Friday, November 29, 2013

The Company of Birds, excerpt #FridayFlash #fantasy

I recently started work on my next "serious" novel (well, one that I pin big hopes on). So here, for your reading pleasure, and because I haven't done it in ages, is a spot of Friday Flash. The novel is entitled The Company of Birds and no, I have absolutely no fucking clue when it will be done. It's going to be a bit on the GrimDark side, since I'm totally blaming GRRM and Mark Lawrence for showing me the way. 

YES. I drew the bird.

* * * *

A dull thud shuddered through through my study and the pigeons that had been sunning themselves on the window ledge took to wing in an explosion of feathers. I paused, pen in hand. What in all the gods’ names could cause such a disturbance? There’d been the time when one of the first-years in the Department of Alchemical Engineering had mixed dragon’s breath with salt-of-Byr, “just to see what would happen,” as he’d put it, but the resultant detonation had been mild compared to this.

I’d felt this deep in my collarbone. Not quite alarmed just yet, I rose and approached my window. Not that I’d be able to see much, because I looked directly into the roofs of the Greater Library. Theoretically, my window faced in a northwesterly direction, toward the harbour. All I saw were terracotta tiles with most of the green glazing worn off by the decades.

A thick pillar of black smoke rose into the clear, late-summer sky.

I stared stupidly for a moment until it registered that whatever burned must be large, possibly one of the warehouses by the docks. The positioning was about right. This time of year there’d still be large quantities of marine oil in stock, not to mention the first harvests.


A tap sounded at my door.

“Come in,” I called.

Big blond Isha shouldered in. “You might want to come take a look at this.”


“C’mon.” She gestured once then ducked out again.

Whatever it was must relate to the explosion and I was torn between returning to the translation with which I’d been busy and following my colleague. After all, it wasn’t as if Uitenbach was immune to its troubles. Nowadays there always was some sort of trouble.

I sighed and hurried after Isha. I’d been sitting at my desk for the past three hours. I needed a break and my stomach growled in a way that told me I’d probably skipped lunch.

Isha waited for me on the corner, and I fell in at her side.

“You walk too fast,” I muttered.

“You spend too much time at your desk.” She flashed me one of her irresistible grins.

I liked Isha. The Ouertian woman was everything I was not—tall, commanding and well-muscled. Then again, a woman needed confidence and brawn by the cartload if she wished to claim the title of maga in the Faculty of Alchemical Engineering.

We made an odd couple, but then again magas were in short supply here at the academy. We stuck together when and where we could. And the gods knew, these days I needed all the support I could.

The Greater Library had a terrace with an actual sea view, and that’s where we headed, and we were not the only ones with the same idea. An assortment of faculty members and students trailed along, fish caught in a current.

“It’s a container of grain that spontaneously combusted,” someone muttered. “Safety regulations have been slipping.”

“Arson,” Head Librarian Matthias, said under his breath as we passed his desk.

He shot us all filthy looks as we traipsed into the hallowed grounds of his domain, as we were no more than lowly first years without the correct documentation.

I blinked in the sunlight and the dry heat of late afternoon. I’d definitely missed lunch. About a dozen or so staff leant over the railings and shaded their eyes against the glare, and Isha and I elbowed our way into a space of our own. The bay was redolent in its usual azure dropping off into cobalt farther out in the ocean, but where the big warehouses of the Fadari family stood was an inferno. We could see the bright orange tongues in great detail and thick black smoke roiled into the sky like some living thing..

Isha gave a low whistle. “Those flames must be at least eighty feet.”

“Not much work going to get done today,” I said, and pointed to the people crowding the rooftops below us.

My companion gave a low grunt.

Alarm bells added their bronzed voices to the muted roar of the blaze, and we watched as some of the engineering magisters rallied their students in the Ruby Square below. This was bad enough that the academy was sending in support. They wouldn’t expect academic staff to pitch in, but the first-years would definitely be expected to “volunteer”.

“Glad that’s not us,” I said to Isha.

“We should go help,” she mused.

“You maybe. What can I do?”

She laughed. “You’d get caught in an updraft and turned into a cinder.”

Our colleagues muttered among themselves. By all rights we should be more alarmed, but after the riots these three winters past, I was certain none of us could dig deep enough to worry more than we already did. This was yet another symptom that all was not well in Uitenland.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Six of the Best with Abi Godsell

I'm really excited to present a fresh voice in South African SFF fiction: Abi Godsell. Some of you might've read her story in one of the Something Wicked anthologies. But we're here to celebrate the release of her YA dystopian novel Idea War: Volume 1 which was published by Wordsmack quite recently.

So, without further ado, over to Abi! You're on a train and your stop is approaching. You've been chatting to a stranger who wants to know about your book, and you've got less than 30 seconds to tell them about it. Go!

South Africa Sci-fi! Young, relatable (no Mary Sues here!) female protagonist! Jet-Packs! Action! Witty hard-man banter! A layered story exploring complex themes through humour and extrapolation of a future that I hope will never be. Written to reintroduce the reader a side of Joburg they might not know and tap into the richness of what it means to grow up South African.

What parts of Joburg feature in your novel? How does the South Africa of your future compare to what we know? 

The first few chapters occur in a combination of real and imagined space, real locations like End Street Extension, or the Sandton CBD, that have been integrated into the politically and geographically changed future of Occupied Johannesburg.

The future I'm trying to weave is an exaggeration of current sociopolitical trends that I've noticed over the past six or so years. Honestly this is a work of plausible-sounding fiction, rather than a serious attempt to predict the country's future. (Future predictions fall more under my other field of Urban Planning!) I hope the the future Johannesburg is similar enough to be accessible but portrayed in a light that makes it seem like a new and strange city, somewhere exciting to get to know. Not that present Johannesburg isn't that! I do try and keep my writing self-consistent, so that getting to know the city in the story is possible. For a careful reader there should be enough hints and clues to discover some of the causalities, why things are the way they are in story and how they should have come to be that way.

Tell us what makes Callie Baxter special.

Not very much! She's definitely the product of both her upbringing and her inexperience. She gets things wrong often and has to question her assumptions. That's what I like about her personally. She isn't an everyman, she's quite a definite character, and her views and actions stem from this.

Who (without giving spoilers) are these alien invaders and what do they want? 

The CCA, the organisation responsible for the Restructuring of the city (for the explanation of the acronym I'll direct you to the free chapter peek on Amazon) just want to keep us safe. Very Safe. In a very specific manner. At least, that's what their Media Director would tell you, if you asked!

Who are the three authors you look up to the most and who have had the most profound impact on your writing?

Well, Garth Nix, for making me think things like "Huh, now that's cool. I wonder what it would look like if something like that happened in MY school?" Gerald Durrell, for teaching me both how writing can form a lens to perceive things about people and the natural world that simply observing cannot, and Ursula LeGuin, for showing me that serious and profound science fiction can be told in more than one kind of voice.

Where to from here? What's next for Abi Godsell writing wise? 

Well, Idea War is a series, so keep an eye out for the next few volumes in the near future! I've also got an Urban Magic novel somewhere in the works, and various short pieces of sci-fi, horror and sundries that I'm working on.

Pick up your copy of Idea War on Amazon or Kobo, or add it to you TBR pile via Goodreads.

Catch up with Abi on Facebook, her blog or on Twitter.

Abi is a student at the University of Witwatersrand, where she’s dreaming of free public transport and Internet access and musty basement libraries full of books and books and books. Creating new worlds is her speciality, and she set her first novel in a dystopian future Johannesburg, where the recovery is cautious, hesitant.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Your novel is not a hot potato

I read many stories every year. I don't know how many... short stories, novellas, novels. It's one of the hazards of an editor's calling in life. (And it *is* a calling.) I'm always intrigued and excited when I get a whiff that there might be an absolutely fantastic fresh voice to be discovered. From time to time, my Spidey senses tingle and I *do* find a story that absolutely hits the mark. It's really exciting gaining validation for that inbox "A-ha" moment.

As an editor, I rely on my instinct when reading a manuscript. Sometimes I pull authors out of the slush pile that need just a little bit of tweaking, but they've got what I've termed that mystical "X-factor". A little bit of nudging, tweaking and pruning where necessary, and I sit back and watch as they go out there with so much more confidence. They get agents. They get published.

But by the same measure, I can assess a manuscript and immediately tell when an author really needs to take a little more time to hone their craft. Often it's not any one issue but a conglomerate of niggles, which all contribute to why an editor or agent will pass on a submission with a polite but soulless form rejection.

The horrible thing is, it's often not something that can be fixed overnight, and there's some truth to the saying that you've got to write a million really godawful shite words before you turn out something that's good enough. (A hint: an editor can't accimagically *fix* your book, but she can equip you with the toolkit so you yourself can become a better writer.)

The problem with publishing nowadays is that it's too goddamned easy to get published. Authors churn out something that really isn't ready and with a little bit of effort (or not), either self-publish or get published by some teeny-tiny small press that barely knows what it's doing. And so the steaming pile of godawful numbers of not-so-fab reading matter clutters Amazon and other vendors.

Readers aren't stupid.

Okay, granted, we'd like to think they are when we look at some of the five-star reviews some totally dubious titles get, but who're you kidding? No, really. Be honest with yourself. That last book you wrote and published with [insert name of a small press you don't want to mention] ... was it all really that good?

Were you in a hurry to get that story on vendors' shelves? Maybe the ending was weak. Maybe your dialogue was stilted. Oh, haai, the pacing was completely borked, and you rushed the ending. Too much exposition bogging down the narrative? Were you padding words just to hit that wonderful 95k words so you could make the submission guidelines?

Are you in love with the sound of your own voice?

So, here's the deal. Spend time (a year maybe) playing with your fiction. Try out different ideas. Don't rush into publication just yet. You can still build a readership, but you're going to mess around a bit. Have fun. Learn stuff. Experiment. Get that thinly veiled Thor-and-Loki slashfic out of your system.

Write fanfiction.
Yes. Just said that. Why? Because you're going to muck around with some of those story ideas that are just wannabe Harry Potter or Star Wars. They will be like a bad rash that has run its course and won't make your fresh projects break out in hives. Plus you'll get to meet other writers who'll deliver critique. And it's FUN!

Join an online critique group.
I spent three years actively critiquing and being critiqued on before I sold my first novel and short story. I liken this time to the amount of effort some people spend studying a BA in languages. I often learnt more from other people's gremlins than what was said about my own writing.

Start your own writers' group.
It's not as difficult as it sounds. There wasn't a SFF/H writers' group in Cape Town so I started one with a bunch of people I found via the newspapers and the internet. We've been going for almost a decade and still meet monthly. We've become a faboo bunch of friends who're supportive yet deliver critique where it's needed. IOW, we're not back-patters either (and I've seen how little back-patting achieves).

Write flash fiction. 
Apart from writing fanfics, flash fics are another way for you to get that instant gratification thing going. Go check out Friday Flash. If I had more time on my hand I'd definitely participate every week. The totally awesome thing about writing flash fics is that the form teaches you to communicate concisely. Sometimes you really need to strip your writing down to the bare basics of storytelling, and I can't even begin to elaborate how incredibly helpful this was to me.

Then consider serial fiction.
You reckon you got that Friday Flash thing pegged? Then consider Tuesday Serial for shits and giggles. Use your blog as a platform. Try writing that novella you've been threatening your mother-in-law with.

Okay, so that's five different activities that you can engage in that will really bring your writing to life. Though writing is a solitary pursuit, you don't create in a vacuum. Sometimes I get together with some of my writing buddies at my house. We all bring our laptops and lots of unhealthy things to eat cupcakes. We make tea and coffee, and we write. That's it. We write. Or we whiteboard story points that are not working for us. It's rewarding and sometimes provides that little bump we need to push ourselves that little bit harder.

Take your time to make good art too. The publishing industry's wheels turn slowly. I can promise you it's still going to be there tomorrow, in one form or another. Writing novels is not about winning a race as fast as possible. Your book is not burning a hole in your hard drive.

Most importantly, I'm going to leave you with the tree most important words Neil Gaiman ever said: "Make good art."

* * * *

Now, if you want a simply fab monthly newsletter where I share my latest news but also good writerly resources and shoot the breeze, then go sign up here. I won't spam you more than once a month. Promise.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Call for Submissions: Guns and Romances

Cool stuff happens when Carrie and I put our heads together. One of us might have a wisp of an idea then the other encourages her. And it's kinda like an authorly game of ideas tennis that steadily gets completely out of hand.

That's how we started writing together, and ended up with projects like Just My Blood Type and Blood and Fire, with our #3 currently on its way (not quite like being pregnant but let's leave those analogies for now, okay?)

Of course we also love making work for ourselves (but it's fun) and this idea was simply too filled with awesomesauce for us to ignore it. I'm sharing the editor's mantel with Carrie to bring out an anthology (or two) themed along the lines of Guns and Romances. The submission guidelines are here.

Essentially, give us two characters interacting, flavoured with guns and music, and you'll have us by the short and curlies. Can be noir, SF, werewolves, vampires, weird... Doesn't matter. You gotta blend those three elements.

As for what we *don't* want to see, Carrie says: "Submissions that do not have the three requested elements: guns, music and not necessarily romance, but some sort of interaction to excite the reader. This is the most important thing I look for first. It's what I'm asking for. Give it to me. Very poorly polished work, as in first-draft quality. I need to be able to read the submission without stumbling over a million typos. All-out pornography for no particular reason. Needless violence intended to shock me, because it's not going to."

I'll echo that but add that I don't want to see thinly veiled fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. If you absolutely *must* give us zombies, please find some way to put your stamp of individuality on it. Ditto for the vampires, angels and [insert currently trending supernatural entity here].

As for what we WANT to see, Carrie adds: "I love short stories. I adore being given the opportunity to read these little beauties and possibly include them in this anthology. I know what I'm looking for. Now I'm just waiting for the stories that have it."

My thoughts? Give me something that's going to excite me. A hint, I adore the hell out of Neil Gaiman's Sandman universe. Storm Constantine is another of my literary idols, and I have a soft, very rotten spot for vintage Poppy Z Brite. I love dark fantasy that does the unexpected, like Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire series or evil authors like GRRM who break my heart. I love stories that evoke the senses and subvert my loyalties. Make me laugh with twisted, snarky black humour and I will adore you as well. Extra Nerine points if you can mash together two contradictory ideas and somehow give the hybrid beast wings.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Night: Thor #1 and Fright Night 2: New Blood

The husband thing and I took Friday night off with some mindless entertainment, and let me tell you that you don't get more mindless than our two choices: Thor #1 and Fright Night 2: New Blood.

Thor was my choice. I'll admit that I was moved out of pure curiosity because I'd watched The Avengers not so long ago and even though I was dead cold sober found myself incapable of following the plot. My main gripe about The Avengers was that it suffered from what I term as "Too Much Awesome" (iow too many Mary Sue and Marty Stu characters).

So in essence, lots of loud explosions, wholesale destruction, and folks posing in cool costumes, with very little work done with story telling and actual character development (because of course we don't need any of that stuff when we have thousands of dollars to blow on CGI). I got about 10 minutes into The Avengers and realised I had absolutely no idea what was happening or even *why* characters were behaving in a certain way.

(Yes, looking at you, Loki. There are easier ways to sow discord than allowing yourself to be captured.)

But getting back to Thor. My final verdict is that Kenneth Branagh held it together remarkably well with a rubbish script. And seeing the arrogant little shit Thor getting hit by a car not once but twice really warmed my heart. I even giggled.

Loki, however, despite the fact that Hiddles as absolutely adorbs and I want to squish him, acts remarkably short-sighted for someone who's supposedly the god of mischief and discord. And the daddy issues. [sighs... shakes head]

And Odin supposedly just slipping off into a too-convenient coma for now apparent reason that's ever properly explained? Or the fact that there are apparently other ways in or out of Asgard but there's that big fuss at the end when they destroy Bifrost? Oh, and that rather literal deus ex machina. Why do I get the idea the writers had no idea how to save that scene?

Ag jawellnofine. Don't mind me getting my knickers in a twist. My inner editor is having conniption fits at this point. Thor was still better than enduring some dumbass romcom or being forced to watch cricket.

People, this is why I get agitated when I hear they're probably going to violate adapt The Sandman for screen.

Now, onto Fright Night 2: New Blood. Basically, they took the exact same plot as the first reboot starring the rather delicious Colin Farrell and David Tennant, but they made our fanged friend a woman. Namely the rather luscious Jaime Murray (who is very, very delicious in this role).

(The reboot of the first movie was totally stupidly awesome B-grade horror pulp, loads of fun to watch.)

Then they take the myth of Elizabeth Bathory, and they completely ham it up with some sort of bizarre prophecy involving sacrifice of virgin blood. Then throw in more improbable character motivation and behaviour than you can shake a stick at...

Sorry... I was too busy ogling Jaime and thinking about which characters I'd like to cast her as in my novels.

So, if you like the idea of watching a naked and absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Jaime bathing in blood and biting people, you can't go wrong with this film. But not much else goes right with it. The husband thing says that the set dressing and cinematography is good, so yes, this is a pretty film. But as for the rest... It's pretty awful and you might want to gouge your eyes out at the end for some of the illogical, senseless twists.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Six of the Best with David Youngquist, and the release of Black Jack

For those of you who don't know, David Younquist is one of the masterminds behind Dark Continents Publishing, but he's also an author, and he's got many stories to tell. Earlier this year I worked with him on Black Jack, a novel he's had sitting on the backburner for a while. I loved working on the novel with him because it's one of those solid, dependable fantasies that whisk you away to another world – and literally so, if your name is Jack. ;-)

So, David, tell us a little more about Black Jack. You've taken one of the classic fantasy tropes: a human finds his way into a world of magic. What fresh spin did you put on your setting.

I've tried to do a few new things with Gwennolin. I've always been fascinated by the thought of different dimensions of reality side by side. Gwennolin is kind of one step to the side of ours. It's a world where magic rather than science reigns. That's not really so different. What is different is that the magic itself has affected the humans that step over from our side. The Alshura, the river of magic that flows through Gwennolin can be tapped by mages. I also froze time in the Medieval time frame. Also not really different, but the residents of the world come in all shapes and sizes. Not only did I make the humans kind of a UN of the world, with white Europeans, Spaniards, Africans and American First Nations people with their traditions and customs, but I threw in every mythical creature I could find. And of course Jack's new kingdom of cat people. I also had a little fun with Illinois politics by including King Richard and his consort Prince Rod.

Earthlings (human and animal) who find their way into your setting gradually either get animal or human features the longer they stay in the world. Are these at all related to their inner natures? 

Definitely. As Tabby explains, she was a hunter. She enjoyed her sexuality. She was independent when she came to Gwennolin. The magic gave her some more feline traits to go with her personality. Mare, Jack's horse becomes much more human. I've always believed horses have souls. The fact she becomes a great archer and fighters goes back to the Sagittarian mythos. Jack becoming more mountain lion relates to the type of businessman he was, and the fact he was also a hunter. So, yes, the magic taps into your personality and shapes you accordingly.

Every tale has a story seed. What was the story seed for Black Jack

I think the original seed was planted years ago when I was going through a rough patch. I woke up after a blackout drunk under a tombstone topped by a life-sized weeping angel. Through my hangover, the idea kind of germinated with some of the fantasy novels I'd read over the years. I stumbled out of the cemetery and the thought hit me what would happen if you woke up in a truly alien landscape. So through liberal overuse of alcohol, the seed for Gwennolin and Jack was planted.

Which was the most difficult scene to write (without giving spoilers)?

The scene directly at the end of the final battle. It took me the better part of two weeks to write that. Close on the heels of that would be the argument between Jack and Tabby. Also took me a number of days to write that one as well.

And your favourite scene (also without giving spoilers)?

Boy, this is a tough one. It's a toss-up between two. The final, epic battle was the first battle scene where I was able to create an entire battle, with troop movements of my own, weapons used and units of knights, commoners and mounted cavalry. When I wrote Out of Sync it was the culmination of about two years research into the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I had an epic battle two historically recreate with some variances, but mostly had to stick with the historical record. Again, a great battle, but very confining. With Snareville, it's kind of many little fights, with maybe one or two bigger battles, but fights were one sided. Zombies don't shoot back. With this final battle in Black Jack, it starts out rather quiet, and then just explodes into all out violence. Typical of most big battles anyway.

My other favorite scene is when Jack has a sit down with the vampire lord Al Capone. It is so much part of this reality, with the office, a desk, and a man in a well-made suit, until you realize a vampire is having a discussion with a feline (mountain lion) male about how they can make the problems between them go away. The talks devolve when Jack reveals that Capone's men had killed his grandfather, who had been a hitman for the Irish mob. Again, a nice, quiet, tense scene that devolves into utter violence from one heartbeat to the next.

Who do you think the novel will appeal to? You've got exactly 16 words to sell the novel to this person, GO!

Mix Harry Potter with Harry Dresden with a dash of Piers Anthony. Enjoy.

Now go feed your Kindle...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell #review

Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Publisher: Tor, 2006

I admit I struggled initially with this book, and it had a false start the first time I tried to read it. I'm glad I gave it that second shot and persevered until the end. The first thing that strikes me is that Susanna Clarke is a keen observer of people's natures. With minimal brushstrokes she's able to capture the essence of a character's personality.

Not just that, but she effortlessly subverts history. The tale is long and winding, and although slow-moving it's the smaller story arcs that provide some of the best entertainment.

Superficially the novel is about the tensions between Mr Norrell, who's a by-the-book kind of magician who's convinced that none but he is qualified to study and practice magic. He is aided by his servant Childermass, who's a dab hand at reading cards.

Jonathan Strange enters the picture almost quite by accident, but he's quite the opposite of his counterpart, Norrell. Since he must do without bookish learning, he sets about *doing* magic and learning that way.

At first Strange is the student of Norrell, but predictably this relationship sours. Added to the mix is an ancient and malevolent fairy (the gentleman with the thistledown hair) who causes much chaos.

Magic has returned to England, but its arrival won't be without incident.

This is a beautiful Gothic novel, much in the same vein as Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast. If you're not used to the style of writing, there's a chance you're going to struggle, but please, please do try. This is an epic, lush tale, filled with many ironies and plenty of little surprises that are bound to make you smile.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Prince Thief: From the Tales of Easie Damasco (Tales of Easie Damasco #3) #review

Title: Prince Thief: From the Tales of Easie Damasco 
Series: Tales of Easie Damasco #3
Author: David Tallerman
Publisher: Angry Robot, 2013

I’m always a bit leery of jumping into a series when it’s a few books in, so I will admit to needing a bit of time to adjust to the story and its host of characters who have already shared considerable backstory. I’m glad I persevered. David Tallerman has an easy, and broadly entertaining style that drew me into his world.
From what I can gather, Easie Damasco has made it a habit to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he has fallen in with the ringleaders of a rebellion, and the city of Altapasaeda is besieged by the king of Castoval. Things are not looking good, and that’s putting it mildly.

Easie finds himself cast in a pivotal role to steal the Shoanish prince, a miserable youth by the name of Malekrin, from under the nose of his battleaxe mother’s nose, and bring him back to Altapasaeda. The reason: Malekrin is the bastard grandson of the king, and it’s hoped that the lad, who’s pretty much the leader of the rebel nation, will be able to turn the tide in the city’s favour.
Well, that’s the theory, at least.

Things rarely go smoothly for Easie, however, as he and his giant friend Saltlick, embark on their desperate quest.

I will totally recommend reading the books in order. I view myself as a savvy reader, so I don’t mind not knowing all the missing details, but I suspect that I missed a lot, especially the history between secondary characters Alvantes and Estrada.

Easie Damasco is likeable. Insanely so. He’s not the most adept thief in world, and his smart mouth tends to run away with him (I can compare him favourably to a roguish, slightly toned down Captain Sparrow-type character). What’s refreshing about this novel is he’s not the hero of the story. His activities don’t shake the world, but his actions are lynchpins that set the bigger events in motion, and that I appreciate. It makes a refreshing change from following around a mage or a prince.

Mostly, he’s a person. He sees the events that transpire around him from the perspective of an ordinary person. The ugly realities of war are brought home. There is no glory in death dealing. People get hurt. People are maimed. People die. They hunger, and don’t have securities for the future.

What shone through for me mostly was Tallerman’s exploration of the nature of friendship, and if I have to look for a theme that underpins Prince Thief, it’s just that: how we relate to friends. Easie realises that it’s not just every man for himself, but he’s defined also by his relationships with the people around him.

This is a fantastic story for its realism. The tale might not tie up conveniently, or with huge epic fanfare, but it *feels* authentic, and that’s what counts. Lovely characterisation, awesome dialogue and an overall solid fantasy read.

Oh, yes. And giants. Believable ones.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant #review

Title: The Story of Philosophy
Author: Will Durant
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1933

I’ll start by saying I own a (very) battered copy of the 1933 edition of The Story of Philosophy that my husband has been trying to get me to read ever since we got married. A little digging tells me that Will Durant and his wife were rather prolific, and I’m curious to give a stab at the epic The Story of Civilization. But that’s for another time. At any rate, what’s abundantly clear is that the Durants had an abiding love of history and learning, and for this incredible legacy they have given us I’m eternally grateful.

Now for a little trivia: according to Wikipedia, The Story of Philosophy started out as a series of Little Blue Books (basically education pamphlets geared toward the working class) and they went down such a treat that Simon & Schuster published them as The Story of Philosophy in 1926, which became a bestseller.

Durant went from being a starving writer to a wealthy man, and could spend much time travelling the world – I think a dream all of us would share.

Now back to The Story of Philosophy. The book itself profiles nine Western philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Two final chapters offer an overview of prominent European and American philosophers. Within this hefty tome, Durant first details the lives, history and background of the philosophers being discussed, then he segues into an examination of their work. What I enjoyed was that he gives both the pros and the cons, and also compares their thoughts to contemporaries and those who went before.

Philosophy itself is such a vast topic to try to cover, and Durant merely skims the surface, but if you’re absolutely clueless, like me, then you’ll appreciate a starting point that at the very least lays down a skeleton upon which to embroider. The Story of Philosophy is very Eurocentric. There’s no getting away from that. And though I don’t know enough yet to point out the holes, I can sense they’re there.

I loved seeing how the Greek philosophers built on each other’s viewpoints, and how the seeds of modern thought were sown from Socrates through to Plato and Aristotle. Spinoza is one I’d love to dip into again, as is Voltaire, though I do admit that I struggled with the chapters on Kant and Schopenhauer. Nietzsche deserves a volume all of his own, but his fire is inspiring. Another philosopher mentioned in the American chapters that I’d like to look into is George Santayana, who straddled Old and New World thinking.

I’d dearly love to say more but I admit freely that my mind is very much still like a leaky sieve when it comes to retaining the mechanics of the various philosophies. This I hope to remedy by focusing on the various areas in further reading. What I gained overall here was that bigger picture I needed to have in my head, which up until now was missing. Durant offers a good starting point. Yes, this book misses a lot, but I think it would dovetail nicely with others, especially as I continue my exploration. My next big read will be Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, which I suspect might supplement nicely. In the meanwhile, I’ve laid my hands on The Greek Philosophers by Rex Warner.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Announcing The Sea's line-up of stellar names

Okay, so a while ago some of you might've been paying attention to a call for submissions I ran via Dark Continents Publishing for an anthology of SFF/H stories themed around the sea. Today I can happily share the final line-up for The Sea, to be published through Dark Continents Publishing early next year.

Alex Hughes
Amy Burgess
Andrea Jones
Anna Reith
Barry King
Benjamin Knox
Camille Griep
Diane Awerbuck
Don Webb
JC Piech
Martin Rose
Patrick O'Neill
Rob Porteous
SA Partridge
Simon Dewar
Steve Jones
Toby Bennett
Wayne Goodchild

What I love about the selection of authors collected here is that we have such a wide range of tales. Some mystical, others downright chilly or with the inevitable Lovecraftian references one would expect.

If you want to keep up to speed with further announcements, feel free to stalk me on Twitter. I am guaranteed to provide plenty of free entertainment, especially when I'm on deadline.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The other dead horse

This horse is so dead the flies have stopped laying eggs on it.  I’m so tired of this old story I don’t really want to talk about but it has to be said again. Because I have to get it off my chest. Who knows, in a year or two you might see a variation on this theme here again.

There is a perception in certain circles of the media that if you’re self- or small/independent press published that your writing is automatically substandard. I have encountered newspaper editors and journalists who tell me to my face that “Oh, your book isn’t a real book”. Why? Just because it’s epublished on Kindle and Smashwords and you can print on demand via a platform like CreateSpace or Lightning Source now suddenly this is not a real book?

No. Really. (Notwithstanding that a quality author-published title has probably undergone similar hours and hours of editing, proofing and layout.)

I need to digress slightly to make a point. I review books for the newspapers, as well as on my blog and on Goodreads and Amazon. I read about 80 to 100 books a year. I make a point of reading an even split of author-, small press- and traditionally published books.

And let me tell you something… I am often gobsmacked by the utter dreck brought out by some of the bigger houses. Stuff that wouldn’t fly with a small press or a particular respected indie author gets thousands of dollars thrown at it by a large house. This gets sold in national retailers. People buy it and read it because it’s *there*. It gets written about and featured on TV programmes and then generates even more hype, while other, worthy projects are sidelined without a cursory glance.

I love books. I don’t care *how* they’re created. If the story resonates with me, I’ll read it and absolutely adore the hell out of it and give it lots of love on social media. To have literati snobs slant the media against those who’re genuinely passionate about writing, so much so that they’ll go through the pain and anguish of doing it themselves. That just makes me sad.

That’s not saying that all people *should* be publishing their stories, because, let’s face, not everyone writes deathless prose. And some of them probably *do* need a bit more polish. But FFS don’t tar and feather every author- or small press-published book with the same brush.

Now listen here, what I’m going to say here is very important. There is a time and place for each model of publishing. Sometimes your writing will only have appeal to a small, niche readership. Then, by all means, self-publish. Or allow a small press that’s geared toward your particular brand of writing publish you (for instance, fantasy fiction with a GLBTI theme). That being said, the traditional houses also have something to offer, and there is NOTHING WRONG with being traditionally published. They have amazing resources at hand and I'd jump at the opportunity if and when it presents itself.

But for the love of Dog, don’t discriminate.

There is no pleasing all the readers all of the time.

The book you’re reading won’t appeal to everyone, and that makes it no better or no worse than any other. If you want to find out whether a particular book is good, go read the reviews. Sites like Goodreads and Amazon will offer a wealth of opinions. Then go make up your mind yourself.
And you know what, if boinkfests involving velociraptors are your thing, then you should have all the rights in the world to buy and read as much of it as you want.

So long as you don’t tell me to stop reading about androgynous bisexual boy vamps, elves or shape-shifting telepathic dragons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What’s African anyway?

I said to myself that I was going to keep my mouth shut about this. Really. Because this old argument has been doing the rounds in my immediate writerly circles for ages now. But some stuff’s been said by folks in the media recently that picked open the scabs, so I’m going to have my say and then be done with it. I'm also glad that I've waited a week to calm the hell down before posting this (and removing all the F-bombs).

Firstly, there’s the notion of what constitutes being African, and writing African issues. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that all people who reside in Africa, or who were born here, should have a voice. But … And here’s the really big BUT. This voice should be inclusive.

We need to ask ourselves why many South African fantasy, horror and SF writers look to getting published overseas rather than locally. Oh, it’s never said out in the open, but I’ve – excuse the colloquialism – picked up enough stompies. (Reading between the lines, for you folks overseas.) We have a wealth of amazing talent in this country, and what’s being done to develop it? Not much.

Oh, you’re not literary enough.

You’re not writing about “African” issues.

Your ancestors were not born in Africa.

You are not African enough.

Major awards or grants go to writers who create the “right” kind of “African” fiction or poetry. So, what’s going to happen to South Africa’s answer to JRR Tolkien, Stephen King or Ray Bradbury? Not much. Their voices will go unheard because they do not validate a common stereotypical perception of “Africa”. This is discrimination. Plain and simple. You can try dress it up in platitudes about how we need to uplift blah, blah, blah, but it doesn’t change the facts. I see this in other art forms too, particularly the film industry. It makes me tired.

Culturally I'm Afrikaans. When I was a teenager, I was so ashamed of my culture and race back in the 1990s I stopped writing and reading in my mother tongue or discussing "local" issues in my fiction. I looked to the worlds created by Anne McCaffrey, JRR Tolkien, Kate Elliot and CJ Cherryh for inspiration. Which is possibly now why I write mainly SFF/H. I often feel my writing is socially unacceptable here because I choose to write SFF/H. But, get this. (It gets even better.) When I submit to overseas houses, I have my stories rejected because they are not “recognisably African”. When you say you are an African writer, there are certain expectations of your art, and you need to play along and conform to a particular vision of what is African – according to the lens presented by the world.

What makes my experience of being African any less valid than that of a farmer’s daughter in the Northern Cape or a retired security guard living in a township?

But jawellnofine. I'll leave you with that. I'm going to continue doing my thing, and I'll continue cheering on some of my mates who've broken into the overseas market because hey, that's awesome. You go. Do your thing. I'm not going to stop trying.

All I ask is that you think about what it means to be African, and how we are moving into a world where borders are blurring, and cultural identity is moving from local to global. Africa is more than thorn trees in the Serengeti. It's more than South Africa's apartheid past or the depredations of colonialism. We need to move beyond that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence #review

Title: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire #2)
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Ace Books, 2012

There's a lot going on with King of Thorns that begs me to go back and read it again soon. Firstly, hats off to Mark Lawrence for juggling a non-linear story structure. We follow Jorg on his wedding day when he goes toe to toe with the golden boy, the prince of Arrow, who's set to become the emperor. Or at least that's what everyone keeps saying. We simultaneously also follow the events that happened to Jorg four years ago, as he settles in his position of king of Renar.

The Jorg we follow in book #2 is still impulsive, but his nasty side has been tempered somewhat. He's haunted by ghosts, and is vastly troubled by his connection to Katherine. But this is no Romeo and Juliet situation. Not by a long shot.

Though we can level accusations at Jorg that he's a killer and capable of all manner of truly terrible things, it's also evident that he's matured. He has begun to realise his own strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps what makes him more dangerous is that he has a better understanding of when to give in to his impulses and when to plan ahead.

Jorg wrestles with the growing realisation that he's merely a pawn on a gaming board, and he absolutely refuses to bow down to others expectations of him. His anger at being played fuels his desire to rip free of this figurative briar patch in which he finds himself.

Lawrence builds tension *very* well. In fact, so well that at times when I was tempted to say, "Oi!, dude! You're withholding key information here!" the next chapter comes along and furnishes us with sufficient backstory. This back-and-forth jumping between past and present will probably annoy some readers, but I'm not one of those. All I can do is stand back in slack-jawed wonder at how Lawrence managed to hold onto all those threads.

It's not so much the world-building that's fantastic. I mean, it's pretty standard – post-tech, post-apocalyptic Medieval setting where reality is a little more malleable than your average SF nut would want to allow. Jorg finds himself in a battleground, yet Jorg himself exists as a nexus point and a battle ground in his own right – between the forces of Death and Fire.

All I can say about my expectations of book #3 is that this story cannot end well, but I'm sure as hell going to enjoy the ride. Jorg is a dark star that burns brightly, a comet that will destroy the world even as he remakes it according to his own vision.

I don't know when last a fantasy series has excited my imagination quite so much. What makes it for me as well is Jorg's observations on the nature of people and the world around him. I don't normally highlight while I read on my kindle but this novel calls for me to make exceptions. Jorg has a particular presence, for lack of better description. He is broken, but instead of moping, he is fuelled by his bad experiences and won't lie down and die, no matter how bad things get. And for that, I admire him.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fear the Reaper (with Joe Mynhardt)

Joe Mynhardt is a fellow South African who's steadily creating quite a buzz in the horror genre. He's definitely one to look out for and I hope to bring him down to Cape Town for one of our SA HorrorFest Bloody Parchment events (that's a hint, Joe, BTW).

Anyhoo, Joe's been at the helm of a new horror anthology entitled Fear the Reaper, which is available in paperback and Kindle. It was published on October 25 through his company, Crystal Lake Publishing.

Over to you, Joe!

* * * *

It was some time in the middle of last year that I couldn’t get the thought of death out of my mind. Like always, I was looking for topics or themes for the next Crystal Lake Publishing book, and for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about death. Not so much death as the process or act of dying.

I couldn’t even play with my two dogs without thinking about their eventual demise. Holding them in my arms and watching the life fade from their eyes as they stare up at me. I once had the horrible experience of holding my dog in my arms as she bled out. Luckily we made it to the vet on time to save her. But… that feeling of her body growing weaker, and her cries fading away, has haunted me ever since.

Noticed how I referred to the dog as her, instead of it. What if it’s a person? Someone I love? I know they’re all going to die one day, perhaps I’ll go first. It’s not knowing when or how that can drive you crazy, but knowing might be even worse.

These very personal thoughts haunted all the authors in Fear the Reaper as they created and wrote their stories. Feel free to check out this blog post by Rena Mason as she talks about her sister. We even lost one of the authors along the way. Rick Hautala, you are missed, indeed. I wish we could’ve chatted more.

One shouldn’t dwell on these thoughts of death, but let them motivate you to enjoy life more, even if those bad thoughts scratch at the back of your mind. No wonder most Reaper tattoos are on people’s backs or shoulder.

In this collection you’ll find people fighting death, trying to cheat death, becoming death, even catching death. Each with their own personal issues and motivations, of course. I’ve never seen such a collection of well-established 3-dimensional characters in an anthology.

So be sure to check out Fear the Reaper, you never know when it might be too late.

TOC: Taylor Grant, Joe McKinney, Rick Hautala, Gary Fry, Ross Warren, Marty Young, Stephen Bacon, Dean M Drinkel, Richard Thomas, Sam Stone, Eric S Brown, Mark Sheldon, Steve Lockley, Robert S. Wilson, Jeremy C Shipp, Jeff Strand, Lawrence Santoro, E.C. McMullen Jr., Rena Mason, John Kenny and Gary A. Braunbeck. Includes a poem by Adam Lowe. Edited by Joe Mynhardt.

LINKAGE, and check out our YouTube reading of Adam Lowe’s Hecate poem.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Six of the Best with DC Petterson

I'm like a little kid about DC Petterson's writing. He ticks all the boxes for me: magic, mystery, creatures of the night, love... And wolves. Dave *gets* wolves. His novel, Lupa Bella, released on October 31 (very aptly, thank you very much) and today I've got him over for a little fireside chat, so to speak.

Author Rosemary Edghill has this to say about Lupa Bella, “Lupa Bella is a compelling secret history of a world that might be our own. DC Petterson blends pagan mysteries and very human evil to create a haunting tale of love, lore, and renunciation that will keep you turning pages in your race to the end. Petterson gets better with each book.  Keep an eye on this guy: he’s good, and he’ll surprise you.”

I agree with her, and I totally couldn't say it better. So, without further ado, over to Dave.

What makes your werewolves stand apart in your mind?

There are a few things that, I think, differentiate the wolves in my stories from wolves in other urban fantasies. One is the Benandanti ("Good Walkers"), a magical fraternity that we know existed in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. They claimed to be able to transform into wolves, and in that shape they helped protect their villages. They were tried as witches by the Inquisition. My wolves are remnants of the Benandanti. They have this connection to magic, as well as a long history of partnership with people.

Expanding on this idea, bear in mind that wolves were the first animals to form a tie of friendship to people, the first creatures humans domesticated and started intentionally to breed. In my stories, the wolves have been partners with humans for forty thousand years. I've combined this idea of wolves having been bred and genetically manipulated by humans with what we know about the Bendandanti to create the Good Walkers of my stories. I've brought in many other bits and pieces of historic werewolf lore as well—always tweaked for the universe I’m building.

My werewolves are not people who sometimes take the form of a wolf. They are wolves who can appear to be people.

Why Sicily? Can you tell us a little more about the choice in setting?

I have an ancestral tie to Sicily. My great-grandparents on my mother's side were born in the tiny village I've fictionalized in Lupa Bella. Sicily also has a long reputation for being independent of the mainland. It has a rich folklore of magic, even surviving to the present day. This allowed me to imagine a story about a place where some of the old ways have not decayed, a place that has stood apart from the tides of time and change.

Sicily is also a place of ancient vendettas and family feuds that last centuries. The possibilities for tales of intrigue and of loyalty and betrayal are endless.

Tell us more about the bond between Celeste and Dario.

Dario's family has lived on the slopes of Santo Stefano for many years, but they came originally from Tuscany, a region in the north of Italy, known for remembering wisps of gods so old they predate the Romans, and even the Greeks before them. Celeste is a wolf, who was fostered to Dario's mother when Celeste and Dario were both infants. They were raised as sister and brother, and all the villagers view them--and they see themselves--as fraternal twins.

In another novel, A Melancholy Humour, I used the word "legere" to describe the bond between a human and a wolf. That's an old Latin term for a tie or a knot, and it was used in medieval witchcraft to signify a love spell. I use that word to describe the bond between a human and a wolf, and I depict it as a link closer than the blood-ties within a family, stronger than romantic love, not quite a telepathic link but a touch of awareness that cannot be severed.

It it a link, however, that was purposely bred into wolves by their human masters. Some of them resent it.

Dario and Celeste are inseparable. It isn't sexual, and it isn't romantic. It is a love and respect deeper than any of that. This story has provided an opportunity to test the strength of their bond, and I intend in the future to push it still more, perhaps to its limits.

All stories have a spark. What was Lupa Bella's story seed?

Celeste is the grandmother of the wolf character in A Melancholy Humour. I want to tell the story of that family. As I sat down to write it Celeste’s tale, I realized her brother Dario had an expensive Italian motorcycle. Another character asked him where he'd gotten it, and he answered, "I did a service for someone. He said I could keep the Ducati." This forced me to look back toward their home town in Sicily, and to learn more about how Dario came to own the bike. It all turned out to be far more complex than he'd let on.

What was possibly the most difficult part of writing Lupa Bella? And why?

I tend to fall in love with my characters, even the slimy ones I really hate. I want all of them to feel real, and to be complex and layered. To present them as something other than cutouts, I try to spend a lot of time in their heads, getting to know them. This means I have a deep emotional investment in each and every one, even the minor characters who appear only once. (I really like Clio and Eliana, for instance, and I wish I'd had the space to do more with them.)

Lupa Bella includes some deaths. I tend to agonize over those scenes, writing and rewriting them with enough care to get the emotional nuances proper to the character. They are pretty real deaths to me, the end of the lives of people I've come to know. I keenly feel the loss, and I want to let the reader feel that, too.

I struggled with the death scenes in Lupa Bella. One in particular really broke my heart, but it was necessary for the story. I still tear up whenever I re-read it.

Does this world of yours stretch to other cosmologies? I can almost imagine this encompassing North American myths and legends too. In any case, what lies ahead for your wolves?

Humans have domesticated wolves everywhere on the planet--every single place where there are both wolves and humans--not just all over Europe, but also in the Americas, in Asia, in Africa, and in Australia. Everywhere there are domesticated wolves (we tend today to call them "dogs") there also are stories both of the ties between people and canines, and of creatures who freely and frequently step over the line between the two. There is a world full of magical wolf-lore from which to draw. There are differences, yes, and story possibilities can be found there as well, but the underlying ideas, worldwide, are startlingly similar.

Following Lupa Bella, these particular characters are likely to confront the onrush of history about to flood America. I chose the year 1962 for this story with some care. Magic has been fading, but it is not dead, and it is destined to return. I want to tell those stories in the context of a rapidly-changing society, embracing both the horrors and the promise of the new world.

Now go forth and make me the most amazingly happy author ever by buying this book at,, Nook or Kobo, or just go add the damn thing on Goodreads and stalk Dave on Twitter @dcpetterson

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft #review

Title: The Crimson Outlaw
Author: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Riptide, 2013

It’s 1720 in Harghita County, Transylvania. and no, don’t expect vampires. Vali is the son of a nobleman, the cruel boyar Wadim Florescu. Amazingly, the lad has grown up untainted by his father’s generally nasty attitude – and his abuse. Vali is sweet-natured, an incurable romantic and tends to act before thinking things through.

Which is why he tries to derail his sister’s wedding to another lord old enough to be their father – a move which backfires horribly, and proves to be the final straw which drives Vali out into the world.

Well meaning but completely unprepared for the world beyond the castle’s walls, Vali quickly runs into trouble when a bandit in the forest tries to take him hostage. This bandit is none other than Mihai, who has a bit of an axe to grind with Wadim, and he reckons Vali’s going to make the perfect hostage.

The last thing Vali and Mihai expect is that they’d end up in a state of mutual fascination that runs deeper than mere lust. Of course there’s still the problem of a tyrannical lord to overthrow and a village to save, which adds an extra dimension to this blooming romance.

The Crimson Outlaw has it all: authentic world-building (you really do feel like you’re in Transylvania); plenty of well-realised action sequences, swords and all; and of course the sparks that fly between Vali and Mihai. If I can level any criticism against the story it’s that it’s over so quickly, which is a measure of how well Alex Beecroft drew me in that I regretted reaching the ending so soon. I wanted a lot more.

Vali really is adorable. You want to groan quietly at his naïveté but there’s something quite refreshing about encountering a character who has such a big heart and cheery outlook. GrimDark this is not, but The Crimson Outlaw is a highly entertaining read nonetheless that will leave you smiling. Beecroft has a light, lyrical touch with her words and her story is an absolute pleasure if you’re looking for a feel-good, historical diversion from your daily grind.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Six of the best with Heidi Belleau

Today I welcome Heidi Belleau to my world. She's the author of numerous and rather engaging titles. Go check out her author page at Goodreads.

You’ve got no more than 16 words to tell someone who’s never heard of Wallflower what it’s all about. Go!

Heidi: Shy geek with female online persona discovers being part-time girl interferes with his budding gay relationship.

(Phew! That was hard!)

Wallflower delves into the theme of gender identity. Tell us a little bit more about Robert/Bobby.

Basically, Rob is this shy, awkward guy who’s always been a loner, but online, where he presents as a girl, he’s funny, popular, and outgoing.

Getting a job at a porn store pushes his shyness to the limit, so he decides to try passing as a girl in real life too. Just for his job, at first, but then he discovers that he loves his female persona, loves the freedom and confidence it gives him... but doesn’t love the fact that it complicates his new relationship with an out gay man. Basically from a gender standpoint, it’s all about a genderqueer person figuring out who he is, how he wants to present, how to navigate his sexlife and relationships, and how he can move forward.

Also, you write non-Caucasian characters, do tell us a little more how you give them the ring of authenticity.

I write lots of characters of colour, yes. Especially for Rear Entrance Video, the series of which Wallflower is a part. It’s set in Vancouver and I wanted the cast to represent the diversity of the city. If I’d have had a bunch of white heroes, it just wouldn’t have been right. As to giving them a ring of authenticity, it’s a little bit of everything. I observe the people around me and my friends, I read forums or articles online, I watch videos if need be. And then when I write; I make sure to try and find beta readers with firsthand knowledge who can keep an eye out for glaring mistakes.

Really, the main thing to remember is you’re not writing a race, you’re writing a person... whose race is a part of who they are. So you can’t write “colour-blind”, but you most certainly should make characters of colour just as well-rounded as white characters. And a part of that is giving due care and attention to their identity and ethnicity and how that affects their personality, their self-image, and how they interact with others. That doesn't mean the book has to be about race – so for Rob, being Chinese Canadian is largely in the background to his gender issues, but for Dylan, it’s a much bigger part of who he is and how he relates with people. Basically? Research research research, empathy empathy empathy, complexity complexity complexity.

What was your favourite scene from Wallflower?

There’s a scene early on in the book where Rob rents a straight Asian fetish video and watches it. It was a really challenging but rewarding scene for me to write, because while it’s ostensibly a sex scene, it’s so much more. It’s a big knotty tangle of race and gender and fetish and how we perform race and gender and how watching that kind of media changes our perception and how porn is both harmful and also freeing. For how heavy it is on issues, it’s also just really sexy. In a complicated kind of way.

Was there any that you found particularly tricky?

Yes! The reconciliation between Rob and Dylan at the end of the book was very hard to get the wording right. I actually edited the dialogue somewhat after reading a review, because the reviewer had issues with the same lines I did, so I reworked them. I set up a pretty tricky conflict in Wallflower by having a gay man fall for a genderqueer person who therefore isn’t completely male, and it took a little bit of wrangling to have them talk it out and resolve that conflict in a satisfying way that didn’t compromise either of their identities.

Lastly, what do you love best about your chosen genre(s)? 

I love writing about queer people like me. I love telling stories that wouldn’t necessarily be told otherwise. Not only do I enjoy writing what I write, not only do I get a little hot writing what I write, but I feel good about it, too, which is a great feeling.

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat, whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.

She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)

Connect with Heidi Twitter @HeidiBelleau.