Nerine Dorman on Skolion

Skolion has a new blog! Skolion is a writers’ cooperative. We write speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, or science fiction. You can read Nerine Dorman’s explanation of what Skolion is all about at the brand new Skolion blog.

Manybooks Interview

Check it out! I got featured as “author of the day” at Manybooks. You can read the interview here:

The Devil Thorn method of planning a book

I’ve started planning my new book. I always do a lot of planning before I even start the outline, and a lot of outlining before I start the first draft. And no matter how much planning I do, I always have to go back to the drawing board halfway through that first draft, because, as Helmuth von Moltke the Elder said, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

I used to use the Dog Walking method of story planning. This meant going for lots of long walks with my dog, Pippin, while I thought about the story. Now Pippin is a little bit sick and twelve years old, and not really up to hour-long walks anymore. This forces me to use the Devil Thorn method, which involves clearing our neighbourhood of every single devil thorn plant I can find, while I think about the story.

Don’t worry though, I still take Pippin for walks. He gets into our car via a ramp to save his hips and spine from jumping, and gets driven to Park Island or the Vlei for short outings.

And the book? It’s not a sequel to any of the books I’ve already written. It’s something completely new.

Thank You!

Thanks so much! To * everyone * who came to my book launch, you have no idea how much I appreciate your support. Also to Brendon, Andries, Marijke, Tallulah, Nerine, all the members of the Skolion Street team (you rock!).
Thanks as well to the venues: The Field Office in Woodstock (and especially Genevieve, who tracked down some escaping wine glasses all the way to Calitzdorp, but that’s a whole other story) and Rolling Wood in Muizenberg, such a great vibe.
And of course – last but not least – to all my readers out there in the world 

I’m now all book-launched out, and will be creeping back into my shell for a bit. I have an idea for a new book…

Eroded Language in “The Strange”

My favourite part of world building — the process of creating a setting for a story — is making sure that any words or names I have to make up are convincing. Most of us have a keen an intuitive sense for when a word is “fake”, and when you come across a name for a place, a person, or even a type of food that seems obviously made up, it pulls you out of the story. I wrote about the layered use of language in The Babylon Eye here, to explain how the words, titles, and place names reveal the history and hierarchy of that world. In The Strange I had an even bigger challenge, creating not  just one, but an entire universe of alien worlds. These worlds had to feel deeply foreign and, well, strange, without being so distant, removed, or alien that they don’t evoke an emotional response.

For example, consider Orm Embar, the name Ursula le Guin chose for one of the dragons in her Earthsea series.  We don’t know the etymology of this name but  to me, “Embar” evokes “ember”, a quiescent seed of fire that might flare up if breathed upon, and “Orm” has echoes of the word “orb”, which seems large, timeless, and ancient. Both are appropriate for the dragon they describe.

I could never create this kind of resonance with completely made up language, so my Strange World had to use words that sounded familiar, and drew on existing languages from our world. The names and terminology also had to show evidence of history. For example, in our world the names of letters, numbers, the days of the week are from ancient cultures that used to have great influence but have now faded into obscurity. The symbols and names that remain are the teeth, the bone fragments, the stone beads that are left behind when the body itself has been eroded away.

As was hinted at in The Babylon Eye the Strange is not a single world but a network of many places that have been conquered, colonised, freed, vanquished and re-colonised. Multiple civilisations overlapped, blended and erased one another. Some places have multiple names, old names, drawn from ancient language like Aramaic, Accadian and Somali, as well as the newer names given to them by conquerors. The newer names are often latinate, as Latin was a bridge language between warring foreign cultures in the Strange.

Traces of this history can be seen in the architecture of places like the Gremium (the Gremium is another Eye, a sort of hub between the worlds), where ancient infrastructure is layered on top of even older carvings. But its history is also evident in the name itself. “Gremium” is the new name, and is derived from the Latin word for “lap”.  The old name was Samad Uurka, which is a warping of the Somali words for “Sky” and “womb”.

There are many worlds, all with names, and all the world names are preceded by  the word “Dhulka” which is Somali for “ground” or “soil”. So for example, the Strangeworld name for our world is Dhulka Serragio. “Serragio” was derived from the Latin word for sawdust, a substance used in arenas to mop up the blood of gladiators. That name seemed, to the Strangers, appropriate for our world. The people in my stories tend not to use the word “dhulka” for “world”. They refer to the various worlds as “niches”, which evokes an entirely different attitude and set of associations.

There are many examples of this layering throughout the book. Titles of petty prison officials are derived from numbers in ancient, twelve-base systems: esseret is Accadian for “ten”. Military titles are from the more modern Latin-base languages: for example the para-military slave-train guards in The Strange are called pugios, which is Latin for “dagger”.

Why are the prison-officials’ titles rooted in the language of the older, conquered civilisation, while the enslaved slave-guardians bear titles in the language of the conquerors? I can guess, but I’m not sure, just as nobody can every really be sure of the etymology of many of the words and titles in our own world.

Keeping the Stakes Personal

In fantasy, and science fiction to a lesser extent the stakes tend to be ridiculously high. The quest must succeed or THE UNIVERSE WILL END or ALL HUMANITY WILL LOSE FREE WILL.  While I appreciate that as a reader, it doesn’t work for me as a writer because I embed my stories in a world similar to the one we live in.

And here’s the thing about the world I live in:

The doomsday scenarios are real and multiplying. Climate change. Species extinction — I could go on but I won’t. Imagine reading about a heroine who is fighting climate change. It’s tough, it’s exciting, but in the end she succeeds! Yay! Climate change is reversed. You close the book and glance outside to see your half empty rainwater tank and smell the fumes of your neighbour revving his car.

It makes the story seem empty and fake.

That’s why, while I write about the very real problems that we all face, they are not doomsday events that needs to be vanquished. I prefer to keep the stakes personal and intimate, the kind of thing anyone might believably face and care about. Protecting your little brother. Finding a missing person. Or looking for a lost dog.

“The Strange” is published!

And it’s live! The Strange, the final book in the now completed “Linked Worlds” series is published and available on Amazon.  If you’ve not read the first two book yet, don’t despair 🙂 They are on sale right now: The Babylon Eye and The Real are both available for 99c each.

It’s taken me more than two years to write this book and there were times when it seemed like an impossible task. It was a challenge to create a whole new world for my heroine to explore, a world that is both strange and believable. As usual, the characters grabbed hold of their own story and got themselves into such difficult situations that at times I despaired of getting to anything resembling a resolution. But now that it’s finally done, I’m proud of this story.


Biopunk SciFi in alternate-world South Africa where cyber-beings and

biomechanical hybrids blur the borders between technology and nature.




Book Launch: “The Strange”

It’s book launch time!
I’ve finished my new novel, The Strange, the final book in my science fiction “Linked Worlds” series. The Babylon Eye was the first, followed by The Real, and I’m really pleased to have completed the trilogy with The Strange.

I have readers on both sides of the mountain now, so I’ve arranged two events:

  • 22 November at the Field Office coffee shop, 34 Salisbury Road, Woodstock
    – Wine and snacks 6:30 for 7pm
  • 29 November at Rolling Wood, 4 York Road, Muizenberg
    – 6:30 for 7pm.
    If you want an early dinner we’ll be serving a special “The Strange” veggie ravioli.
    Book your plate at at The pasta is R100 per person.

Print copies of The Strange will be for sale, as well as all of my other books.

Please come!

Writing progress: The Strange is on the go again :)

At last, I have news on the writing front.  After months in the planning-mines, hacking away, I have started writing again on The Strange,  third book in the Babylon Eye series. I have deleted more than 16 000 words, and written more than 20 000 new ones. Things are looking much better. New things that have appeared in the story: a locomotive-beast, and a viral lathe.  Things that haven’t changed: Isabeau is just as prone to getting into trouble, although she thinks she’s much more sensible now. Meisje the cyber dog has a much more active role now too, she’s no longer just following orders. After all, Elke is in deadly danger!

(On another note, my next book will contain only characters who can speak. Writing non-speaking dog characters has been interesting but frustrating)

Update: writing progress

Some of you have read my books The Babylon Eye and The Real and are waiting for the third in the series, which I’m planning to call The Strange. But things are not going so well. Usually by this time of year, I’m finished with the first draft and deep into re-writing. This time, not so much.
I’ve never had so much trouble with a book before and I think I’ve finally figured out why. I don’t think this is one book. I can’t seem to compress the story into a single volume. There’s just too much going on. I’ve been frustrating myself in trying to find a way to bring the story to a conclusion, when it actually needs to play itself out.

What’s probably going to happens is that either The Strange is going to be much longer than the first two, or its going to be two books (“Strange” and “Stranger”?). Either way, my dreams of launching early next year have evaporated.

For those of you who have read the first two books, I can let you know that Meisje the cyber-dog gets her own point of view again like she does in the first book, Elke gets a whole new love interest who might actually be a nice person for a change, and of course, we see quite a lot more of the Strange world.

The Babylon Eye is launched!

A cyber-dog, lost in the void between worlds. The woman who must find the dog to win back her  freedom. A spy’s betrayal that could kill them both.

It’s alive! The first book in my new “Linked Worlds” series, The Babylon Eye has been published and is available from Amazon.  I’ve dropped the launch price to $0.99 for the first three days 🙂  It’s the first book of a three-part series. I wrote The Babylon Eye in 2015 and have just finished writing the sequel, The Real. I plan to publish The Real in February 2017.


The Babylon Eye is a science fiction novel set in Cape Town, South Africa, where technology from an alternate world is used to create cyber-beings and bio-mechanical hybrids. Access to the other world is through the Babylon Eye, a space-station-like town that exists in the void between the worlds.

The story follows Elke Veraart, a prisoner who used to be a member of a vigilante group that protected rhinos and other endangered animals from poachers. Before she was imprisoned, Elke was a talented trainer of gardags, cybernetically enhanced attack dogs. Elke is offered a deal. One of the most advanced gardags is missing, and presumed to be lost in the Babylon Eye. If she can find this creature, her prison sentence will be commuted and shell be win back her freedom. But Elke soon realises there are other hunters on the gardag’s trail, and they’re willing to kill to protect their secrets.

You can buy the ebook version of The Babylon Eye here.  The print edition will be published early in February 2017.

Cover Reveal: The Babylon Eye!

Everything’s ready for The Babylon Eye launch, including the final cover design. Here it is:


The Babylon Eye is a science fiction novel set in an alternate version of Cape Town, South Africa, a world in which the divisions between nature and technology are blurred. The setting, the Babylon Eye, is a  town set in the portal between two worlds. The technologies of both worlds combine to create cyber-beings and bio-mechanical hybrids.

And what is the story about? Here is the description:

Meisje is no ordinary dog. She’s a gardag, a cybernetically enhanced living weapon. She’s also lost, hungry, and lonely. Elke Veraart is on Meisje’s trail. If she can find the dog she’ll win back her own freedom. If she fails she’ll be sent back to prison.

As she closes in on the gardag, Elke finds her admiration for Meisje growing. And Meisje, weak with hunger, begins to wonder if she could trust the woman who is hunting her. Then Elke discovers that there are other hunters searching for the gardag and that her orders have changed. She no longer has to find Meisje. She has to kill her.

If you’d like to be notified when The Babylon Eye is published, you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails 🙂

The Babylon Eye Cover: discarded designs

I don’t think I’ve ever gone through so many different versions when designing a book cover! The Babylon Eye went through quite a few look and title changes.  Since I’ll soon be doing the cover reveal for this book, I thought I’d share some of the discarded designs. Keep in mind that the look of the design isn’t the only criterion, it has to convey the genre, set up reader expectations for the tone of the book and also be adaptable enough so that it’s possible to make tie in the sequel’s cover.

First attempt: at this stage the title was just Babylon Eye (no “The”) The dog is too flat and a bit clumsily drawn. Also not to sure of that title typeface!


In the next one the dog’s pose was inspired by the Persian bull mosaics from the Ishtar gate (there’s an Ishtar gate in the story).  The main problem with this design is that it doesn’t really convey that the book is science fiction.



Something completely different for the next one. I’m not very fond of books that show the characters on the cover myself, but it’s a popular look. But my attempt doesn’t really work. It hovers uneasily between a sort of children’s book look, and something a bit more serious. I also really don’t like the fake plasticy gold of the title.  And Meisje (the dog) looks a too goofy!


At this stage I was spinning my wheels and trying out different titles. The ghostly author name in the top left is not intentional!


My next idea was to focus on the main character. Yet again, a title change.  This isn’t too bad but it doesn’t feel right for this particular book. I liked the typefaces though.


And after many more attempts, I ended up with my final design and title. Watch this space for my cover reveal 🙂

If you’d like to be notified when The Babylon Eye is published you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails 🙂

Wolf Logic is published!

At long last,  Wolf Logic is available for sale on Amazon.  Wolf Logic  is part of the two book series that starts with Crooks & Straights. These are fantasy novels set in an alternate version of contemporary South Africa where magic is real and magical creatures live and work among the rest of us.



For those of you who don’t have the first book yet, here is the link to Crooks & Straights.  

The Swan Drawing

This might be my final illustration for Wolf Logic.  I’ve not posted all the illustrations on here…got to save some surprises for the book itself!


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