22 June 2012

Guest Post: Nerine Dorman - Setting the Scene for Inkarna

You may have seen Nerine Dorman's work in our collaborations, Just My Blood Type or Blood and Fire, but Nerine is definitely a moving novelist in her own right. Her recent release is the greatly anticipated Inkarna, featuring Ash from Blood and Fire. Inkarna is Ash in his own world, which you will find is a magical one, full of danger and mystery. Here, Nerine reveals how she set the various scenes in Inkarna.- C.C.

Half the fun I extract from my writing occurs when I consider which locations I’ll be using when I get stuck into my world building. Of course it helps that I’ve lived in Cape Town my entire life, so I know about some places people have never been. Part of my day job entails writing travel stories, so I can really cut loose when it comes to my descriptions in my fiction.

When writing a supposed “exotic” location such as Cape Town, South Africa, it’s all the more important to set the scene since the majority of my readers are based in the United States and the UK. Many of them have come back to me later to say that they’d wanted to visit Cape Town even more after having read my stories, most of which are set in the Mother City (as we call her).

There’s a lot of history here and I’ve heard Cape Town compared favourably to New Orleans and San Francisco, with a bit of Tuscany and Bordeaux thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the few cities in the world that is wrapped around a mountain range, can boast wine estates within its boundaries, as well as a National Park. While elephants don’t roam our streets, we do have wildlife such as caracal, otters, grysbok and porcupines that come close to the built-up areas. A few folks have even been fortunate enough to see the elusive sambar deer that are fugitives from a zoo.

Two very tense scenes in Inkarna occur at a real location known as Boomslang cave. Named after a tree snake, this cave goes right through the folded sandstone cliffs above Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay. And while I didn’t go all the way in, I did climb there as part of my research for Inkarna. I wrote the first scene before I’d actually gone there and surprised myself when I later verified that the cave does indeed branch off exactly as my protagonist discovers.

Sunrise Lodge is another location that features. And it does exist in real life almost exactly as described. It’s based on San Remo, a “backpackers” (I use the term very loosely) that used to operate in area known as Gardens. A friend of mine used to live (and eventually died) there and my flesh would crawl every time we visited. And the less said about the size of the cockroaches, the better. Sunrise Lodge, incidentally, also featured in my urban fantasy/paranormal novella, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead. The real San Remo guest house also features in a short horror film my husband made, entitled Anna.

The Purple Turtle stands on the corner of Long and Shortmarket streets. The Event Horizon is based on this location.

Those of you who’re familiar with my Khepera novels will get to revisit The Event Horizon, which is based on Cape Town’s Purple Turtle on the corner of Long and Shortmarket streets. I have a particular love for this location in my fiction because in real life the place is quite dreary—definitely a student/biker type hangout. I must have spent a small fortune on beer and have some pretty diverse memories of listening to bands there, and getting quite ill in the loos. My mom always referred to my preferred watering hole as “that den of iniquity” and at this point I’m tempted to agree with her because my tastes have definitely veered from the “rough and ready” to “quaint and bohemian”.

My real-life experiences commuting on Cape Town’s southern train line also crop up in Inkarna. If you want to get an idea of the amazing cross-section of people in the Mother City, take a ride on the southern line during rush hour. I do this trip twice a day, to and from Fish Hoek station and I’ve had so many strange and sometimes downright bizarre experiences on this journey. Everything from blind serenading beggars to minstrels and preachers with Britney Spears fixations. You can’t make this stuff up.

And, in case you want to know, I really did once see a vagrant woman pee, exactly as described in the novel.

Cape Town isn’t all wine and roses, with the pretty pictures you see in the tourist brochures. My novels are all about dropping my readers into a world they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see, warts and all.

Follow me on Twitter @nerinedorman or see my website at http://www.nerinedorman.weebly.com

"64 Degrees" #Fridayflash

 A few weeks ago, I posted 27. Here is Ren once again... thanks for reading. - CC

Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

Far away, there was a siren fast approaching. The sound swelled in volume until it was all I could hear, like it was coming from inside me. I dropped the cigarette to the floor to cover my ears. Hands took hold of my wrists and held me down.
I opened my eyes.

I was in a moving vehicle and my body was a bag of sand. The stretcher poked the sides of my arms, but I couldn’t move. The sway of the ambulance increased the roll in my gut and vomit spewed up, unbidden. A woman of indeterminate age held a bag to the side of my face and turned my head. Her gloved hands waved close enough to my face to poke me in the eyes. I wouldn’t react. The siren stopped and so did we. So did I.

I stood close to the curb under the eaves of the Mother of Mercy hospital and watched as EMTs unloaded a covered body on a stretcher. The scene wasn’t frightening or panic-inducing. Not after being that jacked-up. Speaking of which, I’d need to get more. Now that I wasn’t clean anymore. Strangely enough, the thought of not getting more didn’t launch me into a cascade of worry. I slid my hands into my pockets, the swish of the automatic doors stuck on repeat in my brain.

Lights progressed overhead, swoosh-swoosh-swoosh like dotted lines on a road, blinding and sweet.

We got him?

Negative. Try again.

Lightning zig-zagged in my chest cavity. The pierce of a needle straight through the sternum. I hated needles, with their shiny points and oozing fluids, like sharp dicks. Like…

Thunder rolled on the horizon. Trees shimmied overhead. I was standing in a grove. What the fuck was happening? A dream, nothing more.

Renalt had a dream, damnit.

Nate called me Renalt. Nobody called me that but family and family didn’t come around.

“It’s Ren, asshole. Ren!”

A hand appeared on my shoulder, hot. Blazing. My skin wanted to shy away from that touch.

“I’d say Renalt was a fine name, just fine as the day is long.” His voice had a slow, Southern drawl, white Republican. Cheap sports jacket, lemonade-sipping, Tetley tea Southern.

I turned to look at him. I expected a policeman or maybe a security guard, but he was young, not young like me but couldn’t have been more than thirty-five. Sandy-blonde hair with a pronounced widow’s peak above an arched Jack-Nicholson eyebrow. A girl would call him handsome, but there was something about his eyes. The nothing there. Shine of sun on nothingness, to return a bead of white among the black, so deep it swallowed his irises. He smiled, exposing a row of pearly whites too perfect to be anything but caps. I knew caps, I had them myself.

“Rock musicians have to have good teeth, son.” His smile never wavered and seemed genuine.

A cloud blotted out the sun, exposing my flesh to the prickle of cold air. “I never said anything.”

“Why are you standing here? I’d be over there.” He raised his hand, finger extended to redirect my attention to what I recognized was a memorial service. “It’s the last time you’ll be the center of attention. Might as well enjoy it.”

Sunshine beamed down on my head again as the cloud conveniently wisped away, burned through grey wool. It was a beautiful day. And this man had just told me something that was important. My mind ticked away at the sentence. Last time. Center of attention. I liked attention. Once. Very long ago, only but a few years but at my age, twenty seven, a few years was forever. Forever. A trickle of realization oozed down my spine like an oiled snake.

The gentleman smiled again. Sun beat down on our shoulders, he in all black, hands clasped in front of his equally-black buttons as if he ought to be clutching a bible and giving the Last Rites. My Last Rites. I was dead. Dead, and about to be laid to rest in the ground. My mouth dropped open and I turned to the small crowd in slow-motion, mouthing the negative word like a supervillain about to watch his empire crumple in oversaturated and pronounced superdust.

The grass did not crisp under my feet, my shadow did not run ahead of me as it had ever since the day I first poked one pudgy baby toe against the solid earth, no I was air; an angry wind that fluttered the Xeroxed fliers clasped in my family’s and friends’ hands. A sudden breeze that whipped black skirts against black stockings and blew my aunt into my sister.

The man from over there stood over here. He wore a smile that made a tiny dimple in the right side of chin appear and fade depending on the light. “Nice try, son. But you don’t have a leg to stand on now, do you?” His hearty laugh stopped me in my non-existent tracks. I glared at him over the gloss of my black coffin, of course it’d be black, everything else was black out here in the cheery, laughing sunshine, it made so much sense.

“You’re a piece of work, Renalt.”

I jabbed a finger in his direction. “Don’t fucking call me that!”

The man shrugged and held his hands palms turned out, as if in resignation. “Suits you fine, I’d say. Have it your way, son. Ren.”

“Who are you?” I was clenching my teeth so tight, it felt like they would crack from the pressure. “Who the fuck are you?”

The man laughed again. “I’ve got a few names that folks call me, some new, some old, but you can call me Stein. And Renalt?” He arched a brow. “Try living with Cristein all your life.”

“We’re dead.”

“Some would say that, yes.”

Throughout the ordeal, my coffin had been lowered into the grave. The rectangle looked to be a hole into eternity, except if I stepped to the edge. My coffin with its spray of ivory lilies and I don’t know what else gleamed up as the first clod of dirt struck the lid.

“You might not want to watch this part.” Stein stood at my side, peering down in the hole with me. He was just an inch or two taller than me. He squinted his black eyes—not beady, but they still reminded me of a crow’s—at the sun. “Coffee or liquor? It won’t make you sicker.”

“What?” I glanced down at my outstretched arms. White. Whole. I felt real to me. I turned away from the sounds the clods of earth made as the people I’d known buried me.

Beyond the flat, green lawn, a long black car hulked on the shoulder of the narrow cemetery road. I looked from it to Stein. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”

“Depends on your point of view, Ren. Not everything you experience ever really happens now, does it?” His smile gave me a chill.

“Why can’t they see me?”

Stein shook his head and stepped back from the scene at my grave. I followed him half way to the car, which seemed to be his.

“Because you’re not really here.”

I blinked. “What? What’s that supposed to mean? Of course I’m here.”

Stein gave a little snort. “Well, you are, and you aren’t. You-you is over there, about to become wormdirt. What’s left of you is up for grabs. You see son, you did a naughty thing, and as for all naughty things, there’s gonna be consequences.” He grinned.

12 June 2012

Quick News Regarding Crooked Fang

I'd like to let you all know that the Crooked Fang blog has been retired. The address crookedfang.com now points to the new website custom-built by Fireflyers Multimedia and includes links to reviews on previous books with Xan Marcelles in them, interviews with my vampire and a new blog which will feature posts from both me and Xan. Come on by to take a look around!
Look at the new shiny!

In other news, it's been confirmed that the print version of Crooked Fang will be released on August 1 of this year. Very excited!