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2023 Awards Season

It’s that time of year again when 2023 Awards seasons rolls around. I have several works eligible in Horror and Fantasy categories for short fiction, Collections and Novelettes for the Aurealis Awards, Stoker Awards, British Fantasy Awards, Ditmar Awards, Australian Shadows Awards, Nebula Awards, Hugo Awards, Otherwise Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards & World Fantasy Awards.

If you’ve read any of these works and enjoyed them, please vote for them.

If you’ve not yet had a chance to read them, links are on this website!

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Witch King

** I received an ARC for an honest review **

Publisher’s Description

Kai-Enna is the Witch King, though he hasn’t always been, and he hasn’t even always been Kai-Enna!

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.


I recently read the dark fantasy Witch King by US author Martha Wells.

The protagonist Kai, a demon prince of the Fourth House called the Witch King who uses his touch to drain the life of his victims to fuel his own magic and life force wakes in a disembodied state to find he has been assassinated. Sacrifices are dragged into his tomb and in this disembodied state, Kai takes possession of a recently deceased sacrifice, drains the life of his captors but spares the life of Sanja, a girl prisoner who’d been taken to his tomb along with the dead. Now back in a body, Kai must find and rescue his companion the witch Ziede from a similar imprisonment. Once Ziede is rescued, the two rely on Sanja to explain the world they have woken into and begin their quest to find and rescue Ziede’s lover Tahren who is separated from them both and unreachable by magic.

The events put in motion by Kai’s search for answers and the quest to rescue Tahren in this newly flooded world, begins a chain of events that uncover lies and deceptions, false friendships and true ones.


Witch King was at its core a dark fantasy but Wells has created genuine characters with dark humour and wit woven throughout. In part a dystopian tale with a water-drowned fantasy world, Wells crafted a unique and plot of deception, friendship, love and loss which added the necessary links to humanity in those who survived the ending of their world – albeit a demon who drains life to survive and swaps bodies, a witch bent on revenge and finding her lover and a mortal child saved from the darkness of the Rising World Coalition and Blessed Hierarchs with their expositors and necromancy magic. In this new world, Wells draws on the darkness and deception that surround the Rising World Coalition where truth and lies can be hard to distinguish. Wells has created a masterfully written story with genuine characters and unique world-building.


A wonderful read for fans of dark fantasy with humour, witchcraft, necromancy and fantastic world-building for a water-drowned dystopian unique fantasy world. Highly recommended!

** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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Ferren and the Angel

** I received an ARC for an honest review **

An angel falls from the sky and crashes to the ground!

Miriael, the Fourteenth Angel of Observance, has been shot down in the thousand-year war between Heaven and Earth. Damaged and helpless, she prays for extinction.

The young tribesman Ferren finds her lying in the grass. She ought to be an enemy, since his people are on the side of the Earth. But seeing her there, unable to fly, his curiosity outweighs every rule and every warning.

Ferren knows almost nothing about the terrifying world he’s grown up in. Now he’s going to learn the truth about the war, the Humen army camp and what military service really means. His unique friendship with Miriael is about to change the course of history.


I recently read YA novel Ferren and the Angel (The Ferren Trilogy, #1) by English-Australian author Richard Harland.

Ferren is the protagonist, a young boy on the cusp of manhood belonging to one of many scattered tribes of the People. These subservient groups are dependent on the larger organisation called the Humen. When the angel Muriel falls from the sky during open warfare with Heaven – it is Ferren who finds and befriends her.

During the ongoing warfare between the militarised Humen forces and the angels of Heaven, Ferren and Muriel discover nothing is as it seems. The machines used by the Humen forces hold a horrific secret and the robotic soldiers are a darker truth that makes the People question their allegiance to the Humen authority.


Ferren and the Angel is well-written and strongly crafted post-apocalyptic novel. Harland writes powerful characters inhabiting a broken world and deceived by the Humen authority using the scattered tribes to fuel their war with Heaven. Harland shows these elements through Ferren’s and the angel Muriel which confront the grey shades of morality by the contrasting darkness.


An unusual and powerful post-apocalyptic YA novel that’s highly recommended for fans of dystopian fiction, angelology, strong characters and a great coming-of-age read.

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Publisher’s Description

Decades after escaping the tower, Zel makes her living as a healer and wise-woman, travelling the lands with her family and the sentient, serpentine braid that still carries a touch of the witch’s magic. Short-haired and happy, Zel prepares for the birth of her first great-grandchild, only to find herself shaken by unexpected news: Mother Gothel is dead.

Memories of the woman who raised her, isolated and imprisoned, unlock within Zel an equal measure of anger and grief, forcing her at last to reckon with the tragic events of that long-ago summer when her own children came of age … a season where implacable death stalked her family across the wild, grassy plains and the world Zel knew split open and soured.

For there are graver threats in Zel’s world than witches, greater sorrows to be borne than the loss of true love, and some dangers from which even the oldest, strongest magic may not be enough to protect her.


Braid was highly anticipated for me after reading one of the other novellas in the Never Afters series by Australian author Kirstyn McDermott.

Braid follows the protagonist Rapunzel, known as Zel, through her flashback memories of life immediately after the Tower and the rise of anti witchcraft sentiments in the common folk. This lands Zel into trouble that her fierce twin sister ends up paying the costs while they mourn the earlier death of Zel’s younger brother and the other twin.

Despite what should have been a joyous and life-changing arrival of Zel freed from the witch’s tower. But even here, Zel has a complicated friendship and dislike for the witch Gothel s who had raised her from a child to a tormentor.


Braid is a well-written and highly original novella from the Never Afters series. McDermott uses a complex technique of several timelines, which could occasionally be difficult to follow at times. Well-worth reading the imagined life of Rapunzel after fleeing the tower with her prince.


A wonderful read for fans of fairytales and fantasy, literature and history, There’s a bit of everything for the reader and makes you think what prisons we build for ourselves. A great real!!

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Curse of Bronze

Publisher’s Description

Bella Hathaway comes from a family of daredevil adventurers — but she’s a a quiet scholar of magical languages who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

When her curse-breaker aunt is murdered in the Eldritch Library, Bella inherits a house full of dangerous artefacts & talking furniture. As she investigates her aunt’s death, she finds more mysteries: a hoard of gargoyles, a lost language, a family of werewolves… and a tragic family secret.


I recently read the Gaslamp novella Curse of Bronze (The Gargoyle Mysteries, #1) by Australian author Tansy Rayner Roberts.

The protagonist of this Gaslamp fantasy is Bella who inherits her aunt’s house in London in the Lyceum quarter where the Fae live. The inheritance of the house comes with all the cursed objects within from her aunt Charlotte’s very successful career as s curse breaker.

Unfortunately for Bella, she has no skills in curse breaking but id a qualified linguist. The inheritance of the house can only occur with her aunt Charlotte’s death.

Soon, Bella is taken from the comforts of her antiquarian lifestyle and thrust into solving who killed her aunt Charlotte, why and using an unusual method of turning her to bronze.

Final Thoughts

Curse of Bronze was my first book that is read by Robert’s and I really enjoyed the clever mixture of Gaslamp fantasy and murder mystery. The archaeological tomb raiding was an extra bonus of excitement. Well-written, comfortable read and highly enjoyable.


A recommended novel for readers who enjoy Gaslamp fantasy, mystery and humour. The archaeological angle was also well done. A Great read!

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The Finnish Joulupukki

Ilari-Grohn-Art on DeviantArt

Joulupukki translates to “Yule Goat.” Yuletide, is a pre-Christian pagan festival which was held as a midwinter celebration with feasting and sacrifice taking place across many Germanic cultures.

There is no certain answer as to the relate between goats and Yule. One concept links it to the Norse god Thor. He was associated with storms and fertility and drove a goat-led chariot. Thereby, goats became associated with harvests and fertility through him.

Traditions evolved on their own and men took to dressing up in horned goat costumes as part of the Yuletide rituals.

In Finland, the nuuttipukki are evil spirits who go from door to door demanding gifts and leftovers from the Yule feast.

Although the modern Joulupukkis appear and act like Santa Claus, history states and portrays a very different picture of the original ones. In Pagan history, bad spirits were warded off with prayers and other festivities.

The Joulupukkis were known to scare children during Christmas and demand presents from them instead of giving gifts. But others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule. There are blurred theories that give possibilities for the sudden transformation from an evil Joulupukki to the Saint like character of Father Christmas that originated in Finland. The Joulupukkis have remained almost in name only as the sole feature of the past.

However, Yule goats are common in Nordic countries made of wicker. Large statuesque wicker goats are ometimes erected in towns, such as the Gävle goat in Sweden, which is infamously burned.

In some areas of Finland, nuuttipukki still make visits on Nuutinpäivä, or St. Knut’s Day, which takes place on January 13 and is an end-blended Yuletide and the Christian Epiphany.

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Dark Christmas Release

Dark Christmas is the first in a series of illustrated chapbooks on various dark fiction themes. All illustrated collection is inspired by Yuletide folklore from Canada, Poland,Iceland, Australia, Germany ang England.

Dark Christmas was released on ebook on 24th December 2022.

If you wish you buy copies of Dark Christmas you can find more information here.

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Engines of Empathy

Publisher’s Description

Charlotte Pudding, computer psychologist and recent orphan, is not precisely thrilled with her lot in life (and not just because of the ‘orphan’ bit).

Nevertheless, having her routine disrupted by a shadowy corporation, a man who claims to be a retired god, and the secrets of her own family history isn’t a walk in the park, either.

Charlotte’s quest for answers will lead her on a perilous journey into a religion based on quantum physics, a hunt for unexpectedly rare plant oil, and a fight to the shame against a black-belt in sarcasm.

In a world that runs on peace and harmony, Charlotte is about to discover just how far some people are prepared to go to maintain tranquillity


I recently read the science-fiction novel Engines of Empathy (Drakeforth Series, #1) by New-Zealand born author Paul Mannering.

The protagonist of this quirky science fiction thriller is Londonite Charlotte Pudding. Quickly introduced to a world where everything runs of the empathic energy of people, from cars, fridges, toasters and elevators- a situation arises when empathetic energy stored in giant batteries begins to fail.

Charlotte, a sensible but sometimes quick with a quip, is harassed to find her heirloom family desk may hold one of the greatest mysteries and scandals of empathetic energy. Forced in to an acquaintance and partnership with Vole Drakeforth – a man of dubious means and doubtful character- Charlotte is quickly embroiled in secrets, lies, coverups and scandals which have lasted generations and their exposure threaten the very future of empathic energy.

Final Thoughts

Engines of Empathy was a well-planned, easily inducted world-building for a science fiction that didn’t bog down in detail but introduced it along with the characters and their lives. It was one of the best science fiction world-building I’ve had the pleasure to read for some time. The quirky characters and ridiculous scenarios added to the sense of a Discworld novel. But there is also real depth to Engines of Empathy which made it stand out.


A great recommended read for lovers of comedic science-fiction, innovate world-building, mystery, suspense and rollicking good fun. A must read!

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Wimbledon Common Release

My first stories for children and younger readers were published on 26 November 2022 in Wimbledon Common from Black Hare Press.

My children’s story “Grace’s Kingdom” was inspired by classics like Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia all featuring protagonists exploring magical worlds hidden to all but them while escaping a harsher realities beyond the borders of the their fantasy world. I also drew on my own personal experiences, crafting a story I hoped would resonate with children experiencing bullying and coping with being different. “Grace’s Kingdom” channels the extremely difficult daily experiences for many children but highlighting how being different is a hidden strength.

My younger readers story “A Bargain of Shadows” was inspired by Swedish fairytale about siblings and the love they share for each other. When one is fatally ill, the brother bargains with a wizard to save her life in exchange for his shadow. Exiled from society for being different and having no shadow, he flees into the Otherworld of magic and becomes enslaved to the wizard. His sister goes in search of him, undergoing many trials to eventually outwit and save her brother. “A Bargain of Shadows” speaks to sibling rivalry and love and the undeniable importance of family.

You can find more details about how to purchase paperback and ebook copies of Wimbledon Common here.

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Briar Rose

Publisher’s Description

Robert Coover’s many acclaimed works of fiction have established him as a powerhouse among America’s postmodernist writers. With Briar Rose, he casts his own unmistakable style on an ageless tale. A brilliant recreation of the timeless Sleeping Beauty story, Briar Rose tells of a prince trapped in the briars; a sleeping beauty who cannot awaken, dreaming of a succession of kissing princes; and the old spell-casting fairy who inhabits the princess’s dreams, regaling her with legends of other sleeping beauties and trying to imagine the nature of human desire.


I read the classic fairytale novella Briar Rose by US scholar and author Robert Coover as part of a gothic literature course.

Briar Rose combines aspects from the earliest dark fairytale versions to the Grimm Brothers santitised tales of Sleeping Beauty. In Coover’s reimagining, Beauty never wakes from her enchanted sleep but endures a hundred lives of potential outcomes from her century of slumber as the fairy witch taunts and teases her with the gruesome outcomes of incest, rape by many princes who weren’t ‘the one’ to break her curse.

The prince who does make it through the rose thorn vines that encircle the tower is proud and young. His desire to break Beauty’s enchantment has nothing to do with her wellbeing but everything to do with his own acclaim should he be the one to wake her.

Final Thoughts

Briar Rose is an deep exploration of forest folklore and the fairytales of ‘sleeping beauty’. The entrapment of the prince in the briar roses, the inability of the princess to wake from endless variations of her potential truth as told and warped by the fairy. The terrible darkness of incest themes, rape, cannibalism and coercion.


This was a fantastic exploration of the Sleeping Beauty tale which was dark, disturbing, and richly detailed. Highly recommended for readers of folklore, fairytales, history and the complex reimagining of the multitude of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ tales.