Wild Magical Banquet Menu – Day 2 – Bacon-wrapped Baby Vrock Drumsticks

With special guest chef, Akmenos son of Bane

Welcome to Day 2 of your sneak peek at my special 5-Course Wild Magical Banquet menu!

So I’ve already told you about my little corner restaurant, right? No, I’d prefer you don’t refer to it as imaginary. Visionary, now there’s a word I like. Anyway, I imagine, I mean, envision, that in this restaurant there’ll be a long feasting table for questing heroes with lots of friends who want to celebrate their bloody victories, as well as private little booths where an intimate group might enjoy a lovely plate loaded high with crispy appetizers and sauce, surrounded by tall glasses rimmed with frost from the exotic – and probably expensive – elvish liqueurs they’ll be imbibing. What flavour and texture will this stack of steaming nibbles take? Read on, prospective dinner guest, read on!

But don’t forget that Omnium Gatherum, fine purveyor and literature dark and twisted, is offering you, dear reader, a free copy of a certain tome, recounting my latest adventures, entitled Sons of the Curse, for the mere act of recreating my recipes yourself, and somehow painting them in invisible fragments of light on this infernal window. To learn more, click your clicking thing on this scrawl of letters.

Second Course: Appetizer

Bacon-Wrapped Baby Vrock Drumsticks

Following the potentially amazing, or possibly rather awkward, first course of Sometimes Soup, I’ll be serving a dish which I guarantee will, as the young folk say, rock.

One thing about staking my claim down there near the Skullspines, is the unusually high populations of magical creatures which roam the mountains and foothills, and the brave yet crazy hunters who bring them back for the gastronomical delight of my likely clientele. Free-range tastes best, as they say, and what can be more free-range than the Vrock, a vast winged beast which can soar the alpine skies and shift between this plane and elsewhere at a whim. Where they go I hope I never discover. Although, the way things have been going lately, there’s a good chance I may. I’ll try not to think about that. Which of course means I’m now thinking about it. Oh dear.

Anyhoo, don’t worry. I know all about Vrock, how the old birds are tough as boot leather, as much from the plane-hopping as from their general grumpiness. Gets into the muscles, the bones, you know? Makes them far less edible, the older and grumpier they get. Maybe it’s a survival technique. Who knows, I’m no ornithologist. I’m mostly interested in the bits of a bird you can eat, and you can’t eat their bad manners.

So, no old Vrock. Which means you gotta get them freshly hatched.

Tricky business, given how they build their eyries on high shrieking wind-shredded cliffs, and accounting for how the adult Vrock have a beak on them so sharp it can take your hand off, while their talons rip your guts open from stern to spleen. So you’ll appreciate my prices. But if a hunter can swipe a nest and make it back to the lowlands alive, that’s a whole lot of delicious, free range baby bird right there.

Luckily, Vrock lay extremely large clutches of eggs, since most the birds don’t make it to grumpy old adulthood. Probably because of the stupid high places they build their nests, the dangers of learning to fly in high winds, and no doubt the perils of transdimensional travel, which are many, I assure you. So in a way, we’re doing them a favour, making their short lives bring at least a little pleasure to someone before they expire. Namely you, dear guest. If you have a heavy purse.

Recipe 

Ingredients:

Baby Vrock Drumsticks (Chicken Drumsticks will suffice if your hunter who promised to deliver your order upon his/her return from the mountains never returned)

Boar Bacon Rashers (Regular pig bacon rashers will substitute if boar is rare in your parts, but remember: Free Range is best!)

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Method:

Trim the rind off the bacon and reserve.

For wide bacon rashers, cut in half down the middle to allow for a long thin strip.

Spread the cranberry over the Baby Vrock Drumsticks and then wrap a couple of long strips of bacon around each. Secure with a toothpick.  Season with freshly ground salt and black pepper.

Lay the bacon rind on an oven rack, then place the wrapped Baby Vrock Drumsticks on top of it.This will help stop the bacon from sticking to the tray, and will also help baste the portions as you turn them during cooking. 

I cook mine in a hot oven with a gentle open flame above for about 40 minutes, turning every ten minutes or so. You may have a combination oven/grill setting or some such on your infernal electric cooking receptacle, which you might like to use. Either way, you want the Baby Vrock to cook through, and for the bacon to go crispy. Don’t let it burn!

Serve up with a selection of sauces, including something sweet like plum sauce, something creamy like aioli, and something spicy like chilli sauce. Your dinner guests will appreciate the variety. You will appreciate the crispy grilled bacon rind which has charred up to perfection underneath the drumsticks!

Also, ensure you keep a good supply of enchanted arrows and combat spells on hand, because the Vrock just might come after their offspring at any time! But that’s all part of the dining experience.

Akmenos, son of Bane, is just the friendliest falsely accused murderer you might meet, and it seems completely unfair that he’s on the run from his empire and even his own brothers for something he’s pretty sure he didn’t do. He thinks. You can be the judge as to whether he poisoned that elvish prince fellow, by following his adventures in Brothers of the Knife, Book 1 of the Children of Bane series, and Book 2, Sons of the Curse. He’d just like to get back to pottering in the kitchen, smoking his pipe (if only he could find it), and drinking tea.  

Dan Rabarts vehemently denies that this recipe may have been originally posted on his cooking blog, Freshly Ground, several years ago, and that Akmenos has plagiarised his work for his own gain.

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Wild Magical Banquet Menu – Day 1 – Sometimes Soup

With special guest chef, Akmenos son of Bane

Sometimes Soup

Welcome to your sneak peek at my special 5-Course Wild Magical Banquet menu! 

One day, I won’t be caught up in all manner of unexpected and unlikely misadventures, and I have plans to settle in a nice location with excellent local produce, a surplus of exotic hunters to supply me with wild magical game beasts, and the elves will actually like me enough to sell me all manner of spices, liqueurs and those excellent runny cheeses they’re so good at, and which I like so much. Then I’ll open a cosy little corner restaurant in a quiet part of town, and the biggest worry I’ll have won’t be assassins and giant scorpions but whether the yoghurt in the back of the icebox is still good for breakfast. 

But before we get into that, you ought to know that Omnium Gatherum, a by all accounts fine purveyor and literature dark and twisted, is offering you, dear reader, a free copy of a certain tome, recounting my latest adventures, entitled Sons of the Curse, for the mere act of recreating my recipes yourself, and somehow painting them in invisible fragments of light on this infernal window. To learn more, click your clicking thing on this scrawl of letters.

First Course: Soup

Sometimes Soup 

What, you ask, is Sometimes Soup? First, a lesson in the fauna of the Skullspine Lowlands. 

You may be familiar with the ferocious Blink Tiger, which stalk the marshy grasslands that lie between those grim foothills and the Wrianglia Delta? A terrifying predator, greatly feared by man and beast alike for its ability to harness the Skullspine’s raw primal magical currents and teleport itself through the marshes, making it a deadly hunter and practically impossible to hunt or trap, without magical aid. A fearsome quarry indeed!

Less well-known, however, is the Blink Hen, a kind of plump flightless chicken inhabiting the same sodden landscape, but distinctly less terrifying, and rather less intelligent, or malevolent. Understandably, such a waddling delicacy would make a tasty mid-afternoon snack for a hungry Blink Tiger, and nature being nature (under the influence of the erratic magical resonances which roam the Skullspine at random), the Blink Hen has evolved the same talents as the Blink Tiger as a defence mechanism to evade this predator. Accordingly, it can make itself scarce at the first sign of danger, quite literally. 

Luckily for those of us less adept at spontaneous translocation, the Blink Hen’s weakness for ground millet soaked in honey makes it relatively easy to capture, keep and breed, presuming the hunter isn’t devoured by a Blink Tiger while hunting the chicken in the first place. 

The constant diet of honeyed millet makes the flesh especially delicious of course, which is why the meat of the Blink Hen is so highly prized. However, you never quite know when a Blink Hen might simply vanish, and reappear, and vanish again. Strangely, this behaviour persists even after death, in the same way your common farmyard hen will continue to run around despite having had its head cut off. Rather inconvenient, to say the least. 

Understandably, its habit of disappearing off a plate during a meal can be upsetting to even the most tolerant of diners.

But never fear, for Akmenos has the answer! Adding diced chunks of roasted Blink Hen to a hearty soup gives the diner a delicious eating experience, and the sudden disappearance of their protein from the bowl might go unnoticed, especially if the wine has been liberally poured. 

Recipe 

Ingredients: 

1 Cup Cooked Roast Vegetables, diced (Potato, Onion, Kumera, Pumpkin)

600ml Chicken Stock

1 Cooked Blink Hen Breast, diced (Normal chicken can be substituted if your dinner guests decline to leave their swords at the door, or if your cooked Blink Hen disappeared when you weren’t looking)

1 Jar whole kernel corn, reserve liquid

1 Loaf Fresh Grain bread, for toasting

Sour Cream

Method:

Add the diced roast vegetables and stock to a large bowl, and blend. I recommend one of these infernal electrified spinning blades I found in Araxtheon’s galley, but if you insist on living in the past you can use an old-school potato masher and whisk, or whatever. 

Heat gently over a crackling fire, preferably heavy in sapient pearwood, for the sake of the aroma and the light dusting of hallucination this will lend the soup. 

Add the diced Blink Hen. Try not to let anyone see you do this, in case, as warned above, it disappears before they eat it. Then at least you can make out that you were just making vegetable soup. Sometimes I make Blink Hen Soup, you can say, but not tonight. 

When the soup is well-heated, add the corn, followed by some of the reserved liquid. Continue to add the liquid until the desired thickness and consistency is achieved. This can be a delicate balance, but can usually be assisted by making corny jokes during this process. Simmer. 

Serve up to your guests with buttered toast on the side and a hunk of sour cream dolloped right in the middle. With any luck, it will disappear so fast that if you blink you’ll miss it. 

Akmenos, son of Bane, is an accused murderer on the run from his empire and his own brothers. He wishes people would realise that he couldn’t have poisoned that elvish prince fellow, and that he really isn’t sure what all the fuss is about anyway. He’d like to just get back to pottering in the kitchen, smoking his pipe (if he could only find it), and drinking tea. Follow his adventures in Brothers of the Knife, Book 1 of the Children of Bane series, and Book 2, Sons of the Curse.  

Dan Rabarts vehemently denies that this recipe may have been originally posted on his cooking blog, Freshly Ground, several years ago, and that Akmenos has plagiarised his work for his own gain.

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Mid-Year News Dump

Well, 2019 roared out of the blocks and is already half-way around the track before many of us even noticed the starting gun had gone. So what’s been going on?

Biggest news in the writing world of Dan Rabarts is that this weekend the winners of the Australian Shadows Awards were announced, and my story Riptide, from Suspended in Dusk II (Grey Matter Press, 2018), has won the Short Fiction category. This is a story very near to my heart, so it was a real honour to see it recognised in this way. Huge thanks go out to editor Simon Dewar who accepted the story in the first place, as well as to Lee Murray for helping polish it up before that, and to my Dad, who made sure my use of Te Reo Maori was all well and good.

Earlier in the year, the anthology Gorgon: Stories of Emergence was released from Pantheon Magazine, including my story The Scorching.

Aside from that, I’ve been keeping busy with a heap of writing and related projects in the background. Lee Murray and I are powering towards the completion of the third book in the Path of Ra series, and I’ve started production of the audiobook of Hounds of the Underworld, both for Raw Dog Screaming Press.

I’ve written the first draft of the third book in the Children of Bane series, Sisters of Spindrift, and I’m currently working through line edits for the second book, Sons of the Curse.

Last weekend I attended Geysercon in Rotorua and had an amazing time catching up with old friends, meeting new people, talking on panels, and playing games. Sunday evening was the Sir Julius Vogel Awards and I was stoked to see Lee Murray head up to the front to receive more pointy trophies for her hard work.

The rest of the year looks set to be more of the same, grinding away at projects and hitting deadlines, around getting the kids to football and trying to catch up on GoT and make a dent in my TBR pile. So if you don’t hear much from me, that’s why. Stay sane out there, people. It’s a crazy old world.

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Brothers of the Knife

Exciting times! Brothers of the Knife, the first book in my new fantasy series, The Children of Bane, is unleashed upon the world!

The ebook is available from Amazon or the publisher, Omnium Gatherum, from January 14th, and the paperback releases on January 21st, currently available for pre-order.

Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

“In Brothers of the Knife, Dan has created a deeply imaginative world that disobeys fantasy genre boundaries to forge its own path. A melting pot of sword and sorcery, grimdark, and a splash of steampunk, you’re drawn into these worlds (yes, worlds) by the morally-grey characters, Tolkien-esque creatures, and the quest of the hapless yet quirky, Akmenos. This is a dark tale peppered with humour and snark set to a backdrop of warring nations and a world (or worlds) teetering on the brink, and all resting in the hands of a Hornung who just wants a good cup of tea. Dan’s storytelling is the hallmark of this book, his world-building intricately rich. You won’t be disappointed.” – AJ Spedding, author of the Road to Golgotha and editor for Phoenix Editing.

 

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Brothers of the Knife set to release in January 2019!

Ridiculously pleased to announce that my grimdark-yet-madcap fantasy novel, Brothers of the Knife, is due for release from Omnium Gatherum in January 2019. Brothers of the Knife is the first book in the Children of Bane series, and tells the story of Akmenos, a humble cook plunged into a world of murder, deception and terrible food puns.

Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

Pre-orders will be available soon, in the meantime you can go ahead and mark it up as “To Read” over at Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42114804-brothers-of-the-knife

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Teeth of the Wolf: Cover Reveal!

Teeth of the Wolf, the second book in the Path of Ra series after Hounds of the Underworld, is due for release from Raw Dog Screaming Press on October 4th, 2018. Daniele Sera has produced another amazing cover, which we’re really please to see gracing the front of this book:

Scientific consultant Penny Yee has barely drawn breath before Detective Inspector Tanner assigns her another suspicious death, with Matiu tagging along for the ride. That’s fine as long as he stays outside the crime scene tape, but when one of Matiu’s former cronies turns up dead, Penny wonders if her brother might be more than just an innocent bystander. While she’s figuring that out, the entire universe conspires against her, with a cadaver going AWOL, her DNA sequencer spitting the dummy, and the rent due any day. Even the weather has it in for her. But that’s not the worst of it; Penny’s parents have practically announced her nuptials to Craig Tong!

Still spitting the taste of sand from his mouth, Matiu’s back on the case with Penny, and wouldn’t you know it, his big sister is in over her head again, not that she has a clue. There’s a storm brewing dark through the heat-haze on the horizon, and Makere isn’t the only one of Matiu’s friends from another life dogging his steps. Is this all because of what Mārama was trying to tell him earlier? About his heritage?

Meanwhile, Cerberus is only making things worse by losing his rag every time they cross paths with the elusive killer. Can the dog taste the hot sour reek of something trying to push through the veil and run its tongue and teeth across this world? What’s calling them? What has changed? Matiu should probably check that out, if only his probation officer would quit calling…

“The story is brimming with energy and suspense as readers learn more about the sometimes contentious relationship between Penny and Matiu, as well as the mythological lore behind the demons that haunt New Zealand. Fans of the first book will enjoy this new chapter, and new readers will appreciate Murray and Rabarts’s inventive, fantastical spin on crime drama.” (Publishers Weekly)

Teeth of the Wolf is exactly what I like to see in a novel. It kicks the crap out of the expected and rushes in with twists, turns and gory surprises. Grim suspense with just the right dash of humor to balance out an exciting read. Horror, crime-noir and near future sci-fi twisted into a delightful combination. Add to that the fact that Penny and Matiu are delightfully unique main characters and you have a winning combination.” – James A. Moore, coauthor of the Griffin & Price series (With Charles R. Rutledge), author of the Seven Forges series

Preorder Teeth of the Wolf here.

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Steel Time by JL Gribble

This week, book 4 of the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate series is released! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step. Read on for more information about Steel Time, by J.L. Gribble

ABOUT THE BOOK

You’re never too young or too old to experience a paradigm shift.

Toria Connor is 25 when tripping over an artifact in the ruins of Nacostina thrusts her a century into the past, before the city is destroyed during the Last War. Now, she finds herself alone. Adrift in a time where she must hide everything important to her, from her mercenary career to her true magical ability.

Victory is over eight centuries old when she follows her adopted daughter. She has seen empires rise and fall, but never anything like this. She must survive alone in a city inhospitable to vampires, dodging friends and foes from her past alike.

Both of them know the clock is ticking down to the moment when the city is wiped off the map. Now, they’re in a race against time. To find each other. To escape the past. And to save the future.

Currently available from:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Direct from publisher
Carpe Librum (the author’s local indie bookseller)
Or support your own local independent bookstore by requesting a copy today!

ABOUT THE SERIES

It is possible to read Steel Time as a stand-alone book, but don’t miss out on Toria and Victory’s previous adventures!

Book 1: Steel Victory
Book 2: Steel Magic
Book 2: Steel Blood

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

JL Gribble

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats.

Find her online at:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads

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StokerCon 2018 – Providence, RI, USA

Arriving at the Biltmore

I know it’s a bit late, because life, but at last here it is, my report on StokerCon 2018, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

Sometime in the middle of 2017, I was nudged and prodded and cajoled by my ever-supportive and ever-hardworking collaborator, Lee Murray, to seriously consider investing in the trek to StokerCon, the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association, to meet and greet with those whom she described as “our tribe”. Specifically other writers of horror, dark fiction and gritty action, predominantly living and working in the USA, for whom the trip might be a question of whether to drive or take a domestic flight. For us, coming from New Zealand, the prospect involves multiple flights, including the 12-hour Pacific leg, time off work to transit, time away from the family, and a raft of other excuses that make it easy to justify deciding against committing to such extravagance. StokerCon had been held in LA in 2017, and Las Vegas the year before that, both a lot closer than this year, when it was held about as far back east as you can get before falling off America altogether: Providence, Rhode Island. Stomping ground of Cthulhu mythos creator H.P. Lovecraft.

I couldn’t afford all these things, I told Lee. The flights, the accommodation, the time off, the airport food. But Dan, she says, you can’t afford not to. There are people who need to meet you. So I did what I often do in these situations, when it seems the problems I face are too big to overcome: I changed my mindset. I decided I was going, and I would make the challenges go away in order to achieve the desired goal. Each challenge simply a part of the project to manage in order to hit the deliverable. Which reminded me that the day job fills far too much of my headspace, which is part of the reason I need to make it to things like StokerCon.

I applied for a travel grant, from a fund administered by the Publishers Association of New Zealand together with New Zealand’s arts funding body, Creative New Zealand, expecting that as a fringe author writing at the dark end of the speculative spectrum it wouldn’t be likely to cut the mustard. But, in a surprise twist, CNZ/PANZ approved the application and provided some funds towards my travel costs, which made life that much easier. Absolutely brilliant to see our professional and creative bodies taking an interest and supporting dark fiction in this country. Huge thanks to both for helping make this trip happen.

0Anyway, long story short, planning done, the day arrives when I board a plane for the first of four flights to Providence, RI. After what was a thankfully uneventful 34-hour trip I arrived in Providence, only to find out that the AirBNB accommodation I had arranged for the duration of my stay had cancelled but not bothered to tell me. Panic stations set to Mild. Within an hour I had found an alternative, which turned out to be closer to town and a much better option in the end. So that worked out for the best. Panic stations set back to Standby, I bussed from the airport into the city and arrived at the iconic Biltmore Hotel.

Dinner with RDSP, Linda Addison, and the Murrays

Meeting up with Lee and husband Dave, who had also arrived the previous day, we set out to familiarise ourselves with the surrounds, take some tourist snaps, eat the local food and drink the local beer, buy presents for the kids, and strategise how between us we would try to cover the whole convention. A heady task, given the oodles of panels, workshops, readings, presentations and discussions that would take place over the course of the four days of the convention. We were never going to do it, but we’d give it a damn good shot.

That evening was the first in what would be a series of highlights, namely meeting up with Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson, our publishers at Raw Dog Screaming Press who picked up Hounds of the Underworld and the forthcoming second book in the Path of Ra series, Teeth of the Wolf. Lovely people and great conversations had over dinner. Also met the lovely Linda Addison, poet extraordinaire and recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the HWA.

Later on, we walked through the frosty winter night to the train station to meet Alan Baxter, fellow author of dark fiction who had made his way to join us from Sydney, Australia, bumping the Antipodean numbers up from two to three. Together, we had now tripled the number of Kiwis and Aussies to have attended any StokerCon in the past.

With Alan Baxter at Swan Point Cemetery

The next day, the con was underway. We slipped in a little more sightseeing while the weather held, including a tour of the Capitol Building and a pilgrimage to the family plot where H.P. Lovecraft is buried, and there we left a penny for Cthulhu on Howard’s grave. Turns out we timed it well because the weather was closing in, a brutal storm was on its way and by the following day the cemetery would be closed due to fallen trees. Back at the Biltmore, people were flooding in, introductions were being made, hands were being shaken and smiles were lighting up in recognition.

Putting so many faces to names, and names to faces, and connecting in the flesh with people who mostly, for me, had been Facebook profiles or whose writing I’d enjoyed. It would be the start of what would largely define StokerCon for me, that clicking together of pieces. “Oh, that’s you!”

Reading from Hounds of the Underworld with Lee Murray

Lee and I had a reading that evening, in which we worked through a couple of chapters of Hounds of the Underworld to a small but rapt audience, those who had not packed out the Jack Ketchum Memorial. Tough act to be up against but let me tell you, we did one hell of a top-notch reading.

Grabbed a taxi back to my AirBNB somewhere well after midnight, jetlag working in my favour for the late nights. Driver recognises my accent, wants to know if I’m from Auckland. No, Wellington, and we chat about New Zealand and horror writing on the cold drive home.

Friday, and it was all about panels and presentations, the first of which was a live session of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, in which mysteriously a massive storm assails the Biltmore Hotel in 1936, while outside a massive storm really was assailing the Biltmore Hotel, and in fact all of the north-east United States. We didn’t plan it that way, honestly.

That afternoon, I hosted a panel titled Beyond the Borders – Writing Outside the USA, on which I had the pleasure of moderating none other than British horror legend Ramsey Campbell, down under compatriots Alan Baxter and Lee Murray, and Chris Marrs from Canada. Great to hear the different perspectives on how we as outsiders to the US market break into it. Do we imitate and try to sneak in? Or do we write our own worlds, and write them truthfully and with conviction, and stand out from the crowd? How do we tread that thin line between the familiar and the inaccessible?

Steeple St Bridge, Providence, RI

I was also a panelist on a discussion about growing one’s readership, and in that I managed to get in mentions of other NZ writers and many of my favourite authors from the podcasting scene, as well as dropping a little promo for Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, the recently-released anthology of NZ speculative fiction which happens to include quite a bit of dark fiction too. Meanwhile, outside the storm was raging, water was spilling in the front door and through the ceiling of the hotel bar, as it cranked itself up to a howl. The restaurant was swamped with guests as no-one wanted to dare venturing out for a meal. There was lots of talk deep into the night as the wind and snow snarled about the rain-slick streets, the beer cold and the conversations fascinating.

After schmoozing about in the post-film festival festivities, it’s once again after midnight and I’m hopping in a taxi for the five-minute drive up the hill. Driver recognises my accent. Says, “Hey, my brother drove you home last night!” Loves the All Blacks, he tells me. Loves that thing they do before a game, what’s it called? So here I find myself, in a taxi in Providence, Rhode Island in the middle of the night, doing a haka for the driver as best I can while sitting in the back seat. Things I never thought I’d be doing, but there you have it.

The next day was Saturday, and it started early with a meeting with Jennifer from Raw Dog, at which we pitched and got the go-ahead on the third book in the Path of Ra series. Other opportunities were also discussed over coffee and breakfast, but of those I shall speak nothing further. Very secret squirrel. And we’re into more panels, more networking, more soaking up all the positive energy and good information. Another highlight was meeting Angel Leigh McCoy, who was the first editor to ever accept a story of mine for publication, and to be able to thank her for being a critical gear in the machine that set me down this path. I sat on another panel, about Crossing Genres, and managed to sneak in more mentions of NZ and Aussie authors I really like, and before I even knew it the day had turned to night and dinner was being eaten at the bar and the time had come for the Bram Stoker Awards.

Post-Awards laughs with Thersa Matsura

Jeff Strand was the star of the hour, em-ceeing his tenth and final Bram Stoker Awards ceremony, and it was great to see the community turning out to celebrate and support the achievements of others. This was followed by the photos (I managed to get myself in a few helping carry Greg Chapman’s award for services out of the banquet hall, on account of coming from vaguely that part of the world), and then the drinking and the milling and the talking and the… Well, you know how that bit goes. Late in the night, yet again, stories being told, quiet deals being made. This is the part of the con when the real work gets done, after hours and over the rims of beer bottles and whiskey glasses. Another night when my taxi ride up the hill was somewhere well after midnight.

Sunday, things moved a bit slower, as the con starts to wind up. The goodbyes, the final handshakes, the acquisition of books as people try to lighten their homeward luggage, the late leavers who hang out and cruise the local bookstores and have a last dinner together. The rush to scribble down notes and remember everything that’s happened, plan all the things that must be done going forward.

Post-Con Airport Coffee with Danny Rhodes

And then the homeward leg. Airports. Eating a Johnny Rocket burger while chatting with UK writer Danny Rhodes in Providence Airport. Philadelphia, LA, and the black glass of the Pacific cast in shadow beneath the wings. Home.

Then, somehow, I lost about four months, between writing these notes and getting around to putting them up here for everyone to read. To be honest, I’ve had a lot to get done, mostly off the back of StokerCon. Two book deals signed, and consequently deadlines to hit. Things to plan, things to complete, things to deliver. Life and work and family filling all the spaces in between the writing. Decisions to be made, including: StokerCon, Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 2019. Will I make it? Will I be there? Will you?

 

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Review: Into the Sounds by Lee Murray

7fb545_b3c01a58a5a2417586f7556466fb3bf1~mv2Continuing the story of Taine McKenna and Jules Asher which started with Into the Mist (winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, 2016), Lee Murray leaves the mist-shrouded Ureweras behind and drops us into one of New Zealand’s most remote and deceptively beautiful regions: Fiordland. Taking leave from the NZDF, McKenna accompanies Asher and a crew of scientists and hunters into the Fiordland Sounds on a Department of Conservation deer-culling mission. What should be a straightforward job rapidly slides into chaos as the team stumble across a high-tech poaching operation, a lost tribe, and larger, darker things lurking beneath the icy waters of the Sounds.

Into the Sounds is a worthy follow-up to Into the Mist, a non-stop adventure which threads together many overlapping aspects of New Zealand’s sometimes ugly history, with a solid dose of credible science fiction, and a critical touch of magic to hold it all together. New Zealand’s grand, sweeping landscapes take on an almost mystical quality as Murray takes us deeper into a part of the country often imagined but rarely explored.

While the bodycount starts racking up in the opening scene and doesn’t slow down, the full cast of characters are well-developed, and we feel for each of them as one disaster after another claims its victims, heroes and villains and strangers alike. The pacing is superb, the writing is clean and uncluttered, and I think this book makes an excellent addition to the series, and to the monster-hunter genre in general.

Readers who are new to the series can pick up Sounds and enjoy it without having read Mist. A third book, Into the Ashes, is slated for release next year from Severed Press, and I’m already looking forward to that.

Disclosure: Lee Murray and I are frequent collaborators, and I was offered a copy of Into the Sounds to read for review purposes. This review is my honest opinion of what is a fantastic, exciting read, and I highly recommend this series to fans of science fiction and monster fiction alike.

 

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May Update on All The Things

SJV Winner EmblemI thought when I did my last blog post that I had a lot to cover in one go, and I also thought I’d do well to do more frequent posts here to save myself being in this situation again, but here I am. Another bullet point post of all the happenings in my writerly life since February.

  • Hounds of the Underworld won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel 2017 at this year’s Nat Con held in Auckland!! So grateful to everyone who nominated and voted, and especially to my co-writer Lee Murray for being such a powerful force to work with.
  • StokerCon. Wow. What a trip, what an experience. I’ve written a report on it, but have yet to get it out there. Because of All The Things that are also going on. A lot of opportunities came out of StokerCon, including:
  • Raw Dog Screaming Press have picked up the third book in the Path of Ra series, of which Hounds of the Underworld is the first, with the second book, Teeth of the Wolf, due out in September. Lee and I have things in place for Book 3 and are looking forward to writing it.
  • static1.squarespace.comUS independent press Omnium Gatherum have accepted the first two books in my dark-fantasy-yet-madcap series, Children of Bane. The first book, Brothers of the Knife, is currently going through edits and is due for release in September. Book 2, Sons of the Curse, will be out early next year. The series is planned out to 5 books in total, so I have a lot of word count targets in my future!
  • My alternate personality as a podcast narrator continues to burble away, with the production of Joseph Ashley-Smith’s dour, bloody tale Our Last Meal just released on Tales to Terrify, and a further podcast due to drop very soon at Beneath Ceaseless Skies for fellow kiwi spec-fic writer AJ Fitzwater.
  • My short story Riptide, after a long and painful birth, will be appearing in Suspended in Dusk II, due out from Grey Matter Press on July 10th.
  • Another short story of mine, The Silence at the Edge of the Sea, will be published in Cthulu Land of the Long White Cloud from IFWG Publishing in Australia before the end of the year.

And there are things going on the background which I can’t mention,because they’re simply so very exciting that it would possibly break the internet to do so. And that wouldn’t be very fair.

So here’s that list of guest posts and interviews I promised you last time:

With Alan Baxter

With Angela Slatter

With Lee Murray

With Jenni Sands

With Joseph Ashley-Smith at AHWA

 

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