Mini thoughts…

Symbols

Why do we choose stone memorials when our loved ones die? How can a cold hard stone represent everything you once shared with that person? Everything they meant to you, the memories you shared, the things they taught you, the love you had for one another?

The earth moves, it shifts, it compacts, it swallows your friend, your parent, your spouse, holding them prisoner under layers of clay from where they return to the elements and yet you worship the stone, talk to the stone, feel comforted by the stone. The stone comes to symbolise all that that person once meant to you, all that they were; like an anchor for their soul.

How poor is the stone for it does not hear and does not understand, it does not sympathise but maybe it alleviates. The cold hard stone offers comfort like the person beneath it used to do. It is the silent guard of a cargo that is both worthless and invaluable.

You bring flowers for the dead but they wilt and die so you bring some more. You light candles and say prayers yet they remain unanswered and the stone just glistens in the sun, staring back at you like the impenetrable memorial it is supposed to be, with a permanence you wish the person beneath it had.

Double Dead by Chuck Wendig: review.

Double Dead (Double Dead, #1)Double Dead by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is so cool that after reading it any Fantasy Author will say “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Or maybe it’s just me.

Coburn the Vampire wakes up post apocalypse in a world overrun by zombies. To a hungry Vampire, humans have gone from a fast food level of availability to foraging in the desert in July levels. They are very hard to come by and when he does find them he has to fight the zombies for them. If that isn’t an awesome concept, I don’t know what is.

In order to survive he forges a fragile alliance with a group of people who promise to offer him some of their blood in exchange for his help in fighting the zombies while they try to find a safe place to stay. They, of course, run into a lot of undesirable characters and compromising situations during their journey but Coburn helps them through it all as his humanity slowly overcomes his baser side.

The story is one we’ve all seen before in the post apocalypse spectrum. The world is full of danger; good people turn bad due to circumstance and commit terrible atrocities in the name of survival, but it’s done well and is convincing.

In many ways this book reminded me of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ in its harshness, imagination and emotion. I have said this before but I’ll say it again: Chuck Wending is this generation’s Stephen King. He writes with grit and doesn’t spare any punches, only his is a more millennial style. He is more concise in the creation of his universes, but no less rich, and the work never suffers. He just knows that readers today want to get there faster.

I don’t mind that. If I’m being perfectly honest I’ve yet to see anyone reach King’s levels of character development or world building and neither would I want to; King is King and Wendig is Wendig. I make the comparison simply as a way of highlighting his skill level.

Double Dead is part of a series of Coburn the Vampire books so I was left with a few questions about how he came to be and why some characters exhibited certain abilities. I was also slightly irked by the fact that he’s virtually indestructible, but his weaknesses fill that void. In all I would have like a little more background on Coburn but no doubt that’s to come later.

Great crossover of the Zombie and Vampire genres.

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Seven nights in Florence and a day in Padua

As I was saying the other day, this summer I had the opportunity to visit Florence. Florence, alongside Rome from two years ago, has always been one of those lifelong dreams, and I was very fortunate that this year I managed to make it a reality.

Walking into the Uffizi Gallery and facing Michelangelo’s Tondo just before the next room where I was flanked by Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to my right and La Primavera on the left were moments I have looked forward to since childhood (ok teenagehood). Also seeing the David up close and personal was a moment beyond anything I can describe. It was like meeting old pen-pals face to face and realizing they’re better than your wildest expectations.

Michelangelo's David in the flesh
Michelangelo’s David in the flesh

But I digress, the minutiae of my holiday aren’t the point here. Part of the reason I chose Florence this summer was the fact that it is close to Padua which is where a small part of Vampire Edifice is set. Padua University, in fact, is rumoured to be the second oldest university in Europe with an anatomy school that rivals none in prestige and history. It was home to several prominent figures like Galileo, Andreas Vesalius (father of modern Anatomy) and William Harvey, who discovered blood circulation, to name just a few. On a side note, in the hall of the forty I noticed a drawing of a man called Stephano Bathory (King of Poland) 1533-1586 who I am more than intrigued to research at some point for obvious reasons.

Padua University
Palazzo Del Bo

I can honestly say that the trip to PU was going to be as much of a highlight of the trip as the Medici Mausoleum or the David and at €5 for an hour tour I was very excited to make the three hour journey to Padua from Florence and back. Thanks are owed to my kindle and A Song of Ice and Fire for hours of entertainment.

Anyhoo, the first blow of the tour came in the fact that we were not allowed to take pictures of the rooms. Big bummer, ‘cause I’d planned a detailed blog post of the bloody thing. Secondly the tour guide lady was very economical with the details of the place. In fact, when she was asked a question about certain inscriptions on the walls she promised to come back to it later but never actually took the time.

The biggest bummer of all however came in the form of the Anatomy theatre, which I’d been looking forward to seeing all summer long, in anticipation of the trip. For those not in the know, an anatomy theatre is an inverse conical space, think upside down traffic cone, where students of anatomy would collect in order to watch the dissection of corpses in the name of science. PU’s Anatomy theatre was built in 1594 by Gerolamo d’ Acquapendente and was made world famous by some of the aforementioned historical personalities.

Were we allowed to see that? Oh no, that would’ve been too normal a thing to do on a specialist tour. Instead we were led in under it, picture the eye of the cone, and made to look up through the hole. Though there was a level of geeky coolness in the fact that this was the way the corpses got to see it, by way of practicality, it was next to useless. Atmospheric? Yes! Pointless? Also yes!

Whatever the case, though I was disappointed by the tour experience, I did love the location and of course the History of the place. What I did get to see and ask about satisfied my research needs for the book (I like to have visited the locations I write about wherever possible) and hey, I got to stand in the same rooms that Galileo and Harvey et al did almost five centuries ago. Can’t fault that.

On another note, whatever satisfaction I didn’t get from the tour at PU, I got in spades from the Museo La Specola in Florence itself. The museum holds one of the largest collections of wax anatomical aids from the 18th century and is an incredible sight for all lovers of medical history and the macabre.

Little Wax Massacre
Little Wax Massacre

The museum itself is not that well marketed and is home to series of other random exhibits which suddenly lead to the wax models in a slightly surreal shift of mood. It is an amazing place, with incredibly well-crafted pieces which marry the worlds of history, sculpture and medicine into an unforgettable experience. I know I sound a bit tourist guide-y but think of the fact that these models were sculpted from life (or death to be precise) in the days before refrigeration. Chew on that for a moment…

To my good fortune, due to its lack of promotion no doubt, there were only two families in the entire museum along with me, which gave the space an added air of sobriety. At times it felt as if the whole place was mine.

Flayed Man
Flayed Man

Vampire Edifice now available for pre-order!

Very often my blog posts are like buses, there’s none for ages and then a bunch come together. To avoid a big post with several topics however, I’ll talk a bit about the book today and tomorrow about some of the research I’ve been doing in recent days. What’s historical fiction after all without some decent research?

Edifice

The last couple of weeks have been super busy for me, I finished editing my book, went on holiday (which I combined with a research trip to Padova) and have spent the best part of this week formatting and listing it on Amazon (the listing part was quite quick admittedly).

Vampire Edifice: The Awakening is now officially finished and ready. It’s on pre-order, and will be available as of next Monday 10/08/15 while I wait for ARC reviews to come in.

I’m very pleased with the end result, though it was more delayed than I expected, but as it stands, I’d rather have a top product than a rushed one.

As some of you may have already gathered the book picks up where the last one left off, with Kati’s escape from the Countess and follows her during the four years she spends away from Csejthe. The world of Affliction opens up to the reader as Kati begins to come into her own.

Final Blurb:

Hungary 1610 A.D.

A wave of terror grips Csejthe village as Erzsébet Báthory’s long list of crimes comes to light, forcing Kati, who managed to escape death at the hands of the Countess, to go into hiding after her close call.

Having caught the Countess red handed, Palatine Thurzó is shocked by the atrocities committed by his cousin and becomes intent on getting to the heart of the murders. Events unfold further when he is put on Kati’s trail by one of Báthory’s co-conspirators.

Kati is then forced to risk a return to Csejthe in order to cover her tracks and hide the journals which threaten to expose the Afflicted. The task proves more dangerous than she thought, however, and she is forced to flee to Vienna where she hopes to find more of her kind.

Once there she is accepted into an Afflicted paradise where she is supported, educated and helped to deal with the pain of her past. When she discovers that Báthory’s ill son is secretly being held in a Sanatorium for the marginalized and depraved, though, she comes to the conclusion that all is not as it seems and her life might be in danger once more…

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.

bgf

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

To Blurb or not to Blurb? -To Blurb, Duh!

I’m starting to put together a blurb for Vampire Edifice.
Here is what I came up with just now.
I suspect I’m going to have to change a lot of it as I’m not sure it’s concise enough.

If you have comments feel free to share them, the floor (or comment section) is yours.

Vampire Edifice: Affliction Series #2

As soon as Kati escapes death at the clutches of Countess Erzsébet Báthory she realizes she risks detection by Palatine Thurzo who is investigating the murders of the countless girls that died at her mistress’s hands.

Intent on finding the missing victim everyone is talking about, the Palatine searches the castle and uncovers hints of possible written evidence. Wanting to protect Afflicted Vampires, Kati risks being caught in order to hide the journals.

When one of the Countess’s conspirators threatens to expose her to the Palatine she is left with no choice but to leave, making her way to Vienna to see if everything the Countess described in her journals was true.

There, she finds an Afflicted Paradise where she is accepted and helped to deal with the pain of her past. When she discovers that Báthory’s ill son is secretly being held in a Sanatorium for the marginalized and depraved however, she comes to the conclusion that all is not as it seems and her life might be in danger once more…

Review of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

KokoroKokoro by Natsume Sōseki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kokoro is a slow book and the first half is hard to get into. It deals with a young man and his admiration of an older scholarly gentleman whom he wishes to make part of his life. Sensei, the older man, is awkward and aloof and is hard to get to know. His only constant is the monthly visits to the grave of a friend from his youth, a part of his life which is clearly a source of pain.

During the second half of the book the protagonist must return home to his parents after his father falls ill and there he receives a letter from Sensei telling him everything he’s been dying to know about his youth.

This book is highly acclaimed and has even been called a masterpiece, at which I wondered even after I was more than half way through. I was tempted to put it down on several occasions, but despite its slowness, it flowed well enough to keep me going. This, coupled with the acclaim, was the reason I didn’t abandon it.

I’m very glad I did keep going because it all comes together at the end. It is a masterpiece of Japanese societal subtlety, culture and mindset and is built with the litotis and balance that the Japanese do so well. It should be read with a Zen frame of mind when action isn’t high on your plot agenda.

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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.

Dracula-NBC-2013-promotional-wallpaper-dracula-nbc-34550041-1023-768

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.

Penny_Dreadful_Season_2_Posters_02

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.

One step closer

So it is done! The umpteenth draft of Vampire Edifice is out of my hands and into those of my copy editor for a second plot opinion as well as proofing for typos and grammar.

This means that I am one step closer to the finish line. Hopefully I will be getting the draft back in a few weeks at most, at which point I will be doing the final corrections and then onto the dreaded formatting. Thankfully this time the plot is more straight forward and will not require funky tricks to separate the story within the story. The cover is ready to go, so now I must put some thought towards the blurb.

Hold the line please-

Teeny Tiny update

As I’m in the throws of editing before I send the final draft of ‘Vampire Edifice’ to the copy editor, I won’t be posting anything for a few days due to a very tight schedule.

Watch out for new posts after the 15th when it’ll be off my plate and I will be able to resume book 3 (currently no title) as well as foster loftier thoughts and discuss matters of entertainment.

Virtual hugs to you all.