A Spot Of Good News

My latest newsletter is out. I share my good news, remind readers of Nerine Dorman’s free book opportunity and highlight some titles I read this month, including Nikhil Singh’s unique story, Club Ded.

An open book on a wooden desk has grass on the left page with a puddle, and a greyhound looking over his shoulder. The right page has a girl walking up a path in the grass, revealing writing on a page, ahead of her is a lamppost with a bird on top, a flock of birds, and a hot air balloon. To the right of the book is a fountain pen, on the left a coffee mug.

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The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Cover of The Library of Legends by Janie Change shows distant purplish mountains and a woman walking towards them with a red umbrella on a more vibrant purple road.

~If we want China to have a future, we must save our cultural and intellectual legacy.~

~Tales alter over time…In the marketplace or their own homes, storytellers shape narratives to suit their audience and the times. They add and remove details, even change the moral of the story. Yet each version is authentic.~

~”But they return to a paradise,” the professor said. “Surely that must be a comfort.”
“It’s a comfort of a sort,” the Star said, “but what purpose will they have in the paradise? They’ve been guardians of rivers and lakes, forests and fields. Of a single tree or a humble hectare of land. Even if no more than a half-dozen farmers pray to them for a good harvest of beans, they’ve had a purpose.”~

~So may poems about the moon, but what about the stars?~

~It wasn’t a park, it was a cemetery for foreigners. No wonder the square of green was empty. Even the most desperate would not sleep with foreign ghosts.~

~It’s not easy to establish yourself when you’re a refugee…I see this with some of my patients. Carpenters, bookkeepers, artists. People with skills, educated people. Now it’s as though they’ve been stripped of those qualifications. Reduced to the category of ‘refugee’ and treated as members of a needy multitude.~


Charlotte by Helen Moffett

A vanilla envelope with a red wax seal bears the title of Charlotte by Helen Moffett. The envelope is placed on a blue and white china plate, on a blue tablecloth.

~I did not see the truth that stared me in the face: a great man, from a great family, marries for one reason primarily: to beget heirs.~

~Charlotte was tired to the bone. Tired of the universally acknowledged truism: that a single woman of no great fortune must be in want of a life, at the beck and call of all who might find her momentarily useful, a blank template waiting for the impress of others.~

~So once my rings and fobs and what-nots were returned to me after the notaries had departed, I selected the smallest and ugliest trinkets and sewed them into the hems of my garments, a trick I garnered from a rather guady romance. Let it not be said that novel-reading is not instructive.~

~’Do you not miss your family?’ Charlotte enquired. ‘I had no idea they lived so close by. I would have given you some hours off to visit, had I known.’
Katie gaped at her. ‘Ma’am, I am the eldest of ten. Every year, there is another baby brother or sister when I visit. Until I cam here, I helped my mam care for them all. There was never any–’ she paused and thought for a moment: ‘–peace. Here I have my own bed, my own room, ma’am.” She leaned forward in her earnestness to convey her sense of good fortune. ‘My own room!’

~But I would rather have that remembrance than nothing. Where we have once loved, there will always be a tender spot. But we must strive to be rational, and to look forward with hope.~

~There was indeed comfort to be found in knowing, in a world in which we have little say over our destiny, that some things remain unchanging, that their beauty or worth will not decline, or very little, over the passage of years.~


Club Ded by Nikhil Singh

Club Ded features the back of the head of a light brown freckled person. The hair is blue stubble, with sea-slug like attacments to the scalp that trails down into blond wires. The sea-slugs and the fingernails touching the wires, are in purples, blues and greens, with a touch of yellow.

~Dressing like an alien slut doesn’t contradict any of my feminist values.~

~It wasn’t that Anita saw herself as racist. Far from it. ‘Hey, I’m the first to get off on interracial porn’ was the usual excuse.~

~I’ve seen the faces of tapeworms.~

~She has become the seascape itself. She can sense, within her blood flow, the ebb of great tides. Her bones harbour millions of small, shelled creatures. Waves of sensory input crash against the reef of her mind. She desperately wants to submerge. In warm tropical water. yet, remains trapped. In some inter-dimensional glass coffin, outside of time.~

~He described how the routines of society had stripped the mythological from humanity’s carcass. He saw people as soft, pliant and utterly dependent. Centuries of programming had, in his eyes, manufactured prisoners of comfort. Time-victims, scattered about the earth, in futuristic anthills.~

~Now she languished dutifully in this new course. She began to follow its stream into a sphere of light. Writing her future as though it were a thing already written.~

Luna Press

Africa Writes: Nerine Dorman on Inkarna with a Giveaway

Shirtless tattooed Egyptian man with long flowing black locks wears tight black trousers with round gold belt buckle. He has a neck piece with a jewel in the centre. Background is in golden sunset huues with clouds.

Now anyone who’s been following me on social media for the past while will have heard me speak about my novel Inkarna – a dark tale of magic and misadventure featuring members of an ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult (the Inkarna) pitted against each other over centuries. And it’s in this story that I get to blend two of the elements I so adore in fiction: ancient mysteries and magic in an contemporary setting.

I’ve spent a great deal of time studying ancient Egyptian magic and history, and I asked myself a question: what would happen if this magic had somehow been effective to assist its practitioners to keep returning to the earthly plane? How would they do it? My premise is simple – my magicians are body snatchers, usually swapping souls with children who meet some sort of fatality, be it drowning, accident or illness, that make them susceptible to having their souls booted out of their bodies to make way for the magician.

Pretty brutal, huh? My Inkarna rationalise it along the lines that the kids would have died anyway, and like a cuckoo lays its eggs in its host’s nest, so the Inkarna nestle themselves in someone else’s life. Hey, I told you it was dark.

Initially my immortal magicians were going to be called the Incarna (Reincarnation – Incarna, get it?) but then I thought about the Karnak temple complex in Egypt, and I kinda smooshed that into the name. It has a better ring to it, in any case. Also, I totally suck at naming novels, so Inkarna had a nice, solid ring to it. It’s also instantly memorable.

In book one, we get to meet Lizzie when she’s about to die. It’s her first time shuffling off this mortal coil, so naturally she has doubts. But her return to this earthly realm doesn’t go quite as smoothly as she would’ve liked it – she wakes up in the body of a 21-year-old man instead of the body of the girl she was promised. And of course hijinks ensue, because Ashton Kennedy, the man whose body she has taken possession of, was not exactly the kind of dude you’d invite over for tea and scones.

I got the idea of the wrong body from a dream I’d had, and what it must feel like for a woman to suddenly be in charge of a (very) male body – there’s a massive cognitive dissonance that takes place, especially when the protagonist realises that the only way out of the situation is to die again. And she (or rather now he) is not ready for that quite yet. They have a mystery to solve, and there are people who are out to get them.

And can you imagine what it must be like to pretend to be someone you’re not, lumped with all their baggage. You have no one to turn to who’ll believe your extraordinary story. This is exactly the problem Lizzie-turned-Ash faces as they come to grips with this new existence and all the complications it brings. I won’t spoil, of course. But I took great delight in making things as deliciously awkward for Lizzie/Ash as they grow into their powers.

The premise of how the Inkarna’s powers work is that they have a daimonic (magical) ability to draw power from the world around them, from the earth, the air, which they can harness either in telekinetic or psychic or clairvoyant acts. Ash/Lizzie goes one step further, able to work their magic on electronic gadgets, which is a rare gift indeed. Not that it always works to their advantage – they have an amazing habit of getting into large amounts of trouble.

Inkarna (the novel) has been out for a few years already. It was first published by a now-defunct publisher in the States, but life being as chaotic as it is, I’ve been sitting not only on the files for book one, but also a sequel, Thanatos, for five years now. I revised Inkarna, got new cover art, and ended it with a ‘happy for now’. Book two picks up about a year and a half after the events that take place in book one, in the deceptively quiet Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda, but life for our hero quickly spirals out of control.

Both books are set in South Africa, and I give readers everything from a trawl through the underbelly of Cape Town’s alternative nightlife to a catastrophic trans-Karoo train ride. There’s plenty of action, magic and a whiff of romance and personal angst. Yes, Lizzie/Ash has a lot of hurt to work through, but I really enjoyed watching them come into their own as events concluded in book two, Thanatos, which will hopefully release a little later this year. The benefits of having a hybrid career is that I get to set the release dates for my novels when I elect to self-publish.

Will there be more? What I love about writing in my “Inkarnaverse” as I like to call it, is that the setting lends itself to stories all through the ages. My immortal magicians play very nicely with world history, for obvious reasons. And I often like to imagine how other cultures have their own versions of the magical Houses we encounter in my duology. I am currently writing a third book in this shared universe, but it’s intended for a younger readership. You won’t have to have read books one and two to enjoy it (it’s standalone) but those who’ve read Inkarna and Thanatos will meet a few familiar characters while also gaining closure on some of the threads I’ve left hanging.

Inkarna is currently free to read on Amazon KU, and is available in print and in digital format. I’ve produced an audiobook, but am still waiting for that to be vetted by my producer.

Not on KU and want to read Inkarna for free? Sign up for my newsletter before the end of July and be eligible for a free digital copy.

White woman with long black hair in black glasses, pierced lip, looks straight at the camera with neutral expression. The picture is done in dark shadow tones.

Bio: An editor and multi-published author, Nerine Dorman currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa, with her visual artist husband. Some of the publishers for whom she has edited works include Dark Continents Publishing and eKhaya (an imprint of Random House Struik). Her fiction sales include works to Dark Continents Publishing, Wordsmack, Tor Books, Apex Publishing and Immanion Press. She has been involved in the media industry for more than a decade, with a background in magazine and newspaper publishing, commercial fiction, independent filmmaking, print production management and advertising. Her book reviews, as well as travel, entertainment and lifestyle editorial regularly appear in national newspapers and online. A few of her interests include music, travel, history, Egypt, art, photography, psychology, philosophy, magic and the natural world. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and check out her website.

One of Them by Michael Cashman

Cover of One of Them shows Michael Cashman in profile resting his chin on his forearms. His sliver hair is cropped short and he is wearing a black t-shirt.

~It was a cold December. But it wasn’t the cold that brought me into the world, it was a street fight outside Stephney East station. A group of men jumped my dad, fists and boots flying in all directions. My mum did the thing any decent wife would do, she waded in.~

~It was the first gay kiss on a British soap, and it caused outrage…For Gray Hailes and me it wasn’t a big thing. We hardly noticed it in the script…In the heady anti-gay, AIDS-plague hysteria it smacked the opposition in the face.~

~[Mo Mowlam] hated male obstinacy and to her they personified it. When asked by Hillary Clinton how she coped with it in that particular political environment, she merely replied that she always factored time into the agenda for ‘willy waving’. ~

~Two days later [my mother] was discharged. Within a week or two she was back in the hospital, and three weeks later she died…Only later did they realise that the problem had been an arrhythmic heart, which could have been dealt with by a pacemaker.~

~As the Queen Mother’s chef had said to me many ears earlier: ‘if it wasn’t for gay men, dear, it would be self-service at Clarence House.~

~To be alone is never to have been loved.~


Book Bite for the Sunday Times: https://bit.ly/3fQ2QmV

Plucking The Positive From Amidst The Bleak

Latest newsletter went out earlier this week. June had a lot happen across the globe, and in respect for the events of that month, most of this newsletter focuses on Black writers and their work, from high brow literary reads to light-hearted romance. Hope you enjoy.

Black and white of a person's lap - can only really see the open book and the left grey sock.

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Thank you for your support.

Africa Writes: Raashida Khan on The Cursed Touch

Writing, My Journey: Author, Raashida Khan, shares her story

Mirror Cracked cover is shades of broken green.

My latest book, The Cursed Touch, is in the design and production phase as I write this post. It is my third novel. I’ve also published a short story collection and an anthology of poetry. This latest book will make five publications in the space of five years. Some might say that’s pretty quick. Maybe it’s because I got a late start – I started my writing career only in my late forties.

I had dreamed of writing books from the time I was a child, but apart from a few short stories and opinion pieces written with a work colleague about twenty years ago, I hadn’t pursued this. It was only a few years back when I realised that, if I didn’t actually start, I never would. This decision came at a time in my life when I was doing much introspection and was grateful for many blessings. I felt lucky, yes, and that led me to question how I was expressing my gratitude. The answer was clear: I should write. I knew that it didn’t matter if I failed or succeeded; just doing was a step forwards. And so, I ignored all the reasons not to begin – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not knowing whether I had any talent, and the hundred other little fears that whisper in one’s ear – and dove in head, heart, and soul first.

Your Voice, My Strength cover is black with paisley in red, yellows, and oranges.

At the stage, I was still working full time. The initial drafts of my first two novels were written at night and over weekends, while holding down a full-time job. Hmm, that was another eye-opener: it meant that time was never really a deterrent in the first place. If you really want to do something, you will find the time.

I was lucky. I was surrounded by people who were encouraging but also critical. Friends who read my first attempts didn’t mince their words. ‘Boring!’ ‘All over the place!’ and, ‘Maybe you should write a cookbook,’ were just some of the comments that I received. ‘Go on a course,’ was another suggestion, which turned out to be great advice. I did a few online and face-to-face courses, and I continue to stay in touch with the writing world on a daily basis. I also participate and attend book events and support other local authors as much as possible, independent as well as those that are traditionally published.

Continue reading

Omenana to Infinity Edited By Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu

A floating city in the sky with both the full moon on th eleft and the sun on the right.
Omena to Infinity Speculative Fiction Anthology is a gold profile of a bald man with a another figure rowing down a flooded road of a city.

~Her issues with her family and her need for money poured out of her mouth like water from a kettle’s spout.~

~”I am your future self. You remember that idea you had for a time machine? Well, it worked…”
“You look more like my dad.”~

~We had come to believe that the falling rains were the reason the soil had started to kill most of what we tried to plant, the reason the village could not grow and the reason we could not leave.~

~Death walked in, taking a seat at the table as the kettle came to a boil. The woman silently wheeled herself over to the drain board to fetch another mug. As she moved, the light danced across fingers, each sporting a silver splint.
“How many sugars?” she asked.
Death held up two fingers.~

~Cleansing. That’s what she calls it when she takes a sin away. The man she ate had beaten his wife for the three years of their marriage.~

~Let me tell you about my name. Mame Bougouma Diene, literally translates into Grampa doesn’t want fish. And this is Dakar, who doesn’t want fish? Or didn’t. When you could still get any. My parents really pulled a number on me. Tradition, man…~


*Please note, I am a contributor to this short story collection.