Monday, October 26, 2009

October Songs...

Yikes, I can't believe how quickly this month has flown past. I've been swamped in work and have been trying to keep head above water. I'm happy to say that I'm almost done with a first round of edits on a LPI novel that's been haunting me. Khepera Rising is in galleys now and oh, my... I'm still tweaking. Thing is, I'm making progress but I need to be done with that by November 1.

On the news front, Keith Pyeatt interviewed me the other day, and the blog is up at:

So, do drop by and say "hoesit, my broer". Oh, and you'll get to read about my penguin-wrangling days.

More news is that I've just accepted a big editing job from a fellow South African fantasy author, whose first novel can be considered a bestseller for our country. This job will take a long, long time to complete, since the MS is a whopper. But hats off to the man. He's a good writer and I hope to share further news once things are more concrete.

And without further ado... I must go catch my tail.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Murphy will have the last word...

On travel writing...
Sometimes I have to laugh and shake my head. On Saturday, HJ and I collaborated on our first travel story in ages, a trip out to DelVera in the Stellenbosch winelands. Situated on the R44 on the corner of the Muldersvlei Road, this agricultural village is definitely a place to consider visiting if you're tired of places like Spier etc.

The place used to be a pig farm and the owners (of Delheim fame) are slowly (and organically) turning this into a thriving destination for people who love epicurean delights such as all manner of olive produce, organic farm food... and just stuff. Of particular note was ceramicist Johan's raku pottery. We timed our visit well to coincide with a firing and it was spectacular to see carbon-blackened pots wash clean to reveal the characteristic cracked cream or white raku glazes.

But I'm not going to wax lyrical ad nauseam here. If your interest is piqued, go check out:

I'm so going back there, especially since the famous Kokerboom Nursery (of Vanrhynsdorp fame) has opened a branch and I saw some aloe specimens with my name written on them. And I didn't even get a look at the euphorbias.

Staying with travel writing, unless Murphy has the last word, I'll be zooting off to the lovely island of Mauritius for four days. I've okayed it with the bosses and they're happy that I'll be writing for one of the national papers. This is a big (and unexpected) step forward for my travel writing, which has, sadly, been on the backburner for a while now that I've been concentrating on my fiction writing and editing.

Then... A '49 Hudson Six update...
Today Thomas went to go see the new mechanic who'll be working on our Hudson. The guy jokingly refers to the car as "the Shrek car" because, well, it's f***ing big and green. We're hoping this new chap will have the time and the passion to help us get our li'l hellraiser on the road. Plans are already afoot to convert the back seat into a fold-down double bed... Woo-hoo!

On writing...
Really. I wasn't going to do it but then a few writers from one of the crit groups I belong to started buzzing about it. Then I happened to read an old Andrew Lang fairytale which hints at Beauty and the Beast but has scope for a far more, erm, erotic treatment. Added to that, I've just finished the first draft for Ironclad Dreams, so I've a gap in the train-writing schedule.

So... **drumroll please** I'll officially be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. The story is called The White Bear's Wife. I'll be putting together a conscious nod in Jacqueline Carey's and Neil Gaiman's directions. There. I've said it. No backing out now. Guess I'll have plenty of time during that flight to and from Mauritius...

I've also blogged about writing novels at my Tuesday Frightening Journeys slot, if you're interested. See:

Bloody Parchment at The Lounge of Horror

On Friday, October 23, from 6.30pm at The Book Lounge, some of South Africa's finest authors of horror fiction will gather to share their own personal brand of darkness. These include established and up-and-coming authors, such as Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz, Sam Wilson, Werner Pretorius, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Diane Awerbuck, HJ Lombard, Carine Engelbrecht, Danielle Eriksen and myself.

I shall be reading an extract of my upcoming Lyrical Press, Inc. release, Khepera Rising.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Erm... janowellfine

Janowellfine. That's a lovely South African colloquiallism. We love combining positives with negatives to create composite words that have no real meaning.

"Hey, Nerine, how're you feeling today?"

"Janowellfine." **followed by a deep sigh** "I think I'll just carry on sitting here under a rock."

Plainly put, I'm feeling very blegh today.

I've reached another point of weirdness in my life. For a long time I've felt that I have not been pushing myself as intellectually as I should. This has been followed by the rather nebulous realisation that I neither have the time or the material resources to follow up on full-time tertiary education. And if it does happen, I may well be in my forties.

Another realisation has struck me that I can do something about this by reading the collected works of the one man who's been ghosting along at the edges of my vision for the past 10 years saying, "Hey there, you know you want to but yet you choose to rot your brain with crappy genre fiction."

Okay, Mr Jung. I get it. That little nudge by a certain teacher of mine pointing out the work of the Philemon Foundation and the recent release of CG Jung's The Red Book, has been a little red flag, a call to action, if you will.

This has come at a time when I know I need to stretch myself, push my THINKING processes a little further. As an author, I'm in the business of deliving into dreamworlds and bringing back something to the waking world. By all rights I should take this process one step further and find things beyond standard tropes of characters meeting and falling in love then finding the wherewithal to kill the monster and sleep with their mothers. Okay, scratch the Oedipus rex complex but ja... I'm bored.

I read and review stacks of genre fiction novels and they all seem to be telling just the same bleeding story. The best works, IMO, are the ones leaving you slightly scratchy behind the eyes, the uncomfortable stories that seem to have a ring of truth to them resonating with you on a deeper level. Now I want to write stories like that.

As a genre fiction author I've been accused (by a literary agent of all people) of being "too literary" for genre fiction. Should I take that as a compliment?

Right now I'm dissatisfied because I see so many great authors who are mentally lazy. Sure, it's great to switch off your brain from time to time but if you are an author, you are published (or will be) you are in the position to create magic, to bring some small seeds of change into the world.

I blame Tolkien for this, and my mother reading me The Hobbit when I was six.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Pharaoh's life: Walking in the footsteps of Hatshepsut

Title: The Double Crown
Author: Marie Heese
Publisher: Human & Rousseau, 2009

The first time I encountered Marie Heese’s writing was when we studied her Afrikaans novel, Die Uurwerk Kantel during high school. Even back then, although I did not fully understand everything Marie Heese was trying to bring across with her writing, I remember feeling incredibly troubled after finishing the work.

Now, many years later, I feel the same way after finishing reading The Double Crown, a fictionalised account of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s life. But, this is a good kind of “troubled” because it makes me sit back and consider the outcome of the choices I may make if I were to strive for sovereignty in my life, let alone rule one of the most complex of ancient kingdoms, like Hatshepsut did.

A common thread joining these two works follows the lives of women, of the sacrifices they make for what they believe in. Simply put, even if this is a fictionalised account of Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s life, the woman achieved more than most of us could ever dream to.

I am the chosen of the gods. I have always known that. This knowledge has been the source of my strength and my power, and it is the reason why I know that those who now seek my death and desire to usurp my throne shall not succeed.

These are the words Heese chooses to begin The Double Crown, which perfectly sum up Hatshepsut’s attitude. In order to succeed, she identified her innate divinity to rule as the chosen of Amen, which was unheard of for any woman.

Heese weaves a tale that is part journal and part speculation of the events gleaned from perusing what records remain of Hatshepsut’s life, succeeding in portraying a balanced account of the pharaoh’s life. Hatshepsut often faced difficult decisions. At times she followed her heart and at others she put her happiness aside for what she considered the greater good for Egypt. The ending, however, is inevitable, when Hatshepsut – alone – looks back over her life, considering whether her life was a success.

She was a mother, a ruler and a woman, with the complex needs of the different roles she filled, and striking a balance in these areas was not easy. The tale, at times dark, also has moments of pure joy and humour, encapsulating the entirety of Hatshepsut’s life.

Heese’s many years of research definitely pay off and I was privileged to hear her speak about her new release at this year’s Cape Town Book Fair. She says, “After a while it was almost as though I could hear her speaking to me and I thought, you know what, I have to do this, I have to tell her story.”

What a story it is, making me feel as if I actually walked through the streets of Thebes or smelled the incense in the temples. There are very few books out there that move me to tears at the end and this was one of them. Although the pharaohs who followed Hatshepsut did their best to erase her name, the words of the scribes ensure that her name will live forever, and Heese is one of these great scribes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Emma-O movie trailer

Well, this is a nice bit of news: the Emma-O movie trailer. This is why I was almost a widow during September:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wading through Dune

Third time, lucky, perhaps? The first time I encountered Frank Herbert's Dune was at the tender age of about 14 or so. Back then I managed a page or two before I gave up in disgust. About a decade later I gave it another shot. It is, I'm told, one of those legendary novels You Just Absolutely Have to Read Before You Die, right? Wrong. At age 24 I gave up after the first two chapters. Why? I was bored. The writing was dense, the characters unbelievable. Bear in mind I'd just read John Fowles's The Magus, so it wasn't because I was stoopid or incapable of reading anything of substance.

Okay, almost another decade later, I've tried again. I picked up a copy of Dune at the Donkey Sanctuary's annual booksale in McGregor for the bargain price of R10. It's the copy that must have come out shortly after the very successful David Lynch movie version of the book. Yes, the one with Sting in the skimpy blue plastic undies fame.

So the book sat on my TBR pile for a while then I finally gave a deep sigh and picked it up about a month ago. And I'm glad to say I finished it yesterday. Did I like it? Yes. But there was a lot I didn't like.

For one, Frank Herbert writes like a journalist, and although peeps like Terry Pratchett can get away with the omniscient third-person POV, Frank Herbert's shifting from one POV to the other just got my hackles up. Granted, about a third of the way into the book I was too tired to argue. I just went along with the flow but I still shudder when considering all those young, impressionable authors who'll try to follow suit and think this editor will put up with it when she encounters their paltry efforts.

I laugh when I recall my friend HJ's opinion on Herbert's writing: "It's dishwater." This is from a man who writes propaganda for a living.

I finished the book without caring for any of the characters. Granted, I found the environment interesting and the political posturing mildly entertaining... and I get that Herbert's putting forward a lot of "deep philosophical and environmental stuff" (insert trademark) but as a work of fiction, I feel Dune takes itself far to seriously.

Or maybe I'm innately corrupted by the fact that I like editing novels where I know my readers will be a) entertained, b) enjoy a bit of escapism and c) care about what happens to the characters.

Did I learn stuff? Yes. I appreciate the magnitude of Herbert's scope but if he were to have written this now, he would have found it all but impossible to find a publisher. This may have been a ground-breaking novel for its time but the style of the writing has dated, and not well.

Will I read the others? Perhaps, once the scars have healed.

Okay, okay, I can already feel the rotten vegetables aimed in my direction. I'll back down. I kind of enjoyed Dune, just not as much as I'd prefer to have the next Jacqueline Carey 900-page doorstopper land on my lap.