www. Bloody Good Fiction.com!

Another milestone was reached this week in the from of my brand new author website. This project has been in the air for a while and was a little delayed by unforeseen circumstances but thankfully it’s all been sorted now.

Admittedly it is still in its infancy and will receive more beautification and content as time goes on, but is in a good enough state to go live. It is an umbrella site for all my work which will also include other series beyond Affliction in the future.

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In other news, editing is continuing as always, and if all goes as planned Vampire Edifice will be going live by August 15th.

Dracula Vs Penny Dreadful…

…The evolution of story telling or just plain laziness?

Be warned there will be spoilers for both shows below:

A couple of months ago I saw the first season of Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers after a friend recommended it.

The story had promise despite being yet another rehash of the book. Dracula was painted as a modern day (late 19th century) mogul (with a dual identity) who is trying to take over the world by way of this new-fangled magic called electricity. The story has all the usual characters of course: Mina, Jonathan, Lucy and even Renfield who takes the more lovable guise of the indispensable butler/legal genius as opposed to the mad, fly eating, straight jacket wearing asylum resident. There is even the ubiquitous secret association which has infiltrated the highest levels of society and part of its duties is to collude with vampire hunters and occultists in order to find the Father of all Vampyres (who they suspect is in London) and put an end to him. Passion, revenge and pseudo-science trail the plot and the show has all the hocus pocus goobly-goock we all love so much, including the relics, the incantations and magic mixed with just a pinch of steampunk to bring it all together and help it set in the fridge.

Though enjoyable enough to make me sit through the entire first series comfortably, after it ended I felt no inclination to watch the rest. For me this a bad sign, as any good series is immediately addictive and must be watched serially until all available episodes are exhausted. In fact, I didn’t even know whether there was a second season until I researched it for this post. Only then did I uncover that it was in fact cancelled by NBC (not much surprise there) though it might be coming back for a second season on Netflix later this year. Needless to say I will not rushing to my nearest couch.

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At the end of the day the plot was so “true” to the book in its fundamental principles that I didn’t see the point of continuing even if it did have a second season. In all it felt flat and dare I say unimaginative despite the Gothic tinge and vampiric essence which pull very much at my entertainment heartstrings.

The gap that Dracula left was more than filled by Penny Dreadful. Upon discovering this show on my streaming service I set about watching the first episode without much research. As with books, I sometimes dive into something head first and decide to continue if I am sufficiently drawn. Needless to say I was chuffed to bits to discover yet another Vampire focused programme, though not excited by the prospect that more Stoker lore was being put into play.

My WTF-o-meter rang off the hook however when we were introduced to Viktor Frankenstein and even Dorian Gray, yes that Dorian Gray, of aging picture and despicable character fame, though we’ve yet to see any of those character traits. Currently he is only a little “immoral” (by Victorian standards always) and thoroughly cute and cuddly.

At first the show appears perfectly light and entertaining, though like Dracula, which had more reason to do this, I did wonder at the need to rehash popular characters from classical literature in reinterpretation after reinterpretation. I wondered about that Monday morning Network pitch meeting where the creator and the writers got together to discuss the reasoning behind this moth eaten tapestry of classical literature.

Does it have to do with our modern day need to get through everything quickly? We know for example that Frankenstein created his nameless monster and that said monster came back to ruin everything he held dear, but are we told this so that we can perhaps expect it in the future or so that the show’s creators didn’t have to go to the trouble of creating characters for which they would have to write backstories? If not, does it mean that they’ll use the character as a frame and change the story as we know it? If not, then what’s the point of making the show? If yes, then the authors are turning in their graves. I know I’m contradicting myself, but I am a purist about certain things.

Speaking of backgrounds, there is none more varied than that of Vanessa Ives who has gone from child/teen seductress to lunatic asylum resident to Vassal of Lucifer to trainee witch only to end up as the Devil’s intended once again. I mean she’s already fucked the dude so what’s the big deal? Her background story couldn’t be more turbulent and confused if they tried, and sadly it does not give her any gravitas whatsoever. It’s like they don’t really know who or what she is and are adding or subtracting supernatural elements as the series progresses.

What about Dorian Gray? We know him as the essence of decadence and corruption so it should come as no surprise that he fucks everyone on the show, staying true to the popular culture perception of his character. Why though have him seduce Ethan Chandler, who up to that point was the voice of sobriety and sensibility and have it come to nothing? Perhaps it will be revealed later on but as it stands it seems simply as character contrivance without purpose.

And if the “plagiarising” of classical literature wasn’t enough, they’ve gone and made Frankenstein create the elusive bride to the beast, or John Clare as he prefers currently, only to fall for her himself. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Pygmalion (who was Cypriot might I add) who fell in love with the ivory statue of a woman he had carved. I won’t even go into the misogynistic undertones of grooming the whore into a lady after you have wiped the hard drive clean. I thought we were past the whole “My Fair Lady” vibe. That said, I reserve some judgement, the end is yet to come.

As the series is still ongoing and will presumably continue to do so for some years, I don’t know how to conclude but I am left with several questions. Have we become so flippant as a culture that we cannot be bothered to delve into the classics by ourselves and expect a tv show to chew and half digest them for us, or are we simply too lazy to immerse ourselves into new and original characters? The success of GOT would suggest otherwise (Historical similarities with real figures not withstanding).

I would love nothing more than to see some true original Steampunk story telling (Victorian setting or no) without having to stoop to appropriating the fictional characters of the past however well it is done. Perhaps it was an attempt to expand further on these beloved characters who do in fact have incredible potential for further exploitation. The original books were great, which is certainly why they became classics, but it feels a bit hubristic to revive them like this. I’m half expecting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to show up in future seasons. If they do you heard it here first.

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Having said all this, where Penny Dreadful wins over Dracula is in the philosophy. Victorian poetry, about which I admittedly know very little, permeates throughout the show and existential issues are always central, no doubt due to its supernatural theme. Death and rebirth are highly prevalent, as is faith, predestination and freedom of choice vs animal instinct. I’m also quite taken with the fact that Ethan Chandler frequently discusses the injustices perpetrated against the Native Americans, an issue rarely discussed on any programme be that fiction or factual as in the case of Finding your Roots for example.

Social issues such as feminism and homosexuality are also shamelessly put to the fore and not just in the style of Tru Blood where the gay sex is done purely as a lure with little social commentary. The sex scene between Dorian and Angelique was both sexy and loving and the ball he held in her honour speaks very much about modern day issues of equality and acceptance in a society, particularly in America, where in many places, the ethos has not evolved much since the days of the Victorians. For that Penny Dreadful deserves some applause.

On a closing note, I await to see if race will be highlighted beyond the token black guy servant…

Your thoughts, as always, are very welcome.

My article on Vamped.org!

This week I’m very excited to announce the publication of an article I wrote in December for Vamped.org. The article is about the Countess’s public perception from the time of her arrest and trial to the present and closely examines the birth and evolution of the blood bathing myth with which she has become synonymous.

I loved writing this one as it was strictly historical and it involved revisiting some of my earlier work and fascination with the Witch-hunt hysteria which gripped the western world for over 200 hundred years. You’ll have to read it to see the correlation.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts.

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Ultimate Teazer of all time. My real life book prologue.

After 2,5 years of hard work, probably something close to seven drafts, a ton of delays and a steep scrivener learning curve later I’m proud to say that I have finally published Bathory’s Secret, the first book in a series I’ve called Affliction and a re-examination of the Vampire genre from a more human perspective.

Below is an actual excerpt from the book, the prologue over which I fought with both my editor and my beta readers. I am quite fond of it as you’ve probably gathered. I hope you enjoy it.
The book is available here.

There are a lot of things that can kill you in life, germs, chemical imbalances, poisons, accidents, people. The things that can kill you, can also kill us, we’re just as vulnerable as everyone else to life’s threats, even though popular belief would have you think we’re invincible, uncatchable and most of all, already dead! It was many centuries before I learned about viruses, and what they can do. The VN73 virus as it has come to be known, only lives inside us, the infected. It can’t survive outside the human body for longer than a few seconds and it’s almost impossible to see under a microscope. Only one person has been able to see it, and he was the one that also gave it its name. I will talk about this man, but now is not the time.
VN73 has been around for millennia and can only take hold of a host if they have certain genetic mutations, the most common being the chromosomes for blue eyes and black hair whether they manifest or not. When it does manage to take hold, our lives and bodies are transformed in a way that serves only to preserve it. I could go as far as to say it is the most powerful virus unrecognised by man and when we become its hosts we are entirely ruled by it.
In the past we didn’t call ourselves infected of course, as infection is a modern concept, but we went by the title of Afflicted. A subject with the appropriate mutations can only be changed when they are bitten by one who is Afflicted, provided that the predator does not completely exsanguinate the victim, in which case they will simply die. If they leave a little over a quarter pint of blood in them however, the virus, which is most prevalent in the mouth, will slowly take hold, and over a number of days begin to overwhelm the victim. Initially a grasping chill sets in, which is much like the symptoms of a simple cold only it gets worse and worse until it permanently settles the body’s core temperature to about thirty five degrees centigrade and leaves it permanently cold to the touch and extremely pale. Then the heart rate slows so much that it is virtually imperceptible which is what has led the public to the erroneous conclusion that people like us are dead. In fact it is as if we are frozen and living by a much slower clock; the belief that we do not age for example is also incorrect, we do, only where a healthy human being will age in forty or fifty years it will take us a hundred times longer to reach the same level of body fatigue, and even then it depends on the individual’s constitution. I’ve seen some who have lived to be six hundred years old and not need any kind of artificial quickening to keep them going and others burn out as early as two hundred. It all depends on your intrinsic make up, and just like anyone else, maintenance and a healthy lifestyle are crucial to a long and prosperous Affliction.
Certain quickening methods do exist, but the really good ones are secret, myths even. This knowledge is held by very few of us, those that have come to be known as the Protovamps. The rest live their mindless and very often reckless existences in the knowledge that their lifespan is multiplied by about ten times that of the average human, and that is enough for most. As with unafflicted people, each deals with their aging any way they can. Also just like ‘normal’ people, there is no particular or universal solidarity amongst our kind. Some acquire wisdom with age, others remain as stupid as the day they were born, and life goes on.
As a result of the slow aging our metabolisms are affected, which is why only fresh blood is concentrated enough to offer the nutrition we need to keep going. Food can and is consumed but does not offer the nourishment or pleasure it once did, though for some of us some habits are hard to break. I knew this Bulgarian many years ago who when he was healthy, used to love the taste of sweet Turkish coffee. After he was Afflicted the taste was so altered for him that he used to drink up to 20 cups in one sitting, just to gain the satisfaction that a singular cup used to offer him.
Another untruth is the fact that we cannot survive in sunlight. The fact is that sunlight is not actually harmful to us in small doses, the only problem is that we cannot abide it. Due to the sensitive nature of our eyes and skin we prefer to only appear in overcast or dark conditions. The Affliction affects our eyes in such a manner as to enhance their capacity for vision, especially in low light conditions and for reasons we have yet to discover, also alters their initial color. Though it remains as is, it acquires a crystalline quality, which I believe is related to the predatory skills our condition imparts.
Further predatory characteristics also develop. Some acquire excellent hearing while others develop the eyesight of a hawk. Some have a sense of smell so powerful they can smell blood two kilometres away and many grow razor sharp claws that sever skin with the ease of a freshly sharpened butcher’s knife. The skills are as varied as the individual and very rarely one can develop all these traits at once. Occasionally some acquire them from others.
Garlic is one of those anecdotal stories that peasant lore has proliferated over the centuries through their ignorance and fear. Just like any other root, herb or vegetable we are completely indifferent to it and it does not make us recoil nor does it keep us away from anyone brandishing it or hanging it to their doors. In fact, some Afflicted sects use it as their emblem in jest.
Crucifixes and mirrors are more of the same superstitious lore. The virus has existed long before the inception of any religion and if that were the case, faith alone would have cured all the ills known to man by now. Mirrors work on us just as they do not any healthy human being.
Silver like light is a whole other story. Perhaps because of its antiseptic qualities and the high concentration of virus in our bodies we have a strong aversion to it, very much akin to an allergy. Like a healthy person, and by healthy I refer to the unafflicted, could develop an allergy to copper or brass, we cannot abide silver. Its effects are felt instantly and painfully. It burns the skin, though it does not smoke like popular culture would have you believe, and saps our energy almost instantly, but the minute its effects are removed the body heals one hundred times faster than that of a healthy person, provided that the damage was not fatal. Our healing is by no means immediate. If our internal organs are damaged enough we die, if our heads are severed we die, if we are exsanguinated we die, if we do not consume blood or any other nourishment for prolonged periods of time we die-in fact the virus requires constant sustenance otherwise it turns on the body and begins to consume it from the inside if left unnourished. We cannot survive underwater, in oxygen depleted conditions or in freezing weather. We are different, we are superior, we are predatory and often base but in no way are we undead or immortal. Simply put, our bodies acquire different properties as these exist in nature and all for the proliferation of VN73.
History is written by the victors, and even though Erzsébet Báthory’s story has been told countless times before by those that survived her, it was never told by anyone who experienced it all first hand and who remembers it all clearly. For those unfamiliar with this formidable woman, she was a Hungarian Countess who lived in the 17th century and who was rumoured to have tortured and killed over six hundred young girls in order to bathe in their blood to maintain her youthful appearance. Her myth has been greatly embellished over the years, untruths were added and crucial facts were taken away which would have helped clarify who this woman really was and why she behaved the way that she did. Simply, the truth lies in the fact that she was Afflicted by VN73.

Unfeterred musings on time, death and vampires (what else?)

There is a school of thought that teaches us that time is not real, but merely a man-made construct, a non-existent illusion. I have given this matter a bit of thought as I am quite fond of outside the box thinking, especially when it comes to my writing, but I just can’t bring myself to agree with it. We live on a planet that rotates on its axis and around the sun and each rotation is inevitably divisible into units of time the most obvious of which is the 24 hour day. Even if time were not partitioned in the even segments we have broken it up in, it would still very much exist within the framework of life on earth. Even if men were not cognisant beings with the ability to forage, hunt, farm, engineer, and thus progress with every day they have been on this planet, time would still exist and time would still pass. From the time of, and in no particular order, the formation of the planet, Pangaea, evolution, the Dinosaurs and whatever else, time has still passed. It took a certain amount of time for the continents to shift, it took a certain amount of time for sponges to turn into lizards, it took a certain amount of time for man to go from cave to businessman and in a certain amount of time the sun will run out of light, fuel or whatever the sun runs on and life as we know it on this planet will cease to exist (all that is of course in a very idealistic view of the future, where the actions of mankind in no way go on to expedite aforementioned cessation of life). So where I’m going with this rant, is that time exists, in a real and pragmatic way, time exists as it has always done. If the earth were hypothetically to stop spinning and just froze on the spot of its axis would time stop? I don’t know, because this is wading into scientific waters I am unfamiliar with, but I can hazard a guess at no. Tempus Fugit and that is a universal truth.

What I’m trying to say in very broad terms, however successfully remains to be seen, is that time exists, and it is the constant by which all humans measure their life on earth. We wake up, wash our faces, get dressed and go out to work every day and we break up this day in 24 equal parts which are constantly changing in a rotational fashion. Philosophically speaking (again) we are never in the same spot of longer than a millisecond as in its smallest denominations time passes faster than we are even capable of perceiving, and sooner or later death will come for us all. From the day we are born we march towards an unknown date of death, in fact I have always believed that people are in a state of permanent denial and un-manifested depression because we all know we have to die one day. Life is beautiful for the most part, if you ignore the pained and anguished bits, so why would you want to leave, right? When we are young we think that death is so far away that it does not feature into our thoughts but very quickly we learn that life is unbelievably short and things need to be accomplished, stat! By our late twenties to thirties we realise that though still young there are a lot of things that are important to us which need to be achieved (work, love, marriage, kids, travelling, divorce-that-what-was-I-thinking-idiot, regretted tattoos) in order for us to experience happiness before that dreaded moment of death. It is during this time that we realise or are told that a life well lived is important and that the best state to be in at the time of death is one of no regrets, provided one has lived it to its fullest.

On a side note, (though I feel this post could be filled with them if I’m not careful) the no-regrets-thing is not a tenet I subscribe to personally, as that would imply one has either lived perfectly, (really who does that?) or that they have learned nothing from their mistakes along the way, but generally speaking, whether we do this or not, i.e. live well and fully, is a whole other matter perhaps to be dedicated to another blog post, for I fear I’m losing my train of thought. Bear with me, it was late when I started this.

Which brings me to the reason I began this sorry excuse for a blog post in the first place, and inevitably the subject of my book-Vampires. Vampires are the eternal beings of folklore and myth with the ambiguous origins and which for the most part are comprised of two or three basic principles (variations notwithstanding); they are eternal, immortal/undead, unable to abide the sun and survive purely by the consumption of human blood. Of all bodily fluids blood is the most intriguing and valuable. It oxygenates our organs, it nourishes, cleans, protects and holds the secrets of everything that makes us who we are, it is our biological essence and it has mystical properties too (speaking from a literary perspective always).

Vampires have fascinated people ever since they were put on paper, whether that was in the time of Bram Stoker, when superstition was more integrated into the fabric of life or whether that was yesterday in this age of science and logical explanations for everything. Vampires have certain innate qualities that both constantly terrify and captivate us. Few supernatural beings are as flexible with their abilities or have held our imaginations as much as Vampires do. Admittedly today we subscribe to a softer vampire, particularly in books and stories aimed at young adults, but Vampires continue to entertain us through the media of books, movies, graphic novels and songs.

I believe that somewhere in the heart of each and every Vampire fan and Vampire author lays one fundamental question: “Would I give up my humanity in order to live for ever?” There is a bartering that takes places whenever a Vampire is “born” where for the price of immortality they are forced to shed their humanity and relinquish all life as they know it in order to become immortal, and inadvertently they almost always become sub-human, cruel beings who are bored of their endless predatory existences. Through Vampire lore we are forced to consider our quality of life in relation to the price of immortality. Time is such a precious a commodity for us that we inadvertently ask ourselves, would I sacrifice so much in order to never die and have all the time in world?

There is a duality in Vampire fiction where one is forced to contemplate eternal life versus humanity and if one were to distance themselves from the genre they would reach the conclusion that age equals wisdom, maturity and forgiveness but for the interest of story we do not allow these creatures to live well or to thrive or even be happy with their new found “blessing”. Who has heard of or wants to see a happy Vampire afterall? Vampires are by nature anti-heroes, they are tormented by their pasts and murderous natures and oddly enough by a spiritual void they cannot fill. What happens to the Vampiric Soul when they are destroyed? Where does it go? Do they even have souls? Childish trifles you might exclaim, but food for thought all the same, for a good story needs to examine all angles of logic even in a supernatural setting in order to bring on suspension of disbelief in the reader.

And now for the Blurb (with a capital ‘B’)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blurb, and have come to the conclusion that it needs to be short and sweet as well as enticing and captivating, so how do you encapsulate an entire book in one paragraph without missing anything? Well it’s kinda hard but this is what I’ve come up with so far. It could potentially be changed when the book is finalized, but I think the gist is there.

The year is 1609 and fourteen year old Kati lives with her mother in the outskirts of Csejthe Castle in Hungary, the home of the powerful Countess Erzsébet Báthory. Isolated on a hill inside a dense forest the castle is surrounded by vicious rumors of black magic, disappearances and murder. When the Countess personally shows up at Kati’s house looking to offer her a job in the castle, Kati is excited to be going off on an adventure and by the possibility of helping her mother break out of the poverty that threatens their wellbeing. Once at the castle however, Kati quickly discovers that all the rumors were true and girls that are brought here are going missing at an alarming rate while the Countess is behind it all, drinking the blood of her victims and torturing them for her pleasure. Finding herself in a desperate situation Kati realizes she must uncover the centuries of secrets behind the Countess’s deranged behavior and stop her before it’s too late for her and everyone she loves.