In the Presence of Blood…

…A Vampire is Born.

Without further ado, here’s the final cover for the third book in the Affliction Series.

With some luck and more hard work, it will be coming out in April provided both my editors are done on time and my ARC reviews don’t take too long. I’ll be sending ARC copies by the end of March so anyone interested comment below or contact me via all other available channels and I’ll put your name on the list.

In other news, Bathory’s Secret print version has been a little delayed, but will also be available in the coming weeks. I’ll send out notifications as soon as that’s nearing completion as well. Vampire Edifice will follow but not before the end of spring.

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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.

Elizabeth_Bathory_Portrait

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.

I was really partial to this bit, but needs must…

Continuing on the editing theme, I’ve decided to post a bit here that will never make it in the first book as I’ve changed the structure somewhat. Initially the book was going to start with a modern setting and dive into the past and back again, but I decided against that approach, for reasons that shall remain a secret for the moment, (I can’t exactly divulge everything now can I?) as well as a sacrifice to the editing process.

So, besides the teazers that I post from time to time, this is an actual part of the story so feel free to consider it the excerpt that will never be:

She stood there in her rubber tipped converse, skinny jeans and hands in the pockets of her well-worn vintage leather jacket; her auburn hair was pulled back in a high, tight ponytail which shone under the fading light of the October sun. She wore an enormous pair of vintage Channel sunglasses which left very little skin exposed above her cheeks and underneath them. Her pupils had narrowed to the smallest, almost imperceptible pin. Her lips were small but perfectly formed and pale. She had freckles on her cheeks and also on her neck which disappeared into the back of her jacket and one could imagine she had them all over her body too. She was slim and of small build, almost fragile looking but with an air of sovereignty unmatched to her sense of style. Even with the massive sunglasses she was squinting in the sun and seemed relieved if a cloud lingered over it from time to time.

It was bitterly cold but you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at her. She appeared indifferent to it but well aware of her surroundings, which seemed to make her feel uncomfortable. She looked up to the sky and inhaled with her eyes closed trying to take in all the fine details of the place, a bit like a cat will sniff the air in order to identify something delicious or new. She walked about aimlessly pretending to look around, take the place in. The sound of the undergrowth and the crisp brittle leaves underfoot awfully audible to her ears. When she stepped on to the path, the harsh gravel dug into her soles and felt painful, though not as much as the last time she had been here. You would’ve thought she’d know what to wear after all these years.

The ground seemed to tell no tales, regardless of the countless bodies that no doubt still lay there undiscovered. She had read that there was research and experiments being done on the grounds by some amateur geophicists but nothing conclusive had turned up yet. She wondered if they had looked in the abandoned well that had been filled in after the supposed discovery of “black” water. She remembered starting the rumor about the black water and the dog that died on the spot the minute he drank it. The truth was that the well served as an excellent dumping site for her and Jo as it was really deep and disposal was generally becoming more and more difficult to pull off as the years wore on and the priests caught wind of the murders and were threatening to alert the Emperor.

She decided to make the fifteen minute journey down the hill to the well. The stone path led all the way to it, and she was surprised to see how quickly it all came back to her. The place had changed significantly of course, the forest had seemed to shrink and she could occasionally hear the faint sound of cars which was an odd new addition to the landscape. The smell was different too, not so woody and a lot less foul, from the reduction in livestock no doubt. It was all much more artificial, if one could say that about a forest. When she finally got to the well, she once again cursed the fact that she hadn’t thought to wear hiking boots, and soon realized that her years in the city had made her lose her connection to the outdoors. Looking around, she found that the well was gone, replaced by more gravel and the odd log, and again there was nothing there to bear witness to the goings on of the distant past. It all felt very normal indeed. Time does heal all wounds I guess, she thought to herself.

 

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.

I finally have a cover!!

So even though it’s still a bit early (my book comes out in February/March of next year) I have gone ahead and commissioned the cover. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used 99designs.com and was presented with a multitude of designs from a number of artists that shortlisting them was actually very difficult in a couple of instances.
The winning design was done by a very talented graphic designer called Lilien Hoffman and the reason I selected it was because it captured the essence of my book very simply and very effectively. I feel it portrays mystery, history and vampirism without focusing on the clichés that Elizabeth Bathory has come to be identified with.

Without further ado I present you with my awesome new cover!1800x2700x300DPI

Another little teaser, since I’ve yet to finalize my cover

The twins had been brought to the Countess during a bad harvest year when they were just ten years old. They were poorly dressed but neat and clean and their blonde hair was done in two long and thin braids on either side of their faces, which reached all the way to their tummies and tied off with a piece of red raffia. They stood in front of her tightly holding hands looking solemnly at the ground. A tear on the cheek of one of them fell to the ground. They were the mirror image of each other and though at first glance they looked as identical as two peas in a pod, on closer examination the face of one was slightly rounder than the other and her eyes were a fraction closer together. The miserable image of their emaciated father stood behind them pathetically blabbering but she had mostly blocked him out; these peasants were all the same, always suffering… She remembered him saying something about them being too poor to support eleven children and how eternally grateful they would be if she could take them into her employ. They didn’t even need to get paid, he said, just fed and sheltered in exchange for their hard work. Apparently they were very hard working and she could always use a new pair of hands or two at the castle the way they seemed to drop off lately. Flies were hardier than some of the people that worked for her.

Reaching into the folds of her ample skirts she withdrew a small pouch with gold in. Her large rings obstructed her fingers as she tried to get a coin out. Such vulgarity the exchange of money but an inevitable necessity. She threw it at the father, who greedily grabbed it despite his earlier protestations, and agreed to take the girls who had both started to cry now, but quite modestly at least. Clutching the coin tightly in his hands he knelt down, hugged them and told them to be good and do as the Countess said. Quite a touching little scene she thought to herself but it was time he went on his way and they got to work.  

“Darvulia! Darvulia where are you?”

The portly witch rushed into the chamber drying her hands on her apron.

“Darvulia we have new help, won’t you please show them to their quarters” she said as the corner of her mouth formed a little wry smile.