Blog Archives

Be Yourself This Halloween

Exciting news! So exciting! Get your excitement boots on!

Are they on? TO THE NEWS!

In just a few short weeks I’ll be releasing my fourth book, the novella My Father’s Death. This pseudo-sequel to The Vamps of the Marais will be set in Paris in 1905 and feature a death cult headed by an immortal deity and the unfortunate chemist who invokes their wrath. Feedback from betas has been overwhelmingly positive, with phrases like “complex and tightly interwoven”, “streets and streets ahead of other stuff I’ve read” and “I should finish it Tuesday” liberally applied.

But enough of that boasting. Today I just want to share the draft promo poster, featuring protagonists Hannibal du Noir, whom you may remember from The Vamps, and Paris’s unluckiest chemist, Roland Lambert.


Expect more – along with the actual cover – soon! If you’d like an advanced review copy, those will be going out totally free next week. And if you’re like, no, Anneque, I want to buy this from you and have you sign my Kindle, then you can do that too! I’ll be signing books and various body parts at Brisbane Supanova on the 27th to 29th of November.

Oh my… get ready!



Steamgasm: Of Man Myth And Automata by Steven F. Bell

Anthology, Steampunk/ fantasy

Doctor Who meets the American Civil War

Like this, except:

Like this, except:

Except like this.

Like this instead.

Part alternate history, part fantasy saga, all guns, guts and good humour is this very decent anthology by Steven F. Bell.

We open on a preacher pinned to a rock in the rising tide, begging God for forgiveness. A boy wanders along to watch the preacher drown. He refuses to help the man free. Why don’t you use your mechanical arm? the boy asks.

From about this point on, I was hooked. The stories are composed of these starkly contrasting elements that Bell throws together seemingly without a care. The war-torn west and steampunk form a surprisingly readable merger, kept rolling by Bell’s exceptional prose.

I don’t quite know what it is about Bell’s writing. It’s perhaps that he provides us with all the information we need as soon as we need it. Or maybe it’s the way things are thrown together, but complement each other so well. Whatever the case, he is immediately engaging and wonderfully exciting to read. And while not all the stories are funny, Bell has a great sense of humour, and a way of simultaneously crushing your heart and throwing more coal in the boiler, resulting in a nerdgasm which ripples throughout the stories.

The preacher’s story made for a fantastic opening. Dramatic, stark, life-or-death, very good. The second story introduces us to the anthology’s protagonists (if such an anthology can have), Ignatius St. Eligius and Angela Boas. Ignatius is a military scout who comes across an enemy camp in the woods. We enter on him having blown up the camp, and now beating a hasty retreat though the woods. As Ignatius explains when he bumps into Angela, the camp was home to some horrific human experiments … including children melded with steel. Horrific experiments who soon give chase to Ignatius and Angela for a morally devastating game of kill or be killed.

We see a bit more of Ignatius and Angela in the next few stories, elaborating on their relationship and the flesh-hungry Confederate regime. The steampunk side of the world is also explored, showing off various gadgets in the world, as well as the science behind the mechanics and how various people are using it.

And that’s the first half of the book, occupied by these interconnected tales of folks in this steampunk, American civil war world.

In the second part of the book we move away from steampunk and into fantasy. The standout story here is the anthology’s longest: The Fall of Akui. This features warrior monk cats on a quest to seal off a great evil, Akui. To do this they must outsmart and outfight any number of evil shadows, possessed boars and their own doubts, and they only half a day to do it.

I don’t play World of Warcraft, but that was what sprang to mind as I read The Fall of Akui. It would be such a fit for WoW’s iconic art style: the cats in their Japanese period outfits, long whiskers and beards – maybe closer Okami for the fight scenes. Bell mentions in his notes that he envisions this story as a comic saga, and I can see where he’s coming from. The imagery is vivid and very constant, the action is well paced, and there’s a real depth to this cat-world saga.

There were a few typos throughout the stories. I found myself enjoying the stories so thoroughly that this bit of proofreading sloppiness didn’t bother me in the least. However, such a good piece of work deserves to look its best, and so it could do with a tidy.

Of Man, Myth and Automata is an engaging and brilliant read, one that I won’t forget for a very long time. hope Bell writes a novel for every character we’ve met so far. Three for Ignatius and Angela. It’s thrilling, ballsy and an enormously good time. If you’re at all a fan of alternate history, war stories, steampunk or off-kilter fantasy, then this is a book for you.

I’m giving it 4 stars.


You can find Of Man Myth and Automata on GoodReads here.

On Amazon here.

And rouse on Bell to update his blog here.

Like this maybe?

He was like, pew pew! And I was like, pow! And … what are you still doing here?

Indie and More… Much, Much More

What’s that, your ears have half an hour free time scheduled? Why not wreck that up with the latest episode of Indie and More, where you’ll find reviews for the hottest science fiction, fantasy and alternate history books on the shelf!

Under intense scrutiny this week was James L. Wilber’s My Babylon; George Orwell’s Animal Farm; Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, Anna Herlihy’s debut novel Clarity; and Snow Hudson’s Dr. Homebrew. You can listen in on the episode right here – go on, your bookshelf will thank you for it.

Indie and More episode 5

You can also find spoilers for the episode below, plus links to authors and their books on Amazon. But let’s you and me get real for a moment. Indie and More is consistently taking me two full days to put together, 16 hours or so of working time. This doesn’t include the time it takes to read everything. Due to time considerations, I will be changing Indie and More from fortnightly to monthly. The interview podcast, Literature Emergency Broadcast, will stay fortnightly.

Instead of running Indie and More so often, I’m finally going to pick up the audio chapter idea. That won’t be run so much as a podcast, but the audio will be available on this blog for you to download, and also on iTunes and maybe even YouTube. Episodes will run about 10 – 15 minutes a piece, and will feature readings from books written by independent and small press authors.

That show doesn’t have a name yet, and the details aren’t completely confirmed. We’re looking at the first episode being released on the 18th of February, and being distributed on the third Tuesday of every month. If you’re an indie author, why not send over your story for a dramatic reading? You’ll get a bunch of free promotion and whee! You get to hear me reading your story. I will have to work on my George Takei voice.

In Indie and More this week:


My Babylon by James L. Wilber


Urban fantasy, novel

Book 1 of the Eschaton Cycle series

You can also get the first part of the book here.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

Hurry up and read it already, gees!

Alternate history, novella


Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson


Hard science fiction

Book 1 of the Red Mars series


Clarity: The Watch by Anna Herlihy


Science fiction, dystopian, steampunk

Book 1 in the Clarity series


Dr. Homebrew by Snow Hudson


General literature, novella

The website has some lovely bonus art.


Check it out! If you type “Red Mars” into Google Images, one of the top pictures to appear is mine. 😀 Includes bonus mistyping of Mia’s name.

If you’re looking for books reviewed previously on Indie and More, you can find them under the Library menu of this blog. It’s not on the drop-down list, just click on the word “Library” and it will take you there. There you can also see the rating for each book. Or you can just click here.

And that’s that. See you tomorrow for a brand spanking new episode of the Sunday Witch Hunters, where Joe has an interesting confrontation with twenty pigs, ten tons of mud, and a demon.

redmarsgame copy

Free Audiobook, NaNoWriMo and Other News

I was going to blog… and then I remembered I had to look up the shiny versions of my Pokemon X team, the Children of Men. Who enjoyed a very nice couple of victories online last night, yes, thank you for asking. Celebratory victories indeed, as yesterday afternoon I finished my NaNoWriMo project~! A million cheers, a million tears! Now we can move onto something new 😀

To tell the truth, I’m very much looking forward to writing something lighter: I fell into a trap of my own design with Love, Charybdis: fell in love with the characters, and then did horrible, horrible things to them. Really horrible things. I mean, you think that the protagonist, the female chemist Marie-Noelle, has found a second chance at love with her old flame John when he arrives unexpectedly at her doorstep. And the story builds around making you believe these two will sort out their crippling personal issues and have a happy ending. But things go so terribly wrong. So, so wrong. I was left feeling quite emotionally fragile but with a little of my faith in love restored. Also my faith in terrible things happening to basically good people.

And I don’t mean to be rude, but if you read it and you don’t cry, then you’re an emotionless monster.


Moving on. Coming up this week, tomorrow we have the second article in the How You Can Be An Adventurer set, providing the essential details on how to say goodbye to the farm and pick your party members. Choosing the right people for you adventuring party is especially important, as all too often fresh-faced adventurers are straddled with schemers, murderers, and incompetent necromancers. Looking at you, Serana.

From Wednesday there will be a free audiobook for anyone who has signed up for the site newsletter. The book is my very own Salt Pan Gospel, read by the ultra suave and probably very good-looking Daniel Morrison. It sounds great and I am just falling over myself with excitement to share it with you. So sign up, ya hear?

On Friday both the new edition of the newsletter and Indie and More Book Review episode 2 will be out. This fortnight we’re reviewing a nice range of speculative fiction work, from Manly Wade Wellman’s classic Devil’s Asteroid to Dagda Publishing’s dystopian anthology, Tuned to a Dead Channel, while the newsletter has the deets on the upcoming interview with alternate history writer Robbie MacNiven, plus a recipe for a cocktail that you can serve in a beaker AND set on fire.

While we’re on the subject of podcasts, Saturday saw the exciting release of the site’s author-centric podcast, Literature Emergency Broadcast. Featuring news, reading for self-published authors, and an interview with Clarity author Anna Herlihy; it was heaps of fun to make, and Anna was fantastic (and exceedingly patient). You can tune in here to hear her talk shop, all things Clarity, and about her  surprising fondness for Ebola.

If you like the show, I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t love the show, I’d still love to hear from you. Your support is what makes our success.

And last but not least, the reading list.

Currently Reading:

Kings of Infinite Space by Frank Franklin (who’s name I keep mistyping. Sorry, Frank!)

Tuned to a Dead Channel from Dagda Publishing

My Babylon by James Wilber

On Venusian Cloud Colony #9 by D. James Fortescue


Up Next:

Heavenfall by Robbie MacNiven

Animal Farm by George Orwell


Just Finished:

Clarity chapters 1-10 by Anna Herlihy

Doubtful by Gabriel Lucatero

Sole Sacrifice by K. C. May

Eternal Dark by Alexandra Lanc


Looking back, this list needs more Trip Ellington. Just sayin’.

That’s it from me for updates. Drop by again later in the week for all your escapism needs, and remember to sign up to that newsletter so Mr Morrison can send you all his good vibes via his sexy, sexy voice.

Bring You Self-Publishing News: Literature Emergency Broadcast

Episode one of Literature Emergency Broadcast is ready to roll! You can find it here:

This weekend I’m racing to finish my NaNoWriMo project, Love Charybdis. There’s another 15K to hammer out today and tomorrow. How are your NaNos going? Getting through it, sick of it, quit already? Or the holy grail, finished?

For all you lovely readers out there, this post will be updated later today with the reading list. Have a listen to the podcast and let me know what you think! Especially if it’s about the noise. I’m working on fixing that, but any help would be vastly appreciated.


Clarity author Anna Herlihy (chapter 10 is live!)

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Song Pocket Zombie is by Flex Vector, used under creative commons distribution. It’s such a cool song.

leb copy


Feature: La Vieille

This super short story was a trial run for my NaNoWriMo project; Love, Charybdis. It was here I first got a feel for how the pieces of the story were fitting together, and started to explore the emotional dynamics of the characters. While a few of the details are are simplified or plain omitted – such as John being Marie-Noelle’s adopted brother, rather than just a childhood friend – it’s largely true to the novel. It’s named for the notorious lighthouse in Brittany’s Raz de Sein, La Vieille, or “the old lady”.

The rest is revealed in the story, but I will say this for it: researching vitriolage has been as saddening as researching rape.


La Vieille

University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1886

She hadn’t seen John in many years, and she had hoped that she was over that.

But when she saw him standing there, by Renard de Saville and the lectern as Saville packed up his notes, all the doubts that she had harboured about the wisdom of her coming to the chemistry conference were sucked into a violent whirlwind in the heart of her, along with all those desperate snatches of emotion so futilely buried inside her, and together they  thrashed against her lungs and her spine as she made her trembling way towards the lectern.

Saville noticed her over John’s shoulder; he pointedly cleared his throat, and their conversation died.

“Brandy, Madam,” said Saville.

“Mademoiselle,” Marie-Noelle corrected him, and John finished his slow turn towards her, and the remembrance of her voice pierced his brain before the memory of her visage, and a light seemed to switch on inside him, and he shouted without realising,

“Marie-Noelle! My darling!”

His arms were around her in a moment. She stiffened in his embrace. She remembered the arms of a boy around her; these were the arms of a man, broad-shouldered and athletic under his tailored black suit. He smelled of cigar smoke and the cherry-wood aftershave he had preferred since he was a teenager. He had worn it since before he had a beard to shave.

A thousand half-forgotten moments socked Marie-Noelle in the chest. Tears stung her eyes and she laced her arms around John, but by then he was already pulling away, wanting to get a better look at her, his face shining, and she thought he might cry.

Certainly his voice shook as he said, “Oh Marie-Noelle. I heard you would be here. Are you the only woman in attendance?”

“There are two others,” she replied. She couldn’t believe this strapping young man was John! With his short wavy black hair and that expensive suit, why, there wasn’t a more eligible man amongst the two hundred chemists gathered for the conference.

Saville, standing uncomfortably behind them for this reunion, shook his head in dismay. “It should have stayed the business of men.”

He grumblingly apologised his way past John and Marie-Noelle, notes bundled messily under his arm as he strove to leave the lecture hall as soon as possible.

“Oh dear,” said Marie-Noelle, watching him go, “perhaps he thought he’d catch something from me?”

“A brain, perhaps,” John grinned. “I was going to offer him a place with our London laboratory. But I see now his powers of deduction have been made lame by presupposition.”

Marie-Noelle slapped his arm lightly. Her heart was pure glee. Her eyes kept sliding back to John, and his to her. “He’s a brilliant chemist. You shouldn’t delay hiring him for my sake.”

Still smiling, John said, “I should hire you.”

Her glee faltered. Marie-Noelle stared at the floor a moment. It felt too cruel. She met John’s eye. “Don’t jest. You know that’s impossible.”

He flinched as if struck. That light within him went dark as he hastened to make his repairs. “The Pascal Laboratories in Paris are planning to trial women chemists next year. I’m sure we won’t be far behind. I’ve seen your work, Marie. You’re brilliant. If you had the support of a proper lab, you’d be the most renowned chemist in the world!”

Marie-Noelle’s smile was curt. “I’m already the most infamous. Nobody wants us here, John. I deal with threats every week, and that’s working for myself. I received Pascal’s offer, and I believe I’ll turn it down.”


But her joy at seeing her childhood amour was faded entirely, replaced by the bitterness that no matter how equal their minds, their bodies would always keep them separate. She drifted away from him, back into the tides of the chemists in the hall between lecture theatres, where she neither had to see him, nor entertain the painful drumming of her heart.


The conference ended and Marie-Noelle returned to her home in the south of England. She spent the two days’ journey examining the notes from the lectures and scribbling the questions and hypotheses that her sex had forbidden her from putting to the lecturers.

Much to her surprise, there was a letter waiting for her at home.

It was from John. She hadn’t seen him again at the conference; apparently he had left after seeing her, on the excuse Saville represented his entire reason for attendance. In his letter he apologised profusely and wondered if he might visit her. She returned the letter the next day saying she could entertain a guest whenever it was at his leisure to visit.

While the letter seemed acceptable when she wrote it, and posted it, she returned from the town shaking very finely, and wondering what she had done. She had work to do, and the conference meant she was already a fortnight behind. Entertaining John – even entertaining the thought of John – meant that she did approximately no work whatsoever. Days in the laboratory she had built in the lounge room of her lovely house were spent not refining a more powerful microscope, but lost in daydreams of the old days. John had helped her to build her first laboratory, when they were children, and they had used it together. What a collection of old cups and spoons it had been, as good for tea parties as science.

Marie-Noelle had thought it was that love of science, reasoning, that had formed so tight a bond between John and she. Now she rather thought she had been wrong. Perhaps it was her love of John which had cemented her interest in chemistry.

But no, she thought. Why should she be the weak one? She had been working on that lab and reading books on chemistry before she’d ever met John. Perhaps it was his affection for her that had decided his career.

These were useless thoughts and they didn’t add value to her microscope. Marie-Noelle spent some days lost in them. It was on about the fifth or sixth day that the doorbell rang, and rang again, and again, and Marie-Noelle finally heard it and sprung from the laboratory and bustled down the hallway smoothing her skirts and piling her hair atop her head.

She held open the door. Hadn’t she had a maid? Perhaps she had forgotten to rehire her after the conference; that seemed likely. She saw the man on her doorstep, looked onto the street behind him for a carriage. There was none. He wasn’t John’s butler, then. He was an odd fellow, wearing a dirty suit which had probably served his father and grandfather too, and he wore a weather-proof long coat and shady hat despite the genial day.

He grunted at her, one hand in his pocket. “Marie-Noelle Strand?”

“Yes,” she said, hesitantly, her foot retracing its last step into the hall. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right at all. Her fingers flexed around the door handle. The man in the coat wrenched something from his pocket, something small and glass and full of clear liquid. Marie-Noelle smelled the tartness of acid in the air and turned her head away as it struck her on the face and neck and blouse. The acid bit into her, peeled the skin from flesh, the flesh from bone. Marie-Noelle was on her knees, screaming, holding the door to stay upright, to keep her head from the ground, but then the pain was too much and she slipped sideways into the hallway, curling in agony, scratching uselessly at the acid eating her face and neck, and it turned her hands too to fire.

A boot lodged itself in her stomach, once, twice. A grunt, and the man in the coat shoved Marie-Noelle onto her back and kicked her harshly in the ribs and spat on her burning face.

“Whore! You disobey the Lord’s command! Throw away your learning; writhe in the fires of agony and let your sins be cleansed!”

But he couldn’t stand to watch her face burn, and he staggered backwards from the doorstep, tripping against the wall, and then he recovered himself and ran through the garden onto the street, and away.

Marie-Noelle thought she might be screaming, or was that acid in her ears? She tried to climb to her feet, knowing that if she could get help, then she might survive, with or without her face. Vertigo stole her sense of direction and she threw up, and fell head-first onto the doorstep.

And that, mercifully, was enough to knock her unconscious.



Le Conquet, Brittany, 1889

John sat at the piano, his fingers dancing over the keys, but he hit only a few, and the song was very mild.

Marie-Noelle stood beside the grand, her saucer balanced on the lid, nursing her teacup while she watching him.

John looked up but he only saw the veil over Marie-Noelle’s face. His throat worked and he looked away.

“You can take that off, you know. You can’t drink your tea with it on.”

He hadn’t seen her face in three years. He had never come to her little house in the south of England. Nor had he visited her in hospital in London. She hadn’t let him. She was regretting letting him be here now, in her new home on the French coast, so distant from her home and everyone who had known her.

“I’ll manage.”

John’s hands slapped the keys. The piano jarred its frustration. John leant his elbows on the keys, cupped his mouth. Glanced at Marie-Noelle. His eyes were wet. She watched him impassively from behind her veil.


“Don’t,” she said. And the knife twisted inside her. How many months, how many years had she spent recovering from the acid attack? Half of her face, her neck and her shoulder were destroyed. She was lucky to have escaped with her life. And the looks people gave her, and their lack of understanding, and how hideous she found herself. The twisted red flesh and the distortion of the muscle, her caved cheek where the acid ate her bone. When she met her own eyes in the mirror it was as if they belonged to some wild animal chained inside her, some creature in this ugly cage of flesh.

She had never taken the job with Pascal. It had only taken them the rumours of her new face for them to revoke the offer.

“Don’t,” she said again. Pleading him.

John stood up from the piano. He took Marie-Noelle by the arm. He stared into the veil. He couldn’t see a thing beyond it; Marie-Noelle had made sure of that. When chance saw her walk into town, she did not need to be treated as a monster as well as a freak.

“Please,” he said. “Just listen.”

Marie-Noelle inhaled, exhaled, let herself be calm. She had spent three years building her defences. Now John had been here half a day and she was threatening to fall to pieces. Oh, just to have him. Just to hold him. Just to feel wanted. Just to be needed by someone again. Those idle, unwanted sentiments threatened to break her.

When she spoke, her voice was a whisper. “Speak.”

John laughed, he shivered. “I don’t know what to say. It’s been such a long time since I saw you. I wanted to speak to you at the conference, but. So much has happened since then. So much water out to sea.”

“That’s how it is, John. People change. Even you’ve changed.”

He laid his hands on Marie-Noelle’s shoulders. He brushed away the veil. She flinched, expected him to. But instead he leant and kissed her on her twisted, ruined mouth.

When at last he drew away from her, his eyes dreamy and full of love, he only said, “You haven’t.”





Just to be needed. Just to be wanted.

A moment of comfort against the dark of the night.




Did you like it, hate it? If you have a moment to spare, let me know what you thought in the comments. 🙂

Indie Author Podcast: Interviews, Reviews and More

I’m stoked to announce that in two weeks two podcasts will be kicking off from this site. That’s right, two! Both of them catering to independent authors and those with small publishers, and focussing on speculative fiction; science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, weird fiction and horror.

The first podcast will be Indie and More Book Review. It will air every fortnight starting from the 9th of November. Every fortnight five books, a mix of serials, short stories, novellas and novels, will be reviewed for all the world to download and hear. The reviews will be fairly in-depth, including quotes and author notes as well as an overview of plot and discussion of the themes and points of interest of each story. Each one will be given a rating out of 5, and links to the books will be provided in the details of the podcast.

The plan is to get indie books out of the blogging world and into other media. The podcast is free, people can listen at will, and feel like they are engaging on a different level with the authors. And hey! Anybody can share the podcast, including authors whose work is reviewed. Great to show off to friends, or to post onto their own blogs for some sweet street cred.

The second podcast is Literature Emergency Broadcast, a more author-orientated program. The podcast will be a mix of publishing news, interviews with authors (some of which may also be used with Indie and More, permission granted), daily writing life, Q&A about the business of writing and self-publishing, inspiration and advice. It will be a one-stop podcast for chatting shop and keeping up to date with the literature world. It’s first broadcast will be on November 16, and new episodes will go live every two weeks.

Both podcasts will last around the 20 minute mark, and will be available both on iTunes and on this blog, with transcripts (and so written reviews and interviews) posted here the week after.

If you have a book to recommend, be it your own or one you found interesting, or would like to talk shop or do an interview, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. My email address is:


These are dangerous, exciting times. We are the underground of the publishing world, and we are gonna drill right through the heavens! Have a roaring weekend everybody, and write hard!

Women who ignored the limits: five famous female chemists

Well on the way to have research finished for my NaNoWriMo project… snort. Not!

This morning I spent a while researching first weather conditions in Le Conquet, in Brest, France, then went on to finding more about chemistry in the 1880s and 90s, and the role of women in science. France, which encouraged women such as Marie Curie, seems like about the best place to be a female chemist in the late 1880s.

Ah ha! And finally thought of a name for my protagonist. She will be Marie-Noelle Strand (nee Marlow).

Exciting times, plenty of research still to be done. Such as, was there a formal police force in Brest in the 1880s? Or was it loosely organised sheriffs? Le Conquet is also a small town – would it be more self-regulating, or were the authorities in the area organised and strict? I have no idea, and no real idea of where to start looking. Buuuuut the internet is always a good place to begin.

Have a nice day, or, as they apparently say in Breton,

Devezh vat dit!

Oh, but before you go, how classy is this young lady?