My Proudest Accomplishment as an Author…

I am so very excited to announce that the I Heart Africa Project book was released on March 10, 2022. The responses I am getting from those who have read it already are amazing. The book is taking readers on multiple journeys throughout Africa that have truly opened their eyes, inspired them, and shed a light on Africa that many people would not have seen outside of the negative press Africa gets in the Western world. I am so proud of bringing this book to life, and it was all made possible by the incredible individuals that I interviewed, and that shared their stories.

The book is available on Amazon (all territories) in Kindle, Paperback & Hardback editions.

Meet Africa, a vast and beautiful continent. Africa is the heart of the world, the cradle of life, a continent teeming with breath-taking landscapes, cultures, histories, wildlife, adversities, and people. Where tradition and culture converge and are deeply threaded throughout modern-day Africa.

In the pages of I Heart Africa Project meet the incredible individuals whose souls have been touched by Africa: from residents, wildlife heroes, conservationists, documentary hosts, photographers, rangers, veterinarians, wildlife ecologists, guides, tourists, and many more, who all share their experiences, journeys, and love of the Dark Continent.

Filled with authentic stories and stunning photographs, I Heart Africa Project offers advice from those who have journeyed across these ancient lands, enlightens you as to the efforts and struggles of conservation, and sheds light on the warmth, beauty, and incredible experiences one can possibly have in Africa.

NEW BOOK RELEASE: I Heart Africa Project

Featured

As of March 10, a book I have been working on for the last five years finally left my desk and entered the public domain for readers and travellers alike. Over the last five years I have interviewed over fifty people – all carefully selected by myself, who are from all around the world, and who either live, work, or travel on the African continent.
Now, when I say that these people are incredible human beings – that is a HUGE understatement. At the time when I started this project, my goal was for people to hear about the good being done in Africa and the beauty to be found and experienced there (despite its bad rep). Personally, it was a time in my life when I had no faith in humanity, or that there were good people left on this planet. However, over the course of this project, these individuals not only restored my faith in humanity but completely inspired and motivated me. They filled me with joy and untouchable happiness and contentment that is beyond anyone’s capability to burst. They truly are the most incredible human beings I know – period!
Within the pages of this book, you hear about their stories, adventures, and their love of Africa.
I will not spoil the details of the book, but there are conservationists, ecologists, herpetologists, travellers, wildlife photographers, rangers, guides, anti-poaching team members, Maasai and Chaga tribe members, tour leaders, residents, tourists, leaders in their industries, ethnoecologists, film producers, television hosts, veterinarians, carnivore ecologists, the owner of the largest rhino orphanage in the world, a US Green Beret, a member of Nitro Circus, volunteers.

Their stories have truly captivated my spirit and continue to inspire and amaze me, the more I learn about them (yes, even after the book was completed). I am just so truly grateful and humbled to be allowed the honour of sharing their stories with the world.

The book is on sale now on AMAZON. There are Kindle, Paperback Standard Colour, Paperback Premium Colour, and Hardback Editions of the book available for purchase.
Help me, help them, by supporting their stories, and sharing them with the world.

For now, happy reading, and much love to you all.

Nikki xxx

Link to Hardback and Premium Colour Edition above. Kindle and Standard Colour Edition link below.

‘Curse of Stone’ Character Interview

Writing the first book in the ‘Curse of Stone’ series was a four year process as there are many characters, twists, subplots, and many facets to the main plot. I needed to be clear on who was whom, what they looked like, their background, their role, and how they would react in certain situations as the story unfolded. I ended up creating a one-hundred page character book, giving each character a profile and biography. Many of these characters do appear in the first book, however, there are still many yet to appear. It was a great exercise for me, and a tool that I have referred back to countless times to check certain things, including small things like eye colour or hair colour, or even if that character had tattoos.

Because of this, I developed a great sense of character and have modelled the character development I did for this book into a workshop. For each character, I can tell you everything about them, and eighty-percent of it isn’t information included in the book, but it was critical to how they come across on the page.

One such character development tool that I frequently use, is the character interview tool, but that is just one of many tools I use to develop a character (can’t give away all my secrets in one post).

Below is the character interview I did for Jamie. He is the second main character in the ‘Curse of Stone’ series, and his story is told from first POV, and he is intertwined from the very beginning with Danielle Stone – the main POV. I decided to interview him with different questions to that of Gabriel (third main character) as he has different motives and background.

Basics

What is your full name? Do you have a nickname (if so, who calls you this)?
Jamie Wildhorn, but my friends call me Jay.

Where and when were you born?
I was born 16 June 1994

Who are/were your parents?
My biological parents died when I was young. The man who raised me and ultimately I see as my father is King – my alpha.

Do you have any siblings?
Not that I am aware of.

Where do you live now, and with whom?
I live an apartment on the fourth floor of Stone’s building.

What is your occupation?
What do I do? Let’s just say that I work in a team situation, it’s like security guard type work, and we protect the city.

Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Left-handed.

What is your hair and eye colour?
I have long brown dreadlocks, and my eyes are blue.

Do you have any physical traits that stand out? If you have tattoos, why did you get and what meaning do they have to you?
My upper body is covered in tattoos. They tell my story, my history, where I come from, and my loyalty to my pack.

How would you describe your childhood?
Normal I guess, except I also had to learn things that regular kids didn’t, like the history of our species and our role in society. I had to learn how to fight, pack law, and learn about demons and how to kill them. I got all of that knowledge from King, but I feel like I had a normal childhood like regular kids because Stone was my best friend back then, and still is, and after my parents died, her grandmother took me in as sort of like a foster grandson, I spent a lot of time at her house.

How much schooling have you had?
I finished high school. Didn’t need to go to university.

Did you enjoy school? If not, why did you struggle?
I enjoyed the social side of it, and being there with Stone.

Where did you learn most of your skills and abilities?
From King.

Do you have any role models? If yes, describe them and why they are your role models.
It would honestly have to be King. He raised me by himself, and taught me everything I know today. He is the strongest, fiercest, and smartest man I know.

Do you get along with the other members of your family?
I don’t have any blood relatives but I consider my pack as my family – we are like a big extended family. So, yes, we all get along for the most part.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Even back then I knew I didn’t have a choice. I can pretend to have a normal job, but my real job is so much cooler. Who wouldn’t want to be a werewolf, right?

What are your favourite activities?
Sex. Partying. Going to the gym. Flirting.

Who were you friends with growing up, and what were they like?
I had heaps of friends growing up. There was a big group of us. Kyle, Marcus, Harley, Tiffany, Stone, Flynn. They were all really nice and laid back.

When did you have your first kiss, and who with?
My first kiss, that takes me back. I think I was like six or seven years old and it was with Danielle Stone.

Are you a virgin? If not, when and with whom did you lose your virginity?
Ha, ha, ha. Me? A virgin? Yeah right. But I don’t kiss and tell…all the time.

Do you have a criminal record?
No

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?
Not making Stone mine before Harley transferred to our high school. She should never have dated that loser. But I have waited for her to come back to me, and now she is back…in my life.

What is your best memory so far? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
When I transformed to my human form for the first time, when I turned two years old. We are born in wolf form, so that moment was incredible.

What is your worst memory so far? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
My first transformation back to wolf, after taking human form at age two.

What is your biggest secret? Does anyone else know about this? Which person do you least want to know about this secret, why?
That would that Stone doesn’t know I’m a werewolf. I don’t even know how to tell her that.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Optimistic.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is telling the woman I have loved all these years that I love her and being rejected by her when I finally decide to tell her and make myself the most vulnerable and honest, I have ever been.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Women

What are your religious views?
None – the devil exists.

What are your views on sex?
The more the better.

Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
Perhaps, but there is more than just one person who is our soul mate, but I believe that there is only one soul mate that is right.

In your opinion, what is the most evil thing any human being could do?
Side with evil.

Are you able to kill? Under what circumstances do you find killing to be acceptable or unacceptable?
Yes, I can kill anything I want; however, I am designed to kill demons, without being susceptible to human law.

How honest are you about your thoughts and feelings in the company of others?
In a round-about way I am honest, except about Stone. Sometimes people don’t need to know.

Who or what would you die for, or otherwise go to extremes for?
My pack, my alpha, and Stone.

In general, how do you treat others?
I’m a bit of a smartarse, I am cheeky, and make people laugh. Although sometimes I can be annoying. I treat others with respect, absolutely.

How close are you to your family?
If you are talking about my pack, then we are close.

Which person do you wish you were closest to?
Danielle Stone.

Do you have a spouse or significant other? If so, describe this person in some rough strokes.
Not right now, but there is someone special I wish to make my mate for life.

Have you started your own family?
No, because the only person I would ever consider settling down with, doesn’t know how I feel about her.

Who is the most important person in your life, why?
My dad, my pack, Danielle Stone.

Who would you turn to if you were in desperate need of help?
Dad or my pack.

What is/are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
Sex, partying, working out.

Do you like to read? If so, what do you like to read?
No

Do you smoke, drink, or use drugs? If so, why? How do you get the money for it? Do you want to quit?
Drink alcohol. Don’t smoke – that’s bad for you.

How do you spend a typical Saturday night?
Having a few drinks with mates on occasion, having sex, annoying Stone, or working.

If you usually walk away from a situation that makes you angry, where do you go to calm yourself?
I like to be alone.

How do you deal with stress?
I don’t get stressed, but if I’m really fustrated or bothered by something, then sex.

How do you deal with pain (physical and emotional)?
I put a mask up when I am hurting, I don’t like anyone to know.

Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?
Depends on what you are referring to.

What are your pet peeves?
Girls who don’t stick up for themselves.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Confidence, and calling me on my shit.

Where would you like to live? Why?
Wherever Stone is.

Describe the routine of a normal day for you. How do you feel when this routine is disrupted?
I don’t have a routine, what each day brings is unknown for me.

What is your greatest strength?
My strength.

What is your greatest weakness?
Danielle Stone.

Do you like yourself?
Absolutely, I mean look at me.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing, I’m awesome.

Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.
Good things – flirting, talking, sex. Bad things – feelings, monogamy, honesty.

What three words best describe your personality?
Playful, charming, genuine

What three words would others probably use to describe you?
Sexy, handsome, manly.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Wherever Stone is. I hope to be able to muster up the courage to tell her how I feel about her, so I guess I secretly hope for us to be together. Married to Stone with one or two kids already.

If you could choose, how would you want to die?
In the arms of Stone.

If you knew you were going to die in twenty-four hours, name three things you would do in the time you had left.
Tell Stone how I feel about her, hold her close to me and love her with all I have, and I would marry her.

If you were to die and come back as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think it would be, and why?
Well since I am already both human and wolf, I would like to come back as me.

What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death?
The greatest lover of all time.

What do you have in your pockets or purse?
My phone, wallet, lip balm.

What in or on your nightstand?
Condoms, light, glass of water, phone charger.

What is in your refrigerator?
Beer, water, vegetables, leftover pizza

Short Story Review: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart was first published in 1843 and is a short story by the American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It was then subsequently published as part of Poe’s Book – Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

The story is told by an unnamed narrator that tries to convince the reader that he is not mad but provoked and haunted by the ‘evil’ eye of the old man, taunted almost, and to rid himself of the eye, he must murder the old man that he loved very much. It follows him as he walks us through his calculated and cunning plan to commit the murder, all while declaring his sanity.

What I really like about Poe’s works, is that you can expect his narrators to be unreliable, making the reader unable to really know whether to trust him or not. In this case, the narrator is trying to mask his true intentions and feelings by his attempt to prove his sanity by exercising dissimulation. What’s to say he isn’t using dissimulation on us too?

What I think is both a strength and weakness of The Tell-Tale Heart is Poe’s style of writing, it can be quite maddening, with his short sentences leave me with questions as to the meaning, and his longer sentences are precisely worded and descriptive. It is so carefully worded, which highlights Poe’s exquisite talent as a writer, that it highlights the angle of the narrator’s chaotic mind.

I really like Poe’s work, and I have a copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination. What I will take forth with me from this piece was his narrators’ deception and use of dissimulation, I like that the reader doesn’t know whether to trust what he says as truth or not.

Poe, E.A. (1843). The tell-tale heart. Retrieved from

https://www.poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart

Book Review: Bone Tiki – David Hair

Bone Tiki – Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have ordered the next book in the series.

The first few pages for me were a little slow, and I was not encouraged, but persisted. 

Using a mixture of culture, heritage, mythology, legends, and historical knowledge, David Hair was able to bring life to those well known mythological/ancient creatures and Maori legends in a way that captivated my imagination and soul, and with a balance of backstory weaved amongst the story to keep it moving forward. 


The aspects I liked were:
1) That David Hair was able to use legends and myths within Maori culture that are established. Based in Taupo, and having spent much time in the Hawkes Bay and Hastings regions as well as further north. Using the taniwha of Lake Taupo/Waikato River coming up over the bridge in Taupo was so real, I could envision it clearly. The legend of HatuPatu, is a place that I always honk at on my way north, but never really knew significance. There were so many. But the author really brought them to life in a whole other way, by not only paying tribute to these Maori legends/mythical creatures/people but ellaborating as to their story and significance to the region and Maori people. The Opepe battle scene is real along the Napier-Taupo Highway, and so that leads me into my second point.

2) I liked the attention to detail with not only the significant locations, and legends, but also the scenery. It was so vivid, the walking along the rivers and through the bush.

3) Whether the ellaborations on existing legends and myths that are brought to life in this book are entirely true or not, is not a hundred percent clear to me. But there was definitely an aspect of realism to this book. It has been cleverly done. I loved the part about riding the Taniwha up the Waikato river and all other (smaller) taniwhas rose their heads.

4) The character of Wiri was captivating, as too was that of the dog. Wiri reminded me of a friend of mine from high school that actually died in a river along the Napier-Taupo Highway. But his presence and character was so familiar, it drew me in. Also, to note, his entrance into the book was powerful. I was like ‘wow – who is this?’ 

5) I liked the character development of all the characters – Mat, Kelly, Wiri, Tama, etc. They kept growing and gaining more depth.

This is definitely a book I would read again, and recommend. Great selection guys.

Two things I picked up on was a catastrophic spelling mistake – only one. And that this book is categorized as a YA.

Book Review: Halfway to the Grave

Frost, J. (2007). Halfway to the grave. New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers.

Author:

Jeaniene Frost is an American author who has penned New York Times and USA Today bestselling fantasy – The Night Huntress series. Halfway to the Grave is the first book in the series.

Summary: 

The product of a non-consensual tryst, Cat Crawfield is different but not in the way most humans consider. She is born half-vampire, half-human. Filled with a vengeance towards the very undead that ruined her mother’s life, she crosses paths with Bones. Forced into a partnership, Cat trains under Bones, to hone her deadly skills and lure vampires to their death with her beating heat. Then pursued by a ring of human enslaving vampires, Cat and Bones must choose a side.

Analysis:

From the first paragraph, I was hooked. The first three chapters were all action, with backstory interwoven in small increments, so the flow of the story isn’t interrupted.

With all the action sequences, there is a building romance between Cat and Bones. It is fierce and primal. In the early stages, Cat is disgusted at the very thought of him, and plans to kill him the first chance she gets. What struck me most about this romance, was hate turned to love. In the end, she chose to run away, to protect him. The last line of the book, she hopes that Bones will come find her.

The complexity of their bond and the distaste between Bones and Cat at the beginning, reminds me of Jay and Stone. The moment Stone is attacked, Jay still hides his feelings for her from Velkan. From the relationship of Cat and Bones, I am going to rewrite the scenes following the attack, to insert Jay’s inability to hide his feelings anymore. Velkan will become aware of them, Stone will not. It will add conflict between the two men.

The language used, for the intimate scenes wasn’t explicit. I find it hard to write intimate scenes, but reading one is catapulting for me. Frost was able to enact scenes and movements, in a way that wasn’t crass. I will put the intimate scenes between Velkan and Stone, under the microscope. Tightening their touches, and intimate interactions, but keeping within my own voice. Forcing an intimate scene, is not what I feel comfortable with. It will bring the characters of Stone and Velkan closer together, and readers get a better sense of Velkan’s character.

The use of non-explicit language to lift the tension between Stone and Jay, when they fall on the couch together, by describing what Stone is feeling using touch sensory, the context could become electric. 

It would change the entire dynamic between Jay and Stone; Stone and Velkan; Jay and Velkan; attributing to a building tension.

Book Review: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

The Awakening is the first book in The Vampire Dairies series. The main plot follows main character, Elena Gilbert, who is a doppelganger for a centuries old vampire who caused romantic havoc between a pair of brothers, Stefan and Damon; whilst she tries to readjust to normal life after losing both parents in an accident.

The subplot follows Elena and her encounters with a black crow, unaware it’s Stefan’s brother Damon. The crow appears at the most harrowing times, causing unease. The subplot is crucial to moving the story forward because it lays the foundation for Damon’s entrance, his fascination with Elena, and shows us that his character is darker and more dangerous than Stefan’s.

I applied an interwoven subplot to my story by the lingering strangers following Danielle, i.e. “standing at the edge of a darkened alleyway, was a man. His eyes were locked on me, even as the sea of people crossed his path continuously. I stared back at his eyes for what felt like a minute, he did not look away or falter…and as I looked back to the man, he was gone.” This intertwines with the main plot by letting the reader know everything is not as it seems, it adds to the external conflict when all is revealed to Danielle.

Smith, L.J. (2007). The vampire diaries: the awakening and the struggle (1st ed.). New York City: HarperCollins Publishers

Deadly Bedfellow (A Short Fiction written from the POV of a snake)

As the earth starts to cool, and darkness falls across the veld, I make my way out from my
hidey-hole. The heat to hot and the cold too cold. It is in the shadows of summer night’s that is my place of delight. Along the dry, blades of grass, I go at fair pace. A great mountain ahead, with holes plenty. Vibrations felt across the earth, I follow with eager.

From memory before my slumber, a number of prey were at my pickings. Caged, unable to escape, just room for me to enter and eat.

Into the mountain I go. Beneath the bristles, a gap just my size. Undetected in the
pitch black. On my stomach I slide along the smooth, cool surface. From side to side I cast
my eyes. Not a single rodent does scurry; no fluffy big one, nor a predator in sight. Without a sound, silent, and deadly in the night, I slide on.

Weaving around and beneath strange rocks, a sudden vibration stops me in my tracks. My eyes dart from side to side, and under on large mound I hide. A large predatory creature walks past. Not a hiss I did sound, but as my tongue flickered out and retracted just as fast my mind registers the molecules of a scent. Picked up by my tines, it is sweet, familiar, delicious. I flick my tongue back out to confirm and in less than a second, I am sure. It is not in the direction of the animal that just past. I wait curled in defence hoping to remain undetected. It has been months of torpor, and now that I’ve rested, it was time to rise.

Sidewinding, flicking my tongue, eyes honed, I follow the aroma. Rounding the
corner, I twist and bend and with a twinge of glee, my hunger may come to an end. In sight,
some small animal, but bigger than me. Confused for a moment, I paused, for this smells like those prey that were once cooped around here. Such delicacy, my tummy grumbles. My mind does not wish to reason as to why this one looks different. Smells like food, must be food. Focused with eyes opened wide, raising my head, stealthily I wriggle closer.

Round and round I turn; up and up I go. My salivary glands tap into the alveoli, where my stored reserves are kept. So potent is that first strike, after such rested inactivity, it will only take one bite. Head weaving from side to side, trying to decide where I shall strike. Inch by inch, sneaking closer, now a mere metre. It twitches as it sleeps so unaware.

Near it heads the scent is stronger. Perhaps this end is tastier. My stomach growls at me to hurry up already, such predatory impatience. There is no rush, this animal will not run or fight.

Rising. Head upright, back arched straight, no need for my beautiful hood. Such a shame I won’t get to flan it. With clear concise, my eyes narrowed. I lunge forward, striking hard, my fangs sink in with a ripping sound. I retract and pull back as the animal jumps, but not to their feet. I strike again and again, my weapon released. The animal’s makes a loud noise, the vibrations are strong, and jumps over top of me. Before I can strike again, they run out of sight.

My stomach rumbles in defeat, no meal for me, but a small satisfaction as my work
cannot be undone. I scorn myself with grim dismay, one shot, blown. The animal’s blood
lingers in my mouth, my tines detecting its mistake. This was not like the prey I once fed on here, no, it was different, not so sweet. How could I have been so wrong? But there was no
time to wallow in defeat. Vibrations thudded across the land.

Down I slid, not bothering to wind or zigzag. Along the cool, smooth floor I go, and through the gap of bristles that scratch. A large predator vibrating near my back. I hurry into the shadows, not slowing, not one bit. No trepidation felt, just a will to live and eat.

Any lingering warmth from the day’s warmth long gone, I slide between the blades. I raise my head to check my eyes are not wrong. Another mountain, full of holes. I do not dare
enter this one. I am not designed to strike every probable food that crosses my path. One meal is all I need for now. Large prey is not ideal. If attacked that is different, my predatory instincts take over and rather than end up dead, it is a fight to the death and with my toxin, it wouldn’t be mine. That was the one resolve I found comfort in. It had seen me right in all my years, even as a young, smaller, version of myself, my fight had be wicked and my bite fatal. Sure I had scars, but then who didn’t. Even the best fighter at the top of the predatory chain had to have some.

It’s on to the next house where the same fate awaits, but this time, let’s hope the animal does not wake.

Writing Exercises: Three Sentences Rewrite

Sentence 1: Marie hurried down the steps.

As she stepped out her front door, the icy cold wind slapped her in the face, her breathe smoked like she was having a cigarette, and her eyes became glassy in the bitterness of the weather. How could she have forgotten the Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, Marie thought to herself with her cheeks flushed red in embarrassment as she hurried down the rattling four flights of steps to her newly purchased red hatchback car. She only had twenty minutes to fight the Thanksgiving crowds and traffic to get to Coles before it closed. She prayed as she drove, hoping there would still be a Turkey left.

Sentence 2: I went up the tree-lined driveway.

So many thoughts scrambling through my head right now. All my fears, hopes, dreams, and heartache of this moment were now going to become a reality. I had wanted and waited for this moment to happen for so long. Walking up the tree-lined driveway, each step closer getting heavier, I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. The silence walking between and under the towering trees that shadowed me was unsettling, a little eerie, like the silence before a storm, making me even more nervous and apprehensive. The excitement of this long awaited moment was overrun with the fear of being unloved, she was my biological mother after all, surely she felt some love towards me.

Sentence 3: Kevin and Angela fought.

Standing in line waiting for their turn, Angela and Kevin fought between themselves laughing as to who was going to go first down the water slide. They became so engrossed in who was going to go first, they had forgotten the platform they were standing on was wet and slippery. Angela poked out her tongue and pushed Kevin. He grabbed her forearm to stop himself from falling over, but they both slipped over and landed on their bottoms with a gigantic thud. Embarrassed with flushed red cheeks, they couldn’t do anything but laugh.

Flash Fiction Exercise: Stuck on an Island – Day 52 Diary Entry

Day 52
The flames from the fire have begun to dwindle for yet another night. It’s a romantic notion. Penning my deepest thoughts by candlelight of sorts. The gentle caress of the ocean lapping at the shore, like a lullaby gentling me to slumber.
The stars dazzle like twinkling diamonds. I can’t help but stare. Only a quarter moon tonight.
The sand beneath me is cool. It’s the only place to sit where the large green ants won’t attack and bite me. Little buggers.
There is no breeze. No rustling in the tree canopy. No haunting whistles of wind whipping through the forest. Every footfall of wild animals draws my attention. I never know if one will become curious enough to approach me.
I heard them again today. The voices. Carried along the with wind as whispers. The island
isn’t inhabited but I still won’t step foot in the caves at the base of the waterfall.
I must head inland tomorrow to retrieve fresh water again. It’s a tedious trek, back and
forth, carrying small amounts in my makeshift bucket.
Oh, and my lips cracked again today and bled. The residual salt from the ocean spray made
them sting