Hounds of the Underworld Review

Hounds of the Underworld – (The Path of Ra Book One), by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray.

Released today from Raw Dog Screaming Press!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Raw Dog Screaming Press


Hounds of the Underworld is a gripping new novel, co-written by Kiwi authors Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray. Packed with action, chilling drama and otherworldly terrors, it brilliantly blends supernatural horror with crime-noir. Set in near-future Auckland in the 2040’s, the noir setting becomes all the more appropriate. 

The two main characters, Penny the career-driven lab-technician and her adopted brother/cousin Matiu, are at odds from the outset, yet they’re dependent on each other’s different skill-set to get the job done. Matiu’s criminal past is a constant headache for Penny who has just received her first assignment from the police to help solve a crime. Unfortunately, Matiu’s shady connections to a man dealing in dog-fights offers a breakthrough in Penny’s case that she cannot turn her back on. To make things worse, she’s reliant on him as a driver, since in this day and age, not everyone can afford a car. There’s also a deep undercurrent of paranormal danger, as Matiu struggles with a dark entity, Makere who has haunted him since he was a boy. A constant shadow at his side and whisper in his ear, Makere constantly prompts Matiu to cause trouble. As a woman of science, Penny dismisses Matiu’s imaginary friend as a construct of his troubled mind. She can never trust his gut-feelings no matter how on the mark they are. This contrast in perspectives makes the blend of genre’s work particularly well, casting a wide net for readers of varying interests.

Thoroughly researched Murray and Rabart’s world-building is subtle and evocative. The setting is unique and fresh and engaging throughout, woven masterfully within the story-telling. Lovely detail is paid to creating the feeling of a future where resources are strained, but not so far as to be post-apocalyptic. A native New Zealand bird species, the Takahe, is extinct and Penny has to watch how long her shower is to avoid running out of her daily allowance. The science is solid with believable leaps to near future tech. I particularly love Penny’s DNA typing machine, the Breadmaker™ and how Penny notes; “if science gets any easier she’ll be out of a job”. 

Some wonderful descriptions bring a Lovecraftian tone to some of the paranormal drama. One of my favourites:

“He knocks again. This time, when no one answers, he reaches out, wraps a hand around the door handle. It’s cold as death in his grip. He turns it. With a soft crack, like the sound of the thin ice in the centre of a pond surrendering to some brave and foolish child’s weight on a frosty winter morning, the door swings in.”

The strongest part of the book for me is easily the two protagonists. Their characters are deep and engaging and beautifully juxtaposed so that as their situation becomes more perilous, we see the tension reflected in their relationship. The writers swing effortlessly between humour and drama, adding a layer of dark humour to what might otherwise be a more bleak and grim tale. Sometimes, Penny and Matiu’s troubles are heart-wrenching, but sometime they’re wonderfully hilarious. I was reminded fondly of the pairing of Scully and Moulder from the X-files. However, in this case the lab-nerd is teamed up with an ex-con with no regard for rules or fear of losing his job. Matiu’s slight personality disorder allows him to test his sister’s patience far beyond what most normal adult siblings would. However, his emotional depth reveals itself in his personal battle with his inner-demons and his perception of the spiritual realm.

Secondary characters provide a nice broad array of personalities for Penny and Matiu to bounce off. Though they are sometimes not as developed as I might have liked, there should be scope to flesh them out more in the sequels. Rabarts and Murray do a great job of picking moments to let secondary characters shine, without dropping the pace. The suspense builds nicely towards a gruesome climax that is satisfyingly horrible. There are moments I felt that the writers were holding back a bit too much from the reader, mostly when it came to unveiling the truth behind events of the crime or the killer’s motives, however, I understand why they’d want to hold a few cards to play in the sequel by keeping us guessing.

All in all, Murray and Rabarts deliver a page-turning killer of a tale, I can’t wait to read the next instalment.  


About the Authors

 

Dan Rabarts writes fantasy and speculative fiction. He is a sometime narrator of podcasts (including stories for the Hugo award-winning StarShipSofa), occasional sailor of sailing things, and father of two wee miracles in a little house on a hill, under the southern sun. In 2014 Dan received the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent. Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, a horror anthology co-edited with Lee Murray, also won the SJV for Best Collected Work and the Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work. Dan’s short stories have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesAurealis MagazineAndromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and on the Parsec Award-winning steampunk podcast Tales from the Archives, among many others. Find him here: dan.rabarts.comTwitterFacebook

 

 

 

Lee Murray writes fiction for adults and children. She is a five-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror, and holds an Australian Shadows Award (with Dan Rabarts) for Best Edited Collection for Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror . She is co-editor of five anthologies, including four by New Zealand intermediate and secondary students, as well as At the Edge (with Dan Rabarts) a collection of antipodean speculative fiction. Lee’s fourth novel, Into the Mist, a speculative thriller set in the Urewera ranges, is published by Australia’s Cohesion Press. Find her here: leemurray.infoFacebook

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Au Contraire – 2016

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The science-fiction and fantasy convention, Au Contraire 3 took place this weekend in Wellington and it was a blast!

I was honoured to have two presentations. The first was on Friday, as part of the youth One-Day writing Workshops. I was thrilled to be included in a prestigious line-up of presenters, including talented Kiwi writers, Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Kevin Berry, Celine Murray, Eileen R Mueller, Alicia Ponder, Simon Fogarty, Jan Goldie, Alan Chad Lindsay and Jean Gilbert.

The kids had a great day, and I was blown away by some of the incredibly talented young writers.

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A huge thanks to Piper for organising this event and giving us writers a chance to get involved with the young folk who, let’s face it, are the reason why we write young adult fiction!

The convention didn’t stop there though, I gave a second presentation on the role of sound in storytelling which was a nice change of pace. All too often, we get swept up in the visual feast of words and pretty covers, we forget about the huge potential sound plays in stories. These days, audio books offer a valuable way for writers to branch out and reach a wider market.

There were discussion panels for a variety of genres, covering a multitude of subjects from poetry to horror. I especially liked the panel from the independent authors. I picked up some very handy tips from the pros. The writing workshop offered by Anna Mackenzie was also fabulous and really got my creative juices flowing.

On Sunday, we had the book launch of At The Edge, a collection of New Zealand and Australian speculative short stories, which I was, again, humbled to be a part of.

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Sadly, I missed the presentations of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, but I was so proud and excited to see so many of my friends take home the prizes. Eileen Mueller, claimed best youth novel for her ‘You Say Which Way’ novel, ‘Dragon’s Realm’ and Lee Murray won her sixth SJV for her short, ‘The Thief’s Tale’.

Well done to all the winners as well as the finalists for producing such great work. You can see a list of the winners here.

A big thanks to the guests of honour, Juliet Marillier, Amanda Fitzwater and Martin Wallace for their contributions to the convention. It was inspiring meeting so many great authors.

And a very special thanks to Lee and Dan for putting the program together and everyone else who helped make this such a great event.

So…when is the next convention?

Publishing Announcement – My Book

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Hello everyone!

It is time for an announcement. I’ve been sitting on this for a while.

Last year I was offered a publishing deal with a small press in Australia to publish my debut middle-grade sci-fi novel. I was jumping for joy and thrilled to have reached such a level of professionalism with my writing that I had been accepted by a traditional publisher! I was also very keen to go down the small press route as I have always had a lot of respect for small business models. I felt that smaller presses often had more heart than bigger ones with their strict money-making priorities. I also thought signing to a smaller press would give me more control over the process of putting the book together. However, as time went on, I began to realise that I wanted more control than the small press would be willing to allow me.

I have since come to the conclusion that for this particular project, self-publishing is the best route. I’m not saying I’d never consider the traditional path in the future, and I’m very grateful to have been offered a deal by a traditional press. But for me, right now, I want to go indie.

My decision is not so much about control as it is about choices. Yes, self-publishing will give me complete creative control, but I will still contract professionals to make sure the book I produce is at the highest standard I can achieve. I want to collaborate with artists and designers and I want the freedom to choose who those people are.

My decision is not all about money either, but it is about investment. Yes, I will own all the rights and royalties, but I’m not expecting to earn big money off my first book. I’m certain it will cost more than I get back. However, I am simply interested in investing in myself.

Ultimately, my decision is about creativity. I love making things and if I go down the traditional path, essentially someone else is making my art for me. Although this scenario may work for other people, it’s not what I want for this book.

I’ve worked the film industry as a freelance sound editor and spent years building my own brand and business, so I know how hard it is forging an independent career in the arts, but I also know it is achievable. I’ve learned the value of collaboration and networking, but I’ve also experienced what it means to be a cog in a machine producing someone else’s art.

It’s time to make my own art.

Working on films is a fantastic experience. As a creative contractor, my job is to help a directors vision come to life. Ideas that the director has been working on for months, years and sometimes decades finally come to fruition and I get to be a part of that. Sound editing and design is the end stage of this long ‘magical’ process. I try to create sounds that will do justice to the hard work everyone else has done, and hopefully enhance the audiences experience. The make-up and wardrobe teams, the art departments and VFX people, the actors and the picture editors, it all comes together with sound and music as the last piece of the puzzle — the icing on the cake. We soundies sometimes get a little neglected when the budget is sometimes spent long before we start working on a film, but we also get to see how excited the director is to see their baby finally born. The director is there, every step of the way through production, advising our creative work so that it fits the mould of their vision.

So my book is my baby. I am the director. I want to have that experience of reviewing work from contractors, making notes and giving them feedback. It seems ridiculous to have worked so hard on writing the book and editing it for years only to hand it on to someone else at this final stage and let them make all the decisions about how it is put together.

I have already begun work with a concept artist. More to come about this later, but it’s all very exciting. Now that I have made that critical decision, I can get to work making up a budget and a timeline and working towards a release date.

My book is finally going to have a birthday.

Come with me, as I embark on this journey as a creative adventurer!

Tell me about your own experience. Are you the director of your own artistic vision?

Writer’s Revolution

I just read yet another article about the future of publishing. It seems every where I look, every blogger, every writer’s site, every publisher’s page, there is article after article all about the same topic – what is the fall out of the self-publishing boom going to do to the industry?

I say, less than we fear and more than we hope.

We saw a similar scenario with the music industry when downloading music made the industry re-evaluate itself. Everyone was terrified that CD stores would shut down, that record labels would collapse and that the individual artists would suffer great financial losses.

Yes, the music industry has changed a lot and downloading has affected and shaped how we listen to music and how we share music with others. I realised the other day that I used to listen to a lot more music. I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion that this was because the technology I use for music listening has changed dramatically in the last few years. I don’t own a CD player any more and all my CD’s are in another country where I had to leave them because of their ridiculous travel weight. So, I have a library of music on my computer and various drives, but my iPhone and iPod are older models and its too difficult for me to bother trying to get music on them. I feel like I have to upgrade all my gadgets all the time just to be able to listen to something I bought on a CD four years ago. I have to upgrade everything…my phone, my laptop, iTunes, constantly in order to simply play my music.

I can’t be bothered buying new CD’s because;

  1. I don’t have a CD player and
  2. Shopping on the street is so time consuming and shops are stocking less variety making it harder to find what I want. Often I will go into a store to find something, can’t find it and think…”Oh, I’ll just buy it online.”

We are being encouraged to work more hours, spend less time engaging in society, purchase everything possible online and stay at home.

We see it in the film industry too. Everyone is encouraged to update their home viewing system with giant televisions and 5.1 home surround stereos. Don’t go see it at the movies…download it, stream it, purchase the television series after it airs and then you can control when and how you watch things. Certainly not after you have done your extremely long hour day that prevented you from having the time to go out and see a film in the first place.

The focus of consumerism is shifting away from community, away from the public sphere and into the individual space. Also everything is shifting away from the accumulation of physical possessions and towards transitory ownership. Renting, streaming or purchasing something that is floating somewhere in a cloud of digital ether rather than being a tangible – in your hand – object.

I think that there will always be a certain percentage of the population that will reject this and want to own physical objects. Humans are collectors by nature. People want to feel the pages of a book, or to read through the dust-jacket of a vinyl record. Just as there will always be a percentage of the population that want to get everything for free, pay for nothing and cheat the system. Ultimately, most people want to do the right thing I think. Most people want to pay artists for their work in whatever format they offer it.

The online emphasis of our consumer marketplace can be seen as a threat to the old ways of doing things in person. There is less importance placed on the act of seeing a real live band of musicians, buying a book from a shop or going to the theater. However people seem to be sharing their thoughts ideas and creative experiences more than we used to. Because of social media, people are in many ways a lot more involved with introducing their friends and family to things that interest them. Science, current affairs, politics, art and culture are shared across the internet more now than ever before. So, we artists now have an opportunity to communicate directly with our audience, bypassing the old chain of command.

The old pathway to releasing a book was – Author>Agent>Editor>Publisher>Bookstore>Reader.

This is being replaced increasingly by a new model – Author>Internet>Reader.

The new model won’t immediately replace the old, nor should it, but it will certainly mean a period of adjustment for publishers, writers and readers.

We are seeing a shift away from the publishing houses having all the control over what gets published. The writers are taking the reins of their creations. Also, while self publishing will increase in popularity, so will work for freelance editors/ marketers/ proofreaders etc.  The publishing houses are already using the sales through Amazon and Kobo to look for their next publishing deal. The successful self-published author appears to the publishers as a marketable bet to make a deal with.

For people such as myself, living in far flung places such as New Zealand or Australia, it is even harder to enter the traditional publishing system since we are so far from that is seen as the cultural hub of the USA and Europe. Getting overseas to attend festivals, conventions and seminars is out of the question for most of us. It is extremely difficult for us to go and meet agents/ editors and publishers in person also and with the development of the online industry in recent years, it simply unrealistic to pretend that our small local market would be sufficient to sustain a writer’s career. We have to look globally and I think that the rise of independent publishing as an equal and respected avenue for authors to take will enable this. The previously unnoticed corners of our beautiful and diverse planet will start to have a voice in a global network of independent authors, where every writer now has a chance to let their work be seen.