29 April 2014

The joys of re-reading

This BBC article caught my attention because I am, I so am, a re-reader that is. In fact, right now I’m re-reading several of Linda Howard’s suspense novels.  I’ve got a huge stack of new books just crying out to be read, instead I’m nose deep in old favourites.

So why do it? After all, I know how they end.

Maybe there’s a kind of comfort in knowing how they end… a bit like comfort eating? Maybe in a world that’s always changing around us, there is something about the world between the pages that provides security/ stability/ something to rely on. Maybe it’s finding something new each time, enriching the experience? Maybe it’s something I never grew out of; after all kids love hearing the same stories over and over again? Maybe different people are driven by different motivators?

Not all re-readers are the same. Some re-readers make a ritual of it. People who read ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’ religiously every year at a certain time. This isn’t me; I’m more of a haphazard re-reader. I re-read whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like, no real rhyme or reason. Although I have noticed at times of stress my re-read to new ratio goes up.

The BBC article comments that “Scientists have weighed in, too, citing the mental health benefits of re-reading. Research conducted with readers in the US and New Zealand found that on our first reading, we are preoccupied by the ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’. Second time round, we’re able to better savour the emotions that the plot continues to ignite.”

What ever the reason, books are willing to give up their stories when ever we open their pages :)

22 April 2014

Taking the “intervention” up a notch

Sometimes friends are concerned, sometimes they’re VERY concerned. So concerned in fact they don’t think sitting down and having a serious chat is going to be enough. A serial drunk driver’s friends took things into their own hands when five convictions didn’t get the message across.

The friends set up a fake hospital room, complete with fake nurse and doctor. When the man passed out while drunk in his car he was moved into the room. When he woke he was told he had been in an accident and had been in a coma for 10 years.

Will he change? Is it even a real video? Whatever the case it's message about drunk driving is clear.
The one mistake I think they made was coming in so soon after giving him the news. It didn't really give the situation a chance to sink in. Didn't give him a chance to think things through. Plus they acted a bit like idiots. They called it a prank, and at the end it finished like it was a prank. 

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.