Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Matt and Debbie Cowens

Kapiti News, 15 Mar, 2018

By Rosalie Willis

Teachers by day, writers by night.

That is the reality two Paraparaumu College teachers find themselves living.

Husband and wife, Matt and Debbie Cowens, both part of the English department at Paraparaumu College have had their latest work published in Te Korero Ahi Ka: To Speak of the Home Fires Burning, a New Zealand speculative fiction anthology.

The book is the work of Speculative Fiction New Zealand (SpecFicNZ), an organisation formed in 2009 and is the brain child of editors Grace Bridges and Lee Murray with the help of Aaron Compton.

It is a snap shot of what speculative fiction is like in New Zealand at the moment.

As members of SpecFicNZ Matt has written two stories and Debbie one in the anthology, which in their words is “funny, emotional, cynical and moving”.

Spanning many topics, the anthology is a collection of short works featuring short stories and poems from around 20 New Zealand authors.

“The book hosts a pretty broad range, with particular interest in horror, fantasy and science fiction but with that New Zealand flavour,” Matt said.

“There really is something for everyone.

“Growing up there was a bit of prejudice against horror and fantasy fiction from some people, so I’ve got a lifelong chip on my shoulder.

“I have something to prove, that speculative fiction can be good, is literary and is worthy.”

Today speculative fiction is very popular, with some of the highest grossing movies and television shows being super hero films, horror and fantasy.

The popularity of Stephen King, Harry Potter, Twilight and DC Comics to name a few have all added to the growth of the genre in recent years.

“SpecFic has a growing audience in New Zealand, however a lot of the time people are reading SpecFic that is from overseas,” Debbie said.

“When people first get into this genre they see the more mainstream books and movies and the big international names and then after that might find out about the more local ones.”

Being published authors and having a successful ‘hobby’ on the side is not a distraction from the Cowens’ day jobs.

“We are equally passionate about teaching writing and actually writing ourselves,” Debbie said.

Read the full article here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/kapiti-news/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503789&objectid=12013258


Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7

Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6

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Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Aaron Compton

By Aaron Compton


It was an honour to help edit this collection. As mentee-editor it was an eye-opener on how the real pros do it– Lee and Grace were so great, being part of their team and the process was a joy. My motivation to apply for the position was simply to get some experience within the literature scene of Aotearoa, to learn about editing and to read some cool stories. Amazing stories. The whole experience has heightened my desire to gain more editing experience.
I remember, as a child, being fascinated by a kuia who spoke to a carved ancestor on the marae and seemed to get answers from it. For years the idea of a carving talking to me rattled around in my head, until it fell out, in this story. Moa Love, occurs in an alternate history world that I began creating a couple of years ago when I decided to take fiction writing seriously. I had grand ambitions to write a couple of series of novels in this world, but after about sixty thousand words I realised that I didn’t quite have the skills to do the story justice– it just wasn’t working. I pulled back from that story and began writing short fiction in an attempt to build my skills. I listened to a lot of writing podcasts, and in one of them (The Story Grid Podcast) Shawn Coyne talked about the obligatory scenes readers expect to see in a love story. I decided to write a story that hit as many of those scenes as I could, within my created world. And somehow… it worked. It’s weird, but it works, I reckon. It might seem as if it is set in a future Aotearoa, but in fact the events of Moa Love occur in the 1950s. This isn’t explicitly stated in the text but if you think about what Boy says about the clothes the other characters are wearing, and the decades they come from, and when TripleG died… yeah, 1950s. This is because of reasons that are not part of this story– I’ll have to get back to those novels, someday.
Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7
Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6
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Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Jane Percival

The Mysterious of Mysterious Mr Montague

By Jane Percival

It’s funny how the senses can enhance memories. The addition of a taste, a smell, or a touch, makes the memory more stable, somehow, transforming it into an easy-to-access snapshot of a place and a time that you visited; able to be examined whenever you wish.

A butcher’s shop has a particular smell. And the smell of such a shop in the 1970s is nothing like the odour of the meat section of a supermarket. It smelled of blood and sawdust. Rattling plastic strips kept out most of the flies, and in Summer, a lazy ceiling fan would push the air around, just a little.

If I smell fresh blood today, I’m transported back to my uncles’ shop. It, too, was situated in Kilbirnie, Wellington; but there, the similarity ends.

Jane has an occasional blog, which can be found at https://heni-irihapeti.com/


Jane’s story The Mysterious Mr Montague appears in Te Korero Ahi Ka. Buy links:

Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7
Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6
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Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – A Community Project

By Lee Murray

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is a community building project instigated by SpecFicNZ as a key activity for 2018. Over recent years, initiatives such as writing competitions and one-off publishing grants had seen dwindling entries, so, in a bid to increase member engagement and awareness of our work at SpecFicNZ, the committee proposed a non-themed speculative showcase anthology where members could submit prose, poetry and artwork, including cover art, in return for a small fee.  The project was intended as a learning tool, the committee calling for applications for a mentee editor to work on the anthology with experienced editor and assessor President Grace Bridges, and myself. Member Aaron Compton won the bid and although he had never done any editing before, Aaron’s keen eye and quirky taste meant he quickly became a great asset to our editing line-up.

Since Te Kōrero Ahi Kā was a community project, we decided against sending fellow members a clinical acceptance or rejection; instead all entrants received comment from the editors, who highlighted positives and, on occasion, made suggestions for potential improvements to the work. Stories and poems which had been accepted then went through the normal editing process. It was my second time editing an anthology project with Grace Bridges and once again she amazed me with her professionalism, insight, and attention to detail. It also helps that she is an uncanny mind reader and suffers from insomnia even worse than my own. Meanwhile, Paul Mannering, SpecFicNZ Treasurer and our project convenor, worked hard behind the scenes liaising with creatives to finalise contracts and payments, in some instances the first experience of the business side of our industry by contributors. Best loved New Zealand fantasy writer Juliet Marillier very kindly provided us with a foreword, and iconic New Zealand speculative writer and Arthur C. Clarke finalist, Phillip Mann provided a cover blurb. Finally, publicist Eileen Mueller rolled up her sleeves to promote the work both online and to New Zealand print media. The result is a true community effort and a wonderful inaugural publication, which I am proud to be associated with. Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is an eclectic mix of high fantasy, science fiction, and dark fiction, as the back cover copy reveals:

Here, between the realms of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hellhounds race, ghosts drift aimless, and the taniwha stalks. Home fires drive them back, at the same time sparking stories and poems that traverse seconds, eons, and parsecs. Tales of gatekeepers, cloak wearers, and secret keepers. Of pigs with AK-47s or ruby-hued eyes, of love-struck moa, and unruly reflections. Stark truths, and beautiful possibilities…

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, a term which means to speak of the home fires burning, is an anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, showcasing work from both established and emerging members of the SpecFicNZ organisation of writers, poets, artists, and creatives. It is a statement about how New Zealand creators of speculative fiction and art shine their light on our literary landscape.

A reprint of my dark fiction speculative story, Selfie, appears in the anthology. First published by SQ Mag in May 2016 (cover art above by Christian Chapman) as part of their themed edition on Symbiosis, the story was edited by the very capable Sophie Yorkston, a factor which surely contributed to its reaching the finals of the 2017 Australian Shadows Awards:

Depressed since the loss of her baby and abandonment by her partner, Eve’s sister sends her on a trip to cheer her up. Eve has other ideas: she plans suicide, only an apocalyptic event intervenes and she is unexpectedly teamed up with Steve.

Here is a snippet:

“I can’t,” I protested. “My back hurts.”
“It’s because you’re fused,” the Pigeon-man said.
He giggled, a hysterical cackle that sent a shiver through me, and pointed at my right hand. I lifted it to see what was so funny. My stomach dropped. For an instant, all sound melted away. I closed my eyes. Opened them again.
“I already told you. You’re fused.”
My fist had been reduced to a club, my selfie stick welded to a swollen blob of purple flesh. Molten metal seeped between my tendons. Suddenly, the wings on the man’s shoulder made sense.
Pigeon-man gave a stiff nod, then lifted his chin indicating the man beneath me. “You’re fused to him, too.”
My eyes fluttered and the sky disappeared.
The guy underneath woke me, his voice in my ear. That, and the searing in my back. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out. Maybe only seconds.
“We’ve got attached somehow,” he said.
Dazed, I lifted my arm and looked at the lump. My hand was a selfie stick, and I was fused with someone. I twisted my head, and took in the ruined monument, the grimy cracks between the cobbles, some drifting litter.

A box of print copies of the Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, featuring evocative Evelyn Doyle cover art, arrived just before my trip to the United States for the Horror Writers Association annual StokerCon convention, so I was able to take some along and get photos of the book with my fellow contributors Dan Rabarts and Alan Baxter. Dan is SpecFicNZ’s webmaster and a general committee member, and Alan is one a small but active group of Australian members of SpecFicNZ.

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā will be launched online over March-April culminating in a contributor meet up at Conclave III, the 30th annual science fiction and fantasy conference to be held at Easter, 2018, at the Surrey Hotel in Auckland. Reviewers and bloggers who would like to receive a copy for review should contact specficnz@gmail.com


Buy links: Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7

Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6


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Anthologies Awards Newsletter 

SpecFicNewZ February 2018

SpecFicNewZ for Feburary, 2018.

Members, if you have news you’d like to share, we’d love to celebrate it with you. Please drop us a line at specficnz@gmail.com

 Te Kōrero Ahi Kā

We’re delighted to announce that our members’ showcase anthology, Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is now available for pre-order, including gorgeous cover art by Eve Doyle, a foreword by best loved New Zealand fantasy author Juliet Mariller, and stories, poems, and interior art by our members.

Here, between the realms of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hellhounds race, ghosts drift aimless, and the taniwha stalks. Home fires drive them back, at the same time sparking stories and poems that traverse seconds, eons, and parsecs. Tales of gatekeepers, cloak wearers, and secret keepers. Of pigs with AK-47s or ruby-hued eyes, of love-struck moa, and unruly reflections. Stark truths, and beautiful possibilities…

The anthology will be officially launched in late March with a meet up planned in Auckland at Easter, time and venue to be announced. Reviewers and bloggers who would like to receive a copy for preview or promotion, please email specficnz@gmail.com and we’d be delighted to provide you with a copy.

Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7

Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6

Print copies available for NZ$20, plus shipping. Contact specficnz@gmail.com

 Auckland Zinefest

Auckland Zinefest is being held on Sat 3rd March, 12-4pm, Auckland Central City Library (44 Lorne St) and several of our members will be attending. President Grace Bridges will be taking along copies of Te Kōrero Ahi Kā for sale at NZ$20. Auckland peeps, please stop by and say hello.



Congratulations to members Alan Baxter and Simon Petrie whose work appears on this year’s Aurealis Awards finals. Full list of shortlisted works appears here:


Congratulations to members Simon Petrie and Edwina Harvey appear on the Australian Ditmar shortlist. The full list is available here:

New Zealand’s own Sir Julius Vogel Awards finalists have also been announced. Congratulations to all our members who appear on the shortlist.


Conclave III National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention

The National conference is being held in Auckland over Easter weekend. Hotel accommodation for the weekend is limited. A draft programme is available on the conference facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/259297837528528/about/ Friday writer workshops by Guests of Honour Steve Wheeler (A Fury of Aces series), Karen Miller (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series, Godspeaker  trilogy, among others) and Lyn McConchie (Four Seasons quartet and countless works set in  the Sherlock Holmes world are among many others) are free with conference registration.

If members have publicity material they would like to have included for the con bags, or books and materials they are willing to donate for prizes, please contact Jan Butterworth for details. jan.butterworth01 at gmail dot com

Please contact the convention committee if you are planning to attend and are interested contributing to on panels.

Story sale

Sally McLennan’s latest short story, Memory, will appear in Julie Czerneda’s Tales from Plexis, coming in December 2018 from Daw, and based Czerneda’s fantasy world. Congratulations, Sally.

ANZAC sale

Nix Whittaker is organising a cross-promo ANZAC sale for Kiwi and Aussie authors. It will run from 22-26 April for discounted and free books from ANZAC authors. It is free and all authors have to do is promote the sale on their own platforms. If you are interested sign up here: https://goo.gl/forms/NMf3MBHGZPKBObp03



Local markets:

Orbit Magazine: http://www.neworbitmagazine.org/contributions

Sponge Magazine: https://sponge.nz/

Breach: https://www.breachzine.com/

And finally, if you love reading speculative fiction and you’re interesting in reviewing for us, information about getting hold of some great Kiwi fiction, please email us at specficnz@gmail.com The review guidelines can be found here.


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Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Cover Reveal!

SpecFicNZ are delighted to reveal the fabulous cover of our inaugural showcase speculative fiction anthology Te Kōrero Ahi Kā –  To Speak of the Home Fires Burning, designed for us by Hawkes Bay artist, member Evelyn Doyle.

Eve is many things: INTJ. Multipotentialite. Graphic Designer. Reader. Writer. Lover of coffee and parataxis. At base, she’s a biological system that turns coffee into blog posts, stories, and visual designs…when she’s not homeschooling her two boys, or thinking about the philosophical complexities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She lives in Hawke’s Bay with her husband, two small boys, one canary, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Except for the partridge in a pear tree.



Edited by Grace Bridges, Lee Murray and Aaron Compton, the collection includes stories, poems and interior artwork by both established and emerging members, and includes a foreword by best loved New Zealand fantasy writer, Juliet Mariller, author of Blackthorn & Grim series and the Sevenwaters series.

Here, between the realms of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hellhounds race, ghosts drift aimless, and the taniwha stalks. Home fires drive them back, at the same time sparking stories and poems that traverse seconds, eons, and parsecs. Tales of gatekeepers, cloak wearers, and secret keepers. Of pigs with AK-47s or ruby-hued eyes, of love-struck moa, and unruly reflections. Stark truths, and beautiful possibilities… 

Te Korero Ahi Ka, a term which means to speak of the home fires burning, is an anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, showcasing work from both established and emerging members of the SpecFicNZ organisation of writers, poets, artists, and creatives. It is a statement about how New Zealand creators of speculative fiction and art shine their light on our literary landscape.

“This collection explores many aspects of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and has something for everyone, from time shifting cows to a revelation concerning the last moments of life. I am glad to see Maori writers are prominent and we certainly experience the presence of the Taniwha.” — Phillip Mann, Arthur C Clarke finalist and author of the Disestablishment of Paradise.

Launching in March 2018, it available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7

Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6

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SpecFicNewZ for January 2018

SpecFicNewZ for January 2018

Members, if you have news you’d like to share, please let us know a specficnz@gmail.com

Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot

Three SpecFicNZ members’ works have reached the Preliminary Ballot of this year’s Bram Stoker Awards for horror with Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray’s Hounds of the Underworld longlisted in the Superior Achievement in a Novel category alongside literary heavyweights like Stephen King, Christopher Golden and Steve Rasnic Tem, while Australian Alan Baxter’s novella The Book Club has been listed in the Superior Achievement in Long Fiction category, up against works by bestsellers Seanan McGuire and Jeff Vandermeer. There are still two rounds to go, nevertheless it’s great to see our members’ work represented in this international forum. Congratulations!


Sir Julius Vogel Awards

In case you didn’t catch the latest announcements, SFFANZ have released Sir Julius Vogel Award winner and finalist logos for use on book covers. They are available for download on the SFFANZ website with guidelines for use to be released soon. In the meantime, the logos are only for use on those titles which have achieved the final shortlist or been awarded the Sir Julius Award. As you can see, they are glorious.

And on that note, nominations for this year’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards close on February 3. (Note the earlier than usual date). There is a simple form to fill out, and no cost, so remember to get nominating your favourite works by New Zealand creatives released in 2017. Link to the form is here:

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā

Contracts have gone out, final proofing is underway, Juliet Marillier’s thoughtful foreword has come in, and Phillip Mann has written us a sterling tagline, so it seems our inaugural showcase anthology is on schedule for release next month. Look out for the incredible Evelyn Doyle cover, which we hope to be able to reveal shortly.

New Releases:

Ruby Beyond Compare

Sadly, we missed promoting member Nix Whittaker’s Christmas release in our November newsletter, but it’s not too late to pick up a copy. Described as a sweet steampunk inspired novelette it’s called Ruby Beyond Compare.

Dear Santa,

All I want this year is some new caltrops and explosive crossbow bolts. Oh, and a Dragon Prince all tied up with a ribbon.

From Charani, Dragon Hunter for the Wyvern Empire


Selling for just a dollar, dragon lovers might want to download a copy for their morning commute. Don’t forget to leave a review. Here is the link!


The Fourth Phase

New member Adrian Smith has recently released, The Fourth Phase, the latest book in his New Zealand Extinction Cycle series. Fans of Nicholas Sainsbury Smith’s bestselling titles will be thrilled and chilled to know that Adrian has seen to it that Variants are thriving in New Zealand’s North Island. If you like high action adventure, check out Adrian’s work.


Review Programme

We still have plenty of author review copies of great works coming in and never enough reviewers to read and review them for us, so if you’d like to enjoy some wonderful Kiwi Speculative fiction, please drop us a line and let us know your availability and preferences. Reviews don’t have to be elaborate ‒ we don’t expect you to write a tome ‒ just what you liked or didn’t like about the book.

Local meet-ups

SpecFicNZ Central is already underway, with its first meet-up for the year planned for 24 January in Tamahere/Hamilton. Please email specficnz@gmail.com if you’re interested in attending, and we’ll pass on your details to the co-ordinator. And if anyone would like to coordinate a regional get together in their area, drop us a line; we’d be happy to help.

National Conference

Conclave 3, the 39th national conference for Science Fiction Fantasy will be held over Easter at the Surrey Hotel in Auckland. The programme has yet to be released, but Guests of Honour include writers Karen Miller and Steve Wheeler, who will be running a writer workshop on Easter Friday (which we understand will be free to full members of the conference). There are two writing competitions being run in conjunction with the conference, one with an open theme and the other with a Star Trek theme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Entries to both competitions close 31 January, 2018. Check the website for details.

Local markets giving preference to NZ content:

Orbit Magazine: http://www.neworbitmagazine.org/contributions

Sponge Magazine: https://sponge.nz/

Breach Magazine: https://www.breachzine.com/submissions


And finally, a friendly reminder that for most of us, our subscriptions fall due this month. We have a lot of exciting things planned for members this year, so naturally we’d love to have you back. If you’re not sure whether your membership is due, please feel free to contact us. To renew your membership, please follow this link.

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Rotovegas – a review

Earthcore Book 1: RotoVegas, by Grace Bridges

Reviewed by Jenn Rackham


RotoVegas is a fun book about the teen protagonist, Anira, visiting Rotorua and finding that the water gives her strange and unique powers. She sets out to find others like her and they form a team to stop others from using their powers for the wrong reason.

The title RotoVegas at first made me think it would be about gambling and casinos but I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t. I felt the title choice was due to Grace highlighting the entertainment and tourism side of Rotorua in her usual visceral descriptions.

The story has another layer where Grace artfully weaves New Zealand myths and folklore into the story of our unlikely heroes, and I felt that the book would be great for those who are interested in New Zealand and in particular, visiting Rotorua.

The dialogues and the characters are realistic and as someone who grew up in Rotorua, I could easily identify with many of the features Grace put in through the characters and the atmosphere. Grace includes a lot of the aspects of New Zealand life in her story, with vivid descriptions of the land, language and mannerism around the characters that would be a treat to those who love exploring the world the story is set in.



Superpowers from hot springs? Who knew?

On her return to New Zealand, Anira finds herself mysteriously affected by legendary spirits emanating from the natural geology and untamed thermal forces of Rotorua. And they have a job for her to do.

Soon Anira finds others like her, people young and old who are similarly called by the kaitiaki. Together they are caught up in a race against the developer intent on destroying the natural springs that are the home of the ancients and the source of their powers.

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Wish Upon A Southern Star – a review

Wish Upon a Southern Star, edited by Shelley Chappell

Reviewed by Lee Murray


“Stories change, but fairy tales never go out of fashion. Like a basic item of clothing, they may be reshaped, trimmed, decorated with frills or remodelled altogether,” writes editor Shelley Chappell in the introduction to Wish Upon a Southern Star, a stunning new collection of fairy tales, freshly re-imagined by new and established writers from Australian and New Zealand. Chappell says, “the authors in this collection have run the traditional tales through the mill and come out with new cloth.” Indeed, some are barely recognisable, like Philippa Werry’s evocative and beautifully-crafted Snow from the South, a contemporary version of the Snow Queen, appropriately set in Antarctica at a time when ‘melt pools were forming in the sea ice”. New Zealand might have guardianship of only a small part of the frozen land, yet Kiwi readers will find a familiarity in this haunting retelling of the classic tale.

Other authors have delved deeper into the characters, revealing the cursed backstories which shape futures and lead characters to emerge as the hero (or the villain depending on the one’s perspective). Simon Fogarty’s Belletower, a dark rendering of Rapunzel, is one such tale, a sweeping saga of multiple characters and hidden motivations, cleverly retold in the short form. Hillary Barrett’s Signor Frizzio – A Hairy Fairy Story, a corporate rebranding of Rapunzel, is, by contrast, a hilarious send up with a wonderful OTT voice that you will want to read aloud; much like Hannah Davison’s Snapunzel, another satirical account where the story arc is charmingly revealed via changing relationship statuses on Facebook. Australian Goldie Alexander’s Jacqui and the GM Beanstalk too is a quasi-spoof, albeit with a serious moral about the dangers of gambling. Nevertheless, the general light-heartedness of these versions remind us that the primary purpose of fairy tales is to engage and entertain.

Angela Oliver’s Kissa Whitepaw is a delightful version of a less well known fairy tale from Iceland, Kisa the Cat, this time told not from the princess’ perspective, but from the kitten’s, making it perfect bedtime reading younger readers. One of my favourite stories in Wish Upon a Star is Stacey Campbell’s exquisite Hine-te-iwaiwa and Rumpelstiltskin in which the author seamlessly blends two traditional storytelling styles, also incorporating te reo to create an exceptional story unlikely to be found in any other collection. A standout.

Along with its 21 wonderfully different stories, Wish Upon a Southern Star also offers readers a poem, a recipe, and suggestions for further reading: a list of fantasy stories based on fairy tales, including titles by SpecFicNZ members Juliet Marillier and Helen Lowe. A truly stellar collection, familiar and yet full of surprises.

Blurb: The Southern Cross shines high above a fairy tale wood. Come step inside. Drink dew from the leaves with tiny Tommelise. Eat egg sandwiches with a toothy young troll. Escape with Rapunzel. Trick Rumpelstiltskin. Shiver in the snow. Climb the beanstalk. Pray to the Piper. Be a cat. In and out of the wood, whether in this world or another, these stories will take you to new places. Explore how far you can go in this anthology of twenty-one fairy tale retellings by New Zealand and Australian authors.

Featuring retold fairy tales by Mahoney Adair, Goldie Alexander, Hilary Barrett, Stacey Campbell, Shelley Chappell, Hannah Davison, Graham Davidson, Simon Fogarty, Maria Hansen, S.M. Harris, K.S. Liggett, Sara Litchfield, John Lowe, Virginia Lowe, Megan Norris, Angela Oliver, Kate O’Neil, J.L. O’Rourke, Leigh Roswen, Philippa Werry, and Tony Wilson.

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The City Builders, by Sean Monaghan

The City Builders, by Sean Monaghan

Review by Grant Stone

Desra’s in trouble. Her ship, the Leuwenhok was orbiting Mackelle, an uninhabited planet sixty light years from home when it was shot out of the sky. When she makes it to the surface it turns out the planet might not be as uninhabited as she’d expected. Now she’s trapped in the middle of a deserted and almost endless city that is being built, torn down and rebuilt by a fleet of robots. Help is on the way but it may not come soon enough. New models of robots are appearing, more humanoid in form and designed more for combat than construction. Meanwhile, the rescue ship faces challenges of its own.

The City Builders is a fast-paced book. The writing style matches, with sentences and paragraphs shrinking as the action heats up. If you’re a fan of action-packed sci-fi, it might be just your cup of adrenaline.

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Mariah’s Prologues, by Grace Bridges



Mariah’s Prologues, By Grace Bridges

A review by Jenn Rackham

Mariah’s Prologues is sixteen short stories of different characters living in a dystopian future in Ireland where food is scarce and corporations rule its famished citizens with an iron fist. Each short story focuses on one character and their relationship to their loved ones and to the world, like a piece of a jigsaw that completes the whole picture bit by bit.

Due to Grace’s brilliant and often visceral writing, many times I was uncomfortable reading such a dark and bleak world, yet I was encouraged to continue reading the stories as each characters were filled with emotions and hopes that were easily identifiable. I found myself rooting for the characters and eager to learn more about the world each chapter.

Every character in Mariah’s Prologues are realistic and reading their struggles makes you feel as if you are standing right there in their run down homes. I felt Grace was writing to show us that in such dark times, what really matters, and how important a small act of kindness, compassion and love is.

There are no big events, explosions or high stake revolutions in the story which might make the story seem monotonous, however I felt the story isn’t designed to be such a heroic tale, but to show the readers the small struggles in everyday life of the citizens and delve into their feelings. It was heartbreaking to see what humans would/wouldn’t do for their loved one’s smiles and what how power could corrupt people.

If you’re into reading multiple in-depth and realistic characters and more into emotions and experiences in a dark dystopian setting, I suggest this book for you!


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Author Events: E.G. Wilson

E.G. Wilson at the launch of her second book, Expression (Voiceless Duology #2).

It’s been a busy few months. My debut novel Voiceless (publisher: Atthis Arts, USA) launched back in July. The sequel and second half of the duology, Expression, released in October. The paperbacks only arrived the day before the launch — cutting it tight! But we made it. Had a great turn out and some fabulous weather, and sold a fair few books, too.

Among other projects and besides the day job, I’ve started writing a new series. Using Camp NaNo and November NaNoWriMo for extra momentum, I’ve written the drafts of two 100k+ books and a novella since July, and I’m on track to finish the third book by mid-December. I have twelve books minimum planned in the series, so we’ll see where that ends up. I’ve never written this much this fast, it’s amazing. And a bit scary. Mostly amazing.

These last two weeks in November and into December, I feel like I’ve been flat out with author events. I was invited at short notice to help award prizes for the Ursula Moray Williams Creative Writing Competition (November 20th) at the local (Timaru) library. I’m about as far from a public speaker as anyone can get, but shaking hands? That, I can do. Plus, mutual publicity is always good.

During the evening, I quietly plugged my Friends Of The Library event we’d scheduled back in October for December 3rd. That was billed less as a speech and more as a sort of collective interview. Again, not a public speaker — there’s a reason I write books! But these sorts of things seem to come with the Author hat. ‘Hermit author’ sounds good as an occupation, but it doesn’t pay the bills. And I find the more I do these events, the less nerve-wracking they are.

E.G. Wilson visiting a local primary school.

Meanwhile, a teacher from my old primary school has been reading Voiceless to her class of 11- and 12-year-olds; we scheduled a classroom visit for the 24th to answer questions about the publishing process and talk about Voiceless (I also signed some school bags. And arms). On the 23rd, I got an email from a reporter who had been at the awards ceremony, wanting to interview me about my writing. Sure, why not? Another plug for the library talk, and a mention of the school visit (you can read the article here). It all feeds into the cycle of getting your name out there and getting books into readers’ hands.

And then finally on December 3rd, the big talk. The one I’d been dreading, the one I’d originally said a polite no, thanks to because I’m not a public speaker. It went well. Sixteen people turned up; a good turnout for a blazingly hot Sunday afternoon on a weekend with a dozen other events on. Everyone could hear me, even with my quiet voice. We had a range of age groups from the senior club members to a few teens. They asked about how I write a book (process, method, and software) and how I landed a contract. I walked them through my experiences so far with the publishing process. That was a bit of an eye opener, I think — especially hearing how much goes on behind the scenes to get a book from first draft to on-the-shelf.

At the end of the talk, I met a teenager who had just finished NaNoWriMo herself. We’re planning to talk to the library staff about getting a group together for Camp NaNo next year — and of course we’ll try to get the newspapers involved in that, too. The publicity machine needs feeding. It’s easier to do it in community.

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SpecFicNewZ for November 2017

Members, if you have news you’d like to share, please let us know a specficnz@gmail.com

Debut Release!

Congratulations to member Jenn Rackham, whose debut book A Dash of Belladonna was released on 31 October. Mike Johnson says, “Here is a book full of magic and awe, humour and excitement, brought to us through Lottie’s exuberant prose. A zany book, full of narrative zest and high adventure.” A Dash of Belladonna is available in ebook and print versions here.

New Releases:

William Cook has just published two new collections of select short fiction that has previously appeared in other anthologies and magazines over the past couple of years. The first publication is Dark Deaths: Selected Horror Fiction, available in kindle ebook and print exclusively from Amazon. The second is SerialKiller Thrillers: Fictional Serial Killer Stories, a companion volume to the first in William’s ‘serial killer’ series – Death Quartet. The print edition will be ready to purchase end of November and will include both volumes in an omnibus edition of sorts. William plans to include original illustrations of my own creation with the print edition.

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā.

Thank you to everyone who submitted work to SpecFicNZ’s newest anthology, Te Kōrero Ahi Kā. We are thrilled to have received a good number of entries including short stories, prose, novel excerpts across a variety of genres, as well as interior and cover art. Several members applied for the role of mentee editor, with Aaron Compton winning the role. Aaron will be working with President Grace Bridges and co-editor Lee Murray to deliver our inaugural showcase volume to be released in the first quarter of 2018.  When the convenor contacted him with the news, Aaron replied, “Awesome. I’m excited about this. It will be a tonne more interesting than editing my wife’s essay on venous leg ulcers. And you can quote me on that.” So naturally, we have.

Upcoming short fiction markets:

Apex are looking for dark fiction SF, fantasy, and horror, for their Do Not Go Quietly anthology on resistance, to be edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner. More details here.

Publishing Credits: A number of members have writing in the latest issue of Breach magazine, including Piper Mejia, Mouse Diver-Dudfield, and Ronnie Smart. Congratulations to you all. https://www.breachzine.com/

Sean Monaghan appears in the latest Baen ‘best of’ anthology – check out his name on the cover. Congratulations, Sean! https://www.baen.com/the-jim-baen-memorial-award-the-first-decade.html#

Workshop/book launch in conjunction with Young NZ Writers:

On Saturday November 4 SpecFicNZ members Piper Mejia, Jean Gilbert. Paul Mannering, Chad Dick and Lee Murray, (accompanied by poet Carrie, and graphic novelist Michel Mulipo) and in conjunction with Young NZ Writers, facilitated six 3-hour workshops for fifty New Zealand intermediate and secondary school students. Topics included short story, novel, poetry, graphic novels, and screenplay. Also held that day was the launch of Write off Line: Alter Ego a collection of poetry and prose by New Zealand high school students, edited by members Lee Murray, Grace Bridges and Piper Mejia, and with judging by NZ poet William Cook, and Australian author, David McDonald. Better get writing people, because there is some incredible new talent coming through.

Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray at Litcrawl Wellington in November.

Local markets:

Orbit Magazine: http://www.neworbitmagazine.org/contributions

Sponge Magazine: https://sponge.nz/

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SpecFicNooZ for October, 2017

SpecFicNooZ for October, 2017

Members, if you have news to share, please email us at specficnz@gmail.com. We’d love to hear about it.

New Signing! IFWG Publishing Australia has bought Wicked by Blood: The Kingfisher’s Debt by member Kura Carpenter. The novel is an urban fantasy set in Dunedin, and is a mix of fantasy, mystery, murder and satanic rituals. It’s scheduled for release in the second half of 2018. Read more about it here. Congratulations, Kura!

Core member Darian Smith is heading to Australia next month to share his expertise with Aussie writers. Please share this with your colleagues in Brisbane and Adelaide. Darian’s latest book, Starlight’s Children, the long-awaited sequel to Kalanon’s Rising was released on 8 October. Congratulations Darian, and don’t keep us waiting so long next time, please!


Members Paul Mannering, Jean Gilbert, Lee Murray, Chad Dick, and Piper Mejia will be in Tauranga for the Young New Zealand Writers workshop for youth to be held on November 3, where they’ll be sharing their writing expertise with New Zealand’s newest writers. Here’s a press clipping from the local media.

Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray will be at Arty Bees Bookshop for Wellington’s Litcrawl, featuring on a Mythology Panel and discussing their supernatural crime-noir title Hounds of the Underworld. Thre are heaps of other great literary events for Wellingtonians to check out over the weekend. The full programme is available here:

Dan Rabarts is pleased to announce he has been awarded a travel grant from the Publishing Association of New Zealand to attend the Horror Writers Association conference, StokerCon, to be held in Providence, RI, USA, in March 2018. It’s the first time we’ve head of a travel grant of this nature in support of a SpecFicNZ member, so quite the coup. Congratulations, Dan.

Last words:

Don’t forget our SpecFicNZ showcase anthology, TE KŌRERO AHI KĀ. Paid market. Closing date 31 October. More information is here.

There are still some free manuscript assessments available to our members. If you’re looking for help, or wish to register as a mentor, there are more details here.

If you love reading speculative fiction and you’re interesting in reviewing for us, information about getting hold of sme great Kiwi fiction can be found here.

Finally, we’re sorry to lose Woelf Dietrich from the Core committee due to work commitments, but we hope that won’t stop him from writing. Best of luck Woelf, and we’ll look forward to seeing you back here soon.

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All the Goss – Members’ News for September, 2017

Member’s News SpecFicNZ August September, 2017

SpecFicNZ welcomes news from our members. Please send us your update via specficnz@gmail.com.


Left: Southland writer, Mouse Diver-Dudfield won the Dan Davin Short Story Writing Award for her story The Vigil as well as runner-up for another story very aptly called Second. Mouse says she’s “feeling very chuffed indeed, especially as I only submitted two entries!” The award was part of the annual birthday celebration weekend for famous Southland/New Zealand author Dan Davin. Mouse also published her first novel Magenta Rising (available on Amazon), so it’s been a huge month for her. (If anyone would like to review it for us, please drop us a line). Congratulations, Mouse.

Right: A bunch of hardy souls braved a Wellington southerly to turn up to the launch of The Frankie Files at Eastbourne’s Rona Gallery. The latest title by YA specialist, Alicia Ponder, author of The Wizard’s Guide to Wellington and Miss Lionhart and the Laboratory of Death, the book includes her SJV winning story, Frankie and the Netball Clones. Check out the review by Robinne Weiss on the SpecficNZ website.

Bottom page: President Grace Bridges has a new title out called Rotovegas, the first in her New Zealand inspired Earthcore series, as well as a collection of short stories called Mariah’s Prologue, based on the characters and events from the world of her novel Mariah’s Dream, a former SJV finalist for Best Novel.

Below: Several members also attended the book launch of Wish Upon A Southern Star in Christchurch, a collection of stories based on fairy-tales for young adult readers by antipodean writers. Edited by member Shelley Chappell.

Speculative magazine launch: New Orbit Magazine is a medium for writers to share and readers to speculate on the endless possibilities that lie in our futures. It is a place to experience deep, meaningful concepts; compelling, cautionary stories that will evoke a personal feeling of discomfort or introspection in a reader by invoking speculation about one’s place in the future. These stories cross all genres, come from writers of all walks of life, and are hand-picked to challenge your perceptions and perspectives about a comfortable future. The launch date is currently October 2017. For those buying subscriptions before then, print or online, a presale discount applies, special benefits will come with the first issue, and you’ll be helping cover the cost of the first run’s print. A special discount is being offered to SpecFicNZ members. See the magazine’s website for submissions details.

South Korean SF writer, YK Yun, is currently organising an Asian convention with Chinese and Japanese readers and writers. Their aim is to introduce SF works from all over the world via their website. www.sffd.co.kr If you would like to contribute your work, please see the link at the bottom of this article: http://www.amazingstoriesmag.com/2017/09/close-encounter-south-korean-kindsouth-korean-science-fiction/



Pure gossip:

We’ve heard that Sean Monaghan has conquered the challenge of writing three books in three months. Congratulations, Sean. You’re a machine!

Word on the street is that Dan Rabarts is heading to StokerCon in Rhode Island, Providence, in March of 2018.

Last words:

There are new titles on our resources by members’ page. You can check them out, here.

Don’t forget our SpecFicNZ showcase anthology, TE KŌRERO AHI KĀ. Paid market. Closing date 31 October. More information is here.

There are still some free manuscript assessments available to our members. If you’re looking for help, or wish to register as a mentor, there are more details here.



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