Stirring up unquiet spirits By Nerine Dorman (31 Days of Halloween)

Stirring up unquiet spirits
By Nerine Dorman
When I set out to write my debut novel, I
knew very little about what goes into writing an entire, novel-length saga. I
was also ill-prepared for how the main character, Jamie, would get under my
skin or indeed elicit such strong reactions from my readers.
It would seem that Jamie gives me, the
author, the allowance to misbehave horribly, and do all sorts of things I’d
never do in real life, like ride a motorcycle, plot delicious revenge or hunt
down demonic entities. In book one, he’s unashamedly a lush who indulges in far
too much of what’s not good for him, and yes, he gets his ass handed to him. By
book two, he’s a bit better behaved (almost dying will kinda do that to you)
but he’s still a bitch where it matters.
When folks ask me about my Books of
Khepera, I can sum it up briefly as the demon-haunted misadventures of a
bisexual black magician who sells second-hand esoteric books. Though I do not
condone his behaviour, Jamie has an odd way of balancing out his bad parts with
equal doses of good. He might cultivate a hardcore demeanour, but he does genuinely
care about folks who’re vulnerable.
Mostly, when I do slip into Jamie’s
character, I enjoy the fact that I can indulge in his particular brand of
extravagance. Have you ever been in a position where you’ve wanted to say
whatever’s on your mind to people just to see them squirm? Wear chipped black
nail varnish if you want to? Sleep all day?
Recently, I was in conversation with author
Richard de Nooy, who told me that most novelists need that one book to flush
their youth or their past out of their system, and in this case, I’d happily
say Jamie exists so that I can be as ridiculous as I want to. Jamie was my
first foray into novel-length fiction. I recognise that he’s not the most
mature character I’ve ever created but I can’t deny how much fun he is to
So, in the spirit of stirring up some
unquiet spirits this fall, I’ve got an excerpt from Khepera Rising:
The sun kisses the cold
Atlantic, burning bright orange in a burnished sky while it dips below the
horizon. The beach is perfect because one can see people approach for miles
from either side of the wreck’s rusted cylinder. Behind us, a headland hides
Kommetjie’s beach houses and waves crash against jagged brown teeth. Before us,
obscured by its screen of milkwood, lies Noordhoek, with the shadowy hump of
Chapman’s Peak domineering the sleepy village.
In the shadow of the wreck’s old
boiler, we are sheltered from casual sight. We pause to smoke a cigarette and
share wine while watching the sun take its final dip beneath the sea. We smile
at each other when we pass the bottle and our fingers brush. He’s as excited as
I am. We’ve never attempted this ritual before. It’s the first time I’ve had a willing
partner. No one else has been as brave or foolish to go this far.
The breeze from the sea lifts
feathers of dyed-black hair from Lee’s face, and his fine-boned features and
sharp nose remind me of a creature almost elf-like. What will he look like one
day when he fills into his frame? How will age treat him? Will he coarsen and
thicken to become a pale, pasty replica of his father? He smiles, almost
girlish in his appearance. If only this moment could be frozen forever. We
spend the remaining light discussing our intent. Choronzon is not an entity to
be invoked without considering the consequences of potential madness. Most
Golden Dawners would be waggling their fingers at us with stern reprimands,
fear etched across their faces. Pity that there aren’t any around to be doing
just that. We’d laugh at them.
What do true black magicians
have to fear from demons? Nothing, really. We’re supposed to be their little
cousins, little shadows of self in the material realm, exploring notions of
What is Choronzon then, to
strike so much fear in the hearts and minds of magicians the world over?
Crowley, in The Confessions,
reckons Choronzon not as an individual entity but a boundless possibility of
form. “Meaningless but malignant,” as Crowley was wont to say.
Think of a chattering monkey
that utters as many sounds as possible, twittering away for fear of being
contained, forced into a static mould. Yet Choronzon wants an outlet, wants to
be as real as us. He is a powerful ally and a dangerous opponent, for he can
clad himself with the form of our fears. Crowley describes him as a dust devil
and here we are, at the beach, with miles of sand impregnated with countless
For a while, Lee and I debate
whether we should follow through with a standard ceremonial working with its
protective circle and triangle. Lee’s keen to stick to the old-fashioned
“There’s a reason for all this.”
“Nonsense! Circles and triangles
are for wimps. Are you scared?”
This Halloween I’m giving away the Books of
Khepera duology to three lucky readers who can riddle me this: What’s the name
of Jamie’s friend when he heads off to the beach to summon Choronzon? (Hint:
the answer is in the extract on this page.) The first three correct entries to
mail me at will each receive .epub format copies of
Khepera Rising and Khepera Redeemed.
In the meanwhile, if you’re piqued, stalk
me on Twitter @nerinedorman
I promise to supply oodles of inane
entertainment, especially when I’m on deadline. Or go find out more about me at