Thursday, August 27, 2015

Viral by Toby Bennett and Benjamin Knox – cover reveal

One of the projects that I've not so secretly been labouring over is the Viral novella serial by two of my nastiest, most evil authors, Toby Bennett and Benjamin Knox. Those of you who've been following the doings with Bloody Parchment will know that they regularly make the finals. Now they've teamed up to provide us with Viral, which releases in the weeks running up to Halloween.

Once again, a big thanks to Carmen Begley (who designed The Sea's cover) and as always, a big thank you to David and The Other David over at Crossroad Press for allowing us to get away with... ahem... Not quite murder but I'm sure you know what I mean.

So, without further ado, here's a teaser of what's to come...

More herbs and spices than it’s got feet.
Only Bug Burger has got real meat...

We interrupt your regular broadcast to bring you this GMO exclusive:
It’s been two years since the Western Sector of New Manau was sealed behind the wall and for some of us it might feel like the outbreak never happened. We’ve all seen the aerial photos and heard stories about the creatures that haunt the graveyard of the old city—shamblers and stalkers and now even monstrous dumplings—but what’s really happening in the there, right in our midst?

GMO is offering you the chance to follow Vivian Liu as she joins Doctor Brooker’s group for her exclusive coverage of the first expedition beyond the wall since the Western Sector was abandoned. Will the doctor’s humanitarian mission be a success? Can we bring a cure to the thousands still caught in a living nightmare? What does a dumpling look like up close? What of those who maintain that the good doctor is not all his followers claim?

Find out now!

200 square km

9 million infected

No chance

We now return you to your regular programming—

If you want to keep up to speed with us, follow me on Twitter @nerinedorman or, even better, stalk Benjamin @Pulpocalypse (because we're still trying to convince Toby to join Twitter).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stray anthology

A while back one of my favourite people, Diane Awerbuck, got hold of me and invited me to be part of an anthology she and another of my favourite people, Helen Moffett, were putting together. Stray (Hands-on Books) has now come into being, and I've been told that the royalties are being donated to one of my favourite animal charities, TEARS. This is a cause I can get behind. Not only that, but I've got a story in here too and am absolutely thrilled to be part of this magnificent selection.

Oh, and the cover illustration is by none other than the amazing Joey Hi-Fi.

So, keep a lookout for the release, and if you can make it to open book, do join us for the readings.

A deadbeat printer wakes up to discover a most unusual pet – a sphinx – in his home; a hijacked taxi full of sleeping baboons leads to a riot in a shopping mall; a python handler engages in a war of wits with Soweto police; a fire on Chapman’s Peak reveals an impossibly rare creature; a very feisty cat gets mixed up with a drug-smuggling ring; a trickster trains his dog to masquerade as a service animal – and more.

Suitable for animal-lovers of all ages, there’s something here for every reader – funny, quirky, fantastic, sad, reflective and exciting, these stories, extracts and poems will leave you purring.

This book ripples and shines with scales and fur and feathers: a fascinating, gloriously various read – Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk

Description of the book:
A collection of stories and poems by mostly well-known South African writers. Some of the pieces have been previously published, and others are new. Each story and poem explores different ways in which animals and humans live together, co-exist and change each other.

List of writers includes:
Arthur Attwell, Diane Awerbuck, Gabeba Baderoon, Robert Berold, Sarah Lotz, Margaret Clough, Michael Cope, Colleen Crawford Cousins, Gail Dendy, Richard de Nooy, Finuala Dowling, Isobel Dixon, Nerine Dorman, Tom Eaton, Justin Fox, Damon Galgut, Robyn Goss, Michiel Heyns, Colleen Higgs, Jenny Hobbs, Liesl Jobson, Rustum Kozain, Jenna Mervis, Jacqui L’Ange, Sindiwe Magona, Siphiwo Mahala, Niq Mhlongo, Helen Moffett, Julia Martin, Joan Metelerkamp, Thando Mgqolozana, Mmatshilo Motsei, Paige Nick, Yewande Omotoso, S.A. Partridge, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Beverly Rycroft, Alex Smith, Fiona Snyckers, Ivan Vladislavic, Zukiswa Wanner, James Whyle, Makhosazana Xaba

Thursday, August 20, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Guns & Romances

Finally, here's a little something Carrie Clevenger and I cooked up. We're inordinately proud to present...


Greater dangers than mere alligators lurk in the swamps near the town of Bad Moon; a tough-as-nails bartender finds herself wondering whether she’ll make it past midnight on New Year’s Eve; and a vampire and hunter share a last dance with a gun named Felina. Guns & Romances collects eleven tales of lust, love and violence that cross genres and plunge you into a world of gunfights and action, where the shadows have teeth and love can mean forever – if you survive.

Featured stories:
“Into the Wilderness” – Sara Taylor Woods
“Harris County Corpse Killers” – Michael Collins
“Gloria, a Love Story” – Ackley Lewis
“Homicide” – Alyssa Breck
“Gods, Guns, and Serpent Tongues” – Mav Skye
“Heavy Things” – K Murphy Wilbanks
“Felina” – Sonya Clark
“Not Just Another Daddy’s Girl” – Elizabeth Myrddin
“Bad Moon Rising” – Amy Lee Burgess
“Caged” – David Jón Fuller
“Syncopation” – Marc Nash
“The Dance” – Matt R Jones

Many thanks to our awesome authors for being so amazing to work with on this project. A special thanks also to Mike Wolmarans of Tenebrae Studios for our guns, and for Lucas Clevenger for the cover design. Thank you also to David and The Other David over at Crossroad Press for their continued support of our projects.

And lastly, a huge-ass thank you to Carrie for always being there for me and sometimes talking me down from some high places.

* Release date to be announced.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen #review

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: Transworld Publishers, 2014
Reviewer: Nerine Dorman

The Queen of the Tearling did not turn out quite how I expected it to. The premise seems almost fairytale: Kelsea Glynn has been raised in isolation by her guardians, educated but with vital gaps in her knowledge. She’s always known that she is to queen of the Tearling realm, but is woefully unprepared for the realities when soldiers fetch her so she can take her inheritance.

The Tearling kingdom is far from ideal. Her uncle, who’s been ruling in her stead until now, is corrupt, as are many of the officials. An annual tithe to the neighbouring kingdom of Demesne and its Red Queen means that hundreds of Tearlings are essentially sold into slavery to keep the Red Queen at bay.

When Kelsea’s first act as queen puts a stop to this barbaric practice, she sets in motion consequences that will see her overturning years of custom. Supported her cabal of loyal guards, Kelsea has pretty much only a week to find her feet in a hostile environment.

Even once I was done with The Queen of Tearling, I couldn’t quite figure out whether this was straight-up fantasy, or SF bleeding fantasy at its edges, which resulted in a pleasant ambiguity. There is mention of ships in a perilous crossing, but whether this was an actual ocean in a post-apocalyptic setting or reference to a distant past where space travel took place – we don’t know.

Certainly, there are some magical elements that hint towards fantasy, but what we do know is that the setting is very much post-technological, similar to Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire. Much like Lawrence, Erika Johansen also does not shy away from darker, grittier occurrences, and Kelsea Glynn’s honesty and earnest need to do the right thing, no matter how challenging, makes for a fascinating journey as she overcomes ever-increasing odds that pile up against her survival.

This is not an easy read, and for those in need of a breakneck pace, The Queen of Tearling might not be for you. What we do have, is a slowly unfurling saga of epic proportions, as a young queen grows into her powers. Kelsea often has to often make difficult decisions that bear surprising results, and I’m watching her career with great interest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas #review

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2015

I’ve seen quite a few people drop Sarah J Maas’s name all over social media, so naturally my curiosity has been piqued. So, of course, when the opportunity to review A Court of Thorns and Roses fell into my lap, I seized it.

A brief disclaimer: I’m generally leery of books that get hyped, especially when they involve supernatural critters like vampires, angels and fae. These are perennial, timeworn and popular favourites. There’s a reason for this. It’s easy to be blown away by “Oooh, glittery vampire” and overlook the fact that the narrative elements or writing are merely adequate. Um, hello, Tweelight much?

Like why in heaven’s name would an immortal, ancient being deign to fall in love with a scrappy mortal girl? Trust me, the first few chapters into A Court of Thorns and Roses this was all I thought. Why oh why, when Tamlin *should* have requested blood for blood and just offed Feyre in terms of a supposed treaty did he drag her off into fairytale Prythian, the magical realm of the faeries.

I’d have expected Tamlin to use Feyre poorly, treat her like a slave and avenge himself on her for the death of a friend. She did, after all, slaughter a shapeshifted faerie in cold blood. (In her defence, she had been hunting at the time.) Instead Tamlin treats Feyre like a princess. Cue major eyerolls from me accompanied by much gagging.

Granted, if this had been a run-of-the-mill fantasy bodice-ripper, this unlikely romance probably would have bloomed into unabated and gooey, icky love. But, you see, Maas is far too clever for that. Just when jaded Nerine starts to think the story’s taken a turn for the obvious, Maas pulls the proverbial bearskin rug from beneath her feet.

Superficially, this story *borrows* from Beauty and the Beast. Kernels of the timeless classic form the spine, but what Maas has done is to spin out an epic revising of the concept and flesh out her faerie politics to Machiavellian proportions. Nothing is as it seems. Everyone has something to hide, and Feyre is lost, caught between her human existence and the fascinating and very deadly world of the fae.

By the time she starts figuring out what matters and what the hell is actually going on, it’s seemingly too late for her to save the day, and this is where she goes up against the Big Bad with everything she’s got, and even her love for her faerie lord is not enough. She will have to dig deep if she’s going to become the champion Tamlin didn’t realise he needed.

I’ve read faerie books and I’ve read faerie books, and this is offering is a cut above the rest. Yes, there is the beginning of a love triangle that I suspect will play out in future books, but yeah, I’ve come to expect that. It’s not totally annoying, and said bad-boy rival is quite charming in his own way.

I’ve seen some folks make comparisons between Feyre and our lovely little Katniss Everdeen (most likely due to the fact that both are proficient with the bow and were forced to go hunting to support their families) but let me tell you, Feyre is most certainly not a whiny Katniss, though like Katniss, Feyre is determined to do what she must to protect the ones she loves. Come what may, she doesn’t pause to bemoan her fate. She simply gets on with what must be done, and endures.

In closing, if you like fae, magic, curses and a heroine who is brave, determined and loyal, then Feyre is your lady, and this is an epic faerie tale that will surprise you with its complexity and leave you breathless with worry for what happens next.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In conversation with Suzanne van Rooyen

Suzanne van Rooyen is one of those wonderful people I've met through bookish things, and I recently reviewed her YA SF novel, I Heart Robot. You can read the review here. Anyhoo, she's graciously stopped by today to sit in the hot seat for a little Q&A.

Welcome, Suzanne! You've got less than thirty seconds to tell someone what I Heart Robot is about. Go!

I Heart Robot is about a girl who loves music and a robot-boy who loves music, and about how that girl and robot-boy accidentally discover they might love each other even when their world conspires against them.

What are some of the defining moments of the story?

Almost impossible without giving away spoilers, but since it's obvious from the blurb, I'd say the moment Quinn and Tyri first see each other, which isn't necessarily when they first meet ;) Both characters also have pretty firm beliefs, which are put to the test and they each have to face pretty daunting situations that result in a paradigm shift.

What are some of the underlying themes that you explore in the narrative?

What it means to be human is the overarching theme, and whether or not human creations can ever become more then human. The story also deals a lot with tolerance and acceptance, the theme of discrimination and civil rights. The idea of equality is a major theme, especially the question of who (or perhaps what, for some) deserves rights.

Tell us a bit more about your primary characters. Who are they? What are their goals, and what are some of the challenges that they face?

Tyri is a 16yr old girl who lives with her single-parent, workaholic mom. She loves music and plays the violin with aspirations of one day becoming a professional musician in a world that is becoming more and more utilitarian. She primarily wears black (and can look good rocking ten different shades at once!) and sticks all her favourite scores to her ceiling. She's not a huge fan of raspberry jam. At the start of the book, Tyri's biggest challenge is getting her family and friends to take her passion for music seriously. She feels isolated and more than a little lost as she drifts away from her longtime boyfriend and tries to stay true to who she is despite outside pressure to be someone she's not.

Quinn is a rogue android, hiding out from a troubled past in a robot squatter camp. His biggest challenges involve trying to fuel up without being robbed by fellow robots and evading capture by the humans. He is also a musician and his major goal in life is to show the humans that he is more than just metal and electronics by playing music as well as any human being. Quinn is a pacifist and tries to distance himself from the increasing conflict between robots and humans, but seems to find himself caught up in the storm the more he tries to stay out of it.

As a South African living and working abroad, how does this affect you? Do you miss South Africa? Do you feel your experiences inform your writing? 

This affects me in unexpected ways, for example, I have never met my agent in person and have no idea when I might ever get that opportunity. Similarly, I miss out on a lot of marketing and publicity opportunities because these efforts are often concentrated in the US at conventions that are just too expensive for me to attend on a regular basis. Also, getting to the US from Sweden is no mean feat and I still have my day job to consider.

I definitely miss my friends and family still in South Africa and there were many parts of my life there that I loved - like getting away for weekends and going hiking in the Drakensberg. Also, don't get me started on all the edibles I miss! Thankfully, when the SA post office isn't on strike, my mom sends me parcels with Ouma rusks and Woolies fudge.

Being an immigrant and having lived now in four countries on three continents has definitely informed my writing. I never would've set I Heart Robot in a futuristic Scandinavia if I hadn't moved to the north and had those experiences to draw from. I've also been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively in Europe - from Russia to Iceland - and have experienced a range of cultures. Being an immigrant mingling with other immigrants has also opened my eyes to the kaleidoscopic nature of the human experience and I hope that I can weave at least some of what I've gained by interacting with people and cultures well outside my comfort zone into my stories.

What books are you currently reading, and what do you like about them?

I'm reading my first Andrew Smith novel, The Alex Crow. I like how out-there this story is and how authentic the voice of the teenage boy is. Authenticity in YA is a big thing for me and I appreciate the honesty in this novel. I've also just read The Martian by Andy Weir and it was the first time I've ever read what might count as hard sci-fi and been unable to put the book down. It was gripping and engaging and had me turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning. Weir sure can create tension in his work, and he writes with humor - something I'm still trying to do more of.

Travel destinations often say a lot about people. What's currently at the top of your bucket list, and why?

Somewhere with sandy beaches, sunshine and cocktails served with tiny umbrellas in them. I would do anything for a tropical island getaway after this miserable winter we've had. My big dream is to one day go diving in the Galapagos islands. I would also love to stay in one of those little log cabins on stilts in the ocean like they have in French Polynesia. Give me sunshine and cocktails, and I'll be happy!

Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka 'Quinn' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

We hold each other’s gaze, her hazel eyes so warm and full of humanity. If eyes are the windows to the soul, I wonder what Tyri sees in mine.
“I still think if I concentrated on something other than music, I could do something worthwhile, you know?” She says.
“Like what?”
“Like getting involved. Being proactive. Be the change you want to see and all that. Music isn’t important.” She fidgets with her sleeves, tearing a thread loose at the seam.
“Why’s it not important?”
“Because playing the violin won’t change anything; it won’t give my life meaning. I—” She pauses and frowns as I scowl. In one sentence, this girl has managed to dismiss my entire purpose.
More about Suzanne:
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego. Her books include The Other Me (Harmony Ink) and I Heart Robot (Month9Books).