A new art exhibition has been announced in the late Courant. The black-and-white flash on the Amusements page does the pictures little justice. The headline calls the work that of a savage and naturally, I am intrigued.

I try to ignore the little article on the opposite page about the body they pulled from the Casabi. Another nameless bat. It chills me to read the words, knowing Jannik wants me do nothing. I force myself to pay attention to the vicious review instead. It has a certain incensed bluster that means it can only have been written by some House toady who feels his heroes have been mocked. The artist’s name is Iynast. Just that. I have no idea if it’s his true name, or the surname of some long-forgotten minor House.

Continue reading STUDIES IN OIL AND INK

Life is kinda weird and you should roll with it

I’m the fantasy writer without a home.

I don’t write the kind of genre that people can pretend is literary (Science Fiction, basically), but I’m also not endlessly rewriting The Lord of The Rings, so I can feel rather lost and overlooked. Too fantasy for “real” readers and not fantasy enough for “fantasy” readers. I also made the mistake of selling YA and children’s books so yanno, obviously not a proper writer.

Ha! This was meant to be a YAY COOL SHIT HAPPENED TO ME post and instead it became me eyerolling at speculative fiction/lit fiction divides.

Anyway, there was a point to this. OH YES. So there’s a short story writing prize in Africa, which I never submitted to because, yanno, Not Literary Writer Person. Then, for last year’s anthology, Short Story Day Africa decided to concentrate on a speculative approach, and as luck would have it, I ended up on the long list and my short story Mouse Teeth was included.

When this year’s theme came around (Water) I debated sending something in. After all, Not Literary Writer Person. But I knew that the organisers were actively trying to widen the net for the kinds of stories that were being submitted, so I thought welp, okay, I have nothing to lose. If they don’t take it, it goes back on the submission mill.

I wrote Serein, realised it was too short for the SSDA guidelines and sent that in to Shimmer (who bought it, because they rock). I still needed to write something to submit to Water, and as usual, I ended up telling a story about people who turn into things because hey, I pretty much love that shit. So. A girl whose family slowly become fish people, until they are drowned and “rise from the dead” as something not human. It’s about liminal space; of being human but not human, fishperson but not fishperson, caught between dry land and water, and belonging to neither. You can read it as a metaphor for many things but it’s about not fitting in, and about choosing a side.

Anyway, luck was with me again, and I made the long list, and then, even more bizarrely, the short list.

And then I got a phone call which more or less went like this:

“Rachel (Zadok) is in Nigeria right now, at AKE, announcing the SSDA winners.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m on the shortlist.” <<<this is me being confused, like, yeah….

“No, honey. You won.”

“Oh.” <<<me, looking for candid cameras. “Are you sure?”

As it turns out, it was not an elaborate joke. So yeah, my first actual award for anything and it is pretty swell and I am chuffed. 😀

And I get to go have celebratory gin with Alex Latimer and Mark Winkler, because they are awesome.


Many thanks to all the slush puppies, judges, editors, and most of all to Rachel Zadok, Tiah Beautement and Nick Mulgrew, without whom there would be no Short Story Day Africa


Does this mean anything to you?I shove the paper into Harun’s face.

Felicita,Jannik murmurs,do give us a chance to actually get in the house.

He has a point. I draw my hand back and wait as Harun rather mockingly bows to welcome us into his ugly home.You’re playing at servants, are you?I ask him.

No.He shuts the door behind us, and the dreary red light of the sunset is replaced by choking gloom.We’re having troubles again.


The servants tend to make a mass exodus every few months, and then we have to hire new ones. The latest little drama happened just hours ago.” He says each word very carefully, as if he is explaining philosophy to an ignorant child, or trying to hide a slur.

Whatwhy would they do that?We follow Harun to the shabby lounge where he’s more recently taken to entertaining us.

Because of me.Isidro is sitting deep in a fat leather chair, scowling at the fireplace.

Overwhelmed by your charm, I assume?I say as I take my own seat on a beautiful small couch, its wooden legs carved like drake claws.

Jannik makes a coughing, choking sound, and sits next to me.

Continue reading PAPER MARRIAGES

More Fool Me

I have a lot of bad writing days. A LOT of them.

even ALOT

ALOTMostly these days are just me beating myself up for sucking so badly. (They often happen after I read reviews that call my books wastes of paper, include links educating me on how to write, or say I should be beaten with my own book, and other such manna for the writing soul 😉 ).

Thing is, if I let myself not write because of this, then these people have won. They’ve crushed me, they’ve made me believe that I am not only the most talentless hack to hack, but that I don’t deserve to write at all, let alone be published.

And you know what?




So I have ways of getting myself past the terror (“oh god, what if they’re right, what if I am deluding myself, what if I should have studied accountancy?”) and getting words down. Since we’re deep into Nano territory, I figured I’d share my little tricks. Maybe one of them will help you when you’re stuck in the empty well of self-loathing.

Not all my tricks work all the time. I have to use them like a deck of cards, shuffle them, and keep drawing new ones until I find the leering, winking joker that will work today, right now, for this story.

1: Square Brackets of Absolution. Ive talked about them before. They’re basically me allowing myself to be shit. If I open the [I know I can type any old rubbish and it clearly doesn’t matter and I don’t have to feel guilty because lookee here they are within the brackets and therefore DO NOT COUNT as real writing and so I can chill with the whole performance anxiety claptrap.] Which is nice. And does rather help get the flow started.

2: 100 Words. I set myself the amazingly high goal of one hundred words. My brain, which prior to this was hiding in a corner and sobbing under a blankie, now feels slightly less threatened by the sheer amount of work expected of it, and comes out to play for a bit. It is very rare that I don’t end up writing more. Just the act of setting the bar so low gives me confidence to get started.

3: 15 minute egg timer. I have an egg timer which gets used for writing. I set it for fifteen minutes, with the knowledge that I can do any amount of horrible things (like clean my house) for fifteen minutes. I am allowed no distractions – I have to write for the duration, no twitter, no fb, no “research”. If all I do is type god this is really boring I am so bored maybe I should make my characters eat each others’ brains because at least that would be more interesting than staring at this boring screen then that’s good because progress, of sorts. This can be made social if you’re competitive, go have word wars.

4: Go read. Go read something you love, something that makes you want go write, that inspires you. (Conversely, you could go read some published drivel and return to your work knowing that no matter what, you’re still better than that.)

5: Work on something else. Finish a blog post, write a review, jot out what-if questions on your manuscript (hey! they count as words!), write fanfic, poetry, music. Be ready to go back to work the moment your brain goes “oh hey, I thought of something…”

6: Go watch something. A film or documentary that is in some way related to your work (though not imperative, sometimes surprising ideas come from unlikely places.). If you’re a visual person like me, you might find that watching a period piece, or a documentary can help spark some ideas, especially when it comes to things like landscape, worldbuilding, dress, etc.

Obviously these are just the things that help me, perhaps they wont work for you, or perhaps you have other tricks you’d be happy to share. I’d love to hear them – the more jokers in my pack, the easier it is for me to win this game against my self-loathing.



I‘m not planning on sitting around waiting for Harun to extend an invitation, however. There are other people to whom I can speak. The servants prepare a carriage for menot the ostentatious drag, but a small chaise with the laughing dolphins of House Pelim only a faded marking on the doors, and pulled by a single roan nilly.

My family name hidden, I travel to the rookery on the Mata-side of the riverGlassclaw. MallenIve is home to three rookeries; the places where the bats – vampires work and live, and I suppose, occasionally die. Any vampires outside the rookeries need to have travel papers, or be House-owned. I will show Jannik that I am not afraid of what he is. That nothing about our marriage is convenient. I might not be Dash, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care for him.





The season of summer is one for frivolity. The seriousness of the spring weddings is over, Longest Night celebrations are on their way and, for the moment, no one is thinking of the winter to come. It is the time when all the powerful families in the city gather, and under the pretence of having fun begin an earnest and vicious round of social destruction. The dance of the Houses is the adult equivalent of the children’s game of musical chairs. Last one left standing gets to go home the winner.

Business in MallenIve is done in ballrooms, at small parties, in panelled rooms over snifters of the scriv-rich vai. The magic taints our blood-streams, we drink it like watered-wine. The men gather and talk, propositions are casually thrown into the fray, and men nod, men ponder, men make decisions. In other rooms, the women gather and discuss children, or they gossip.

It’s surprising how much you can actually learn from the latter if you keep your mouth closed and your ears open. I know every man’s foible, every fall and moment of stupidity. Unfortunately, I can’t use it. When I try to engage the House Lords in conversation about business, they talk through me. They do not see me in my layers of silk and beads. Apparently the mere act of holding a paper hand-fan is enough to render one invisible.


Some Rather Nice News

Last night was Bloody Parchment, the literary wing of Cape Town’s annual Horrorfest. This was the first year Bloody Parchment joined the rest of Horrorfest at the main venue (the wonderful Labia Theatre) and I think it was a good move to bring the two together.

I was one of several writers reading that night – some read their own work, some chose to read other people’s stories, and there was a nice mix of classic horror, from the usual horror icons of serial killers and monsters, to plagues, man-hunting dogs, dead film stars, and soul-swapping zombies, and finally to chat about the films and fiction of horror icon Clive Barker.  Prizes were won, wine was quaffed, popcorn munched, jelly brains and eyes squished, and Nosferatu watched over everyone like a really ugly angel.

Thanks to all those who came through, and to all the organisers and participants for inviting us along. 😀 It was also really nice to meet some new writers, because as you can tell, Cat doesn’t get out much.

So that was fun, and then I got to start my weekend with some good news, when a friend of mine pointed out I’d made the Short Story Day Africa short list. So that’s pretty cool, yes indeed, I think I owe myself a glass of vino now.

Also Nano starts soon! YIKES!  I was hoping to get EM done by then, but alas, not yet, so I will just keep keeping on, and cheering you all from the side lines.






The city stinks of death. High summer has MallenIve by the throat and my apartments in the House Pelim holdings are stuffy and humid. We are miles from the Hob slums where a plague is currently raging, and still the air reeks of burned skin from the pyres.

Hardly an auspicious start to the season’s round of parties.

I slump in my rooms at the very top of the house, waiting for respite. Fine rivulets of sweat trickle down from my temples, and I pant while fluttering a small round paper hand-fan – MallenIve’s latest fashion – uselessly through the air. All it does is waft the heat around. At least the Houses only bother with their entertainment in the evening, after the thunderstorms have damped down the baked dust and washed away the stench of the day’s unfortunate corpses.

Continue reading A PLAGUE OF HOUSES

A Novel Adventure


I’m very excited about the next Patreon project. I’ll be serialising my Hobverse novel House of Sand and Secrets on the blog and here. For those who haven’t read When the Sea is Rising Red, that’s not a huge obstacle. House of Sand and Secrets was written to stand-alone, and though I think having the knowledge of the world and events in When the Sea is Rising Red does make the reading a richer experience, it’s not essential.

I’ll start with Chapter One on Wednesday, and post every Wednesday after that.

My special thanks to the wonderful crew of readers who beta-read, critiqued, cheered me on, and generally helped beat the novel into shape. But most of all, to Brianna at Folded Wherry, without whom House of Sand and Secrets would probably never have left the dusty confines of an abandoned folder. Thank you, darling, you are a Very Special Potato Indeed.

So if you’re into House factions pitted against each other, underhand dealings, people in complicated marriages, magic, drugs, vampire-murder, cities built on magical fault lines, or just generally want to know what happens to Felicita now that she’s had to move on to a new life after murdering people, read on.

And now, as a wee teaser, the opening lines.

The city stinks of death. High summer has MallenIve by the throat and my apartments in the House Pelim holdings are stuffy and humid. We are miles from the Hob slums where a plague is currently raging, and still the air reeks of burned skin from the pyres.

Hardly an auspicious start to the season’s round of parties.


Meet Toby Bennet and Benjamin Knox. Two sick sick sick little puppies who make weird and twisted horror stories. They’re here to talk abut writing as a collaborative process, and how it spurred, whipped, and beat them into writing better. Welcome to The Hypnogog, puppies, have at it:

Bromancing the keyboard 2

Well it seems that I have bumped up against one of the fundamental laws of our rapidly expanding universe, i.e. that it is often easier to write a four part serialised novel than it is to blog about it!

However, it really doesn’t do to be timid in an age of self-promotion where the squeakiest wheel slurps up the grease with the abandon of a Sumo wrestler preparing for a big match, so here goes.

The project I want to talk to you about is called Viral, but let’s not dwell on the details, what I would like to share is what makes the books special to me and the lessons I have learned from writing them.

The first thing you should know is that Viral is a collaborative work—a few years back fate (or at least persistent random chance) made me aware of a gent by the name of Benjamin Knox.

That’s me!

Like me, Ben had been at the writing game for a while and we decided that a collaboration might mean doing half the work we usually did—so being inherently lazy we started the ball rolling on that basis.

Lazy-writer teamwork activate!

Except it didn’t work as we had expected at all!


Until I started working with Ben, I would have told you that writing was a lonely endeavour best left to lightening troubled nights and the intermittent flickerings of a guttering candle as the wind howls through your crumbling garret. What I found out was that, as with music, collaboration can change everything—I suppose that should have been obvious from watching any Frankenstein movie, though which of us is the hunchbacked assistant is still hotly debated.

What started as a vaguely cynical plan to “get a novel out” quickly broadened and deepened into a project that went places I had never imagined—a work that became more than the sum of its parts.

Feel The Bromance

Naturally, I leave it to everyone to decide for themselves what they think of Viral, my real focus here is on how the experience of working with another writer was so much more valuable than I’d ever thought it would be.

For me something clicked and I found myself working with all the controlled abandon of the duelling banjos from Deliverance.

In retrospect it makes perfect sense that working with another writer makes you up your game—each time you sit down to write a scene you imagine how they will enjoy it and better still you know that your partner will likely add more details that you might not even have thought of making the story fuller and always fresh. There is never a moment where you can think “Oh well no one will notice this” because you know any slacking will be spotted (Ben is not above cracking the whip!)

BK vs TB gag - low rez 2

Write gooder, damn you! More adjectives!

As effusive as I might sound about Viral it is this process of collaboration that I think I will value most. I certainly feel that it has been a developmental experience and yes, damn it I am proud of what we have made.

I could tell you a lot of things about it; that Viral is the distilled experiences of two devoted Sci-Fi / Horror fans. That we wrote it to have one foot firmly in pulp and at least a toe in the mire of literature, we took what we knew and played with it, together, making something that was at least pleasing to us and with any luck will be pleasing to others.

Viral 80's Banner - Promo - small

I could claim that “if you only read one book this year it should be…” but none of that particularly matters. The bottom line is that… I’ve managed to write over six hundred words here and that must surely constitute a respectable blog post? (Ben get some pictures together and let’s get on with the next season of Viral).
—Toby Bennett
& Benjamin Knox
Viral is a four part cyberpunk action-horror extravaganza from the Crossroads Press imprint Macabre Ink and has been described as “AKIRA meets Resident Evil” and “Ghost in the Shell meets The Strain”.
Find out if they’re right.
Or if you’re unsure why not try VIRAL: Rough Cuts, a set of prelude and tie-in stories set before the events of book 1 Raw Feed.

BK 2015

Rogue author Benjamin Knox is best known for his short pulp horror fiction. He has been published in numerous anthologies including Suspended in Dusk and several of the Bloody Parchment collections, and continues his short-form fiction with such monstrosities as the Dead of Winter stories and the forthcoming creature-feature novella PRIMORDIAL.
For further strangeness visit:
and/or for a stream of visual weirdness:



TB 2015Toby Bennett is a veteran fantasy and sci-fi author with over eight novels to his name, including the continual reader favourite Heaven’s Gate. He lives and bleeds in Cape Town, South Africa. You can find out more about him and his work at