logoA finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, James Norcliffe’s Felix and the Red Rats is a fun mix of fantasy and adventure.

felix and the red rats

When David’s uncle comes to visit he sets off a bizarre series of events. Things become complicated when the pet rats turn bright red.

David senses that somehow the red rats are connected to the story he is reading, and he becomes more convinced when the colour red becomes contagious.

The parallel story sees Felix and his friend Bella inadvertently shifted into a strange land where they must solve a riddle. But this puts them into great danger. How will they escape and find their way home?

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As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?

 I had been toying with the idea of writing a book with a dual narrative. It wasn’t conscious, but I think I may have been influenced by the Japanese writer Murakami whom I’d been reading a lot of and who uses the technique. It then came to me that a variation on the idea might be a book within a book and, even better, that the book within the book could have some bearing on the outer story. This quite excited my and because I love the intricacy of plot I found the process tremendous fun. I hit quite early upon the idea of alternating chapters and the book(s) began to flow quite organically once I set off. There were challenges, of course. I’m not terribly good at multi-tasking and I’d charged myself not only with managing two stories but also with trying to end each chapter of each book with a sufficiently exciting moment to keep the readers interested in both stories at the same time. I wasn’t sure I’d managed to pull it off until other people read the manuscript and found the concept worked. I was hugely relieved.

Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

 I wrote the book in 2012 during my time as Children’s Writer in Residence at the Otago University College of Education. The residency allowed me to live at the Robert Lord Cottage in Titan Street, a twenty minute or so walk from the college. This allowed me to be completely focused on the stories and for a number of weeks I lived, dreamed, and rehearsed the story. I don’t take copious notes but tend to let my stories play out in my head. The red rats idea came in a eureka moment as I was walking across the Alhambra rugby field on my way to the college. I also played out conversations on the walk and when I’d get to the office at the college I’d hurriedly write them down before they disappeared. I imagine I was a danger to traffic. I’m not sure there was any especial challenge in publishing the book, just the usual nail-biting wait between the time it’s packed off to the publisher and the time you get the response. Luckily, Barbara Larson, my publishing editor lives in Dunedin, luckier the wait was not very long, and luckiest of all, Barbara liked the book very much.

Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?

I don’t consciously write for children. I guess if I did there would be a danger of ‘writing down’ and I like to think my readers are bright and don’t want to be condescended to. If I’m honest, I think I’m trying to write the sort of book I would have enjoyed reading as a young person: funny in places, scary in places, with a touch of the fantastic and a satisfying conclusion.

Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?

I don’t think any book consciously inspired or informed Felix and the Red Rats. Actually, I’m proud of the fact that it is so original. Subconsciously perhaps, Haruki Murakami (as mentioned earlier) was an influence, as particularly in his 1Q84 he uses the dual narrative technique with alternating chapters following the stories of two protagonists until they come together. However, Felix is completely different in every other possible way. A book I was reading at the time of writing Felix was A.S.Byatt’s wonderful and dark The Children’s Book and this put me in mind of the Edwardian E Nesbit who was the model for the central figure (who was a children’s writer). Nesbit was famous of course for The Railway Children but many of her other books were fantasies. Nesbit’s books are must-reads for any lover of fantasy.

Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?

One of the pleasures of having my time at the Robert Lord cottage – six months in a kind of bach – was the time it afforded for reading for pleasure and Dunedin is a city blessed with bookshops. I haunted them and found many treasures. There are too many books to list but I did find the time to follow the work of writers who were interesting me: Roberto Bolano, Murakami and Orhun Pamuk. I found too a whole set of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and these were fun. Sadly while I was down south, Margaret Mahy died and I took the bitter-sweet opportunity to re-read a number of Margaret’s books.

What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

 Probably spending time in the garden. I’m passionate about plants and we are lucky to have a large garden at Church Bay which allows me to grow all manner of trees from interesting fruit trees to precious natives. It also affords me a large lawn which needs mowing regularly and I don’t mind this at all: it is my gym. Of course, spending time with family and friends. And crossword puzzles.

when the hills ask

This is an account of the genocide in Rwanda twenty years on, when the Hutu ethnic group began 100 days of bloody slaughter of their Tutsi friends and neighbours. The story is told in three time periods; 1994, 2004, 2012-2013. The stories of two survivors are woven together showing what the people went through as well as the challenges they faced after the war and their lives now.

Father Vjeko Curic, a Bosnia Croat Franciscan priest, stayed throughout the slaughter and saved many lives. A hard-drinking, hard-living, larger than life man, he gave sanctuary to many terrified Tutsi by sheer force of will and smuggled them to safety. Organising Red Cross convoys of food and medicine to be trucked in from neighbouring Burundi, he delivered them to the thousands of Tutsis seeking refuge in the Franciscan cathedral. After an uneasy peace was restored, he redirected his efforts to rebuilding houses and caring for the thousands accused of participating in the massacres who were rotting in jail. Sadly, he was too outspoken about the failings of the new regime and murdered in 1998.

Jean-Pierre, a Tutsi, survived the genocide by hiding for over two months in a disused septic tank. His Zairean friend helped conceal him but when he emerged he found his parents and siblings slaughtered and his wife and children missing. His wife’s journey with their children to seek safety is also told. He became an invaluable source of information and help to the many Westerners who flooded Rwanda after the genocide ended.

The why of the genocide is examined, the propaganda campaign that labeled Tutsi as cockroaches that needed to be exterminated a compelling factor, but the reasons and tensions between the two ethnic groups go back hundreds of years and are too complex to identify. The new Rwanda is shown, the efforts to bring forgiveness and reconciliation between victims and killers and to forge unity between the people.

A really tough book to read but worthwhile. It shows how easily propoganda can be spread and is a good lesson to think for yourself.  I hope the world never let’s this happen again.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan


A TRUE-ly fabricated story about Love & Obsession…

I’m an idiot.
I’m too stupid to be human. Too stupid to live.
I lack common sense.

I used to be a normal human being. Until the guy in the red hoodie. Just a glance, and I was owned. Enslaved.

What’s worst? He didn’t even notice me.

Yep. You guessed right: I’m delusional. I’m obsessed. I’m a stalker. A martyr. A masochist.

I’ve allowed my obsession to lead me down into a deep, dark pit, selfishly hurting everyone around me, and only his requited love can pull me out of it.

But I won’t apologize for it. I won’t apologize for being in love with Jahleel Kingston.
I’ve loved him at first sight. I’ve loved him for five empty years. I’ve loved him through all his bullcrap and asshole-isms.

I love him even now.

My name is Saskia Day. I’m British. I’m famous. I’m stinking rich. And this is my pathetic story.

Read at your own bloody risk.

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~ About the Author ~

jahleel author

First a reader and second a writer, Ann is an exaggerator, a laugher, sometimes overly chatty, sometimes overly shy. She believes cats are evil, and also detests dogs—mainly because she’d been bitten over a dozen times on separate occasions by the rambunctious creatures in her formative years (even by her own dogs.)

She is not your typical girl: she hates chocolate, candle-lit dinners and all that hearts and flowers stuff makes her feel awkward and coffee makes her drowsier than ever.

A lover of all things ‘romance’, Ann has always been a writer of poetries and songs of any kind. All who’s acquainted with Ann can attest to witnessing her write her way through life: through destruction, devastation, hardship, sadness and disappointments, her coping mechanism has always been writing.

Having an obsessive and unquenchable affair with the written word, she’s naturally a recluse who dwells inside her imagination and has to suffer continual bashings from her friends for being a neglectful pal who does nothing but sit around the computer all day, writing.

When she’s not abusing her computer keyboard, you can find her nosing a novel, watching anything on television that makes her laugh out loud, studying the Bible, or nursing any of the three alcoholic beverages: Black Label and Coke, Heineken, or a glass of Merlot.

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daggersaQueen Ellyria just wants her sick triplet sons to live, each ruling over a third of the kingdom as their dying father wished. When she finds herself trapped in a deadly bargain with a Dark Spirit, she recruits a band of young mages to help – but a terrible curse takes over.
The Dark Spirit befriends her enemies and seduces her friends, and Ellyria soon finds that famine, pestilence, betrayal and bereavement are all in its arsenal.
Can Ellyria unite the elvish and mortal sides of her family and in so doing, save the kingdom?

“Crisp, stylish prose, a nicely realised medieval world and an undercurrent of dark magic make The Dagger of Dresnia a good read for lovers of epic fantasy. It’s refreshing to see an older female character on centre stage!”
- Juliet Marillier Author of the Sevenwaters series
“A classic story for lovers of traditional fantasy. Readers who love the gradual unfolding of a story and the development of relationships as much as action scenes will enjoy this one.”
- Glenda Larke Author of The Mirage Makers trilogy


Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

I’m sort of in between! When a story decides to invade my mind, it gives me two things only – a character and a situation. The character, strangely, comes with his or her CV, diary and birth certificate. In other words, I know a lot about that character right from the start – his or her name, age, family background, occupation or social class, and circumstances at the start of the novel. I ask the character what s/he wants, and usually I find out straight away or within a day or two. So I have my MC, a beginning and an end. The rest I have pick up on the fly.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Yes, they do take over to a very large degree, but sometimes I have to be strict with them or they will bring along all their friends and relations. I often end up with far too many characters even when I don’t give the main ones free license to drag in their brothers or long-lost cousins!

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I write best in the mornings, but if I’m on a roll I can keep going all day and into the night. Yet just as often, I have to make myself write or at least draft the next scene.

Where do you dream of travelling to and why?

I would love to tour Europe.

Do distant places feature in your books?

Yes indeed! My stories invariably have historic settings in an imaginary world that looks very much like medieval Europe, although I do have a yen for England in the times from Elizabeth I to Charles II, too. Having grown up in Australia I feel somewhat deprived of my historical roots and I think my writing reflects that.

Do you listen to music while writing?

Occasionally, and my choice of listening invariably reflects the two historical periods mentioned above. Composers from Dowland to Purcell are pretty standard listening, together with early music such as Gregorian chant.

What previous works have you released?

The Dagger of Dresnia is my first published novel, and it’s the first book of a trilogy. I’ve had the odd poem and short story published before, starting with ‘Dolly’s Lullaby’ in The Manchester Guardian’s children’s feature when I was seven. Sadly, (or perhaps thankfully) none of my juvenilia is still in print! You can find a story of mine in the anthology Mythic Resonance by Stephen Thompson (ed) which I think is still available via Amazon, and a sonnet in the collection The Weighing of the Heart, published by Sunline Press. http://www.sunlinepress.com.au/sunline/

Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?

The Dagger of Dresnia is a medieval fantasy, complete with elves and the odd dragon. It’s about a widowed queen who has triplet sons, and in trying to ensure they have peaceful, prosperous reigns she is tricked into making a rash promise to a Dark Spirit. Mayhem ensues, but so does romance and adventure.

What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?

I made a point of learning as much as I could by visiting blogs by writers and editors and scouring publishers’ websites. I would impress on beginning authors that this is essential – learn as much about the industry as you can. I was already a professional non-fiction editor, but fiction editing is different world!

Is there anything you would do differently?

I would have started earlier if I could. Starting a novelist’s career after the normal age of retirement is a tad eccentric. However, I was well into my fifties before inspiration for fiction came to visit, even though I’ve been a voracious reader of fantasy ever since I was a child.

Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?

In a nutshell: history, other writers, my own life, and the lives of others.

Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?

Learn as much as you can by going to classes and workshops, especially in your chosen genre. And never stop reading!

What are three words that describe you?

Old, eccentric and intelligent. Every day, I work on becoming more compassionate. It’s the one quality, I think, that might save the world, and it’s in very short supply.

What’s your favourite book?

Possibly Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, or Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing, but I love too many authors to have a fixed favourite.

What is your favourite food?

Fresh garden salad!

Marmite or vegemite?

Being an Aussie with papers to prove it I’ll say Vegemite, but to be honest I don’t think there’s much to choose between them!

Have you got a blurb of your book?

Yup – here it is straight from the back cover: Queen Ellyria just wants her sick triplet sons to live, each ruling over a third of the kingdom as their dying father wished. When she finds herself trapped in a deadly bargain with a Dark Spirit, she recruits a band of young mages to help – but a terrible curse takes over.
The Dark Spirit befriends her enemies and seduces her friends, and Ellyria soon finds that famine, pestilence, betrayal and bereavement are all in its arsenal.
Can Ellyria unite the elvish and mortal sides of her family and in so doing, save the kingdom?



Satima Flavell is a freelance writer, editor and reviewer. She has already published poems and short stories as well as many feature articles and reviews – her work as an arts journalist has appeared in The Australian, The West Australian, Music Maker, Dance Australia and many other journals. Her first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, book one of The Talismans Trilogy, has just been released by Melbourne’s Satalyte Publishing.


Join award-winning memoirist Marlayna Glynn Brown on a tender journey to understand the father she never knew in life by spreading his ashes around the world after his death.

A relatable must-read for anyone who has lost a loved one, this memoir lights the way to afterlife and afterdeath where forgiveness supersedes pain, blame, remorse and regret.

In her effort to understand the generational effects of alcoholism and subsequent dysfunctional adult relationships, Marlayna takes her youngest son and her father’s ashes on a personal journey, embarking on an emotional voyage to both physical and mental states of being. She confronts her own existence as a mother and a daughter, seeking and ultimately finding peace with her disappointment, anger, failed marriage, and complex relationships with her own four children.

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I sit at his bedside, my eyes focused on the thin plastic tube that brings oxygen to his nose. What a strange thought that my father can no longer breath without this tube. Years of smoking Kool menthols have eradicated any ability he has to breathe without aid now. So the thin plastic tube hooks over his ears, allowing him to pull weak breaths in and out of cancered lungs. My father, who once ran races and jogged around our city parks and swam off the Mexican shore in the Pacific ocean he loved so much, cannot breathe without the cool oxygen of this artificial tube.

He tries to talk but his words are mired in wet coughs, rendering conversation cruel and laborious.

That tube stands between me and all that I want to know about him. I take his thin hand in mine and look him in the eye. “I’m glad you were my father.”

He nods once; a regal gesture of acceptance, resignation or possibly both. “Me too.”

There are so many questions I want to ask him, so much I want to know about his childhood, his life, his feelings, his essence.

Unasked, as if he would try to explain the one thing I might want to know, he volunteers, “Some people were just born to drink.”

“How can you say such a thing?”

“Look at me,” he coughs.

“You woke up every day and made the choice to drink. You could have changed your life any time you wanted.”

“No. Couldn’t.”

Is this then the final damning curse of a life of alcoholism, the acceptance of no reality that does not include alcohol? “You could have stopped drinking any time you wanted. People do it every day. You could have known me. You could have known your grandchildren. They are such great kids and you don’t even know them.”

“I’d been a rat for so long. Thought I might as well stay a rat.”

I don’t understand this kind of thinking; this acceptance of anything less than the highest and best. It’s the final and saddest nail in the coffin of my relationship with my father.

During our last day together, I hear myself telling him that I want him to be at peace. I want him to be out of pain. I know even as the words are tumbling from my consciousness and out of my mouth that my father’s death is not about me; his passing is not dependent in any way upon what I want.

It is his journey and I am no longer on it.

Then again, I never really was in the first place.

For how could you ever be on a journey that is not your own?

 About the Author

rip me 2266

Marlayna Glynn Brown is a best selling American memoirist, award winning photographer, screenwriter and yogi. Immediately upon publication Marlayna’s first book became and still remains one of the most highly rated author memoirs on Amazon, and placed as a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Marlayna’s extensive travels, BA in Literature and MS in Human Services have honed her remarkable gifts in observing and recording the ways of humanity. Her works include:

Overlay: A Tale of One Girl’s Life in 1970s Las Vegas

City of Angeles

Big As All Hell And Half Of Texas

The Trilogy: Memoirs of Marlayna Glynn Brown

One Day The Invitations Will Stop Arriving: A Travel Memoir

Lovers, Liars and Lotharios: Lessons Learned and Self Esteem Earned

Rest In Places: My Father’s Post-Life Journey Around The World

The Nomadic Memoirist: Memoir Writing Tips For Authors

The Nomadic Memoirist: Award-Winning and Best-Selling Promotion and Marketing Tips for Authors

Find Marlayna on Facebook, Twitter, and visit her at www.marlaynaglynnbrown.com.

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Gabriella Carmichael has always tried to find her place in the world, but being raised as half-human/half-vampire she doesn’t quite know where she fits in, until she meets Grayson.
Grayson Alexander is one of the most influential men in New York. When he runs head on into Gabriella, he doesn’t quite know how that one event will change his world.
Gabriella knows that being involved with a human is strictly forbidden, even though she’s part human herself, and begins to fear for Grayson’s safety especially when the head of her nest, Anton, makes a play for her affections.

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About the Author

fate Author DC Gamble

D.C. Gambel is an independent author & army wife. She spends her free time with her fur babies, who sit next to her whether she’s writing or just curled up with a good book, when she’s not taking care of my soldier.

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The seventh novel in the popular Cooper & Fry series.

How do you investigate the murder of a woman without a life? That is the challenge facing Cooper and Fry when a reclusive agoraphobic is found shot to death in her home. With no friends, no family, and virtually no contact with the outside world, the dead woman may have simply been an unlucky victim of a random homicide.

At virtually the same time, a raging house fire claims the life of a young mother and two of her children. But as the debris is cleared, troubling questions remain in the ashes. Among them, how did the fire start, where was the husband at two a.m. the day of the blaze, and was it really the fire that killed his family?


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About the Author

Author Picture ~ Stephen Booth copy

Stephen Booth is an award winning British crime writer, the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have appeared in thirteen novels set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

Stephen has been a Gold Dagger finalist, an Anthony Award nominee, twice winner of a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel, and twice shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year. Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British author, and in 2003 the Crime Writers’ Association presented Stephen with the Dagger in the Library Award for “the author whose books have given readers the most pleasure”.

The Cooper & Fry series is published all around the world, and has been translated into 15 languages.

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