Friday, November 29, 2013
In the summer of 1816, just a year after Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, four people took part in a story competition in the Villa Diodati, by the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The outcome is best known for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but other the participants, Percy Shelley (Mary’s husband), Lord Byron, and John Polidori also produced writings.
First, a wee bit history… Just three years before in 1813, Lord Byron had written a vampire poem; The Giaour (The Unbeliever). In it, vampires suck blood to live…
But first, on earth as vampire sent, Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place, And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife, At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce, Must feed thy livid living corpse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire, Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them, Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
So, back to the story competition…
While Mary labored on Frankenstein, Byron wrote a tale of an aristocrat traveling in the Orient, whilst Percy Shelley wrote his poem Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.
The last of the four, so often overlooked, John Polidori, took Byron’s ideas and wrote The Vampyre in 1919. He based a character on the rather hectic life of Lord Byron himself (Lord Ruthven), although this was never officially admitted.
the following year, Charles Nodier wrote an unauthorized sequel to Polidori’s tale using the Ruthven character; Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires (1820), then adapted the novel into a play, but rather than the continent, for some reason Nodier based the play in Scotland.
This was immediately adapted in into English by James Planché as The Vampire; or, the Bride of the Isles , again set in Scotland, which was performed at the Lyceum Theatre in 1820.
Now, zip past a half century or so, and we find Bram Stoker as manager of the aforementioned Lyceum Theatre in London. He learns of the Vampire play performed so many years ago… He visits Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, where (it is often quoted) he got his ideas for the bleak countryside of Transylvania.
And Dracula is born... proving the link of Dracula to Scotland.
Incidentally, Bram Stoker traveled the world, but never ventured into Eastern Europe.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Is A Connecticut Vampire in King Arthur's Court the best Vampire, Historical, Time-Travel, Romance novel ever written?
No one writes a novel strictly in just one genre; in any work there's always at least a dipping of the toe into something else. The Connecticut Vampire series is no different, but it does go a couple of stages further.
Definitely; I hope the book is accepted as such from the first chapter. Although A Connecticut Vampire in King Arthur's Court looks like just another Vampire/Time-travel romp, it is researched just as thoroughly as my proper historical pieces. Every piece of mainline plot, the characters, battles, weddings, court in-fighting, etc, are pure researched historical fact.
Yes, hopefully just as definitively. The series needs the time-travel element to work. It’s essential to both the plot and the basic nuts and bolts of the story. Many writers have created their own time-travel rules, and again, I'm no different, but hopefully I've also answered the myriad of questions regarding the typical paradoxes that spring up in the genre as a matter of course.
Our hero, the 24 year old Richard DeVere, is a vampire, he’s been one of the new breed for a few years in modern USA. But his usual brash tactics don’t work as well in the 16th century; every time someone dies in his close proximity, he undergoes the ‘shimmer’, a world shaking pause, felt only by him. The ‘shimmer’ is seen as time re-asserting or adjusting itself, but I also try to leave enough of a grey area for the reader to come to their own conclusions. Combined with the fact that everyone is armed with pikes, arrows, and swords, he now must be very circumspect compared to his modern existence. But there is another field which the Connecticut Vampire series fits just as well as the ones above.
Well, although this book doesn't seem as if it fits the genre, it actually does. Poor Richard actually falls in love. Well, he falls in love as far as a vampire can. The series has a romantically driven arc, so again, ‘yes’, it falls very specifically into this category.
So, in summary, there are at least four genres mixed together here, but I found while writing the stories, that this didn’t make the writing any easier. It also means there are four different ways that a reader can pounce on my mistakes, four different areas where I could trip myself up, throwing the reader out of the story.
With this firmly in my mind from the first concept, I was very conscious of getting my historical facts right in every regard; I needed to root this so well into Tudor England that the historical part became the norm, the smooth rails for the train, so to speak. Once that was achieved, the sci-fi, romance and vampire parts could ride the train in safety.
I’d like to say that the Connecticut Vampire series is my best work to date, but then most parents are in love with their newest sibling, compared to the one that’s been kicking around under their feet for a couple of years. So I will bite my tongue and remain quiet as to my feelings for the Connecticut Vampire series, at least until after I’ve moved on to something else….
So, if these genres interest you, please come along and give the books a try. The high-pitched whistle’s blowing from the big black engine at the front of the Connecticut Vampire train. A huge ‘whoosh’ of steam flows onto the platform, announcing its eagerness to depart the station, and the conductor is shouting “All aboard!” I encourage you to get on board the train and enjoy the smooth ride.
Friday, November 22, 2013
I hope you enjoy...
(Make the sound of a mad-man's laughter in your head, then let it slowly fade away...)
The Murder of Tom Bombadil
Young Tom sits on the grass alone,
Licking the melt from the ice cream cone.
For almost an hour, Tom had sucked it sour,
With hair as dark as a raven, shaven, craven.
For an hour he glowered as the ladies cowered,
With hair as dark as a raven.
A man, Tom walks up the church’s aisle
With a love kept chaste in a secret vial
For almost a year, we had kept it pure;
Frustration as deep as an ocean, lotion, motion.
For three hundred days, in a thousand ways
Frustration as deep as an ocean
But now Tom sits in his room alone
And watches and worries a withered crone
For many a year he had taken the sneer
And his mind began to shrivel, snivel, evil.
Tom left her a-lying in a pool of red.
And his mind began to shrivel.
Old Tom sits in his padded cell
And softly and surely, his worries quell
When the Sandman comes, he couldn’t tell
Because sleep was hard to come by, numb-by, numb-bye
But the blood still runs in the corpse’s thumbs
And sleep was hard to come by.
The old crone lies on her rug of pink
And her flesh and bones decay and stink
Fingers don’t twitch, and eyes don’t blink
For her dead body lies in the bedroom, redroom, deadroom.
Tom Bombadil’s fingers are covered in blood
And the crone’s a-lyin’ in the bedroom.
Up jumped Tom, with his big boots on
And he says to Detectives, “What is yon?
For it looks like a corpse of a wife of sorts
That turned a good man to a killer, spiller, thriller.
That tortured and pestered, while inside he festered,
And turned a good man to a killer”
Old Tom sits in the room and waits,
For the imps or the angels to open the gates,
For ten long years, he’d shed his tears,
And awaited the clash of the gavel, ravel, evil.
For ten long years, he’d shed his tears,
And awaited the clash of the gavel
So Tom, he sits in the room alone
Clutching and scratching the telephone
For ten long years he awaits the crone;
The body he pushed into the future, creature, butcher.
He sits and mumbles and waits alone
For the body he pushed into the future.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I’d like to introduce you to the world of Vampires Don’t Cry; a gritty vampire series written by Ian Hall and April L. Miller.
Lyman Bracks, a High School senior, and nerd. His ‘best friend’, Alan McCartney is killed in the middle of the marching band at Friday Night Football, his neck torn to pieces by a visiting cheerleader. But strange things happen that fateful night, and he’s forced to look at his whole senior year with suspicion.
Mandy Cross, the aforementioned cheerleader, obviously has a different viewpoint on Alan’s demise, and tells her story in gory detail, opening up a whole new can of worms as she does so.
What to Expect?
Vampires Don’t Cry is a gritty, in-your-face tale of vampires and their natural enemies; the Helsing Organization. It’s pages drip with gore, suspense, violence and is definitely not for youngsters. The characters are dragged through the pages by the hair, protesting and screaming, rather than romp in some daintily orchestrated adventure. Vampires Don’t Cry is no place for the squeamish.
What Not to Expect?
Lyman and Mandy are not models. They don’t strut through school plastered in make-up. The vampires in Vampires Don’t Cry don’t glitter, shimmer or sparkle. They are not models; this is not mushy Soap Opera. They don’t spend all their time hooking up or making out. The vampires bite, and bit hard. The Helsings hunt and kill remorselessly. If you like your vampire stories told honestly, with blood and gore… Vampires Don’t Cry is for you.
The Writing Style?
Vampires Don’t Cry is written by a two-person team, each taking the viewpoint of a single character above. Ian Writes a thousand words as Lyman, then passes the ball to April, who writes as Mandy; nothing much new so far. But they have rules, and the main one is this; no one can change what the other has written, and they don’t collude beforehand. The result is a punchy, edgy story dipping into the fertile depths of two great imaginations.
There are four books in the series so far, and book five is in the pipeline, expected in Summer 2014. There is also a large back-story anthology, containing a full in-depth research on the minor characters of the series; Vampires Don’t Cry: Blood Anthology. Each chapter is a story on its own. Two other books are planned for release in 2014; Vampires Don’t Cry: Origins, and Vampires Don’t Cry: The Celtic Căluşari. These are darker, older tales, but contain characters from the original stories.
The books are available in Paperback on Amazon, or on eBooks everywhere in all formats; Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc. To get your free introductory story, and the first four chapters of Vampires Don’t Cry, click below.
Friday, November 1, 2013
With the four main protagonists being Arizona High School seniors, the title, Vampire High School seemed ideal for the book, and we set the publishing wheels in motion, getting it quickly onto eBook format, and paperback, before embarking on the next project.
But we'd had so much fun with our earlier collaboration... enter Vampire High School Book 2: The Helsing Diaries, forcing us to give the first book a Book 1: Gregor Academy subtitle. Yes, we took the last page of Book 1 and burst into another volume… the problem was, we had moved away from the original small-town High School background, and had grown into the surrounding Arizona area, running all directions from Flagstaff. But we had the Vampire High School series to consider, so we kept the main title.
Book 3: The Rage Wars soon followed, and the series continued under the Vampire High School banner. The characters had grown older, both in years and experience, again taking them past the original High School tag, but we'd put our three/four main characters through the mill, and it didn't seem fair to change the series name.
But that wasn't out current problem; we’d also invented a host of minor players in our vampire tapestry. These characters needed some fleshing out, but not in a clinical, hidden, behind-the-scenes way, but in a complete reader-driven back story anthology.
So out pops our biggest volume yet, Blood Anthology, just giving background stories. In addition, since we hadn’t enough on our plate, we had started a new book, called Vampires Don’t Cry; a deeper, darker tale. So dark, reading it out loud, it made my wife cry.
Then we wrote Vampire High School Book 4: Blood Red Roses, in which our major characters, Lyman and Mandy infiltrate a vampire university, leaving their high school days firmly behind them. They’d also moved on sexually, and Book 4: Blood red Roses had an adult side and the High School banner had become misleading.
We suddenly realized we’d moved on from the original name.
So, we’ve re-branded the whole series; Vampires Don’t Cry.
Book 1 will now have the subtitle; Vampire High School, as a homage to the old ideals. And the darker book, due out in 2014? We plan on it.
We’ve decided to call that series; Vampires Don’t Cry; Origins.
It all seems simple, looking back, once you’ve talked about it for year! All the best from April and Ian, and we hope our ‘transformation’ won’t cause you too much trouble.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
|Andy Murray wins Wimbledon- pride of Scotland and my Granny Hall|
Every year around the last week in June, her household in Gorebridge, Scotland would literally close down for Wimbledon Fortnight; a whole 2 weeks of black and white BBC tennis from early morning to past tea-time. I loved visiting them at that time more than any other. We got to watch tennis, you see, and we got to watch it uninterrupted.
If any of us- me, dad, mum, grandpa, uttered so much as a peep we’d get told to “Shut-up!” from the crouching figure of Granny Hall kneeling at the brown leather pouffe about six feet from the telly. She’d be down on her knees behind it, leaning, watching intently and smoking furiously. Papa’s tea was made during the news, and if it didn’t quite make it, she’d simply switch the whole cooker off (Papa was hopeless at cooking) and catch up with it later.
Carry-outs were a thing saved for rainy days, but Granny’s house got its fair share of fish ‘n’ chips during Wimbledon. If we talked too loud behind her, she’d snap; “Shut-up!” repeating the words as long as it took for us to get the message. I thought it was funny. I loved tennis too. Mum thought it was rude, but never told anyone so. Granny would have bit her head off.
Granny Hall watched Wimbledon religiously each year and cheered every nationality. Although she was fiercely Scottish Nationalist (remind me to tell you one day the story of the shouting about the "bloody butcher Cumberland" at Culloden..scared the tourists right enough) there wasn’t a bone of racism in her body regarding tennis, she just loved the great proponents of the game, be they English or not.
Fast forward to this Sunday morning, the seventh of July, 2013; 77 years since a British man had won a Wimbledon title. Well, you probably know; Andy Murray won. Three hard grueling sets, beating the world number one.
I watched the final with tears in my eyes imagining Granny Hall, looking down from heaven, watching his progress from the best view in the world as Andy Murray won the title. As fair as she was about tennis I have to believe she got a wee bit more pleasure out of it all just because he was Scottish.
I imagine heaven was quiet for three hours- even if the angels told her to calm down I can just hear the “Shut-up!” they would receive...
Friday, July 5, 2013
|Henry VIII and his modern day counterpart from HBO's The Tudors|
It is easy to be overly simplistic when it comes to analyzing royal politics in the Tudor era. Yes, perhaps King Henry VIII had so many wives because he was a misogynist bastard.
Yes, perhaps King Henry had so many wives because he needed a male heir to reign after him.
Both statements have some historical merit but as with all politics, the truth lies far deeper.
King Henry had heard from his own father’s lips how the civil war (the "War of the Roses") had shattered the peace of England for decades. He realized, that to succeed himself, he needed a stable monarch; a male heir. England had never had a lone queen, and when his first two children to survive infancy turned out to be female, he began to panic. With the benefit of hindsight we see that Henry had foundation in all his fears, yet in an effort to avert civil war, he’d inadvertently provided the necessary conditions for another to begin. In his quest for a male heir and the religious changes he’d been ‘forced’ into, Henry had split the country in two. Half of the English people hankered after the old comforts of Catholicism, half reveled in the new freedoms of Protestantism.
Even after his death, fate dealt Henry VIII a cruel twist. His male heir Edward never survived to his eighteenth birthday and his full coronation. He only ruled for a sickly four years, used by the regent nobles as a piece on a chess board. On Edward’s dying bed, the boy was persuaded to declare a cousin, Protestant Lady Jane Grey, to be his heir. The ambitious move disinherited both Catholic Mary and 'illegitimate' Elizabeth, his elder sisters , but Jane and her backers couldn't muster the support to keep her dubious claim to the throne viable. Lady Jane is known as "the Nine Days Queen" due to the brevity of her reign in July of 1553 and she was executed less than a year later at the tender age of 17.
|Lady Jane Grey was played by Helena Bonham Carter in the 1986 film Lady Jane|
When Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, ascended the throne she was supported by the biggest military faction, and the biggest proportion of nobles. She was already a Princess, cruelly treated by both Henry and his son Edward; the Catholic half of England embraced her, and she came to power bloodlessly. It was now time for "Bloody Mary" to prove as ruthless and stubborn as her father.
Mary wanted to turn England back to a Catholic nation, and required a Catholic heir, so she married King Phillip of Spain. Mary also wanted rid of pesky Protestant ministers, so she arrested them, and had them burnt at the stake; not the nicest way to go, trust me.
So the pendulum swings and popular opinion swung too. Queen Mary died without issue, and Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was proclaimed Queen of England. She would turn the country Protestant again. Despite many plots and actions against her, Elizabeth reined for forty-five years. It seems that in this daughter that he considered illegitimate, Henry had found the strong 'male' heir to bring stability to his country. If only he’d realized it earlier, so many lives would have been saved, and history could have been changed completely.
|Cate Blanchett ~ a magnificent turn as Queen Elizabeth|