Thursday, November 25, 2010

Running out of year, fast

I think I sneezed and suddenly I ran out of 2010. I mean, really, WTF? Looking back, it's clear a lot has happened. A lot of good and some bad, but mostly good.

Writing-wise I've seen the print release of both my Khepera novels this year, which are also both available through Exclusive Books (one of South Africa's big book retailers). Not many snapping-on-the-heels-of-the-big-fish authors can boast that.

Editing-wise, since I've purchased my very own laptop, I've been able to keep a closer handle on my deadlines. How I managed to cope last year bouncing between machines at home and elsewhere, I don't know. I'm also really pleased to report that some of my debut authors have gone on to having their second novels contracted to Lyrical Press, and my oh my, have some of them are shining with their writing. I'm looking forward to seeing how their novels will do when they release next year.

In the same breath, I'd like to add that I'm currently open to queries from authors in the urban fantasy, steampunk and paranormal romance genres, as well as actively seeking BDSM stories. I'll also consider contemporary and historical romance if a story has a bit of added "something else" (grit). If you've an idea, you're welcome to email me at after visiting for its submission guidelines.

Stuff I like: vampires, pirates, vampirates (okay, being silly here **grins**) but as a guide, my favourite authors include Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite, while I have to dip my hat at William S Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson. That should give you a pretty good idea of what I'd love to see in submissions.

But equally exciting has been my decision to start writing outside of my chosen genre: going the erotic romance route. Even better is realising how much I enjoy writing these stories because, to be honest, it really does show when an author isn't comfortable within a particular genre. I view my romance writing, under the name of Therése von Willegen, as a vacation between my "serious" projects. If you want to keep up to speed with that particular "brand", do follow the Von Willegen blog:

Although I cannot sit back and look at this year with any sense of satisfaction (I can always do better), there have been some exciting achievements.

My husband's indie filmmaking is really taking off. BlackMilk Productions walked off with the award of "Best Local Short" at this year's SA HorrorFest. We're awaiting (with bated breath) the results for the Auteur awards happening at the start of December. They've been invited to screen some of their films at the Cult event happening in Johannesburg this weekend.

Although I've suffered a personal tragedy in one of my best friends passing away, I've nonetheless had the opportunity to say goodbye to dear Shaen, who was like a brother to me considering my own dysfunctional relations with with whom I share DNA. As an aside, Shaen was one of the people who influenced the conceptualising of South Africa's "wickedest" man.

But, back to the writing...

My next romance novel, Hell's Music, is currently under consideration with a publisher. I'm also meeting with a literary agent in December (in South Africa, yes, I know) and, although I don't expect representation (ever the experienced optimist) I'm very interested to hear what she has to say about my steampunk novel, The Black Goat, and how I can improve it. I've yet to put that one on the submissions mill and am planning extensive revisions during the festive season. But I've had a very positive response from a well-known South African author who absolutely loved it, so I know it can't be completely rotten.

And, lastly, my paranormal sort-of romance novella, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, is now in its final editing stages. Busy finishing a last round of post-line edits and, after that, galley. This releases in April through Lyrical Press.

On top of that, I'm busy with the first draft of another paranormal romance-ish yarn (with fang), entitled What Sweet Music They Make. I promise that my vampires don't sparkle, and hark back more to a mix between Lost Boys-style combined with vintage Anne Rice. (With only a dash of wangst, okay?)

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mind Behind Coercion, Lux Zakari

Today I welcome author Lux Zakari to my world, to share a bit about her latest release.

Tell us about your latest release and who you think would enjoy it.

Coercion, my first novel, is classic in theme: a good girl choosing the wrong boy to love. Here’s the scoop:

Introverted and insecure Valerie Mercer was promised that during her senior year of college she would finally attract attention from boys…but never dreamed that would include Michael Vartanian.

Good looking, troubled and every parent’s nightmare, Michael is adamant on introducing Valerie to a world of both pleasure and, inadvertently, heartbreak. His interest in Valerie is dependent upon the mood and fidelity of his on-and-off-again girlfriend, Breeze.

Nevertheless, Valerie lets her hope and desire override common sense and soon finds she can’t deny Michael anything…no matter what’s at stake.

Considering its graphic sexual nature, it definitely should appeal to fans of erotica, although I believe the readers who will enjoy it most are those looking for a sexy, intelligent story and who can love a character despite his or her faults.

Is there a defining moment or a gradual creeping-up-on-author situation that led to the story?

I wrote a blog post titled “How to Write Coercion,” which details a few bulleted circumstances that led to the creation of the story. Ultimately, I’d really wanted to write a girl-tempted-by-the-bad-boy scenario, and I’d been romanticizing the ‘70s at the time NaNoWriMo 2007 rolled around, so I just went with it!

If you could pick any place to live, where would that be and why?

I’d love to live near the beach; I crave a laidback, sunny environment. Writing on the sand and smelling like coconut suntan oil every day sounds ideal!

Tell us a bit about your writing process.

The writing process happens whenever a) I get the chance, and b) I get inspired! I’m fueled by my muse—guilt—if I’m not writing, so I often ensure that I motivate myself and make the time to bang out at least something on a regular basis.

Who are the three authors you keep returning to? What is it about their writing that draws you in?

I will always love Nick Hornby; his insight on relationships is usually funny, moving and true, and I’m easily wooed by his pop culture references, so naturally I enjoy Rob Sheffield’s work as well. I also devoured Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy; it was completely captivating.

If you had to pick two celebrities for your main characters, who would you cast for the film?

This is a brilliant question, and something I think about all the time. My characters are in their early twenties, and sometimes I struggle to think of age-appropriate actors who aren’t on Gossip Girl and the like. Needless to say, I still haven’t made a concrete decision yet! I would be down for discovering newbies to the acting biz.

Are there any up-and-coming authors readers should look out for?

I’m really excited about Grace Cox’s next book, Seduced by the Playboy Heir, a contemporary romance that will be released in 2011. Not only is it sexy, but the characters are believable, as is their entire relationship, which is rife with flaws and difficulties that go beyond things like an absurd misunderstanding or the heroine’s body images. I love stories when the characters can legitimately screw up and still wind up happy in the end.

You also edit fiction. Do you have advice for anyone considering this as a career choice?

I think there are some basic common-sense guidelines when it comes to editing. For one, an editor needs to have a fundamental idea of what a book looks like! As a kid, I would go all OCD when I wrote stories by formatting them to look like an actual, published book, so I’m stunned by writers who don’t know when to throw in a paragraph break, use proper punctuation and so on. If you want to be an editor, that’s crucial. Grabbing a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, et cetera will help keep an editor informed all throughout his or her career.

Secondly, an editor-to-be needs to know what makes for a good story, be able to pick out plot holes and have an imagination on how a work can be improved upon, if only to jumpstart the author’s own creativity. I also think it helps if an editor writes him- or herself; it gives the editor more empathy for the writer, having been on the other side of things.

Care to share a little about your current WiP?

It’s already November, and I still have yet to pick a plot premise for NaNoWriMo, so that’s on the agenda!

I’m just about done with the finishing touches on a novel—a racy, unconventional love story about a self-absorbed, hedonistic ex-celebrity who, upon the death of her former lover, learns she’s been inexplicably named the guardian of his three children. Being herded into the parental role forces the protagonist to finally face the truth about the cruel decisions of her wild past, her now uncertain future and her secret, turbulent relationship with a man who, even in death, continues to upend her world. Here’s hoping the story has a successful future!

In the meantime, readers can check out my short story, Truss Issues, in Best Bondage Erotica 2011 – coming soon!

Useful links:

The book trailer for Coercion can be viewed at

My website is, and from there readers can find me on Facebook, MySpace, GoodReads and so on!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Regression News

And, a little bit of news from my side. Just returned from a short trip up to Zambia to be dumped in the thick of things for the tail-end of the SA HORRORFEST, so I'm pretty tapped out until the end of the weekend. Just thought I'd share the success, since Regression has won the award for the "Best Local Short" for the 2010 SA HORRORFEST short film competition.

I hope to regain some semblance of normality from here on in until the BlackMilk crew shoots up to Johannesburg for the first-ever screenings on the other side of the Vaal River. As always, the crew keep me out of mischief, as chief sandwich-maker, bloodstain remover and writer of promotional stuffies.

* * * *

Regression, a BlackMilk Productions short horror film, won the award for “Best Local Short” at the 2010 SA HORRORFEST, one of the only local conventions supporting fringe arts culture in South Africa.

Said SA HORRORFEST organiser Paul Blom: “Each year the local short entries fluctuate – one year better, another less so; one year loads of entries, another just a handful. We want to spread the word that there is a legitimate and internationally recognised platform in the SA HORRORFEST to screen these movies, and lead to generating a huge stream of regular and high-quality short films, thus playing a role in developing an alternative film culture in SA diverting from all the obvious themes and styles.”

Ecstatic about this year’s win, BlackMilk co-director and co-scriptwriter Thomas Dorman added: “Competition was tough this year. I was massively impressed by the South African contribution to the SA HORRORFEST. Most of them stood heads above last year’s competitors and even gave the foreign short films a run for their money. The runner-up’s movie Kult Without a Name really stood out from the rest and I’m really looking forward to meeting the director in Johannesberg, where a joint screening of most of the BlackMilk films will take place on November 27 at CCHQ.”

When asked what made Regression this year’s winning local entrant, BlackMilk co-director and co-scriptwriter Ronnie Belcher said: “Regression is visually amazing, with eerie and epic sound design, and absolutely amazing performances by the cast. The brilliant art direction and production design also added to the surreal environment we needed. We also had a stunning crew that helped us create this. As with all BlackMilk films, we tell ‘normal’ stories in an ‘abnormal’ way, and I think this added to the success.”

See the SA HorrorFest website at
Follow the BlackMilk Productions blog at

Monday, November 1, 2010

On the banks of the Great Zambezi

I have to admit it, when our 1time flight started the descent and we flew over the Victoria Falls, I got a bit teary-eyed. I'm in Africa now, I couldn't help but think, though that's a bit rich coming from me since I'm an African. Cape Town seems to exist in its own bubble and I've always maintained the Mother City isn't Africa.

At time of blogging, we've just had breakfast on the deck of the Royal Chundu Zambezi River Lodge. We look out over the mighty river, its waters a ochre-cobalt, for lack of better description, at the riverine acacia forests in Zimbabwe across the way. Last night we went on a river cruise, not expecting to see much but our sightings included about a dozen elephant, countless birds (including endangered African skimmers, open-billed storks, African fish eagles, giant kingfishers, giant egrets and more). A lazy crocodile basked with his maw gaping. A monitor crawled with his peculiar reptilian sway through the long grass. Broad-billed rollers scolded in the waterberries.

Warthogs came down to graze on the flood plain where the grass is greenest, chacma baboons keeping out a sharp eye for predators while bushbuck warily picked their way to the water's edge. Kudu, the grey ghosts of the bushveld, remained in the thorny thickets... The lodge doesn't bill its activities as Big Five adventures but hell, this place is teaming with wildlife.

Life of the insect kind is in abundance. Lodge manager Werner told me the kamakazi hawk moths are called pismotte (too rude for me to translate into English) but after the nth moth tried to adhere to my hair or vanish down the front of my top, I stated losing interest in this phenomenon and started seeing the insects for their nuisance value.

The tree frog that had staked out the top of a picture frame in the large, open-air lounge was a cause for fascination. He stared at me with his bug-eyes and gulped wetly, obviously on the lookout for mozzies.

Ah, yes... the mozzies. Stocked up on anti-Malaria pills (yay for nausea) we were nonetheless grateful for the mosquito net covering our bed.

This morning while enjoying my coffee on the deck, I found a huge, delicate moth that looks like a dried leaf when its wings are closed.

Bulbuls scolded me this morning while I walked to the lounge area. Saw yellowbellied bulbuls as well as the black-eyed kind. Birdwatcher's paradise indeed.

Last night during the boma dinner, some of the orphaned kids from the neighbouring village performed their dances for us. Much less aggressive (and far more sensual) than South African Zulu or Xhosa dancing, these youngsters almost made me blush. But mutual love seems a bigger item on the agenda between Zambia's many tribes, who appear to do a better job of getting on with each other than the South Africans. We could take a leaf from their book.

Just to make you jealous, our activities for today include a visit to the local village, a canoeing expedition down the Zambezi rapids (I'm crazy but I'm going to do this thing) and a fishing trip. I'm planning on catching a feared tiger fish.

A nice touch last night was the huge bunch of roses that appeared in our chalet. Thomas and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary and as luck would have this visit happening at the same time. Another small touch that made me smile was that management found me a tiny bone carving of Nyami-Nyami, the ancient Zambezi river god, who has a head like a fish and the body of a snake.

It's doubtful whether we'll have internet connection before we return to SA as tonight we're sleeping at a private island covered in baobabs and ancient jackalberry trees. For now I'm just smiling and enjoying the breeze cooling the air off the mighty Zambezi.