Saturday, October 30, 2010

New review for Khepera Rising

What a nice way to start my brief bit of time off: a four-tombstone review for Khepera Rising at Bitten by Books.

The reviewer had this to say: Jamie is the anti-hero: he’s rude, crude, obnoxious and yet the whole time I was reading this story I was cheering for this guy because for every nasty act he committed, he would demonstrate some kindly deed, sometimes for people he knew well but more often for others he either hardly knew or despised.

Read the full review here:

Other than that, I'm enjoying my Halloween immensely. Today is a Type O Negative day in memory of Peter Steele, so I'm driving my poor husband a bit nuts going through my playlist but hell, if he constantly makes me listen to Foetus, Steroid Maximus and Manorexia, I can have a bit of my own back sometimes. Tonight I shall lift a glass of red wine in memory to the Green Man.

Last night we were hanging out with the Vesparados at their clubhouse in Culemborg. They're awesome, a Vespa scooter club who make the Hell's Angels look like a pack of sissies. Besides, how many Hell's Angels will ramp their choppers through a ring of fire? Some of the BlackMilk crew were there and we were messing around filming zombie attacks for a short film they're putting together. I donned the corpse paint and joined in the fun. This seems to be the only role I end up taking in the films they make. Says something about me, doesn't it?

Other than that, I'm off to Zambia for a few days to review a game lodge near Livingstone. This is very exciting as it's been about a year since I last travelled out of the country. And, it's one of the few benefits of working in a demanding newspaper publishing environment. Although I won't have access to the internet, I will prepare some blogs to share the adventure.

I've been thinking long and hard about my role as fiction editor. I see that the local editors sometimes get a bit of a raw deal with the publishers not paying on time or just not paying enough. Which makes me think about my position as content editor for a small press in the US. I work for royalties, so if my author does well, so do I. Which kind of puts the pressure on for me to acquire authors who'll sell within the epublishing situation.

I edit fiction because I enjoy seeing authors gain confidence within their chosen genres. Even better is when those four- and five-star reviews start piling up, and this past week has seen a number of my authors gain stellar reviews with well-known review sites. This is the best thank you for me. Even better is when my authors submit their next work for consideration and I can see a visible improvement in their work. Although it's nice seeing that royalty statement at the end of each month, reader feedback is often the most tangible evidence that we're getting something right.

So, what sells? Romance and erotica. Horror and science fiction are taking a bit of a raw deal at the moment but the only advice I have for authors in these genres is to carry on writing and getting published through the platforms that are available. This also means a helluva lot more shameless self-promotion.

My first published novels fall within the horror genre but I'm now looking at rather restructuring my writing to market through the urban fantasy genre, which does sell better. This does mean upping the romantic/erotic content but, since I've started doing this anyway about a year or so ago, it's not really an issue for me.

Another option open to authors who are epublished is to hold onto their printing rights then self-publish through programmes such as Amazon's CreateSpace. The benefit of this is that your books are available in print and electronic versions, and it's a bit better than having self-published a work in its entirety, since you have the credits of releasing first electronically through an established press.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cape Town: Khepera Rising give-aways

Well, I’ve definitely got something got something to blog about during the frenetic run-up to the end of the year. My books arrived in the mail today, pristine copies of Khepera Rising, fresh from the printers. And, guess what? To celebrate Halloween, I’m giving three copies away at events occurring in Cape Town during the next few weeks.

First up is the second Bloody Parchment event, once again hosted under the auspices of the SA HorrorFest at the Book Lounge, one of Cape Town’s hippest, happening literary destinations, on October 27. Some of Cape Town’s authors, including big names such as Sarah Lotz, Maya Fowler and SA Partridge, among others, will offer Halloween-themed readings, with prizes for the best-dressed. And, after I scare myself half to death reading a passage from Khepera Rising, I’ll give away a signed copy to the audience member whose costume catches my eye. For more information, see:

Next up on the agenda is the SA HorrorFest, which fully gets into the swing of things as of October 28. Now in its sixth year, it is South Africa’s only dedicated horror-themed festival, offering horror buffs a ghoulish feast of film and music. A signed copy of Khepera Rising is finding its way into the organisers’ hands, and they’ll spread my speshul brand of darkness. For more information, see:

Perhaps not linked to a Halloween theme but nonetheless a very worthy cause I’m thrilled to be supporting, is this year’s Lovecats event, an evening of live music geared toward raising funds for one of my favourite charities, TEARS. Because animals often don’t have a voice in our society, speaking for those who can’t is one of my primary concerns. And, because I believe our sentient brothers and sisters of other species deserve all the help they can get, I’ve done my bit by offering a signed copy of Khepera Rising as a prize, to be handed out on the night of the event. See the following links: and

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One of the questions I hear often is: Where can I buy your books? It’s simple. Run a search at or, if you’re South African, Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for saving trees, invest in an electronic copy and feel all warm and fuzzy knowing you’re supporting South African genre fiction.

Read more about Khepera Rising here:

Jamie will be absolutely delighted to make your acquaintance and, I can assure you, the print quality is fang-tastic!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Screaming Yellow with Rachel Green

When I was offered the opportunity to work on Rachel Green's Screaming Yellow, I jumped at the chance. Nominally playing fly-on-the-wall in and around Cape Town's BDSM and fetish scene, and being privileged to be on first-name basis with some of our city's more interesting personalities, I looked forward to working on fiction offering themes I'm familiar with. On top of that, who can resist the unholy alliance of a witch teaming up with a Catholic priest to solve a murder?

What I've enjoyed about Rachel's setting is how well realised not only the place is – true British eccentricity and charm all rolled into one – but the characters. Although everything about Laverstone is fictional, it still had me hitting Google. It just has to be real, I told myself.

Screaming Yellow is a novel I can fully recommend. Even though, as editor, I've lost count of how many times I've read through it, I always find some other small detail to have a quiet chuckle about, passages where the author paints characters or bits of dialogue that remain with me. Who'd have thought a small town could play host to a gloriously decadent cast of characters, where a bit of bondage, needle play and polyamory are the order of the day?

So, without further ado, I welcome Rachel to my world, to share a little about hers.

Why Laverstone? Tell us about your town.

Laverstone has been building, location by location, for the last six or seven years. It is a small (fictional) town in the south of England, bordered on the east by a range of hills and in the north by the M4 motorway. To the west and south are chalk downs. It first came into being as the setting for my novel, An Ungodly Child, and has grown slowly every time I add another tale to the mythos. Laverstone is a sort of Glastonbury without the head shops.

Have you had any real-life experiences creep into your writing?

Always. The kinky sections of Screaming Yellow were all based on personal experience and expertise, as was the polyamory and the social mechanics of The Larches. I've written non-fiction about BDSM and my partners and I have taught workshops on techniques. In the other books the fight and sword scenes are all as realistic as I can make them. I am a trained swordswoman and practice jiu-jitsu and budo. The dogs are used to me choreographing scenes with sword or werewolf-repellent silver-topped cane.

Which one of your characters would you have high tea with, and what would you discuss with them... Or do with them?

High tea? There's a phrase I haven't heard since childhood. My first answer is Jasfoup, of course, and I would discuss the nature of Fallen Angels with him, but he only has a bit part in Screaming Yellow so I'd pick Inspector White and take him to the Philadelphia on Old Oxford Street, a little past Meinwen's witchery shop on Knifesgate. He must have some tales to tell, don't you think?

Who are your favourite authors and what is it about their writing that excites you?

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen are, in my opinion, the finest humorists in print. There isn't a book of theirs I don't pre-order as soon as I can. I've learned a great deal from them both in terms of character, pace and setting.

Iain Banks and Kate Atkinson share similar fields of excellence in their writing. Characters and attention to detail within individual lines. These people don't just write, they compose.

Finally, Agatha Christie. What a marvellous lady. I'd read everything by her by the time I was 12. From her I got the love of the mystery, the chase, the clue and the sheer delight in (literary) murder. Miss Marple is lauded in Screaming Yellow, and Laverstone boasts a public building named in her honour.

What sparked off
Screaming Yellow? Was it an a-ha moment or a concept that slowly crept up on you?

It began as an attempt to write a non-paranormal novel. Laverstone is full of ordinary people and I wanted to reflect this in a way that would appeal to those with no interest in demons and vampires. I was also fed up with the way BDSM is portrayed in literature as a bad thing – an immoral, "sinful" pleasure that should be punished. I wanted to show it in a positive light and highlight the love between dominant and submissive personalities. It amused me to have a Catholic priest as a main character. I was raised Catholic.

I also wrote the first draft in a month and asked some friends in the scene to look it over. They seemed happy with it and so I tried to place it. It sat for a few years until a publisher was interested "if I took out all the BDSM". I did but they wanted me to take out the polyamory too, which was integral to the plot. Fortunately, Lyrical Press liked all the sex.

Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you work? Are there any good habits for writers?

I write at home, on a desktop PC and start every day with a series of four poems – a cinquain, a haiku, a takna and a Fib – which I post on my livejournal (friends only but happy to add readers). I catch up online (newspapers and blogs) and write 2-500 words on an ongoing novel at Later in the day I post a long-form poem (I send these to magazines and anthologies and occasionally publish a chap book) and write for whatever short story or novel I'm currently working on. I walk my dogs and pet my family often. My tip for writing is to have a hobby that's not writing.

Useful links:

My homepage (also includes artwork)
My Amazon Page:
My livejournal:
Jasfoup's Blog:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Basking in the Creepy Green Light

October is an apt month, if any, to write a tribute to a man and his music. Peter Steele, bassist and front-man for gothic metal band Type O Negative, passed on April 14 this year, about six months ago, and it’s taken me all this time to consider exactly how iconic he was, and also just what I wanted to share about what he meant to me.

Those of us who listen to music will always have bands or musicians who are “it” musicians, who sum up an era or a state of mind perfectly. And, while I’ve had an affection for assorted gothic, electro and industrial initiatives since I got over my unfortunate mainstream affliction at the tender age of fifteen (I blame Trent Reznor for this), Type O Negative has always been one of those bands that lurked on the edges of my awareness.

I had a deprived childhood. I grew up during the time when the great World Wide Web was only beginning to put in an appearance in South Africa during the early to mid-1990s. Mandela and De Klerk had just brought our country back from the edge of a bloody civil war and, to put it mildly, years of socio-economic sanctions had us living in a bit of a cultural backwater. Sure, we had some idea about popular culture but pity us alternatives who really had to struggle to find out about new trends.

Hell, the music we were dancing to in our dark, dank alternative clubs was sometimes a decade or more out of date. Not that we cared. It was still better than grooving to the dreck they were airing on radio. Bela Lugosi is dead So what? Too young to have seen the likes of South Africa’s No Friends of Harry live on stage, take LSD at The Stage or lurk in corners at The Playground, I nonetheless grasped at whatever hints of alternative culture came my way, usually in the form of recordings of recordings of recordings of some obscure band (can anyone say Marilyn Manson?) or hours poring over foreign music magazines bought at the local “books per kilo” store.

As my friend Tracey commented to me today on the train, “You missed out on the best times.”


The alternative kids at my high school banded together, whether they were hippie, goth or rasta, spending break times in the quad bragging about various feats of sheer teenage stupidity and generally looking down on the sporty or nerdy types. Me? I was a nerdy type who’d lost interest in being the good girl after two particular bad years in hospital where I’d nearly croaked it. A near-cancer experience after a burst appendix kinda readjusts your outlook on life.

I kept asking myself: there must be more to life than growing up, marrying some doctor or engineer and breeding more little white middle class suburban punks. That’s more or less the time Nine Inch Nails came out with The Downward Spiral, signalling my own, personal descent into the darkness, from whence I’ve never quite re-emerged. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I never did quite like going out into the sunlight. Skin cancer, UV rays an’ all.

And, before you say it, yes, I’m that old.

I remember the day I encountered Type O Negative quite clearly. I was in my final year of high school that year and a friend of mine had given me a copy of an Alternative Press magazine featuring none other than Pete on the front cover dressed in a cupid outfit and very little else. But it was his eyes that got to me. Something about the eyes. Who the hell was this man? Did he find his way onto my bedroom walls and high school diary? Hell yeah!

Granted, pathetic little munchkin that I was, I only got to hear my first sample of Type O Negative about a year later when I scored a copy of ToN’s Slow, Deep and Hard. I’ll be perfectly honest. The music didn’t quite match up to what I expected the man to sound like. But I gave it a good few more listens and the music started growing on me.

“There’s something there,” I mused. “There’s something about this music I could really grow to love.”

The first Type O Negative album I bought was October Rust, and I remember hating reaching the end of the disc and wishing there was more where Haunted came from. Many late nights in my parents house, wondering what on earth was to become of me... That album is an anthem for that time of wondering.

But sadly I wasn’t ever able to kindle a full appreciation of ToN’s music. I dated some sad gothboy who didn’t approve of my musical inclinations (no more ToN, okay?). Granted, I got into Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and a bunch of other bands I’d never have listened to otherwise. (Music at least ten years out of date, hey.) Then I completed my tertiary education, got a job, bought a house.

Yeah, the whole white suburban middle class punk thing kind of happened anyway. I’m thirty-two now but thank freck I’ve something to show for the crazy-arse kid I used to be. I’ve written two novels, sold others, and I’ve lost track of how many others I’ve completed. I’m finally living one of the dreams I set for myself. Granted, I no longer play in bands but I still have my bass. I’ve recaptured some of that madness I had when I was seventeen.

And by freck, I’m glad I’ve not bred. I don’t have that hanging around my neck. I do have a husband but I’m happy he doesn’t force me to do anything I don’t want to. I can still let my hair down and plug into that current that drove me all those years ago. Because you know what? I’ve found it again. It never went away. It was just mired in more than a decade of trying to live life according to society’s rules.

So I’ll remember Peter Steele. I’ll remember what his music represents, which is a big “eff you” to the rest of the world. I’ll live my life according to my rules and screw everyone else. I’ll have no regrets.

Hey Pete. wherever you are, thank you.

You suck!

And while I live and breathe, I will speak your name and drink a glass of red wine for you on Halloween each year. Your music has always been there, a spirit of the age to which I belong. I never even conceived your time would come to an end so soon.

That’s the problem, we still believe we’re immortal.

It would be nice to close with something intellectual, but at heart I’m just a thug.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crawling out from beneath the woodwork

At the moment it feels like I’ve been very busy but there are many projects still up in the air so I don’t really want to make mention of them until they’re finalised.

On the editing front things have been great, I’ve been working hard with my current batch of authors and am glad to see how some of the manuscripts have evolved to the point where they’re ready for the final stages of production. Authors are sometimes daunted by the amount of work that goes into their edits but what I tell them is simple: “You can never edit enough.” Every manuscript I take on receives a preliminary read-through before I offer my recommendation and a contract is mailed. After that, I ask most first-time authors to revise according to a checklist that catches the most common gremlins. My veterans mercifully figure out their gremlins and catch them before submission, so unless something is drastically wrong, that step can be skipped. Two rounds of content edits usually follow. I read the manuscript through from beginning to end each time.

I sometimes even complete a third round. Yes, that’s me reading the same novel four times in the space of a few months. After that the manuscript goes through to a line editor who catches anything I may have overlooked and **gasp** I read through the entire novel again after the line edits. Yes, dear authors, by the time I’m done with your novel, I’ve read it five or six times. So please return the favour by reading through your galley once or twice and really looking for gremlins. That’s after you’ve paid attention to my editorial requests. Yes, I know they’re requests and require you to change your precious words, but it’s because I’m investing my time and interest in your work, to both our benefit.

Reading… I think it’s quite clear I don’t get much time to read for pleasure, but I have been enjoying reviewing for the newspapers again. There aren’t a lot of reviewers who handle the fantasy and science fiction releases, which I’m more than happy to take on. This is a great way to read new books without paying for them while also getting my name “out there”. **waves nebulously in the air**

I must gush about Giles Kristian, whose Lords of Thunder I’m reviewing at present. His combat sequences leave me breathless and I reckon he’s got a handle on pre-Christian Scandinavian cultures and then some.

My writing’s going well. I don’t have another release until December, when Tainted Love (written as Ther├ęse von Willegen) hits the vendors, but I’ve completed my next erotic romance, Hell’s Music, which is sitting with a trusted beta reader, and I’m revising The Black Goat, a sort-of steampunk colonial-era fantasy involving a shipwrecked botanist-turned-vampire. Please don’t ask me where I got the inspiration for that one. I still don’t know but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

As always, I’ve been helping behind the scenes with BlackMilk Productions’ assorted short indie film projects. We’ve had a very busy past few months since completing post-production on Regression, and the boys and gals have been at it to wrap The Lovers, which is showing at Shortcut #6 on October 19. I’m not quite sure what my “official” designation is, because I do everything from running to helping pack up the set or removing fake blood stains. Oh, and sometimes writing press releases or sourcing poets. Or make sandwiches. Odd little things, I know, but it makes me warm and fuzzy when I see my name in the credits under “special thanks”.

One thing I’ve learnt: there’s no such thing as “let’s make a quick movie”. Oh, and it’s never cheap, either.

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Attention authors:

I’m always on the look-out for new authors. If you have a novella or story you think may interest me, please take a look at the Lyrical Press website ( to check the publisher’s submissions guidelines and mail me at

Some of my favourite authors include Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite. Although I’m not restricted by genre, I prefer works of fantasy (urban or epic) and horror. I will consider well-written erotica and some science fiction (but please, no colonisation efforts to Mars where Earth is conveniently wiped out by falling debris, okay?).