Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest Post – Jackie Morse Kessler (and Giveaway)

SONY DSCToday I welcome Jackie Morse Kessler to the blog. Rage, the second book in Jackie’s Riders of the Apocalypse YA series has just recently been released and Jackie updates us on some of the themes surrounding the series including a preview of the forthcoming third book.


Riders of the Apocalypse giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of HUNGER and RAGE along with postcards and a mini-poster! To enter, send an e-mail to RageGiveaway@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 4/30/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 5/1/11 and notified via email.

Rage and Hunger giveaway_low res (1)

Got Issues?

By Jackie Morse Kessler

One of the questions I’ve been asked on panels has to do with the balance of paranormal elements and contemporary issues. When writing a novel that has both, where is the focus? Is it a contemporary novel with paranormal elements, or is it a paranormal story with contemporary issues? And the answer is... it depends. (Don’t you hate those answers?)

When I wrote HUNGER, I set out to tell a story about an anorexic teenage girl who becomes the new Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The focus of the book is on eating disorders, far more so than on the fantastical elements. If I stripped out the Horsemen from the book, there would still be a story there. It would be a very different story, but it would be there. But if I took away the eating disorders, there would be nothing left. 

It’s a similar situation for RAGE, which is about a teenage self-injurer who is tapped to become the new War. The book focuses on self-injury and, to a lesser degree, coping with bullying; the protagonist’s journey as she becomes War is very internal, even when she travels across the world. How she relates as War reflects how she is dealing with her need to cut. These books are less urban fantasy and more magical realism. And even though they have building elements in the books as a series, each book stands alone.

That being said, the third book, LOSS, is a departure — and not just because the protagonist is a boy instead of a girl. While the story looks at bullying, as well as coping with the effects of Alzheimer’s on a loved one, it also delves far more into the paranormal elements than the previous two books. It’s also longer than HUNGER or RAGE—which probably goes hand-in-hand with there being more exploration of the Horsemen along with the hero’s personal journey. In LOSS’s case, the contemporary issues and the paranormal elements complement one another far more so than in the first two books. Why? Because it felt right. There is no right or wrong here; some authors may feel that they can slip in contemporary issues while they focus more exclusively on the paranormal story, while others may feel that the two elements, paranormal and contemporary, should be equal partners. That’s the fun thing about writing—there are so many different ways to tell a story. :)

As for what will happen when I write BREATH...well. Stay tuned!

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.
Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation,Rageis the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.
Jackie also writes adult urban fantasy and paranormals as Jackie Kessler. You can visit her at her two websites www.jackiemorsekessler.com and www.jackiekessler,com.

Hell On Earth Series
The Icarus Project Series

Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Post – Michele Hauf (with Giveaway)



If you like to indulge in a good paranormal romance you couldn’t do better than to try a book from Michele Hauf’s Beautiful Creatures series. And it just so happens that Michele has a new offering called Forever Vampire, involving a sparkly vampire (just one is, not all of them). Michele has a special post for us about the book and the lead characters definitely non-Twilight sparkliness.

Michele has a busy year ahead of her. Here are just some of the titles she has or will be releasing in 2011.

Michele's 2011 Releases

Michele is offering a copy of Seducing The Vampire and The Other Crowd (Rogue Angel #30) to one reader in a random draw. Please complete the form at the end of the post.

Michele loves to hear from her readers so leave a comment or question for Michele.


Faery Dust & Vampires

I think I had the story FOREVER VAMPIRE halfway drafted out before I sat back one day and had a good ole wonder about my hero, Vaillant.  He'd been striding through the story with confidence and ease so far, and I was thoroughly in love with him, and so was the heroine.  But I said to myself, "This vampire grew up in Faery.  He's spent his whole life there.  Shouldn't he...sparkle?"

Immediately, I shivered.  Some readers do not take well to sparkly vamps.  Heck, I've never read the YA book that features vampires that sparkle, nor have I seen the movies, but I didn't want to go down that route.  fairy_dust But with more thought, I couldn't not go that way.  Faeries sparkle.  At least in my world they do.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Faery is certainly going to have some sparkle issues.

So that's how my vampire came to the mortal realm, all cocky and looking for vengeance, and...giving off a glint from the faery dust that seeped from his pores.  He doesn't flash or glow, but if you look at him in certain lights, well then.  I love him that way.  And I hope readers will too.  It makes him unique and also, it's the monkey on his back, because he's got a serious addiction to faery dust, and he doesn't realize it.  Poor guy.  Sure hope he finds a sexy vampiress to help him get over that problem.  (I suspect he will.)  :-)

forever vampire
Vail the Unwanted is a pure-blooded vampire. But raised by Faery, he has neither home nor peace, and when his aid is sought in the recovery of a priceless diamond gown, his price is information. Specifically the whereabouts of his accursed father. His goal is revenge, and the supernaturally sexy Lyric, the icy blond vampiress with whom he must work, is a distraction he can't afford.

Outwardly as cold as the diamond dress in which she was kidnapped, Lyric has her own secrets. Desperate to break free from her criminal family, she aligns herself with the brooding Vail. Together they seek justice while each secretly works for freedom and a fresh start. For Lyric that means holding herself apart, even from the smoldering blue-eyed Vail. For Vail, it means a battle to the death for revenge—and for a temptress he can't deny.
To read the first two chapters, go here.

And to learn about all the characters in my Beautiful Creatures world go here: clubscarlet.michelehauf.com

Here are some of the additional titles in the series:
  • Bewitching the Dark
  • Wicked Games
  • Of Angels and Demons
  • Seducing The Vampire
  • "This Glamorous Evil"
  • "Monsters Don't Do Xmas"
  • The Werewolf's Wife
  • Forever Wild

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Author – Karen Dales

karen_dalesCanadian urban fantasy author Karen Dales celebrated the launch of Shadow of Death: Book Two of the Chosen Chronicles. Karen has dropped by to tell us about the series and her unique twist on vampire mythology, something completely different.
BIO: Karen Dales was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is the author of The Chosen Chronicles. She began writing Changeling: Prelude to the Chosen Chronicles and Angel of Death: Book One of the Chosen Chronicles after she was inspired to create the character of  The Angel for an on-line role playing game she was part of. It was from that experience the birth of The Angel was formed and through years of research Karen fleshed out The Angel and other characters that  came to her.

Having completed York University’s Creative Writing courses years previously, Karen began to write Changeling and Angel of Death as one novel. It was on their completions that it was clear they were two distinct novels of an evolving series that has come to include Shadow of Death: Book Two of the Chosen Chronicles, which will be released April 8, 2011. Karen is currently writing the next installment  - Thanatos: Book Three of the Chosen.

In January 2011 Karen won the Siren Books Awards for Best Horror 2010 and Best Overall 2010.
You can follow Karen on Twitter on Facebook, and join her Facebook Fan Group.

Karen is always interested in hearing from you so please leave a comment or question for Karen. Welcome Karen !

Vampires are Hot!

I’m not just talking about the vampires you see or read about who are leading men material in paranormal romance. I’m taking about the fact that now, more than ever, we’re seeing vampires on the rise in fiction, television and in movies. But why?

That’s the real blood in the mix, isn’t it?

I was on the “Vampires of the Future” panel moderated by vampire author Nancy Kilpatrick at Ad Astra to discuss some of these issues, and though the talk only lasted an hour, I’m sure we could have gone on for the whole weekend. Regardless of what some people may believe, vampires are here to stay and may in fact be a burgeoning literary genre rather than a trope. One thing, as a vampire fan, that I have discovered, is that there seems to be two distinct vampire camps: Vampires as lovers/heroes as in paranormal romance and Vampires as monsters who would do anything to dominate, subdue, enslave and devour you like the little cow that you are. Sometimes you have these two types coming together where the good vampire beats the bad vampire. It works, but it isn’t something that is new.

interview_vampireIn my opinion it was with Anne Rice’s vampire novels that we truly see a new invention on an old idea. In essence, she gave us a new mythology behind vampires. No longer did vampires descend from the lineage of Vlad or Dracula, Ms Rice took the mythos far enough back in time to tie her mythos to the Egyptian mythos. It was brilliant. Unfortunately, there really hasn’t been a new incarnation or mythos of vampires since.

At least not until now…

I have endeavored to do just that through the story of The Angel in my series The Chosen Chronicles.

wpa466c6e0_05When I started writing the series, beginning with Changeling: Prelude to the Chosen Chronicles, I had several questions that came to mind. The main one was what the hell did vampires call themselves before the word vampire was even created?

It came to me…they were Chosen. They were Chosen out of humans to become something more, something powerful, but for what exact purpose? The answer to even that question was lost to antiquity, and for an immortal that’s a pretty long time. I do plan on answering it in Thanatos: Book Three of the Chosen Chronicles, which I’m currently writing.

Little does anyone know, including himself, the answers all surround The Angel.

In Changeling the reader is given The Angel’s origin story. It is in this novel where many questions arise about him and what it meant to be Chosen. There are two great hints in it; the fact that the Angel is believed to be the Welsh Lord of Death and the Hunt – Gwyn ap Nudd, and The Angel’s interaction with the white faced demons.

wp165af247It is in the next novel, Angel of Death: Book One of the Chosen Chronicles, that we are transported through time to the late Victorian age in London. The Angel truly is one of death and I draw upon Christian mythos to help validate our current image of the cloaked figure with skeletal paleness and a blade that cuts down people. It is not a mistake on my part that Gwyn ap Nudd was/is considered an Angel of Death, even today, mythologically speaking. As an author I used those and wove them together.

In the time of Angel of Death: Book One of the Chosen Chronicles, the Chosen have ‘bought into’ the idea that they were the vampires that publishers and penny dreadful published for the mass mortal market. The Chosen have bought into their own bad publicity despite the fact that they haven’t come out of the coffin. The only thing that alerts them that what is being written is not the truth of what they are are the discrepancies of description.

In Angel of Death, The Angel is commanded to the Mistress’ presence or see his Chooser, Father Paul Notus, (yep, he’s a Christian monk and a Chosen), killed. He is then given the task of finding out how the Chosens’ food supply (ie. Mortals) are becoming poisonous to the Chosen and put a stop to it. A solitary creature for the most part, The Angel ends up teaming up with Fernando de Sagres. Fernando is Chosen, but he has fallen into the ‘Vampire lifestyle’ and attitude. He’s the guy you love to hate. He’s also the type that loves a good meal, if you get my drift. The two Chosen are joined by Notus’ mortal housekeeper – Jeanie. She becomes the love interest of The Angel and it is in part her participation in the quest that keeps things very dangerous and interesting.

I’m not going to spoil the end by telling you whodunit, but through Angel of Death, more questions to the true origins of the Angel and how that fits in with the Chosen come about.

In Shadow of Death: Book Two of the Chosen Chronicles, which was just released on April 8, 2011, I bring The Angel and Notus to my home town of Toronto about 100 years after Angel of Death. It is here that revenge against the Angel for having thwarted the attempted genocide against the Chosen comes to play. Unfortunately for the Angel, it comes about in the worst way possible, and not all of it is due to those he hunted down in the first book.

Here I play more. I don’t want to give too much away, but needless to say, in Shadow of Death my take on vampires becomes different than what I’ve read (at least), and lends to even more questions about the Angel. There are more hints and more clues, but it won’t be until Thanatos is published in 2012 that a brand new mythos about vampires will be revealed.

Is it hard to do something brand new in the vampire genre, especially concerning its mythos? You betcha. But at the same time I have a plethora of real mythology, archaeology, and anthropology to draw upon. Yes, there’s lots of research that goes into making a mythology seem plausible.

The Chosen are evolving and that evolution will be seen in Thanatos.

Vampires are evolving and that evolution will be seen in the minds/imaginations of those that write about them.

I want to thank Doug the Sci-Fi Guy for having me on today. If you’re interested in a unique and award winning take on vampires feel free to check out my books or check out my website.


Thanks for visiting Karen and you are welcome to join us anytime!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

HBO Renews Song of Ice and Fire for 2nd Season

The very intelligent folks over at HBO have announced the renewal of George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series for a second season after the airing of only a single episode of Game of Thrones based on the first book.


LOS ANGELES, April 19, 2011 – Following strong critical and viewer response to the series’ April 17 debut, HBO has renewed GAME OF THRONES for a second season, it was announced today by Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming.

“We are delighted by the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought George R.R. Martin’s amazing book series to the screen, and thrilled by the support of the media and our viewers,” said Lombardo. “This is the continuation of an exciting creative partnership.”

Based on the bestselling fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin, GAME OF THRONES follows kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noblemen as they vie for power in a land where summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime.

Among the early critical raves, TV Guide has called the show “a crowning triumph” and “brilliant,” while the Los Angeles Times termed GAME OF THRONES “a great and thundering series,” as well as “wild and bewitching.” The Hollywood Reporter praised the “excellent storytelling, superb acting and stunning visual effects,” and the New York Post observed that the “art directing, acting and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series.”

The gross audience for the premiere night of GAME OF THRONES on the main HBO channel was 4.2 million viewers.

The season one cast includes (in alphabetical order): Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Aidan Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Harry Lloyd, Richard Madden, Rory McCann, Jason Momoa, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams.

Season one credits: GAME OF THRONES is executive produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; co-executive producers, Carolyn Strauss, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza and George R.R. Martin; producers, Mark Huffam and Frank Doelger; directors of photography, Marco Pontecorvo, Alik Sakharov and Matt Jensen; production designer, Gemma Jackson; costume designer, Michele Clapton.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guest Author – Paul Jessup

jessupMany of you know I enjoy a good zombie story from time to time, so when Paul Jessup announced he had a new zombie novella Dead Stay Dead written in a comedic vein, I asked if he could talk about the humorous side of zombies. 

BIO: Paul Jessup is a critically acclaimed writer of fantastical fiction. He’s been published in many magazines, both offline and on, with two books published in 2009 (short novel,Open Your Eyes and the short story collection Glass Coffin Girls) and a third in 2010 (the illustrated book, Werewolves). You can visit Paul’s website here.

Natasha is a ghost whisperer. Her roommate is a gypsy able to explode heads Scanners style with her mind. And campus has been overrun by zombies. What’s a girl to do?

In Jessup’s fast-paced, gore-packed novella you’ll follow Natasha as she attempts to save her school (and humanity, she supposes) from an impending apocalypse. Funny, bizarre, and even a bit sad, fans of hardcore zombie fiction will find plenty to enjoy in Dead Stay Dead.

Read an excerpt here.

What's so funny about the living dead?

So, someone once asked why I wrote a zombie comedy (of sorts, even though it's more than that, but isn't it always?), and why living dead comedies seem to the thing these days. What with zombie romance comedies, and movies like Shawn of the Dead, etc, etc. That whole thing. And I'm kind of confused because in my humble opinion- the comedy has always been there.

51N-7EAIi1L._SS500_Dark comedy is really all over Dawn of the Dead- right down to a motorcycle gang throwing pies in the faces of the zombies, or the end credits were zombies stumble about the mall to really funny muzac.  Then you have the Return of the Living Dead films, which are all spoofs, and it seems like since Romero first put a shambling flesh eating ghoul on screen, zombies have had ways to make us laugh.

Sure, some of the laughter is subversive, and dark, and hollow. Other times it's silly and goofy and funny, all the different ranges, because deep down inside as frightening as zombies can be, they are awfully silly as well. The way the shuffle and moan, one at a time zombies are pretty ridiculous.

Sure, when they are a large mass, they are frightening and overwhelming, but just limping along by their lonesome? Silly incarnate.So it seems natural to take this grand metaphor for existential angst and show it's absurdity as being, well, absurd.

oye_cmykOne reviewer once said that Dead Stay Dead was like an episode of Seinfeld, but with zombies. And even though I didn't plan on that from the outside, I can easily see what they're talking about. Both are influenced by the theater of the absurd, both are pretty much grand statements about the nature of absurdity in our universe, and our futile attempts at rationalizing it by over categorizing everything, and the categorization itself becomes so absurd that it becomes humorous.

One of the other things people seem to notice right away that this is more thriller than horror. You'll be turning the pages (and watching the gore ratchet up to extremely crazy Kill Bill levels of violence) faster and faster, laughing a little, but probably not scared. I'm not sure if its even possible to be frightened by zombies anymore, not really, not for me. To me zombies have become so drenched in symbolism that the weight of their terror is lost, that it's become a shadow of what it once was.

image2Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. Symbols can be powerful things, and just because they lack the punch to frighten us doesn't mean they don't have other tricks up their sleeves.  Symbols can show us the strange funhouse mirrors of our internal psyche, and in doing so, lay bare the complexities of our own thought processes. And in doing so, we can maybe find a way into a catharsis of sorts.

This goes back to my concept that complicated novels (or, a better way of putting it- porous novels, novels that don't explain everything, books that leave loose threads for readers to explore) are a joy to read and give the reader room to explore the world itself and claim it for the reader, no longer having writer as dictator, but as co-creator. Having the zombies stripped down bare to their symbolic bones, the novel becomes more porous, it has more room to breathe and expand in a reader's mind.

And I think that's a great thing.

Release Today – Forever Vampire by Michele Hauf

One of my favourite paranormal romance writers has a new release out today. Check out Forever Vampire by Michele Hauf.
Vail the Unwanted is a pure-blooded vampire. But raised in Faery, he has neither home nor peace, and when his aid is sought in the recovery of a priceless diamond gown, his price is information. Specifically the whereabouts of his accursed father. His goal is revenge, and the supernaturally sexy Lyric, the icy blond vampiress with whom he must work, is a distraction he can't afford.

Outwardly as cold as the diamond dress in which she was kidnapped, Lyric has her own secrets. Desperate to break free from her criminal family, she aligns herself with the brooding Vail. Together they seek justice while each secretly works for freedom and a fresh start. For Lyric that means, holding herself apart, even from the smoldering blue-eyed Vail. For Vail, it means a battle to the death for revenge—and for a temptress he can't deny.

Graphic Novel Promo - Storm Born by Richelle Mead

Sea Lion Books has released previews of the first 5 pages for Richelle Mead’s Storm Born graphic novel adaptation.  I pass them along to you… See my earlier post for more information.



Monday, April 18, 2011

Events This Week

Tomorrow I have as my guest Paul Jessup. Paul is a critically acclaimed writer of fantastical fiction. He’s been published in many magazines, both offline and on, with two books published in 2009 (short novel,Open Your Eyes and the short story collection Glass Coffin Girls) and a third in 2010 (the illustrated book, Werewolves). You can visit Paul’s website here.

wp402aaa37_05Canadian paranormal author Karen Dales will be my guest here on April 22 to discuss the launch of her new novel in The Chosen ChroniclesShadow of Death.

Promo and Giveaway: Heaven's Needle by Liane Merciel

liane_mercielLast year fantasy author Liane Merciel released her debut epic fantasy The River King’s Road: A Novel of Ithelas. This April 26 the series returns with the release of Heaven’s Needle. In this second part of the giveaway, you can enter a draw for a copy of Heaven’s Needle.

To enter, simply complete the form at the end of the post. Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for the contest.

Coming April 26, 2011
The mountain fortress of Duradh Mal was mysteriously destroyed centuries ago. And now, in its shadow, evil stirs. . . .
Unaware of the danger, two inexperienced Illuminers set out for the village of Carden Vale, at the foot of Duradh Mal, to minister to the people. The warrior Asharre, her face scarred with runes, her heart scarred by loss, is assigned to protect the young clerics. But in Carden Vale they find unspeakable horrors—the first hint of a terrifying ghost story come true.

The Sun Knight Kelland has been set free by the woman he loves, the archer Bitharn, but at the cost of undertaking a mission only he can fulfill. Joined by a Thornlord steeped in the magic of pain, they too make their way to Duradh Mal. There lies the truth behind the rumors of the dead come back to life, flesh ripped from bones, and creatures destroying themselves in a violent frenzy. And if Kelland cannot contain the black magic that has been unleashed after six hundred years, an entire world will fall victim to a Mad God’s malevolent plague. . . .
  • Pocket Star, April 26, 2011
  • Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1439159165
  • ISBN-13: 9781439159163
Book 1
You can read an excerpt here.

Giveaway Winners!

Lots of contest winners to announce today! Winners selected using Randomizer.org.

A&E Home Entertainment Giveaway of
“Earth and Beyond” 4 Blu-ray disc set.

And the winner is #20
Diane McConnell

Rachel Ward – The Chaos Giveaway.

And the winner is #17
Sandy Jay

A&E Home Entertainment Giveaway of “Superhuman” with Stan Lee. ENDED APRIL 9

And the winner is #24

EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy 10th Anniversary 4 book giveaway. ENDED APRIL 9

And the winners are #12, 21, 23, and 28 all of whom receive their first choice
Cinco de Mayo – Lynnete
Avim's Oath – Tod McCoy
Cinkarion – Alain Bellamare
Immortal Quest – Stephanie  Loree

Laura DeStefano – Wither 3 book giveaway.

And the three winners are #21, 26, and 40
Alex D
Stephanie Nordkap
The River Kings’ Road by Liane Merciel - giveaway.

And the winner is #35
Erika Brooks

Giveaway – Glimmer by Vivi Anna. 

And the winner is #30
Hasna Saadani

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Game of Thrones Tonight !


I have been eagerly awaiting the release of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Finally it launches tonight.  Are you going to be there?

Futon Critic has an excellent review here and says, “All in all, it's one of those rare series that actually lives up to the hype.“

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Bloggers a Pubklishers Online Conference April 13 - 17

Book Bloggers & Publishers Online Conference

The conference is already underway and there are still plenty of terrific panels to hear and participate in. Visit the website at http://bbpcon.blogspot.com and sign-up now. Already running a blog? Want to find out more? Want to meet some of your blogging peers and friends online? Then this is for you.

Here is Friday's tentative schedule...

Panels For Friday April 15

Panelists and Times are subject to change.

Opening - Morning Announcements  10:30am EST
with Terry Kate, and Jessica

Working with Large Houses  11:00am EST
with Gabrielle Gantz Publicist for Viking/Penguin, TBA
Moderator Terry Kate

What Publicity Departments Do  12:15pm EST
with Virginia Anagnos Senior Vice President Goodman Media Group, Samhain Publishing, Laura Baumbach of MLR, Passion in Print, Featherweight
Moderator Terry Kate

Self Publishing - Who is Doing it and Why  2:00pm EST

Getting and Reviewing Audio Books   5:00pm EST
Two Audio Companies - TBA - Sabrina of Cheeky Reads
Moderator Jessica

Graphic Novels  6:30pm EST
with David Dabel of Sealion Books, Reviewer from Bitten by Books
Moderator Terry Kate

Genre Discussions  8:00pm EST
there will be three simultanious panels
Inspirational - Not what you would expect.
GLBT - More than just erotic.
Q&A with Expert Bloggers

Friday, April 8, 2011

RT Convention Featuring EDGE Anthology Authors

If you are at the Romantic Times Convention in Los Angeles this weekend, keep an eye open for Cathy Clamp, Chris Marie Green, Laura Anne Gilman, Jackie Kessler, and Rachel Caine - five of the featured authors in the Urban Fantasy anthology Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, edited by Justin Gustainis. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the RT public book sale this Saturday, and in limited numbers from the authors themselves.
those who fight monsters
Got Vampires? Ghosts? Monsters? We Can Help!

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives
, is your one-stop-shop for Urban Fantasy’s finest anthology of the supernatural. 14 sleuths are gathered together for the first time in all-original tales of unusual cases which require services that go far beyond mere deduction!

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives
brings together popular characters from many Urban Fantasy paranormal investigative series, for your enjoyment. 

Meet the Detectives:
  • Danny Hendrickson - from Laura Anne Gilman’s Cosa Nostradamus series.
  • Kate Connor - from Julie Kenner’s Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series.
  • John Taylor - from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series.
  • Jill Kismet - from Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series.
  • Jessi Hardin - from Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.
  • Quincey Morris - from Justin Gustainis’ Morris/Chastain Investigations series.
  • Marla Mason - from T. A. Pratt’s Marla Mason series.
  • Tony Foster - from Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Shadows series.
  • Dawn Madison - from Chris Marie Green’s Vampire Babylon series.
  • Pete Caldecott - from Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series.
  • Tony Giodone - from C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp’s Tales of the Sazi series.
  • Jezebel - from Jackie Kessler’s Hell on Earth series.
  • Piers Knight - from C. J. Henderson’s Brooklyn Knight series.
  • Cassiel - from Rachel Caine’s Outcast Season series.
Demons may lurk, werewolves may prowl, vampires may ride the wind. These are things that go bump in the night, but we are the ones who bump back!

Guest Post - Stefan Petrucha

Me and the Fangs: A Loose History of Vampires

The vampire — monster, metaphor, lifestyle choice, high school crush. Love ‘em or not, their persistence as a cultural meme seems as immortal as the wacky critters themselves. Be it coincidence or a desperate attempt to cash in before the craze dissipates in the rays of the rising sun, I’ve recently penned not one, but three vampire tales, ranging from the paranormal thriller, Blood Prophecy, to Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer, and last but not least, Breaking Down, a graphic novel parodying the popular Twilight saga.

But where do these creatures of the night come from? Why are they here? Will they loan me some money? Through all this writing, I couldn’t help but ponder the question. What follows is one man’s admittedly narrow view of a phenomena that will no doubt outlive us all.

clip_image002Though variations appear in ancient Rome, China, and (dubiously), Native American mythos, the undead we know and love began in the Balkans (yep, Transylvania) as a plague metaphor, enjoying spates of popularity in Europe and colonial New England. Short version – someone dies from disease, returns by night, and infects the rest of their family until staked, decapitated, or both. They were dead, they wanted to kill you, they had to be destroyed — the ethical equivalent of Uncle-as-zombie, sans flesh-eating.

The earliest fictional vamp, Lord Ruthven from Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), is tad different. Like a more famous Count, and in a similar idiom, this nobleman spends his time sucking blood, seducing virgins and returning from apparent death to attempt feasting on our poor narrator’s sister.

It was a start. More interesting is the 1845 penny dreadful, Varney the Vampire, generally credited to James Malcolm Rymer, though sometimes to Thomas Preskett Prest (your guess is as good as mine as to why). Penny dreadfuls, btw, were the British comic book of their day, fast, cheap and out of control, featuring oft-serialized tales that were as sure to corrupt the youth as today’s video games.
Varney, a precursor to Barnabas Collins, actually tries to get out of his curse. He even commits suicide. In a scene out of the Frankenstein movies, Varney’s brought back to life via galvanic energies (electricity to you) by a Dr. … wait for it… Chillingworth.

The two elephant-corpses in the room remain Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). I’ve tried reading Dracula, I think I finished, and, yeah, it’s a seminal horror text and all, but the story, in any form, bores me to tears — with two exceptions. Browning’s 1931 Universal film version has Dwight Frye’s unforgettable portrayal of the Count’s genuinely creepy assistant, Renfield. I also enjoyed a little-known BBC adaption starring Louis Jourdan, but mostly because of Frank Finlay’s totally whack Van Helsing. Beyond that, though, I just don’t really care about anyone in the story, least of all Dracula, be he Lugosi, Lee, Langella, Oldman, or my own fetid imagination. He’s kind of just this great idea without flesh and blood. (Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?)

For my money, the female vampire Carmilla, steeped in plague imagery, is much more intriguing. Yeah, sure, there’s the barely concealed lesbianism, which I love as much as the next guy, but really, the relationship between the titular vampire and Laura, her lonely victim, is genuinely touching. After the forces of goody-goodness win, Laura is forced to see Carmilla as a lifeless predator, yet she still misses her, and this is clearly not the effect of a curse, but a genuine emotion.
But Dracula got the sales, the stage play, the movie franchise, and it’s his name that’s all but synonymous with the beast itself. Something of course must be said for sheer survival. So, hooray.
clip_image006Acquiring a kind of Marvel-superhero sheen in the later Universal films, (the rib-tickling mash-ups House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula), Dracula went from dull to cliché faster than it takes to charge an electric car (originally available at the time the novel was written!). As a character, he was most interesting in the spoof, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where at least he had a magic ring, some surgical skill, and a quest – to transplant Costello’s brain into the creature. Why? Supposedly to make him a better servant, but really, I think it was just for yucks.

Skipping a few decades, the thickest nosferatu-root, for me, remains the 1960s soap opera, Dark Shadows. As a writer, I’ve been fortunate to work with several iconic characters, from man-made monsters to the world’s first girl detective, but the main reason vampires own a special place in my heart is that moment when I was eight and first glimpsed Barnabas Collins baring his fangs – an affection I blog about at length here.

Yes, it was cheaply made. Sets wobbled, actors blew their lines and the blooper reel is nearly as long as the series. Yet Barnabas, a tortured Byronic hero, owes as much to Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff as he does to Varney or Dracula. Laugh if you will, but without him, the works of Anne Rice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twilight, would not be possible.

It’s in him the notion of vampire as someone trapped reaches fruition. Barnabas had a soul, and thanks to it, whined constantly. He even planned to turn his betrothed, Josette, into a vampire like himself, but she threw herself off a cliff, setting in motion our hero’s long-lasting obsession.
Does he ever get on with his un-life? No. The fiend finds one chick after another whom he believes to be Josette’s reincarnation. Eventually, he didn’t even care if the woman looked like Josette. He was just fine finding someone he could dress up in that musty old wedding gown.

And that concept neatly fulfills an essential trope of the old-style vampire – being completely, hopelessly, eternally stuck. Old school Vampires do not change. They do not progress. They do not grow, not emotionally, not spiritually. They do not let it go. They keep checking Facebook even if they have no friends. That’s because they’re dead. Static. Their hunger for blood is a clear symbolic yearning for lost life.

clip_image010Which brings me to my own Blood Prophecy, which on the one hand harkens back to the notion of vampire as plague, embodied by the evil Skog, but also to the Dark Shadows idea of salvation, through the protagonist, Jeremiah Fall. Rather than a rich Collins, though, Jeremiah is a simple farmer, a pious Puritan.

Puritanism crystallized a lot about vampires that I wanted to say. They had an intense distrust of not only their own hungers, but of the physical world itself (it is the Devil’s, after all), yet they knew they had to live in it. Their quest for salvation drove them stiff and twitching to wonderful innovations (the idea that each person had to read for themselves, for instance) as well as horrific cruelties like the Salem Witch Trials.

Speaking of the real world, 1972’s Night Stalker TV-movie, produced by Dark Shadow’s Dan Curtis, remains one of my favorite vampire films, and not so much because of the vampire. The baddie, Janos Skorzeny, at least so far as we get to know him, is a sheer predatory monster, characterized by feats of strength more in keeping with the Frankenstein monster than a sly seductor.

The film works for different reasons, primarily because of a 16mm, grainy, noir-ish, holy crap it’s real feel. That zeitgeist giddily takes us giddily all the way into The X-Files and its cagey and equally delightful bastard-child, Fringe. Moonstone Books has since kept Carl alive with a series of graphic novels. (I was happy to have contributed The Devil in the Details, which was nominated for a Stoker Award.)

Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and its sequels certainly earned their following, but for me, steeped in Dark Shadows, it all had a been-there-done-that feel. I did enjoy Claudia, in both book and film, but the whole vampire-coven thing never did much for me. It always seems to dilute the sense of a more personal hell. One demon is terrifying, a bunch of them is, well… kind of a party.
clip_image012Stepping up to more recent times, there is the oft-brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Joss Whedon is on his game he is a master. Now, as co-author of the popular Nancy Drew graphic novel series (along with Sarah Kinney and artist Sho Murase) I’d like to say the Buffster’s a direct descendant of the girl detective, but that’s not completely true.

As intellectuals have discussed to death, Buffy’s a reversal of the vampire’s victim, the historically abused female taking control. The popular image of the vampire leering over the sleeping blonde virgin takes a huge turn when the sleeping blonde has a stake in her hand and knows how to use it. And Joss, bless him, plays around with the whole reluctant-vampire thing. While most of his vamps are generic monsters, some are “cursed” with souls (another reversal), drawing a neat line from Angel to Barnabas and back to Varney.

clip_image014Buffy certainly has Drew in her blood though. Nancy, first published in 1930, is the original mass media girl power figure. Like Buffy, she doesn’t accept a passive role. She speaks truth to power. She has abilities far beyond the norm (in her case, brain-power). She goes after baddies, no matter the risk, a role she seems born to, and her personal life suffers because of it. Sound familiar?

When the first series of graphic novels from Papercutz came to a close after 22 books, Sarah and I were asked to help re-launch Nancy. That meant thinking about what made the character tick in the first place, taking a look at the history and pondering wither she’s wandered since.

Of course Buffy came to mind, and the two-part Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer was born. Having our girl appear on the cover with a cross-bow in hand and the devilish, handsome Gregor hanging upside behind her may seem like a wild departure, but it’s really tapping back into the myth that’d kept the character going all these years. Without giving away too much, of course we remain true to what Nancy Drew is, though she does share a kiss with the purported vampire, and seems to like it. The books are a lot of fun, a wild ride, and embrace that oxymoronic element the public insists on with beloved characters – exactly the same, only different.

As for vampires, like Nancy, in order to survive, they need more than just blood, they have to adapt. Sadly, of late, to my mind, they seem to be losing what made them monsters in the first place. Far from cursed souls or soul-less monsters, 21st century nosferatu are often played as having the same growth-potential as humans. They’re more like misunderstood mutant superheroes, blessed with powers, plagued with weaknesses. They’re not bad – just life-challenged. I suppose it can be an equally interesting trope, but it’s not particularly monstrous. Which brings us to… ahem… The Twilight saga.

Now, I certainly don’t intend to trash Twilight … no, wait, I do.

clip_image016With the help of Maia, my talented teen daughter, who, at a younger age devoured the books, and artist extraordinaire Rick Parker, that’s exactly what the new graphic novel, Breaking Down does. The promo text for our fifty-page parody describes it as “for fans sick of glittery vampires and wonky werewolves,” and it’s all that, but it’s also not particularly mean-spirited or disrespectful… much.

But… how can I take the vampire so seriously on the one hand and mock it with the other? Putting aside the fact that I just love making fun of things, earlier I mentioned how Dracula ultimately became a self-satire in the later universal films. And many long-lived franchises have gone through the same – witness Star Trek IV or the introduction of Jaws in the James Bond films. Having taken something so seriously for so long, it seems almost natural that there comes a time to… well, poke it with a stick and see if it’s still alive. It’s a breath of fresh air, a chance to take a look at things from another angle, to see what’s working and what’s not.

It’s also an opportunity to analyze the darn thing. Humor, after all, at its best, reveals truth. One of the reasons parody is a protected form under copyright law is because it doesn’t present the further adventures of beloved popular characters, it expresses an opinion about them, in a narrative form. In that sense parody is the same as a book or movie review, only with pictures, and a lot, lot funnier.
As for the original books, I admire them, I really do. Though the writing strikes jaded old me as a poor man’s Buffy, I’ve actually defended Twilight on a number of occasions. That’s partly because I can’t help but think think anything that gets people reading (as long as it’s not preaching genocide) is a good thing. Across the globe, folks who generally might not otherwise pick up a book eagerly plow through thousands of pages of Bela (gee, wonder who she was named after…), Edward and Jacob (who really is the better choice for a lover since he’s not dead). If nothing else, it can be seen as a gateway drug to heavier literature.

And it’s more than that. The old vampire is still in there, lurking around. Edward, after all, is Heathcliff, sans Barnabas’ mean-streak, and some of the vampires are bad and kill people. Maybe, in an era of safe sex, it’s appropriate to have a romantic hero who doesn’t seem at all dangerous beyond a creepy stalker-thing.

The biggest objection many critics have is the flipping of Whedon’s wonderful innovation, the pro-active Buffy, back into Bela’s passive virgin. The girl not only doesn’t fight evil, or anything else, she wants to become a vampire herself, wants it bad, because, well, she never really fit in as a human anyway. If Buffy is the classic victim concealing a stake, Bela is opening the window and dragging the beast inside and toward her neck. Now there’s a role model! What if our daughters want to become like her? Gasp!

Thing is, maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t think most reader see Bela as a role model. I suspect she’s more like she’s an escape from having to have a role model in the first place, a respite from real life. A little terror, sure, but not the big stuff, thank you, and can someone please take care of me? That aspect of literature, escapism, is certainly as valid as any other. And Stephanie Meyers fills the bill nicely.

As for the vampire itself, I have no worries. Dress him (or her) up as sweet as you like, they’re still lurking out there, just beyond the shadows, along with all that terror – just like death. Poke it with a stick. You’ll see.

Stefan Petrucha

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
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