Saturday, 30 June 2012

Book Review May / June

Not so much reading these last couple of months, been a bit otherwise occupied.

Hollow Earth     
by John & Carole E. Barrowman
Published by Buster, £6.99

Aimed at the slightly younger reader, this is the first book in a series, a fact which I was not aware of when I started it but at the end I really did want to know what was going to happen next and I'm eagerly awaiting the next instalment. An interesting concept about a group of people who are able to animate artwork, and the resulting notorious power struggles which inevitably surround a group of gifted people. This shows how the politics of a group of adults can have dire consequences for the children dragged into their power struggles. Well worth a read.

Sherlock Holmes & The Titanic Tragedy        
by William Seli
Titan Books £6.99

Sherlock Holmes & The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner
by Jonathan Barnes
Audio Book, Staring Nicholas Briggs & Richard Earl
Big Finish Productions.

Just when you thought there was only ever one going to be one Titanic Holmes adventure, they arrive in pairs. My first Holmes and the Titantic encounter came with the Big Finish audio book 'Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner', here Holmes does not actually get on board the ship but instead the owner of the White Star line comes seeking his help after the tragedy. This story takes the form of a suspected supernatural entity plaguing his life, and with Holmes setting out to solve the mystery. These stories work well for Holmes and this is a very enjoyable original Sherlock Holmes story. 

The second encounter actually put Holmes on board to guard secret government documents, although it was entertaining it did smack too much of trying to copy previous original Holmes adventures, you'll see what I mean if you read it. I don't want to give too much plot away but there weren't really many surprises you hadn't already began to suspect just by certain players being introduced to the plot. The book also has to handle the 'how do we get Holmes off the sinking ship' scenario which in their CD extras Big Finish said they wanted to avoid because it wouldn't work satisfactorily for the Holmes and Watson characters and I think I agree with them.


The Leaping
by Tom Fletcher
Quercus £7.99

I selected this as I fancied a werewolf story, but the wolf antics didn't really occur until quite late in the book. The story is presented from two first person scenarios, Jack and Francis, alternating between the two. They work in a call centre and the first part of the book is really about how crap their lives are and their jobs are. There also seems to be some attempt at demanding pity for call centre workers - I find myself wondering if the author ever worked in one. Although a long time is taken setting up the characters, we can believe in them even if we are not one hundred percent sympathetic to them.

The promise of mystery that is set around fell House only starts to occur in the second part of the story. For me it was a bit slow to start and the end seemed to try and pack in too much. I would have liked the mystery to have started sooner and have interwoven a bit more into the earlier part of the story. The title of the book 'The Leaping' again only comes into play at the very end and felt like a bit of an anticlimax. 

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (True Blood)
Dead to the World
by Charlaine Harris
Orion Books £6.99

As I've said previously I am only going to read the Sookie books after I've seen the True Blood series that gets made based on the book. Series 4 is based on 'Dead to the World', where Jason vanishes at the start and returns at the end, almost as if he has been written out for the sake of it. In the series where we follow more than just Sookie's POV we know what has happened to him as we experience his misery and suffering.

This one introduces the witches, and we are told they are really nasty, being shifter witches stoked up on vamp blood, intent on taking over the businesses of the supernatural residents of Bon Temps and surrounding areas. There is no mention of the history of witch burning, the possession and depth that was written into the tv series. Instead these witches really seem a pale imitation of their TV counterparts.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Karl - Birth of Mystery now at Tenth Planet Events

Just a quick posting to let you know that signed copies of Karl – Birth of Mystery can now be bought from Tenth Planet Events as well as directly from me through the publisher’s website at Hundred Publishing. I signed a stock up for them on Saturday during their recent Doctor Who signing event. They do actually have stock in unlike other online retails I could mention.

The Hundred Publishing website requires you to use Paypal for the purchase, but if you prefer some of the more traditional payment methods then Tenth Planet can help you there as they are a fully fledged on-line and mail order business. Whilst you’re there why not take a look at some of the Doctor Who signing events and conventions they organise or browse the rest of their online shop for signed DVDs, books, CDs and other film, TV and celebrity memorabilia.

Another short teaser.

Hanna awoke from a deep sleep and looked across the room at her sister; there was something noticeably different about her. Katarina’s hair had turned a distinct shade lighter, which contrasted with her own which she was convinced had become darker.
     She had tried to reach out with her mind to locate Karl, but he was concealed from her, hidden by forces that scared her. She climbed from her bed and silently dressed then using the power of transportation she faded from her bedroom with her destination planned as Zandina’s old town house that had been left to Reoma.
    When she arrived, Hanna appeared just outside the front gates, a force had propelled her from the property during transportation. None of them had been able to cross the boundary that had arisen in the time that had passed after Zandina’s physical body had passed away and her essence had been passed on.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

In Memory of Caroline John 1940 - 2012

Photo from Big Finish
It is another sad news day for Doctor Who fans as we learn that Caroline John, 3rd Doctor companion Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Shaw has passed away.

Caroline’s first appearance in Doctor Who was just a couple of days after I was born, so I do not remember Spearhead From Space the first time round, but once these stories made it to video and later to DVD I found myself truly enjoying these adventures and cheering Liz on as she gave the Brig and The Doctor her cynical expression regarding ‘little green men’.  

Liz Shaw was a character we never saw enough of, it was a character in Caroline’s hands which had style and depth, and having met Caroline a couple of times at Doctor Who events it is obvious where these qualities came from. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Big Finish Companion Chronicles that Caroline performed returning to the character of Liz Shaw in recent years.

Caroline was married to another Doctor Who actor, Geoffrey Beevers, one of the incarnations of the Master. All our thoughts are with Geoffrey and their family at this sad time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ghost Town - Curved Beams and Paint Work

To be honest I was surprised by the lack on comments on the previous posting, I expected at least one ‘I told you so’.

I did promise to mention how I fixed the curved pieces to the round walled building. These coffee sticks will bend easily when wet. 

Soak the sticks for a while then test them, if they feel supple enough you can curve them. If not, leave them to soak longer, using hot water also helps. I bent these when I was cleaning some more sticks I had brought home.

For cleaning I use boiling water, although I did let it get a bit cooler before working with the sticks in this case.

I curved the sticks around the outside edge of the building, then clamped them to the edge and left them to dry held in place. Once dry they retained their curve and I was able to glue them to the various positions at the top, middle and bottom of the curved wall.

Finally the top one was held in place by an elastic band as the glue dried.

Some progress has been made on these ghost town buildings, they have now finally been sanded down, and have been given four layers of paint. 

The first was the black primer which was a pain to go on in the window areas where some of the shiny card had been allowed to show through. 

Eventually this was followed by a black and brown (Burnt Umber) 50/50ish mix. These first two layers have to be almost scrubbed on to ensure that all the nooks and crannies are covered. The final layer so far is the pure burnt umber. 

This is just painted on quickly going where it touches, in other words deliberately making sure not to work it into the corners so that the aging effect of the darker under layers show through. 

After that it was a white / burnt umber mix. I cannot be very specific as to the proportions of this as I used some left over white paint from a previous project which I had prepared too much of.

(Previously I squirted too much white paint out a few days ago.  Thought I would lose it, but I managed to keep it fresh by covering the ‘Pringles’ tub lid I use as a paint pallet (Idea nicked from BigLee) with a ‘Tu’ desert pot. It just so happens that a ‘Pringles’ lid snugly fits these glass pots)

This mix of paint I quickly dry brush /scrub over the entire building to give a mottled look. I work quite quickly with the brush working the paint over, ensuring I keep as best I can to the direction of the wood, but ensuring that the paint is very thin on the brush. 

For the building with the curved wall I used an old number 2 brush that has seen better days. For the more flat buildings with larger cover areas I went with an even larger brush.

And finally, this week's teaser from the book. Quite a short one this time.

.... She threw the skull to the floor; it shattered into a million pieces as it hit the chains. 

Now if anyone tried to alter any of her spells they would die. The casting was over. Zandina screamed, her vision turned to a dark red then to blackness and she collapsed onto the floor....

To order your personal copy please follow the link below. You'll need a Paypal account to order. Although Amazon is showing it as unavailable I can promise that copies are available to order by going direct to Hundred Publishing.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Coffee Stick Houses, Experiments and Conclusions

Considering I have had a week off work, I haven’t managed to get much model work completed. The weather has been quite foul really, and even the garden has not been tackled. Not one dry day in the week so far.  This is the time of year I should be using the table outside to be able to get more work done, but it does not look like it will be the case.

I have managed to finally get the wood work finished (I think) on the three outstanding coffee stick buildings I have been working on now for several months (on and off). I really want to get  these finished as I want to get on to the ‘Axilion Trade’ shop and public house ‘The Ship and Hankor’ as featured my novel. These will be more labours of love than some of the other projects. But I will get some of these other unfinished projects done first, just for my own sanity and space in the kitchen where they end up when half finished.

I tried a couple of experiments with these three buildings, as featured in earlier postings.


(1) The use of recycled boxes, although they do finally turn out quite sturdy once the coffee sticks have been stuck on they are very flimsy to work with . When I tried to strengthen them by using the boxes glued up it meant that I had no internal way of holding them whilst working. Also it made it hard to use the clamps to hold everything together. I ended up tearing into the bases to give hand holds or to allow the clamps to grip.

Although putting together random boxes gave for some interesting shapes and structure to the buildings, which I might not have achieved just working from scratch. Working with foam board means I need to use the outdoor table to lay it out and cut it, I do not have room to do this inside. I experimented with gluing boxes together during the winter months when it was not an option to work out on the garden table.

In summary I’m going back to the foam board, I think I do prefer this as a base core. I will certainly use foam board for the two new projects I mentioned above.

(2) The way I glued the sticks down originally was to build the skeleton frame work of the building stuck over the foam board core. Then I applied the side panel sticks after. In the linked post above I started to experiment with what I thought would be a quicker way to get the job done. This was to stick full sides on first then over lay the frame work on top after.

A couple of you said you preferred the look of the original method to the sample I posted at the time. 

I persevered with the new to see if the overall effect I wanted could still be achieved. In fact this method when applied to a whole building came off worse.

I ended up doing more remedial work and fixing than before, and I agree the final effect is not as pleasing. I hope when the paint goes on it will cover some of the real patched up work I’ve had to do.

In summary, next time I work on more of these buildings (and there will be more I have more coffee sticks than you can wave an entire coffee plantation at, at the moment) it will be the old method of frame work first then fill in the panels.

My next post will cover the edging on the round sided building, some photos of these once sanded down and ready for the under coat.

Here you can see where I had to cut away the side of the roof which had dented back on itself. I've re-seated the side piece and the roof slates I had to cut away, and it is looking much better. Photos next time.

I've also added a new Gallery Page for the completed coffee stick buildings that make up the Ghost Town.

... and finally, another teaser from Karl - Birth of Mystery

As Max approached, the small weasel faced man peered at him long and hard. Then in a voice that resembled someone who had just found that he had been sitting in something unmentionable and unpleasant, the port inspector addressed him.
     ‘Two crates.’
     Was it a question or a statement? Max could not decide what the inspector was saying. He thought hard to remember if he was expecting a delivery. The inspector obviously did not feel like waiting for a reply.
     'Two crates from Mirdi. What do they contain?’ He expanded, in the same cringing voice.
     Max considered. ‘Pottery,’ he said.
   The inspector’s eyes bore through him, it was obvious that any moment he would declare the crates as being impassable and would have them split open on the dock there and then.
    The port inspector considered and rechecked his list of shipments. A smile cut across his face, it looked like a split in a wrinkled orange thought Max. The inspector looked up again.
    ‘I shall pass these.’ He declared, as if he was doing Max a great favour. ‘However I see also a shipment from the Isle of Mishdine. That intrigues me. Why was not this crate on my manifest, nor brought over by the ferry?’