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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

Ghost in the Cogs

Broken Eye Books are releasing an anthology of ghostly steampunk:  “Ghosts. Gaslight. Gears.” as they put it.

It has a great cover that I’m really loving:


And a very cool list of stories:

  • Siobhan Carroll, “Asmodeus Flight”
  • Folly Blaine & Randy Henderson, “Hiss”
  • Jessica Corra, “The Misplaced Body of Fitzhugh Alvey”
  • Howard Andrew Jones, “The Ghost Pearl”
  • Emily C. Skaftun, “Frænka Askja’s Silly Old Story”
  • Elsa S. Henry, “Edge of the Unknown”
  • Eddy Webb, “The Blood on the Walls”
  • Nayad Monroe, “Tipping Point”
  • Jonah Buck, “T-Hex”
  • Erika Holt, “The Monster”
  • Wendy Nikel, “The Book of Futures”
  • Parker Goodreau, “Death Wish”
  • Christopher Paul Carey, “City of Spirits”
  • T. Mike McCurley, “Team 17”
  • Scott Fitzgerald Gray, “The Litany of Waking”
  • Richard Dansky, “Labor Costs”
  • Nick Mamatas, “The Twentieth-Century Man”
  • Spencer Ellsworth, “Clockwork of Sorrow “
  • Liane Merciel, “Lady in the Ghastlight”
  • Richard Pett, “Cuckoo”
  • James Lowder, “The Shadow and the Eye”
  • Cat Hellisen, “Golden Wing, Silver Eye”

And as you can see I’m in there too, though my story is not Victoriana Steampunk but rather set in the same world as my novel Three Dog Dreaming, where toymakers who infuse clockwork with magic study at the Floating University, and the lotus-city of Pal-em-Rasha is the centre of the world.

Golden Wing, Silver Eye is about roosters, and being in love – with your art, and with your other – and it starts like this….

It is winter in Pal-em-Rasha and all the roosters have been strangled.

I’m quite looking forward to having this anthology in my library, and you can pre-order here on Amazon.

Charm 18/22

(start here)


While it’s still far from dark outside, the light is getting that heavy late afternoon feel, like it’s pressing down on my shoulders. I’m practically sticking to the car’s fake leather seats as I take the quickest route I can remember towards the art school. Every time I see a bunch of scruffy high school kids with their blazers stuffed in their school bags and their grey school trousers hanging off their arses, shirts untucked, ties hidden, I slow down. Not one of them is my brother.

So,” I say, not looking in the mirror to get a glimpse of Caleb, instead steeling myself to stare ahead, to scan the streets and the pavements. “This golden art.”

What about it,” Caleb drawls. “Finally admitting to yourself that this refusal to use it is a childish tantrum that could get your killed?”

I grit my teeth and breathe in sharply through my nose. Do not rise to the bait, Irene. “Actually, I have tried to use it.”

Read More →

Charm 16/22

(start here)

Cabbage and Tea and Love

Wild magic is,” Rain glances at Caleb, “it’s like, everything.” He waves one hand at the scenery.

That’s wonderfully evocative and I am now suitably enlightened. Thank you.”

God, Irene.” He shakes his head. “It’s life, it’s what came before us.”

I said I’d tell her,” Caleb says drily. “Once we are safe. I keep my word.”

I want to laugh at that particular lie, but Rain’s stopped saying anything and his explanation wasn’t helping anyway. “So where are we going?” I start walking back to the car. ‘Cause I really don’t want to stand here with the storm just about ready to break, and three very mangled bodies at our feet. They’re already disintegrating. At least that’s one less thing to worry about. The cops might be an incompetent bunch of tits, but I still don’t want to be on the wrong side of one.

Read More →

Charm 15/22

And I’m back! Internet woes have been sorted out, and I shall quickly update the backlog of Charm posts. 😀


(start here)

The Wolf Magician

Caleb brakes suddenly, and I lurch into the back of the passenger seat, almost breaking my nose. God, this is when I wish Beetles came with seat-belts in the back. “I know you don’t like me, but wait ’til after this business with your buddy Heinrich is done before you try kill me.” I rub the bridge of my nose and wince.

You wanted other magicians,” he sneers. “And I’ve brought you to one.”

My heart makes a sudden dolphin-sized leap. He doesn’t know why I want to meet other magicians, surely? I concentrate on keeping my voice even. “You said they were barely worth calling magicians. So what are we doing here?” I don’t want to get my hopes up. Maybe Caleb is wrong about everything. It’s not like he’s infallible. He’s lost most of his magic, if my mother’s book is to be believed, and he’s already died at least once.

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Signing Stuff.

I’m not sure which strikes more terror into the heart of a writer – editor’s letters or book signings.

So far, my only experience has been with the former. I shall now be donning my Stompy Boots of Doom, and heading out into the real world where humans live, and finding out what the other is like. It’s all in the name of science.

Cavendish Exclusive Books is hosting moi at a book signing. Obviously, you want to be there because there is nothing more hilarious than a writer out of its element, staring wide-eyed with fear at shoppers. This is how you will get your kicks on Saturday the 29th of August. After which you will go have lunch and wonder if it would have been kinder to shoot me.

I’m kidding. 😉 A little.

In all seriousness, you’re invited, and if you’d like to come join me there please RSVP cavendishdeputy at exclusivebooks dot co dot za.


Charm 10/22

(start here)


It’s a while before I find my voice. “Why me?” I ask eventually. I have so many questions that this seems the best starting place.

“Because after he’s caught me, he’ll be after you.”

“Oh really?” I drawl it out, even though I have to wrap my arms around myself to stop the shivers.

“Really. The Watchers will find you, and Heinrich will want what you have. Your art.”

Heinrich. I have a name for my nightmares, for the thing in the dark who killed my mother

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I think it’s a map

It’s deluge time here in the Cape, so I am feeling all sorry for myself and waiting to be drowned. 😉


I took a break from working on the Super Sekrit Novel of Doom to draw a map. I blame the Musers, who all seem to making maps at the moment.

It’s kinda interesting how much it cements story logistics visually. I’m not usually a mapper, but I might do this more often.


my map. it is verra exciting.

Do you have any tricks or tools you use to help you visualise story or action?

The first line game, and a prompt for June

I have a game I play every now and again when I’m feeling bereft of ideas and creativity:  I write ten first lines.**

I don’t need to think of anything beyond a first line that would make me go, “hmmm, I want to read this.”

Then I look at my lines, and see if anything sparks. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. If I do end up writing something, the chances are pretty high that I won’t even use that original first line. It doesn’t even have to be a good first line. It doesn’t matter – it served its purpose simply by springboarding me into a pool of imagination.

While cleaning up this weekend, I found a page with an exercise from 2014 (possibly? there’s no date.) so, here they are, just to give you an example of what I do.

# The pigeons were the first ones we noticed, lining the edges of the city buildings like feathered sentinels

# Every year the girls would nominate a trickster to fight on their side, and they would dress him in silk and pearls and rub kohl about his eyes.

# We came back to earth after the Long Season, our harpoon-ships empty.

# Seduction in Alien Biology: How to start a revolution using sex.

# Today is an important day – no fairs or public holidays, no saints or martyrs, no revolutions started.

# We left Cacophony to sell dreams on The Long Road.*

# The last star went out today, though the world is still spinning

# It is my sister’s job and mine to stamp down the grapes for the Oneiric wines.

# I fell in love with him over email; his OKcupid profile having neglected to mention the missing arm. Or the extra wing.

As it turns out, the highlighted sentence did actually prompt a short story, and the opening line *almost* stayed. The Story begins so:


We left Cacophony to gather dreams on the Long Road. It was decemberish and the light was fading so the pilgrims were all wrapped up in constellations made out of wires and lights, and the sound of their plainsong moaned down the wide barren stones of the Long Road. We travelled behind them in a caravan drawn by three black manticores, their teeth pulled and their eyes put out. It was the easiest way to keep them docile.

Now, I think that any of those prompts in the hands of different writers are going to produce uniquely different stories. So instead of giving a single prompt for June for #12months12stories, feel free to use one of those. (If you decide to use Cacophony. I ask that you *not* use my exact words, thanks 😉 )

And remember, the point of 12months12stories is to write AND SUB a short story every month. Do not self-reject. We talked about this.

Get writing. And please, if you write a story (and especially if you sell it) let me know so we can celebrate.

** (You’ll notice there are only 9 here, I got lazy)


CHARM 4/22

(start here)

Reinvent Yourself

Despite tranking myself up with meds, I get barely any sleep—I’m too wired and nervous to do more than cat-nap in little fits and starts. When the time rolls around for my afternoon shift, I’m almost grateful to be going to work, to do anything that feels vaguely normal and doesn’t involve waking nightmares of bent-back boys with black wings and sharpened teeth. Or dead mothers lying on sheets soaked crimson.

Work is busy, the changeover chaos as usual. The cash-up is short, so the day-shift bar tenders are in a foul mood. Sport on the TV, no music. The women perched on their red metal barstools all look tarted up and hostile, the men swill down Castle Draft and boast about when they used to play rugby. I hate this place; the neon makes my head buzz and the clientèle are nightmarish suburban socialite wannabes.

Memory gives me a look like I crawled out of a rubbish tip. “What’s with you, girl?” he says, all Joburg drawl. “Seems like you were a little busy-busy last night, ne?”

I roll my eyes. “Zeps. Rain.” That’s enough information for anyone, really.

Memory has this thing he does with his eyebrows; they have an entire vocabulary programmed into them, like drum beats. He can speak whole novels without opening his mouth. The current angle and shift is enough to let me know he thinks I’m an idiot, and that I deserve everything I get. He knows Rain from school too, from friends of friends who have drifted through our little circle of two. “You need to let that go,” Memory says finally, and he could mean anything.

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