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Why Does the South Inspire Vampire Writers?

I’m at the World Horror Conference 2015. Tonight I was on a discussion panel, the topic Weird South: I Will Never Go Hungry Again: Why are So Many Contemporary Vampire Novels Set in the South?

Good Question!

My fellow panelists were:

Charlaine Harris, a native Southerner and author of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series on which the TV hit True Blood was based. Her latest novel is Dayshift, the second in her new Midnight Texas series.

Dacre Stoker, co-author of Dracula, the Un-dead (a sequel to Dracula , written by his great-grand uncle, Bram Stoker) and co-author of an England/Romania travel guide. A Southerner by marriage, his wife is from Charleston, South Carolina.

Carl Alves, author of Blood Street, a vampire mobster blood feud novel set in Philadelphia.

Jess Peacock, author of Such a Dark Thing, a theology of the vampire narrative in popular culture.

Andrew Greenberg, one of White Wolf’s original game developers on Vampire: The Masquerade — and a Southerner.

And me! Author of Bloodroom and The Bad Death, vampire novels set in South Carolina — and a damned yankee (a yankee who stayed, since I was 11 years old).

Ok, what is it about the South that inspires vampire writers? Charlaine Harris pointed out that the South is often economically depressed; really chronically depressed, and that people in peril develop rich, supernatural beliefs to explain the unpredictability of the human experience. (Charlaine doesn’t really speak this way; this is me paraphrasing her. She’s much more plain spoken, charming, and funny. When describing Southern traditions, such as “the nice lie”, her turn of phrase made us and the audience laugh out loud.) Dacre Stoker compared Romania to the Southeast US, in that their cultures were infused and enriched by immigrants over the centuries — Romania by Romans, Turks, Romany gypsies, and Europeans; and the South by Scots, Irish, Native Americans, Africans, French, and West Indians — and suggested that the influx of so many different cultures brought a crazy quilt of legends. Andrew Greenberg stressed that the influx of cultures did not make the South a melting pot; rather these cultures, by not blending, created tension that results in legends built (as all good novels are) on conflict and tragedy (and sometimes, though rarely, triumph). Jess Peacock built on this idea, emphasizing the vampire as the Other; an invading entity that is foreign, mysterious, dangerous, and tempting; saying that Southerners’ clannish nature identifies anyone whose great-grandparents weren’t born in the South as a suspicious Other. (I can attest that this is true — after living here for 25 years, they’d still say to me, “You’re not from around here, are you?”) Carl Alves suggested that the Southern personality itself — reckless, passionate, and romantic — embodies the traditional vampire mystique. He invited us to imagine Bram Stoker’s Dracula coming of age and being turned into a vampire in urban London instead of isolated, exotic Romania (Transylvania). It would have been a completely different novel! I suggested that the vampire’s obsession with his (or her) prey — that hypnotic, relentless, possessive hunger — mirrored the South’s climate and nature, its vibe. There is something about the South that gets inside you, clings and holds you, just as the Kudzu vine grows until it completely covers the building in its clutches, pulling it to the ground in the span of a few years. I have found that the South, though maddening in many ways, has wound itself around my heart. I will probably never move away. Like a vampire, the South is beguiling, entrancing, and seductive. There are logical reasons to run from a vampire, but logic can’t hold out against his allure.

Why do you think the South is so inspiring to vampire writers?


For Valentines Day

My vampire novel, Bloodroom, is an extremely dark and twisted romance. For Valentines Day, I give you an excerpt where two vampires, Julian and Swisher, argue about what love is.

Join their conversation on Valentines Day, 3PM CMT at the For the Love of the Written Word Facebook event.

What’s your definition of love? Tell us for a chance to win one of these great prizes:

1) Bloodroom — in audiobook

2) Bloodroom and The Bad Death — a two-fer e-book bundle 

3) Night at the Demontorium: The Complete Anthology — e-book ARC (or if hardcore horror isn’t your thing, an e-book of one of my novels)

See me at 3PM CMT Valentines Day. I can’t wait to hear what love means to you!

FLWWbannergraphic


Bloodroom is now an Audiobook!

 

audiobook cover for Bloodroom

Bloodroom

Who could resists those eyes! Wait’ll you hear him speak! Yes, Julian Mouret now has a voice, courtesy of award-winning narrator, Paul Heitsch. Bloodroom is now a downloadable audiobook. You can listen to a sample at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Neither Julian’s power as a ruling vampire or his place in Charleston society could prevent the savage incident that put Natalie’s life in his hands. Unable to resist the lush curve of her lips and the sensual promise in her brilliant eyes, Julian’s playing for time in the riskiest game of his life.

Book bloggers, contact me if you’re interested in a review copy of this audiobook.


Lighting Pallas: A Photoshop Trick

I recently altered some photos for a cast-of-characters animation on my site thebaddeath.com (the landing page for The Bad Death, the first in a historical trilogy and the second in the Bloodroom series of vampire novels). This blog post explains some tricks I used in Photoshop to make an image more atmospheric. First of all, meet Pallas, as pictured in the image I got from 123rf.com. Pallas is the best friend of the trilogy’s heroine, Anika. Pallas is either a victim, a predator, or both. To know for sure, read The Bad Death  😉

Once in Adobe Photoshop, I used the Apply Image feature to replace the black backdrop to an image of an outdoor setting. To learn more about this step, read my post called A Photoshop Trick for Book Marketing. After Applying the image to Pallas, I decided to change the lighting on Pallas’ image. You see the image above shows the woman in warm lighting. I wanted Pallas to look moonlit because in The Bad Death, Pallas is almost always sighted at night.

To cast a blueish moonlight glow over Pallas, I selected Image from Photoshop’s top menu, scrolled the dropdown menu to select Adjust, then chose Variations at the bottom of Adjust’s dropdown menu. The Variations pallet visually shows color adjustments. I chose “More Blue” and “More Cyan” to give Pallas a blue cast that would imply moonlight.

I wanted to make the moonlit sky more dramatic, so I copied the layer, cut out Pallas till I had only the sky on the copied layer, then used the blending feature of that layer to alter the sky. The blending feature causes the layer in question to react against the layer beneath it to produce a visual effect. If memory serves, I chose the Hard Light blending option. You can see in the third image how Pallas’ background has more contrast between highlight and shadow, resulting from my choice of blending option.

So, there you have it, boys and girls!


A Photoshop Trick for Book Marketing

I have cast-of-character strips on my book web pages, bloodroomthenovel.com and thebaddeath.com. They give potential readers a chance to read bios of major characters. Also, the individual images give me visual aids to use in marketing my books. For instance, I’ll post an individual character on Instagram with a provocative tagline and the web addy. Adobe offers a monthly subscription for Photoshop for less than $20/month, but you could probably find a good price on eBay or somewhere if you want to own it outright. 

At left, you’ll see the image I purchased at istockphoto.com has a dark background. Derek Murphy of Creativeindie Covers used this graphic to produce the cover for The Bad Death. At the time, I didn’t have a large file of Derek’s work. I used a jpeg of the cover in progress, pictured right. To change the model’s brown eyes to my heroine’s gold, I used Photoshop’s marquee tool to select the gold eyes from Derek’s small file and copied them into my large file, resizing them to fit my stock image.

 Then I had to give my Anika the background Derek had. I have a graphic design background, but this trick is easy if you know where Photoshop’s interface keeps the right tools. 

Since I also bought the blue watery background from istockphoto, I had that large Photoshop image to work with. I opened that image in Photoshop and copied into my  working file. Copying into my working file automatically put the background on its own layer. On Anika’s layer, I used Photoshop’s pen tool to draw a path around her. See that thin light outline? That’s the path.

When you click on the arrow in the Paths palette, a dropdown menu gives you the option to “Make Selection” of the path.

With the path selected, I clicked on Image in Photoshop’s top menu. From the Image dropdown menu, I chose “Apply Image”. At that point a palette popped up allowing me to select the layer containing the background. 

 TaDOW!

 


Winner Announced in Goodreads Giveaway

Martin Turner won an autographed print copy of The Bad Death. When I host a Goodreads Giveaway, I note with interest the distance of  the entrants from my home on the Redneck Riviera. Today, I’m almost ridiculously psyched to send my novel to the quaintly named area of Bexhill on Sea in England.

If you’re not Martin Turner, don’t despair. You can buy an autographed e-book of The Bad Death (and my other books, too) from Authorgraph, for no more $ than you’d pay Amazon for the non-autographed copy. You’re welcome 😉


Ballet, Then and Now

Ballet figures largely in my novels. Bloodroom, a twisted romance set in today’s Charleston, stars a vampire named Julian who’s obsessed with a ballerina. The Bad Death, a vampire novel set in 18th century South Carolina, stars a slave named Anika who’s possessed by the spirit of a modern ballerina. In The Bad Death, Julian is nonplussed (to say the least) when his field hand starts dancing like a prima ballerina and displaying some diva ‘tude. Taking a writerly grand jeté through time required a ballet history lesson.

Under possession by the modern ballerina’s spirit, Anika’s movements look exaggerated to Julian’s 18th century eyes. Today’s “flexerina” had more in common with that century’s acrobatic grotteschi in the lower brow commedia dell’arte, as described in Jennifer Homans’ comprehensive Apollo’s Angels. Compare 18th century prima ballerina La Carmago’s arabesque to the modern version, right.

Anika had to dance demi-pointe (on the balls of her feet) because in The Bad Death’s setting of 1788, pointe shoes weren’t invented yet. Ballerinas wouldn’t dance en pointe until Marie Taglioni perfected the art of dancing on the metatarsals of her toes (like the “neck”, not quite the tip, of the toe). She was aided by extra stitching that stiffened the forward soles of her tight, soft satin slippers. Compare the old style of slippers with today’s pointe shoes, below.

I borrowed the left-side image from a student’s terrific wiki-history of Marie Taglioni’s impact. And see a signed pair of Miss Taglioni’s actual slippers in an image that I was too cheap to pay for here.

Ballet Evolved is a wonderful series of ballet history lessons in dance, featuring ballerinas from London’s Royal Opera House. In this one, Ballet Mistress Ursula Hargeli leads four ballerinas in demonstrating innovations in dance through the centuries. In baroque costume, Ms. Hargeli demonstrates that era’s style of plié, pirouette, and port de bras. It’s amusing to see the ballerinas, each at the top of her game in modern ballet, attempt these deceptively simple steps from the distant past.


Readers Vote on Book Descriptions

Congratulations to Aubrey Laine, the winner of a $25 Amazon gift card. To enter the raffle, Aubrey and other readers commented on which of two book descriptions for The Bad Death they found most compelling. I thought it would be fun to compile their input and share.

You can read the descriptions on my last blog entry. Option A was written by a professional book blurb writer I contracted with through The Serious Reader. I wrote Option B. Results: Option A won by one vote. I was really surprised to see the description I wrote fare so well. Hey, I can write a novel. But ad copy throws me like a wild horse.

Readers commented that Option A was “sultry and scary” and “matter-of-fact …let’s the reader know what he/she is in for”. Others commented that Option B gave more insight into what the story is about, “drew me in”, and “I would pick up the book if I read something like that!” Opposing viewpoints reminded me that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. For instance, while Option B snared some commenters, another said it was “poorly written”. On a related note, when I get too scared of bad novel reviews, I remind myself how long the spectrum of opinion is. My novel, Bloodroom, has gotten 2 star reviews, but it’s also gotten 5 star reviews. We humans are a diverse bunch!

Which description will I use? Both! Not at the same time, of course. Successful self-published authors change descriptions on books from time to time to see how each affects sales. That’s what I’ll do.

Thanks, all who gave their opinions. It’s been a great help!


Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

I’m trying to decide which book description to use with my historical vampire novel, The Bad Death. Help me out. Vote by leaving a comment on this blog and note it on the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in a raffle to win a $25 Amazon gift card. You can cast more entries by tweeting or posting about the contest on Facebook. The contest is international and runs from Monday, July 29 12:01 AM to Monday, August 5 midnight EST.

The Bad Death is a violent adventure with a kick-ass heroine and a steamy romantic subplot. So, if you were browsing and you picked up a copy, which of these would prompt you to buy the book?

Option A:

Passion rules the heart and terror rules the night…

South Carolina, 1788. The beautiful black woman emerging from his family crypt is a stranger to Julian Mouret, the refined owner of Lion’s Court plantation. A dancer and a mystery, she spins a strange, dark, and impossible tale of peril and flight. Though he fears she must surely be mad, the handsome slave owner is soon himself a slave, lost to the seductions of this enchantress called Anika and determined to lead her North to safety.

But there can be no safe haven for Julian or the exquisite Gullah girl who has bewitched him, not while monsters roam the night. A series of horrifying mutilation murders screams of the presence of “plat-eyes”—shape-shifting blood-sucking supernatural creatures feeding at will on the plantation workers—and only Anika can end the rampage. But to face the vampire horde she will have to master the darkness within. And the price of victory in the battle ahead may well be the eternal soul of the man she is coming to love.

Option B:

Can she defeat supernatural horror in a world overrun by human evil?

It is 1788 in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Planters have fled the feverish climate, leaving vast estates in the care of Gullah slaves. Julian Mouret is the one planter who didn’t leave, but how could he foresee the mortal consequence of a stranger’s embrace?

An African beauty emerges from the family crypt and shatters Julian’s isolation with a kiss. How she came to be in the crypt – and the unseen creatures that emerged with her – are mysteries that transcend time.

Anika has the strength and spirit to sustain her through a lifetime of slavery on Mouret plantations, but magic is about to overturn the laws of man and nature.

As a rising tide of brutal killings overwhelm the Lowcountry, Anika suspects shapeshifting creatures of legend known as plat-eyes. She, alone, holds the key to stopping their bloody rampage. But Julian Mouret, a man of science who scorns superstition, will block her at the risk of her life and his soul.

Which one?

Instructions to enter the raffle: First, leave a comment. Then, use the form to mark that you left a comment (this enters your name in the raffle). To increase your odds of winning, use the form to tweet and post about the raffle (you can even tweet and post each day to super-increase your chances of winning). The winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. Thanks for playing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Dressing Julian

Julian Mouret is a vampire in my contemporary novel, Bloodroom. My upcoming historical vampire novel, The Bad Death, also stars Julian Mouret. Today I took the stock image photo I bought for the cast-of-characters animation on bloodroomthenovel.com and “dressed” it in 18th century clothing for the cast-of-characters animation to be featured on thebaddeath.com. This wasn’t quite as fun as dressing a good looking man for real, but it was still pretty fun.

The hottie in the tux is from istockphoto.com/. The young gent with the pistol is from 123rf.com. My challenge was to get Julian out of his tux and into the sharpshooter’s old-timey clothes. I used my Photoshop 6.0. I can just hear the hoots of incredulity. Yes, I use 12 year old software! It has all the features I need for simple image manipulation. If you don’t have Photoshop, Adobe now has an affordable monthly subscription service for its creative programs.

I’ll assume you know very little as I explain what I did here. I copied the sharpshooter into the tuxedo photo, which put it on its own layer so I could manipulate it independently. Really, the dressing trick amounted to resizing sharpshooter’s body to “fit” Julian’s. I used the pen tool to create a path around the cravat so that I could cut and paste it into its own layer. I used the transform tool to resize the cravat and torso. To fit the cravat “around” Julian’s chin, I used the lasso tool to free select portions I didn’t need and also used the eraser tool. Julian looks awfully fierce about his new outfit. Could be that moody sky; it fortells of vampires on the horizon.

I cut the sharpshooter out of the sky and dragged the halves of the sky together. Then I duplicated layers and played with the layers blending feature till I got this moody effect. The blending feature in the Layers palette makes the layer in question “react” to the layer beneath it for visual effect. I include a screenshot of my layers. You’ll see the selected layer has blending set to “Soft Light”. If you mess with enough layers’ blending features they all sort of affect each other, which can make for interesting results.


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