Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the tag “Novels”

Poll: Which Book Should I Publish Next?


Okay, I need some help focusing here. The time-gobbling monster has already eaten January and is threatening to eat February, too.

First, before I go any further, it’s time to get something off my chest. I’m not sick of indie publishing but I am sick of trying to sell novels to children and young adults. On the plus side, I have some fabulous loyal adult readers, many of whom have read both Desiccation and Noah Padgett and the Dog-People and given me a heap of positive feedback. This has led me to believe that I don’t write the sort of novels that most people under the age of 18 want to read, but ones that their parents and grandparents want to read instead. Yes, my novels contain elements of fantasy and science fiction, but no, they’re not about wizards, vampires, paranormal romance, spaceships with lasers blazing (or whatever lasers do).


This leads me on to my next point: even if I publish a novel specifically for adults, it could still deviate from the expectations that die-hard fans of a particular genre might have.

I had considered writing a genre-bending novel, as it fits into the bracket of quirky and yet has an identifiable market. With that in mind, I decided to read Jane Austen’s  Pride and Prejudice and then carry out a textual comparison between it and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies. The trouble was that I loved the original so much that I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of the zombie version, which I hated. Maybe if I hadn’t read the original, then I might have seen it differently. Certainly it made the New York Times best seller list. I don’t have a problem with zombie books per se, having read some excellent ones. I just don’t like ones that would make Jane Austen turn in her grave (no apologies for the pun), although I do acknowledge that some of her writing is quite witty. Maybe one day I might bring myself to write a novel based on a classic novel but not so that it follows the original text word-for-word in places; otherwise, what’s the point in having worked hard to develop a voice of my own?

I’ve written five novels in all, leaving three unpublished as yet. The fifth one, my speculative fiction novel Counting Magpies, I intend to submit to publishers after a further edit, as I’ve identified some new small press publishers that didn’t exist a couple of years ago but are looking for quirky novels. There are plenty of successful hybrid authors, who have both indie and traditionally published novels, so why not me?

Now to ask you, my wonderful blog followers and visitors, readers or potential readers, which book I should indie publish next. In other words, which would you be most likely to buy, if any at all? To help answer this, I would really appreciate it if you could take part in the poll and/or comment with some constructive feedback. I’m at a bit of a crossroads and am not sure which direction to take just now.


Review: Indiot (Isa Maxwell Escapades, Book 2)

Indiot by Ana Spoke

Indiot (Isa Maxwell Escapades, Book 2)
by Ana Spoke (Goodreads Author)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isa Maxwell’s second adventure proves to be even more entertaining than the first and decidedly more dangerous. This time, the dippy but well-intentioned blonde, having made oodles of money from writing a book, embarks on a trip to India to use some of her wealth to help the poor and dispossessed, plus a supposedly down-on-his-luck prince.

On her flight out to India, Isa meets the glamorous and bejewelled Vivian, who seems like best-friend material at first acquaintance. [Anything further about this relationship would be a spoiler, so my lips are sealed.]

Isa’s arrival in Delhi is a total culture shock. Noise, fumes, chaos, locals haggling for business, police corruption, Indian mafia activities, you name it, Isa finds it, or it finds her. It’s as if her naïvety, combined with good-heartedness, acts as a magnet to those looking for easy pickings. But to underestimate Isa’s ability to pull out all the stops (albeit with plentiful blunders on the way), is to assume that she isn’t capable of great ingenuity when it comes to survival.

Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell Escapades Book 1) was primarily comedy chic-lit, but Indiot is a thriller with OTT elements that amount to comedy of the variety that makes you cover your face or clutch your head as you wonder if things can get any worse for Isa. It would make a great comedy thriller movie, and the fact that I kept seeing it as such, says a great deal about Ana Spoke’s ability to paint an extremely vivid picture of India as seen very much through her central protagonist’s eyes: the idealistic outsider learning the hard way about an alien culture.

Ana Spoke gave me an advance copy of Indiot in exchange for an honest review, although my apologies to the author for not making it until nearly a week after publication day. I actually read the novel in two sittings, which says much about its ability to grip the reader’s attention.The only negative to me–and it’s only something small–was that I felt that there could be a little more about Isa’s relationship with Mr Hue and with her friend Harden in Book 1. This was necessary both as a recap for those who read the previous novel soon after it came out (about 9 months ago), as well as to anyone who picked up Book 2 first and read it as a standalone. So, everybody, read both novels, and read them in the right order.

And when you reach the end of Indiot, I can pretty much guarantee that Ana Spoke will have left you dying to read Isa Maxwell’s Escapade Book 3.

This is an author whose writing gets better and better…

Indiot (Amazon US)
Indiot (Amazon UK)

Goodreads review of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell Escapades, Book 1)
If you missed reading Shizzle, Inc, you can now download it for free on Kindle (Amazon US & Amazon UK).

Ana Spoke’s blog 
Ana Spoke — Goodreads Author

February’s Guest Storyteller, Ana Spoke (2016)

Time Traveller Returns From 1967 #urban fantasy

Flower Power2

Hello everybody,

I’m back following a month spent in a posh boarding school for girls.

My time machine took me back to 1967, as instructed, but not to the right month or the right location. Instead of visiting San Francisco to participate in The Summer of Love, I ended up on the southeast coast of the UK in the Autumn, in time for some less than peaceful happenings at a girls boarding school.

By the end of 2015, you will all have a chance to learn what a close call it was for the world during that term of 1967. Meanwhile, try to imagine how Doctor Who must feel about all those occasions he has saved our world from destruction by unwelcome extraterrestrials or creatures from other dimensions.

Enough of that for now. I don’t want to jitter present students at the posh establishment upon which I’ve based my fictional school: well, not yet, anyway.

Wearing my serious face now, I completed the July on-screen edit of my urban fantasy novel Desiccation, as intended, arriving at the end — albeit, exhausted — on the 31st of the month. Next thing on the agenda is to do an out-loud read-through from hard copy, doubtless, driving my family up the wall. But the dog will enjoy it, I’m sure.

Apart from this, of course, I intend to spend some serious catch-up time over at your blogs. I have missed you all during my sabbatical and have had a mighty battle with myself to stay away from WordPress. Just as well my time machine wasn’t advanced enough to send messages into the future whilst sojourning in the past.

And for your enjoyment, I’ve brought back a top ten hit from the music charts of 1967 that is a personal favourite of one of the main characters in my novel. Unfortunately, I can only mention the song by title in the story, otherwise I end up in copyright territory, which can prove expensive. As a teenager, The Who were one of my favourite groups, so the least I can do is give them a mention in my fiction all these years later.

Wishing you all a happy and fulfilling August

With love,

Sarah x


Interview with Author, Dave Farmer

davefarmerI’m thrilled to welcome Dave back to my blog for a third time. Some of you will remember his guest storyteller appearance back in June of last year, when he teased us with an extract from his speculative “what if” novel, The Range, which he went on to publish in November. For those of you who missed the publication day post, here’s the blurb.

News breaks of a deadly virus in Asia but, despite fatalities, few people take it seriously. Sheltered within the university bubble, Samantha and Louise are convinced the UK is invulnerable to this virus, until gruesome events unfold around the world and the death toll rises from hundreds to millions. By the time the virus reaches England and students on campus start falling sick, Samantha has to weigh up the risks of travelling home to London. She decides to sit tight with Louise and wait for everything to blow over. But the situation further deteriorates in ways the two friends couldn’t have envisaged. Their student flat is no fortress and there’s only one place they’ll be safe: The Range.

I found the novel both gripping and thought-provoking. Dave has a fantastic imagination and I wish him every success with his intended “Bloodwalker Legacy” trilogy, of which The Range is Book 1.

And now a few questions for the great man himself…

SP: When and why did you start writing novels, and is The Range your first or the first one that you decided to publish?

DF: Writing novels stems from the ever growing word count of short stories, which evolved into novellas, though it took many years of learning the craft of writing to build up a toolbox of skills to enable me to put together a full novel. The Range is the first novel I decided to publish, and I consider previous attempts as a learning curve.

SP: Why did you decide to self-publish straight off, rather than test out the traditional route?

DF: Like other writers, I’ve watched the publishing world change, and the advent of the internet and ebooks has shifted the control aspect of publishing from traditional publishing houses to the writers themselves. I thought long and hard about which route to take, and the appeal of managing my writing via self-publishing was too hard to resist as it puts me in control.

SP: During my reading of The Range, I loved the characters, settings, plot and dialogue, but on the editorial and proofreading front it still needed attention, now sorted in the newly uploaded version [Please note, fellow bloggers, the fact that Dave and I are still friends is a testimony to his good nature and willingness to take constructive criticism]. Over to you, Dave, for your comment on the editorial side of things.

DF: In my opinion a good writer will take well-reasoned constructive criticism as a positive, and not view it as an attack on their ability. I believed I had edited out all the errors and typos so it was annoying to have someone point out those I had missed. Yet at the same time I welcomed them because it helped improve the reading experience for the next reader. My advice to anyone planning to self-publish is to request feedback from a variety of beta readers (if you can’t afford a professional editor) because someone will always spot a hidden error others have missed. A big thank you to Sarah for being that someone, and as infuriating as it is to have those errors pointed out, I am indeed very grateful.

SP: Your main protagonist in The Range is Samantha, from whose first-person point of view you write. As a female reader, I found your portrayal of someone of my gender extremely authentic and believable. Why did you choose this viewpoint and how difficult did you find it getting inside the head of someone of the opposite sex?

DF: An early draft of The Range was from the view-point of a video camera, operated by Samantha, but it didn’t work as I couldn’t capture the emotions and thoughts of the central character. I chose a female character because having read many novels of a similar genre I found the lead was male, more often than not, and though I wanted to explore a different angle and see how a female would cope in such difficult times, it didn’t require a lot of decision-making as it came naturally to write from a female perspective. It wasn’t too difficult to write from a female point of view, though I did seek advice at times, especially when it came to certain phrases and mannerisms.

SP: Who is your favourite character in the novel and why?

DF: That’s a tough one! I want to say Pedley because he’s a creepy guy and I enjoyed spending time creating him. Yet I’m drawn to Vic more so because he’s the underdog, and despite his odd nature, he has a good heart and wants to be needed.

SP: Which did you enjoy writing about the most: the goodies or baddies?

DF: Whilst spending time in Samantha’s head has been a great experience, and something of a learning curve too, I relished writing scenes with the bad guys because it was a chance to explore the darker side of human nature.

SP: You’ve chosen to set the main part of the novel’s action in the University City of Cambridge, UK, a place with which you’re closely familiar. Did you ever consider setting it in a fictional city, or did you think it important to choose a real place so as to give the reader a frame of reference amidst all the apocalyptic-style chaos that ensues?

DF: It wasn’t necessary to give readers a sense of reference since many readers may not be familiar with Cambridge or other locations. I chose real life places to ground myself in those surroundings in the hope it would feel more real to the reader. The “write what you know” aspect of storytelling doesn’t always work since I don’t know any Bloodwalkers, however, using real places enabled me to visit them to get a better sense of the “what-if” factor and hopefully with realism in place it would make the fantastical elements more believable, and frightening.

SP: The novel opens up all manner of “what-if” questions, some of which are complex. Are you a writer who researches and does a plot outline in advance, or do you research as you write and let the characters decide what happens?

DF: I prefer a blend of the two. Early drafts were written from the seat of my pants, and I learned that it didn’t work well due to losing track of where I wanted characters and plot to go. I adopted a system of knowing where I wanted the story or each chapter/scene to start, Point A, and knowing where I wanted them to end up, Point C, and enjoying the ride through Point B. I did considerable research into many aspects of the story, some I never used, but it helped build my confidence with the characters and events.

SP: Without holding you to an exact date, when are you intending to publish The Holt, your sequel to The Range?

DF: I’m about half way through The Holt and plan to finish it by May 2015. Allowing time for beta reader feedback and editing, I estimate The Holt will be published by the end of summer, possibly early autumn 2015. Day jobs are indeed a distraction when it comes to spending time in Imaginationland.

SP: Who and what in your life has most inspired or encouraged you to write?

DF: From an early age it was my dad who inspired me to write. He encouraged me to read more than the books given out at school. After reading Kes or Buddy from English class, I’d hide under the covers at night and read Stephen King. He has been a constant source of help and guidance over the years. Equally important are my close friends who cheered me on when I felt my heart wasn’t in it at times.


Thank you, Dave. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the interview and hope you have, too!

the range book cover FINALThe Range is available for purchase in both kindle and paperback format from and

Dave blogs at

Neglected Structures & Overgrown Place #29 — Part-time Leather Chairs & Secret Reading

Leather Chairs

Throughout the year, these chairs have come and gone from their present position. I reckon they’re family rumpus chairs that are kept hidden from visitors: most especially from snooty relatives coming to stay for Christmas and the New Year.

As you can see, their basic framework is good and the leather well maintained (ignore the bird droppings and rain on them) but, if you look closely, the seat cushions have indents in them, each of them bearing the shape of their usual occupant’s bottom. And just because people are related to one another, it doesn’t mean they all have the same size backside.

Personally, I’ve not hidden any item of furniture from visitors. However, this year I admit to removing a particular novel from the sitting-room when some of Mister’s erudite friends came to our house for a meeting about local arts and culture events. The book was such an embarrassment that, even on Goodreads, I didn’t own up to reading it; although there were two perfectly valid reasons for it being in my possession. Firstly, because my daughter lent it to me and, secondly, because I wanted to know why the darned thing was a bestseller. Let’s just say that I won’t bother with the other two novels in the trilogy and would have given it 2-stars in a review.

What, if anything, have you hidden from visitors?

Yay, It’s Publication Day for Dave Farmer’s Novel, “The Range” :-)

the range book cover FINALNews breaks of a deadly virus in Asia but, despite fatalities, few people take it seriously.

Sheltered within the university bubble, Samantha and Louise are convinced the UK is invulnerable to this virus, until gruesome events unfold around the world and the death toll rises from hundreds to millions.

By the time the virus reaches England and students on campus start falling sick, Samantha has to weigh up the risks of travelling home to London. She decides to sit tight with Louise and wait for everything to blow over.

But the situation further deteriorates in ways the two friends couldn’t have envisaged. Their student flat is no fortress and there’s only one place they’ll be safe: The Range.


Hearty congratulations to Dave! Today, the Kindle edition of The Range (Bloodwalker Legacy Book 1) becomes available for purchase from and The print on demand version is available via CreateSpace and will be linked to the Kindle listing in 3-5 business days.

Some of you will remember Dave from his previous appearance on my blog as June’s guest storyteller, where he whetted our appetites with an extract from The Range. In that post, I described him as writing speculative type “what-if” fiction that concentrates on things such as courage, loyalty and friendship, but with an apocalyptic slant. Of course, this makes him very much a writer after my own heart.

Dave blogs at

777 Challenge: An Excerpt About Naughty Schoolgirls

Leigh W. Smith of Leigh’s Wordsmithery very kindly tagged me for the 777 challenge back in mid-October (shame-faced at my slowness to respond). Leigh is such a cool writer of most original voice and style. She writes speculative fiction and science fiction, mostly short stories, although she is working on her first novel. Do visit her blog and read some of her awesome creations.

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress. This is all a bit of fun: nobody must feel beholden to take part and they are free to bend the rules if they wish.

SarahWritingI’ve already done a similar challenge (Lucky Sevens) twice before, for my Speculative fiction novel that I’m busy submitting to literary agents and publishers just now. What I found interesting about this earlier exercise was that my 7 lines changed from the first draft to the last. For anyone who’s interested, you will find the two different versions in these posts —  Lucky Seven Time! and The Magnum Opus: Where Did that Year Go?  Also, the title has changed several times, with it ending up as Counting Magpies, partly thanks to my fellow bloggers’ input in a recent poll.

At the moment, my work-in-progress involves editing and formatting one of my older novels, possibly with self-publication in mind. It’s not a path I ever envisaged going down but no harm in exploring all avenues. This particular novel, Desiccation, is set in a posh girls boarding school in the 60s and is a darkly comic science fantasy, which I envisage as being suitable for older teenagers upwards. So here’s my extract, although I can’t guarantee that it will appear exactly on Page 7 by the time I’ve finished my edit.


The head girl despaired at both the skag and the hog, but she could just about tolerate them as long as they didn’t start quibbling about her extortionate commission; not that she was optimistic about making a fortune with such shoddy specimens in her employ.

The sport-mad Skag Rag looked more like a boy than a girl with her flat chest, muscly limbs, and short-cropped hair, while Sweat Hog resembled a large pink blancmange. She could have made something of her white-blonde hair, but instead chose to wear it in a limp ponytail, adding to her general air of neglect. The plus side of both girls’ unattractiveness was their desperation for male attention of any kind.


And while I’m on the subject of girls boarding school, I’d like to share a picture of me, aged 8, dressed as a St Trinian’s Girl for a fancy dress competition! St Trinians Girl


Following that brief interlude, here are the 6 (not 7) people I’m tagging for the 777 Challenge (I hear their feet running off into the distance already!):

Blondeusk of Blondewritemore , who is writing her first novel and was my guest storyteller in August (Note: this tagging is strictly under the proviso that Blondeusk doesn’t take up the challenge until December, after she has surfaced from NaNoWriMo as I’m encouraging her not to read back over any of her novel-in-progress until she has typed THE END).

Sherri of A View From My Summerhouse, who’s writing her memoirs. (And shush, this is secret as Sherri doesn’t know it yet, but I’m shortly going to invite her along as a guest storyteller to my blog).

Dave of Dave Farmer’s Blog, whose fantastic zombie novel The Range is due for publication at the end of this month (watch out for the Publication Day special on my blog). Dave was my guest storyteller in June.

Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate, who is at the submission stage of her poignant novel The skin of a selkie and was my guest storyteller in October.

Ese Klava of Ese’s Voice, who has travelled the world and has written a book titled Butterfly Thy Name.

David Milligan-Croft of There Is No Cavalry, who, like me, doesn’t enjoy the restrictions of genre. I’m not sure where he is with his second novel, Peripheral Vision, re editing, but I’m hopeful he’ll take up the 777 challenge.  The story is about a boy growing up in the 1970s northern England, who descends into crime and whose only chance at redemption is in finding his long-lost childhood sweetheart.

September’s Guest Storyteller, Leigh Ward-Smith

Leigh Ward-Smith

Leigh Ward-Smith has a journalism and editing background, but fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction occupy most of her current brainspace. She blogs at Leigh’s Wordsmithery  but also tweets, tweaks her wordcraftery, and sometimes opines on Twitter @1WomanWordsmith or on Facebook.

[quote] “I credit Serendipity with helping me discover Sarah’s blog, for which I’m very grateful, and I thank you all for taking the time to read my work”.

Out of a group of genetically enhanced humans with canid capabilities, a female and male study subject battle for dominance with increasing aggression. One researcher monitors them from a distance, mindful that the study could spiral out of control but determined to see who will emerge as Alpha.

The Enhanced: Prologue

“Observation is the most pervasive and fundamental practice of all the modern sciences, both natural and human.” — Histories of Scientific Observation, edited by Daston and Lunbeck

Brandon tore a clot of hair from Thea, not appearing surprised when she snarled. She wasn’t one to whimper. By arching her back she’d managed to get them to pinwheel a few times, but then he splayed across her again, his panting animal form struggling to pin hers.

“Stay down, bi—”

With another strong upthrust of the broad, muscular plain of her back, Thea flipped Brandon’s bulk just far enough away for her to roll opposite and get partly upright, but still lupine. If she could have expressed herself in human terms in that instant, she’d have said that a lone instinct seized her mind by its muzzle and shook it violently side to side. The buried impulse rose up, gutturally thumping and pronounless:

Rip throat. Rip throat. Rip throat.

When she twisted her tongue out, grazing her mouth’s corner for a tentative taste, she found salt and grit mingling with thready saliva.

“You can’t get away, T.” Brandon talked his tough wannabe talk as he took a half-step backward, never lifting his eyes from the forest floor. “Give it up.”

Even though she glared and gnashed bared teeth, he kept up the chatter. At a distance.

“C’mon, show me your yellow belly,” he called, his scratched-up lips peeled back in a grin.

That must have raised all kinds of hackles, fully human and otherwise, for she loped the since-blossomed distance in a hummingbird heartbeat. A miniature maelström of organic materials whorled the air in her quick wake.

Brandon had no time to prepare. Either repulse or countermove. With Thea’s head cocked to the side like that, it appeared that she had gathered some grim satisfaction from his shocked yelp, which also hurt my quotidian ears, even at this distance. With the finely calibrated instruments in my use, I could even measure, calculate, and record the give and recoil of the cypress that caught Brandon in the shoulderblades and mid-back. From the handheld, I saw that it wrested 89% of the oxygen from his barreled chest in an anguished “arhhhh.” Even the trees seemed to give credence to the rightness of research subject 209B’s counterattack.

She has to knock down this whelp a few more notches, I thought as I watched from my blind hunkered down with long-range binoculars, barometers, and the like activated—yet organically disguised—to measure everything from wind speed to body heat to brain-wave activity through utilizing an MRI machine, which included an MR angiogram to measure arterial and venous flow. Some might remember such previously stationary and cumbersome devices from the history files, but ours was a portable ultra-long range resonance imager that could measure brain activity, flow, and structures at up to 1000 meters. And getting better all the time.

Of course, subject 5157R was unwise to challenge Thea’s pawed-out pecking order, her rightful place, among this branch of The Enhanced.

My current research subjects think that the vast, burgeoning newly engineered world is theirs to claim through the bravery born of their genetic gifts. Their enhancements are the spoils of R and D. Including robust physiological and psychological make-up, these cases have been shown to be evolving at speeds never before seen in my previous benchwork or in a literature review done by my colleagues Tolk and Pinell at the Solar University of the Americas. The subjects’ already manifest, and manifold, puissances were in fact palpably expanding. The clinical trial was no longer controlled by us, the Kingdom Animalia Plus Research Group. Our former intellectual quarry—unwittingly surveilled subjects—were not mere guinea pigs. They had turned around and slaughtered just about every expectation, every illusion of scientific control and decorum.

And it was there that I began my research chronicle, prepared for those learned ones who would tread after me, if any did. It was impossible to begin at any other place than at 209B Thea’s climb to extended dominance among The Enhanced.


Sarah says: Thank you so much, Leigh, for your awesome contribution as this month’s guest storyteller. I wish you every success with writing the novel to follow this prologue, and look forward to seeing the finished product.

To read more of Leigh’s writing, which embraces speculative, dystopian, and science fiction, do visit her blog, Leigh’s Wordsmithery.

You can also find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at

Book Review: “Balthasar’s Gift” by Charlotte Otter

balthasar cover_highres-1The Official Blurb: Maybe it was an error for crime reporter Maggie Cloete to ignore the call from the AIDS worker, before someone put four bullets in his chest. It is post-apartheid South Africa, at the turn of the century. But there is a threat to the country’s new democracy: HIV/AIDS, which is met with fear and superstition. Now that fear has reached Pietermaritzburg and an AIDS activist is dead. Maggie’s instincts are on red alert. Despite threats from politicians and gangsters, she learns too much about Balthasar’s life and his work at the AIDS Mission to be distant and professional. She is deeply, and dangerously, involved. Balthasar’s Gift continues the tradition of pacy, hard-boiled South African crime fiction.

IMG_0052_2About the author: Charlotte Otter lives in Germany but used to work as a journalist in South Africa. Fed up with reading crime novels that centred on the naked, mutilated bodies of beautiful young women, her debut novel focuses on a murdered blond gay man, Balthasar, who’s the widower to an AIDS victim and saviour to orphans.

Her novel was first published in Germany under the title Balthasars Vermachtnis and latterly in South Africa in an English language edition. Between 2008, when she started writing her novel, up to signing a publishing deal in 2012, her novel underwent fourteen revisions: three with her agent, three with her co-agent in London and one with her publisher. This just goes to prove that writing isn’t for the fainthearted.

At present, she’s working on her second Maggie Cloete novel, which is an eco-conspiracy that’s named after a rare and threatened butterfly called Karkloof Blue. Nowadays she has to squeeze her writing into two hours daily from 4.30-6.30 am, as she’s working full-time high up the corporate ladder in Information Technology. To quote her, “In my other life, I am a corporate hack, mother of three, reader, traveller, feminist and optimist. I am happily married to the love of my life”.

What I thought of Balthasar’s Gift: Firstly, I just loved Maggie Cloete, the novel’s central protagonist, and was heartily relieved when she was still alive by the last page. Yes, she’s abrasive, stubborn, disobedient, independent-thinking, impatient, rule-breaking, and probably every boss’s idea of a nightmare employee; but everything she does has a good reason and is governed by her demand for justice.

She wants the truth behind Balthasar’s death, which the authorities brush off as caused by a robbery gone wrong but which Maggie believes is related to something that runs far deeper and lies at the heart of what’s rotten about South Africa: its political corruption; its profiteering by a few at the expense of the masses, and its unwillingness to tackle the AIDS epidemic and deal with witch doctor style superstitions that lead to the further spread of the virus. In particular there’s a belief that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of AIDS, which includes sex with small children. So apart from Maggie seeking the truth about Balthasar’s death, she’s also searching for a two-year-old girl who’s disappeared and who the police don’t seem interested in finding.

Balthasar’s Gift is one of those rare novels that achieves a superb balance between being a fast-paced thriller and an informative read. As a reader, I gained deep insight into an area about which I previously knew little. The author’s style of writing is punchy, with her never using an extraneous word, yet managing to paint an extremely vivid picture of South Africa. And for those who enjoy a bit of love/lust interest in a story: Maggie, the motorbike-riding tomboy, is far from immune to the charms of a certain green-eyed street juggler called Spike!

Where you can buy Balthasar’s Gift:

English edition (paperback only)

African Books Collective

German edition



To learn more about Charlotte and keep updated about her novels, do check out her WordPress blog and her author website.


“I never knew you were like that…”

Have any of you unpublished authors, or those published under a pen name, ever worried about what your family, friends and social associates might think about certain risqué or controversial elements contained in your fiction? Back in May, I interviewed Geoffrey Gudgion about his novel Saxon’s Bane. Since then, he’s published a most amusing post about some of the conversations he’s had with people about his novel, including one about “Shush, you know what”.

Geoffrey Gudgion

Draumr KopaCindy Callens, on the Belgian book review site Draumr Kopa, kindly asked me to do a guest blog. I shared some of the more amusing comments people have made since Saxon’s Bane was launched. Click here for Draumr Kopa.

Here’s what I had to say:

People have said some strange things to me since Saxon’s Bane was published.

“I never knew you were like that,” an elderly lady from my local church said one Sunday.

“Like what?” I asked. The question made me stop in my tracks, and the departing congregation flowed around us.

She shuffled, making that eyes-lowered squirm with which Christian ladies of a certain age simultaneously mention and avoid mentioning delicate subjects. “Well, you know…”

“No, I don’t know. What’s the matter?” I sensed that the subject causing her such embarrassment was of a reprehensible and possibly sexual nature, and my mind raced in a frantic ‘Oh-God-what-have-I-got-to-be-guilty-about’

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