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Bloodroom Review

Horror writer Carl Alves gave my vampire novel a cool review, calling Bloodroom’s characters”compelling” and saying it “presents some interesting elements in vampire lore.” Thanks Carl! Check out the review and then explore Carl’s books. I’m currently enjoying his novel Blood Street on audiobook.bloodroom3D4blog


Night at the Demontorium – Book Review

DTCAcoverCalling it “a psychological ride of amazing proportions”, Project iRadio gave Night at the Demontorium: The Complete Anthology a great review. Here’s an excerpt:

Pulling in the reader with a cyclical journey of amazing precision, Naima Haviland’s Night At The Demontorium: The Complete Anthology weaves together eight very distinct, yet very connected tales of incredible depth and beauty.

Wow, thanks! That is not a bad send up for my short-story demons, all of ’em working their evil little tricks on the imaginations of readers. You can buy the book at Amazon, Smashwords, and other online vendors. As Project iRadio said,

For those who are fans of Rod Serling, EC and Creepshow Comics, this anthology is one you will love.

 


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


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!


South Carolina Gold Rice Cultivation, A Woman’s Experience

a photo of Elizabeth Allston Pringle

From findagrave.com

 

Elizabeth Allston Pringle was a Southern belle at the time of the American Civil War and the daughter of the Governor of South Carolina. When the Civil War ended, leaving her family impoverished, she and her mother opened a school. Motivated by sentiment, Elizabeth bought the plantation she grew up in, White House, and the plantation, Chicora Wood, where she lived as a married woman until her husband’s untimely death. Both plantations still exist in Georgetown County, South Carolina, an area known as the Lowcountry. It was in hopes of paying the plantation mortgages that in the early years of the 20th century, she decided to re-cultivate old rice fields that had long since succumbed to the encroaching wild. She was a farmer, a foreman, and an entrepreneur at a time in history when women did not hold such positions.

 We might have forgotten Elizabeth Allston Pringle if her journal hadn’t been serialized in the New York Sun. This was another way Elizabeth made money to pay the mortgages on her beloved properties. The Sun journal was later published in a book called A Woman Rice Planter. The 1992 edition, published by the University of South Carolina press, is illustrated by famed artist Alice R. Huger Smith (whose paintings are in Charleston’s Gibbes Museum of Art) and has an introduction written by South Carolina historian and writer Charles Joyner.

Book cover of the autobiography A Woman Rice Planter

Elizabeth Allston Pringle’s Journal

Reading A Woman Rice Planter, you may find the humor in some stories involving black characters to be condescending. I believe the Jim Crow era in which it was written had an unfortunate but partial influence on the author’s outlook. However, if you read it thoroughly, I believe you’ll also see Elizabeth’s respect for blacks rising through this surface attitude. I get a sense that she felt they were all in this together, enjoying the bounty of the Lowcountry and enduring the caprice of its climate with faith and cheerfulness. I read A Woman Rice Planter as research while writing The Bad Death, an antebellum vampire novel set on a Lowcountry rice plantation. Two things stay with me from repeated readings.

One is its detailed description of old rice-growing practices. Second is Elizabeth’s love for the beautiful world around her. She was an excellent writer. Her descriptions shine through, transcending ink and paper and time. Here’s an entry from June 1, 1903:

Rice barn at chicora wood

Rice Barn at Chicora Wood

“The evening is beautiful; the sun, just sinking in a hazy, mellow light, is a fiery dark red, the air is fresh from the sea, only three miles to the east, the rice-field banks are gay with flowers, white and blue violets, blackberry blossoms, wistaria, and the lovely blue jessamine, which is as sweet as an orange blossom. Near the bridge two negro women are fishing with great strings of fish beside them. The streams are full of Virginia perch, bream, and trout; you have only to drop your line in with a wriggling worm at the end, and keep silent, and you have fine sport. Then the men set their canes securely in the bank just before dark and leave then, and almost invariably find a fish ready for breakfast in the morning. There is a saying that one cannot starve in this country and it is true.” 

Elizabeth’s accounts of her workers’ labor, their hunting and fishing, socializing, and storytelling helped me give life to The Bad Death’s Gullah heroine, Anika, and her friends and neighbors. The Bad Death’s antagonist, Julian Mouret, relies on his working partnership with his mother, Elisabeth. She shares her son’s respect for the Lowcountry’s wild strength. I’d be lying if I said Elizabeth Allston Pringle didn’t partly inspire me when writing Elisabeth Mouret. Elizabeth Pringle was strong, independent, spiritual, and wise. So is Elisabeth Mouret. Anika finds in Miss Elisabeth a formidable foe and improbable ally. Miss Elisabeth is one of my favorite characters in The Bad Death. And Elizabeth Allston Pringle is one of my favorite characters in US history.

 


Thomas Jefferson, Single Parent

Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd President may have also been our nation’s 1st hot dad (DILF?). When his young wife died; the grief-stricken man had infant Lucy, four-year old Polly, and 10-year old Patsy to raise. Due to a deathbed promise to never remarry, he remained a single parent. Lucy died in childhood. Jefferson, Polly, and Patsy clung tenaciously to each other and, though more often separated than not, remained in constant contact through letters. Jefferson set standards for his girls in education and deportment that were unusual in his day and appear impossible and unhealthy in ours. I give you a few parenting rules from Thomas Jefferson, with tongue in cheek:

No Casual Friday: Jefferson instructed Patsy in one letter, “Be you from the moment you rise till you go to bed as cleanly and properly dressed as at the hours of dinner or tea. A lady who has been seen as a sloven or slut in the morning, will never efface that impression …” Ouch!

Sources Cited Below Post

No Downtime: Here’s a typical study schedule:

  • From 8. to 10 o’clock practice music.
  • From 10. to 1 dance one day and draw another
  • From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter the next day.
  • From 3. to 4. read French.
  • From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
  • From 5. till bedtime read English, write & c.

 

Of Course, I’ll Always Love You, If Jefferson’s instructions were at times given as a road map to his heart. In a letter to Patsy, he wrote, “I have placed my happiness on seeing you good and accomplished, and no distress which this world can now bring on me can equal that of your disappointing my hopes …Keep my letters and read them at times that you may always have present in your mind those things which will endear you to me.”

It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt: What illegitimate children? What mistress? When Patsy and Polly lived at Monticello as young adults, it can’t have gone unnoticed that his unmarried slave woman, Sally Hemings, only got pregnant when their father was home from Washington. The illicit relationship was never acknowledged. When it became a national scandal, the Queens of Denial visited Jefferson in Washington to provide a united family front.

As women, each developed her own way of resisting their father’s demands. Patsy blamed kids and a troublesome husband for her lack of free time, and pointed to Lucy as being way more behind than she in keeping the pace. Polly seems to have adopted the slacker role to her advantage, basically throwing up her hands and saying, ‘I know, I’m so lazy!’ But there can be no doubt that the three of them were crazy about each other.

I thought it would be fun to create a similar relationship between The Bad Death’s Julian Mouret and his much younger sister, Charlotte. She was three years old when their father died and left the fifteen year old Julian as man of the house (and therefore, its legal head). Raising a child to be the Ideal requires you to embody that Ideal, yourself. By the time we meet them in The Bad Death, Julian has achieved this. But what happens when the Ideal “parent” falls from grace? We’ll see in the next novel, House of the Apparently Dead.

Sources: The Women Jefferson Loved by Virginia Scharff; The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson edited by Edwin Betts and James Bear, Jr.; Thomas Jefferson, An Intimate History by Fawn Brodie.


Racial Accuracy in Literature and Genre Fiction

The Bad Death is my historic paranormal novel with interracial romance. The protagonist is Anika, a slave woman. She’s attracted to her master’s brother, Julian. She becomes attracted to Marcus, an enslaved man who is a slave driver. A modern woman’s spirit takes refuge in Anika’s body and influences her mind. In adventure stories the hero prevails through gumption and daring. But how does The Bad Death align with historic reality? As Americans attend and react to 12 Years a Slave, a a new film based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, it seems a good time to examine the treatment of slavery in genre fiction and literature, particularly as it relates to autobiographies written by slaves.

 

 

Consider the critically acclaimed novel, Kindred by Octavia Butler. The heroine, Dana, is a modern African-American. She is repeatedly pulled through time to the antebellum south in order to protect the white boy destined to father the Caucasian side of her family. There (and then) Dana’s treated as a slave. Kindred is a good book. I’m glad I read it. I can’t say I enjoyed it. Why not? It’s grueling. She’s victimized relentlessly. She and her fellow slaves endure terrible conditions. The antebellum interracial liaisons are exploitative and cruel. Kindred isn’t an adventure story. It is a historically accurate novel in the literary tradition.

 

 

Because the slave woman was chattel, she had no power to resist her master’s advances. Even relationships based on affection and mutual attraction exploited her. Also, the environment of slavery varied from benign to brutal. Two autobiographies from that period recount the harshest conditions explicitly: The History of Mary Prince and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Mary Prince and Linda Brent worked on West Indies’ plantations in conditions that injured and sickened them. When this affected their productivity, they were beaten and whipped till they couldn’t stand and then made to somehow continue working. They were hounded sexually by their masters. They were unable to live healthy married lives to the free black men who courted them. Both women learned to read and write. Both escaped and became outspoken abolitionists. Both autobiographies are in The Classic Slave Narratives, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Slaves on South Carolina Lowcountry rice plantations worked under better conditions, as described in Charles Joyner’s history Down by the Riverside: a South Carolina Slave Community. Anika’s story is set in a South Carolina slave community like that documented by Joyner.

 

I wanted to write a paranormal historical with sexy romance and a crossbow-wielding adventuress. I could have written The Bad Death more realistically, but then it would be a book in a different genre. Due to the novel’s setting, even the most benevolent white characters have racist viewpoints. I hope readers understand that these views belong to the characters – not to me. And I hope readers are moved to explore libraries and bookstores. There’s great literature out there and inspiring nonfiction accounts of history’s real heroes and heroines.

 


Working with Beta Readers to Write a Better Novel

By the time a writer has polished the manuscript, he’s lived inside the story so long he’s lost objectivity. It’s time for someone with fresh eyes. An editor will examine your work from a production perspective, but it saves a lot of time if you’ve first identified and fixed your story’s weaknesses. That’s where beta readers can help.

 To paraphrase Wikipedia’s definition, a beta reader is a person who reads a novel manuscript with a critical eye. A beta reader may highlight plot holes or problems with continuity, characterization or believability; and assist the author with fact-checking.

 Many writers request fellow writers to be beta readers. I chose readers who weren’t writers because I wanted the customer’s reaction. I focused on readers interested in elements present in my novel, such as paranormal romance, the Gullah culture, or ballet. A few curious friends volunteered. I emailed nine potential beta readers. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m contacting you because your interests and experiences give you the unique view I’m looking for in a beta reader for The Bad Death. Essentially, The Bad Death is a vampire slayer novel with a Gullah heroine and is slated for publication in summer/fall 2013. The details below give the cover art and synopsis; an explanation of a beta reader’s contribution; my novel’s characteristics such as length and similarity to its genre sisters; and particulars of the beta-reading period. I also attached the first few chapters. If you say “yes”, I’ll contact you again May 1.

I made a similar appeal on a Goodreads discussion thread, with the moderator’s blessing.

I wound up with eight readers (three from Goodreads) who had a month to read and review. Five gave feedback. The most valuable input was constructive criticism. For instance, some said my heroine was too passive, too much of a victim. Her identity was revealed way too late, and a couple of readers just gave up on her. Ouch but thanks! I thought of a way to reveal her identity much earlier. I gave her a mission from the start and made her active instead of reactive. This required changing other characters’ interactions with her. It really strengthened the first 3rd of the book. Other input affected how many Gullah words I used in dialogue, chapter length, and the additions of a Gullah dictionary and a list of characters. My revisions per beta feedback resulted in my editor getting a much better manuscript. And readers got a much better book! Though it isn’t for everyone, The Bad Death is getting good reviews.

In addition to my heartfelt gratitude, I gave each beta reader an autographed copy of the published version, in the format of her choice.


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!

 


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