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And So a Writer Begins Teaching…

Hey everyone – it’s been a while, hasn’t it? 🙂

For those who don’t know, I have moved to Thailand, spent just over a month prepping and learning the in’s and out’s of teaching ESL (English Second Language), and on Monday (19 August) I will begin teaching English for Communication at Princess Chulabhorn Science High School in Nakhon Si Thammarat, in the south of Thailand. 🙂

To say that I am both tremendously excited and absolutely terrified would be an understatement… BUT as with any new and challenging experience, I am embracing this venture and journey wholeheartedly.

What does that mean for my writing and reviewing? Well, it’s going to take a while to get back into my passions, especially since I have to put all my focus into being a teacher in Thailand, which means creating lesson plans, teaching High School kids, learning to speak Thai as well as I can manage, assimilating into Thai culture, learning how to buy street food and haggling, and, well, basically, building a life here.

I’m still reading SFF – make no mistake about it. But my time needs to be focused on the more important tasks of living and working in Thailand, and until that all becomes as second-nature as living in a western society was, my passions will have to simmer and burble in the background. 🙂

You’ll be glad to know that the first book I purchased in Thailand was Robert V. S. Redick‘s sequel to the truly excellent ‘The Red Wolf Conspiracy‘, namely ‘The Rats and the Ruling Sea‘. I found a copy at an amazing store in Bangkok and it’s simply deliciously ironic that the epic journeys in the books are mirrored by the epic journey I’m busy undertaking. 🙂

So, I’ll check in with you all from time to time, and you can follow my exploits on Facebook and Instagram if you’d like. Until then, keep on reading and loving genre fiction – support it and those who write it wherever you are, and most importantly,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Review: Distaff – A Science Fiction Anthology by Female Authors (edited by Rosie Oliver)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

I’m back with a review of a wonderful anthology and I hope my review will make you curious enough to get yourselves a copy. 🙂

The first tale, The Broken Man, by Jane O’Reilly, has a beautiful allegorical feel to it, almost as if it’s a myth which had been handed down through generations, while also being a look at the impact waste and pollution have on society. It follows the efforts of a girl, Kiko, to save a man who fell from a city in the clouds, and how what she does changes her and the man she rescues.

Space Rocks, by Kerry Buchanan, follows the return of a crew to Earth after they’ve collected some interesting rock-samples. These samples turn out to be much more than what they appear to be, and the tale does a great job of exploring how seemingly innocent actions can have wide, even dangerous, ramifications.

The Ice Man, by Rosie Oliver, is a clever murder mystery sans spaceships or aliens, and may seem out of place in this anthology, but it’s one of my stand-out stories; I really enjoyed this one! 🙂

A Cold Night in H3-II, from Juliana Spink Mills, is a claustrophobic and tense look at how a colony continues to dwindle after most of its population was struck down by a mysterious sickness. It’s tense and pacey and reminded me of The Thing (Carpenter’s original). Great tale!

The Colour of Silence, by Damaris Browne, explores the lengths parents will go to to protect and save their children. In this tale, humanity’s future, our children, have been infected with a terrible disease, and the only hope for them is the technology of an alien race.

Holo-Sweet, by E. J. Tett, is a cute, fun tale about love, AI’s, and the search for actors. Having enjoyed ‘Love, Sex and Robots’, I think this tale would translate wonderfully to that show. 🙂

My Little Mecha, by Shellie Horst, is a tale which explores what happens when children break free of the limitations and narratives forced on them by their parents, using an orbital defence station and an attack on it as its vehicles. Well written, and another stand-out story.

Ab Initio, by Susan Bolton, is a tale which explores the changes a deadly disease outbreak wrought on society, and cleverly uses age and how it affects our need to create as one of its vehicles.

The Shadows Are Us And They Are The Shadows, by Jo Zebedee, cleverly explores the aftermath of global devastation from the perspective of an interesting people. I won’t say more than that, in an effort not to spoil the story. It’s memorable and different, another great stand-out.

All in all, this anthology works wonderfully in showing that SF is still a genre which has a lot to say and has so many ways in which to say those things. Filled with great ideas and characters, Distaff is, hopefully, the first volume in what I hope will be an anthology series, and deserves to be widely read and enjoyed.

9 / 10

For more info about the anthology, the talented story tellers and their tales, check out this site. The anthology will be released on August 15 and is available for pre-order. 🙂 Also, go ahead and add Distaff to your Goodreads shelf.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Blog Tour: The Plague Stones by James Brogden – Excerpt (Titan Books)

Hey everyone, I hope you’re all well and having a great week so far. 🙂

Today I’m participating in a multi-blog tour to promote a new Horror novel published by Titan Books, and I’ve got an excerpt for you!

Fleeing from a traumatic break-in, Londoners Paul and Tricia Feenan sell up to escape to the isolated Holiwell village where Tricia has inherited a property. Scattered throughout the settlement are centuries-old stones used during the Great Plague as boundary markers. No plague-sufferer was permitted to pass them and enter the village. The plague diminished, and the village survived unscathed, but since then each year the village trustees have insisted on an ancient ceremony to renew the village boundaries, until a misguided act by the Feenans’ son then reminds the village that there is a reason traditions have been rigidly stuck to, and that all acts of betrayal, even those committed centuries ago, have consequences…

I’ve got this coming up soon to read and review, and I’m really looking forward to it! But without further ado, here’s that excerpt:

Toby jerked awake with a cry. For a moment he couldn’t remember where he was. There was no familiar street light here or sound of traffic on the busy road outside. It was altogether too dark, too quiet. His phone had just fallen to the floor, uplighting the room and pulling the shadows high towards the odd-angled ceiling in skewed perspectives. He checked the time: 1:43.

Stone Cottage. New home. Not the flat.

Obviously there was nobody sitting at his bureau. Just another intruder nightmare brought about by staying up too late on his phone. Nothing to see here, folks, move along. All the same, he got up and went to the window just to be sure, listening to the strange new creaks of the floor under his feet, wondering how long before they became familiar, before this place would feel like home. This place is safe. It’s protected, they’d said, but they’d lied.

Because there was someone in the back garden.

Toby’s breath stopped.

A girl, he was fairly certain of that, from the slightness of her figure, the shift-type dress that she wore, and her long hair. Beyond that he couldn’t tell much because of the darkness that left her face in shadow, but her pale arms looked somehow blotchy. She was standing in the middle of the lawn, right by the parish stone.

She wasn’t doing anything, just standing there. It occurred to him that she might be a junkie, either looking for something to steal or simply too high to notice where she was, although he couldn’t imagine how she’d got in because the back gate was firmly locked; she’d have had to climb the fence and she didn’t look strong enough for that. In fact, given that it was still only April and had been raining all day, he wouldn’t have been surprised to find that she’d caught her death of cold. She didn’t look dangerous. For a moment he wondered whether he should get his parents to call an ambulance or something – maybe that shift thing was a hospital gown. Maybe he should let her in for some warmth and shelter.

‘Some have entertained angels without knowing it,’ he murmured.

The girl’s head snapped up, staring straight at his window. Her face was still in shadow but now there was the glitter of eyes deep in sunken sockets.

Staring straight at him.

He yelped and fell back. It was impossible that she could have seen him – almost as impossible as her being there in the first place.

Warily, he approached the window again, expecting to find the garden empty.

She was still there, still staring. However, the ground around her was busy now with small, dark shapes, tumbling about her bare feet as if playing. Rats. The sound of their chittering reached him clearly.

She raised her arm, and beckoned to him.

Come down.

There we go, a nice little surge of gooseflesh for you! 😉

You can order your copies of The Plague Stones at the following links: Amazon UK and Amazon US, You can also head over to James’ blog for more info on him and his work, and below are all the blogs / sites that have already participated in the tour and the stops coming up. 🙂

That’s it for now – see you back here soon for a new review. 🙂 Until then,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Blog Tour, Excerpt

 

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Review: AfroSF – Volume 3 – edited by Ivor W Hartmann (StoryTime Publishing)

You might remember that I reviewed the first volume of AfroSF back in 2013, and although I missed the second volume, I was glad to be able to read and review this third volume.

This anthology features writers also had work published in the first and second volumes – voices who have quickly become a well-deserved barometer of the growth of African Science Fiction, and writers I haven’t read before.

The anthology opens with Njuzu from T.L. Huchu, and explores the roles grief and long-held beliefs co-mingle off-planet. The tale is heartfelt and gentle, exploring a mystery not easily understood – but the mystery of the tale adds to the sadness and Huchu leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the mystery is important or not. Follow Tendai and his work at @TendaiHuchu.

The Girl Who Stared at Mars by Cristy Zinn explores how we always take with us what we’re trying to escape from. It is a lyrical, soft and yet intense read which many, many readers will love, even though it might call upon some of their own painful memories. Head over to cristyzinn.com for more info about Cristy and her work.

The EMO Hunter, by Mandisi Nkomo, explores a variety of themes by way of a kind of cyberpunk personality-crisis meditation on the extremes of climate science or beliefs. Sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but the tale works on both the detailed, character-focused level and the more encompassing top-down level. Visit thedarkcow.com for more info and Mandisi and his work.

The Luminal Frontier, by Biram Mboob, is one of the best time travel tales I’ve ever read. One thing that has always bugged me about time travel is the inherent paradox at the heart of every plot – and Biram answers this in a mind-bending manner even Christopher Nolan would be blown away by. I will be very surprised (and both saddened and angered) if this story doesn’t appear in Best Of’s and Mammoth Book Of’s later this year. Mind-blowing stuff! Follow Biram at @BiramMboob.

The Far Side by Gabriella Muwanga seems almost unfinished, or perhaps ‘unfocused’ would be a better description. The tale follows what a father will do for his child, and on the face of that, works – but the story is marred by the sometimes almost childish reactions and spitefulness of the main character, which leech a bit of the emotional strength of the story. Still, it will make readers think, and succeeds.

Drift-Flux by Wole Talabi is a great example of how much one can cram into a short story to make it exciting, pacey and entertaining. There’s a wonderful feel of The Expanse and Firefly to this tale, and the main character’s Nigerian-Idoma roots play an important part in the plot. It’s well-written, with great pace and excellent action. Check out Wole’s site for more info about him and his work.

Journal of a DNA Pirate by Stephen Embleton is a nasty, vicious, exciting tale – it shows how of group of extremists plan to ‘reset’ humanity, and works well enough despite what some may think is excessive swearing and, perhaps, the story’s setting. The ideas present and how they were explored have definitely put Stephen on my keep-a-look-out-for radar.

The Interplanetary Water Company by Masimba Musodza was a bit of a disappointment; the tale opens with what reads like a pages-long infodump to set the scene, and by the time I was done with that I wasn’t really interested in reading it further. It also features terms which would be more at home in 1940’s pulp SF – but without communicating that nostalgia to the reader. But even though it’s the weakest tale in the anthology, it remains entertaining and clever in places. Check out more of Masimba’s work at @musodza.

Safari Nyota: A Prologue by Dilman Dila is a wonderful example of how a self-contained story can feel as if it’s part of a greater narrative without leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve missed something. The tale takes place on a generation ship, transporting colonists to a new world, watched over by androids, and explores morality and the price of choice from a synthetic (yet identifiable) point of view. The short story is also part of a larger project, so head over to Dilman’s site for more info.

Parental Control by Mazi Nwonwu is a complicated and emotional tale, taking place both in virtual space and the real world, and explores the core of what makes a family – or what most believe ‘family’ means. It hits hard, so be prepared to think about this tale and what it leaves behind.

Inhabitable by Andrew Dakalira is an unwieldy tale in which the themes of camaraderie, the struggle to survive and betrayal don’t retain enough of their power to be really effective. It’s as if there was too much to fit in, and some of the story’s meat was removed in editing to stick to a wordcount. That might not be the case at all, in fact, but it’s the feeling I got from reading it. Nonetheless, Andrew is now also a writer I’ll be watching out for.

Ogotemmeli’s Song by Mame Bougouma Diene is pure, joyous and far-seeing space opera. One of my favourites from this anthology, and also something I hope Mame is considering expanding into a saga. This is the tale that captures the heart and soul of AfroSF. Check out Mame’s Twitter for more info.

If there’s one thing anthologies such as AfroSF continue to show, it’s that Science Fiction (or more broadly, Speculative Fiction) has depths and colours unheard of or imagined, and that we all (humanity) continue to share the same core loves and needs and hopes and fears – as well as the capacity to imagine. I truly think we are only still witnessing the birth of non-Western Speculative Fiction, and AfroSF is a small but important part of its continued expansion and growth. Nicely done, authors, and Ivor. 🙂

8 / 10

Click here to order your copies of AfroSF Volume 3, here  to read a great review from Jared Shurin on Tor.com, and check out the StoryTime site here.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: Captain Marvel – Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe (Titan Books)

Hey everyone, I’m back with a review of one of Titan’s Marvel Universe novels, focusing on Captain Marvel herself. 🙂

I’ve been a comic fan since grade school, and although my first love has always been DC comics, I’m a Marvel fan, too (shocker – it’s possible and okay to be a fan of both!). My first ‘meeting’ with Carol was in the pages of Civil War 2, in which she led the side opposing Tony Stark’s stance on a provocative and dangerous Inhuman threat. So, I haven’t followed her career from the beginning, though I do like her current uniform and hairstyle more than her previous looks. Carol struck me as a strong, determined, self-confident person, willing to stand by her convictions and to fight for what she perceives as ‘right’. In fact, in Civil War 2, she surpassed Steve Rogers, in my opinion. But I didn’t know or understand Carol and her motivations, even though I could see the value in them.

I was hoping that Liberation Run would also serve as an introduction to the character for readers who weren’t familiar with her (like me), and in that, Liberation Run disappointed me. Carol is the carol I met in Civil War -as strong, determined and principled as I expected- but this book was written for readers who have a long-standing reader-character relationship with Carol. There are mentions here and there of how she received her powers and events that moulded her motivations, but readers (such as me) who are meeting Carol for the first time might feel (as I do) that they have read an entire novel starring her without having been able to get to know her. In terms of giving Carol / Captain Marvel a well-rounded introduction to new readers / prospective fans, the novel disappoints.

And unfortunately, it also disappoints in terms of setting. 😦

There is a definite difference in the aspects of storytelling which are obvious and important when comparing comics to novels, which is as it should be. If i think back to John Byrne’s depictions of Krypton, I remember how different and exciting the landscape and architecture was, how Byrne showed us that we were on Krypton – on a different planet. But where the majority of Liberation Run takes place (a different planet, among an alien species) has human-centric buildings and landscapes, English is spoken by everyone, the clothing styles are human (evening dresses, for example), the alien species looks relatively human (yes, there is an expected anthropomorphism in comics, but you can tell just by looking at him that Thanos isn’t a human being, for example), and the technology, when compared to what would conceivably exist on Earth at the same time, is the same (except for a cool spaceship). What we have is an alien species living on a different planet being and acting and looking like humans with human technology – which begs the question: why did the majority of the novel take place on a different planet?

Now, another thing which gets to me a bit is when characters with superpowers show inconsistent power-levels – such as in the CW shows, Supergirl and The Flash. Sometimes Supergirl can pick up something massive and other times she struggles with something vastly smaller; sometimes The Flash reaches a location in split-seconds and sometimes it takes 5 or more seconds, when there’s no apparent reason -such as increased distance / fatigue- for such inconsistencies. And there was one glaring inconsistency in Liberation Run, with something Carol did early in the book and then seemingly couldn’t do later on – catching a spaceship, and then having no choice but to let the spaceship crash. I might be nitpicking, but inconsistencies are glaring – if Captain America can’t take a punch from an average Skrull but can stand against a punch from Thanos, there’s a problem.

My review is not all doom and gloom, though. 🙂

The Inhuman character who shares the spotlight with Carol, Rhi, is a good example of how to handle character growth and to keep a character’s arc interesting and engaging. The other Inhumans we meet manage to populate the narrative memorably and don’t just function as mouths for extra dialogue and padding. The plot, while a bit held back by the unfortunate setting, was fast-paced there were cool set-piece battles, with well-handled tension.

So, as an introduction for those who don’t know Carol Danvers’ backstory, and for those seeking a fleshed-out, well thought-out setting, the novel unfortunately falls short. But looked at as a quick, fun romp for a group of superheroes as they go about righting a terrible wrong, ‘Liberation Run‘ does its job well. 🙂

I’ll have to give it a 6/10.

You can order your copies from Amazon here, and check out the rest of Titan’s Marvel Universe novels here. Tess Sharpe has written much more than ‘Liberation Run’ so do visit her website to see the rest of her work. The next Marvel novel from Titan I’ll be reading and reviewing is Thanos: Death Sentence by Stuart Moore.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: Adrift by Rob Boffard

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂 I’m back with a review of Rob Boffard’s excellent ‘Adrift’!

In the far reaches of space, a tour group embarks on what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one . . .

At Sigma Station, a remote mining facility and luxury hotel in deep space, a group of tourists boards a small vessel to take in the stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula.

But while they’re out there, a mysterious ship with devastating advanced technology attacks the station. Their pilot’s quick thinking means that the tourists escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realise they may be the only survivors . . .

Adrift in outer space on a vastly under-equipped ship, they’ve got no experience, no weapons, no contact with civilisation. They are way out of their depth, and if they can’t figure out how to work together, they’re never getting home alive.

Because the ship that destroyed the station is still out there. And it’s looking for them…

First off, that cover sets the reader up brilliantly for what they can expect, so congrats to massive kudos to Charlotte Stroomer, the cover designer. Secondly, what a read! Rob’s work first came to my attention years ago when I received a printed MS copy from his South African distributors, and I’m ashamed to admit that I just never got around to reading Tracer. After reading ‘Adrift‘, I’ll be reading the entire ‘Outer Earth Trilogy‘ (the omnibus edition), as soon as I can. This is definitely a case of “don’t delay, read the damned books!”.

Adrift‘ takes place in a possible future where humanity had found and learned how to use wormholes to travel to many different solar systems, but the expansion hasn’t gone well – and not because of aliens. I won’t give the reason for the background conflict away (the first scene of the first chapter gives the reader a great introduction to this conflict, and the rest of the book adds more detail), but the conflict itself is central to the plot, and in surprising ways.

The plot, detailing how a group of disparate tourists, a representative of the tour company, and the pilot of their vessel are thrown into a survival nightmare- is expertly paced and unputdownable. Every chapter ends with a sneaky hook to lead you into the next and the chapters cycle between specific characters, which gives the reader a broad and yet intimate look into the kinds of people and personalities who will take them through the book. And let me tell you – there are massive surprises and turnarounds; many times I had to lower the book and exclaim to the wall across from me, “What the fuck?!” – in an admiring and jealousy-laden tone. These events serve the plot and deepen it – they’re not just there to make things more exciting, and everything ties together as the pieces of the mystery the characters are embroiled in fall into place.

What Rob manages to do with this novel is present the reader with a kickass premise, stand-out characters, brilliantly conceived and handled action set-pieces, and a multilayered mystery which ends with massively cool bang. He’s also managed to end the story as well as leave the universe he’s created open for more exploration. SciFi Magazine called this: “A TERRIFICALLY CINEMATIC ROLLER-COASTER” SciFi Magazine, and Gareth Powell said that Adrift is ‘an edge-of-the-seat epic of survival and adventure in deep space‘; I agree wholeheartedly with both assessments. Absolutely kickass novel!

9/10

To order your copies of ‘Adrift‘, head over to Amazon, and add the book to your Goodreads shelf here. Also, don’t forget to have a gander at Rob’s site.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Spotlight and Excerpt: We Call It Monster by Lachlan Walters (Severed Press)

A story-cycle/novel-in-stories, We Call It Monster is written in a grounded and realistic way, with each chapter unfolding from the perspective of a different character, and detailing his or her first-hand experience of the conflict between humans and monsters.

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well and that you enjoyed your weekend! I’m back with another spotlight for a book that should be on your radar – and what a cover!

Here’s some info about the book:

One ordinary day, an enormous creature dragged itself out of the ocean and laid waste to a city. In the months and years that followed, more and more creatures appeared until not a single country remained untouched. At first, people tried to fight them. In the end, all they could do was try and stay alive.

We Call It Monster is a story of forces beyond our control, and of immense and impossible creatures that make plain how small we really are. It is the story of our fight for survival and our discovery of that which truly matters: community and compassion, love and family, hope and faith.

Here’s the excerpt from ‘We Call It Monster‘:

The old man shuffled out to the balcony, dusted off an outdoor chair and then made himself comfortable. The sky was a shade of blue that painters only dream about; it was a beautiful sight. The old man drank it in, leaning back in his chair. He sipped at his coffee and smoked a cigarette. He was happy to wait as long as was necessary – he had all the time in the world and he wasn’t going anywhere.

The monster finally appeared, a blurry smudge in the distance.

Slowly, but not as slowly as he would have thought, it grew both closer and more distinct. The old man laughed out loud; it looked like nothing more than a child’s drawing of something that might have been a lobster or might have been a spider or might have been both, propped up on flagpole-like legs that supported a wetly-shining carapace, a beaked head, and a tail as long as a bus.

It was enormous and ridiculous in equal measure. The old man was surprised to find that it failed to frighten him.

It drew closer to the city. It stopped suddenly and bit a great chunk out of a stately old tree lining a boulevard. Chewing slowly and methodically, it worked its way through the mass of wood and foliage before throwing its head back and opening its mouth wide. Despite his deafness, the old man felt the monster’s keening in his bones and in the pit of his stomach.

He pulled his hearing aid from his pocket, turned it on then slipped it in place.

The beast’s cry was low and mournful, more a melancholy bellow than a ferocious roar. Thankfully, the klaxon-blare of the evacuation alarms had stopped. The monster cried out again and it shook the old man, both literally and metaphorically. The beast shifted its legs, presumably adjusting its weight, and destroyed an office building in the process.

Almost comically, it looked down at the destruction it had wrought and seemed to shake its head.

It looked back up and cried out a third time, and then started walking again. It seemed to meet the old man’s eye. Without breaking its gaze, the old man took another sip of coffee before lighting another cigarette.

Slowly-slowly-slowly, the monster drew closer. You could almost see a smile on the old man’s face.

Paperback: 210 pages

Publisher: Severed Press (February 13, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1925840522

ISBN-13: 978-1925840520

The novel was written by Lachlan Walter, and I’m looking forward to reading this because I really enjoyed ‘The Rain Never Came‘, and this looks absolutely epic! The books is available for your Kindle and as a print-edition.

Here’s some info about Lachlan:

Lachlan Walter is a writer, science-fiction critic and nursery-hand (the garden kind, not the baby kind), and is the author of two books: the deeply Australian post-apocalyptic tale The Rain Never Came, and the giant-monster story-cycle We Call It Monster. He also writes science fiction criticism for Aurealis magazine and reviews for the independent ‘weird music’ website Cyclic Defrost, his short fiction can be found floating around online, and he has completed a PhD that critically and creatively explored the relationship between Australian post-apocalyptic fiction and Australian notions of national identity.

He loves all things music-related, the Australian environment, overlooked genres and playing in the garden. He hopes that you’re having a nice day.

You can connect with Lachlan on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to check out his site and the web-home of Severed Press.

That’s it for now, and until next time…

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2019 in Excerpt, Spotlight

 

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LAUREGALIE

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