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THE PAVEMENT BOOKWORM Paving The Way for SA’s Underprivileged Youth

THE TRUTH IS than

STRANGER FICTION

Linwood Barklay A Criminal Mind

AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 1


ditor

A message from the

August Already?! August has arrived, and with it, another issue of Authors

Weekly column: “Where has Linwood Barclay been all my life?

Magazine! It’s a special month in the Delport household because

His is the best thriller I’ve read in five years.”

my significant other celebrates his birthday this month. He’s difficult to shop for because he *gasp* doesn’t read. Not that this stops me from trying, though. Every year I pop a book into his gift bag in the hope that this will be the year he discovers a passion for reading! My to-be-read pile is growing by the day and no matter how quickly I finish a book, there are three more to take its place. I recently discovered the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and along with Six of Crows, which I read earlier this year, this series has cemented Bardugo as one of my new favourite authors. I also

Sally Cook’s column this month had me in stitches as she investigates what motherhood does to marriage, and as always, Rachel Morgan’s ongoing blog series provides informative insight into the world of successful self-publishing. Our Budding Writers and Authors Flash columns are delightful as always. A reminder that we are open for submissions in both categories, so feel free to send us your stories. What book is on your birthday wish list? Tweet us @authorsmag and let us know!

have Ben Elton’s Time and Time Again next to my bed and I can’t wait to get stuck in! This month we profiled crime fiction author Linwood Barclay, just back from NYC where he hosted a master class at Thrillerfest. I couldn’t think of a better man for the job! Linwood’s novels have been translated into 40 different languages and published in 30 countries, making him one of Canada’s most successful living writers. Stephen King also famously stated in an Entertainment

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As always, happy reading! Much Love

Melissa Delport


Contents COVER FEATURE

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LINWOOD BARKLAY A Criminal Mind

ARTICLES

PUBLISHER Lesiba Morallane

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THE WRITING VOICE THE TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION PHILANI DLADLA Paving the way for SA’s underpriviledged youth SELF PUBLISHING IN SOUTH AFRICA How to sell print books locally

EDITOR Melissa Delport COPY EDITOR Ian Tennent ADVERTISING COMMUNICATION Dineo Mahloele LAYOUT AND DESIGN Apple Pie Graphics

REGULARS A Message from the Editor.........................................................02 Sallys Sanity What motherhood does to marriage.........................................14 Budding Authors.............................................................................26 International Focus James Fouché.....................................................................................28 Authors Flash....................................................................................30 Justin Fox Eve’s Camdeboo.................................................................................32 Recommended Reads...................................................................34

Tel: 079 885 4494 CONTRIBUTORS Melissa Delport Tallulah Habib Monique Snyman Ian Tennent Rachel Morgan Sally Cook Justin Fox

AUTHORS MAGAZINE: PO Box 92644, Mooikloof, Pretoria East Email: team@authorsmag.com To advertise online please email team@authorsmag.com or contact Ms Dineo Mahloele on 084 299 6812 DISCLAIMER The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are intended for informational purposes only. Authors Magazine takes no responsibility for the contents for the contents of the advertising material contained herein. All efforts have been taken to verify the information contained herein, and views expressed are ont necessarily those of Authors Magazine. E&OE

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Linwood Barklay A Criminal Mind by Tallulah Habib

Linwood Barclay began writing stories at the age of eight, but when a family tragedy had him running his parents’ caravan park and cottage resort at 17, his dream of becoming an author looked unlikely to come true. It may have taken 30 years, but when it did, it really did. His 2007 thriller, No Time for Goodbye, about a girl who wakes up one day to find her family has vanished with no bodies and no suspects, spent seven consecutive weeks as the UK’s top novel. His work has since been translated into 40 languages and published in 30 countries, making him one of Canada’s most successful living writers. Not to mention that Stephen King might just be his greatest fan. (“Where has Linwood Barclay been all my life? His is the best thriller I’ve read in five years,” King once said in an Entertainment Weekly column). Like King, Barclay’s stories are driven by ordinary everyday people: a used car

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salesman, a landscaper, a construction worker, whose lives are turned upside down by tragedy or crime.

Tallulah Habib of Authors Magazine was honoured to interview Linwood for our August Cover.

Your 2012 novel, Trust Your Eyes, caused a bidding war between Universal Studios and Warner Bros, which Warner eventually won. How was that experience? And are you at all involved in the adaptation for the big screen? Unfortunately, the option Warner Bros

had on Trust Your Eyes has lapsed, and while no one else is currently developing that book into a movie, we have occasional nibbles. The good news is, The Accident has been made into a six-part TV series in France that will air this October, and it’s looking very likely that Never Saw it Coming, a shorter novel I did a few years ago, will be made into a movie in Canada next year. I wrote the screenplay for that – first time I’ve done that – and it was a lot of fun.

You’ve made a name for yourself writing detective fiction. What about this particular genre


y

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appeals to you? I like a good story. Crime fiction is more plot-driven than most fiction. It has a strong narrative drive. And you can do anything you want with it. Have an axe to grind? Do you feel strongly about something? You can infuse the conventions of a crime novel to talk about anything you want – from family dysfunction to corrupt politics to environmental degradation.

What other genre would you like to try your hand at one day? I think this is what I’m good at. I don’t want to write a literary novel. Every once in a while, I have an idea that is more fantasy or science fiction, and maybe one day I’ll get to one of those, but for the moment it’s a thriller a year. And, as I

think you know, there’s a book for young readers coming that is slightly sci-fi.

Yes, your first children’s book, Chase, is due out next year. It’s a middle-grade novel about a dog who carries out missions for a secret organisation. What inspired you to try your hand at children’s literature? I’d had an idea about a dog with special powers for several years, and it was my wife, a former kindergarten teacher, who kept urging me to write it. She thinks it’s a book all kids will love, but she feels particularly strongly about getting boys – often reluctant readers – into books. She believes they will love Chase.

How was the experience of writing a children’s book different from that of writing an adult detective novel? It’s shorter, and way less profanity! But the process was very much the same. Keep it moving, have lots of twists.

You have two children, how did having children influence your career? Did you find that it changed the kinds of stories that you tell? Our kids are all grown up now, but I think having kids had some impact on what I’ve written. First of all, my thrillers are often family-based. Once you have kids, you realize how much you worry about them, and it’s that anxiety I often tap into when writing my books. When

Linwood giving a convocation address at Trent University as they awarded him an Honourary Doctorate of Letters earlier this year.

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Linwood with his wife, Neetha, in a small town along France’s Brittany coast where they filmed a TV series based on his novel, The Accident.

there are teenagers in my books, I just hear my kids talking when they were that age.

Are your kids interested in writing at all? Should we be on the lookout for their breakout detective novels in the future? I don’t think so. They’re both amazingly talented, but those talents go in other directions.

In one interview, you joked that writing a novel is similar to journalism except that novels take a bit longer to write than

a column. How long on average does it take you to write a novel? I can usually write a first draft in two and a half to three months. How much longer I spend on it depends on how good that first draft is. But I would say that rewriting, editing, etc. add at least another five or six weeks to the process. I’ve had at least one book that took longer to to fix than it took to write the first draft. And while I try to write the first draft without interruptions, the other parts of the process get spaced out over the year.

What is your writing routine? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Both. I need to know the overall story before I start, but I don’t work out every detail. I don’t see the opportunities that exist in the novel until I am into it.

You recently returned from Thrillerfest in New York where you gave a masterclass on hooking the attention of both reader and agent. What is the one piece of advice you’d give to writers starting out looking for an agent? Don’t tell an agent you’ve written the next Twilight or Da Vinci Code or Gone Girl. Whatever’s currently in fashion will be over by the time your book comes

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out, assuming someone picks it up. Write a very short letter. This is who I am, and this is my pitch. Then attach chapter one. You will live or die based on that first page.

If I’m not mistaken, all of your novels have been traditionally published. What are your views on self and independent publishing? If it works for some people, great. But I like having an established organization behind me with expertise in design, marketing, distribution. I’d like, as much as possible, to focus on the actual writing,

Linwood chatting to one of his literary heroes, Stephen King, in Toronto.

What do you enjoy doing to fill the time you’re not writing? Do you have any secret skills that we don’t know about? (Can you knit?) I love movies and binge-watching TV series. I love cars, which I think stems from the fact my father, a commercial artist, illustrated automobiles for magazine advertisements in the 50s. And I am a model train nut. I have a model railway in my basement that completely fills a room about fifteen by fifteen feet.

The Twenty Three, the final novel in your latest trilogy, is due out later this year, followed by Chase next year. What’s next?

Linwood sitting in a mockup of a Canadian VIA train passenger car (it’s actually in a train enthusiast’s basement).

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I am going to do one more Promise Falls novel, alternating points of view between my characters Barry Duckworth and Cal Weaver. It won’t be part of the trilogy, but some of the plot will be dealing with the fallout of what happened in those three novels.


Read an excerpt...

21 Forsythe Avenue for the last twentytwo years where she had lived with her husband Clifford, was giving every indication of giving up the fight. Ali called up to Tammy Fairweather, who was behind the wheel of the ambulance, and booting it to Promise Falls General. The good news was, it was early Saturday morning and there was hardly anyone on the road. The bad news was, it probably wasn’t going to matter. Audrey’s blood pressure was plummeting like an elevator with snapped cables. Barely 60 over 40. When Ali and Tammy had arrived at the McMichael home, Audrey had been vomiting. For the better part of an hour, according to her husband, she had been complaining of nausea, dizziness, a headache. Her breathing had been growing increasingly rapid and shallow. There had been moments when she’d said she could not see. Her condition continued to deteriorate after they loaded her into the ambulance. “How we doing back there?” Tammy called. “Don’t worry about me, just get us to church on time,” Ali told her, keeping his voice even. “I know people,” Tammy said over the wail of the siren, trying to lighten the mood. “You need a ticket fixed, I’m the girl to know.” The radio crackled. Their dispatcher. “Let me know the second you clear PFG,” the male voice on the radio said. “Not even there yet,” Tammy radioed back. “Will advise.” “Need you at another location ASAP.”

Ali Brunson said, “Hang in there, Audrey. You’re going to be fine. You just have to keep it together a little bit longer.” Of course, Ali had said that many times in his career as a paramedic, and there were many of those times when he hadn’t believed it for a second. This looked as though it was turning into one of those times. Audrey McMichael, fifty-three, 173 pounds, black, an insurance adjuster, resident of

“What’s the deal?” Tammy asked. “All the other units book off sick? They go fishing for the weekend?” “Negative. All engaged.” “What?” “It’s like an instant flu outbreak all over

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town,” the dispatcher said. “Let me know the second you’re available.” The connection ended. “What’d he say?” Ali asked. Tammy swung the wheel hard. She could see the blue H atop Promise Falls General in the distance. No more than a mile away. “Something going around,” Tammy said. “Not the kind of Saturday morning I was expecting.” Whenever Tammy and Ali got the weekend morning shifts, they usually started them with coffee at Dunkins, chilling out until their first call. There’d been no coffee today. Audrey McMichael, it turned out, was their second call of the day. The first had been to the Breckonwood Drive home of Terrence Rodd, an 88-year-old retired statistician who’d called 911 after experiencing dizziness and chest pains. Tammy had pointed out that he lived right next door to where that Gaynor woman had been murdered a few weeks ago. Terrence never made it alive to Emerg. Hypotension, Ali thought. Low blood pressure. And here they were again, with another patient experiencing, among other things, dangerously low blood pressure. Ali raised his head far enough to see out the front window, just as Tammy slammed on the brakes and screamed, “Jesus!” There was a man standing in the path of the ambulance, halfway into their lane. Standing was not quite accurate. More like stooping, with one hand on his chest, the other raised, palm up, asking the ambulance to stop. Then the man doubled over, and vomited onto the street. “Goddamn it!” Tammy said. She grabbed her radio. “I need help!” “Drive around him!” Ali said. “We

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don’t have time to help some geezer cross the road.” “I can’t just – he’s on his knees, Ali. Jesus fucking Christ!” Tammy threw the shift lever into park, said, “Be right back!” and jumped out of the ambulance. The dispatcher happening?”

said,

“What’s

Ali couldn’t leave Audrey McMichael to tell him. “Sir!” Tammy said, striding briskly toward the man, who looked to be in his late fifties, early sixties. “What’s wrong, sir?” “Help me,” he whispered. “What’s your name, sir?” The man mumbled something. “What’s that?” “Fisher,” he said. “Walden Fisher. I don’t feel … something’s … not right. My stomach … just threw up.” Tammy put a hand on his shoulder. “Talk to me, Mr. Fisher. What other symptoms have you been experiencing?” The man’s breaths were rapid and shallow, just as they were Audrey McMichael and Orrin Gruber. This is one serious clusterfuck, that’s what this is, Tammy thought. “Dizzy. Sick to my stomach. Something’s not right.” He looked fearfully into the the paramedic’s face. “My heart. I think there’s something wrong with my heart.” “Come with me, sir,” she said, leading him to the back of the ambulance. She’d put him in there with Audrey. The more the merrier, she thought, shaking her head, wondering, What next? Which was when she heard the explosion.

Fun Facts about Linwood Batman or Superman? Batman Hats or boots? Seriously? Favourite food? Pasta Fantasy vacation? Honestly, I have to do so much travel for the books, when I have a block of time, I just want to go our place on the water and sit and read a book. I am boring. Your life anthem (song)? I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my song, but Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom is one of the most beautiful pieces ever. Favourite TV show? Of all time, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (I obsessed over it as a kid). Currently, Happy Valley is genius. Facebook or Twitter? I’ll give a slight edge to Twitter. Greatest personal achievement: Our kids. Greatest professional achievement: No Time for Goodbye. That book changed everything for me.


AUTHORS MAGAZINE We’re all about interesting conversations with authors from all around the world (especially those from within our very own backyard). We’re after the story behind the story. We’re about the power and joy of books, the creative people who write them and the many millions of us who read them. We’re about the exponential stretching of the mind as we learn new knowledge. We’re about those moments that chill, relax and glue us to a great story.

It’s where writers and readers hangout. Communicate with us at

team@authorsmag.com AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 11


The first thing you learn in Publishing 101 is that if a writer writes for fame or fortune, it’s likely that they’ll fail to achieve either. Step into Marketing 101 on your first day of university, and you’ll be taught that a unique brand should be established to fill a “need” or a “gap” in the market. Both of these teachings relate to an author’s writing voice, because: 1.) Authors who seek fame and fortune tend to “copy” the style of an admired or successful author in an attempt to reach the same levels of success; and 2.) Authors who don’t write in their own voice cannot establish a unique brand. The “writing voice” is thus often an overlooked part of the writing process, yet it is integral to the aesthetics of the piece, as well as the most identifying aspect of the author. Take, for example,

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Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Jack Ketchum. All of these authors write (among other things) horror fiction, but their voices are distinctively theirs. When a reader picks up a book by Stephen King, they know it’s a Stephen King novel due to his style and voice. Clive Barker has a unique way of intertwining dark fantasy into his darker pieces. Whereas Jack Ketchum has a tendency to write about the horrific things human beings are capable of. But what is a writing voice, and how does it differ from a writing style? A writing style mainly consists of the way that a story is written (a combination of punctuation, diction, syntax, dialogue, character and plot development, etcetera), whereas the writing voice revolves more around the way you— as an individual with unique individual

experiences—view the world. The “voice” and the “style” do, however, influence one another. ATTACK OF THE CLONES Editors are avid readers. Most of them read broadly, not only for their jobs but also for fun, which makes them uniquely qualified to spot a clone. Whenever a submission’s period is opened, editors are bombarded with manuscripts, but only a small percentage are ever accepted and published. The main reason for rejecting a book or story is not because the manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors. It is, after all, the editor’s job to make a good story (spelling mistakes and plot holes included) as perfect as they can manage. The reason for most rejections is because some of those


by Monique Snyman

manuscripts read like a watered-down clone of another book by another (usually famous) author. And publishers find it difficult to publish and market those manuscripts because without a distinctive writing voice a long term marketing plan fails. Without a longterm marketing plan, the publisher loses money. So what does a publisher or editor have to gain from these clones? Nothing. Please note that fan-fictions do not necessarily qualify as being clones. Many fan-fiction authors have nearly as distinctive writing voices as the original authors themselves. Take Cassandra Clare, for example, who started out as a fan-fic writer that based her works on the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Her writing voice popped,

gaining her a large following (large enough to make publishers take notice), and now she is one of the most read young adult authors in the world.

to become an editor, before I decided to make a go of it again. And now, instead of shrugging off the things that makes me who I am, I embrace them.

A SUSTAINABLE WAY OF WRITING

By being myself my writing voice is far more distinctive and marketable (the verdict’s still out on whether I’m now more sellable, though).

If you can’t be yourself, then you’ll eventually fizzle out of existence in the industry. Many new authors want to show themselves as something that they are not by writing in a way that isn’t them. It is exhausting, plain and simple. And I should know, because as a nineteen year old with a writing dream, I made that particular mistake myself. I wanted to write like an American author (because somehow I got the impression that this was far more acceptable to be than a lowly South African), and write young adult novels (because I realised at that point there was more money in it). What happened, you ask? Well, the unfinished series I had gotten published purely by the grace of God, failed epically. I didn’t have an editor, I had to make my own cover art, the books are riddled with geographical mistakes, and frankly I don’t like the fact that I just wanted to get them published for publishing sake. Furthermore, I never truly related to the characters. This is why what should have been a six part urban fantasy series turned into a two book mistake that I can never erase from my name. It is thus crucial for an author to practice his/her writing voice before even attempting to write a novel. Write free hand, keep a journal, be yourself. I made terrible mistakes when I was younger and it nearly cost me my career (in a personal capacity, not professionally), and I don’t want other authors to go through the same dilemma. Getting back on the writing horse afterwards wasn’t easy, either. It took years of trying to figure out who I truly am, and

FIND YOUR VOICE There are three ways to start your journey into finding your writing voice: 1.) What do you want to write about? Start off by using a few adjectives to describe the project you’re undertaking, and if those adjectives sound like you in everyday life then you’re already on the right track. If they don’t, simplify your word usage. 2.) Use the appropriate tone of voice. In order to practice tone, you’ll have to understand emotions to some extent. After all, you’re not going to write an obituary in a hyped up tone of voice (unless the person who’s come to their ultimate demise got on your nerves, I suppose). Practice tone by channelling your emotions and writing short paragraphs in free form. 3.) Who is your target audience? You’re going to write differently depending on your audience. If you’re aiming to write for kids, you’re not going to use words they can’t pronounce or understand. However, if you’re writing for an older audience, you’re going to want to use adult language to describe. Practice by reading the target audience’s books and writing something down in your own words. The short of the long is that writing isn’t easy, and being yourself isn’t easy. But in order to stay relevant, it is necessary to find your writing voice to gather (and maintain) a readership following and become more marketable for publishers.

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What MOTHERHOOD

MARRIAG In the beginning there was you. And then you became two. Life was packed with parties: late nights preceded shamefully late mornings. You spent all of your time together, in a cocoon of togetherness. You chatted about your career ambitions, your dreams of visiting Vegas.

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D does to

GE by Sally Cook

Then the two decided to become three. There were still the late nights - nursing your baby though, not brewing a babelas. Shamefully early mornings replaced late ones. You still drank a lot, but coffee had replaced pineapple schnapps. You

still danced around. Not on the dance floor, but in your bedroom where the DJ was your screaming infant and your moves were motivated to relieve his trapped wind. You spent less time together and your conversations naturally began to centre around your child. Vegas was postponed. But you were content in your little trio, in a cocoon of togetherness. More time passed. Three becomes four. And then perhaps five. You spend virtually no time alone together. Your children dominate most of your conversation, your thoughts, your life. Such is the reality of parenthood. And Vegas? Well Vegas is a beacon in the retirement plan. A cocoon is too small for all your togetherness. A tarp is a better fit. And you’re happy under your chaos-filled tarp. Bewildered and exhausted most of the time, but happy. There’s no question that children change you. It’s biology. The biggest change though is what happens to the ‘us’ that becomes ‘we’ after parenthood. - Fading screen time. The last movie my husband and I saw in an actual cinema was Mamma Mia in 2008, just before our eldest was born. Clearly it was my choice. I was 9 months pregnant at the time. Everything was my choice then. Thou shalt not argue with a woman swollen with child and hormone-crazed beyond reason. - The curse of the kiddies menu. The last time we dined at a real restaurant was my birthday. In 2013. Our most recent family meal

By Sally Cook

out was at a McDonalds where no one batted an eyelid when my son smeared chips all over the wall, licked tomato sauce from someone else’s tray and lapped a puddle of juice off the table like a dog. - The weekend hi-jack. Leisurely weekend lie-ins are replaced by early morning mad-dashes to sporting commitments and children’s birthday parties. Afternoons are spent explaining how to divide decimals, baking cupcakes or refereeing football friendlies in the garden. - The slide of sanctuary status. Plastic toys and children’s bath paraphernalia have permanently replaced candles and posh smellies in the bathroom. There is simply no point in expensive bath products that our children pour down the drain or drink. Or both. - Bye-Bye boutique, hello holiday park. Spontaneous getaways for two become family expeditions with a crammed roof-box and a car filled to rear-view-obscuringCONTINUED ON PAGE 19 AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 15


THE TRUTH IS

STRANGER You’d think authors would’ve learnt their lesson after the James Frey controversy back in 2006, when large chunks of his so-called drug ‘memoir’ A Million Little Pieces were exposed for being grossly exaggerated or completely fabricated, and he was accused of literary forgery. But a decade later, in July 2016, one Louise Linton caused an uproar on social media and spawned the hashtag #LintonLies when the public caught wind of glaring factual inaccuracies and clear fabrications in her so-called ‘memoir’ In Congo’s Shadow, about her gap year in Africa. A few days later, the book was removed from sale and the author issued an ‘unequivocal apology’. “Why these writers don’t just market their bloody books as ‘autobiographical novels’ instead of ‘memoirs’ is beyond me,” marvels South African indie author Paula Gruben, who recently released her debut, Umbilicus: An autobiographical novel, a gritty coming-of-age story set in Durban 1995, when the 21-year-old protagonist goes in search of her birth mother. “Although my story is marketed as fiction, it is probably, ironically, more truthful and factually sound than both James Frey and Louise Linton’s so-called ‘memoirs’ put together. All the real-life people on whom the characters in my book are based are still alive and well and contactable, and could easily testify to the veracity of the oftentimes surreal events which took place.” But, because Paula changed the names of most of the characters, took creative liberty in the reconstruction of dialogue, employed a minor compression of time for literary effect, and made small clerical changes to letters and journal excerpts, she believes it is only ethical that she present her book as an autobiographical novel instead of a memoir. “There are so many terms for this hybrid of real-world stories which blur the lines between fact and fiction, reality and imagination. I think roman à clef is a bit twee,

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like calling a coming-of-age story a bildungsroman. Noone out there these days is going to know what you’re on about. Then there’s ‘non-fiction novel’, ‘narrative nonfiction’, ‘creative non-fiction’, ‘faction’ (fact + fiction), or ‘novoir’ (novel + memoir). Personally I love the word ‘novoir’, but thought it might come across as a bit pretentious, and I didn’t want to alienate my YA target audience, so I settled on ‘autobiographical novel’ instead.” Besides the somewhat unusual second person point of view Paula employs as the narrative mode for her protagonist Charlotte, Umbilicus is distinct in that it incorporates all three voices in the adoption triangle – birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee – in a single story, as well as professional insights from a social worker involved in the case. Many of these unique perspectives are faithfully presented in epistolary format, which connects the reader with each of the characters on a deeper level of intimacy. Paula is confident it is one of the most balanced books you will find anywhere on the subject of closed (private) adoption and its not uncommon effects on all members of the triad. Umbilicus is available as both an ebook and print-ondemand paperback. Since its release two months ago, it has been incredibly well-received by the media, bloggers,


than

FICTION

publishing professionals, fellow writers, and the public. It is Paula’s ultimate goal to see her book on the recommended reading list of high schools around the country. Until the realisation of that dream, she will be working the motivational speaking circuit, at high schools, women’s and youth events, and adoption conferences, seminars, and workshops. She will also continue researching and writing the second instalment in her ‘novoir trilogy’, which is a direct follow on from Umbilicus, although both can be read as stand-alone stories. The working title is Incomer, and it is based on actual events which took place during the author’s two crazy years living in London and working in an adult store in the heart of Soho, the city’s red light district.

For more info on Paula and her writing process, including a behind-the-scenes on the creation of the striking cover for Umbilicus, photographs of the reallife people on whom the characters in her book are based, more excerpts, testimonials, and even the soundtrack to the story, please visit the author’s website www.paulagruben.com

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Umbilicus Excerpts BETH, the birth mother, late 1974: About two months after you were born, I was living at the YWCA, which was then at 101 Victoria Embankment on the Esplanade, overlooking the yacht mole. I found a receptionist job at a doctor’s rooms in Durdoc Centre on Smith Street, which was within walking distance to the hostel. I had been incredibly down and depressed since giving you away, and started stockpiling pills, with the view to ending my life. I just felt like such a failure. A twenty-one-year-old divorcée who couldn’t even look after her own child! One morning, overcome with grief and despair, I waited for my roommate to go to work, took an overdose, climbed into bed, and waited to die. The cleaning staff found me. They couldn’t open the door because I had locked it from the inside and left the key in the lock. And when they got no response from whomever was in the room, it raised alarm bells. Somehow they got in and I was rushed to hospital where they pumped my stomach. Instead of trying to find me the help I so desperately needed, the YWCA kicked me out. Apparently I was a liability to the ‘Christian’ reputation of their establishment. Koos and Amy took me in after I was evicted and were of wonderful support to me then. They helped me through the darkest days of my life. With their love they restored a spirit of courage in me. Slowly I regained my self-esteem. On 11th December Child Welfare interviewed me. I was extremely depressed. I was basically told I had done the right thing to give you up, to give you a chance at a better life, and I needed to put this chapter behind me and move on with my own life. Amy and Koos had been encouraging me to start a profession in nursing. We hoped this new purpose in life would help me to overcome my self-pity and grief. On New Year’s Eve, while everyone was out celebrating, I moved into Addington’s nurses’ quarters, to start my training on New Year’s Day 1975. With my sorrow and loss buried deep within, I took it one day at a time. Your adoption was officially registered on 5th March 1975, my twenty-second birthday. MARY, the adoptive mother, late 1974: You developed the most awful colic. From 7am till 5pm you never slept, just cried and cried and cried. I felt like such a failure as a new mother. I was sure this wouldn’t have happened if you had remained with your birth mother, that somehow you sensed I was a fraudulent substitute. During the first two months after we got you, Dad and I lived in absolute dread of your birth mother changing her mind and deciding she wanted her baby back. It was during this time that Child Welfare brought to our attention the rather alarming fact that your birth mother had applied for a job at the Blood Bank. Cameron and I were good friends, and all the ladies who worked there knew me, and that I had recently adopted a baby girl. Child Welfare were deeply concerned that, should your birth mother start working there, she would quickly put two and two together. Needless to say, she never got the job at Blood Bank, and instead we were told she started student nursing shortly thereafter. Although it was a possibility she and Dad could cross paths professionally at some stage, we decided that the likelihood of her finding out he was your father was slim to none, and if need be, we’d cross that bridge when we got to it. When you were three months old, Prof Winston arranged for you to have a Barium swallow X-ray, and they discovered your digestive system was immature, hence the colic — not because I was an incompetent mother! Two weeks later, we bought our house in Durban North from friends, and their maid, Tootie, asked if she could stay with us. My goodness, how life changed — you outgrew your colic, I had help in the house, and a washing machine! We could see the sea from where we lived, and I loved your 6am feed — just the two of us, the sun coming up over the horizon, the beginning of a brand new day. I used to tell you stories, or read my books to you. You would lie with your hands clasped on your little chest, watching me, drinking your bottle with absolute dedication. I would tell you how we got you, how your birth mother loved you so much but couldn’t look after you, so you had come to live with us and be our daughter. I would tell you how much we loved you, our plans for your future, my hopes and dreams for you. I would often call you ‘my darling adopted daughter’ so it was a word we were both comfortable with, and hopefully ‘being adopted’ would never come as a shock to you, that it would be something you were used to. On New Year’s Eve 1974, when you were four months old, I had a long relaxing bath with a glass of champagne — such a special treat, then Dad and I had a celebratory dinner that I had cooked. Afterwards we went and stood on our little verandah and watched the fireworks out at sea, and toasted each other. We were so full of hopes and plans and happiness — in our new home with our new daughter. 18 | AUTHORS MAGAZINE


CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15

capacity with all the essentials necessary for surviving sans home comforts. - Rustic replaces refined. Home, once bijou and bespoke, is now sturdy and squat to accommodate the ravages of offspring and their ability to seek and destroy anything of value. - Less artisan, more instant-froma-can. The contents of our fridge that fleetingly flirted with gourmet now greets with pots of Peppa Pig yoghurt, cheese strings and carrot balls. - Life in the middle-class lane. Once a spotless nifty little hatchback, now an unwieldly tank with irretrievable bits of food stuck between the seats, Lego pieces strewn about and a sippy cup whose lid went MIA sometime in March. - Little human heat between the sheets. Sleeping alone together in our bed is often interrupted

by the arrival of a third person wedged between us, with a little foot or backside in the face or a surprisingly deft kick to the groin. - Say what? Witty repartee is replaced by discussions of poo, pee and puke. -The death of disposable income. The budget, once light and breezy, is now a complex multi-tabulated formula-riddled excel spreadsheet that details the expenses reflecting our children’s education, health and social well-being. And then when we’re driving in the slow lane in our dusty 10-yearold tank after a frantic morning of dressing, feeding, sorting and packing, our cavernous boot stuffed with scooters, prams and bags, our backseat lined with our three children, I catch my husband’s eye. And he winks. A mischievous little glint in his eye that I remember well. And that simple gesture takes me back

18 years. To our youth. To a very different time. To when it was just us. I glance back at my toddler son who’s fallen asleep, his fat cheek pressed up against the carseat, his limbs soft and smooth. I look at my eldest son who sits quietly holding his brother’s little hand in his own. I see my daughter peering out of the window, her big blue eyes taking in every detail, her mind poised for a question that she’s bound to ask. And I know that I wouldn’t change our ‘we’ for anything. A trip to the cinema, a dinner for two, a long soak in the bath without a rubber duck up the bum and an indulgent lazy morning lie-in; these luxuries may be long overdue for us, but we’ll get there. And to Vegas. You can bet on it. *Originally posted on So Many Miles from Normal

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Philani Dladla Paving The Way for SA’s Underprivileged Youth Here in South Africa 26 year old Philani Dladla is turning heads even faster than he’s turning pages. Dubbed The Pavement Bookworm, his inspirational story of how he used books to build a stairway out of his own personal pit of despair and go on to help others in need, publishing his own book in the process, is the stuff of Hollywood movie scripts. As a child growing up in rural KZN his thirst for knowledge caught the eye of his mother’s employer. So much so that he gave Philani a book for his 12th birthday, the first birthday present Philani had ever received. Through dogged determination Philani taught himself to read and his love of books was born. Upon his death, his mother’s employer went on to bequeath his entire book collection to Philani, many of which Philani still has and treasures to this day. However, it was at this point that Philani’s life took a turn for the worse. A series of wasted opportunities and poor choices found Philani turning to drink. Full of regret for the life he was living he left KZN behind and made his way to Johannesburg where he followed in his mother’s footsteps and worked as a qualified caregiver for a while. Alas the lure of drugs and alcohol proved too much for Philani and he found himself caught in a downward spiral. He left his job and soon lost everything. It was at this point that he again tried to turn his life around. While living rough as a drug addict on the streets of Jozi, instead of simply holding out

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his hand to the passers-by in the hope of scrounging a few meagre coins, Philani opted to give donors something in return: he became a street bookseller with a difference. Armed with a few of the books he’d inherited from his mother’s employer, he decided to offer a book review and rating with every book sold – where a book’s rating, as per his own unique rating scale, would determine the price of the book. On principle he decided he would not sell a book he had not read. His ratings were based on an eight rung scale, ranging from R10 up to R80, with books costing R10 being considered “Below average but I’ll accept a donation” while books earning the praise “As good as it gets” commanded a price tag of R80. At first the donations he secured this way were used to further his drug habit but he soon realised the money could be put to better use in alleviating the hunger and suffering of those around him. However, the addicts he was helping, in time, grew deeply resentful of his success and he was forced away from his Empire Street hangout. And so he began using the proceeds from his pavement

by Ian Tennent


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book sales to provide free books to underprivileged children, requiring only that the children came back and told him what they had learnt from reading each book. From these interactions The Book Readers Club was born, a support network for the underprivileged children who frequent Jobert Park, with the goal of assisting these children to one day reach tertiary education. In order to belong to the club, Philani insists that every member have a dream of their own, and that they openly discuss their dreams and share ideas on how to turn them into reality. His generous entrepreneurial spirit caught the public eye, including the eye of documentary filmmaker Tebogo Malope. This proved to be a turning point in Philani’s life. Malope made a short video of Philani and posted it online. Within days it had gone viral and Philani’s life changed. Many people responded to the video, stepping forward to provide him with assistance in his altruistic endeavours and he now has his own website as well as his own Facebook Page where the public are invited to connect with him and assist in his ‘literacy project.’

to the success of his Book Readers Club, people are only too willing to donate books to his cause. But much more is needed to provision the underprivileged kids in his book club with everything they need to further their education, such as uniforms, textbooks and stationery.

In addition to the above, Philani has gone on to pursue a lifelong ambition of his own. That being to publish his own book: The Pavement Bookworm, a true story was published on 28 October 2015 and tells the story of how he managed to pull himself back from the brink and go on to help others. By all accounts the book is selling well both locally and internationally. Nowadays, Philani has achieved international acclaim and, through his motivational speaking, shares the power of reading and how it helped him overcome adversity. Thanks

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It surely can be no coincidence that Philani and ‘Philanthropy’ share many of the same letters. We at Authors Magazine would like to commend Philani on his selfless spirit and sparkling initiative and we wish him all the best for the future. Those interested in assisting Philani with his endeavours can contact him via the following channels: Website: Facebook: Email:

www.pavementbookworm.co.za Friends of the pavement bookworm pavementbookworm@gmail.com


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SELF PUBLISHING in South Africa

How to Sell Print Books Locally The digital revolution has made it easy for self-publishers to get ebooks into the hands of readers. Where we’re still struggling, though, is with print copies. Large publishing houses have the money to print thousands of copies up front, and they have deals with distributors that make it easy to get copies into bookstores. So what are your options as a self-publisher? If you can afford to print 50 to 100 ish copies of your book (I use MegaDigital, but there are other printing options in South Africa if you just Google them), here are some ways you can reach your readers.

Independent Bookstores Independent bookstores don’t have to work exclusively with distributors, and the managers of these stores are often open to negotiating with independent authors. All you need to do is contact them and ask. They may pay you up front for several copies, or they make take your books on consignment, meaning they’ll pay you after the books (or some of the books) have been sold. Examples of independent bookstores in South Africa are The Book Lounge in Cape Town, Books & Books in Durban, and Skoobs Theatre of Books in Johannesburg.

Libraries You could approach your local library and ask if they are interested in purchasing a copy of your book. What would be better though, is if you gave a free copy to the library. Or perhaps, if you have a series of books, you could give the first book to the library and contact them sometime later to find out if they might be interested in purchasing the remaining books in the series. The point with this option is not to make a huge amount of money, but to reach a potentially large number of

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readers. Readers who could go on to become fans of yours and buy future books directly from you.

Schools If you haven’t written a child- or teen-appropriate book, ignore this one! Otherwise, read on … There are several options here. You could send out an information pack to schools all over the country telling the librarians about your book(s) and asking if they would be interested in purchasing any from you. Or, if you have several books, you could send one for free along with information detailing the rest of your books. If you have a larger marketing budget, you could send a pack of several of your books to various schools. I’ve done this in the past and I’ve ended up with new fans who engage regularly with me on social media, parents contacting me to buy future books in the series for their children who are now fans, as well as school librarians who are ready to purchase each new release in a series for all the young readers at their schools who are anxious to know what happens next.


Another option is to contact schools and offer to do talks. You could tie this in with career days (a local author is probably a unique and interesting option not often seen!), or World Book Day, or book clubs if the school happens to have one, or it could be a talk specifically related to the content of your book. Let the librarian or contact person know that you’ll bring copies of your books along with you so that if any students are interested in getting a signed copy (and their parents are the awesome type who are happy to buy books for their kids) they can bring money with them.

Sell on Your Website In the digital age with so many people becoming more accustomed to buying online, it might be a great idea to make your books available to purchase through your website. The very simplest option would be to have a form that customers fill in detailing the books they would like to order and their contact details so you can reply to them with by email EFT details (this is the system I currently have set up on my website). If you want to take this a step further and set up an actual online store so customers can use their credit cards, thereby making the process more streamlined, there are great e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, PayU, BigCommerce, Woocommerce (WordPress plugin) and others (Wix and Weebly, if you use those for your website, have e-commerce options). Remember that this is a more time-consuming method of getting books to readers because it requires you (or your assistant or bribed family member) to package parcels and take them to the post office, or organise for a courier to pick them up.

Other Local Online Retailers Try contacting Takealot, Readers Warehouse, Loot and other local online stores to see if any are interested in stocking and

listing your books. Takealot told me they weren’t looking for sellers of books back when I contacted them last year, but you may have better luck! I haven’t approached anyone else yet, since I’ve been happy so far selling through my own website.

Get a Distributor Just like the big publishers, you have the option to work with certain distribution companies such as Blue Weaver, On The Dot, and Porcupine Press. This has the advantage of getting your books into major bookstores like Exclusive Books and CNA, and if you only have one book, it might be worth checking this out. However, if you have a catalogue of several books (I now have eight novels), and you factor in the fees you’re required to pay for warehousing and listing each book in the distributor’s catalogue, the cut the distributor will take, as well as the 40 – 50% markup* the bookstores will add to the price of your book, this could very well work out being more expensive than it’s worth for both you and your customers at the other end of the line (who will probably be paying at least double for your book from a bookstore than if they bought it directly from you). *I’m not certain of the exact percentages, as it’s been at least two years since I looked into distribution options. You’d need to contact these distributors and find out exactly how it all works.

MegaBooks And finally, if you don’t want to print and store copies of your books, you can always go the local print-on-demand route. MegaBooks (mentioned previously in Which Platforms to Publish Your Books On) allows you to set up your title on their website and provide them with the interior and cover files so that if a customer orders a copy through the MegaBooks website, that single copy will be printed and delivered. No hassle for you (but obviously a lower royalty).

www.rachel-morgan.com AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 25


budding AUTHORS

Here at Authors Magazine we celebrate Authors young and old! Our Budding Writers section is a showcase of young talent across the globe. We accept poems and stories from children aged 5-12. To submit, please contact us through our website.

My Lucky Birthday It will be my tenth birthday on the second of January, in just two nights. Christmas was terrible because my chicken died and we had to bury him. It was so sad to see him go under the gravel. I cried for the whole day and the next. For my birthday there is one thing I’ve wanted since we moved to the farm and it’s a horse. For the five years I’ve wanted a horse my dad has said no every single time. I am still hoping that my birthday present will be a horse because I’ve put it on my wish list since I was five and my dad had always crossed it out. I am quite excited to get my present because I am hoping that this time I might get it. Right now at this moment I am having my supper and jumping up and down for tomorrow it will be just one night before my birthday. It is now a sunny Monday morning and I have to go to school. I hate school because everyone bullies me just because I live on a farm. I have only one friend in the whole school and her name is Jessica. Jessica also lives on a farm so we chat about it and are friends because we don’t care where people live. It is now 5:00 and it is past recess, and we are now going to our final lesson maths. I love maths because my teacher is so nice, she says to me to keep as a secret that Jessica and I are the cleverest two girls in the whole class. After Maths I am waiting outside for my mom to pick me up. I had no idea what surprise was coming next. When I got home the best thing ever- in a newly made stable, My mom and dad were in front of it saying HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and I had to rub them three times to see if I was dreaming because there in front of me was the most beautiful white stallion with a black mane and tail. Could it be real? He was so beautiful I named him Brave Beauty. I was the happiest girl in the world Isabella Alves, Age 9

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Sam the caterpillar There once was a caterpillar named Sam. He wanted to be a butterfly. He should have been a butterfly already so Sam went to go visit his good friend duck and he said to duck duck why am I not a butterfly yet? I don’t know so Sam kept on walking. He was sad he really wanted to be a butterfly so sam went to snake. Snake why am I not a butterfly yet? Maybe you havent eaten berries yet have you eaten lots of berries. Well, I have had some berries. Well you need more berries snake said. So Sam ate some berries but it still didn’t work he really wanted to be a butterfly now. He saw Rosie the spider. Sam asked Rosie when will I be a butterfly Rosie said come on my web and I will tell you but sam said no your just trying to eat me so Sam just kept walking. He was so sad. Until he came to bussy the fly. So Sam said how do I become a butterfly Sam said you probably need to eat some strewberrys. But he still wasn’t a butterfly. He was so sad so he came to snail. Sam asked snail how do I become a butterfly? Snail said to caterpillar Sam you must just think happy thouths. So he was thinking of a lot of happy thouths. Then suddenly he got shocked! He was turning into a cocoon he was finally a whole cocoon and adventually he was a beatfuil butterfly he was so happy and he lived happily ever after. Peyton McCarthy, Age 9

Sad Sad is the colour blue Sad smells like rotten flowers Sadness tastes like vinger Sadness feels like muddy pudles If somethings wrong don’t be sad Just be glad! Mackenzie Delport, Age 9

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INTERNATIONAL FOCUS

JAMESFOUCHÉ

by Melissa Delport

James Fouché fills life with a vast number of hobbies and interests, from sailing to travelling to hiking, learning different languages and trying his hand at musical instruments. When he is not plotting his next crime novel, James writes about wine, food and travel on his personal blog. He also owns a small speciality coffee bar in the heart of Knysna. James debut novel, the critically acclaimed psychological thriller, Jack Hanger, was followed by King of Sorrow. He is currently hard at work on three new novels, simultaneously! James loves to explore the complexity of his characters. He believes characters should read as though the author was only there to document their journey. They should behave like normal people and their stories should be unbiased progress reports for the readers. This approach to characterization was put to task in his latest novel, King of Sorrow, where the antagonist is only known as The Antagonist. His idea was to detail the reasoning of the criminal mind while flirting with the character’s ambiguous nature. Fellow authors the world over cautioned Fouché on the possible snares of writing a character as The Antagonist, but he believed it was possible to toy with the reader while showing them all the cards. James also believes that research is key in creating authenticity in one’s work. To this end, he has taken research trips to both Namibia and Simon’s Town, observing and investigating to ensure that his storytelling is genuine and reflects the setting in a real and tangible way. James isn’t sure where his passion for the perfect tale will take him next, but he’s looking forward to the journey. James currently lives in the beautiful Garden Route region of South Africa with his family and their two Jack Russell terriers. For more information, please visit www.jamesfouche. com or www.jamesfouche.wordpress.com

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[

Excerpt from...

[

KING OF SORROW

Indecision was a terrible thing. It could tear someone apart for the longest time. He was not only indecisive. No, it was far more than struggling with indecision. He was wrapped up in a severe reluctance because the current situation carried great weight. This whole scenario went far beyond the point of just saying yes or no to any particular action. There were consequences he hadn’t thought of before. Every action had an obligatory reaction. It was the way of the world. No matter what he decided to do now, misery was sure to follow. Lives would be wrecked and he would be the instigator, the Antagonist. It was unavoidable, hence his indecision. The Antagonist clasped his hands over his eyes and sighed. He took a long breath and released it again. He could hear the knocking of his heart in his ears, faint and constant.

How had it gotten this far? He just wanted money. Was there ever anything else? Was there another form of motivation? Other than the basic demands of greed? He had the perfect woman. He had the perfect career and a decent income. But, with all of this, he simply wanted more. He wanted to retire early, sit on a beach somewhere and live the life of luxury without having to work for it. He wanted comfort and stability in uncertain times. He wanted to be unattached and independently wealthy. He wanted and needed more until his want could no longer be stilled. By then R 350 million had been embezzled from Harlem Properties, embezzled in ways that would not reflect on the accounts while deeds to assets were in transit or while any of the properties were actively undergoing development. How easily his desire had morphed into a curse was astounding even to him. As circumstances changed, he instinctively resorted to protecting that which he had taken. He felt like a thief protecting his secret stash, even though it saddened him that he had taken it in the first place. There was such an inner conflict and this added to the confusion. There were only a small number of ways to cover up the act, one of which was eliminating all those involved and the other was eliminating all those who might discover what had been done. Unfortunately there was only one way to tell the truth, but he was not prepared to go to jail. R 350 million worth of jail time would surely not be a breeze. Also, his family would bear the ridicule of his stupidity and the sins of the father would bestow great sorrow on the children. So, the saying that evil begets evil had certainly been proven adequate by his actions. With hindsight it now seemed like such a futile practice to indulge in thievery. At first it had seemed so simple and it had worked perfectly without anyone being aware of the great deceit. When he first endeavoured to obtain R10 million to buy a property, it had felt like lot of money and it had quickly dawned on him that no one would know about it. Then greed set in and he confided in the wrong people to help him shift large amounts around or to generate the documentation required to legitimize development on the property. Soon he was a slave to the hunger and those he had confided in were fuelling the hunger. Finally it started to unravel. Now, as the ripple effect had worsened the situation,

everything was spiralling out of control and he was looking every which way for a life jacket. The Antagonist sat in his car. It felt like an office to him. He was struggling with the plastic wrapping. Why did they have to make the packaging so damned complicated? It only cost 99 cents, so why make it such a schlep? It was a conspiracy. The cell phone companies were hiding something secret in there. He bit open the edge of the hard plastic until the two pieces parted slightly. He tugged at the two loose parts to broaden the gap until his fingers could reach inside. While keeping one side in his mouth and the other side in one hand, he jammed his hand inside to reach the tiny SIM card. When he pulled his hand free the plastic cut open the back of his hand. He stared at his hand in awe. Small drops of blood slowly seeped out from the lesion. All this trouble to make a call. He removed the SIM card from his phone and put in the new one. He loaded the airtime by following the voice prompts and made the call. He was dreading this. “We have a problem,” he said into the phone, his voice a little frantic. “Harlem wants to sell the company and he already has a buyer.” He listened to the voice on the other end of the line. “Well if he sells it, they’ll notice. It’s too soon. I needed a couple of months, at least.” Another pause. “How the hell should I know? I told Sendiwe to make an offer on a couple of buildings, including the Opus, to cover up the loss, but Harlem rejected it.” Being a petty man, the Antagonist poked at the plastic wrapping a few times. He licked the blood seeping from his wound, almost gagging at the metallic taste. Vile repugnance had a taste, and this was it. Blood in the mouth was enough to take the life out of him. It was disgusting, dirty and delicious.

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Moving On

Lucy

By Christine Bernard

By Charmaine Theron

The room was different although in most respects it looked the same. The bed was still in the far left corner of the room – scraped tightly against the wall. The bedside table stood to the right with a lamp, a small frame and four books perched one on top of the other. The walls were bare except for the peeling paint and a plain white cupboard stood against it. This was my home. A place to rest my head. I had been gone for a long time and I had been looking forward to coming back. But the moment I opened the door I knew that something was wrong. I simply couldn’t place it. I looked around. Had something been taken? Who would steal in a place like this anyway? The damp smell was the same as it had always been and I opened the window to get in some fresh air. Only the air that came through smelt worse than the air inside and I quickly closed it. I opened the cupboard doors and peered inside: three shirts, two pairs of jeans, a jacket, underwear and two pairs of shoes. Just as I had left it. I looked around in confusion. Why did everything feel so out of place? And that’s when I figured it out. It wasn’t the room that was different. It was me. My brief encounter with the outside world had left me wanting more. I closed the door and never looked back.

Our giggles flutter through the air.

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Up and down we go. I’m pushing Lucy on the gurney, as it’s her turn to go for a ride. I love playing with her – she’s all I have. And, I’m all that Lucy has. People mistake us for twins, but sadly, we’re not. A nurse walks past, giving us a steely look. I slow down and wheel Lucy to the side. Our fun is over for now. I can’t remember how long we’ve both been here, but when we’re better, that’s when we’ll get out. And then Lucy and I can play in the big world outside. These haunting memories flood my soul. I’m outside the old hospital, and my body recoils. My lost, confused childhood is buried deep behind these walls. Scars and broken dreams. I enter the doorway and look down an endless corridor. The place is dilapidated, abandoned. But I know Lucy will be here, somewhere. I have to find her… I left her behind twenty years ago, unintentionally, and I know she would have waited for me to return. I drag open a rusty door, unsure of where she’ll be. I take the stairs, they protest under my feet. Four flights up, and I’m on the roof. The cool air kisses my clammy skin. I clench my hands as I sway to the edge, unable to go further. A dead end. Lucy’s face flickers before me, laughing. She calls me. I hesitate and then step towards her, my arms outstretched. My best friend, I have finally found her.


Every month we feature 250 word flash fiction pieces as submitted by our readers. If you would like to submit a flash fiction, please email us with “Flash Fiction Submission” in the subject line.

The Red Sweater

The Walk of Shame

By Melissa Delport

By Gary Phillips

Red is the colour of blood. It is also the colour of Uncle Jim’s favourite sweater, which mommy says brings out his eyes, but eyes are never red. Eyes are blue, green, brown, sometimes even the caramel colour of mommy’s hair, but never red. So mommy is lying. She must be.

The wall felt like velvet, against my back, almost feline. It soothed me as I teetered on the edge of no return. Soon I would be in that place where tomorrow doesn’t matter.

Everybody lies, even I know that. They lie about things all the time. Like when daddy told the pretty waitress at the burger bar that my food was good, when in real life it wasn’t. It tasted like apple juice left out in the sun. Or like when mommy told grandma that I was under the weather so we couldn’t come over, when actually we were inside and the weather wasn’t. Uncle Jim and his lying red sweater, which is not an eye colour at all, calls lies ‘secrets’ but I don’t think that secrets and lies are the same at all. Telling mommy I played Monopoly with Uncle Jim, when really we didn’t, isn’t a secret... it’s a lie. I’m almost sure of it. I don’t like Uncle Jim’s games. I like Monopoly, but I don’t think Uncle Jim knows how to play. I think that’s the real secret that he doesn’t want anyone to know. But I lie and pretend he can, when he tells me to… because if I don’t something bad might happen. I lie about something else, too. I don’t really like Uncle Jim’s red sweater. I hate it. But that’s my own secret.

A hand on my shoulder brings me back from the dark spider web of my psyche. With Spartan effort I lift my head and laugh, “Sorry I missed you, but I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain”. “Whatever dude! Here, have a bump of this, it will put you right.” A small heap of off-white powder balanced on the tip of a car key moves in slow motion towards my face… “Here I go again! The walk of shame!” That dull sense of disbelief that I did it again. “What happened last night? Those black spots scare me!” In a few hours I will shake it off, the hangover, the guilt, the depression. The shame hangs around a bit longer. Self-disappointment and selfloathing is a constant companion, a drunken tattoo that I will take to my grave. Right now I feel so lonely, and yet everyone’s watching. “They know! They all know. It’s written on my face, in my eyes. It’s in my body language. I might as well be wearing a bright scarlet cape. I better pull the hood low. Everyone knows. “ “Walk tall. The foetal position will give me away. I can get through this if can I just get to the shadows.” “I hate this feeling. I hate myself.” AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 31


I had come in search of a book. Not a thing of paper and ink, but the spirit of a very particular text. Essentially, Eve Palmer’s The Plains of Camdeboo is the celebration of a Karoo landscape. It’s about Cranemere farm, where five generations of Palmers have made their home. From dinosaurs and early hominids to trekkers and sheep farmers, Palmer traces the braided stories that have played out in this dry place. It’s an evocative piece of writing that captures the essence of the Camdeboo. I arrived at Cranemere one summer’s day, intent on meeting the Palmers and getting under the skin of the book. Eve died in 1998, but her nephew, Alex, and his wife, Marianne, have maintained the farm much as it would have been during the writing of Plains in the 1960s. The homestead appeared exactly as I’d pictured it from Eve’s lucid prose – a squat, white farmhouse in the shadow of a koppie. I sat with Alex and Marianne in the living room beneath portraits of George and Fanny,

the founders of the Palmer dynasty on Cranemere. ‘George was a transport rider on the Kimberley mines and made a small fortune for himself,’ said Alex. ‘Cecil John Rhodes gave him a gift of five diamonds when he proposed to my great-grandmother.’ ‘These are the gems,’ said Marianne, showing me her wedding ring. ‘Rhodes used to visit the farm and conversations would go deep into the night around this table. Rhodes didn’t like women much, but he liked Fanny. Maybe it was her cooking.’ We took a drive round the farm, passing sheep aplenty, but also occasional kudus and springboks. We stopped and got out. Alex sketched the story of Cranemere: hail storms and Boer commandos, the demise of Cape lions, drought and the cycles of life. And through his words I heard Eve, evincing a similar passion for Cranemere. Embedded in her prose is a relationship with the veld, the very soil, that manifests itself everywhere in

South African literature, particularly in the plaasroman, stretching from Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm down to recent incarnations such as Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat. Standing on a patch of Camdeboo earth, with two ‘characters’ from Eve’s text at my side, it felt as though we were indeed inside the book. Her description of walking on Cranemere came to mind: ‘Here moves a steenbok, a duiker, a springbuck, a lark clapping its wings above us; here are the tracks of an antbear in the soil; red dust and a mottled egg upon it; arrowheads; the smell of rain, Karoo bush, wild asparagus; mountains and hills floating in a mirage of water; a white hot sky; the sound of cicadas and wings and wind.’ The Palmers bought the farm in 1880, during a time of abundant rain. George and Fanny could not have foreseen the harshness of the droughts to come, the hardships they would exact. From the beginning, life centred around the

‘As a child I used to look across the wonderful intelligence, 32 | AUTHORS MAGAZINE


farm dam. Fanny made a lovely garden with formal rose beds and orange trees. Each Palmer wife down the generations has tended and added to this green and tranquil place. Fanny used to boast that she bought no food other than tea, coffee, sugar and rice. The rest came from her garden. Cooking has always been a thing of pride on Cranemere and Eve writes passionately about recipes passed down through the family, such as potroasted venison and kori bustard, or Van der Hum made from brandy, syrup and naartjie peel, and countless recipe’s for ‘the best mutton in the world’. Next morning we were out on the lands again, this time looking for traces of earlier inhabitants. We stopped in the lee of Honey Mountain, near the spot where the Palmers unearthed an array of ancient weapons and implements. Marianne directed me to search the gravel for arrowheads or tools. Before long, she’d picked up a San scraper fashioned from shale with a cutting

edge that was still sharp. At another site, Alex’s mother had found a tool which today has pride of place in the farm’s museum. This 25 000-yearold weapon with hilt and blade was fashioned from a wildebeest tibia. ‘It was polished with use,’ writes Eve, ‘and upon the hilt Cranemere Stone Age Man had left the indent of his thumb, worn as he hunted lion and antelope around Honey Mountain.’ Back at the homestead, Alex and Marianne showed me their little museum. It was a storehouse of San, hominid and dinosaur relics. Through the Palmers, I began to understand how the fossil discoveries on Cranemere had captured Eve’s imagination. The collection comprised everything from fossilised fish to behemoth dinosaurs. My head was mobbed with the impossible dimensions of time. I heard Eve again: ‘Cranemere, lying in the immense plains athwart the vanishing highway, has its ancient

memories of reptiles that were nearly mammals, perhaps of fabulous beasts and Man-Ape or Ape-Man, or only of their descendants… As for us, we have guessed at “this long, splendid, and laborious past”, and in the guessing have found a new dimension.’ That evening, I climbed a koppie behind the house. It was just about here that Eve wrote of a San hideout overlooking the pools – later to become Cranemere dam – where game used to gather. It was at this spot that hunters would wait to make their kill. San, most definitely, and probably earlier hominids too. A profound peacefulness enveloped the koppie, the homestead, the dam and the lands beyond, stretching across the plains of Camdeboo towards the serrated line of the Sneeuberg. And I thought, just then, that it’s no wonder such farms have been central to South African literature. They are the embodiment of our heartland.

e Plains of Camdeboo and think it the cleverest land in the world and its animals and plants of a ,’ writes Eve Palmer in The Plains of Camdeboo. Justin Fox went to see if it was true. AUTHORS MAGAZINE | 33


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SEPTEMBER 2016

PETERJAMES International best selling crime thriller novelist, published in 37 languages

August Issue 2016  
August Issue 2016  
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