I’m back!

IMG_1508I’m back from a wonderful holiday. Lanzarote was amazing, sunny and relaxing. We had rented a house in the north of the island, away from the busy resorts and tourist areas. The finca was spacious, well-equiped with the modern conveniences, but off the grid. Power came from solar panels and a bank of batteries for in the evening and water was drawn from a well. Even the waste water was recycled for the beautiful cactus garden. As the finca was outside the village at the foot of the mountains, there was absolutely no noise and light pollution. Sitting in the garden at night, you could look up and see the milky way and not hear anything except the wind in the palm trees.

So yes, it was a very relaxing holiday. On a typical day we would do something touristy in the morning (visiting the caves, going to a market, going on a submarine dive), then come home for a siesta and then go swimming after the intense heat of the day. The kids loved swimming and a few days when the weather was overcast we would go in the morning and stay a little longer. In the evening we would make a dinner at the finca (usually consisting of barbecued fish) and the kids would go to bed at a reasonable time, leaving us with a nice, quiet evening.

The finca had a very well-stocked bookcase, so I ended up reading books from the bookcase, rather than the books I downloaded and brought on my Kindle. So I did not read The Spirit Room which I was going to write a review about (sorry, Michael!), but I will try to get to it soon. I did read a number of other interesting books, as well as just some easy-read mysteries.

IMG_1506There was no internet at the finca, which was lovely. During our siesta the kids would watch Cartoon Network in Moroccan (at least that’s what we think it was) and hubby and I would read or snooze. For the rest of the day, we spent lots of time together as a family, which is really what holidays should be all about. Regular life was put on hold, and could not creep up on us through the internet, phone or mail, so we could really disengage and recharge.

Being back has been hectic right away. The kids needed school supplies (our youngest is starting school, so he needed a whole new uniform), laundry needed to be done (lots of it!) and email needed to be caught up on. Luckily I have had the last two days off to deal with that, but on Monday work and studying will start again. However, the batteries are recharged and we are roaring to go again!

Weekly quote

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others.

Clarence Day

Blog interruption

For the next two to three weeks it is going to be quieter than usual on the blog here. I am taking a well-deserved holiday with my hubby and kids. We are going to the Canary Islands, to the sun! We have rented a rural finca (no resorts for us!) and we are excited about sun, beach, and relaxation. We will also do some cultural excursions, naturally, as lying on the beach all day every day is not really our idea of a nice holiday.

Needless to say I am going to be busy with the preparations for the next few days, and unfortunately I have not had time to schedule some blog posts, so even the weekly quotes will be suspended until I am back. I hope to be back with lots of new book reviews, I am going to be reading The Spirit Room by Michael Cairns among other books, so look for new book reviews after two or three weeks.

Have a happy summer everyone and I’ll see you when I get back.

Welcome to guest blogger (and writer) Michael Cairns

I am very excited to have a guest blogger on my blog today.  So without further ado, I give you…Michael Cairns.

Introduction

Michael-Cairns-headshot-low-resChocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the real-world epic fantasy trilogy, The Assembly and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

The Spirit Room (The Assembly Trilogy, book one)

Michael’s new book, The Spirit Room was just launched yesterday and is available at amazon. The Spirit Room is the first book in the Assembly Trilogy, an Urban Fantasy/ Sci-Fi book.

‘It’s supernatural conflict on a global scale. Action, adventure, The Spirit Room Book Coveraliens, magic, mayhem & modern day super-heroes…

An ancient cadre of magicians

A select team of extra-ordinary warriors

An unseen foe

As two ancient forces battle for control, reality as we know it is being torn apart. Caught somewhere in the middle, and tasked with ridding the world of the insidious alien intelligence are The Planets. Neptune hails from Rio, the gay daughter of strict catholic parents. Mars, from Ireland, still missing the sister he lost years ago. Uri grew up on the streets of New York, and Venus… well, no one knows and she isn’t telling. Imbued with extra-ordinary powers, these highly trained individuals take the fight across the globe. With startling and unnerving revelations at every turn, the depth of deception is only now becoming clear…’

Bonus short story!

Michael has graciously contributed a short story to be published here, which takes place before The Spirit Room.

Neptune in London – before the Spirit Room.

A short story by Michael Cairns. Author of The Spirit Room (The Assembly Trilogy, Part One)

She was a surprisingly good-looking mark. The intel had conjured up an image of a dowdy, office-bound bureaucrat, all dodgy perm and flats. Instead, Neptune found herself staring at a young, fine-featured and well-dressed hottie. If she wasn’t a puppet, devoid of any of the things that made her human, aside from the admittedly well-made exterior parts, she might have tried it on.

Instead, she sighed wistfully, and kept watching. The routine had been the same for the last three days, but it paid to be sure, and sure enough, today she passed Costa with nary a glance, and headed straight into the office. Well, that was that idea out of the window. To be fair, as far as plans went, drowning her with her own coffee was both unpleasant and didn’t exactly fit into the ‘subtle as possible’ remit of the operation.

That she had to kill the woman was bad enough. Of all the Planets, Neptune was probably the most squeamish, though she chose to refer to herself as ‘sane’. She hadn’t spent a lot of time with the others, and to be fair, none of them seemed particularly bloodthirsty, but still, they went out and they killed. She worked very hard on not-killing, unless it really was unavoidable. Even knowing that this woman no longer really existed, that the shell walking around and lobbying parliament was just that, a vessel for the Unseen, didn’t make it easy.

She reached out blindly with one hand, found her hot chocolate and raised it to her mouth, taking a sip without ever taking her eyes from the front entrance of the building opposite. She’d been in London almost a week, and that was long enough. It rained here, a lot, and for all that she loved the statues, and the fabulous nightlife, for a girl from Rio, it was entirely too cold and miserable.

The woman re-emerged, and flagged down a black cab. For the past few days, Neptune had stayed put, content to watch her and plan something based around the office building where she worked, but her patience had run low. She stood, leaving the hot chocolate behind and began to walk quickly down the pavement, muttering into her comms.

“Hey, Luna, any chance of a lift?”

Moments later, a chrome Audi R8 pulled out of the traffic and rolled up to the pavement. The doors popped, and Luna grinned up at her. Neptune grinned back, admiring the car.

“Damn, girl, where did you find this?”

“You like it? It’s my new toy, my ‘welcome to London’ present.”

“When do I get one, where’s my present?”

“Hey, I bought you a hot chocolate this morning, that’s pretty good.”

“Ok, so hot chocolate, really sexy car… I not sure why, but this doesn’t feel all that balanced to me.”

She walked round to the other side and clambered in, grateful for the combat suit that maintained her modesty. Then she turned to Luna.

“How about a ‘welcome to London’ kiss?”

Luna shook her head in mock sadness.

“Alas, my heart is promised to another. By the way, where are we going?”

“Oh, sorry, umm, follow that cab?”

“Which cab would that be?”

Neptune blushed, then pulled a wafer-thin screen out of her suit, and touched it. The tablet sprang to life, and with a couple more touches, she had a flashing light in the middle of the screen, the tracer she had planted a few days ago tracing the route the taxi was taking through the streets of Holborn. Luna glanced across, then without even checking over her shoulder, pulled straight back into the traffic, cut across three lanes, and headed off down a side street. Neptune realised she had one hand up, gripping onto the suit handle above the door, and let go, forcing herself to relax. This lasted until they came to what looked like a dead end, at which point Luna turned the car far faster than entirely necessary, taking it down an even narrower street at an even faster pace. That was the point at which Neptune opted to stop looking at the road and focus instead on the tablet.

The taxi had stopped at the bottom of Trafalgar square, and her mark was proceeding on foot up toward the National Gallery. Seconds later, Luna screeched to a halt, parking across double yellows with a wilful disregard for the law that had Neptune feeling a little flustered, and regretting again the strange fates that had made Luna straight, when she was so clearly made for her.

The fountains were on, and Neptune saw her chance. She scrambled out of the car, giving it a thump once she was clear, then jogging slowly across the square until she caught sight of the woman. Her luck was in; the mark had stopped, talking on her phone whilst dodging the pigeons that seemed intent on taking her out. Maybe it wasn’t just The Assembly who could recognise puppets.

Neptune got closer, then sat down and leaned against one of the fountains. On the other side of the wall, she could feel the water, trace it from the clear, blue-bottomed pool, down through the pipes, then up, up and out into the bright morning air, leaping high. She lost herself for a moment, then sighed, and stared again at the mark. She didn’t know what it was that stopped her taking the easy route. She could drain her; suck the moisture from her body leaving only a withered husk. But memories of her mother, of what she had done to her, always stopped her.

She reached out to the water again. She could feel it breathe; trace the lives that had passed through it. It swirled and shifted beneath her touch, then rose like a tower into the air. A bolt as thick as her arm shot across the square and collided with the woman’s face. She shouted in surprise as her was phone ripped from her hand and her sunglasses went tumbling. The next blast was considerably harder, and the mark, already unbalanced, was knocked off her feet. She sat up, wiping wet hair from her face, and fixed her eyes on Neptune.

The woman clambered to her feet, and staggered across toward the Planet. How did she know it was her? She hadn’t been told anything about the puppets being able to recognise them, so what the hell was going on? It could be the suit, but hey, this was London, she looked pretty normal compared to some of the people she’d seen. The puppet stopped before her, glaring down.

“You are one of them. We know about you, scum, you are not long for this world, for soon it will be ours.”

The voice, alas, didn’t match the appearance, sounding closer to the girl from the Exorcist, than the sultry siren Neptune had imagined. She imagined far too much. She had spent much of the last six months imagining, since Natasha left, helped on by as much alcohol as she could consume. It hadn’t helped, and now she was comparing voices, instead of preparing to be attacked. The woman was still staring down at her, but didn’t seem inclined to do much else, which was fortunate, all things considered.

Neptune spoke to the water, and it listened, and the next arm that emerged from the fountain wrapped around the woman like a snake. She was lifted, hoisted into the air, then over Neptune’s head and sent crashing down into the fountain. Neptune stayed where she was as onlookers rushed over to see what had happened. There must have been hundreds who had seen the water arm, yet so few people actually believed what they saw, most of them talking in amused voices about how she must have fallen in.

What it took them a while to realise was that despite her kicking and thrashing around, she seemed incapable of getting to the surface, despite it being only a couple of feet deep. Neptune could feel her through the water, holding her there whilst she listened as her heart beat faster and faster, then slowed down. A couple of the bystanders had jumped into the fountain and were trying to help her. Neptune used the water, catching their ankles and dragging them off their feet, until they too were thrashing about.

The heart stopped, and finally she released the body, letting her poor victim rise to the surface. She bobbed there for a moment, then sank back down, waterlogged, and free. Whatever the Unseen had done to her, it didn’t matter now, she was beyond any further harm.

Clinging to that thought, and not looking back to see the corpse, Neptune walked away from the fountains and the screaming crowd, and the square, and met Luna on Piccadilly Circus. The doors slid up and she slipped in, dropping into the chair with a big sigh, and glancing across at Luna. She was calm, as always, but the slight twitch of her eye made it clear to Neptune that Luna liked what had been done just as much as she had.

Still, it was a sunny morning in London, her mission was done, and she was in a truly gorgeous car. Life could, she reflected, be considerably worse.

———————————–

Cairns Writes Website details:

At http://cairnswrites.com you can download a free copy of my first novella Childhood Dreams (A Game of War, Part one), find podcasts, free short stories, info about me, and of course, links to where you can buy my books.

Social Media:

You can connect with me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/cairnswrites

Feel free to ‘like’ http://www.facebook.com/cairnswrites (I talk about chocolate mostly, and a bit on writing as well)

Enjoy some of the comic art and inspiring images I repin on http://www.pinterest.com/michaelcairns.

Book links:

A Game of War parts two and three are available on Amazon, Smashwords and all good e-retailers. (Amazon & Smashwords links below)

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/michaelcairns

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=michael+cairns

Weekly quote

For an instant Wilfred Allsop’s face lit up, as that of the poet Shelley whom he so closely resembled must have done when realised that `blithe spirit’ rhymes with `near it,’ not that it does, and another ode as good as off the assembly line.

P.G. Wodehouse (Galahad at Blandings)