CHARACTER AND THE MODERN MAGUS

Today’s post comes from good friend and awesome writer, Jason Franks. Jason describes the genesis of a key character in his latest novel (a dark fantasy tale that I highly recommend).

Take it away, Jason…

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My novel Faerie Apocalypse is about a series of mortals who travel to the faerie realms, each on their own distinctive quest. It was a tough book to write. I developed a new, more writerly style for the project, and I found that I had to treat the protagonists differently to the way that I normally would. Each protagonist offered their own difficulties, but none more so than the magus.

The magus is an evil magician with vast powers of destruction, who is also a working class Australian. He speaks with a raw Ocker accent; he delights in spouting vulgarities and clichés. He’s the Ugly Australian abroad—he’s gone native, but he hates the natives. He’s not the most powerful magician who ever lived, but he is a proud psychopath, and this makes him one of the most dangerous.

This expatriate Australian makes it his business to keep tourists out of the faerie realms. A hermit who lives in a magical tower, he only ventures out if there’s another unfortunate human around. A lot of Australians move abroad searching for success or influence or just to escape from the prison island—I myself did five years in the US—and that was my twist on the idea.

Initially the magus appears in another character’s chapter, as a villain, and I thought he worked well there, providing just the right counterpoint to the intricate prose and dialogue offered by the other characters. When it came time to give him his own chapter, though, things became difficult. Would readers be interested in seeing this human monster run amok and, eventually, run aground?

Unlike the other protagonists, I thought I would show the magus’ backstory, intercut with the fairy land narrative. The magus’ childhood, growing up in the care of an abusive widower. I had scenes showing the magus surviving Hurricane Tracy, which destroyed the city of Darwin in 1974. (Tracy was as remarkable for its compactness as for its destructive power. Almost as if it was… targeted.) I showed the magus dealing with puberty, and growing up to be a criminal. I showed the combination of curiosity and rage that leads him to discovering magic without a mentor or a guide.

These flashback sections were interspersed with the main thread in chronological order and match-cut into the scenes preceding or following them, so that the last flashback, near the end of the story, lead back to the opening scene in a kind of Escher loop. I worked damn hard on this arrangement, but the whole structure was too intricate. It was American Psycho in Fairy Land, only… Australian. It was just too complicated. The only fix was to remove the flashbacks… but it was still broken.

Without the backstory it became a simpler task. The magus’ chapter is linear and the character himself is quite straightforward: he makes no attempt to disguise his nature or his intent. He’s murdering psychopath, but he’s not a liar. Once I had cleared the way, it was easier to see what was really wrong with the chapter.

I dislike the old writing chestnut ‘characters need to grow and change’ almost as much as I dislike people who use the expression ‘old chestnut’. I think good writing doesn’t make characters change, it changes the way that we understand characters. Perhaps those characters come to recognize something new in themselves, or perhaps not, but to have them transform—a knave to a hero, a robot to a car—is to misunderstand what character really is. A knave is a knave, even if he’s sometimes a hero. A robot is a robot, even if it’s also a car.

That is what the chapter was lacking: revelation of character. We need to learn something about the magus. I didn’t want to redeem him, or even to make him sympathetic, but I thought it would be powerful to let him gain some self-awareness.

There were places where I allowed him to catch a glimpse, but the book really needed a moment… just one lucid moment… where he comes to understand that if he gets what he thinks he wants, he will destroy it, as he destroys everything he touches. The magus is defined by hate, and there is one thing he hates above all else: himself.

While writing this essay I went back through some older manuscripts, rereading the magus’ deleted backstory, and I found the following snippet. This is one of the dearest darlings I have ever murdered in writing a book. Fitting, I guess, that it was the magus who made me do it.

The magus spent most of his thirteenth summer confined within a bamboo cage, alone with the sun and the storms, without food or water, for as long as his body could endure.

“When you can handle pain,” said his father, “You can handle bloody well anything. When you know that you’ve already lived through the worst you can imagine, you’ll never fear any-bloody-thing again.

“Instead of fear you’ll learn to hate, and hate will make you strong.”

The magus came to learn that this was true. By his reckoning, trading fear for hatred was a profitable enterprise; for one’s capacity to fear is finite, but one’s capacity to hate is without limit.

Thanks for reading. I hope your own monsters are kinder to you than the magus has been to me.

Jason Franks

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Faerie Apocalypse is available from multiple sellers in multiple formats. Read the blurb and see the bookstore links here. I gave the novel an honest Goodreads and Amazon review of five stars. 

 

Don’t Talk Yourself into ‘Writer’s Block’

 

Here’s what I think of writer’s block:

I don’t.

I don’t think of writer’s block. I don’t think about it. I don’t expect it. I don’t believe in it. I don’t get stuck in it. Ever.

Let me be clear. The state of staring at a page and having nothing to write there isn’t foreign to me. The experience of not knowing how the hell to solve this plot problem or how to answer this story question or what word to choose here — all familiar. 

But I don’t acknowledge that experience as a “block”. It’s just something that happens. I’m not actually stuck. If I talked myself into getting stuck, it’d become a bit like agrophobia (which is the fear of having a panic attack, a self-fulfilling condition).

The phenomena people call writer’s block is really a bit like being on a three lane highway and finding your lane has come to a standstill. But there’s a lane either side of you that’s moving. So it’s your choice: you can sit in that blocked lane if you want and you can change lanes if you want. Completely your choice.

Do NOT talk yourself into writer’s block. There are so many other things you can do besides freaking out that you can’t you can’t you can’t or the words won’t won’t won’t:

  • Lane 1: another project: getting out of one headspace and into another: notes for a story idea, a fun scene in another project that’s easy to write, etc, etc…
  • Lane 2: a writing exercise that breaks through the blockage: for example, asking yourself what are four other options here, or WWSKD (What Would Stephen King Do), etc…
  • Lane 3: Letting your mind wander: lying down with music you like playing and letting your mind wander until it comes up with cool ideas … or it takes a nap … win win …
  • Lane 4: Doing something else and coming back to it later…
  • Lane 5: Forcing your way through the block: just write something and don’t worry if it’s complete crap or doesn’t work; just write something that moves you on through the tough place and into an easier part of the project to write.

My long-suffering writing buddies are familiar with seeing me do this in the middle of a draft: “[INSERT SMART SOLUTION HERE]. Tony picked up [SOME KIND OF GROOVY WEAPON] and threatened the zombies with it.” Those [placeholders] are a way to keep me moving instead of getting frustrated because right then and there I don’t know the SOLUTION and I haven’t chosen a GROOVY WEAPON.

Fellow wordsmith, do not talk yourself into a block. Keep moving. You can do it.

Shannon Lawrence: Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations
by Shannon Lawrence

Release Date: March 15, 2018
Horror short story collection
A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: A creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.

Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

1. People enjoy a good fright. We feed on the adrenaline. Horror is a safe way to get adrenaline pumping while not actually being in danger. Guess what follows that adrenaline? Dopamine, known as the feel good chemical in our bodies.

2. Satisfaction. We love seeing the monster get obliterated, the psycho killer caught, the ghosts banished. Humans seek justice, and there is something intensely satisfying in seeing justice delivered in whatever form that might take. If we can’t have justice, we’ll happily take catharsis.

3. Horror often reflects the fears of current day issues. People are already thinking about these things, worrying about them. When a horror story comes out that addresses our base fears, we get justification for our fears and can often see at least that single survivor make it through, which gives us hope where we might not have had it before.

4. Distraction. Don’t want to think about the stresses of your daily life? Read some horror. Focusing on these false fears can be a perfect way to avoid thinking about other things stressing you out, and the release provided by tensing and relaxing as the story moves like a roller coaster can relieve some of that real life tension.

Bonus: Horror burns calories. While they haven’t done a study on reading horror, one was conducted on folks watching a horror film. They burned off up to 184 calories during the course of The Shining. Just think how many calories are burned when that two hour film is replaced by a book that takes longer to read!

Excerpt

From Faceless:
“A hand with cherry red nail polish reached over and touched Suzette’s arm, and her face blurred, the features disappearing into a flesh colored void. The blond hair framing where her face should be turned in Delilah’s direction.

Buy the Book

Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon

About the Author

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes mostly fantasy and horror. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

Social Media Links

Why Did I Write a Werewolf Novel?

I have been asked this. More than once. Sometimes by people who don’t know why I “waste” time writing speculative fiction anyway. Sometimes by people who think the genre isn’t popular). Sometimes by people who are genuinely curious.

There are two answers to this question.

The first answer is: I wanted to and an idea came to me and I acted on it.

In fact, through there are of course many changes from the initial draft of Black Marks to the final production, the guts of the story remained the same: a man with a problem whose desire to be good makes life worse for him and for someone he cares about.

There were also the details such as the silver allergy, and the curse hitting the sufferer on three nights a month rather than one (so we could have more werewolf action and more complexity than just that one night). When you have something as clear as I had it then, you have to write it. Or at least, try.

The second answer is: I could not find a werewolf novel I enjoyed.

As a youngster, I enjoyed several werewolf movies, comics and also a TV show. But everything I read as a “mature” adult left me either pissed off or bored. Where was the thrill? Where was the polished prose? Where were the interesting characters and the subtle menace and the human being wrestling against his demon?

I started and stopped so many MANY books after the first sixty or sixteen or six pages (and sometimes after the first page).

Because I could not find what I loved, I wrote it instead. And while it’ll never win me a Booker or Pulitzer, Black Marks became and is that thing that I love. I’m proud of it and I’m glad it’s brought pleasure to so many others.

Since writing it, I’ve fortunately discovered several shifter/werewolf novels I truly enjoyed cover to cover. You can find my list of completed reads here. There’s not many books on it. And each one is VERY different from the ones around it.

In conclusion, I am always ALWAYS fascinated by the wrestle between our inner selves and outer selves and I think it’s this that I look for in a wolf novel. How about you? What do you look for?

Terrain and Towns: Doomsday’s Child’s Tasmania

Let’s face it. I have taken a lot of liberties with the topography and geography of Tasmania in the Doomday’s Child series.

The terrain around the east coast and for some way inland is largely mountainous. Not mountainous like the Swiss Alps or the Rockies, but it’s mountainous nonetheless. Rugged. The country that Lewis and Elliot hike through is based on forest and farmland more in the midlands of the state.

Apart from Hobart, Launceston, Jericho and the Esk Highway (these last two are mentioned in Book 2), the other locations are fictional. The Downs for example–the former sheep farm and orchard that Elliot and Lewis end up at–for the sake of writing the story, I located it on the coast (on the Tasman Highway) and in the triangle between the Elephant Pass Road and the Esk Main Road. But very very little of the types of properties and roads I mention in the story to be in that area (including the one they drive in on with the Cambodian families) are accurate. A quick glance at a map will tell you that (about the roads), and the properties along that strip are often vineyards, farms to be sure (but far hillier than The Downs) and there is the magnificent Iron House brewery/distillery if you’re ever in that area.

There is definitely no honking great Barnabas Island off the coast (that’s sort of based on Bruny Island a long long way south of there). Birns River Bridge (Jock’s home town) is typical of towns you will find up in those mountains near Fingal or St Mary’s.

I’m a believer in accuracy and research in as much as it serves story; where it doesn’t, I believe in making things the hell up. We all want interesting stories, after all, and stories that work.

But I did base these locations loosely on typical places and real terrain in Tasmania (like Bruny). The following images are taken with my dodgy iPad during the 2017 touring vacation my wife and I took, driving from Hobart up along the East Coast and across the hills/mountains to Launceston and Devonport.

Tasmania is a beautiful state. These few images won’t do it justice. But they may bring some of the story to life for you. And I offer them in that spirit.

The kind of terrain through which Elliot, Lewis and Birdy flee from the undead horde in the middle of Book 1

The kind of terrain inland around The Downs. This is what they would scout through in Book 2 to scavenge for resources or hunt wallabies. Much thicker. More places for decomposing zombies to hide and ambush…

Two views of a farming property like The Downs, seen from the road and through the wire…

Typical views of the beach and true coast that the residents of The Downs might see across the “highway”:

 

The Downs homestead from the front. Imagine breaching this when you don’t know who’s inside, nor what they’re armed with:

And lastly, while it might not be very interesting, this is the small creek I envisage splitting The Downs from roughly west to east, which will feature in a couple of scenes for Book 2 (the book I’m currently writing at the time of this blogpost).

 

I love Tasmania. If I were to ride out an apocalypse, I can’t think of a location more suitable for it.

On the other hand, if there’s never an apocalypse to survive, then “Tassie” is also a great place to cruise around on vacation! Especially without zombies, outlaw bikers and other desperate survivors all trying to kill you.

I hope this has been interesting. If you’ve visited the Apple Isle, please comment with your experiences and favourite places; I’d love to hear of it.

 

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Related blogposts:

Emerian Rich: 5 Questions, 1 Statement

 

Pete: Who the heck are you and why are you on my blog?

Emerian: I am Emerian Rich, horror writer, artist, and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net. I came to tell you and your readers about my new vampire book, Dusk’s Warriors.

Pete: Vampires have been done to death. What makes your book special?

Emerian: Dusk’s Warriors has the traditional kind of vampires who thirst for blood and then three other kinds. These other three vampires have different “elixirs” that grant them immortality. One is a dream vampire that feeds off the dream energy of mortals. I really enjoyed playing with the idea of an immortal elixir and how different emotions or mortal motivations could be fed upon.

Pete: They say writers are their characters. Is there any character that you identify especially?

Emerian: I guess they are all a little bit me, but two characters in particular reflect my personality at the time I first created this series. Kristine, the meek, mild, broken character was who I felt like I back then. And then there’s my hero Jespa, who I wanted to be. She’s tough, strong, and takes care of business. As I get older, I feel like I let my inner Jespa show more.

Pete: Do you have any Australian vampires?

Emerian: Funny you should ask. I have a fan who wrote me from Australia and wants me to write one. She has offered to be the voice on the audiobook. Currently, I have no Australian vampires. Mostly because the characters I have written from other cultures are based on or influenced by people I know and have spent a lot of time around. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing any Australians for a long length of time. But now we are friends that could change.

Pete: Slow it down. We aren’t friends yet, are we? What constitutes a friendship?

Emerian: Someone who doesn’t slam the door when I ask to guest blog?

Pete: You don’t have very high expectations, I guess we are friends then.

Emerian: I knew I’d win you over. 🙂

Pete: What is your response to this statement: You should be a writer who does it for the art, not the paycheck.

Emerian: True. You really do have to love it and not expect much. If you can make a living at it, that is awesome, but you can’t go into it thinking you will. After all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

https://www.amazon.com/Dusks-Warriors-Nights-Knights-Vampire/dp/1544628803

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shuarette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

 

Praise for Night’s Knights

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

 

Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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Author MJ Bell: 5 Questions, 1 Statement

 

At time of writing, I am many chapters into MJ’s Bell’s Before the Full Moon Rises and loving it. I have literally dozens of books on my To Read shelves, so when I bought this at Denver Comic Con recently I thought I was crazy to add yet another novel to the shelf. But I’m sure glad I did. Excellent YA fantasy that I’m enjoying as a middle-aged male reader. I recently pitched MJ some questions and a statement to respond to. And here’s her responses…

PETE: What is it that motivates you to write?

MJ: I don’t really have to be motivated to write. For me, writing is more like breathing and eating—I crave it every second I’m not doing it. And when something takes me away from it, you know, like life, family, household chores, the story whispers in my head until I can get back to it. I’m just one of those people who loves to write.

PETE: Your Secret Prince series is YA. What do young people look for and need from a novel?

MJ: Ha! If only I knew that, I would be as rich as J.K. Rowling!! But teens today have so many more pressures on them than what I had when I was that age. Peer pressure and social media outlets are brutal, and I think that’s why so many young people tend to gravitate to fantasy/scifi novels. They need a place they can escape to and get emerged in, away from the realities of their lives. And they want some part of the book to be something they can relate to their own life, whether it be the character’s personality traits, the character’s struggles, the relationships, or the situations.

PETE: What made you choose a French heritage or connection for Deston you main character?

MJ:  I fell in love with France the first time I visited, so there’s that. But also, the Forest of Brocéliande (significant to the story) is in France, so it made sense for Deston’s mother to be French. Why I chose the Forest of Brocéliande is because I’m a huge fan of the King Arthur legend, and it is said that Merlyn the Magician went to Brocéliande after he left Arthur. That’s where Merlyn met Nimue, and it’s also where Nimue trapped him in a cave of ice. He is supposedly still there today, waiting to be released. And since Merlyn has a BIG role in the Secret Prince chronicles, it again made sense.

PETE: What’s your advice for young people wanting to become a published author like you?

MJ: The same advice I give all new authors. Don’t judge your success by the success of others. Everyone has different goals, and just because someone else might put out 12 books a year, does not mean you are a failure if you only put out 1. It’s easy to get bogged down and deflated if you try to follow someone else’s path that isn’t right for you. Just do what you can, the best that you can, and be happy with it, for writing even 1 novel is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud.

PETE: What’s the next or new direction for your writing?

MJ: I’m currently working on a science fantasy – time travel. It will be a single book, because my life is too full right now to keep up with a new series. I loved doing the Secret Prince trilogy, but it was a lot of pressure to get the next book out in a timely fashion for the readers. And I’m a slow writer to begin with, so that added even more pressure (it was only my own personal pressure, but it was still too much!).

 

STATEMENT TO RESPOND TO:  A lot of the advice to indie authors says that we can’t be successful unless we write and release 3-4 books per year.

MJ: If this weren’t a family blog, I would throw out some choice words for that statement! Haha. Success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes, if you’ve written and published a full-length book, you’re successful, because it is not easy to do! But of course, I know what they’re talking about is financial success. Even with that, I don’t know that I agree. There are many highly successful indie authors who take a year or more to write a book. Look at Darcie Chan for example. Her very 1st book sold over 400,000 copies and was on the WSJ Best Seller’s list for 28 wks. Her next book didn’t come out until 3 years later. E.L. James’ books are also about a year apart. So these two examples alone blow that statement out of the water.  Sure, it’s great if you can pump out a lot of books in a short time. And of course, the more books you have available, the more opportunities you have to sell. But each sale we get and every book we put in the hands of a reader is a success, and we should rejoice in those moments instead of despair that we can’t live up to another broad statement.

PETE: thanks for your time!

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As a mom of 3 boys, MJ Bell wrote the Chronicles of the Secret Prince trilogy to appeal to boys as much as girls. Readers will recognize several Arthurian characters/places in this trilogy: Mordred, the Lady of the Lake, Avalon, and Excalibur’s twin brother sword, which is given to Deston…and of course there’s Merlyn…

She holds a Mom’s Choice Award (Gold Award Winner for Fantasy). More about her here.

Before the Full Moon Rises (and the rest of the trilogy) is available here.

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So What’s Next, Pete?

 

A few readers have been asking me variations on the question “So what’s next?”

So here’s my answers to those variations:

  • Both novels have been attracting terrific reviews and there have been questions about sequels for both. At the moment, there’ll be no sequel for Black Marks (sorry!), but there’ll be plenty for Doomsday’s Child (can I hear an amen?).
  • With Black Marks (BM), I’ve tinkered with ideas for a sequel for a couple of years now (that novel’s been essentially finished for that long), but I’m yet to come up with something that won’t dilute or cheapen the impact and themes of the initial story.
  • With Doomsday’s Child (DC), I am already well down the road to completing the first of two (and possibly three) followups. Book 2’s first draft is nearly complete. I’m also writing a short story for release between Books 2 and 3 (it’ll sit before the original story and so be kind of a 0.5 in terms of chronology). The short story’s first draft is halfway complete.
  • Like many authors, I have other projects at various stages of completion. One thing I’m considering is releasing some medieval fantasy under a pseudonym. Reasons being that a) it’ll be a different genre from my other novels, b) it will potentially be a little more upbeat, fun, PG-rated. I’m interested in the thoughts of anyone who can be bothered commenting here: would it bother you to buy a book with Pete Aldin’s name on it which wasn’t dark, gritty, violent and full of bad language? Is that what you’ve come to expect? Or would you like something I’ve written which is completely different from the noir thriller style? (BTW, you can purchase a book of short fiction of mine — on all platforms including iTunes and Kobo — which would give you a sample of my range. The Kindle copy can be found here: Nine Tales. 99cents).
  • There’s a collaboration with another author in the winds (maybe two collaborations), but we won’t get to them until next year. I’m also chipping away at a scifi crime thriller which may be done next year some time, but I’m hoping to shop that around some major publishers. Initial feedback from critiquers on the first draft is very positive.
  • However. In terms of you the Reader, what’s next will be more Elliot. More DC. More post-apocalyptic shenanigans exploring life in an emerging dark age. I’m enjoying writing it and that has to translate into fun for the reader.

Hey. Thanks for asking! 🙂

Top Ten Aussie Spec Fic Books of My Past Decade

 

Before about 2005, I never read Australian fiction. I also rarely watched an Australian TV show or movie mainly because they were no good, and they still aren’t mostly.

But I had no excuse for avoiding local writers — this was simply ignorance on my part. Australia can be proud of its speculative fiction authors (and publications, such as Aurealis). I am hooked on local produce now; my palate has become edu-ma-cated.

So it was difficult to set myself the task of rating my top ten reads since I became thus edumacated. But I found it fun, and it reminded me again of just how much Aussie-produced wealth is out there in our libraries and bookshops.

In no particular order:

  1. The Business of Death – Trent Jamieson. Well this one is in a particular order, since this short trilogy is one of my favourite reads ever.
  2. The Extraordinaires – Michael Pryor. YA. Lively, funny, immersive and professionally polished.
  3. Worldshaker – Richard Harland. Also YA. Intelligently constructed world building and a gripping (and at times funny) plot.
  4. Epilogue – FableCroft Publishing. With variations on a theme by writers such as Steve Cameron, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely, Thoraiya Dyer, Jason Nahrung, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Elizabeth Tan, Jo Anderton, Lyn Battersby. The theme is an always-interesting one (what happens after the end of the world?) and these takes on it are creative, diverse and brilliantly crafted.
  5. The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Peter Cooper’s fantasy adventure has been slated as a children’s book, and sure this is a book my kids would have loved me reading to them when they were younger… But I’m an adult and I LOVED it. Fun, funny and tense enough to make you finish a chapter no matter how much you wanted to go to bed, Blue Jade Book 1 is a fresh take on the crowded genre of medieval fantasy. Peter Cooper draws on Eastern mythology to create the magic and spiritual foundation for his world. And the trio of child characters who take on the frightening people and creatures of their world are clearly differentiated from each other. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
  6. Ghosts Can Bleed – Tracie McBride. Well okay, Tracie is a Kiwi. But she lives in Australia. And that was good enough for us to claim Split Enz as an Aussie band. Her collection of short stories is 5 stars all the way. Razor sharp storytelling. Seriously: download the sample on your Kindle and you’ll see.
  7. Salvage – Jason Nahrung. Brooding, compelling, pacy. The perfect vampire novel (novella?).
  8. The Vengeance Trilogy – Devin Madson. Probably the best epic fantasy trilogy I’ve read and I’ve read a few. A revolving multiple viewpoint plot where all the POV characters speak in first person. Facinating magic. And political intrigue that works particularly well because the politics are above all on the level of personal gripe and offence and redemption.
  9. Slights – Kaaron Warren. True horror. A main character I did not like for the entire book and who still compelled me to read the next paragraph. Superb.
  10. Confessions of a Pod Person – Chuck McKenzie. Tight, clever and often very funny short stories. Definitely worth a look.

Black Marks Winners

 

Congratulations to the five Goodreads Giveaway winners. Your copy of Black Marks will be in the mail shortly.

I hope you enjoy. Thanks to everyone who entered and good luck with some other giveaways out there…