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Monday 29 August 2011

Supernatural Sunday - A brief look at Djinn

Westerners know these ancient beings as "genies", from the tales Scheherazade.spun to save her life in "The thousand and one nights. "        

According to ancient lore, the race of Djinn was created from fire in its purest form, and were roaming the earth thousands of years before the first humans.  One tradition holds that djinn live in an alternate reality to the human world, although they can interact with ours at will.

The Qu'ran  has a chapter regarding djinn and their dangers to humanity; the prophet Muhammad was reputed to convert a number of the race to Islam by reciting part of the Qu'ran to them. There are legends of the biblical King Solomon binding djinn and using them as slaves for building as well as transportation, and the Queen of Sheba - reputedly Solomon's lover - was considered part-djinn in some tales.

Although  Disney is responsible for a number of kids eagerly rubbing brass lamps in the hope of finding a pet genie of their own, a look at traditional lore would suggest this is a very bad idea. Djinn are very powerful, long-lived (although not immortal), and frequently bad-tempered. They have no compunction about harming humans; and some seem to take a positive delight in doing so. (Personally, if somebody bound me to a physical object, and then treated me as their personal slave, I'd be pretty grumpy about it myself. It's a bit hard not to sympathize with a being feeling homicidal after that kind of treatment).

Djinn are multi-talented - they can take on any form they choose, be any size they wish, and appear to be able to manipulate space and time.

There appear to different races of Djinn, with varying degrees of power and ability. In ascending order of power : Jann, Sheytan, Afrit and Marid. 
Legend has it that the races were forced to choose between supporting or warring against humans. Some races choose to side with humanity, some against it, although just like human culture there are renegades in both groups. 

Those who believe in djinn treat them very cautiously. Traditional healers in the eastern world have been known call on djinn for aid, but do so only in extreme circumstances; even the djinn that support humans are quick to take offence and deal harm.

Interestingly, encounters with djinn have been reported world-wide by both westerners and non-westerners. In this instance, it appears that trying to geographically limit or pin-point this being is pointless, although they are said to prefer remote and inhospitable areas of the world.


J H Sked is the author of WolfSong & Basement Blues.
You can find WolfSong on Amazon, Sony  e-bookstore, Nook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords.


Saturday 20 August 2011

Warm fuzzies from Operation E-book drop

I got the nicest e-mail yesterday from one of the troops who downloaded WolfSong. Just a couple of quick lines saying thanks - but it really made my day.

Someone living and working in pretty difficult conditions took the time and energy to send me this. I can't say how much it means, especially after one bitch-kitty of a week on several levels.

I've had a couple of these now, and every single letter, although brief, has been courteous, friendly, and very welcome indeed.

Operation e-book Drop provides electronic copies of books free to serving troops and their families. It's a very worthy cause, so if you write and publish electronically,  think about giving it a go.

J H Sked is the author of WolfSong & Basement Blues.
You can find WolfSong on Amazon, Sony  e-bookstore, Nook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords

Sunday 14 August 2011

Sample Sunday : Paris Hilton gets a fairy

This was originally posted up at Thea Atkinson's blog, GonzoInk, after she talked me into trying a humour piece. I think the result surprised both of us.


Paris Hilton gets a fairy

I looked around the room full of funeral attendees, chatting away in animated groups. All of us, the fairies of the world, gathered to mourn the passing of one of our own.

Atkins and Cabbage Soup were chattering  at each other in the corner,  carefully avoided by everyone else in the room. Allie Oops stood some distance away, an expression of utter dismay slowly creeping over her face. 
I shook my head.  Diet pill manufacturers have a lot to answer for. By the looks of things, having a fairy shit herself at a funeral had just been added to the list.

Paranoia was gabbling away at Conspiracy Theory, then tried to grab his tinfoil hat. Conspiracy shrieked and burst into tears. I turned away to signal  the trolls I’d hired as bouncers – and saw her.


Paris Hilton.

Mincing into the room on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s and wearing the shortest little black dress possible. She stopped to tickle one of the trolls under his chin and coo as he flexed his abs.
Paparazzi whistled and took a series of pictures, then let Paris head for the buffet.

I grabbed his arm. “What is the human doing here?”
He shrugged, wings flickered in a quick burst of strobe. “It was her fairy that died,” he shrugged. “Besides, I told her it was a photo op.”
“Are you insane?” I hissed. “You can’t bring a human into our world!”
He looked at me, black shades firmly in place. “I thought you’d want to meet the woman who killed one of us,” he said, and nodded at the portrait on the stand in the centre of the buffet. “Took her awhile,” he added. “But I reckon it was her, sure enough. Common Sense just never stood a chance.”
He started towards the table, then turned back. “You know, you’re probably the most powerful one in this room. Think about that.”

I thought it about all afternoon, watching the socialite flutter from diet fairy to drug fairy to sex tape fairy. She said “Like” a lot, and a few other things that made my wings itch.

She avoided Decency as though the fairy carried an STD, which was strange since she’d hugged both Syphillis and Gonoreahea  repeatedly, and gave Chlamidia  an impromptu lap dance at some point after finishing most of a bottle of funeral wine.

I thought about it in the bathroom, carefully adjusting my spanx.  I influence and affect millions throughout the world.
 Do what you want, unless the liposuction fairy smiles at you, once I’m there, I play for keeps. You will hate me until the day you leave this world.

I re-entered the room, caught Paparazzi’s eye, and nodded. Then I marched over to Paris, who had her face buried in Cocaine’s hair, and pulled her away from the party.

“Like, who are you?” she said, pulling away.
I beamed at her. I’m good at that kind of smile. Sugar and sweetness with no hint of the bitterness to come. “I’m your new fairy,” I said.
“Like, cool. But where are we going?”
I pulled out her schedule. “You have a nightclub booking in an hour. Let’s get you ready, shall we?”

And as we left the funeral, I heard one of the trolls speak to Paparazzi, following close behind us.
“Who’d the human get assigned to?”
“One of the big guns,” Paparazzi whispered back. “That’s the Muffin Top fairy."

J H Sked is the author of WolfSong & Basement Blues.
You can find WolfSong on Amazon, Sony  e-bookstore, Nook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords

Ashes to Ashes - the aftermath of the London riots

I have the feeling I'm watching the UK gather itself for an implosion of note.

During the riots that happened last week, people lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their cars. Worst of all were the lost lives, and I will never forget the dignity of a bereaved father telling a gathering crowd to go home.

People are angry, and calling for strong sentences and loss of benefits to those who took part. That conveniently ignores the fact that not everybody who went on the rampage is on benefits; not everyone who smashed a shop window is struggling for work or money.

The problem is that Cameron and friends now seem intent on turning this into a class war. Councils are evicting families if a member of that family is accused of taking part in the riots; never mind if they're found guilty. The key word here is accused, by the way. Not convicted, accused.

By all means, those who took part need to realise actions have repercussions. But it seems to me that making thousands homeless because of the actions of a few is mind-numbingly stupid and one hell of a good way to make sure the next mob is a lot bigger and a lot angrier. Taking away the last hope for people who already have basically nothing has historical consequences. It was done to Germany at the end of the first world war, and look how well that mess turned out.

Watching the petulance of a politician who had to interrupt his holiday is irritating in the extreme. Listening to this man point fingers at the police after he cut their budget to tatters, is insistent that the force needs to be cut to an absolute minimum, and then follows it up with self-serving bombast of "zero-tolerance" is infuriating.

My solution? Send the politicians into the front-line with the cops, the ambulance service and the fire department. No special treatment, no kid-gloves - just go and do the job, sunshine.

Then go and spend a month in the communities you dismiss with contempt. Go and live in a council house on a  godawful estate, on the benefits system you keep saying is so generous. Deal with the smell on the stairwells, the needles in the playground, the danger of walking into the wrong postcode.
Wear the rayon, the cheap sales clothing, and eat the food that you bought past it's sell-by date because it was cheap and you could afford it.

Then come back and decide that these people have it easy, that they deserve what ever you can throw at them - whether or not they were involved in the trouble.

I live in hope that one day, people like Cameron and his chest-beating cronies will realise that creating ashes from ashes might get your name in the paper, but it does nothing to make your country stronger.

Until that actually happens, I'm afraid my view of politicians remains as follows : anybody who wants this amount of power shouldn't be allowed within a mile of the job.

Supernatural Sunday - A (very irreverent) look at Angels

If you were raised in the Christian, Judaic or Islamic faith, you'll have been exposed to the idea of angels as the messengers of God, referred to frequently throughout the religious texts of all three faiths.

They aren't alone; a number of religions and religious movements subscribe to the belief in higher beings who deliver wisdom, protection and care to us mortals; spiritualism in the western world is a good example.

For the purpose of this post, I'm going to look at the romanticization of angels in the western world; anything else will result in a three mile long blog and possible lightning strikes..

The fluffication (yes, I made it up) of angels is particularly interesting to me as most of it's adherents either consider themselves staunch Christians, or float around New Age shops looking dreamy and constipated at the same time. And they absolutely loath each other; the christians consider the new agers to be dangerous dabblers in ye dark arts, and the new agers tend to pity the christians as uptight fuddyduddies with sadly closed minds.

Yet their attitude towards angels is remarkable similar: wonderful, wise, sexless, generous bringers of light and goodwill and safety.

A quick look at the christian old testament throws cold water on this one, since where angels are referred to they tend to be visiting a whole lot of wrath on someone's unholy ass. (Egypt, anyone? Sodom & Gomorrah?)
Angels in the biblical context are not cute and fluffy.

The world of  t.v.  hasn't really helped here - shows such as Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven have added to the pop culture myth. To give the show makers their due, my guess is Smote by Messenger doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

On the new age side, we have angel readings (???), angel tarot cards, angel invocations and blessings. I've heard of seances where people try to get an angel to join the party.

Step away from the cute Victorian image of flying babies for a minute. Take a cold, hard look at the different writings and theories before people started believing their personal guardian angel was picking up their socks for them.

You are talking about beings of power. Whether you follow the religious aspect or not, something with the ability and capability of destroying a city, probably without much strain or effort.

Why would you want to try to bind that into a small room with you? Why would you want its attention on you? And if you got it, just how happy do you think it will be with you?

It's probably the psychic equivalent of taking a long bubble bath with a small armed nuclear bomb - you could do it, but why would you want to?

J H Sked is the author of WolfSong & Basement Blues.
You can find WolfSong on Amazon, Sony  e-bookstore, Nook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords

Monday 8 August 2011

London is burning

Today I spent nearly an hour on Skype, re-assuring my parents that I was fine, my home had not been burnt down around me, and I hadn't actually seen any of the madness that is running through the British capital like a cancer.

I spent most of last night following several twitter streams - mainly because the incidents happening weren't being reported in the mainstream media - and trying to figure out what was rumor and what was actually taken place. When the craziness hit Chingford Mount I went and packed a small bag with a few odds & ends, in case they came down this end; considering the number of buildings being torched, and the fact I live over a shop, I'd rather have it and not need it than the other way round.

Watching the news tonight, the cancer has spread. Croyden has blossomed with Rudyard Kipling's Red Flower, Clapham is being looted,Camden is reported as having started up; Birmingham has had trouble. The list of places under siege is long, and disheartening.

I've watched a few talking heads on the news, trying to claim the situation is caused by deprivation. No, it isn't.  There is deprivation throughout parts of London, and anyone who thinks there isn't needs to educate themselves - but people who are desperate for work don't travel to different areas, in carefully co-ordinated groups, and target specific stores for looting and burning. They also tend to be over a certain age; and watching the footage makes it very clear that the average darling destroying someone's home, car or business is probably still in school.
I have to wonder what these kids would feel if it was their home, their family car, their family business. Would they still laugh while the glass shatters?

The London fire brigade has been attempting to deal with hundreds of emergency calls. A look at their website shows that yesterday, 3 different firetrucks had to be pulled from service after being attacked. Nice. That's a pretty deliberate way of attacking and crippling public services. Bear in mind the average firefighter doesn't even have the riot shields, horses and dogs and police service does; these men and women put their lives on the line daily, with minimal pay - and get thanked by having wage cuts, budget cuts and half the bloody pavement thrown their way.

I've heard person after person and read tweet after tweet wanting to know why the police aren't acting when shops are being looted and cars set alight. They've been criticized for not acting more aggressively.
The police concerned have probably been on duty for 3 solid days & nights. They've been pelted by bricks, bottles, and everything else the mob could pick up and throw. As soon as they move into an area, the mob moves somewhere else and starts all over again. And as soon as police in the UK do act aggressively, they are crucified in the media and on public forums. The cops aren't saints, and there are the unfortunate few that misuse their position and abuse their power - but no matter what they do right now, they can't win.
Whoever organised this has known exactly how to stretch the resources of an organisation that has already been crippled by political cost-cutting and targeted by the media; and people - you can't have it both ways. Either you want a strong police force, capable of dealing with extreme situations, or you want a bunch of PC puppets that dance when you pull the strings. The police need to be accountable; cutting them off at the knees results in this: London, burning.

If this continues much longer, the government is going to need to look at martial law and possibly bringing the army in; in a large number of countries (including most democracies) this would already have happened. The only reason I can see for this not having happened yet is an attempt at keeping the injury count down. Eventually, someone will die; when that happens all bets are off. There are groups forming to try to protect neighbourhoods and areas; what happens when they meet one of the mobs with a hothead who is not focused on getting the latest plasma t.v. out the store window?
What happens when someone decides that blood is pretty on the pavement?

My question is: Who is the group behind this? This is too well-organised to be random kids going off; this is a group who is using these kids - knowing that mobs spread and grow organically - they generate their own awful life and culture and sick sense of power - for their own ends. They have a reason, and a purpose, and I'd say as nobody has died yet they still have control to a point.
I'm pretty sure they haven't dirtied their hands or got their mugs on CCTV by actually taking part - but they are calling the shots, deciding the areas to get hit, and the targets to loot. Anything else is pretty much icing of the cake.

London is burning. It's only a matter of time before London is bleeding as well. To the people who arranged this; who are leading a bunch of foolish children like some Pied Piper of Arson and Hate - you reap what you sow. When this harvest comes home to you, will you still be having fun?

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Thea Atkinson Guest Blog: Already Home

One of the things that has consistently floored me since getting into the Indie writing side is just how nice a lot of the folks in this community are.

Case in point: Thea Atkinson guest blogs for me today, and not only does she come up with a blow-your-socks-off post, she's outing a darn good musical talent at the same time. (Of course I checked it out. Major talent - great lyrics and a voice that gives me goosebumps in very good ways. I'm already stalking him on twitter.)



Already Home: the tale of a lowly musician
By Thea Atkinson

A series of thoughts flood Julian Babin's mind, churning over themselves like storm waves curling onto a jagged shoreline. Get out.  Hide.  Run home

He drags in a breath from the cramped backstage room as though it were the same air an overboard sailor would be pulling in (Get out.  Hide.  Run home), and he steals looks at the others with him.  Larry Hattie, Matt Hemeon, Jamie Surette, Andre Surette: they all act as though playing TH' YARC is an everyday occurrence.  No biggie.  Let’s get it on.  But there's a crick in Larry's usual long line of confidence, a tension in the way Matt clutches his drumstick that makes Julian think it’s made of lead rather than lightweight ash. Jamie has pushed his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose one time too many to just be considered habit.

Yes.  There's electricity here--a weather of electricity.  But there's something else too, or rather, someone else.  If Julian turns his head, focuses on just the right spot, he can imagine this someone: this 12-year-old boy.  His brown hair will be shaggy like most his age from running bases, his hazel eyes glint with excitement as his dad passes him a hot-red electric guitar.

“If you don’t do this for yourself,” he tells himself. “Do it for the boy.” Julian manages to take a deeper, more calming breath, and moves to the backstage curtain to pull it aside.

He's looked out a half-dozen times already.  The fog from the machine at the back of the stage is creeping along the boards, rising slowly into the red lights, diffusing them, amplifying the stage’s sense of isolation.  He can hear the murmur of voices in the theater as the crowd takes their seats.  Stephanie Hardy has been caught in the early November weather.  Cancellation is a must for her, an added anxiety for Julian.

He swallows down the thoughts that come upon him again. Get out. Hide. Run on home. He can manage. He’s done this sort of thing before. He and the boy. Maybe not TH' YARC, but backyard sheds, backyard gigs, festivals where he and a group of likeminded rock star teens played on flatbeds, behind the school, SARMU, anywhere that would let them bang out music.

By the time he was 22, he even played a semi-produced show: Tune-A-Fest, where he strummed out a Bryan Adams tune, and where for the first time people started telling him, “You should start doing your own stuff.”

He’d been nervous then too, but each time he adjusted the mic for himself during a performance and strapped on his guitar, he had calmed down.

He was home.

He thinks of that first electric guitar and how it had pulled some wonderful music from his fingers: nice, melodic heavy metal. Yes. Those early days when Metallica was the band that fueled his fantasies. Doesn’t matter that the dream evolved, like all good dreams do, or that the music in him changed.

He remembers coming home from summer music camp and a short grin steals his face for a moment. He’d arrived playing RunDMC and breakdancing to rap. Strange behavior from a young Wedgeport boy, but then, he’d always enjoyed things that were different.

He’s come a long way from there, a long, winding, but ultimately circular way. His mind picks up another shadow from those summers. A lanky teen with long hair, a cheap old mic, and a four track machine that recorded Neil Young inspired music. Dark.  Melancholy. Acoustic.  There were the cool kids, like there are everywhere teenagers gather, and then there was him.  The outcast.  He was doing things that no one else was.

Julian pulled toward him like Europa does Jupiter.

It had been a frustrating go, that summer.  Writing, playing, singing for an instructor that couldn't be appeased.  No one could impress him.  Long Hair seemed to take it in stride. 

"It doesn't matter what he thinks,"  Julian remembers him saying during one of their nightly hangouts.  "There's no right way to write a song.  It's what you like that matters."

What I like. Julian hadn’t really understood that till he was in his mid twenties. Up till then he destroyed most of what he wrote. His music, his lyrics, were eccentric then, fragmented in a way, but it had something, a feel, that seemed right, an ambassador for who he was. There are times, now, when he catches a glimpse of that feel, and so there’s hope that his music can evolve into what’s it’s meant to be.

He shutters his eyelids, peering into the corner, trying to imagine the boy again among his bandmates, who by now have become more relaxed. They stretch in their seats, legs crooked and crossed. Larry grins. Julian has this opportunity, really, because of Larry.

“Come on over, Jules,” he’d said when Julian feared he’d lose the melodies sprinting through his mind, “I’ll track you.” It’s how he’d ended up with a CD, why he’s doing this concert now. Still, he’s unnerved. These are songs that have survived for some reason and they want to be shared.

Julian fidgets.  Andre is out on stage, warming up the audience, and their responsive laughter filters its way back through the heavy black curtains.  They're attentive, this audience, quick.  They're here to listen; they want a show. The panic boils up again.

Get out.  Hide.  Run home. 

Julian’s mind darts about.  His heart picks up a tempo that has his breath skipping, but this time, the 12-year-old boy cozies up to him.  It's not time to run or hide. 

It's time to go onstage. 

With a determined breath, he steps into the lights, feels the heat of the orange and blue strobes strike his arms where the T-shirt sleeves end.  The roar that erupts from the packed house vibrates in his chest.  He straps on his guitar, adjusts the mic, and a sense of calm envelops him. He feels the boy next to him, imagines him smiling.  There's no need to run or hide.

He’s already home.


Thea writes psychological thriller novels and she tries to help out struggling musicians in some small way. If you enjoyed Julian's story, please find him on Myspace (

Or follow him on Twitter!/JulianMarcBabin

As for Thea, she does her usual rambling on her blog, sells a few ebooks, and twitters a lot.

Please feel free to follow her on twitter!/theaatkinson

or like her facebook page:

or visit her blog for ramblings, guest posts, giveaways, and more

Check out the book trailer Thea made for Anomaly; using Julian's music: