The woman rolled slightly to lift the weight from her left side, slid her right hand into her jacket and tugged the bra strap to free her breast from the cleft between her upper arm and chest. Withdrawing her hand, she then squirmed into a more comfortable prone position and took up the slack of the weapon’s sling against her forearm, by repositioning her left elbow.
Aiming down at a target could cause a careless sharpshooter to underestimate the distance. However, she knew the exact range to each point in her arc of fire, stretching from the corner of Stilovic Street, formed by two sides of the high-rise apartment block, and at the other extreme, bounded by the arched doorway of the play centre.
On her first day on this sector of Sarajevo, the initial shot to test the range had bisected the head of a stray dog scavenging close to the roundabout. Four hours later, her assessment of the range was confirmed when she made the first kill of her assignment. The old woman was the beginning of a chain that included two other women, a middle-aged man and a French Legionnaire wearing a flak jacket. She brought him down with a headshot.
Not all of her shots killed instantaneously; she had seen movement after some strikes, but she was confident that the wounded would not get up. A hit with the Dragunov was invariably fatal. The tearing effect of the slug was horrendous, and the resultant haemorrhaging was massive, to say nothing of the shock caused by a strike anywhere on the human body. Read the rest of this entry »
I am reading The White House Cook Book (the 1889 edition) as research for a novel I’m writing. It’s a fascinating look into cooking and baking with a wood stove. Some recipes uncommon today make me smile. For instance, when making squirrel soup, you must strain the finished soup through a course colander, “so as to get rid of the squirrels’ troublesome little bones.”
I worked my way to the desserts. There I found a recipe for apple custard pie with brandy, which I’ve never sampled, have never seen on a restaurant menu, and appears not to be a staple of the modern cookbook. I suggested to Jay, my gourmet cook husband, that he give it a try. I wanted him to duplicate the recipe, but his being a diabetic made that impossible from the get-go. Besides, he immediately balked at grating the three large pared apples by hand, opting to put them in his Cuisinart and chopping them in short bursts. I compared his result with a bit of apple I had grated, and the consistency was pretty close. The recipe read “to every teacupful of the apple add two eggs well beaten, two tablespoonfuls of fine sugar, one of melted butter, the grated rind and half the juice of one lemon . . .” What in today’s measurement is a “teacupful”? Well, look it up on the Internet and the answer is “six oz.” Those three large apples added up to four teacups or 24 oz. of apple. Jay substituted Splenda for sugar and bottled grated lemon peel. But when it came to adding “half a wine-glass of brandy” for every teacupful of apple, he simply reached into the cupboard and grabbed a red wine glass. But has the red wine glass changed size during the ensuring years? There was no time for more research. Jay was on a roll. He measured a half wine glass of brandy per teacupful of apple — the result was that he added three mini-bottles of Christian Brothers brandy. The last ingredient was a teacupful of milk per teacupful of apple. Again we came up short. We use skim milk and I was certain the author expected that rich milk would be used. I took a can of whipped cream from the refrigerator, sprayed it into a measuring cup and added skim milk, then mixed them together. Pretty rich. “Pour into a deep dish lined with paste and bake 30 minutes.” Jay had enough for two pies. He poured the thick batter into a prepared Pillsbury crust (he has learned to coat it with egg white so it won’t get soggy, just as the author suggested so many years ago) and the remainder into a graham cracker pie crust shell we happened to have on hand. They looked tasty already. Read the rest of this entry »
WHY IT MATTERS
We’ve all heard the axiom that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. And so we study our history lessons and believe our teachers and know with everything that is in us that we would never allow another dictator to take control of us, to kill millions, to tell us what to think and believe and love and hate. We know the dates. We know the names and places. We have seen, in black and white, the atrocities. And yet, for those of us who did not live during WWII, it’s a very difficult thing to understand how humanity can ever have come to that. We cannot look within a man’s mind and know with any certainty what it was he was truly thinking when he devised his plan–if it came all at once or by degrees. It is impossible to know exactly what it was that made him feel so strongly and how he was able to influence so many to agree with his philosophies. Just what was it that got us there in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »
A Tribute to Ivan Yefremov
We have included, on our site, a book with a most intriguing background.
Thais of Athens, about the extraordinary Greek who became Queen of Egypt, was written by the equally extraordinary Ivan Yefremov–navigator, paleontologist, utopian, and iconic Russian science fiction writer. It was dedicated to his wife, Taysia, and was a departure from all his previous works. Unfortunately, Ivan, who was born in 1907, did not live to see this last book published. Translated by Maria Kuroshchepova, the book captures the cadences of a classic.
You can read about Ivan’s fascinating life on our site.
Thais of Athens became one of the most popular novels in the former Soviet Union. Millions of Russians can’t be wrong!
(This article is a reprint of a blog post by Bill Kirton, author of The Figurehead)
Last year I made a discovery about my book The Figurehead which came as a bit of a surprise. It’s set in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1840 and, basically, it’s about a crime, a romance and, of course, a historical setting. I was revisiting the book because I had to check the proofs of its second edition. Which meant, of course, that I ought to have been very familiar with it, having written and rewritten it a few times, then checked proofs for each edition. So what on earth was there for me to ‘discover’ in it?
Well, I remembered the characters, of course, the main events, the lovers, its overall shape, whodunit and the various set pieces and changes of pace. There were lots of details I’d forgotten, but this time I came across others which revealed things about the author, i.e. me. As well as interacting with one another, its characters were conveying their attitudes to commerce and passion, the rich-poor divide, the importance of community and other related topics which I’ve written about in my own blog and elsewhere. But that was when I was being subjective and referring specifically to my own beliefs and intuitions. The surprise for me was that, even when I was writing about people in the Aberdeen of 1840, a culture far removed from my own (even though Aberdeen is my home), I wasn’t aware of how much those same beliefs were influencing my choices. It’s only when you get some distance between yourself and a work that you can appreciate just how intricately your actual self is bound into the fiction you’re creating. And when that distance is further emphasised by a gap in time, it’s quite a revelation.
Fashions in literary criticism (no, I’m not claiming I write ‘literature’) always keep changing and, quite often, the tension is between whether you need to know anything about a writer’s life to understand his/her works or whether the works are independent items, with enough of their own, internal coherence and period references to make the writer irrelevant. I’m inclined to accept both approaches. If you’re swept along by a narrative, made to think, laugh, cry, or believe its characters are more real than those around you as you read, it’s served its purpose and it could have been written by a monkey with a typewriter. On the other hand, if you then discover biographical details about the author which ‘explain’ why he/she made certain choices, there are other resonances of the work which open new perspectives.
So, whether we like it or not, our writing reveals us in ways of which we’re unaware at the time. And it goes further because we only see some of the secrets we’re betraying while readers and reviewers may see others which we may not want to know about ourselves, things we deny. Victor Hugo (out of favour now but by any standards a truly great writer), wrote that, when he saw a new play of his performed before an audience for the first time, it was as if his soul had climbed onto the stage and lifted its skirts for all to see. My surprise was to see my own soul’s skirts being worn by people living under the young Queen Victoria.
(This is a reprint of an article by Gillian Bagwell, Author of The September Queen and The Darling Srumpet)
I was thrilled that when my agent sold my first novel, The Darling Strumpet, she also sold my second book, as yet unwritten, and was very excited to have the opportunity to write the first fictional account of Jane Lane, an ordinary Staffordshire girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651.
I wanted to retrace the path Jane had taken in her travels with Charles, and as some of the places associated with my story would be closing soon for the winter, and traveling around England wouldn’t get any easier as it got colder, wetter, and darker, I immediately planned a research trip. My friend Alice Northgreaves and I set out from London on October 26, 2009, making our way to Worcester, the site of the battle, from which Charles had fled to Staffordshire, where Jane became involved in his desperate flight.
Charles’s six-week odyssey covered more than 600 miles before he was finally able to sail from Shoreham near Brighton on October 15. After he was restored to the throne in 1660, the story of his escape became known as the Royal Miracle, because of the numerous times he narrowly eluded capture. He told the story to Samuel Pepys, and others also recorded their parts in it, so that the route of his travels is well known. The Monarch’s Way footpath can still be followed. Read the rest of this entry »
(excerpt from September 16, 2011 article on the Rolling Seas Promotions website)
When published authors spend years creating compelling stories, only to face the publishing agendas of major publishers with two-year production schedules already in place, there is only one sensible avenue to take and that is to release all new stories in eBooks for avid readers to enjoy ‘the thrill of escape’ that only great fiction can deliver.
Max Overton is one of those brilliant authors who has risen to the occasion by turning towards Past Times Books to promote eBook distribution after 14 of his novels have already been published. Five of the author’s published stories have been snatched up and adapted to movie scripts with acclaimed producers and directors already attached for production. Three of those stories are now in the development stages of production – the Australian/American trilogy “Glass House”, the horror/thriller and “The Devil is in the Details”. The Producers and Directors attached to the productions are Charlie Picerni Sr., acclaimed for “Gone in 60 Seconds”, Producer Josette Perrotta known for “300”, “The Mummy”, and “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, along with UK action director Vic Armstrong with a host of movie credits going as far back as the first “Indiana Jones” film. Read the rest of this entry »
(An Article by Max Overton)
I was sitting on the sofa one evening, coffee in hand, watching the BBC documentary series “Tribe” (“Going Tribal” in the USA). If you’ve never seen this series, a Royal Marine named Bruce Parry visits remote tribes around the world and spends a month living and interacting with tribal members. He eats their food, sleeps in their huts, joins in their rituals, and often forms close personal bonds with individuals. On this particular evening, he was living with the Adi tribe of the Himalayas. They are animists, worshipping the sun, moon and spirits of nature, though Christian missionaries have recently invaded the region, subverting their beliefs.
My wife Julie and I discussed the program and Julie wondered what the people of the tribe thought of this strange Christian religion when it was first introduced. I took it one stage further and wondered what the gods of this tribe thought of Christianity. An idea was born that evolved into Rakshasa, the first of my ‘Demon’ series.
I set my story in the mountainous Indian state of Uttarakhand for several reasons, not least of all because I have ties to the area. My maternal ancestors have lived in India since the late 1700s and frequented the foothills of the Himalayas and the hot dusty plains at their feet. My grandmother and mother were born in Allahabad, and I was told many stories of their experiences there. Some of their stories have made their way into Rakshasa and have lifted parts of the book (in my mind at least) from pure fiction to family history. Naturally, every part of the book has been thoroughly researched, right down to the finer details.
Rakshas are fierce, horrific creatures from Hindu mythology. When I first thought about using one of these demons as my ‘hero’ I wondered if it could be done. After all, they’re evil and kill people! I know, Dexter Morgan does it in Miami and he’s very popular, but demons don’t just kill guilty people – they feast on men, women and children whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Demons don’t have much of a choice though – it’s what they do. They were created to prey on humans and a raksha who kills cannot really be held accountable – or can he? What if the demon decided he didn’t want to be a demon? Could he change his nature? Would that make him more likeable? Read the rest of this entry »
Ancient Romans Colonized My Brain!
(Blog post excerpt by Ron Gompertz)
In the summer of 2000, I moved to Barcelona with my family for reasons both professional and personal.
Unlike many people who change countries, we weren’t fleeing chaos. We weren’t forced to move under duress. No one was shooting at us.
But the truth is that I was fleeing something.
I was running away from my own complacency.
There’s a French word, “depaysment,” which roughly translates to mean “out of your element,” and that’s what I needed. Moving to Spain jerked me out of my comfort zone.
Of all the expat adventures, comic defeats and small victories that emerged from my five years abroad, the one I’m most proud of is “No Roads Lead to Rome.”
Here’s how the book hit me.
One weekend, I was hiking with a friend in the Collserola, the hills above Barcelona. We were lamenting the decline and fall of damn near everything when the story hatched like a bird in my brain. I imagined two Roman soldiers having the same conversation 2000 years earlier. We were walking in their footsteps. The world had changed, but people had not.
As revelations go, this tiny insight could have easily escaped me. People have always felt like things are changing too fast and rarely for the better.
Big deal, right?
Within minutes, I was possessed by an old Roman legionary and a young conscript. I could hear them lamenting their lot in life. How could the Senate vote to build another monument when people can’t even afford a decent pair of sandals? How did those vexed Roman numeral crunchers conclude the bread dole was too expensive? Much of the dialogue between my grizzled old centurion, Marcus Valerius, and his chatty young sidekick, Gaius Severus, took root that afternoon.
When I learned that around 123 AD a slave had botched an attempt to kill the Emperor Hadrian in Tarraco — Tarragona, Spain — the first line in the novel wrote itself: “When it comes to assassination, execution is everything.” Read the rest of this entry »
Did Napoleon Fall in Love and Escape his Final Exile?
(Blog post excerpt by Diane Scott Lewis)
Could the ex-Emperor of the French have accomplished such an audacious act, while British warships circled the remote island of St. Helena, and armed guards swarmed around his humble residence? If a clever and compassionate woman rallied his soul, earned his heart, would he have embarked on such a dangerous mission for freedom? I explore these possibilities in my historical novel, Elysium.
I even found a non-fiction book that insisted that he had escaped: Revelations Concerning Napoleon’s Escape From St. Helena, by Pierre Paul Ebeyer. Windmill Pub. Co., New Orleans, 1947. A rather bizarre, but interesting read.
And, had an assassin been sent to the island to ensure Napoleon never returned to power? Such a prospect was investigated in The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood, 1983. I also address this intriguing aspect in Elysium .
Diane Scott Lewis, Author of Elysium and The False Light.