Andrew McKiernan Signs Two-Book Deal

Australian writer and illustrator Andrew McKiernan has just signed a two book deal with Satalyte Publishing.

The first is for a collection of his short stories, “A Prayer for Lazarus & Other Strange Offerings” (14 published stories + 2 new stories), which will appear in print and e-book in the second half of 2014.

The second deal is for his crime novel “A Quiet Place”, which he sold on the strength of
the first 8,000 words and will be appearing in print and e-book in early 2015.

Stay tuned for further updates as the publication dates approached.

Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. His stories have appeared in magazines such as Aurealis, Midnight Echo and the Eclecticism e-zine, as well as the anthologies In Bad Dreams 2, Masques, Scenes from the Second Storey, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, and Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010. He has twice (2009 & 2010) been shortlisted for both Aurealis and Australian Shadows Awards, as well as a Ditmar Award shortlisting in 2010. His story “The Desert Song” from the Scenes from the Second Storey anthology received an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Vol.3. Andrew’s illustrations have appeared on many book and magazine covers, as well as featuring in the collections Shards: Short Sharp Tales by Shane Jiraiya Cummings from Brimstone Press and Savage Menace & Other Poems of Horror by Richard Tierney from P’rea Press.

Satalyte Publishing is an Australian publishing house of Australian authors for a global market. Their mission is to put Australian authors back on the world map of reading, and they will be offering the best of Australian authors in a variety of genres.

Satalyte Publishing

Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge – review by Greg Chapman

Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Redrum Horror (June 30, 2012)
ISBN: 978-0984751952

Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Black & Orange (2010), has a new tome – Bottled Abyss – that will no doubt earn him a second bronze haunted castle statue next year.

Bottled Abyss takes on the well-worn trope of exploring the meaning of life and death and binds it to classical myth, namely the legend of the Ferryman. But instead of focussing on the myth or blatantly trying to re-invent it (although he does twist it into fresher territory), Ethridge poses the question of “if you had the power of death, how would you wield it?”
Ethridge masterfully touches on themes of grief, loss and redemption through each of the main characters, but primarily via Herman and Janet Erikson, whose marriage is in turmoil after the tragic death of their daughter Melody when she was hit by a car driven by criminals.

Since her death, Janet has resorted to drinking heavily and distanced herself from the world. The tale enters supernatural territory when Herman goes looking for their missing dog and finds it near death. A strange man with an oar-like cane saves the dog by letting it drink from an equally strange bottle. The dog coughs up a coin and a price must be paid to a gargantuan beast from the depths of the River Styx.

And so begins the cycle of a “death-for-a-death”.

The beast, known as The Fury, is probably one of the most horrific monsters I’ve ever come across in horror fiction and it was fantastic to see a creature that wasn’t your oh-so-common shambling zombie!

Temptation also plays a big part in the plot as Janet and Herman come into possession of the bottle and realise its power. A single drop of the waters from the River Styx is enough to conjure a coin from anyone and summon the beast and Janet suddenly has eyes for the man who took her daughter’s life.

Without giving too much more of the plot away, the character viewpoints are constantly shifting from Janet and Herman and their friends, married couple Evan and Faye, and we even get to go inside the heads of the people who have the misfortune of coming into the contact with the waters and face-to-face with the Fury.

This may irk some readers, but I found it enthralling as I got to know more about each character through their interactions with the bottle.

Ultimately the story is about choice as well and its repercussions, with Janet and the others falling victim themselves to the bottle’s promise of salvation and like with any Hell of any mythology, the chance of escape is unlikely.

The suspense, characterisation and plot of Bottled Abyss will definitely grab you by the throat and hold you until the final page, dragging you deep into the cold waters of the River Styx. So get yourself a copy and dive in because you won’t forget this journey anytime soon!

The Author provided a copy for review.

Review by Greg Chapman

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis – review

Title: Bitter Seeds – Book One of the Milkweed Triptych
Author: Ian Tregillis
Publisher: TOR (US) / Orbit (AUS/UK)

Author: Ian Tregillis lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he works as a physicist at Los Alamos Laboratory. He is a member of the George R.R. Martin Wild Cards writing collective. ‘Bitter Seeds’ is his first novel.


It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man is caught in between.

Bitter Seeds is the first novel from US author, Ian Tregillis, and it contains all the ingredients to make any dark-fantasy, horror, spec-fic or alternate/secret history fan salivate with anticipation. The novel contains not just Nazis, but scientifically enhanced Super-Nazis with strange powers! Mad scientists. Bookish British warlocks conjuring demonic entities. Kick-ass British soldiers on secret missions into the heart of enemy territory. It’s all there, on the cover and in the blurb, just inviting you to dive into its pages. The big question is, does it all work? Does the content satisfy such an exciting premise?

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent on a mission in the final years of the Spanish Civil War. When his informant, with important information on Germany’s preparations for all out War in Europe, spontaneously combusts Marsh finds his cover almost blown and must escape back to England. He thinks that is the end of his mission, but really, it is just the beginning of something much bigger. It’s the strange lady he sees down on the docks, with what appears to be wires coming out of her head and a look and a wink that seems to say she knows, him that sticks in his mind.

Back in London, Germany has invaded Poland, and the British Government is preparing for war. The Nazi war-machine ploughs through western Europe with astonishing speed, much faster than intelligence would suggest, and faster than you can goose-step they’re breaching the borders of France. It is agent Raybould Marsh who discovers the Nazi secret – a secret linked to the mysterious woman with the wires in her head – that the Germans have a developed the ability to turn certain individuals into Übermensch; men and women with amazing super powers that allow them to stay one step ahead of the Allies at all times.

Faced with the prospect of defeat at the hands of such an unnatural onslaught, the British resort to their own unnatural (nay, supernatural) defense… the creation of a secret organisation known as Milkweed, and the hiring of Warlocks capable of negotiating with Demons in order to defeat the oncoming Nazi menace.

It is against this backdrop that Tregillis weaves his tale through the viewpoint of four major characters: Marsh, the British ‘every-man’ soldier and spy; Marsh’s friend, dilettante and amateur occultist, Lord William Beauclerk; and the German twins Klaus and Gretel, both of whom have been ‘recruited’ since childhood into the Nazi’s secret Gotterelektrongruppe.

There is a lot in Bitter Seeds that Tregillis does well. The powers possessed by the Nazi super-humans are, if not wholely original, treated in a very interesting way. Prescience, invisibility and the manipulation of matter are just a few of the tricks they can accomplish. So too is the fact that the magick practiced by the Warlocks is not straight forward in a Harry Potter ‘just say the words and wave your wand’ fashion. There are real consequences to dealing with Demons; consequences that effect not only the Warlocks, but everyone around them, in horrendous ways.

The writing though is, unfortunately, uneven. The action scenes are especially well written, but prone to falling into unwelcome info-dumps at the most inopportune times. Many of the characters – especially that of Raybould Marsh – seem two-dimensional, and the most interesting character (Gretel, the Nazi super-human who can see the future) often seems to be little more than a walking deus-ex-machina for the author’s plot twists. The troubled amateur occultist, Will Beauclerk, is probably the most well rounded (and most likeable) of the characters while others seem almost comic-bookish in their actions.

Overall, Bitter Seeds comes across as very well researched. It is easy to get a feel for the time and the place, and there is a real sense of urgency to the threat of winning or losing the war. One area that did annoy me greatly though, is the use of ‘Enochian’ as the magick of choice for the British Warlocks. Despite the great amount of information available on this particular magical discipline, Tregillis appears to have either ignored it or not bothered with his research. Maybe something like this will only bother someone like me – someone who spent over 10 years studying and practicing within the Western Magical Tradition – but what Tregillis describes as ‘Enochian’ magick in Bitter Seeds bears no resemblance to the system crafted by the famous 16th Century English magician Doctor John Dee and his seer Edward Kelley. The system Tregillis describes works very well within the context of the novel – and the idea of ‘negotiating’ with Demons and the ‘blood price’ that must be paid for such congress is great! – but if you’re going to co-opt the name of an existing system you should use something resembling that system or call it something else.

This is a nit-pick though, and many readers will neither know nor care about the methods and intricacies Enochian magic.

Now, it might seem from some of the above that I didn’t like Bitter Seeds. That I wouldn’t recommend it to other readers. This is not so at all! For a first novel, Bitter Seeds is generally a ripping read with some first rate ideas. It isn’t a bad novel… just an uneven one. But in the end, the good out-weighs the bad. I mean, Nazis with scientific super powers versus British Warlocks conjuring almost Lovecraftian demons… what’s not to love about that?

The Broken Ones by Stephen M Irwin – review by Greg Chapman

Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Stephen M Irwin
Publisher: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9780733627132
REVIEWER: Greg Chapman

Author: Stephen M Irwin has trouble making decisions. He has worked as a roadie for rock’n’roll shows, a call centre operator, agricultural science magazine editor, actor, handyman, and illustrator. The list of things he is afraid of includes heights, dark water, running late, thumbtacks and spiders. Fortunately, he has found an outlet for these and other terrors in his writing. The Broken Ones is his second novel.


Three years ago, on what’s become known as Grey Wednesday, the world became haunted. Everyone suddenly acquired a personal ghost – a friend, a lost sibling, an ex-spouse, an enemy – which is unshakable as a shadow. These peering, silent phantoms have driven millions to despair, and the global economy is in freefall.

Stephen M Irwin’s follow up to his first novel The Dead Path (2010) is an engrossing blend of the supernatural and police procedural with a dash of the apocalypse – a combination that doesn’t disappoint.

In the novel, the world has virtually been turned upside down in the wake of “Grey Wednesday” – a disaster of gargantuan proportions that saw the Earth’s poles shift, creating all manner of destruction, with earthquakes and planes plummeting out of the sky. Worse still, everyone in the entire world (including Brisbane, where the story is set), suddenly found themselves haunted by the ghosts of their past, with long-dead relatives, friends, lovers and enemies following them around.

Everyone has to learn to live with their ghosts, but with society an absolute wreck, some can’t handle the stress and crimes like murder flourish. With the existence of the supernatural now living proof, many of these murderers are quite happy to use the term “the ghosts made me do it” as readily as they draw breath.

Which brings us to Detective Oscar Mariani; the lead officer of a unit tasked with investigating crimes believed to have been perpetrated by ghosts. It’s his job to separate the real murderers from the ghosts and, given that the majority of his suspects are very much alive, his job doesn’t carry much success, prestige or respect.

But when Oscar is called to a gruesome scene of a young girl with occult symbols carved into her flesh, the possibility of supernatural involvement is all too real. Oscar of course becomes obsessed with the case, all the while trying to reconcile the mistakes of his own past and handle the politics within a seemingly corrupt police force.

Oscar’s “mistake” is a core thread of Irwin’s marvellously intricate plot. The detective’s own ghost is a young boy who appeared before Oscar as he was driving, forcing the detective to crash his car with tragic consequences.

In Oscar, Irwin gives us the classic flawed hero; a tortured soul seeking redemption, but the author brings him to life with such clarity, that the mystery almost becomes secondary. The supernatural element of the novel evolves as the story progresses, moving the focus off the ghosts and more towards Persian mythology and there’s also terrifying monsters of the feathered variety lurking in the shadows, but it’s all just lying under the surface.

There are of course sub plots a plenty, including Oscar’s tenuous relationship with his former cop father, his tenuous relationships with other police officers who were once his friends and, his tenuous relationships with the lives of the families Oscar destroyed with his “mistake” on Grey Wednesday, but as in all good tales, everything weaves together in perfect symmetry to a horrific and tragic climax.

With simple language that is still somehow powerfully evocative, Irwin paints the perfect picture of a Brisbane gone terribly wrong and a man who seeks justice for a murdered girl and his own atonement. It’s a grand supernatural murder mystery that would even, dare I say it, some of today’s best thriller writers a run for their money and is well deserving of its recent Honourable Mention in the finalist list for the 2011 Aurealis Awards.

It would be good to see Irwin return to this world in the future and perhaps give us more ghosts of the past. The post-apocalyptic premise he has created is a unique one and deserves more exploration in his distinctive style, but whatever he writes next I’ll certainly be lining up for a copy.

Review by Greg Chapman