Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016, a year in editing and reading

This year has been odd, in that the ratio of books I've edited are 1:3 for the books I've read for review purposes. This is excluding the fact that I've been binging on fanfiction for pleasure.

But I thought I'd give a bit of love to my clients and fellow co-op members, whose books have released during this year.

So, in alphabetical order, here we go...

It's always refreshing to see male authors head into writing strong female protagonists in fantasy, and this year I've had the experience of working with T.S. Adrian, who has just released Beneath the Silver Rose (Shadyia Ascendant #1). We meet a plucky courtesan, Shadyia, who becomes embroiled in world-shattering events that involve magicians and evil entities. Kudos to my husband creature who designed the cover.

Here it is, finally, the book I've been begging Sorcha to release for ages now. Actually, it's two books, but Valentine is pure awesome. Those who know me well will understand that I'm no fan of superhero narratives, but Sorcha is the exception. Valentine and Jory are polar opposites, and their hot/cold, push/pull relationship as they discover the limits of their D/s relationship is... Well, I needed a fan and a moist cloth for my forehead. This is all about a fall from innocence and redemption in a twisted, most certainly dark erotic fantasy read, with a strong narrative.

I have a soft spot for vampires. I admit it. Featured in this paranormal romance is none other than Magnus or M as he is better known from the Crooked Fang stories I've edited. In Hex Appeal Breck and Sands take turns to pair up their witch and vampire respectively, resulting in... Well. I won't lie. A lot of supernatural schmexxors. If you're looking for fangs meet magic, with a lot of ripped panties, then this one will most likely hit the spot. Extra Nerine points because they take us to Egypt in this one.

My year is incomplete unless I've edited an Amy Lee Burgess title. Sea Cursed is a dystopian fantasy with a strong romantic element that is set in a shared world – a great concept, BTW, and I think a different approach from the usual boxed sets coalitions of authors bring out. Here we meet witches Demetria and Logan, who have been sea cursed. This means that they need to get together and perform a great magical rite to protect their island from the rather "Creature from the Black Lagoon" type ravagers. Not only that, but the witches are up against a despotic esteemed leader who's hiding something that will have a huge impact on the lives of witches on the island of Galvateen. As always, Amy balances her romance with an engaging story, making this a worthy read within the fantasy romance genre.

DJ and I have known each other for years, and it is always a pleasure to work with him. Caresaway is a disquieting medical thriller set in an alternate future where a drug for depression creates a generation of psychopathic CEOs who don't care that they're sending the planet down the tubes. This novella is a quick read, and is partially set in South Africa, which is always enjoyable for me when I edit.

Initially Masha started out as a client, but when I set up the SFF writers' co-op Skolion this year, she became one of our founding members. Her writing is incredibly textured and magical, and though I've worked on some of her earlier titles, this year's release that blew me out of the water was The Babylon Eye. Set in the not-so-distant future, where cybernetic enhancements are a norm in a world where history has taken an unexpected course, the novel tells of Elke, a prisoner and erstwhile militant environmental activist, who is given a chance to gain back her freedom. At a price, of course. She's set on a course to track down and retrieve a cybernetically enhanced dog that's become lost on a station between worlds. What I particularly love about Masha's writing is the understanding she has of people and animals, and their relationship to their environment, no matter how strange it becomes.

I'm looking forward to when she releases book two, The Real, early next year. One of the benefits of being her editor is that I've already had my first taste of the next instalment of Elke's adventures.

In a similar vein to the writings of Cari Silverwood, Bought by Nicolette Hugo is most certainly classifiable as dark erotica. Set in Australia, this book dips into a m/m/f with an edge of danger that will certainly get the blood flowing to those hard-to-reach places.

I admit I did a bit of a double-take when Dionne queried me regarding a gap in my schedule for Tempering The Rose (which is book 1 of her The Rose of Nerine series – yes I'm well aware what my name is, LOL!). But there you have it. I don't claim exclusive rights to my name (though I'm more accustomed to seeing it discussed in context with a lily that grows in the bush here in South Africa). Tempering the Rose is the story of a young woman who's endured serious abuse, who discovered that she's The Chosen One to save a distant country. Only her vengeance may stand in the way of her fulfilling her role. Addy is not an easy character to like, but I get *why* she feels the way she does, and it's quite a ride following her adventures.

I'm no stranger to editing MG and YA fiction, and this year saw me working with South African author Christine Porter, who released book two of her Histories of Laenutia, Night of the Cologoro. Plucky Jeremiah – or Jerm as he becomes known – travels back in time to help his adoptive father, Morgan, vanquish the dread Cologoro. This is a charming, magical tale that is suitable for youngsters from ages 10 and up.

Cari Silverwood keeps me busy. No lies there. We've known each other for years and I totally blame her for corrupting me. She's also the reason why the #atleastimnotcari hashtag exists. But seriously, folks, if you want to see dark erotica done *well*, look no further. This genre-bending author often dips her toes in fantasy and SF too, so be sure to read the blurb before you buy to at least get an idea of what you're getting into. This year we're celebrating a number of titles for her: Needle Rain (fantasy), Wicked Ways (dark erotic thriller/SF); Wolfe (dark erotic thriller/SF).

When Cari writes the following as a disclaimer, do yourself a favour by taking note: WARNING: This is a dark romance and written to be disturbing.

You’ll find some graphic scenes of violence and sex within these pages, plus a smidgen of horror. Though the ending may be sweet, this is a very kinky, twisted, and dark story.

As a note: my husband creature did the cover design for Wolfe, so if you're ever in need of book cover design, feel free to drop me an email here. (I promise our rates are highly competitive.)

At present, I've got quite a bit on my plate, but if you are in need of manuscript assessment, developmental editing, a gremlin hunt or merely proofreading for your novel or novella, feel free to email me at I keep my rates affordable, as my preferred clients are self-published authors and small presses.

While I generally don't offer editing for standalone short stories, I do occasionally make exceptions. My preferred genres include SFF/horror, historical, romance/erotica, LGBTI. I do not take on religious fiction nor works that glorify gratuitous violence or abuse. Life is too short. No, I will not edit poetry.

A response to Laurie Gough on self-pub vs. traditional

Let's unpack some faulty logic and bad journalism, shall we? And it's that tired old debate of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, according to people who have absolutely no idea about what's actually happening in the industry.

Referring to this article over at Huffington Post by Laurie Gough, who clearly cannot tell op ed apart from authentic journalism. (But then again, since HP doesn't pay their writers, this level of subpar work is hardly a surprise, is it?)

I'd rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

Wow, lady, you really have no idea what self-publishing entails if this hyperbole is all you can resort to.

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it—you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.

Yes, and have you walked into a bookshop lately and seen the unrelenting piles of steaming shit that traditional publishers also bring out because Author! Big name!!! As a book reviewer I have seen some truly cringe-worthy gobshite that's barely been edited. Brought out by supposed gatekeepers that must've been high on crack at the time they okayed those contracts.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favourite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.

I don't deny that becoming a good writer takes years of work but have you considered how many fucking amazing authors have successful careers now that they have gone hybrid? To wait for validation if you already have an objectively good idea of what makes good fiction will be the death knell to your writing.

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

Have you *read* any self-published books? I will concede by saying that you may have to wade through a bit more dreck - but of late, some of the self-published works I've enjoyed have been as good (if not better) than some of their traditionally published brethren (where all the publisher appeared to care about was Big! Name author!! that would sell copies).

By the way, your ham-fisted examples were not even the slightest bit ridiculous or apt. Terry Pratchett has more humour in his little finger than you, darling. Compare apples to apples if you wish to be relevant. Oh wait, you were intending to fall back on humour to hide the fact that your piece was not even substantiated with more than a few vox pop opinions from people I've never heard of.

I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. It makes a great gift for their grandchildren. But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clich├ęs not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.

Darling, I have edited some traditionally published authors and let me tell you, I have seen their prose in only its knickers, and if you think that being traditionally published automatically means that an author has ascended to lofty heights, you are quite delusional. And yet I've encountered self-published authors whose self-editing skills leave many in the dust. Your simplistic generalisations suggest that you have absolutely no idea about what you're attempting to write about.

Writing is hard work, but the act of writing can also be thrilling, enriching your life beyond reason when you know you’re finally nailing a certain feeling with the perfect verb. It might take a long time to find that perfect verb. But that’s how art works. Writing is an art deserving our esteem. It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door.

Lastly, has it even occurred to you that people write for different reasons, and all are equally valid. Sometimes an elderly lady wants to merely write her memoirs. Sometimes that young man wants to write a novella where he explores his existential angst. Maybe that middle-aged woman wants to explore her fantasies in a time-travelling bodice ripper. Disdain all you want but no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read anything. We should be grateful we live in an era where any and all who are so inclined are able to express themselves.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fool's Quest (The Fitz and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb


Also, if you haven't read the preceding books in the trilogies, none of this might make much sense to you.

I really didn't want to reach the point where I hit the end of what's currently available with Robin Hobb's Fitz and the Fool trilogy, but here we have it, book two. Fool's Quest breaks from all the preceding books in that Hobb gives us a new viewpoint character: that of Bee, Fitz's second (and last) daughter with Molly.

So, if you're resistant to the idea of the novel swapping between the two, be prepared for the shifts in voice. While Fitz is reflective, older and may have lost some of his edge (he is an older man in his fifties, though his body is still under the thrall of that misfiring healing spell), we discover the world anew through Bee, who doesn't have all the threads of the past history at her disposal.

In a way, this is a way for Hobb to inject new life, new uncertainty into the setting. There is only so much we can show from Fitz's point of view and the story needs the freshness of a young, inquiring mind.

Bee is also not an ordinary child, as we discover, and her heritage is firmly intertwined with the Fitz/Fool/Nighteyes triad, though I shall refrain from elaborating too much. Suffice to say that Fitz and the Fool share a relationship that transcends the physical. A carving that Bee examines illustrates this relationship beautifully, and Nighteyes remains present, though not in a tangible form (but also in a way that brought a hard lump to my throat).

Fitz as always exists outside of time. The world outside Withywoods, his estate, has moved on. Power has shifted. Kettricken is no longer the primary power; her sons are coming into their own. Nettle has taken on a prominent role at court and my heart bleeds for the often prickly, awkward relationship she has with her father. Fitz, as always, makes poor decisions, for which he and others later pay the price. He is faced with great sadness, with loss, with change that he himself doesn't quite feel and in that he is quite a tragic character.

There is that Other Thing that is foreshadowed quite heavily in book 1 of this trilogy that plays out to its conclusion (inevitable for those of us who're accustomed to Hobb's clue-laying) that ripped my heart out. Yet in a way this was necessary, as this novel is very much a coming of age story, not only for Bee but also for our Fitz, who with the reappearance of the Fool, is once again cast in his role as Catalyst.

Hobb is not in a hurry with her storytelling. As noted by Mark Lawrence, in his review, "There are very few authors who can get me to tolerate considerable detail spent on clothing, gifts, feasting and just plain organizing stuff. George RR Martin somehow manages it, and so does Robin Hobb. I guess that if you write well enough then anything goes."

To that I can't add anything, except to say that to immerse myself in Hobb's writing is to have a fully tactile experience in another world, down to every last detail, and there are times in my life when this sort of measured, highly textured writing that slowly unfurls is *exactly* what I need to make me feel better about having to face my own grind. And hells, book three can't come fast enough. The waiting is pure torture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mad Max #review

In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang.

I was most certainly a wee sprite when Mad Max came out (1979) but it was one of those movies that I've watched more than once over the years. It had a bit of a reputation – as in I heard a lot about it while growing up – before I first got to see it when I was in my early teens.

I also admit my feelings about the film have changed over the years. When I was younger, I got a big kick out of what I now term loosely as "revenge porn". And then of course there's the rather baby-faced Mel Gibson before he became a complete jerk (and a household name).

If you're looking for a template for late 1970s styling, you can't go wrong with this film. It's dated horribly. It's clear George Miller was already aiming at a post-apocalyptic vibe, but there's enough of a touchstone of the (then) contemporary to ground this film firmly in reality. This is a future that's just around the corner; it's recognisable.

The plot is a coat hanger. We're not going to delve deeply into what motivates characters (beyond the rather obvious need for revenge.) We're not even going to talk about whether Mad Max passes the Bechdel test nor whether women characters have agency (hint, Mad Max is very much a product of its time). This film is all about the chase and the stunts. If you go into watching Mad Max for anything other than the absolutely insane car chases, you're going to come away disappointed.

The film is very much the origin story that sets up for the films that follow, and out of all the four films currently in existence, it's most certainly not my favourite. Is this a great film? No, not really. Is it entertaining? I'd say so – if you're looking for the "oh my god how did they manage that?" kind of reaction when trying to figure out how they did the stunts.

Will I watch this film again? Probably. It's one of those that kinda stuck with me when I was growing up, even if it's not particularly great. I'll write it off as mood, setting and nostalgia, and leave it at that.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Wrong Sort of Whatever by Schattenriss #fanfiction #review

Okay, I'm going to wax lyrical here about Kai Trevelyan – at time of writing my favourite male Inquisitor. Schattenriss has created a wonderful OC for his post-Dragon Age: Inquisition fic, The Wrong Sort of Whatever. What made this for me (apart from reliving the events of the Trespasser DLC through Kai's eyes) was most certainly the interchanges between Kai and my favourite Vint Dorian Pavus.

I've read piles of fics but in my opinion, Schattenriss *nails* the characterisation and dialogue to a tee. Not only that, but he depicts the beautiful complexities of Dorian and Kai's relationship and devotion towards each other in all its nuances.

Those who've played the DLC will know The Terrible Thing that happens to our Quizzy by the end, and even though I'm an unrepentant Solasmancer permanently stuck in Solavellan hell, Schattenriss made *me* want to punch Solas by the end. Not only that, but he brings across the trauma of the conclusion of the story arc in all its exquisite detail and with great authenticity. Kai suffers *trauma*, both physical and emotional – and not just the sort anyone bounces back from either. (The game, IMO, makes it seem so simple that the Quizzy will just stomp right back into the Exalted Council and bang that damned big book down on the ground with so much force as if everything he's endured up until that point has just been a lark.)

There's not much to fault with this story – it's very much canonical so if you're looking for AU then this is not going to be much more than a retelling of the DLC through the eyes of the Trevelyan mage with the Dorian romance option. But. BUT. Oh, the dry wit. Kai has a kind of self-deprecating humour that shines, especially when he's under stress. The entire story is structured as if he's writing his memoirs, so it's highly personal, and his opinions about the other characters and the events that conclude are what makes The Wrong Sort of Whatever have something fresh about it.

I'm going straight onto the next instalment – Traitor – from here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Q&A with Storm Constantine - on the release of Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose

Regulars to my blog will know that Storm Constantine's name crops up regularly. I am a huge fan of her Wraeththu Mythos – a world to which I've had the privilege of contributing stories. This past week she's seen the release of her next offering in the setting: Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose.

Nerine Dorman (ND): One thing that can be said about your Wraeththu mythos is its longevity – the first book came out in 1987 and it’s now on the cusp of 30 years later. What makes the Mythos so vital, in your mind?

Storm Constantine (SC): Plenty of authors invent thorough histories and geographies for their imagined worlds, and populate them with detailed flora and fauna, and established sentient races. They might write several novels set in these worlds, but there has to be something different about a mythos for it to endure – to captivate. This includes when readers are so into a fictional world, they’ll be inspired to write within it themselves, producing what’s known as fan fiction. As to what exactly makes a mythos endure (and expand) this way I’m not sure. I think part of it has to be down to the authors’ ability to create characters that readers love and who feel real. If an author creates a fabulous new world, rich in detail and imagery, but can’t give it a beating heart through the people and creatures who live in it, it won’t capture the interest and loyalty of readers in the same way that a vivid, living mythos will. When I’m writing my characters they do feel real to me, as if I know them in reality. I know the facets of their personalities, their weaknesses, their strengths. Some of them I’m a little in love with! I’m sure these feelings permeate the work and rub off on certain readers – like a kind of psychic communication through the written word. So I suppose, in a nutshell, what makes a mythos endure is integrity and love. The Wraeththu mythos isn’t anywhere near as big as those of Harry Potter, Star Wars, LOTR and so on, but is part of the same phenomenon.

ND: From what I can see, part of why the Mythos has endured so long is because it has a core small but incredibly loyal following of fans. I often find myself foisting the first of the books on unsuspecting individuals, and because this interview itself will no doubt be reaching many such potential readers, how would you (briefly) explain to a new reader what your milieu is all about?

SC: Wraeththu are simply how the human race would be if I could design it myself: androgynous, beautiful (mostly), magical and housed in a more efficient vehicle of flesh and blood. Yet Wraeththu hara are not stainless; they are flawed. What makes them different from humanity – apart from their androgyny and improved physical/psychic being – is that they have a clean slate to start anew. Longevity helps them; humans, being frail creatures, become infirm and die just as they reach the threshold to real wisdom. Hara might have risen from a brutal start, but have a greater capacity to rise above it, to reach their potential. A world without villains and conflict, from a fictional point of view, would be pretty dull, so the mythos has to include those aspects. Wraeththu aren’t perfect, but to me they are better than what came before.

ND: This month you’re celebrating the release of Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose: An Alchymical Triptych – which you describe as a trio of interconnected novellas. Now I’ve yet to plunge into this one, can you share how (and if) this one ties in with the previous tales? From what I can gather of what you’ve mentioned online, the creation of this work took a few unexpected turns.

SC: I have around a dozen Wraeththu stories that I began writing but never finished. These are mostly short pieces. Recently, I decided I should complete them all and release them as a collection, and began work on that early in 2016. I didn’t get further than one story – ‘Song of the Cannibals’. After I’d finished writing it, I wanted to carry on with its characters, because there was so much more to say, not just about what happened afterwards, but what happened before. So one story became three. The novellas are layered tales, folding upon one another. They are told by three narrators, who bring their own viewpoint and biases to their stories. The novellas aren’t the same tale told three times over – they expand upon the first story both forward and backward in time – but they do overlap. A couple of scenes are described more than once, simply to show how a witness influences what is ‘truth’.

There are certain aspects of the Wraeththu mythos, or historic episodes within it, that I’m drawn back to, like probing a sore tooth with your tongue! One of these is the Varr tribe, their archon Ponclast and the fortress city of Fulminir. This dark citadel hid many secrets, most of which haven’t yet been revealed. The Varrs were created by fear and ignorance – hara who didn’t like, or couldn’t accept, what it meant to be Wraeththu. They – or rather the leaders of this tribe – wanted to remain human and to impose this condition on others. They feared the change, refused to adapt to it, and became vicious in protecting their beliefs. These novellas take the reader right into Fulminir, and from a Varr’s point of view. Previously, only more ‘virtuous’ narrators have described what they found in this place. They never had to live there. Going back to Fulminir has allowed me to explore through fiction flaws within our own world; bigotry, intolerance, terror, oppression. And it’s been interesting to examine how when a faction is opposed to such brutality, and wishes to install what they perceive as a more ‘correct’ way to live and think, they in some ways become what they resist. The imposition of their world views can be almost as oppressive as the tyrannical regime they seek to overthrow.

ND: I do want to touch on The Moonshawl which to my utter shame is still on my virtual bedside TBR pile – it’s a standalone novel set within your Mythos, and also one that at a glance appears to be a combination of coming-of-age and the laying to rest of a great evil. What were some of the story seeds that came to fruit with this story?

SC: I wanted to write a ghost story, because I love them – those old-fashioned ghost stories set in crumbling mansions, where more is implied than shown. In a film, sound and light and shadow do much to conjure the atmosphere. I wanted to do this in a book, in the same vein as some classic novels I love, such as The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and the equally captivating, yet far lesser known, The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle, which happily has just been re-released after many years of being out of print. Both of these novels became wonderfully atmospheric films. (By The Uninvited I don’t mean the couple of more recent movies. The original was black and white and – I believe – made in the 50s.) I also wanted to finish the sequence of Wraeththu novels I set in Alba Sulh (once the British Isles), in particular Wales, which I find to be a wonderfully mystical landscape. The Moonshawl is a stand-alone novel, even though its protagonist, Ysobi, features in the previous two books set in that country. Ysobi is estranged from his tribe because of past misdemeanours, and takes work in an isolated spot to – I suppose – ‘find himself’. He finds rather more than himself. The book did grow from its original simple premise, and I ended up showing more than I originally intended, but that was just the way the novel developed. It needed a few frights, not just implications or mild inexplicable events.

ND: Unlike some authors who hold tightly onto their ideas and worlds, you’ve done the opposite, which has been to open the Mythos to other writers to not only contribute shorter-form fiction to anthologies but novels as well. Certainly there must be some sort of biofeedback or alchemy that takes place. Can you offer a little more on this?

SC: Around twenty years ago, it was brought to my attention that a small community had arisen devoted to writing Wraeththu fanfic. The main reason these writers had turned to my Mythos was because they’d been hounded out of another one by a famous writer who strongly objected to their activities, and in short, regarded the tales as criminal infringement of their intellectual property. A fanfic writer mailed me about this and asked for my opinion, and what I felt about fan fiction set in a world I’d invented and about which I still continued to write. I thought about it for some time, and realised that I didn’t feel offended at all. Should I be? As far as I could see, it was similar to a time in my childhood when I’d also invented make-believe worlds – avidly – and the more friends I could get to share in that make-believe and play in my world, the better. This to me was the same. People were coming to play in my garden with me. Why should that be offensive? Could I ever stop people imagining these stories? No. Hadn’t I myself begun my writing life as a fanfic author – albeit writing ‘sequels’ to Greek and Roman myths as a child rather than an established author’s work? I understood the impulse to add to an invented world, to want to play in it when the author had closed the gates for the night.

I could only suppose the offended author was concerned more about copyright and threats to their work and their income. If I recall correctly the trouble started when a fanfic writer claimed that a story this writer published was actually based on one of their fanfics and complained about it. I can imagine how that could be provocative to say the least. So I did have some sympathy with that writer. But as long as fanfic writers play by the rules and accept the intellectual property of the Wraeththu mythos is mine, and I own everything within it, that’s fine. Once I learned about the fanfic, I read some of it and realised several stories – and authors – were good enough to be published professionally. Once I set up Immanion Press in 2003, I had the means to publish these authors. So the Mythos opened up officially for people to come and play, and also end up with a published book in their hands. There are some among my readers who’d like more fiction from me than I have the time to write, so the mythos writers help me in that respect!

Wendy Darling and I have compiled four anthologies of Wraeththu mythos stories, including pieces from ourselves and other writers. The new one, for which I’ll be announcing a call for submissions soon harks back to my love of ghosts. Stories must have a ghostly theme, and the working title for the anthology is Para Spectral. Potential contributors can contact me at Details of all other anthologies and mythos novels are at the end of this interview.

ND: Magic is the breath of life that runs through your Mythos, but I feel I also need to mention that you’ve compiled the (now two) Grimoire Dehara – systems of magic that are companions to your Mythos. Can you share a little of your process for those who are drawn towards contemporary magical systems?

SC: The Deharan system is Pop Culture magic. This ‘genre’ of magic grew from what originally was termed Chaos Magic, in that practitioners turned to icons and imagery within modern society, literature, film, TV and so on, to use in a magical context. The idea behind it was that just because a system is new doesn’t mean it’s less effective than one that’s existed for centuries. I believe the most popular Pagan belief system, Wicca, grew from a similar idea. It was based on ancient practices but was in fact a reinterpretation. The ‘stage props’ of a belief system – its gods, goddesses and rituals – are simply a means for people to access spirituality. The props might change but the core remains; if not the same, then similar.

People often asked me to expand upon the magical system in the Wraeththu books, as in the first trilogy I didn’t give too much detail of its practices. Eventually I decided to go the whole way and write the manual! The third book in the series, Grimoire Dehara: Nahir Nuri will be started in the new year. As with the second book Grimoire Dehara: Ulani, I’ll be writing it with my Immanion Press colleague, Taylor Ellwood. We hope to release it late next year.

ND: I’ve read some of your blog posts where you’ve been quite reflective about your career and what it means to be a creative, about being true to the kinds of stories you need to tell. Looking back now, what is there that you’d tell those who’re only at the start of their journey? A turn of phrase that often catches me up short, and which has become a bit of a mantra for me is Neil Gaiman’s 2012 keynote speech where he uses the phrase “Make good art” to highlight the kind of care and devotion to integrity that sustains. Do you have any thoughts along this line?

SC: To me, the most important thing is to write with love. I often tell people, who want to be authors, and who ask the best way to begin, that their first novel should be the book they’ve always wanted to read but have never found. They should love their work, because if they do, readers are more likely to love it too. There are many people who are able to write prolifically, simply for money, and who do it very well, but when you read their novels you can feel they’re distanced from their work, no matter how accomplished it is. I’m not one of those people. It sounds pretentious to say ‘my work is art’, so I’d prefer to say ‘my work is my heart.’


Storm's Facebook page
Wraeththu mythos page
Immanion Press Facebook page

Storm's blog
Wendy Darling’s Wraeththu fanfic blog
Another of Wendy’s sites she set up for fans

Guest post: Storm on Para Kindred


The Wraeththu Chronicles
The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
The Bewitchments of Love and Hate
The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire
The Wraeththu Chronicles (omnibus of trilogy)

The Wraeththu Histories
The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure
The Shades of Time and Memory
The Ghosts of Blood and Innocence

The Alba Sulh Sequence (Wraeththu Mythos)
The Hienama
Student of Kyme
The Moonshawl

Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose

Wraeththu Mythos Collections
(co-edited with Wendy Darling, including stories by the editors and other writers)
Para Imminence
Para Kindred
Para Animalia

Mythos Novels by Other Writers
Breeding Discontent by Wendy Darling & Bridgette Parker
Terzah’s Sons by Victoria Copus
Song of the Sulh by Maria Leel
Whispers of the World That Was by E. S. Wynn

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Reading from my novel, Inkarna.

I've taken my first, tottering steps into making videos. This is an excerpt from my novel Inkarna, which is still available in print, in limited quantities, but is soon to be rebooted in anticipation of the release of book two, Thanatos.


Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool #1) by Robin Hobb #review

Title: Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool #1) 
Author: Robin Hobb

Generally when authors return to their settings after many years' absence (either in writing or in years for the characters themselves) it doesn't often bode well for the quality of the story. I'm happy to say this is not the case with this third trilogy in the saga of FitzChivalry Farseer – The Fitz and the Fool. A big problem authors face is that of what new and (often) shocking revelations to offer, and we end up with a huge, whooping mess of "Too Much Awesome" [yes, I'm looking at you, Anne Rice, and your vampires]

That being said, I would most emphatically *not* recommend Fool's Assassin to those who've not read the preceding two trilogies. You'll be in the dark as to so much of the nuance and the backstories. So, if you've not read these other books, you probably shouldn't read the rest of the review. If you love nuanced, textured fantasy, just go read those books then say thank you. You won't get those hours of your life back but you'll be ever the richer for the experience.


Seriously, don't read any further if you don't want spoilers.

[Deep breath]

My feelings about the later Fitz books are complex. There's a part of me that understands that I'll never be able to recapture that same sense of wonder that I had exploring the world through a younger Fitz's eyes as in the first three books. Nor his more measured, somewhat disillusioned self in the catastrophic occurrences that transpire during the second trilogy. And oh, the heartbreak. The feels are...intense.

Nope, the Fitz we encounter in The Fitz and the Fool is an older man who's now coming to grips with the complex role of being a father figure to his extended family. An existence that should be idyllic is tempered with a growing series of annoyances (this is Hobb at her finest, foreshadowing disasters yet to come which Fitz, true to his style, chooses to ignore to his detriment) that eventually all tie up.

Okay. Most of this book is exposition. I'm not afraid to say it. In a sense, this is Hobb taking a huge breath and reframing her world, and two other central themes are change and loss. He has always hoped (at least in the preceding books) to one day have this life, but sadly for him his past has an uncanny way to grasp hold of his present.

Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that outwardly he has not aged, while Molly, the love of his life, is growing older. (This is due to a healing spell that exceeded far beyond expectations in an earlier instalment). Fitz is a man who exists outside of time. He has lost so much – Nighteyes (though our favourite wolf is very much present in spirit) and, of course, The Fool, who in my eyes is Fitz's other great love). Fitz grapples daily with the fact that his world has changed while he himself has grown more insular perhaps, set in his ways. And he excels at self-isolation, as we have already discovered.

This novel doesn't have a huge, earth-shaking plot, but it is certainly gripping in the sense that it sets up events that are important in the future even if the pace crawls along (and I certainly say that you read this novel to have a slice of Fitz's life and to understand what motivates him in what follows). And there is The Thing that happens. It is an awesome Thing. Canny readers will facepalm that Fitz is so blitheringly unaware of The Thing as it comes to fruition, but there's that little bit of wonder that you will feel when you see it unfold, and oh, Molly, she is a joy. Just to have one book devoted to the love between Fitz and Molly is a reward in itself. Fitz might not set out to save the world (just yet) but this bittersweet novel will introduce you to the players who'll be important in what's to come. I missed The Fool's presence terribly with this book #1 but a little anticipation never did anyone any harm.