New year musings…

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As usual, I am late at doing a retrospective of the old year. In fact, I may be more than a year late as I cannot recall if I did one of these last year or not…

Anyway, after being name checked in Russel A Smith’s blog yesterday I have been shamed into doing a new year post of my own…

Eddie the smooth coated fox terrier on a beach with a ball2018 has been a mixed year. I lost two things. One was my full time employment, with redundancy in June. The other, more tragic and personal, was the loss of Eddie, our Smooth Fox Terrier. This last one is still very recent (December) and he will be sorely missed. He has featured both in this blog as ‘Christmas dog’ and also had a small cameo in my first novella publication (Transitions) where he is found eating from an upturned bin during a scene where the hero, Brandon, leaves a love note on Helen’s doorstep. I am sure he would have been the first to tell you that the entire plot of that story was all about him and the bin eating scene was artistically essential for the overall plot of the novel and if you cut it out the whole story collapses.

However, there were also good things in 2018. For one, the loss of employment has allowed more time for writing – both fiction and non-fiction. This has meant that I have now almost completed my second educational resource and will be starting a third later in January. I will be using this blog to announce when these are published so keep an eye out for that. The two current ones are based on the BTEC level 3 Health and Social Care specifications for 2016. The potential future one will be based on the Applied science specification.

I’ve also kicked the fiction writing up a notch. I have been working with a new writing Authors incliding Jacey Bedford and Ruth Long doing a panel at Mancunicon Eastercongroup, courtesy of the wonderful Jacey Bedford who is shown in the photograph from a panel I shared with her at Mancunicon (Eastercon) and that has given me some inspiration and encouragement. I am currently working on two novels. One is a sequel to Gods of the Deep called Gods of the City which will bring us back to the Arcroc and the adventures of Rachel and Everyn. The other currently does not have a name (it was formerly Fortune and Troy but that title no longer works for various reasons and I need a rethink…) but will be set in the Waypoint universe which has already featured in two of the stories in Lurking Miscellany.

Final thing in writing is that I have become a reviewer for the BSFA Review. My reviews have not (at present) made it to the page but are expected to start appearing in the next issue which is due out soon. I have been reading a mix of trad and self published books. Spoiler alert, my review of Lost Gods by fellow Mancunian Micah is largely positive. This has nothing to do with the fact I got to attend the lavish release party

Purple relief figure in Brick lane, LondonIn photography, I have made massive changes. I attended a course at the London Institute of Photography in August. I spent a few days in London with them doing artistic shoots in Brick Lane and the Barbican centre and a few other places.  I learned a lot there and have been applying what I learned to my work. One of the images I took there is shown here – some of the fascinating graffiti in Brick Lane, London. I also traveled to Cyprus to photograph my sister’s wedding, which was an amazing experience and have found a group of local photographers who have been meeting in a pub in Manchester every Wednesday to experiment with interesting photography ideas. I have set up a facebook page to showcase some of my more recent shoots both from those sessions and others.

I also found out that a good friend of mine has recently qualified as a professional photographer and did a residency abroad which was very successful and which makes me very jealous of her. You can see examples of her work here. She is absolutely amazing and I want her to do well if only so that the wonderful photos she took of me and my wife at a friend’s wedding become collector’s pieces in the future :).

For the year to come I am making my usual creative resolution but modifying it. Over the last two years I have made it a policy to do at least one creative thing every day, even if only a small thing (literally a word or two on a document counted). It didn’t matter what it was – writing something, taking a photograph or editing a photograph all counted. However, in the latter half of 2018 I modified the rule a little. Now, instead of being able to do photography OR writing tasks I am being strict and saying that I must do writing every day. I am not making a similar rule for photography as I know that it is often erratic when I can get to do that. However, I am sure there will be more of that to come. The writing every day is essential for the writing group anyway. There must be new stuff for them to critique each meeting and that means I have had to up my volume.

Coming up this year are a number of things.

First of all there is the release of Out of this World Alphas due soon. 15th January is the release date you should put in your calendar. FB_IMG_1545486717540.jpgOr you can click the link and pre-order if you prefer and it will be delivered to your e-reader on the release date. I have a story in this anthology set in the Arcroc that stands between Gods of the Deep and Gods of the City.

Secondly, thanks to the aforesaid Russel Smith, I am working on another anthology which will be based in Manchester. I have the vague concept of a story incubating for that which involves druidic magic.

As for conferences etc. I am not able to make Picocon again this year, which is a shame because I really enjoyed my time there last year. However finances are against me there and, besides, I have two other amazing conferences to get to this year. One of these is Eastercon which this year is in London and gives me the chance to catch up with Frances Hardinge again after too long not seeing her. Regular readers will recall many years ago when she appeared on this blog having done a reading for World Book Night at the Fab cafe. I also did a reading then but I am not sure as many noticed. I am looking forward to a good weekend of panels and talking with people who I tend to only see once a year over Easter…

The other main event this year is like Eastercon only bigger… Worldcon is coming to Dublin this year and as that makes it far more accessible than it has ever been I am going to travel there in August. I have also been involved in the brainstorming sessions for this, which seem to involve a bunch of people sending emails with crazy panel ideas and the rest of us either agreeing with them or making them crazier. No spoilers but I am sure any of you who attend will be in for some treats… I am looking forward to my first Worldcon and will be there with a camera in order to take lots of photos of Dublin to bore you all with.

So that is it… plans for the new year as they currently stand. I hope you all have a good new year yourselves and are successful in any and all ventures you attempt.

 

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A sadder than usual Christmas Dog.

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Those who follow on Facebook will already be aware that Eddie, who gas been the Christmas face of this blog for many years, left us earlier this month.

He was an old dog of nearly 16 years old and so had a very good run and, based on the reaction he got on Facebook, he had a lot of fans out there.

So, this will be the last Christmas Dog post he will feature in.

Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy your day.

Cover Reveal: Regret by Elizabeth Knox

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A cover reveal from Elizabeth Knox for her upcoming book, Regret. You can add it to your Goodreads to be read list below and look out for the release…
Elizabeth Knox cover image of Regret, Tattooed, muscular half naked man
Blurb:

I regret all of it, every damn thing I said to her.

 Now I might not have the chance to tell her everything. I may never get a chance to apologize to her. To tell her how my worst fear is losing her and that I’m afraid I may have pushed her to do that. I was on my way to Bubba’s that night and found her car on the side of the road. Rafael has her, and I’ll do everything I can to get her back.

I will slaughter anything in my past, because I won’t live with any regret.

Add to TBR: https://goo.gl/mrRQX3 

[Review] Slaughterhouse Rulez

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I think I know what happened…Slaughter House Rulez

At some point in the last decade there was a party. Present at this party were the films St Trinians, Attack the Block, Harry Potter and Shaun of the Dead. I think Doctor Who popped by for a few hours too. No one remembers what happened at that party but 9 months later one of the attendees gave birth to a baby we shall call Slaughterhouse Rulez. I think Tom Sharpe was the Midwife.

The film seems to blend the above influences into a chaotic story about a young man (Don Wallace, ably played by Finn Cole) getting a place at a private school and trying to fit in with the upper class crowd that goes there. So far so classic fish out of water trope. As he explores the rather strange society of which he is now a part, he encounters the usual ‘school house tropes’ so beloved of Harry Potter and comes across the ever present culture of bullying and prejudice you always see in private schools. At the same time there is evidence of weird things – the history of the school talking about the slaying of a beast, the fracking company using school land to find shale gas and (weirdly) the same dog appearing in every portrait of every head the school has ever had.

Of course it really should not be spoilers to say that something goes wrong with the fracking and it leads to inevitable chaos. At least not to anyone who has ever watched Doctor Who. There is a very definite ‘Fracking is Bad’ analogy going on here which I doubt many will miss. This is inherent in the behaviour of the Fracking company and, of course, in the main horror plot. Though I won’t say what emerges from the deeps, I will say that it is definitely not Silurians. Once it happens, however, we move from ‘public school tropes’ straight into ‘horror movie tropes’.

OK, so I mentioned the influences above. This film does not manage to get the same over the top chaos of the bad behaviour of the St Trinian’s girls, opting instead for a slightly more down to earth portrayal. It also lacks a central hero with the same brooding on screen presence as John Boyega’s Moses in Attack the Block. The comedy and wit and direction are all excellently done but again do not quite live up to the genius of Edgar Wright. However, to be honest, all of that is like saying Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earing is not quite as good as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This is a well put together film with many excellent moments but one which will invite inevitable and largely unfavourable comparison to other films.

There were some missed opportunities. For example, the aforementioned dog was a brilliant addition and the amusing image of a very very similar dog in every portrait seemed to be hinting at something weird about either the head or simply just the dog (is the dog immortal? Is the head immortal and always have the same type of dog? Why are those portraits like that?). However, nothing seems to come of that. In addition, the house the hero ends up in (Sparta house) is portrayed as a house of ‘misfits and failures’ compared to the ‘house of geniuses’, the ‘house of jocks’ and the ‘house of women’*. However, for some reason, the so called house of misfits happens to have in their lobby the very spear used by the founder to slay the beast discussed in legend and has other features suggesting they were once more important. Nothing is made of this other than a throwaway mention used a comic relief. I feel there could have been a lot more plot relevance to all of that.

Overall, it was an enjoyable romp of a film with plenty of laughs and shocks and good use of famous names to play subsidiary characters supporting the mainly unknown young cast (of which I suspect only Asa Butterfield you might know from Ender’s Game). The supporting cast seem to be having immense fun hamming it up as caricatures. Pegg and Frost in particular are really going to town on their portrayals of a Housemaster and the leader of a group of environmental protesters.

Well worth a look. Though it does not quite achieve the greatness of any of its influences, it is an entertaining film.

 

*Which is totally not how houses in schools work (in public, independent or state schools) but Harry Potter seems to have made everyone believe that is how they work. You don’t get into a house because you are good at sports or good at something else. Though, I can understand how they managed to get a ‘house of women’ because, as is pointed out several times, they only started taking female students in the last year. That sounds exactly like the sort of thing a public school would do when faced with female students for the first time ever.

Lost Gods book launch: Manchester

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So… the life of a writer… the glitz, the glamour, the other things beginning with ‘g’ that you get invited to (galas? geography lessons? geodesic domes?). The free prosecco and free coffee. The tasteful music. And somewhere in the middle of that, the book. Micha Yongo does a reading in Manchester's Chapter One books

So, what was the latest glitzy, glamourous gala about? Well, thanks to happening to meet the wonderful Micah Yongo at Eastercon (thanks to R.A Smith who knows people… I am the person who knows people who know people… I’m dead influential like that 🙂 ) I snagged an invite to the very exclusive launch of his new book – Lost Gods.

Well, I say exclusive. Turns out I could have just walked in off the street but hey it’s good to feel elite occasionally. 🙂

6C1A9719-2To celebrate the launch of the book, Micah’s publisher, Angry Robot, had organised a tasteful party at Chapter One books in Manchester. There was indeed prosecco (though I limited myself to the coffee) and a very good audience who had turned out to see Micah do a reading and ask some questions. There was also live music and a chance to buy the book and have Micah sign it. Of course I took that opportunity because the ‘shelf of books signed by authors I have actually met’ is not yet completely full…

Lost Gods is Micah’s debut fantasy novel and tells the story of a young assassin, Neythan, in a fantasy world based on the myths and legends Micah grew up with. This alternative cultural take on fantasy is what has given Lost Gods a strong pre-release buzz and Micah’s strong voice seems set to carry this story through into the sequel he is currently writing. The reading showcases this voice and the question and answer session afterwards gave some intriguing hints as to what was to come as well as delving into the mind of an author who is still shocked he has got this far in convincing someone to publish his book. Afterwards, he was a gracious host, circulating and talking with everyone there. I spent my time not taking photos hobnobbing with Pat Kelleher and enjoying the relaxed but stylish atmosphere of the event.

In all, an entertaining night and I am looking forward to reading the novel…

[Vampire Month] How universal are Vampires? by Jeannette Ng.

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chinesevampire_330_6492For her blog post, Jeannette has an important question to explore… one which I have touched upon in other blogs (in News from the Spirit World especially).

How Universal Are Vampires?

 It is a staple of the genre that vampires are ubiquitous in myth and folklore across the globe. That there is one ur-creature that inspired all these stories with a uniting theme of the importance of blood, predation and corpses. Our fictional vampires stride across history, witnessing the building of pyramids, sailing on Viking longboats and writing plays for the Elizabethan stage. They’ll often also have fought in the American civil war and so forth.

20170124-DSC_0945Even Stephanie Meyer’s TWILIGHT has a passage where its protagonist reads through a website about vampires: “The rest of the site was an alphabtized listing of all the different myths of vampires held throughout the world. The first I clicked on, the Danag, was a Filipino vampire supposedly responsible for planting taro on the islands long ago.”

And these are all fun tropes, the dark progenitor and ancient curses, but rather obscures the fact that many of the myths grouped into “vampire” lore have little in common with the early 18th Century Transylvanian revenant. The word has gained a secondary meaning that encompasses any and all death-associated blood-monsters.

Except even then, not all so-called vampires are blood-drinkers, as hopping “Chinese Vampires”[1] do not traditionally drink blood. The jiangshi (殭屍) inhales and thus depletes the “life force” of their victims. In Chinese, the western vampire is translated as “blood-drinking jiangshi” to distinguish it from its less sexy, rigor mortis-suffering analogue.

I sometimes fear that in straining for these parallels, we impose a universality that obscures what is interesting and unique about these old stories. These overquoted lines spoken by Ishtar in the EPIC OF GILGAMESH serve as an excellent example:

“If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,

I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,

I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,

and will let the dead go up to eat the living!

And the dead will outnumber the living!”

EPIC OF GILGAMESH, Tablet 6, translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs

http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab6.htm

These lines have cited in many stories about the undead, ranging from the more elegant vampires to the more mindless zombie, but the effect is the same. They are understood in the context of the modern tradition and not the ancient one. Reading further into GILGAMESH would show how the Mesopotamian dead are not corporeal in nature but ghosts in the shape of dust and clay-eating birds.

The imposition of one culture’s monsters onto another and erasing their original form is merely a move towards homogeneity when writing of ancient cultures but is far more problematic when it comes to modern, still living ones. The impulse remains to understand the foreign through familiar lens, to reframe it as merely versions of what we already know, brushing aside differences and elevating the western version as the progenitor and original. Much of the study of comparative mythology is about drawing connections and seeing patterns across cultures but we must not allow our language and eagreness for conclusions to erase actual differences. These stories that we borrow from culture to culture are born of their cultures.

So perhaps this is something of a downer conclusion, noting how the vampire devoured so very many other blood-drinking demons and animated corpses. Even within Slavic folkore, vampires are not universal. The Ukranian tradition features blood-drinkers who are not actually dead at all. The word itself is Serbian (in fact, the only Serbian loanword in English).

And yet, there is an undeniable simplicity and universality to using the shorthand of “vampire” when talking about these loosely themed array of night terrors. Despite her reluctance to do so Silvia Moreno-Garcia ultimately terms her creations CERTAIN DARK THINGS [link: https://theillustratedpage.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/review-of-certain-dark-things-by-silvia-moreno-garcia/ ] vampires. And there remains a mystique to the term and much like any other genre word, the baggage is heavy and hard to shed.

[1] They rather iconically appear in the classic MR VAMPIRE (1986) and THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974). Despite having vampires elsewhere be based on the same blood-drinking template, WORLD OF DARKNESS has the supplement the KINDRED OF THE EAST that allow the reader to play chi-inhaling jiangshi.

[Vampire Month] Jeannette Ng Interview

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20170124-DSC_0945.jpgOur next Vampire month victim is Jeannette Ng who has recently published the novel ‘Under the Pendulum Sun’ through Angry Robot. Being very clever and sneaky, Jeanette is not technically a vampire author but has managed to sneak into the line up through a technicality. She is an author of Gothic Fantasy and, I am sure, will have vampires in a future novel….

For now, she will answer the insidiously seductive vampire month questions….

1)      What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

The first thing I remember writing was just straight up rehash of Cinderella. I was probably around six or so because it was the first year of primary school. I have this very distinct memory of arguing over the spelling of certain words like magic with my teacher. Which means I’ve been basically doing fairy tale retellings my entire writing life.

2)      When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

I don’t really think I can remember a time it wasn’t something I was working towards. I remember being about fourteen and putting out serial novels with my friends. I would typeset them like I did the school newspaper (which I was, of course, also involved in) and we sold them for about a quid per instalment.

After that it was just a matter of finishing something and selling it.

3)      What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

My prose is dense but I’m told also lyrical. I’ve a penchant for weird details and am an obsessive researcher.

That research is also a weakness, of course, since it means I don’t get any writing done. On top of that, I am really bad at endings. For all that I have all these big concepts, I struggle seeing them through to a point of actual closure. I create worlds without plot and then some plots without people. The pieces rarely fit together the way I want them to. Which I’m still not sure how to overcome, really. I suppose it’s just a matter of keeping notes on everything and not rushing an underdeveloped idea.

4)      Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

I live in Durham, which is in the North East. It’s mostly bridges and a marketplace knotted around a cathedral and a castle. There’s also a university nested inside the aforementioned mostly medieval castle. It’s one of those places with stones that just *remember*.

My debut novel, UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN, is about a Yorkshire missionary and his sister, so I’d say I draw a fair bit of inspiration from home or thereabouts. I was travelling through Birdforth when I had noticed its Norman church and a lot of that went into the novel, as well as the moody skies and windswept heaths.

5)      Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

If we’re talking about my debut, UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN, then I’m probably obligated to say JANE EYRE since the plot mirrors the latter third or so of Charlotte Bronte’s novel.

6)      What drove you to write about Vampires?

I don’t think I’ve actually written about vampires, though a lot of my published work does fit neatly into gothic fantasy.

7)      What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

Under-The-Pendulum-Sun-cover-largeSex and death make for an intoxicating combination that is as old as myth, so I suspect that’s a huge part of it’s draw. Vampires function as dark mirrors of humanity, both as monsters to revile and more commonly these days as dark heroes. They can be power fantasies of immortality and dominance over others as well as metaphors for the marginalised. The pieces are varied and various, so that legacy of myth makes for some very powerful metaphor.

8)      In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

Lada. From the haunting AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White.

Which is sort of a cheat-y answer since she’s not technically vampire. She’s just Vlad Dracul, historical inspiration of one of the ur-vampires, but also a teenage girl.

Still, I’m pretty sure she can stab and stake her way through any canon of vampires. Because she is just that awesome.

9)      What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

Carmilla from the CARMILLA web series is awesome. I’ve soft spot for that sort of casual badassery and it very much helps that her attraction and romance with Laura is portrayed very much in ways that consciously reject the male gaze. Part of it is to do with the limitations of the web format but instead of the soft camera angles and fleshy bodyparts, it’s about their faces and that intimacy between them.

In general I would really recommend watching CARMILLA if you have time. It’s all free on YouTube and though it takes a little while to get going with its eldritch horror on campus setting, it’s a lot of fun.

10)   How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I imagine that Mab, the Pale Queen of the fairies would be intrigued and ask them to tea, all the while smiling daggers and glaring poison. Carmilla does have some experience stabbing up eldritch horrors, so she’d probably hold her own even if Mab dissolves into a slither of snakes. Lada is also in camp stabby, though she does have plenty of inner turmoil for Mab to exploit, so not sure who’d win there.

11)   Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.

UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN is a gothic novel about missionaries in fairyland. It’s about pitting Victorian theology against the alien otherness of the fairies. And like any other gothic novel, we a seemingly innocent but curious young woman exploring a puzzle box of an old house. She finds things that are probably best left lost, but that’s how all these stories go.

 

Jeannette Ng is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Durham, UK. Her MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies fed into an interest in medieval and missionary theology, which in turn spawned her love for writing gothic fantasy with a theological twist. She runs live roleplay games and is active within the costuming community, running a popular blog.

Blog Link: https://medium.com/@nettlefish

I’m also on twitter as @jeannette_ng

Book Purchase Link (amazon): Under the Pendulum Sun

Book Purchase Link (ebook): Under the Pendulum Sun

 

What Do You Do With Forever On Your Hands? by Victoria L. Szulc

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For her guest post, Victoria is looking at eternal life – the problems that come with it. She comes up with some interesting thoughts, though in all her discussion of stories where ‘vampires living normal lives’, she seems to have forgotten Being Human 🙂

A Wry Look a Living an Undead Life

In my own vamp series, one of my characters asks his hundreds year old friend a similar question. What do you do with too much time on your hands? Vampires, if managing to avoid the standard stake in the heart, incredible sunburn, or beheading, can live incredibly long lives. These situations make good storylines for writers of the undead.Victoria L. Szulc

Holding on to History

Can you imagine how much history a vampire has witnessed, let’s say, since the Dark Ages? Perhaps since 1200? The rise and fall of kingdoms, eras, and nations could be daunting. Is there temptation to get to involved in changing the natural course of evolution? To start or stop wars?

Witnessing the advances in energy, from horse power to steam, electricity, gas, and solar power, which they probably wouldn’t want to use, has to be challenging. Accidentally leaving a window open and having sunlight reflect off a mirror could be a last day on earth for an undead.

What about technology? Transportation for one, having to adapt from riding horses to driving cars, or heaven forbid having to use public transit? How do you not want to eat your fellow passengers? Booking only night flights could be a real challenge.

And communications? Maybe you’d pine for the days of the telegram, where if someone wanted to reach you, they’d have to go a few miles into the largest town to send you a message. Now you dread your phone blowing up from telemarketers. Would smart phones be able to read your fingerprints?

How would one handle the basic needs? How do you feed? How do you eat? In the old days, if you were wealthy, you could sleep in your castle all day, have one of your servants pick out a lovely farm girl or fat peasant for dinner. I suppose in today’s world, you could do it gangsta style and just pick off random people at night. Or be the ultimate undead superhero like Blade, and only take out the bad guys.

Just running a flat with undead roommates could be too much to bear. In the comedy “What We Do in the Shadows”, the vampires have a bit of a scuffle which causes the police to arrive. You can see them sweating it out, quite humorously, as the officers check the apartment for a “funny smell” and noise disturbances.

And just how do the kids of Twilight just keep changing schools? Eternal education has to suck.

thumbnail3Making a Living at Being Undead

Let’s say you’re a phenomenally good looking vampire. Changed at a young age and hotter than hell. It’s certain to bring you lots of opportunities, but also recognition. Perhaps a little too much attention?

In the indie film “Only Lovers Left Alive”, Adam is a hip vampire musician hiding out in the worst neighborhood in Detroit. When his music is released in an underground club without permission, word leaks out where he leaves, and fans start showing up and ringing his bell. You can see his panic as he realizes he might have to move.

So what kind of profession would best suit a vampire? Anything in a medicinal environment with easy access to blood would be ideal. If you worked in a hospice facility, you could be an angel of death and not feel so guilty about sending someone home a little early, especially if they were suffering. You’d probably want to steer clear of saw mills and any woodworking facilities.

Then again, you could be a nightclub owner, just making sure to keep the patrons from becoming too rowdy and getting everyone out before dawn so you could make it home before sunrise.

Which brings us to…

Eternally Yours

Or not? The amount of exes for a vampire could be massive. The world is a smaller place now and the chances of running into an undead former flame are pretty good unless you agreed to divide up the world into territories.

What about permanently partnered? How do you keep those home fires burning without killing each other?

And what about new love? Heaven forbid, you’re a really lovely lady that has been fancied for centuries. There’s a steady stream of blood daddies perhaps, put under fantastic spells while you feed. But won’t they eventually go to their physician and get diagnosed with a mysterious anemia?

Maybe you’d mastered the art of getting a lady out of a corset long ago, using your fangs no less. And you are absolutely thrilled that they are back in style. You are way better in the sack than Lestat and Louie combined. But now you have no clue how to remove one of those new criss-cross halter leather brassieres. Or being asked to wear a condom? You hadn’t gotten anyone in the “family way” since 1220, when you were still human. Is vampire sperm still viable?

Perhaps love isn’t for the undead. Or maybe, like Dracula, you’re able to find that one human that “you’ve crossed oceans of time to find”. Now that’s someone you could really sink your teeth into.

Victoria L. Szulc is a multi-media sci-fi/steampunk artist/writer who regularly displays her work at 1900 Park Creative Space in the historic Victorian neighborhood of Lafayette Square in St. Louis, MO. Her first Steampunk art installation was there in June 2014. She spearheaded and curated the first Steampunk Broken Hearts Ball Masquerade and Art Show in St. Louis and directed the first Steampunk Fashion Show at the Big River Steampunk Festival Masquerade in Hannibal, MO in 2017. Victoria’s third steampunk novel, “A Long Reign” was in competition for the 2017 Amazon UK Storytellers contest and was an Amazon/kindle bestseller, reaching number 7 in Time Travel and number 9 in Steampunk on the Amazon bestsellers lists. Volume 11 of the Vampire’s Little Black Book Series is set for release March 31, 2018. Victoria is currently working on the third part of the Society Trilogy, “Lafayette to London”. This new book and related visual works are scheduled for release in June 2018.

[Vampire Month] Victoria L. Szulc interview

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Victoria L. SzulcSo, as we move into the third week of March, we get to our third Vampire month victim. This week we have Victoria L. Szulc, author of The First Ten Bites. After her interview today, she will tell us all about her hints and tips for how to live forever…

  • What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

 

I remember telling a lot of stories, when I was about five or six years old, about a girl (who later became a princess) and her animals to my best neighborhood friends. I had a pretty wild imagination. I starting cartooning them, all over my school folders, scraps of paper, and whatever else I could find.

  • When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

 

In my twenties, I started writing professionally as part of advertising, marketing, and creative jobs. I was already an artist and writing became another tool in my arsenal of creativity. By the time I reached forty, I realized I had a lot of stories to share that weren’t covered in my visual art.

  • What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

 

The greatest strength, without a doubt is imagination. I have some crazy storylines and plot twists that I just rejoice over. I love hearing readers’ reactions to them. Weakness? I swear I have ADD creativity. Sometimes I’m working on a project and the wrong muse comes calling, like the need to draw, or other stories in the planning stages. I almost hate when I’ve got a storyline ready for a character and realize that it belongs in a totally different story.

  • Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

 

I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, USA which is almost dead center of the U.S. I write a lot of Steampunk as well, and during the Victorian/American Guilded Age, St. Louis was the third largest city in the country. Fortunately, unlike a lot of American cities, many of those historic homes, parks, and areas remain here. I’m definitely inspired by the architecture and my hometown history.

  • Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

 

I’d have to say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. I started reading the series when I about ten years old. I was captivated by these children and their adventures. Oh and Turkish Delight. I always wondered what the heck it was and wanted to try it.

  • What drove you to write about Vampires?

 

I was working for a Halloween/costume shop part-time to make extra money. Steampunk was just beginning to take hold as a genre and I used to chat with one of my coworkers about characters I was developing. I thought about bringing in a vampire. An undead who, despite living a long time, was struggling with human realities. “What do you do when you have forever on your hands?” William, the vampire, eventually became his own series of short stories.

  • What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

 

I think the idea of living forever, having great strength, and power is very appealing. Sometimes in a negative light. So much so that people that “suck away” anything from you, emotionally, physically, are called “vampires” in modern slang.

On a positive side, it’s very erotic. The idea of being with a lover for eternity. There’s a ton of psychological sexual nuances. Being “punctured”, feeding off someone, the ability to change forms to please and attract someone else. That’s a lot of fodder for fantasy and stories!

  • In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

 

Good question and hard to answer. I know that Blade is more of a comic than literary character, but he is bad ass. Then again, you have Dracula, the oldest and the one who started it all.

  • What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

 

I’m going to separate male and female if that’s okay? Lestat (Ann Rice) has just been incredible. Fragile but classically handsome. I think it’s his human qualities that make him sexy. And again, not from literature, but Selene from the Underworld series is incredibly beautiful and deadly. Strong and smart is very sexy to me.

  • How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

 

I have vampire who is a trained assassin in the undead world, Anna. She knows vampire history and is fully educated on living in the modern world. She has a reputation, but is brilliant at disguising herself. She could be a housewife, a CEO, or a club kid. I think she could be the last man (woman) standing.

  • Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.

 

“I Died Here”, v.11 from my “Vampire’s Little Black Book” short series is about William, my main character, and how he finally handles an old enemy, Stephen. But in this conflict, he is both in love with a human woman, Caroline, and Anna, a vampire assassin he’d sired long ago. Everyone is caught in the crossfire, as Stephen is bent on revenge in any form he can get against Will. Will is torn between his new love and Anna, who has since moved on to a human lover of her own. There’s underlying themes of death, resurrection, and how we handle or don’t come to terms with life events. The first ten shorts of this series were about Will’s naughty and turbulent past and how he’s tried to change. These were compiled into “The First Ten Bites”. Without giving too much away, the next ten stories continue to explore that past but focus on Will’s rediscovered anger after losing so much. I haven’t set the release date, but it should be before the end of March. It’s been fun to write about Will again. It’s been almost three years since I’ve had a chance to put out new vampire material.

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