What Happened to Naia?

Last week I sent out my regular flash fiction story to newsletter subscribers and, as always happens, people responded with: What happens next? Give us some closure. You’re killing me!

So this story has been on my mind since then. The elevator pitch: Naia, priestess of Poseidon, prophesies the fall of Atlantis and then sees an enormous wave rolling in towards the doomed island.

Atlantis | Pixabay

Sunday afternoon I found myself with some rare free time: the little one was visiting his grandfather, the husband was in his workshop. I wanted to continue with my WIP edits, but it was cold and the duvet and the couch called me. So instead, in the name of research, I binge watched a series I had recorded on the PVR months ago called “Legends of the Lost” presented by Megan Fox.

Okay, we won’t go into her presentation skills, scientific method or the validity of her conclusions, but I found the series entertaining nonetheless, and offering some interesting ideas. However, when I got to the episode entitled “America’s Lost Civilization”, I had to sit up and take notice.

My arms were covered with goose bumps when the scientist told the story of a girl they had found drowned deep at the bottom of the Yucatan peninsula. Her remains suggested that she was over 12 000 years old, and that she stems from humans that are genetically distinct but share some commonalities with the most ancient civilizations of our modern world, such as Native Americans, early Central Asians and the indigenous people of South America.

They named her Naia.

And I couldn’t help but wonder at the coincidence of a girl named Naia who stemmed from an ancient culture that genetically links First Nation peoples throughout the world, who had died in Mexican waters just off the Atlantic.

If you know anything about the stories surrounding legendary Atlantis, and about how survivors were dispersed all across the world, and you think about the twist of fate that made me choose that specific name for my character – then your mind should be blown right now too.

Do you believe the legends of Atlantis? What are some of your favourite myths and legends of lost civilizations?

Research Discovery: Scorpion Bombs

While editing Part 4 of the Mythical Menagerie series, I found myself googling for “Roman era projectile missile gas bombs”. Okay wait, I may just have every country scouring the Internet for keywords hot on my tail right now, but bear with me.

There’s a scene where Ambrose is attacked with a hand grenade-like bomb that spews out some kind of sleeping gas. Aren’t first drafts fun? Anyway. So I thought it might be more interesting if the bomb tossed at him actually stemmed from ancient times – hence the dodgy search string.

Did you know that the Romans and Persians were already engaging in chemical warfare way back in the early ADs? Neither did I, and it fits in nicely with my plans for that scene. But, what really caught my interest was mention of a thing called “scorpion bombs”.

Picture this: clay pots raining down from the sky, and when they break open, a bunch of deadly scorpions are deposited all over you, stinging and pinching and generally causing havoc. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s the stuff of nightmares. If you’re so inclined, you can read more here.

Scorpion – not to be lobbed at people’s heads, thank you very much | Pixabay

Ambrose (probably) won’t have creepy crawlies lobbed at him, but life’s definitely going to get a little harder for him after this particular discovery.


Back From the Balkans

It’s been just over a week since we’ve returned from our three-week campervanning trip through the Balkans. Technically I shouldn’t be calling it a Balkans trips anymore, since we only travelled through two of the four countries we planned to visit – Slovenia and Croatia. But wow, did those two deliver!

I am in love with Slovenia.

This unassuming little country checks all three of my happiness must-haves (mountains, forests and lakes) and even added a fourth one to the mix (church bells). The mountains are tall and snow-capped, the forests are dense green swathes that cover most of the country and the lakes really are that unbelievable shade of turquoise you see on Pinterest. Picture in your mind’s eye the forest in which Hansel and Gretel got lost – I’ll bet you just imagined Slovenia.

Croatia was almost as amazing.

To be honest, I think our enchantment with Slovenia doesn’t do Croatia any favours. Had we visited Croatia first, we might have liked it a little more, but now it almost feels like Slovenia’s ugly red-headed stepsister (sorry red-heads, it’s just an expression!). Croatia is anything but ugly. Think red-tiled roofs, fortress cities the colour of dark sandstone, and an ocean so deep blue your heart aches for it. I can understand why Dubrovnik captured the imagination of the location scout who picked it to be King’s Landing.

Did this trip fill the creative well? Indeed! I have at least three new story ideas and a wealth of beautiful settings for them to take place in. I am always inspired by travel, and while I don’t write any words while I’m on the road, my imagination is sparked by the places I visit.

So now we’re back home and everything is that dull shade of grey that overlays a mundane life. Sure, I’m happy to sleep in my own bed again, and not to have to share my bathroom with twenty-odd strangers anymore, but I’d rather be exploring a winding mountain road, or letting my imagination wander through the twists and turns of a medieval castle, or eat cream cake for breakfast (seriously people, why is this not a staple food?).

Slovenian cream cake – yum!

To combat this dour state of mind, I’ll be diving straight back into Ambrose’s adventures at every possible opportunity I get. My life may not be as exciting as his is, but at least I get to live vicariously through him. I hope you’ll join me on one of his adventures very soon.

Have you been to Slovenia or Croatia? Did you love it? Do you get post-holiday blues too? Where is your favourite fictional setting in real life?

Filling the Creative Well

I’m a big fan of Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn, and lately Books and Travel, and she often talks about filling the creative well. Joanna lives my best life – an escapee from the corporate IT world, now a full-time author who resides in Bath in the UK, she often goes on research trips to Europe, Asia and the US, and takes frequent days off to visit art galleries, museums and Gothic graveyards. Joanna says it’s important to do things that inspire you.

I’m inspired by travel. All my urban fantasy stories are set in places that I’ve been to or like to visit someday, and even my fantasy settings are informed in some way by places in the real world. Each installment of my Mythical Menagerie series is set in one of Europe’s great cities – so far London, Paris, Cardiff and Rome, with more coming – and even its prequel, Keeper of Exotic Animals, which is set in an undisclosed mountainous location, reminds a little of Alpine country.

My husband and I used to travel quite a lot before our little one arrived. Living in South Africa, overseas travel is an expensive luxury that most people can’t afford, but we decided from the start that it would be a priority for us, and so we set our Rands aside and we do without fancy cars, a grand house or designer clothes, and we take our lunch to work in Tupperware boxes and drink coffee from the office supply. But once a year, we get to go somewhere exciting.

When the baby arrived, all of that went out the window. I’m not brave enough to endure a 12-hour flight with a toddler, so for four years we stayed put, biding our time, scratching our itchy feet by watching the Travel Channel or reading books set in exotic locations. And writing them too, in my case.

But now my son is 3.5 years old, my 40th birthday is a couple of weeks away and it’s time to fill that creative well again.

In a few days’ time, we’re hopping on a plane that will take us to Zagreb. We’re hiring a campervan and doing a three-week tour of the Balkans; starting off in Slovenia, winding our way down the coast of Croatia, exploring the mountains of Montenegro and discovering the history of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It’s a part of the world that I know very little about, but I expect it will be an amazing experience.

Will I come back inspired with new ideas and new stories? Probably. But most importantly, I’ll have filled the creative well again, one that has been running on empty for quite some time now, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.

If you want to follow along on our travels, follow me on Instagram where I’ll share daily photos of our time in the Balkans, or read along on my blog, which I’ll start updating once we get home again.

Are you inspired by travel? What is your ultimate bucket list destination?

On Changing Mailing Service Providers

I received an email from Mailchimp last week that stated that their terms of service would be changing. As I normally do, I just deleted the email, assuming that it would probably be something minor that would hardly affect me. I’m happy with Mailchimp – they have been my mailing service provider from the day I realised I needed to have a list of subscribers and send them email on a regular basis.

Much to my dismay however, the indie author community immediately erupted over the changes being implemented. Read David Gaughran’s very comprehensive post here.

The most notable change for me is that the Chimp has moved over from list subscribers to list audiences – meaning where I once would have paid only for the people subscribed to my list and not for those who choose to unsubscribe and no longer want to hear from me, I now have to pay for the size of the entire audience, both subscribers and unsubscribed. Mailchimp’s reasoning behind this is that they keep the details of people who have unsubscribed in their database and it can be used for target marketing. My argument is that I do not want to market to people who have already indicated that they are not interested. It seems spammy to me and I’m pretty sure it also goes against the GDPR regulations. Either way, from a practical point of view, if someone has unsubscribed from my mailing list, then I don’t want to bother them anymore and I most certainly do not want to pay for them being in my supposed audience.

This is particularly pertinent to newbie authors such as myself who have to first gain an audience by making a free book available to anyone willing to give me their email address in exchange for it. Inevitably I get lots of bargain hunters subscribing and then unsubscribing (sometimes almost immediately, before even reading said book and deciding whether or not it would be worth staying on my list to learn more about me and my books). It’s bad enough that I’m giving my hard work away for free, it’s absolutely unacceptable that I now have to pay for these email addresses who don’t ever want to hear from me again.

As someone who is currently still within their previously free plan (less than 2000 active subscribers), there are even more changes that affect me too:

  • I now have to pay extra for my automation sequence (the most important part of the list building toolkit)
  • email templates and custom branding are out the door
  • segmentation is on the highest paid plan
  • no more audience insights
  • no more dedicated customer support
  • only 1 audience (so no more multiple lists for my multiple small businesses)
  • I now have a cap on the amount of emails I get to send per month (i.e. 10k emails, which is used up quickly if you are a weekly mailer, even with a small list)

There are probably a few smaller things that I’m unaware of right now too, but which will inevitably trip me up just when I want to use them.

I am quite disappointed. I’ve been using Mailchimp since 2017 and have become comfortable and knowledgeable with its interface and features.

Although I am still on the free plan, my first full-length novel is coming out at the latter end of the year and I was hoping to increase my number of subscribed users to a significant amount before then. With these kinds of changes, Mailchimp has made it practically impossible and a lot more expensive to do so.

Please note that I’m not opposed to paying for a service – I just want to get my money’s worth when I do. Especially since I earn ZAR and have to spend USD. The more I have to spend, the longer I have to stick with the (soul-destroying) day job.

I have one more mail going out with Mailchimp at the end of the month. After that, it will be time to move to a new service provider.

Are you adversely affected by Mailchimp’s changes? Are you planning to change service providers? Who would you recommend instead?

What I’m Currently Working On: Yep, You Guessed It

Hi! My name’s Suneé and I’m a slow writer.

And when I say slow, apparently I mean glacially. Dinosaurs have lived and gone extinct in the time it takes me to write the first draft of a novelette.

Dinosaurs watching a meteorite passing by | The Good Dinosaur | Disney Pixar

So yeah, I am (still) busy writing Part 4 of my Mythical Menagerie series. All sorts of things have conspired towards making my attempts to catch up on my self-imposed deadline almost impossible. I’m not making excuses – I know I should get my lazy ass up out of bed at 4 AM in the mornings because writing should be that important to me, and yet I don’t – I’m just stating the facts. I’m behind my schedule. I’m trying to catch up. But if I miss that deadline – oh well. I’d rather have a quality product than a rushed one. I want to be proud of my work, and if it takes a little longer than expected, I’m sorry, but there it is. Maybe it would go quicker if I were still writing full-time, but unfortunately you need to be a prolific writer with a big backlist to make a living from writing and I am neither of those things. Yet.

Also, ALSO, I’ve received the e-book cover for the complete novel from my incredibly talented cover designer, Tallulah, and IT IS AMAZING! I just want to show the world! But I’ll keep my enthusiasm contained for a proper cover reveal when the time is ready. For anyone who’s forgotten – I am no longer releasing individual installments of the novelette series (for reasons), but am holding it all back until the entire series is complete, after which it will be published as a full novel. Only 1.5 installments to go.

Plus, my friend Schalk, who is the most amazing composer you’ll meet this century, sent me the final version of the music he composed for my book trailer! It makes me squeal like a toddler finding a hidden Easter egg whenever I listen to it. You guys, I don’t know how he managed it, but this music is perfect for the tone of the book! So… I am about to start the process of creating a book trailer. Yay! (Listen to the music he made for me for the book trailer for my short story, Spirit Caller.)

On a more personal side, my birthday is looming and we are now counting the days until we jump on a plane and head for the Balkans for a three-week jaunt in a campervan. I’ve been in a spin trying to sort all the visas and things out (the joy of travelling on a South African passport), but most of the admin is now done and we basically just have to pack our bags and set off. I lie awake at nights thinking about this holiday – it’s been way too long since we’ve gone anywhere remotely interesting. If you’re into travel, follow me on Instagram where I’ll be sharing the pictures of our trip from mid-June to early July, and you can check out my (somewhat neglected) travel blog if you like to live vicariously through others. If you’ve read Beginner’s Luck (and the other two installments while they were still available), then you’ll know I’m inspired by travel. Who knows what will come from this trip?

Otherwise, I’ve been reading good books (I seriously recommend Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, go check it out), watched the end of a Marvel era unfold and tried my hand at mosaic art.

Enough about me! What have you been up to lately? Did you watch Avengers: Endgame? Are you as traumatised as I am? Are you a travel junkie? Where are you heading to next? What good books have you read recently and want to recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

Tears for Notre Dame

Imagine my distress when I logged into social media late night on 15 April, only to be confronted by a slew of images of the Notre Dame on fire. I’m not embarrassed to say that I was in tears. I spent the rest of the evening in a shell-shocked state, watching footage of the fire raging, of the enormous cloud of smoke billowing into the sky, and finally the spire tumbling to the ground.

I was devastated.

I first set foot in its hallowed halls when I was 18 years old. It was my first visit to Europe and I was awestruck and wide-eyed the entire time, but never more so than inside that glorious Gothic cathedral. I gaped at the intricate carvings of saints and sinners, at the beautiful woodwork and stonemasonry. I admired the vaulted ceiling high above, the pillars that lead the eye up to Heaven. I stood in dappled light as the sun fell in through the Rose window.

And then something amazing happened. A voice – pure, angelic – lifted in song. The words of Ave Maria echoed through that vast space.

Everyone stopped and stared at the young woman, her eyes cast upwards, her face beatific.

Goosebumps raised on my arms then, and now, while I’m recalling it again.

The girl finished her song, the last notes drifting through the air. Her mother hugged her tightly. We all wiped away tears, before the subdued bustle of hundreds of tourists continued again.

That is how I remember the Notre Dame. It holds a special place in my memories.

Suneé in front of the Notre Dame, many years ago…

I’ve been back once since then, and I’ve wanted to go again for a long time, but now it lies in ruins. I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to see it in its full glory. There are surely millions of others out there, some in Paris right now for the first time, who are not so lucky as I have been.

If this is not a lesson in living your best life now, while you can, then I don’t know what is.

It took 200 years to build this magnificent cathedral.

It stood for 850 years.

It will stand again.

Join Ambrose Davids, Freelance Procurement Specialist, as he travels to the City of Love to forget about love, and instead finds illumination beneath the shadows of the Notre Dame.

Banshee’s Wail, part 2 of the Mythical Menagerie series. Complete novel coming soon.

April Freebie Month

No, this is not an April Fools joke, although you probably won’t believe your luck when you see what’s in store for you below.

I’ve joined a number of promotions over at Book Funnel and Prolific Works and in all of them you have a plethora of free fantasy, urban fantasy or paranormal books to choose from! No strings attached, you don’t even have to give your email address to an author to get these books. All we ask is that you try them out, see if you like them, and then consider joining our newsletters – I mean, if you enjoyed the book, you’d want to hear more from your new favourite author, am I right?

So without further ado, please click on the image links below and have a look see if there’s anything that interests you. You’d be a fool not to give it a go.

Are you a freebie hunter? Which favourite new author have you discovered this way?

Tangled’s Problematic Mother-Daughter Relationship

Disney’s 2010 animated film, Tangled, is one of my favourite movies ever. I can easily watch it every weekend. I love Rapunzel and can identify with her on so many levels. I think Flynn Rider is a hottie, especially when he forgets about smouldering and shows his more sensitive side. Plus Pascal and Maximus are two of my favourite sidekicks. And, let’s not forget about that amazing score and soundtrack. I even listen to it in my car on the way to work some days.

But, I have a major issue with Rapunzel’s relationship with Mother Gothel.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go do so now, because SPOILER ALERT coming in …




Rapunzel shows no remorse whatsoever when Mother Gothel dies.

Okay, I get it. Their relationship is incredibly dysfunctional. Gothel is her kidnapper, for heaven’s sake. BUT – Rapunzel only finds this out at the very end. For 90% of the film, Rapunzel believes Gothel to be her real mother. Yes, a manipulative narcissistic one who points out every real and fictitious flaw Rapunzel may have (seriously, why the girl doesn’t have major self-esteem issues is beyond me), but her mother nonetheless.

We see real affection for the girl as Gothel raises her from infancy, tender moments where they brush Rapunzel’s ridiculously long hair together. They even have the cutest ritual I’ve ever seen between mother and child onscreen:

GOTHEL: I love you very much, dear.

RAPUNZEL: I love you more.

GOTHEL: I love you most.

Even if you consider the fact that Gothel might actually only be referring to Rapunzel’s ability to keep her young here, to Rapunzel this is a loving exchange, and one that she has taken part in all her life.

So to me, watching the only mother you’ve ever known turn to dust before your eyes (even if you recently found out that she had stolen you as a baby) without so much as a pang of dismay, seems just a little callous.

Even if said mother had just stabbed your first ever boyfriend.

What do you think? Does Mother Gothel deserve at least a tear or two from Rapunzel, or is the teenager right in pushing all childhood affection aside so easily?

What I’m Currently Working On: Mythical Menagerie Part 4

In theory, I’m busy working on Part 4 of the Mythical Menagerie series. In practice… erm, not so much. It’s been a really bad writing month for me. I plotted out this next installment, jumped into the first draft guns blazing… and then, about 1000 words in, I stopped.

I hit a difficult scene that stumped me, and then my situation at work changed, which meant my whole routine was suddenly thrown out of whack, and then the scene became a mountain which I am yet to scale. In between, I’m also trying to organise new passports for my husband and son, both of whom have dual citizenship (which just means double the trouble, if you ask me), since we’re going on an epic holiday later this year. Plus, my son also turned three years old (cutie pie!) this past weekend and I spent all my free time planning and organising his first ever birthday party.

Not as good as the Pinterest cake we tried to emulate, but the little one loved it, which is all that matters 🙂

All of this combined to leave me with almost no writing done this month. I at least managed to complete the short flash fiction piece that goes out monthly to my newsletter subscribers, but other than that, the only words I’ve written have been emails and technical specification documents that even had me nodding off!

I also made a huge mistake that left me feeling like a fool for a few days. I finally had the opportunity to take Beginner’s Luck, Part 1 of the Mythical Menagerie series, out of Kindle Unlimited and made it available wide, for free. In a fit of misplaced optimism, I assumed that Amazon would immediately price match and make the novelette available for free there too. So I let all my subscribers know, and then watched in horror as the emails arrived one after the other to tell me that it’s not free on Amazon. I asked my writing group and they said that it could take Amazon anything from two weeks to a month to update the listed price. You could hear me facepalm all across the plains of Africa.

Needless to say, I then had to send out another email to everyone to apologise and enlist their help in reporting the novelette as free elsewhere to Amazon. The friendly support staff at KDP then sent me an email to let me know that they acknowledge the price change and they will get back to me by 28 Feb. Here’s hoping. Live and learn, I guess.

While I haven’t done anything concrete yet, listening to Joanna Penn’s mini-podcast about narrating your own book has reminded me that I still want to get more active on YouTube. For now, all I want to do is narrate one of my flash fiction stories to see if I can actually do audio and to see how people respond to my weird accent, which is a Frankenstein’s monster that is unsure whether it should be English with an Afrikaans South African, American or Welsh twang to it. Really, my husband giggled when I recorded a sentence the other day, so I’m not sure what listeners will think. But I’m interested to find out 🙂

And that’s all my news for now. Fingers crossed that March will be a more productive month. I have a deadline to hit, after all, and I am by nature a deadline-driven person, so sometime soon that compulsion to get cracking will kick in and I’ll tackle that scene that’s stopped everything in its tracks. Any day now…

What do you do to get your creative productivity back on track again?