Wednesday, August 31, 2011
My good friend, BDSM erotica author Cari Silverwood celebrated the release of her steampunk BDSM novel, Iron Dominance yesterday. She graciously stopped by today to share a little about her latest tale. Thank you, Cari.
Is there anything in particular that sparked off this novel?
Spark? Hmm. I love steampunk and throwing a lady in there, mixing it round and having her ravished by a lovely man was irresistible.
Sum up your main characters in a nutshell.
Claire is a trained assassin but totally unsuited to her role--when put into her first mission she finds out she hates to kill and falls in love with the man who may be her target.
Theo is a strong independent man--rich, self-assured yet he's never found a woman who is more than superficially interesting to him. Claire turns out to be exactly the right woman.
How do you balance your narrative with your more erotically charged scenes?
I told the story the way it rolled out. Knowing it needed the erotic scenes I planned ahead though and wove the sex into the plot. It's a romance so you just have to make sure some of the pivotal moments for the people in it happen during sex. Or soon after. LOL!
If you have to describe the novel in three words, what would these be?
Action, tragic love.
What are some of the unique features of your milieu?
The Pancontinental Mexican Empire has surged ahead of the rest of the world and developed frankenstructs--humans made from cloned parts who are born as slaves to the PME. In this alternate steampunk world the world map is squeezed together and every continent is within reach of a well-steered airship. Just remember to pay a visit to the Hellene Nation where BDSM is the secret national preoccupation.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I was stupid to think that things would last. I was a fool to imagine that I would remain the unofficial lord of the city. It had to change, and change it did. They arrived during the late afternoon so I wasn’t around to see the convoy of trucks pull in. I was so sound asleep in my lair I didn’t hear a thing but I knew things were different the moment I got up.
It wasn’t easy to pin what the difference was until I heard a diesel engine and saw the sweep of headlights as the vehicle swung down Buitengracht Street. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was an old Land Rover Defender and it had been heavily reinforced with bars over the windows and big-ass bull bars on the front. The thing was dented and dusty but there was no mistaking the power in its engines.
I got goosies just listening to the growl as it powered past.
At first I was excited. I mean, people! Strangers from upcountry! We were saved. Estelle was really happy. They were packing their things, getting the children ready when I arrived.
“They’re coming to fetch us,” she said. Her eyes were bright with tears.
That’s when it struck me. I’d be on my own again.
“Where are you going?” I asked her and tried to sound casual.
“They have a new city they’ve made, on the banks of the Orange River. There are no zombies there and they can defend it easily.”
Oh my god. That was more than a thousand kilometres away.
“Why there? Why can’t they build closer to home?” I asked.
I don’t think she picked up on my disappointment because she didn’t stop smiling. “It’s a new beginning. There’s water and the place is clean. The children will be able to play because there is a fence.”
I knew then I wouldn’t go with. I didn’t belong there. It wasn’t just the fact that the men who’d come wore military-style uniforms and carried the biggest guns I’d ever seen. I could smell it. These weren’t just survivors. These men were hard. I could see it in their eyes. They’d not ask questions about me. They wouldn't listen to explanations. They’d shoot me.
Part of me wanted to argue with Estelle but I couldn’t. I knew they’d be safer though I worried about the strangers’ motives. They were making a big deal about asking after the women and children. Why would they want the women and children?
I thought about crazy Gerrit Smuts in the Castle. He’d not wanted to open the gates, or so Estelle told me, but when he saw the strangers had bigger guns, he let them right in. I heard then they shot him. Just like that. They went in then one of the guys pulled out his pistol and shot Gerrit right between the eyes.
Then I thought about the lions, how the big males sometimes banded up and went into another male’s territory. They would fight and occasionally the rogue males drove off the older male, killed all his cubs then mated with the females.
Estelle, Betty and the kids didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Or maybe they forgot about me. I hung back when the truck came to fetch them and I think Estelle was so busy trying to round up the last of the little ones she completely forgot I was still there.
The dude driving the truck was a big, dark-skinned man who spoke with a French accent. His companion was as large, but spoke with an American accent and I didn’t like the size of his rifle, so I stayed in the shadows. They noticed a lot of stuff around them, their gazes roaming about so I didn’t want to take the chance that they’d spot me.
A younger couple I recognised from Mouille Point was in the back of the truck already. They were talking and laughing, and helped pull the others’ stuff into the vehicle.
I stood like a statue, hardly daring to believe this happened. Even when the big black guy slammed the tailgate up it didn’t feel real. Then, in an angry roar of fumes, the truck lurched down the road and the last I saw of my warmbloods was their pale faces peering out at the world they were leaving behind.
Not everyone left with the convoy that went north. There were people, wild ones who never spoke to the others, who decided to take their chances with the zombies. The gangs moved in and I didn’t stop them. I became a shadow again, slipping between other shadows.
I killed a warmblood three months after my people left. He asked for it because he was walking around at night. I stalked him so that he knew he was being hunted. I chased him so that he thought he’d get away. And then I killed him. I ripped his throat out and I drank my fill.
That’s what vampires were supposed to do. I didn’t feel like pretending to be anything but that anymore. My game had been nice while it lasted, but it had only served to remind me that it was in my nature to hunt, stalk and kill. It didn’t help to dull that horrible ache in my chest, but if I let it take over, I didn’t have to think about why the ache was there.
Sometimes I climbed Lion’s Head when it was full moon. Warmbloods often used to do that in the old days. I guess someone had to continue with the ritual. The moon rose big and orange over the Hottentot’s Holland mountains, like a big eye. To me it was as bright as day. Even warmbloods could see well in this light. How many more times would I climb this mountain to watch the moon rise over a dead city? Would I stand sentinel for five years more? A hundred? Would the warmbloods return?
I didn’t have an answer to these questions but I’d keep climbing that mountain to watch the moon rise. I knew that much.
* * * *
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Friday, August 26, 2011
I've had the pleasure of meeting the very talented and charming Aidan Whytock a number of times. He's acted in a few of the short films my husband's worked on with the BlackMilk Productions team. Those of you who're au fait with the South African indie film industry would have seen him in a bunch of films, but notably in Sweetheart, by the Be Phat Motel film company.
Aidan's been an absolute darling and stopped by my blog for a quick Q&A. Catch him while you can, folks, damn right this lad's going places.
So, Aidan, when did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I developed a stammer when I was five years old. It made it difficult to communicate and thus I developed a fear of speaking and especially speaking under pressure. My wise dad once told me to face my fears. So when I was about 15 I decided to get a one-liner role in the school play. I practiced and practiced and I didn't mess it up! It turned out the stage was a place where my stammer wasn't in command of me. It was liberating and became a desire from then.
Who were some of your influences and what were the most influential films you watched while you were growing up?
When I saw The Last of the Mohicans Daniel Day-Lewis became one of my favourite actors. The soundtrack also blew me away and the fiddle theme-tune became an anthem of my youth. The Crow also had a profound impact and my propensity for darker content was born. Again music and imagery's fusion captivated me.
Okay, you've mentioned The Crow, which means I'm probably going to be your undying fangrrrl forever. What I want to know, is it difficult breaking into acting as a career in South Africa?
Very. There isn't a huge amount of work on offer. Theatrical space is there to be utilised but alas it isnt well supported, which makes it tricky to pay the bills. Film work is in short supply and generally the lead roles go to international actors. The supporting roles go to the seasoned SA actors and they, to their credit, have created a captive market for themselves
With that in mind, what advice do you have for aspiring actors in SA?
Do it for the love. Do it for the money and you ll never enjoy your work.
To get where you are now, what path have you followed so far? Tell us a little about some of the work you've undertaken.
I used to be in the corporate world, selling beer. I decided there was more to life than the bottom line and I returned to the passion place from school. After training again I joined a troupe that meets twice a week and honed my ability as a Meisner actor. With a bit of training in LA under my belt I found myself in a position being asked to perform roles I didn't think I could do. That has been the largest lesson: push myself. Because of that I had the privilege of working on the award-winning The Lovers, Safehouse and recently a short action comedy and a heavy apartheid drama, shot in LA.
Thank you for stopping by, Aidan. Dare I say break a leg?
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Well, dear friends, I'm pleased to announce that the blurb for my early 2012 release, What Sweet Music They Make, has been finalised. So, without further ado...
Music brought them together, but can it set them free?
Betrayed by those closest to her, musical prodigy Tersia is heartbroken. She immerses herself in her music, turning her back on love. However, when she notices Severin at one of her performances, the serious, pale young man makes her want to risk her heart again.
Severin’s future as a lackey to the vampire Lord Murray has him chafing at his bonds. That is, until he encounters Tersia, whose rare musical talent captivates him. But Severin is not the only one to notice her. Other, darker forces have taken a sinister interest in her potential.
Tersia and Severin can't deny the spark that has ignited between them, but can they overcome the shadows that threaten to smother their trust?
Coming soon from www.lyricalpress.com
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I'd like to thank my friend, Jaye Sonia, the creator of Rhune (go check it out if you're into RPGs) who has graciously offered "reprints" of content he's written for Bazaar magazine. I'll be posting one a week for a few weeks running, just to keep y'all out of mischief. This week, to take a different tack from "just" fiction, it's games. Thank you, Jaye, and over to you...
Games, games, and more games: Your fall review way too early….
This month, I’m talking about console games. If you haven’t been checking the upcoming releases for 2011-2012, let me be the first to say it; “So much awesome…” There are some pretty incredible games headed our way – and not just for adult gamers, either.
First up, something awesome for kids (and I suppose, their parents and caretakers, too) that involves one of the world’s biggest (and best established) franchises revolving around a mouse. Want a hint? It starts with a D and ends with an isney.
But first, let’s talk about Microsoft’s Kinect (released last November). If you’re not aware, Kinect is available for the Xbox 360 (with some hacks for the PS3 floating around on the Internet) and is getting all sorts of wonderful reviews. Much like the Wii did, it’s taking young gamers away from the stereotypical lounging to getting up, mobile, and active about their games. Not surprisingly, most of the games for Kinect have been sports related (tennis, bowling, dance, ect).
Now, however, things are starting to expand. The technology is better established and people like Disney are jumping into the ring. So parents, be prepared for a winter of excitement. Why? Disneyland Adventures, that’s why. Slated for release sometimes at the end of this year, this game is going to mesh everything that’s cool about Kinect with everything iconic about Disney (including customizable avatars).
Of course, there’s also something exciting coming for all of you FPS (first person shooter) enthusiasts, too. So, put down your Black Ops game and get ready for Call of Duty: Modern Combat 3 (WW3), which releases November 8th, this year. Contrary to what The Onion predicted last year, this game actually looks amazing. The storyline of the Russian invasion of America continues, with players traveling the globe in a series of missions aimed at opposing their offensive. Some of the planned areas for combat include England, France, Germany, Somalia, and even Dubai (how cool is that, eh?). Needless to say, if you’re a CoD fan, this game – the 8th of its type – should make this winter an exciting time.
(And if you’re like some of my co-workers, keep you pretty darn busy on Thursday nights! Go Blue Team, Go!!)
Of course, there are more than just mice and machine guns on the horizon, too. If you’re a Nintendo fan, you’ve got a classic returning very soon. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is slated for release late this year and looks promising (even if bloggers are attacking Link’s overtly feminine physique). Like many Wii games, this will require gamers to get out of their seats and direct Link’s actions by swinging the Wii controller around, something trendsetter Wii has long championed. He’ll use his sword to do a lot of hacking and slashing, but that’s not all. From what I’ve read online, he’ll even open doors with it. The game has a 3D look to it, but more of a cartoonish perspective.
Along those lines, look forward to, Fable: The Journey (again for the Xbox 360). While it’s aimed for older kids in their 30s, rumors abound that young teens might just enjoy this game, as well. It’s slated for release sometime in 2012, likely in the early summer. I saw the trailer (available online) and was pleased to see that a number of the gestures access various powers and abilities, while still maintaining basic features. So, you can launch fireballs at enemies and cut them down when they rush you. Even if it is a styled after a FPS, this is still very, very cool (and we need plenty of cool for these hot Kuwaiti summers).
Another classic to return this fall is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC, Xbox 360, and PS3). While I’ve never been a big fan of this intense RPG (role-playing game), it’s still one of the giants in the playground. It’s scheduled for release on November 11th, 2011 and offers gamers a chance to visit Skyrim, home of the Nords. The game’s storyline revolves around the return of dragons (lots of them) and those that would oppose them, namely, the dragon born. This is another title that promises endless high-fantasy action that should carry gamers happily into 2012.
(Don’t believe me? Have a look at some of the trailers online. The graphics are more than pretty…)
Finally, keep your eyes peeled for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3) this November. I’m not a big PS3 guy (I’m in Microsoft’s corner with the Xbox, sorry guys), so I haven’t played any of the previous versions of this saga. I have to admit, though, that I wish I had. This game looks pretty amazing and I’m instantly reminded of Indiana Jones when I look at the previews. This, of course, might just be because the game is about an adventuring archeologist (aptly named Drake) that is exploring the Arabian Peninsula in search of the “Atlantis of the Sands.” He doesn’t stop off in Kuwait, but I’m told his adventures are legendary nonetheless. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception releases on November 11th, 2011 (is everyone capitalizing on this 11-11-11 thing or what?).
So, if you haven’t done it yet, get online – yes, right this minute – and start looking at some trailers. But be warned. There’s a lot of awesome on the horizon!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
On an Empty Shore
Estelle showed me a history book not so long ago. Normally I didn’t bother looking at them but this one was interesting. It was about boats and the history of Cape Town. This place used to be called the Tavern of the Seas and over hundreds of years people used to stop here to pick up supplies.
I didn’t tell her that all I remembered was occasionally helping Korean or Filipino sailors find less than legal narcotics while they were on shore leave. They sometimes helped me out with cash which I could use to buy more heroin.
It blew my mind when I saw pictures of Woodstock that used to be a beach. The area today was just a wasteland of old industrial buildings and no one went there much because of the gangs. Guess some things didn’t change much, with or without zombies. All that land got reclaimed. I had no idea that most of the Foreshore used to be under water. Amazing stuff.
I never went down to the sea when I was a warmblood yet for some reason I was drawn there after my change. Some evenings I’d walk through Green Point to the promenade. There was a slipway that the fishermen sometimes used to launch their boats in the old days. The doors at the bottom were never locked, and the cove was sheltered and a perfect place to poke around in rock pools.
The sea had all sorts of moods. When it was winter, it got really exciting because then the surf would be big and sometimes the breakers would explode against the concrete in a huge wash of foam. I got soaked plenty like that. I didn’t feel the cold but there was something very cool and scary about not knowing whether the next wave would drench me.
The Atlantic was like a hungry beast, big and powerful. I liked playing with the danger that it could devour me, suck me off the rocks. One night the only reason it didn’t was because I got wedged in a crevice. Had to wait between rushes of water before I got to a safer distance from the worst of it. The rocks were like black teeth sticking out of the tidal pools. Death to both warmbloods and vampires if you got mashed on them. Many times zombies washed up there and got stuck and I chopped them into bits just for the hell of it.
At low tide I sat and the rock fish nibbled at my toes or I poked at the sea anemones. It felt weird but kinda nice the way they contracted over my fingers. It made me think of times when I’d been a little kid full of sand, only it was hot and ma made me wear a hat. I could almost taste the ice cream.
But there was one night I walked a lot farther along the rocks to where the sand started. I didn’t know what had drawn me out until I saw the long black shape lying on the sand. It was a whale―a very small whale but still a whale. The first I’d ever seen. Once I’d heard on the radio that they beached themselves and I suppose this was a similar situation.
When I looked I saw it wasn’t just one but seven of them and they lay there on the sand, their skins drying out. I could almost feel their sadness and their pain. They were dying and there was no one to help them.
I didn’t want to leave them there. My eyes felt very tight and so did my chest, though I didn’t need to breathe. Moving them wasn’t an option. They were too big except for one that was only slightly longer than I was tall.
I tried, okay? I really tried. I managed to shift the little one closer to the water. It helped also that the tide was coming in and I loved the way its black skin glistened the moment it got wet.
It was slippery in my arms and started to struggle when the waves broke over it. I don’t know for how long we fought each other and the waves. Eventually I was waist deep in the breakers that kept washing over my head. It’s okay, it’s not like I could drown but it was difficult keeping my footing.
We got out quite far and it was almost impossible for me to hold onto it.
“Go back to the sea,” I told him.
For a while he just flopped about in the water. I had to hold him so his blowhole pointed above the surface otherwise he just sank. Then he started swimming. Wow! I whooped and clapped then a wave knocked me over.
The little whale swam a short way along the shore.
Then I swore. He turned himself back at the beach and another big wave came and he just swam with it to beach himself on the sand again. I screamed at him, tried to tug him back out to the water. I tried another five times and it was close to dawn and I was as cold as the sea when I realised there was nothing I could do. The little whale was as tired as I was.
I couldn’t tell if it was the sea that was so salt in my mouth or if I tasted my tears. I hadn’t cried in a very long time but I got out of the water and stood there for a long while and stared at the terrible scene. Three of the whales had already died. Two were close to death. If I’d a gun I could have shot them so they wouldn’t suffer. Instead I did what I could. I went back to where I’d left my things and got my blade. I finished the whales so that they wouldn’t hurt anymore. Dark hot blood gushed onto the sand and bathed my hands and feet in great, iron-rich fountains.
I couldn’t bring myself to drink it.
* * * *
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Monday, August 22, 2011
Every once in a while, just in case I grow too stodgy, friends drag me out by my hair and submerge me in mainstream culture. This is a good thing, I think, because it reminds me that I’m not a complete hermit. Or perhaps I can keep telling myself it’s a good thing long enough to start believing it. Especially when faced with fellow patrons who’re possibly half my age, who don’t worry about bond repayments on their homes.
It’s always the morning after the night before that I have to sit down to ask myself why people have this tendency of engaging in certain modes of behaviour in clubs that, in the garish light of day, seems pretty pointless.
But it is fascinating to watch. Clubbing for me now is pretty much like visiting a zoo, where the DJ occasionally spins a tune I enjoy dancing to. That’s if there’s space on the packed dance floor and that big oaf that hovers constantly around me isn’t busy ogling my arse.
My friend B pretty much summed it up: “It’s a meat parade. Just one big meat parade.”
I guess one can meet a life partner when you least expect it. While it’s not something I readily like admitting, I did meet my husband in a club. We’ve been married for more than a decade and I haven’t killed him yet.
But back to a recently past weekend: my friends and I were seated off to one side in the subterranean recesses of a popular Capetonian nightspot, kind of hoping for a gap on the dance floor, something which only materialised way after the witching hour.
But boy oh boy did I have plenty of people-watching to do between waiting for old favourites such as The Cure’s Lovecats or vintage Siouxsie Sioux. That’s when I wasn’t having a good chuckle at folks bopping and jiving to Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby.
One bright spark decided to show his friends how to juggle beer bottles. And no, I’m not making this stuff up.
Needless to say, said beer bottles shattered on the pretty black-and-white chequered dance floor. Or should I mention the girls dressed in little more than a handkerchief and garters with little gold stiletto-heeled sandals tweeting on their cellphones while they teetered about to the tune of Metallica’s Enter Sandman?
Granted, I’m a fine one to talk. Whenever I felt the need to catch my breath I absconded to what I thought was my safe corner so I could whip out my BlackBerry and offer my friends a running commentary of the sights and sounds courtesy of two of my favourite social networking sites. Times have changed. In the old days I’d probably have drunk more beer and stared glumly into the middle distance, because having a proper conversation in this sort of environment is near impossible.
At least I thought my corner was safe. While the dear husband had at last won a precious spot on the dance floor, the beer bottle-juggling rocket scientist saw his gap and decided to approach me. Only one small problem there – he didn’t see the all but invisible step leading up to the tables.
Said inebriated desperado landed face first in my lap. Too horrified to react, I merely gaped at him while he, unfazed, looked up and asked whether I would dance with him. Fortunately he backed off quickly when I showed him my wedding ring.
Either that or his friends had dared him to chat up the scary-looking Goth chick in the corner and he could now slink away, the ordeal over, the bet won. Go figure.
And I have to add, there’s nothing like the addition of a few poles to bring out males’ inner exhibitionist. I saw more male pole-dancing than I’d ever considered possible.
Later, when I said my goodbyes to a friend who’s a manager at the club, I asked her what the weirdest thing was that had ever been left behind by patrons.
“Oh,” she answered. “Someone left a shoe here a while back.”
“Really?” I asked. “Surely that’s hardly a surprise.”
She laughed and shook her head. “It was a Jimmy Choo.”
This had me raise a brow while I did the maths. Ouch. “What did you do with it?”
“Oh, I threw it out in the trash. It was lying around for ages.”
Righty. Good thing no one’s making me part with my New Rocks in a hurry, no matter how clunky or unfashionable they are. And thus ends my annual clubbing adventures, it can be hoped for another 365 days when I’ve conveniently forgotten the ringing in my ears, the drunk-stumbling weirdoes and the almost indelible stench of smoke in my hair.
Oh, and the pole-dancing men with beer-guts.
David Attenborough never had it quite this good.
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This column was initially published in the Sunday Independent Life section on August 21, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
What a lovely collection of short stories to land on my desk. Or maybe "lovely" is the wrong word. Creepy, yes. Discomforting, definitely. Simon Kurt Unsworth delivers a tight collection of macabre tales. There isn't always rhyme or reason why events unfold as they do, but what is certain is that each tale leaves you feeling scratchy behind the eyes.
In Button, Bruno catches a button that adheres to his left hand, with unfortunate consequences. This story still leaves me feeling phantom pains on my palm.
Dog was perhaps the only story that didn't resonate with me. Slightly reminiscent of the Cube films, it left me uneasy for reasons I won't go in that will spoil the tale. It's suitably horrible, even if one never discovers the raison d'etre for the viewpoint character's predicament.
My phobia for hospitals, needles and scalpels were next on the list when I read Excision. What I liked the most about this one was that the horror is implied and the truth ambiguous. Thank goodness for general anaesthetic, is all I can say.
The grim vision of a sterile future for planet earth is explored in Plastic. Once again, Unsworth plays with medical themes gone wrong in this broody and rather tense story.
Overall, Unsworth is a master of mood and suspense. The true horror lies not in the end result but the growing sense of inevitability so often lacking in horror fiction nowadays. Well done with this anthology, sir. You've definitely succeeded in giving me my sick thrills for a gloomy Sunday afternoon.
Buy Uneasy Tales here.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
It’s Eat or be Eaten
I saw my first lion two years after the zombiepocalypse. Doesn’t matter that technically I was already dead, I still just about wet myself. Whether the lions escaped from that fancy lion park near Paarl or if they got out of one of the wildlife reserves I don’t know. I expect they were pretty quick to multiply and stake out territories because not long after that I did encounter a female with four cubs.
By then there were people farming close to the city, so the cows, pigs and sheep were easy pickings and I shouldn’t have been too surprised the night I came face to face with one. The southeaster was blowing like mad, and I was upwind from the beast. Guess it couldn’t smell me―not that vampires smell much like anything except dust―so both of us were totally clueless up until the last moment.
Our chance meeting happened not far from Lion’s Head, actually. Though I wasn’t laughing at the time. There was a quarry near there and I think the animal had gone there to drink. It was already quite dark and, on top of it, it was new moon.
Sure, I saw pretty good at night but I was preoccupied. Estelle’s girlfriend, Betty, had gotten sick and I was supposed to see if I could get antibiotics from the hospital, but the place was already picked clean. Not nice going back empty-handed.
I’d also seen the remains of a fresh zombie kill. It had been a young woman because I saw most of her face had been untouched, her expression one of horror. Her bones had been scattered and very well chewed. It grossed me out big time so ja, for once I didn’t look where I was going and I almost stomped on the big cat’s tail.
Fuck me, the lion moved fast. Almost as fast as I could run. Its claws whispered right past my back. It’s like I could feel them almost in my spine. I screamed like a little girl and fucking ran. I didn’t stop until I was almost at Estelle’s shelter.
At first they laughed at how freaked out I was but then it must have sunk in. Lions in the city centre meant they had more to worry about than zombies. By then Estelle and Betty had more people to living with them. Three small kids, and no one knew what had happened to their parents, so the ladies took them in. What if the lions got the kids? They were easy targets.
With every month that passed the city got more dangerous. Simply being able to run faster wasn’t always all that helpful. After a few more close shaves with local wildlife I took to carrying a weapon. I found an old samurai sword in one of the houses up in Camps Bay. Smart-looking thing with a carved ivory handle. Of course I was no swordsman but it would but it still made a bit of a difference. Now the skinny vampire had a steel claw.
But it wasn’t just the lions, and later bears or tigers. Yes. And wolves. It was also small stuff that could kill, and there wasn’t a doctor a phone call away who’d be able to help.
Snakes came down into the city: puff adders, Cape cobras. There were scorpions too. One of the kids got stung and almost died. I got bit once or twice but the poison only gave me a headache. It was the warmbloods who were really in trouble here.
People forgot that Africa used to be a very wild place. Estelle asked me to go to the library to get books for the kids and during the day I’d listen to her teach them about history and stuff. I never had teachers when I still went to school who told me stories with so much love.
I learnt stuff about South Africa, about its past. I sometimes wondered if the zombies hadn't done us all a big favour in a way. If it wasn’t the one group who stirred kak it was the other. People did some pretty horrid things to each other. What makes one man better than another? Coloured, black or white, they all bled the same. They tasted the same too. No diffs.
Sometimes I sat and wondered whether the zombiepocalypse wasn’t the earth’s way of wiping most of the warmbloods off the face of the planet. My uncle used to keep pigeons. He had hundreds of them, these big white fantail pigeons that used to preen and strut all over the roof of the house. And when they flew, their wings made a wonderful whirring sound.
My auntie always used to complain that he had too many pigeons and although they were white and quite pretty, they used to fight, the males, I think. One day the birds started dying. My uncle tried everything but he found out it was some sort of bugs that were attacking the birds. The vet told him it was because he had too many of them in the Wendy house out back.
Nearly all the pigeons died, almost to the last one. The ones that survived were clever enough to go live in the neighbour’s roof. They never came back though my uncle put out food for them.
Maybe the zombies were meant for the warmbloods. Maybe the vampires weren’t doing a good enough job keeping them in check so the zombies came to do the job properly.
But what do I know? I just gotta try figure the stuff out after the fact. Nothing out there would want to eat me, that much was for sure, but I still had to watch my back. Survival of the fittest, Estelle often said. I don’t think I was ever fit, but I kept correcting her and telling her it was survival of the fastest. She’d laugh at me and just shake her head. Guess it’s good to see the humour in these things.
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Monday, August 15, 2011
Today I'm pleased as punch to offer the limelight to David Youngquist, one of the masterminds behind Dark Continents Publishing, who will be nurturing my next "heart" novel, Inkarna (you may have heard me muttering about the novel a few times on assorted social media). I'm very excited to be on board as I believe that Dark Continents is bringing the art back into horror and dark fantasy, with gritty often unrelenting offerings of fiction guaranteed to leave you thinking about what you've read for months, if not years after.
So, without further ado, I hand the mic to Mr. Youngquist...
I got around a lot as a kid. I crawled through the African bush with Peter Hathaway Capstick. On my hands and knees, I swatted away tsetse flies and waited for a wounded leopard to charge. After Peter and I had finished the job, I went on a trip to the future with Piers Anthony and a naked serf named Stiles and a magical, shape shifting unicorn mare named Neysa. I lay on the cold cobbled floor of a rundown barn in the Yorkshire Dales and helped James Herriot pull a calf on a cold winter night with snow sizzling on our backs. I even took a trip across the mores with Holmes and Watson as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sent them in pursuit of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
They were amazing trips. Told through the voices, minds and eyes of people who lived in far away countries. I loved going on these trips through my reading. I’ve got a few books in my collection of each of these authors, and on occasion, I’ll dig them out and reread them. I love the flavor these writers bring to my world.
I’m sorry. I should introduce myself. I’m David Youngquist. Publisher/President and one of the founding members of Dark Continents Publishing. Nerine asked me to do a guest blog for her, and I’m happy to oblige. I cut my teeth writing an opinions column for my college newspaper, so I’ve had a little practice at this.
Dark Continents is a new publisher on the scene. We did our official company launch this past may at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas. We launched with 13 books from the authors in our company at that time. By Christmas of this year, we’ll launch another eight books. Not bad for a company who just has their one year anniversary a few days ago.
When we founded DCP, there were six of us from around the world who came together to take better control of our careers. We saw where the publishing industry was floundering, and where we could fix it. We also have a green mindset, corporately. We take only electronic submissions. No slush pile of manuscripts to recycle. Our books are Print on Demand. Therefore no books that didn’t sell that have to be recycled. We used corn plastic pens that are biodegradable as giveaways at conventions and signings.
A big thing that we do differently than other publishing companies is this: We welcome unique voices from around the world to be part of our publishing family. The internet has allowed for amazing things. Our original six founding members are from the US, Australia and England. Hence, our name. We have since added writers from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. One thing I wanted to do, when I started putting this together, was to bring some of the flavor back to people’s reading menu.
If you walk into an American bookstore, and start thumbing through titles, one thing you’ll notice is a severe lack of variety in the writers offered. Oh, you’ll get a few Brits here and there, but they’ve been homogenized by American editors to sound like the rest of us, so the flavor is pretty much gone.
But I like the differences we all bring to the table. A lot of publishers here in the US are afraid that Americans won’t be able to relate to a British author or an Australian author and vice versa, I’m sure. I give the reading public more credit than that, however, and have seen that with the rise of the internet, people can read authors, bloggers, reviews, and just about anyone else from around the world. Old style, traditional presses have yet to figure this out. They don’t believe that someone in Kansas would want to read a novel written by someone on Birmingham, England.
But isn’t that what reading is all about? Going to places you might never get to visit otherwise? Capstick has retired and is out of the African bush. James Herriot passed away a few years ago, and no longer walks his beloved Dales. I think I’ll dig some of those old books soon, and take the trips again.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
It's always lovely when I can uncover a project that's been sitting backstage for a while. It's reached the stage of "Oh my, yes, I rather did write this one, didn't I?"
Granted, we still have to do the content editing etc, but it's with great pleasure that I'm revealing the cover for What Sweet Music They Make, an urban fantasy novella releasing early 2012 through Lyrical Press.
It's set in Cape Town, South Africa, and features two of my favourite subjects: music and vampires. Oh, yes, and a dash of wangst.
I'd like to thank some special people who helped with the artwork. First off, my publisher, Renee Rocco, who's the mastermind behind Lyrical Press. She puts up with me when I wear both my author and editor hats. Seriously, she gave me my toehold in the publishing industry and after three years I'm still hanging with the Lyrical crowd.
Next, I'd like to thank Leon Visser, who's a fucking amazing photographer, cinematographer and editor. He's part of BlackMilk Productions, and indie film-making initiative here in Cape Town, South Africa. But do go check out his blog while you're at it.
Lastly I'd like to thank my two models. While Anika doesn't have her Facebook profile up anymore, do go check out Lohan. He's a shit-hot photographer and I reckon the lad's going to to from strength to strength.
So, a big thank you to everyone involved in helping me put together the cover art for What Sweet Music They Make. There's still a lot that needs to happen behind the scenes before we can say "it is done" but ja... this is the kind of stuff that makes me realise a project is becoming real.
If you're on Facebook and want to keep up to speed with my doings there, do like my author page. Or share the love if you already do so that I may gather more minions. Muhahahahaha!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Under the Radar
I mentioned there were the warmbloods who had guns, right? They were the ones who’d always been a bit twitchy even before the zombies arrived. Some were your average Afrikaners who’d always kept a stockpile of weapons despite the change in gun laws. A few others were the opportunists who grabbed what guns they could when the shit went down.
I didn’t like guns. I knew a bullet to the brain would kill me just like the next person―or a zombie, for that matter. A shot gun made a very big mess. While I didn’t need antibiotics or bandages, and my body healed pretty good once I’d had a dose of blood to speed up things, it still hurt like shit.
Also, if I was down and trying to heal up, it also meant that some lucky bastard could get closer to deliver that killing blow. I didn’t want to take that chance, so I generally stayed the hell away from warmbloods who pointed guns at me. I may not be alive in the true sense of the word, but I wasn’t stupid.
A gun often meant the difference between life and death after the zombies came. Once ammo ran out, it definitely levelled the playing field, if you catch my drift. And ammo wasn’t always easy to come by, since those who had sources protected them fiercely. After all, it wasn’t like there were factories producing the stuff anymore.
But ja, there was still more than enough live ammo in circulation to keep guns in action for years to come and I wasn’t about to take my chances. One man armed with a rifle could take pot shots and thin out a mob of zombies without breaking a sweat. Or flatten a lone vampire.
So I was always a bit more careful to go into territories where known gunmen lived. It was almost like the Wild West, Clint Eastwood and all. Unarmed vampires like me had to be careful.
I considered finding me a gun but I never did learn to shoot one. Something about handling a lump of metal that looked dangerous made me uneasy. Guns just scared me.
The gun people were total nutters. There’s this crazy dude who’d taken over the Castle of Good Hope. He kept himself a harem of wives and some animals in the place. Gates were locked almost the whole time. It took me three attempts to convince him that I was there to trade and bring news.
Gerrit Smuts almost squeezed in a head shot that first time. Bullet grazed my cheekbone and clipped my ear. Like getting burned. The next time he got me in the chest. Smack! Punched me right over and I lay there for about five minutes trying to figure out how to make my body work again.
Can you imagine his amazement when I got up again? But I had a letter from a woman who lived in Sea Point. She’d spoken to someone who’d heard they’d seen her sister near the Castle and she wanted to tell her she was still alive.
And it was worth the effort for me to be in as many good books as possible. Supply and demand, and all that. It’s not like I had any competition for my services, and payment in blood was a necessary evil, as far as the warmbloods were concerned.
There were also gangs. Fucking tsotsis who went about taking what they wanted from other people who couldn’t defend themselves. Fucking rapists made me angry enough to go after them.
People can point fingers at me and say I’m a monster, but I wasn't like these beasts who hurt others just because it made them hard. Waving a gun around in the air didn’t make you a man.
These assholes thought that just because they had guns they were safe. But a gun didn’t help against a death that could move silently and see better than you in the dark.
They raided a bit too close to home one night. Two of Estelle’s friends were raped, the one beaten so badly she died the next morning. I was near enough to hear the screams when it happened. Five guys were too many for me to take on but I followed them.
They made so much noise it was impossible to miss them. Their kicked litter and joked and laughed all the way back to where they stayed. What zombies they saw they shot. Overconfident stinking bastards. I got the first one when he went off by himself to take a slash. His buddies made the mistake of splitting into pairs to track me down.
Thing is, those guns did no good once I got close enough to rip out their throats. I didn’t feel bad about taking my fill of their blood. Scum didn’t deserve to breathe.
I’m no fucking Lone Ranger, but for once in my existence I’d got something to be proud of. It’s just a run-down city but it’s mine. No one told me what to do and the same went for the warmbloods under my care.
Granted, the day Estelle and her neighbour, a grumpy old sod who kept chickens, almost came to blows, I did tell them to cool it. For fuck’s sake, it’s chickens, damn it. There were worse things to fight about than worry about the price of eggs.
The zombies, man. They don’t just go away. It’s like that whole suspended animation vibe. If they didn’t have fresh meat they sort of went to sleep, lay there pretending to be a piece of furniture. I expected they could last almost forever like that.
I’d seen it with my own eyes and the damn things could move so quickly when the promise of fresh meat was near. One minute the dude just walked then next long rotted arms reached out from under a car to grab his ankles. Next he was dragged under and you didn’t want to think about what it sounded like. The crunching carried on long after he’d stopped screaming.
I hated hearing about new horror stories. Just like we South Africans used to complain about the crime in the old days, now it was zombie stories. The problem was there weren’t enough new warmbloods being born. Or they got sick and died because doctors were hard to come by or too expensive. It’s sad, man, and it broke my fucking heart because they’re so fragile.
I gotta look after them. Who else was gonna look out for them? My life depended on their survival.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Liz Strange and I have walked a long road with her Dark Kiss trilogy and she was one of the first authors I took on when I started editing for Lyrical Press. Her Rachel and Giovanni are memorable and I've gotten to know them quite well over the course of three novels. This week Liz celebrates the release of the third in the series, Born of Blood and Retribution, which should give vampire fans a roller coaster ride.
When asked about some of her favourites in contemporary media, Liz says, "I love Jean-Claude in Laurell K Hamilton's books and Henry Fitzroy in Tanya Huff's series. They are both sexy and strong, but have an edge. They have embraced their monstrous existence."
It's fascinating watching how characters grow, and I had to ask Liz about Rachel and Giovanni. To this she adds, "Well Rachel has grown from a confused, somewhat insecure young woman to a powerful, well-connected immortal. She's faced the grimmest of circumstances and come back the better for it. I wouldn't underestimate what she could be capable of.
"Oh, Giovanni. He did get a bum deal, but what an amazing story! By book three he is mostly recovered from his ordeal, and firmly back in the relationship he was destined for. He will, however, have some lasting effects from what happened to him, essentially the same Giovanni, but perhaps a bit more guarded and appreciative of what he has and who he is."
Themes of abusive relationships and revenge are prevalent in book three. This results in some potentially tricky situations with readers. I was curious as to how Liz brought readers back from the brink of despair.
Liz says, "I like to give the readers a sense of closure, and some sort of 'happily ever after' after the intense and often violent situations the characters find themselves in. As much as my characters ever get anyway. I think I've given them characters to fall in love with and root for, and that makes the adversity they face and overcome that much sweeter."
Of course all authors have their favourite scenes in a novel, and Liz is quite happy to share hers, as well as a bit of background that went into its creation.
She concludes, "I love the scene where Harshika takes Rachel back to ancient Egypt and lets her experience the time period for herself. I got to live vicariously through Rachel with this. It was so much fun doing the research for the scene, and letting my imagination fill in the blanks. This story really allowed me to bring my love of history, mythology and vampires together in a very satisfying way. I am a huge history nerd, and would jump at the chance to see what Rachel did."
Thank you for stopping by, Liz. And I wish you all the best of luck for the Dark Kiss trilogy and your future endeavours.
Read more about Liz's books here.
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In case you're wondering, I'm actively looking for submissions in the dark fantasy genre. And I love vampires. If you reckon you've got something I may be interested in, go read the Lyrical Press submission guidelines here, then pop me a query at nerine (at) lyricalpress.com
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Once again, I welcome Tony-Paul de Vissage to my world, to share a little about another release, with extra bite. Always glad to have you round, Tony-Paul! The floor is yours.
Limousin, France, 1249… The Black Death rages and Faith is abandoned in the search to survive.
In one night, Damian La Croix loses his life and his soul as he willingly choses Undeath rather than perish of the Plague. His payment for immortality: the lives of everyone on his father’s estate—including his parents—paid to LeMaitre, the vampire he comes upon in a charnel pit. That act sets Damian on his journey. Through Mankind’s long centuries, many women cross his path, respond to his enticements, and are forced to make a choice…for when the Night Man Cometh, Death is never far behind.
They say the “traditional” vampire is making a comeback. No longer the anguished seeker of acceptance, of finding love and nothing more; no sparkly, benign, adolescent-appearing male wavering between turning the girl he’s attracted to or giving in to his bestial nature, not waging war with werewolves or others of his own kind; no pair of Undead sibling rivals who’ve loved the same woman in the past and now are committing the same mistake in the present… This Undead gentleman is sometimes no gentleman. He can be cruel and seductive by turns, blood-lusting or just plain lusting...a ravaging beast or a ravenous lover. If he can’t get what he wants one way, he’ll get it another…no holds barred…
With that in mind, I decided to write a traditional vampire tale, with a protagonist who was more Prince Drakula than Stefan Salvatore or Edward Cullen, but I still wanted him to be likable in spite of his obvious negative character traits. So…how to do it…?
First off, I had to pick my era…the Thirteenth Century sounded good…times of the Renaissance…those great tunics…swords…men with long flowing hair, Women with even longer hair and those fantastic high-waisted dresses pushing bosoms even higher. Sounded good. Damian la Croix, son of the Marquis la Croix of Limousin, France, is a child of his time…spoiled, pampered as only a noble heir can be…a threat to anything wearing a dress, while falling madly in love with the woman he’s been betrothed to…and then, his life is interrupted.
The Black Death strikes and Damian doesn’t want to die. He wants to live, to marry Antoinette, to love her, and when he chances upon a vampire struggling to find a victim in the dying village, he sees a way to escape the Plague and have his Antoinette, too. Without blinking an eye, Damian bargains the lives of everyone on his father’s estate for his own immortality. That alone places him outside the pale of the present type of literary vampire because no matter what comes later, Damian never repents or regrets his choice, and as we all know, one of the characteristics of the current paranormal lover is that he generally descries some of the things he’s done in his immortal past. But Damian…? He has no hesitation in destroying his beloved Antoinette when she turns against him, and he may mourn the others he loves and loses, but never once does he say those words: “I wish I hadn’t made this choice…”
It would’ve been easy to make Damian a complete villain, so the reader would applaud when he gets his comeuppance in the form of the downward-stab of a stake, but I didn’t want that. In the Grand Scheme of Things, Damian isn’t even better or worse than his Undead peers. He has friends among the Undead, men he shares adventures with, but he also has acquaintances among the Living, some of whom he’s quite willing to fight for. He has one rule he lives by in his journey through the centuries: Damian never forces anyone to become a vampire; he gives every woman he loves the right to make her own choice. As a result, though many profess undying love for him, when the moment comes, all invariably choose mortality rather than succumb, and Damian, though it leaves him once more alone, lets them go. He chooses to walk the corridors of Time alone rather than have a companion who has no wish to be as he himself is, and yet… There’s still a bit of human optimism left in Damian, and enough humanity for him to keep believing that somewhere…somehow… there exists someone for him, that somewhere a woman waits who’ll accept him for who he is…in spite of what he is…
…and when Damian does find that elusive someone—three thousand years in the future—he discovers her to be not what he expected at all…
It’s a bit of a different story, but one I think both horror fans and paranormal romance readers will enjoy, for its perspective of the vampire as both potential villain and hero.
The Night Man Cometh is available from Class Act Books, in ebook and print versions. Buy it here.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The Essence of Survival
When I discovered the zombies didn’t pay vampires any special mind, I was pretty blown away. There I’d been slinking around all the time when I didn’t have to. It was a big relief. It’s funny that now I was a lot safer than I’d ever been before. I would have laughed about it but there wasn’t anyone there to share the joke.
Even a vampire can only go so long before talking to himself stops being fun. I remembered that movie with that Gollum thing that made noises at the back of his throat as he was looking for his Precious. It was a bit too close to the bone.
Since I couldn’t find any vampires, I decided to try talking to the people, because they were about, just hiding like mad, especially at night. After a year or two, walking dead weren’t the only things they had to worry about.
The dogs that survived ran in packs and were lank dangerous. Animals that had been in zoos roamed about. Lions, tigers. Hell, bears even. With all the livestock running around there was plenty of food for them.
It’s enough to say things weren’t safe for warmbloods and it was pretty obvious that if I planned to eat in the future, it would be a good idea for me to look after them.
Talking to my food was better than talking to myself, in any case.
The first human I made friends with was this dyke and her girlfriend who were hiding in what used to be De Waterkant. They’d holed up in the cellar of an old house. I met Estelle when she was headed back from a scavenge mission. She was carrying lots of stuff she’d found in some of the shops that was still good to eat. Problem was the zombies were moaning on her tail.
I’d been following her too but when I saw her stop, as if she couldn’t figure out if she wanted to dump her shit and run, or try to get the stuff home, something in me snapped. Hell, I hadn’t spoken to someone in more than a year.
“You need help?” I called to her. My voice sounded very strange. Like it belonged to someone else.
She gave a small shriek and looked like she was going to drop dead from fright. When she saw me―and really, I’m not much to look at, I look like a girl with my long hair―she chilled out right then. I told her to head back to her place. I knew where she stayed. I knew where all the warmbloods stayed. To prove my point I took her bags and told her to run.
“But they gonna eat you! They gonna eat you!” Estelle cried.
I laughed. “No man, it’s cool. They won’t eat me. You’ll see.”
She looked at me like I was on drugs or something but when the zombies rounded the corner, she ran. I waited for the zombies to pass. Not pretty. They shambled past me and I stood still, closed my eyes. No sudden movements. Didn’t want to look at them either.
You should have seen her face when I brought her things to her. Like total amazement.
Warmbloods were faster than zombies but there were more zombies than warmbloods. Zombies could lie still for weeks and months without moving but the minute they smelled a warmblood they would follow. Going underground or finding higher ground helped, usually. But it also paid putting as much distance between yourself and the zombies. I think the reason why they didn’t sense me was because I didn’t give off heat.
I decided to be upfront with the warmbloods. After all, if they could believe in zombies, they could believe in vampires. When they understood I didn’t mean to kill them, that I only wanted a little blood in exchange for running errands or carrying messages, we quickly worked out a deal that was cool for all of us.
It wasn’t so bad. It gave me something to do and I was in good company. They didn’t look at me like I was worse than a piece of dog shit they just found under their shoes. Not like before when I was still doing brown. Back then they’d look at the track marks in my arms and they’d un-see me. I’d simply cease to exist for them.
Not every surviving warmblood liked me, though. There were groups of people with guns, who also knew about vampires, that would shoot me on sight. I generally stayed away from them. But it was the other people I helped. I got them to connect with each other. That’s how they started the first proper little villages. Almost like the gated security villages in the old days.
You know what? I still get warm and fuzzy when I think about that. I may be a small dude, but I can run fast. I can slip by unnoticed. I’d like to think that I’ve been selfless and good but I’ll be honest. It’s also about making sure that I keep up a supply. It’s almost like being a farmer―who talks to his sheep and his cows.
Would I ever turn another warmblood into a vampire? I didn't know so much. It would mean I’d have more competition. I tried not to get too close, even if I couldn't help but liking some of them. Estelle was like an auntie to me. I loved the way she smelled, because she made soap that had me think of the veld. It was nice when she hugged me. She was warm and when she laughed, her skin crinkled at the corners of her eyes.
When I looked in a mirror at Estelle's home I saw a very pale, dead face. I tried to smile but it looked like I showed my teeth, like one of those feral dogs. If I made another vampire, I’d just make something like me that may end up hurting these warmbloods who were now my friends.
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