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Friday, May 31, 2013

Author Guest Blog : Nerine Dorman

African Myth & Magic
By Nerine Dorman

Anyone who’s read a handful of my novels will know that magic and myth permeate most of my settings. I have an especially deep and abiding love for supernatural elements in my tales. So, yes, chances are good that if you read one of my stories you’ll encounter vampires, witches and other beings who possess magical qualities.

My recent YA paranormal release, Camdeboo Nights, is no exception. In fact the story kicks off with a vampire who inadvertently picks up a phantom hitchhiker. And who hasn’t heard of the phantom hitchhiker myth?

Picture this: a lone driver, late at night, sees a figure standing next to the side of the road. Feeling compassion for the unfortunate stuck seeking a lift in whichever abandoned locale they’re currently in, the drive will pull over and offer the individual a lift.
Not long after they’re back on the road, an attempt will be made to swerve the car off the road. Or the driver will suffer a lapse in concentration long enough to engage the passenger – only to discover that the hitchhiker has vanished.

The myth of the Uniondale Hitchhiker is one that has often been retold in my home country. In fact, I was visiting in the Eastern Cape once and spoke to a lady whose son claims to have tried to give the ghostly damsel in distress a lift – and was left with the scent of apple blossoms in the car.

And that’s the catch, the trick with a tale as juicy as the phantom hitchhiker, you’ll get to hear it from the friend of a friend, who spoke to someone who knew the person who… Get the picture? And if you’ve got stories about your own phantom hitchhiker in your region *do* leave a comment below.

But Uniondale’s Phantom Hitchhiker was responsible for kicking off Camdeboo Nights. The rest kind of followed after. Another myth that I play with is that of the spirits that call to magic workers. Now I really don’t want to go into this one too deeply for fear of spoilers, but here in Africa there’s a story that magic workers are called to their profession. It’s not something you just decide to do one day.

Often these powerful spirits are associated with a body of water, which is probably why I’ve always had a deep, irrational fear of rivers and dams where the water’s so dark I can’t see the bottom. I keep imagining some sort of snake lurking there, waiting to drag me under… [laughs nervously]

Vampire politics, however, remains central to my plot, and my characters find themselves dumped in the middle of a whole lot of dramarama. They’re not powerful, and those who do wield magic don’t do so very well – so they’re kept on their toes when coming up against seemingly all-powerful enemies.

I’m also a firm believer that any magical ability comes at a price. I get so annoyed when I read fantasy novels where magic users get whatever they want at a click of a finger with little or no cost to their selves. Not so in my setting. Magic in the world of Camdeboo Nights runs on a mystical energy known as Essence. All living things possess it, which is why vampires seek it – they are almost literally Essence parasites. Which is why they don’t really get on with my mages, who are adept at harnessing the Essence of the world around them and bending it to their will. So, conflict, yay! And yes, there are fireworks.

Even better, none of my characters have the full story – so watching them bumble around trying to figure things out while the metaphorical clock is ticking is a helluva lot of fun. Especially when they’re trying to figure out any magical powers they happen to possess. 

About Nerine Dorman

An editor and multi-published author, Nerine Dorman currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa, with her visual artist husband. Some of the publishers with whom she works include Dark Continents Publishing and eKhaya (an imprint of Random House Struik). She has been involved in the media industry for more than a decade, with a background in magazine and newspaper publishing, commercial fiction, and print production management within a below-the-line marketing environment. Her book reviews, as well as travel, entertainment and lifestyle editorial regularly appear in national newspapers. A few of her interests include music travel, history (with emphasis on Egypt), psychology, philosophy, magic and the natural world.

                              Nerine's Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

The Blurb 

Helen Ashfield’s world is about to be turned upside down. Is she ready?

Helen Ashfield’s life is complicated. Not only must she adjust to her parents’ divorce, but she has to come to grips with her new school in the small South African Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. She’s sorely mistaken if she thinks she’s going to slot seamlessly into her new life. Her growing magical powers have attracted the unwanted attention of Trystan, a vampire, who may not have her best interests at heart.

Outcast from his kind for drinking another vampire’s blood, Trystan has been on the run for almost a hundred years from Mantis–the closest thing their kind has to an enforcer. All Trystan wants is an existence of quiet anonymity, but Helen turns his world upside-down.

Helen’s powers also mark her as one of Mantis’ targets. If Mantis gets control of Helen, she’ll change the course of history…for the worse


Armed with her grandmother’s shopping list, Helen ran out to the familiar silver Volvo, looking forward to speaking with Arwen, only to discover Szandor and another woman with a teased-out mop of white-blond hair waited in the car.

The woman turned icy gray eyes on Helen, giving her the impression that she could read each of Helen’s secrets.
She was pale, which wasn’t helped by the funerary aspect of her clothing–a buttoned-up sleeveless shirt with a cameo at her throat. When she moved, an audible swish of many layers of satin and chiffon filled the vehicle.

This must be the aunt. She couldn’t be the mother. The resemblance to Szandor was almost uncanny.

Szandor smiled, but the pleasure did not reach his eyes. “This is Sonja, my sister. Sonja, this is Arwen’s new friend, Helen.”
Sonja gave the briefest of frowns before facing the window.

“Uh, hi,” Helen said, wishing that she could be anywhere else but in this car with these peculiar people. The journey to Graaff-Reinet would be just over half an hour but it would feel like an eternity.

Szandor made a sound that was almost a snigger before turning the key. If only Damon were here, but her brother had gone to visit the Prof the instant his chores were done.

They drove in silence, with only the hiss of the air-conditioner as accompaniment, until they left the valley.
Then Szandor said, “Did you enjoy the films last night, Helen?”

She thought her heart would explode. Should she lie? Should she allow the story to filter through without some of the pertinent details?

“I… Uh. Yes.” She had watched films after Trystan had walked them home. Granted, she hadn’t been able to concentrate on any of the onscreen action.

“Oh,” Szandor said.

She caught a glimpse of his amused expression in the rearview mirror.

Bloody hell, of course he didn’t believe her. What did she expect?

“You haven’t seen or heard anything that you would consider out of the ordinary, have you?” Szandor asked.
“Um, no.”

“You’ll tell us if you do, won’t you?” Szandor asked. It was more a command than a question.

“I guess so.” Helen clutched the seat with white-knuckled hands.

Her grandmother’s amused tones echoed in her memory. The whole lot of them, they’re all witches. The father, too.
How far would Szandor push his craft? What could he do? Was she in any danger? If there was the superstitious fear of witchcraft that was prevalent among the indigenous Africans…

She’d read a little about the subject a few years previously while researching for a painting for her art classes. Witchcraft was a fascinating topic but she had never expected to ever deal with the real thing. Now her present situation seemed very real and very menacing.

“Where’s Arwen?” Helen hoped to steer their conversation to safer territory. She may as well have said “Nice weather, we’re having.”

“Arwen has been grounded,” Szandor said, his pale gaze reading the road ahead.

Oh heck. He knew.

“Oh.” Perhaps it would be better to say nothing at all then she wouldn’t dig herself a deeper hole.

The rest of the ride passed in uncomfortable silence. Helen pressed her face against the glass and hoped nothing more would be said.

She hated deception of any kind. Whenever she lied, she always ended up being caught out. Instead, she watched the passing landscape, where gray-blue spiked agave lined the road in clumps. Every so often jeep tracks led from the road they followed and she wondered where they went.

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1 comment:

nerinedorman said...

Many thanks for hosting me!