15 April 2014

Human skin and book binding - what do they have in common?

I’ve done a lot of cover posts in the past: good covers, bad covers, weird covers. Never before, however, have I posted anything quite as macabre as anthropodermic bibliopegy. The what? The practice of binding books in human skin.
I know… creepy.
Although hardly a common practice it dates back to at least the 17th Century. The technique was used to bind things like anatomy books, last will and testaments, and judicial proceedings (one story tells how the skin of a convicted murderer was used to bind the pages of his trial notes.)

Not only does this practice cover the outside of fictional tombs, it also slithers its way inside, especially in horror stories.
·         In H.P. Lovecraft's horror story "The Hound", the narrator and his friend St John, who are graverobbers, have a collection of macabre artefacts. Amongst them, "A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumoured Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge."
·         In the Evil Dead series of films and comic books originally created by Sam Raimi, a fictional Sumerian book called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis is bound in human skin and inked with human blood.

What brought on this rather disturbing topic? A recent article in the Guardian revealed the results of analysis by Harvard scientists who discovered the binding of the 17-century book, Practicarum Quaestionum Circa Leges Regias Hispaniae, is actually sheepskin. (whew – on that one at any rate).

Two other Harvard library titles, however, are believed to be bound in human skin. A 1597 French translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses , which is annotated with the words "bound in human skin" on its inside cover, according to The Harvard Crimson, and Arsène Houssaye's mediations on the spirit, Des Destinées de L'Ame, which dates to the 1880s.

Is it just me – or does this one look like it’s got a face on the cover

06 April 2014

Embraced by Fire - original prologue

The paperback of Embraced by Fire is out! Plus as a bonus the eBook is still on special at Amazon $2.99 (Amazon being Amazon I'm not sure exactly how long that'll last).

In honour of the paperback edition I thought I would post a deleted scene -- the original prologue. Although I loved the action of this scene, and the fact we get to see Ryu as a dragon, in the end it was decided because of the time gap between here and the beginning of the story it was better to drop the prologue and go straight into chapter 1. 
So the original beginning....

His curiosity had got the better of him, again. He’d overheard the guards mention level three, now here he was outside the last secure door debating the wisdom of going further. He stroked a hand over the metal panel, white paint chips catching on his calloused fingertips. Curiosity burned hotter. What were they hiding? 

Unable to resist, he narrowed his eyes in concentration and set to work on the lock. A tight smile tugged at his lips and excitement thrummed through his blood, the danger making him feel electrifyingly alive, like static against his skin. He changed the angle of the lock picks, his fingers sensitive to the slightest vibration. The empty corridor held its breath as he made short work of the mechanism. The click of the lock disengaging was overloud. He froze, nothing stirred. 

Ryu Mackay took a steadying breath. His life hadn’t always turned out the way he wanted, but this, this made it all worthwhile. This exhilaration, serving his country under the radar, knowing his actions made a difference. His picks vanished back into his pocket and he turned the handle. The door swung open on silent hinges – disturbingly silent for a compound full of squeaky doors.

He slipped into the room and his eyes widened. Horror turned his blood cold. In the centre of the bare concrete block room, sitting on a rough wooden table, were tubes of pale green chemicals surrounded by twisted wires. 

Bomb! The word exploded in his brain. The red numbers on the timer attached to the front clicked over, 04:23. He had less than five minutes to get the hell out.

Shit!” The word was more exhalation than speech.

No time to disable the bomb. Neither his training nor his inherent difference would stop him dying if he was near that thing when it blew. He was turning even as he realised the only option was to run as if the world were about to be blown apart at his feet, which in fact, it was. He raced for the door.

Grabbing the doorframe, he spun himself around the corner. Three quick strides and he was across the landing and shoving open the door to the stairwell. He needed to get out faster than Houdini on a good day.

As the door closed behind him, he heard it: rapid footsteps pounding up the stairs from below. The sound pushed his heart rate even higher than the already adrenaline-surging beat it developed after he saw that little construction of destruction. 

Ryu began running up the stairs quicker and quieter than the men below. Thank goodness he’d already photographed the illegal importation documents. He slammed his way out of the final set of doors and found himself standing on the roof, five stories up with no external fire escape. He swore silently. Where was a helicopter when you needed one? 

Standing in the shadows surrounding the exit, he debated his options. His jaw tightened, he hated being caught out like this. He glanced at the sky. The heavy globe of the moon illuminated the compound. If he moved, he’d be a clear target. 

Unfortunately, like a ticking bomb, time wasn’t on his side. A man’s coarse shout on the other side of the door made up this mind. He’d have to risk being seen. Gritting his teeth in annoyance, he sent his clothes, weapons, and camera into Elsewhere and began running. He reached the edge of the roof—and jumped.

Air rushed past his face, burning his cheeks. Throwing his arms wide, he released the dragon. With an electric rush, he shifted. His wings caught the wind and pulled him upwards. If he was lucky no one would look up and see a giant, copper dragon flying overhead. If he wasn’t, he hoped they mistook him for a dream not an enemy aircraft. 

He pushed through the air with powerful wing strokes. His next mission better be an easy one or he’d kick Adrian’s butt. 


The sound and heat of the explosion almost tumbled him out of the sky, only a jerk of his tail and a mighty wrench of his wings kept him airborne. He glanced over his shoulder to see the roof where he had been standing only moments before, shattered and engulfed in flames.

31 March 2014

Vatican library & a 6-way book

Just a note before I start, EMBRACED BY FIRE, my latest novel is on special at Amazon for a short time so if you're interested .....

Click here:
Embraced by Fire

This week 2 fun bits of books trivia:

First a very cool book from the 16th Century that opens 6 ways. It gives different devotional texts on each unique opening. See a video here. This multi-book was printed in Germany during hte 1550's to 1570s.

Second bit of trivia: The Vatican library is going to digitise its archive with the help of the Japanese. These ancient manuscripts are a vital piece, not just of church history, but of history in general. They include copies of classical Greek and Latin literature as well as mediaeval and Renaissance illumiated works. Eventually the library plans to make it's 82,000 manuscripts available to the public as a result of this work.

25 March 2014

Technology Changes

Time passes with each slow incremental step. So often we don't even stop to think how our lives have changed, we just deal with the present. This little video reminded me how much even the little things can change in a relatively short space of time.

Well - that made me feel old. What about you? Old enough to have used a rotary phone, or were you with those kids?    :)

18 March 2014

Power of opening lines in grammar images

Pop Chart Labs have come up with a very cool poster of 25 famous opening lines. The twist... they are written using the Reed-Kellogg system.

As they say..."From Cervantes to Faulkner to Pynchon, each sentence has been painstakingly curated and diagrammed by PCL's research team, parsing classical prose by parts of speech and offering a partitioned, color-coded picto-grammatical representation of some of the most famous first words in literary history. "

Check out a bigger image of all the sentences here.

11 March 2014

People with books

Some very fun pictures. They might sound simple but in some ways they capture the joy of books.
New York Bookstore manager, Ellen Pullen, has collated an ongoing photo essay on books & the bodies that love them. The images show her and her colleagues posing with the books with which they work. Here is a small sample, see more here.


04 March 2014

2014 covers

If you haven't been to Cover Cafe you should. Every year they run a competition for the best and worst cover of the year, they also look at the ongoing trends. I thought I'd give you a little update from them on where things are going.

Linnear has posted a new trend for 2014 (and she's a little peeved - this is not her favourite trend).
It's legs - that's right just legs.

She was a little more impressed with these two covers, feeling like they added a little something to the legs to get a better balance.

Then there's these two non-leg covers that I think stand a good chance of being nominated for best cover.
'Cruel Beauty' uses the 'staircase' trend, but with a lovely twist, adding lovely levels by incorporating the rose.

'Hidden Magic' has the 'woman facing away from camera' trend, but utilised differently because of the two layers of images.

I wonder what the rest of 2014 will hold?