Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: The Hunt by Linell Jeppsen

This novel is described on Amazon as a story where two vampire factions clash in the Washington State woods during the height of deer season. When I read this, I thought: "Lunchtime!" Ancient creatures meet tourists? It worked for Jurassic Park...

If you are hoping for a major bloodbath, however, you will be disappointed. Two ancient foes do meet in a final conflict that has consequences for the humans who are unfortunate enough to be in the way. Outside of a few well-described deaths, though, the main focus is on the life and relationships of Raphael Goldhawk, half-breed and eventual king of the high vampire council.

In the world Jeppsen creates, vampires are a different, older species than humans. They resemble angels in many ways: they're winged, they have an alien beauty, and most of them have Biblical names (Gabriel, David, Lael). The race has become infertile over the centuries, so their hope of continuation rests with Raphael and his offspring. Raul (non-Biblical name) is the villain of the piece. To Raul and his followers, humans are food and Raphael has no business hanging around with real vampires. This leads to a series of conflicts that resulted in the death of Raphael's wife and a duel between the two vampires two hundred years ago. Raphael spares Raul's life, to his regret.

Jeppsen writes reasonably well, but the novel has serious structural problems. The story begins with the viewpoint of the humans, set in the here and now, but the overwhelming majority of the book is background, telling us the saga of Raphael Goldhawk. I found myself wondering when we were going to return to the present time and rejoin the main storyline. To me, it seems that the story of Raphael was the main storyline and should have been presented as such.

That said, I think that Linell Jeppsen is, overall, a promising writer. She went to the trouble of researching the things she could research for her story and sought out input from others (whom she acknowledges in her introduction). Her human characters are markedly different from her vampires in the way they think, speak, and their background descriptions. The joining of Raphael and Melissa, for example, is much more mythic and dramatic than the 'real folks' relationship of Holly and Brian. The characters of Raphael and his family are compelling enough to follow, despite my comments on the overall novel structure.

About the Author
Linell Jeppsen is a retired grocery store checker and high school custodian. She has been writing her entire life, but was recently chosen by Phyllis Scott Publishing for her novel, The Hunt.
She had previously won third place in a science fiction short story contest for "The Gag Gift", which is featured in Mixed Blessing and other Short Stories and The Last Astronaut.
Linell is now hard at work on her second novel, titled Story Time. It is a science-fiction, post-apocalyptic novel, which is due to be released this fall.
For more information about Linell and her work, please visit:


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Vrykolakas: Another Type of Vampire

Vampire Awareness Month (mostly being hosted by Amy Mah) is a good time to talk about an often-overlooked Greek variant of the species: the vrykolakas.

One of the traditional Greek curses was "May the earth not receive you!" This was the case with the vrykolakas (plural vrykolakes). Instead of decaying in the grave, the flesh swells up and take on a 'drum-like' texture (this is the term all my references use).

The vrykolakas is a little different from the 'regular' vampire in that you rarely read about one drinking blood. They prefer milk, lots of it, fresh from the goat. Although the vrykolakas is classified as a vampire, I could see where a comparisons to the zombie could also be made. Vrykolakes are fairly ugly, and property damage, disease spreading, and rending people seem to be their preferred activities.

A person can become a vrykolakas after death by being very wicked in life or by being excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church (according to John Cuthbert Lawson, the Church alternately boasted and disavowed this claim). Eating meat previously gnawed on by a wolf/werewolf put you at risk (the werewolf in life/vampire in death trope). Violating various taboos or being cursed by a parent were also potential causes, as was having your baptism screwed up (back to the priests again).

Lawson claimed that Greeks could tell which way a vrykolakas came into being by a using handy color-code system from the Church of St. Sophia at Thessalonica, reproduced here:
He who has left a command of his parents unfulfilled or is under their curse has only the front portions of his body preserved.
He who is under an anathema looks yellow and his fingers are wrinkled.
He who looks white has been excommunicated by divine laws.
He who looks black has been excommunicated by a bishop.
(Lawson, 370)
Wouldn't that make a good flash card for a monster-hunter?

Another part of the vrykolakas legend: if a vrykolakas knocked on the door and called your name, you must not answer. To answer meant that you would be dead within days (by sometimes unspecified means, although sitting on the chest of a sleeping victim was one method) and become one of the creatures yourself. However, unlike the postman, the vrykolakas would only call once, so it was a custom for Greeks to wait till they heard their name a second time before answering.

The island of Santorini, also known as Thera, was specifically known as a hotbed for vrykolakes. Simply Santorini's Greek Superstitions page claims that it was "known as the 'Island of the Vampires'", but no one seemed to know about them the one time I was privileged to visit the island. Both Lawson and the Superstitions page agree that Greeks on surrounding islands would bring the bodies of suspected vrykolakes to Santorini because experts in destroying the creatures resided there.

When I decided to write a story with a "Greek vampire", I set it on Santorini and introduced one such expert. Check it out on Amazon if you're interested.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Celebrity Roast

I think this is the best term for this past weekend. Memorabilia dealers, film professionals, gaming stores, and authors (mostly better known than me) set up shop during FandomFest Weekend in Louisville. Many celebrities, including John Carpenter, were featured guests of the convention. The program was great, but the hotel hosting the event shot itself in the foot. Their AC wasn't working during a time when the temperature outside was hitting 100 degrees.

Gwen and I were there representing Pill Hill Press, and dutifully baked away. Fortunately, we'd packed a cooler with water and Code Red, which was drained of all fluids by the end of the con. I suppose we could have sold drinks to the attendees and made a small fortune, but we selfishly valued our health above our bottom line. The first day was really the worst: we'd come directly from work and still had our work clothes on. The next two days, we wore shorts and tees. We'd packed nice clothes, but nice clothes were too hot. And hey, my Sandman tee was a big hit!

We weren't staying onsite, which was a splendid decision. We kept our room at the Holiday Inn set to 69 degrees and flopped on the bed every evening, feeling the heat leave us in waves.

The good part: the other writers. Gwen and I both attended - and sat in on - some wonderful panels. Gwen led a workshop on writing historical fiction, and she was also featured on panels for shopping your first novel and the mistakes beginning novelists make. I sat on the panels for paranormal novels and fan fiction, where I discovered that my first fanfic efforts probably began with The Black Stallion. I'd only traced my roots back to Betty and Veronica because I was thinking of human fanfic. Gwen and I both sat on the mystery panel, which was also great fun.

The other good part: the books. We were surrounded by book dealers. Oh, how I love books... I spent more money than we made, I assure you. The best selling items we had were our chapbooks of Gwen's Civil War short story and my horror story set in the Greek Isles. Overwhelmingly, however, the item passersby were most interested in was the postcard for zombie anthology Gone With The Dirt. I seriously think PHP might want to consider selling the cover design as posters or on T-shirts.

Many thanks must go to Stephen Zimmer for creating such an enjoyable literary track. He also spent most of his time trying to make life easier on us, rather than peddling his own books. I recommend that you go to Seventh Star Press and buy some of them to make up for his sacrifice.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vampire Awareness Month: Blood+ by Stavros

Blood Plus follows the supernatural exploits of a seemingly ordinary school girl, who just so happens to be a vampire, that hunts down and destroys Chiropterans. Chiropterans are bat-like, werewolf creatures that feed on human blood, and Saya Otonashi is the only one who can kill them. With merely faint allusions to the sensational 2000 anime movie, Blood - The Last Vampire, this half-hour anime television show isn’t a continuation of that story, but rather a full re-imagining. The name of the main character, Saya, remains the same and she hunts down these vicious metamorphosing killers, but there really is very little that would make anyone believe that she is a vampire…or that the show is a spin off from the noir horror classic.

To be fair to the show, I can not compare them. It would be like discerning the likes and dislikes of apples and oranges.  Blood+ isn’t bad. It’s rather awesome actually, but I want all die-hard fans of the anime movie to know up front and personal-like that the TV show is not like the movie…at all.

In this re-imaging Saya is an adopted teenager living with amnesia. Her adopted brothers Kai and Riku, and the faithful, cello-totting chevalier, Haji, aid her on her quests to make the world a safer place for a powerful organization known as Red Shield. Armed with her Katana, Saya must sacrifice her own blood onto the blade before it will kill the rancid beasts. Like any good anime the fight scenes are incredible, graphic, and taught with tension as Saya journeys to rediscover who and what she is.

My only beef with the show is that Saya was born in1833 and during the Vietnam War she entered a hypnotic blood trance and killed not only Chiropterans, but humans alike, thus starting her amnesic spell, and since then hasn’t aged. Okay, I get the part where it's cool to see a cutely drawn character in a school uniform kicking ass, but she’s been a teenager for well over a hundred and sixty years. Kinda smacks a little on the perverted Twilight side, if you ask me. But if you can get past the logistics of her age and the fact that she’s been in high school longer than Edward, then you are going to get involved in a great show. 

Blood+ is rich with drama, emotional strain, and endearing characters. It may not slip easily into the vampire genre, as Saya doesn’t conform to the traditional trappings of being nocturnal, having fangs, or needing to drink blood on a regular basis, it does, however, posses its own mythology. Though the show is geared more toward a younger audience, don’t let that put you off. Good anime is hard to find, and Blood+ delivers the goods. Available on Netflix and Hulu, all four seasons of Blood+ are bound into two self-contained parts, ready for streaming or home delivery. 

Written by Stavros

Stavros was a writer and editor for The Independent Underground Magazine. Raised in Southern Maryland, he fled the Chesapeake Bay area as soon as he was able, only to return, after spending years in the desert. His poetic works have been published in several online and print publications, including Central Avenue, The Sword That Cuts Through Stone, The Mynd, Imagine: Creative Arts Journal, and Bartleby, where he won a specialty award for his poem, "Blackbird".

He is a photographer and graphic designer; a musician, who has been writing and performing music his whole life. Stavros is the author of Blood Junky. He is currently penning the book’s upcoming sequels, as well as writing scripts for web-serials, independent films, and creating fascinating and original art.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vampire Awareness Month: Blade the Series as viewed by Amy Mah (Vampire)

Amy Mah, author of Fangs Rule: a Girls Guide to Being a Vampire, is a new and very funny author who writes and blogs about life as a modern teenage vampire trying to put up with both humans and fellow vampires. The author Amy has been transformed into a manga character and her real image has been changed into the wonderful images you will see in her books and this is all anyone has seen of what she looks like in real life. This may sound strange, but then all you see of A-list celebrities are Photoshopped pics in magazines.

We are not saying she is really is a vampire, but it is just very hard to take her photo, and sometimes she bites people.

Her book, Fangs Rule, can be found as a Paperback or Kindle on Amazon at:

Blade: the Series as viewed by Amy Mah (Vampire)

Here we have a dark blood thirsty murdering evil that walks the night in search of new ways of killing…Am I talking about vampires?

No, I am talking about Blade! This monster is a cross between Buffy and Van Helsing, but on acid!

He is very special as he is a day walker type of vampire. This is very rare, but does he use his great gift for good? No just for death and mayhem, which is dished out with such great pleasure, to both his own kind and humans?

He likes to kill with a sword as he says it is a good way to kill vampires…duh …Like it is a good way to kill most things in both the undead and living world the loss of a head is nature’s way of saying goodbye to the need of visiting a hairdresser ever again.

So that he does not need to drink blood he has a special drug that has to be injected regularly as takes away his blood addiction, one just wishes it would also take away his gross antisocial habits.

Oh yes, the drug also make you vomit if you eat food, so not someone you will ever wish to have a meal with.

Different from the films: In the TV series, he has two partners…  er...  well I say partners… “Shen” is someone to help with weapons and whom he treats like a vampire pet, and Krista who when turned into a vampire looks to me more normal when she is not taking the drug… Well she kills a lot less people when not on the drug, so I think perhaps it is the drug that makes her evil.

Like the time when two vampires were helping to drive her to a meeting and she just killed them without any real reason!

See evil… What normal person would do something like that if they were not on drugs!

But then normal goes out the window when Krista has to go swimming in a pool of blood… er. how stupid is that?

Just a way of letting everyone on the film set know she is female.

So the idea given of being nude is so she does not make the blood dirty? … er… Like would you like to drink it afterwards? And perhaps being the one that finds her pubic hairs in your mouth ... yuk … and she was under the surface for like 10 hours …without visiting the bathroom? … God, she must have a bladder made of cast iron! And another reason not to risk drinking blood people have bathed in!

She must have been just sitting under the surface of the blood with her legs crossed as there is not a lot you can do in blood… it is way too sticky to swim in and it separates so quickly when it starts to congeal that you would need to brake the surface scab to let her out …

So this is a very good TV series about a mass murderer, someone that has nothing better to do but kill tax paying vampires and their human servants …sorry … OK, he does not always kill the human servants…no sometimes he just gauges out the eyes!  ..  Er … episode 12 – 13 ...for gods sake the now blind man was only an architect, and all he was doing is designing a meeting house, so why be so nasty? Look at the new jobs he helped create in building construction sites, and now he is blind.

Going back to Blade who is something like a born vampire who started out by just killing people for blood like a normal vampire and then turning the only people that befriended him into vampires leaving left them to be ostracized by the rest of the vampire world because of what Blade got up to by killing vampires for pleasure.

At this point we learn that all gang members that were his friends and have the same gang tattoos as blade has and when they meet up he kills them all!  Well that is not someone I would like to have as a friend on Facebook.

Apart from the normal day to day killings he is kinda pissed off with the House of Chthon but never quite sure why as it is a very good vampire business which supports the arts and local politics, the manager of the House is a turnling called Marcus he is mega cute and without the drug Krista enjoyed being bedded by him on a number of occasions, at least once while Blade watches! The Pervert!!

The ending of the series is good but needs a second series hopefully showing a great and glorious permanent death of Blade so that we can all sleep a little easier in our coffins.

Review By: Amy Mah, Vampire, Blogger and Author of Fangs Rule: a Girls Guide to Being a Vampire

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vampire Awareness Month: Carl Kolchak

This post is part of Vampire Awareness Month, the cooperative effort of many vampire fans. This post is X-posted at Amy Mah's blog. Amy is kindly hosting the VAM posts as well! Below is a subject near and dear to my heart: 

Carl Kolchak: the Night Stalker
In 1972, a TV movie grabbed my imagination and wouldn't let go. Its name: The Night Stalker. The main character, Carl Kolchak, is a reporter covering a series of murders in Las Vegas. During the investigation, he discovers clues that the suspected killer is a vampire. He is skeptical at first, but becomes a True Believer by the conclusion of the film and takes the vampire down alone, at great risk to himself.

Kolchak was inconveniently thrown out of Las Vegas in the first film, so the second TV movie starring this unusual hero was set in Seattle. No vampire this time, but the second film was so successful that a television series was born. In the series, Kolchak set up house in Chicago with his editor, Tony Vincenzo. Vincenzo was his editor in the films, too, which makes you wonder how good Kolchak was when he wasn't chasing monsters - or if something else was going on there.

Kolchak: the Night Stalker was my "absolutefavoritegottasee" show during its run from 1974-75. Kolchak, with his often-damaged tape recorder, never-ready camera, and dumb-looking straw hat was the perfect hero for a girl who wanted to go to Duke for a degree in parapsychology. Carl (given name Karel as per the Jeff Rice book) wanted to explore the paranormal - and offer proof to everyone else. Alas, the latter was always denied. I loved Darren McGavin's voiceovers, giving us the story of each monster - and each victim. They were always so much more convincing than the schemes he used to wangle his way into crime scenes and out of trouble with Vincenzo.

The vampires, like the other creatures in the Night Stalker series, were not like the werewolves, witches or vampires in today's popular fiction. They were true monsters, inhuman creatures with human form. They preyed on their victims without remorse or angst. About the only thing they have in common with modern paranormal heroes is that many of them were good-looking. 

I dearly loved the show, but my major beef with it was Kolchak's tendency to go after the monsters he chased during their time of greatest power. Usually, this meant after dark, during the full moon, etc. Didn't he realize that this was a great way to get killed? After spending some years writing, though, I've realized that stopping the monster was not his first objective - getting the story was. Stopping the creature was a bonus, but often connected to self-preservation. Just like a reporter...

The series lived for only one season, but the legend of Kolchak continues. Copies of Jeff Rice's book and the videos of the two TV movies can be had, but at an exorbitant price. An anthology was released a few years back with various authors' versions of Kolchak stories. The Night Stalker is cited as one of the inspirations for the X-Files television series, and this was acknowledged in 1998 when Darren McGavin came on the show as FBI Special Agent Arthur Dales, the first agent to investigate what became the "X-Files". In 2005, ABC tried airing a new Night Stalker series, but it was an enormous flop. It just wasn't the same without McGavin. I hear that a film version with Johnny Depp may be in the works, but people think Johnny Depp is going to play everything.

Its legacy for this author? I didn't get a degree in parapsychology, but I did get one in journalism. The major focus of my writing has been the occult and paranormal, including vampires. I call it fiction, but you never know...


Friday, July 01, 2011

FandomFest Weekend

In case you haven't heard of FandomFest, it's taking place in Louisville the weekend of July 22-24. It's a gathering for fandoms of all sorts - gamers, comic collectors, horror movie fans, zombie fans... everyone from John Carpenter to yours truly will be there!

Gwen Mayo and I will both be participating in FandomFest's Literary Track. My schedule is below:

7:00 pm     Concourse: Signing
10:00 pm   Panel Room C: Reading

2:00 pm     Panel Room B: Mystery Writing

10:00 am
   Panel Room B: Writing Fan Fiction
3:00 pm      Panel Room B: The Paranormal in Fiction

Gwen Mayo and I will also be running the Pill Hill Press booth in the vendors' area. Come by to get a signed copy of All This and Family, Too or Circle of Dishonor! Gwen and I will also be offering Tarot readings.