us profoundly.

This hero’s journey affects us on many levels, be it as a symbol of man’s (or woman’s) transformative journey and personal alchemy, or as in the case that I offer my authors – as a template of what makes for compelling storytelling.

This is a book that deserves a permanent place on any author’s storyteller’s shelf.

Campbell writes with warmth, great love and enthusiasm for his subject matter, drawing correspondences between different cultures with great ease and in a way that may forever alter how you perceive the stories, myths and legends that exist throughout the ages.

This is also the sort of book that you can return to time and again, in order to gain a fresh perspective to inspire you. You’ll gain an understanding that the stories that span ages and culture are timeless, and recur constantly in different guises. And I suspect that when I pick up this book in the future, I’ll find new messages that resonate with me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tales from the Lake with Joe Mynhardt

Today Joe Mynhardt of Crystal Lake Publishing takes control of my blog, so a big, scary (and chilly) welcome to Joe!

Every now and then a book comes along that creeps the hell out of a person; a book that leaves you spellbound even days after you’ve read it. For me that book is Tales from The Lake Vol.1. Now you’d think that after editing and working on these stories for the last 9 months I’d be tired of them, but believe it or not, they’re still stuck in my head, whispering to me at all times of the day… and night.

I didn’t want to give too much away, but here are just a few examples:

From Tim Waggoner’s "Lover, Come Back to Me":
He didn’t want to look, but he did. Greywater Lake lived up to its name. The water was murky, but from the ripples on the surface, he thought Jan was right. Before the school of fish had stretched a couple feet from the canoe’s hull. Now it was double – no, triple that. And worse, was their canoe beginning to spin slowly in the same direction the fish were swimming?

From Elizabeth Massie’s "Don’t Look at Me":
I blink. Blurry, painful light bleeds into my eyes. I blink again and Connie comes into view.
I cringe.
She is perhaps eleven, maybe a little younger. She has thin brown hair and a thin sallow face. Bruises the shape of fingers are on her neck and there are scratches on her forehead. Her left eye is blackened.
“I see you,” I manage.
“I know,” says Connie. “Now I got to put you back. Mama said I better be down to fix supper before five o’clock. I’m going to fry some bologna.”

From Taylor Grant’s "Dead Pull":
Mackey swallowed audibly. “Rats?”
Brennan felt a quiet glee warm his heart watching Mackey’s face grow pale. “Rats, snakes, lizards… you name it. Every once in a while one escapes from their cage. The damn things are impossible to catch once they end up down here. And let me tell you… some of those bastards have gotten pretty big.”
Mackey glanced nervously at the darkened corners of the basement.
Brennan continued, “But hey, you’re good with animals, right? Ain’t nothin’ you can’t handle.”

From Bev Vincent’s "The Lady of Lost Lake":
A few moments later, I heard him dragging the canoe from the shore into the lake. This unexpected sound helped me clear my head. Crawling to the open doorway, I poked my head out into the fog-bound night just in time to see Alf paddle into the mist. The moonlight reflected around him, giving the whole scene an ethereal, transcendental look.

What others have said about Tales from The Lake Vol.1:
“The imagination and inventiveness in this anthology display a creativity and diversity of talent seldom found in such collections… This extremely neat, thoroughly edited anthology of carefully selected tales is another proud feather in the cap of Crystal Lake Publishing. For a collection of tales that will thrill, horrify, and generally captivate all readers of horror and dark fantasy, I highly recommend Tales from the Lake Vol.1 as a must-read!” – Ellen Fritz – Books4Tomorrow

“There are ghost stories, weird people of the sea, murderous toys, and super-humans, among other things. Rather than go the safe and typical route, the authors use such fantastical concepts as a starting point in exploring fears that lurk deep beneath the surface. Whatever raises the hairs on the back of your neck, or has you jumping at the slightest sound, chances are that something here will hit close to home. Tales from the Lake Vol. 1 is a collection of tales well worth diving into.” – Josh Black – Hellnotes

So dive right in… the water’s fine.

Universal Amazon Link (paperback and Kindle)
Crystal Lake Publishing (Kindle)
Smashwords (Various eBook formats)

And if my words failed to lure you in, then perhaps this will...

Happy nightmares!

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Song of Sacrifice by Dave-Brendon de Burgh

Author: Dave-Brendon de Burgh
Publisher: Fox & Raven, 2014

It's always exciting when fresh faces appear in the South African genre scene, and Dave-Brendon de Burgh has definitely landed with a splash with his fantasy novel Betrayal's Shadow, which is currently available in print at Exclusive Books (useful for South African readers).

For those who'd like to dip their toes into the setting of Betrayal's Shadow, De Burgh has released a short story to whet readers' appetites. And, having started on the main course at time of writing this review, I can add that reading the short story first will definitely provide a useful framework for when you get stuck in the novel. 

We join Ordaefus, one of the Elvayn race, who has inadvertently pitched his people into a conflict they cannot hope to win. Their only option is to flee their world in the massive Seed ships they hope to send to a new world. 

At the heart of their problem lies a massive difference of opinion between those who Sing and those who Wield--and though he wishes to avoid war, Ordaefus must defend himself against his brother Mahaelal, who has vowed to eradicate all those who Sing.

Basically, this is an origin story, much in the same way Tolkien's Silmarillion sets the stage for The Lord of the Rings. A Song of Sacrifice provides an intriguing and enticing snippet of world building that has lured me in. 

For the sake of writing a balanced review, I must mention a few of the details that bugged me. The biggest point of concern was the quantity and frequency of typographical errors, and I'd hazard to suggest that it might be a good idea to upload a revised edition of this story in the future. Also, what could be looked at is the amount of fillers--"he said", "she thought"... And so on.

Though there is a fair amount of exposition to get through, A Song of Sacrifice is nonetheless a story with a premise that is rather different from much of the fantasy fare I've encountered of late, that blends in a whiff of a SF element. I'll be watching De Burgh's career with great interest.