[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


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.

Social Media Links:

Blog: https://mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com

Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/victorial.szulc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MySteampunkProject

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/thecountesssp

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steampunkcountess/

Tumblr: https://thesteampunkcountess.tumblr.com

Etsy Store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheHauteHen

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC98VXA1LQVGE-_rqLV6XLdQ?view_as=subscriber

[Vampire Month] The Epic World of Cedron by Richard Writhen


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For Richard’s second post for Vampire Month, he has given permission for us to reprint this blog from Our Epic World where he discusses his world building…


18175732_10155261580879138_1775785634_o“Two petty mercenaries are falsely accused of switching sides in a feud between two rich and powerful magnates; an ex-miner on the run from a murder charge becomes a reaver and embroiled in a romance; an industrial lieutenant is recruited to help capture a serial killer and an entire city is in danger of being ensorcelled by an ancient monk.”

What makes your world special or different?

Nothing, really. Most fantasy worlds are amalgams of stuff from IRL, popular culture, other fantasy worlds. The approach and execution are what may be different … how certain aspects are handled, their prominence, etcetera.

How does your main character fit into this world?

I don’t have any single protagonist. I use the Stephen King / H.P. Lovecraft / Joe Abercrombie style of integration where the characters all think that they are the “main” character of the story, much like IRL. It improves the…

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[Vampire Month] Richard Writhen interview


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Richard Writhen selfieOur second Vampire month victim is Richard Writhen, the author of three novellas on Amazon KDP: A Kicked Cur, A Host of Ills and The Hiss Of The Blade. His fourth novella, Angel of the Grave, is currently being written.  Richard comes to us all the way from New England and will be talking to us about his world building in his blog post later this week.

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

I had read a lot of early Stephen King and Clive Barker, Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, The Lord of the Rings, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, in the late eighties and when I was about twelve I tried writing a few cute little stories and comics which are thankfully lost in the abysses of time or whatever. I also had two letters published in the Gladstone / EC Comics reprints of the early nineties.


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

In truly characteristic fashion, I had always toyed with the idea yet procrastinated, but a confluence of events made me become serious after I turned thirty-six. I had been working as a copy-editor for about four years, I was reading the King James Version of the Bible, and I came across an ad looking for blog contributions. And I was like, sure let’s give it a go. A couple months later I felt that I wanted to segue into fiction, so I pitched the idea of a serial to the website’s owner and he was interested. The work later became my first novella and I’ve been serious about writing ever since.


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 greatest strength as of now is the internal continuity. I have some pretty detailed notes, though as I get older it may become harder to keep it straight; however, they have specific assistants and editors for that nowadays if I ever find success. My greatest weakness is world building / exposition, but that’s the thorn in the side of every writer, really. It can only be overcome through constant practice, as far as I know; writing more books. It’s very difficult to avoid the info dumps and have unobtrusive exposition, one of the most difficult writing skills. The greatest authors make it either fun somehow or almost invisible, seamless; simply part of the prose that the reader almost sub-consciously absorbs.


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 am from Newport, RI, USA. I also lived in NYC for several years. Everywhere I go influences how I depict fictional locations, be it Providence, RI, Long Island, NY, even places where I spent a lot of time in my youth such as Seekonk, MA affect my sense of place and I try to convey that in my fantasy settings. Street names, names on historical buildings … as a matter of fact, I got many names for the first two books in the Celestial Ways Saga from local gravestones, I would just change a few letters.


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

My greatest? The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpiece, unpublished in his lifetime and left to turn yellow in a drawer somewhere. His depiction of magic is exactly what I’m trying to convey. Its sense of history and antiquity and the manner in which it gives the city of Providence, RI its own personality. That’s another one of my goals with the novellas, to assign a real sense of place to the dark fantasy settings.


6)      What drove you to write about Vampires?

I’ve always been a fan of vampire lore. I was quite taken with the Interview with the Vampire Movie, I saw it when I was in college. My first love was Lost Boys, though. I wanted to see it original run but I was still well underage, so when I finally caught it a few years later on HBO or whatever, I was floored. I also like Underworld saga, Let The Right One In, Twilight Saga, Vampire Academy Series, Blade Trilogy and more.


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

My theory for the past several years has been that the werewolf legends represent man’s struggle with his own animality, and the vampire legends represent mankind’s self-victimization, i.e. man victimizing his fellow man. A lot of what is successful as art and / or entertainment has subconscious roots in age-old social and psychological rhetorical or unanswered questions about the human condition. That’s why it’s never-ending …


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

Well, Lestat and Dracula are two of the most powerful vampires of fiction. I’d be hard pressed to figure out which one of them is stronger. David from Lost Boys is pretty awesome; Eli from Let the Right One In as well. A lot of the vampires from Blade trilogy are also very epic.


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

Sexiness? Fashion sense? Prolly Vampirella for both. After her, maybe the trio of female vampires in Francis Ford Coppolla’s Dracula. And of course, I must mention Lina Romay in Female Vampire by Jess Franco, may she rest in peace.


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

My vampire angle is as yet undeveloped. There’s a nation of vampires, Drackhon, that has fought wars in the past with the denizens of Khlarion, on the continent of Holrud. The vampires’ society and all of that will be revealed further in books to come. So my strongest vampire as of now is probably Debarah, one of the protagonists of A Kicked Cur. He has grotesque physical strength, almost like Edward Cullen from Twilight Saga, so I think he would certainly survive a fight with the likes of Dracula and Lestat, but overcoming them …? IDK about all that.


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

My latest work is my third novella. It’s called The Hiss of the Blade, and it’s a bleak treatise on the manner in which those in my gothdark world called Cedron first live and then die by the sword. Mercenaries, fled slaves, agriculture and mining magnates, every man is out for himself and much like our real world, the center can’t hold and people wind up dying … or worse.

[Vampire Month] How things have changed – fairytale kisses that never happened! by Alicia Wright.


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So, the end of the first week of March and the first Vampire month author of this year has her chance to talk about a topic of her choice. Given that her work is based on vampires interacting with fairies, it makes sense that she discusses fairytales….

As I mentioned in the interview, I don’t think we should get cross if other people’s Vampires don't belong in Fairyland Alicia L. Wrightinterpretations of folklore don’t fit into our own boxes for it. Folklore is an excellent raw material, and although I do use tropes from all sorts of fiction, I always go back to the original source, folklore and fairytales for my basis. Then I cherry pick what I want and what fits in with my universe. Writers and storytellers have always done that, and one of the things I find fascinating is reading old tales and seeing how attitudes and stories have changed and what hasn’t changed.

The Brothers Grimm even edited their own collections of fairytales, so that the final versions we know today are quite different than the original versions they collected.

Take the trope of a kiss breaking a spell. Did you know that most of the famous kisses from fairytales originally never happened?

Snow White, for example. In the original version, when Snow eats a bite of poisoned apple and the dwarves place her in a glass coffin, the prince does happen by, but he does not kiss her. Dead, pretty girls being his thing apparently, he begs the dwarves to let him have the coffin. They refuse at first, but he won’t give up, so they go ‘Oh all right, you weirdo’. The prince then has his servants carry the coffin around wherever he goes, until one day, one of the servants goes ‘bugger this for a game of soldiers’ and drops his end of the coffin, the shock of which jars the piece of apple free. No kiss.

And flipping the genders round, you all know the story of The Princess and the Frog. A princess drops her favourite ball into a pond and a frog retrieves it, and makes her promise to make him her companion afterwards, sharing her food and bed. The princess thinks ‘Sure, whatever, it’s just a dumb frog, I’ll just run off’. So she does. And then the frog turns up at her door, and she doesn’t want to keep to her end of the bargain, but the king says ‘You made a promise and you have to keep it, you’re a ruler after all, what would happen if we didn’t keep promises? Democracy, that’s what. So unless you want to be replaced by a prime minister you’ll court that frog’. So pulling her face a great deal and with more cajoling from her father, she lets the frog sit at the table and eat from her plate, and then takes it upstairs to her bedroom, but when she sees the frog creeping under her bedcovers, she thinks ‘Ew, and dad isn’t here to stop me’ and hurls the frog against her bedroom wall. This is the fairytale for people who think violence solves everything, as this does break the spell and the frog becomes a prince. No kiss.

And then there’s Sleeping Beauty or rather, Talia. In the original version, she was not cursed by a fairy, but nevertheless, getting a chip of flax under her fingernail after prinking herself on a spindle somehow caused her to go into a deep sleep. Her father places her in one of his mansions and then abandons her there, letting the mansion go to ruin. Must be nice to be rich enough that you can just abandon one of your mansions. One day, a king comes riding by, and his falcon flies into the mansion. I guess the king isn’t as rich as Talia’s dad, because he is not for losing a perfectly good falcon, and as no-one answers the door, he commands a ladder be brought and climbs into the house. Coming across Talia lying on a bed, and looking very pretty, and being unconscious and not being able to say no, he sleeps with her. Then he just leaves. No kiss. She gives birth nine months later to twins, and one of babies sucks her finger while looking for a nipple and sucks out the flax and she wakes up. Have I mentioned there was no kiss?

And that’s why I always go to the source. Most of what everyone knows about folklore and fairytales these days are surprisingly modern and wildly inaccurate to the earlier versions, insofar as you can be inaccurate about a lot of stuff people made up hundreds of years ago.

Stories change. And thank goodness they do!

Where to find Alicia:






[Vampire Month] Alicia Wright interview.


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Alicia Wright Vampire authorSo, the first victim of the Vampire interrogator in 2018 (by dint of the fact she got her responses back to me within 48 hours of getting the invite) is Alicia Wright, author of the Vampires Don’t Belong in Fairytales series.

Later this week, she will talk about some of her research into fairy tales – the Fairytale kisses that never happened – but first she has to endure the torture of the infamous interview questions…

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

My earliest memory about writing is writing a story in primary school. I wrote 2 sides of A4 about myself having an adventure with my many, many imaginary friends.

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

I’d always wanted to be an author, ever since I was about 8 years old. I had it in my head that one day I would write a book and try to get it published. I finally sat down to do that when I was 19, and it was because I’d just quit after my first semester at university. I just wasn’t ready for university at the time. So I thought ‘What now?’ and it seemed like the right time to get on with it.  I didn’t finish a manuscript until November 2007, when I was taking a forced gap year from my second time at university and I discovered NaNoWriMo.

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

I had great trouble with my manuscripts until that first full manuscript in 2007, when I tried writing comic fantasy for the first time.  Until then, whenever I read back my manuscripts, they just weren’t good enough, they didn’t sparkle, there was something missing. Humour was that missing element that let me find my writing niche. Comedy has always been my thing, the majority of the things I read and watch have always been comedy-based.

My weakness is action scenes. I always seem to hurry over them and they’re too short. I cope by re-reading them and seeing what I can do to improve them, and my beta readers tend to point out to me if my action scenes are too short.
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 Newton-le-Willows now (10 years after starting a book about a girl who moves to Newton-le-Willows…) but I grew up in Lowton.  Most of my inspiration comes from my travels over the years. I’ve been to Iceland, Japan, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Greece and Poland, usually for study or volunteer work, and other countries and cultures always leave an impression on me, as do the people I’ve met there. You meet the most extraordinary people abroad, and that certainly shows in my writing, such as my quarter-Japanese Icelandic snow woman. I never actually base characters on anyone I know as that would make them awkward to write for me, but I might use a tiny piece of their background as inspiration. I also like to take photos of scenery so I can use them as inspiration for descriptions and comic backgrounds.

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

Patricia C Wrede Enchanted ForestThere is no single book, but my earliest influence was Patricia C. Wrede’s The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I picked up Dragonsbane when I was 11 and it was this book that taught me a woman could be a king. It was this book that pointed out to me how silly fairy tales are and how much fun it is to poke fun at them. A few years later, I discovered the Discworld series and from when I was 14 until there were no more Discworld novels I always got the new one for my birthday. I think anyone who reads my work can tell it has also been a big influence on my writing.


6)      What drove you to write about Vampires?

I do believe, and this is going to sound weird, that I write vampire fiction because I don’t like most of it. I love vampires as a subject, but even though I am happy to read about other people’s interpretations and I always find them interesting, I’m incredibly picky about what I find satisfying.  If they are just monsters or if they are too brooding or dark I find it hard to get too invested, but if they’re too silly – I know that’s rich coming from me – I find that too far the other way. Not that I object, I am always very clear that everyone is entitled to their own vision of folklore and that if we all write using the same template then stories will stagnate.
I did not intend for Miss Prince to be about vampires as such. Johann was meant to be a minor character and then he – and his entire family – went on to hijack not only that story but the entire series! Part of what took me in that direction was actually that Twilight was at the height of its popularity and much as I am not a fan, as I said above, Stephanie Meyer has and had every right to write vampires however she wanted. I saw it as a sort of parallel of the boxes we all try to put ourselves and each other in, how society wants those in a box to act a certain way, and woe betide you if you don’t. I don’t think that’s right, in fiction or real life. No-one belongs in a box.

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

I think it’s because they are such a human sort of monster. There are so many directions you can take that. Are they a gleeful predator, who views humans as talking sheep? Are they the reluctant monster, consumed by their sins? Bit of both?  Something else entirely, a cloud cuckoolander, a grim overlord? A soulless, shuffling corpse doesn’t make for great character development, but that has its merits too.

And then there’s the blood thing. We’re pretty fascinated by blood and unlike getting your brain eaten, you can survive losing some blood. You can also link it to sex if you want to. And people do. Because if you CAN link something to sex people will. So there’s all sorts of other avenues to explore than ‘is the scary thing going to kill me’. Again, I think it’s to do with the sheer variety of directions you can go.

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

I have to say, it’s got to be Dracula, hasn’t it? Of all the classical literature vampires, he has the most powers and he’s the most iconic and he’s been the template for vampires since 1897.

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

Best Vampire in General AND Best Alternate Form awards must go to Carmilla. She gets up at noon, drinks hot chocolate, sleeps with anti-vampire charms under her pillow and her animal form is a panther. Come on, people. Vampires don't belong in Fairyland Alicia L. Wright

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

Oh dear, that’s quite a complicated question. Many of my vampires and my other characters would struggle with Dracula, but anyone with strong magical skills like Contessa or Tyrian could just turn him into a squirrel or something. My ONE vampire hunter would manage if he had a decent plan and back up.
Carmilla isn’t as much of a threat, and she would inspire pity and an offer of aid rather than aggression. She’d be up to her ears in vampire medicine, psychological help and possibly even a donor or two, although she’d have to be put under house arrest for her crimes.

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

The latest one is Vampires Don’t Belong in Fairyland. It’s about Fairyland collapsing into civil war, which I promise is funnier than it sounds. Fairyland is split into three Realms, with three countries, all with their own set of royals, but they all consider themselves one country and family. But you know what families are like. Kids squabble over the silliest things, usually toys, only with royals the toy they’re fighting over is the entire country and the resulting tantrum and girly slap fight is replaced by everyone hiring assassins.
So out of all the Fairyland royals we have only two left standing – Queen Regent Lir and King Tyrian. Tyrian has a problem other than his cousin is trying to nick his crown and possibly kill him, and that is the fact that he’s a king. In fairytales, whenever kings try to do anything remotely adventurous they tend to die, so there’s no chance he can save the country by himself. He’s going to need help, and the traditional thing to do is to find a prince to do the adventuring for you. We might just have one knocking about…


Alicia L. Wright is a YA comic fantasy author from Lancashire in the North West of England.

She studied both art and graphic design in high school and college, where she was told to stop drawing dragons and fairies. She didn’t listen. She also went to university, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

She writes books about fairies, vampires and other nerd things, playing with tropes and drawing a webcomic – poorly.

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