Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Of Saints and Shadows By Christopher Golden

I'm a fan of Christopher Golden's. I've mentioned that I'm an admirer of the illustrated novel Baltimore, which he wrote, and his Joe Golem: Occult Detective series is wildly entertaining and I love the world it's set in--a mostly drowned New York where the poor people live in the watery areas and the rich live uptown. I didn't know that there are actually multiple volumes of Baltimore, so hooray for that. (Here is a list of his books, if like me,  you don'thow many books he has for you to discover and enjoy.)
I love that Golden writes in multiple genres, and for teens as well as adults. I love that he writes video games and comic books as well as novels. (Is he the ultimate geek or what?  I'd love to run across him at #SDCC some time.) He's also very open to fans approaching him on his Facebook page and from his posts, he seems like a really decent guy.
I found Of Saints and Shadows in a used bookstore, captured by the cover, which uses familiar vampire tropes (crosses, daggers that look like fangs, red backdrops) in a way that seemed elegant and decadent and interesting.
I didn't know at the time that it was the first in a series--I'm not sure it WAS meant to be the first in the serie (it was published nearly 20 years ago), but it was urban fantasy of the first order. I LOVED his protagonist, Peter Octavian.
This novel has pretty much everything I crave. Golden has created a really rich world and mythos for his vampires (who lust after the "blood song") and the backdrop of the Venice carnival is particularly gorgeous. (Why should all the vampire stories be set in Paris?)
You will REALLY like this one and there are half a dozen sequels in the series to enjoy after this one.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Jim Carrey in OONCE BITTEN

this 1985 movie is a take on the Countess Bathory legend about a countess who bathed in the blood of virgins. In this iteration, Lauren Hutton's vampire Countess must drink the blood of a virgin to maintain her eternal beauty. But this is the 80s and virgins aren't that easy to find. Until...Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey) comes along.

the movie was made five years before Jim Carrey broke out in In Living Color and nine yearss before he starred in the trifecta of films that turned him into a superstar--Mask, Ace Ventura, and Dumb and Dumber. Once Bitten was released to 1095 theaters nationwide--it didn't even get a release in Carrey's native Canada--and grossed just a little bit more than $10 million. Even twenty years ago, that was a pretty poor performance.Janet Maslin, legendary critic for the New York Times gave it a thumbs up ("Call me crazy, but I liked it") but she was pretty much the only one. It's really a TERRIBLE movie, although i have friends who like to wallow in 80s kitsch and claim that it's actually a perfect time capsule of L.A. in mid-decade. Which may be true, but I don't have a lot of nostalgia for either the time period or the city.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Vampire a Day: The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

This is book one of the Order of the Sanguines series and I picked it up because I'm a huge fan of James Rollins' Sigma series of thrillers. This book pretty much has everything I like. Were you a fan of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code? Then you will like The Blood Gospel. Vatican secrets? Ancient books that hold secret knowldge. A beautiful archaeologist. Plus--VAMPIRES!

I don't know Rebecca Cantrell's writing and I found myself wondering how the two writers actually collaborated. I've collaborated on scripts, but never on fiction and I'm always interested in the process. And why is Rollins' name bigger on the cover? I like the design of the cover but it does make Rebecca look secondary. And how do the two authors know each other anyway? Inquiring minds want to know.

At any rate, this is a fun book that delivers as a supernatural thriller.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A vampire a day: Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland

Continuing with the theme of Shakespeare.  This is one of my favorite historical mashup books. I remember reading an interview where the author talks about how she cooked up the idea when all those ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER/PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIE books were out. I loved the idea of an undead Shakespeare (also used in ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE) and I really lked this book. I haven't read the sequel, ZOMBIE ISLAND, but I like the cover.

I'm a membe rof the Lori Handeland's FULL MOON CLUB--you get all sorts of nifty swag when you join--and a fan of her Night Creatures, Phoenix Chronicles, and Sisters of the Craft series. She's written more than 30 novels and they run the gamut from paranormal stand-alones to the series, to straight-out romances. I like it when an author I like is prolific. Go Lori!

How TV networks see Shakespeare

You know how people always say that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing for television? Well, GalleyCat jusr published this great infographic that shows how network execs would break down each play. Check it out here.

Shakespeare Noir--shameless self-promotion!

Because this is the year I get everything out there, I collected my three Shakespeare Noir stories, a drabble (100-word story) and a Shakespeare rant into one volume. I'm pleased with the stories, only two of which have been published before. Eventually, I'd like to add more to the volume, but I've promised my writing mentor that I'll concentrate on longer works for a while. ("But I love writing short stories," I whined to her. And she suggested I take a look at my monthly royalties for my other collections and make the choice.)

If you like noir and you like Shakespeare, you might enjoy this collection. Shakespeare Noir will be free for five the next five days.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Vampire a Day: House of Night Series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

I was skeptical about the setting of this vampire eries. Tulsa, Oklahoma? I wasn't really feeling it, but the writers (a mother/daughter team who formerly wrote under one name), convinced me with the opening scene--a visual of the big PRAYING HANDS sculpture at Oral Roberts University. And then they introduced readers to a series of landmarks they'd claimed for their own characters and I went Googling around to find the Art Deco train station and the estate they used. That train station is beautiful. Abandoned and haunted.

The authors also did a good job of coming up with an explanation for vampirism that involves science not the supernatural. It has to do with "junk DNA" and the condition is triggered by puberty. I liked that a lot. What didn't quite work for me was that the vampires start getting spontaneous tattooing on thier faces and bodies the stronger they grow--that's the MARKED of the first book's title. It's kind of a trope that werewolves have tattoos, and also "hunters" of various kinds, but I hadn't encountered tattooed vampires before.

I' was interested in the heroine, Zoey, who has a Native American grandmother and a complicated home life. (Her mother married a religious nut who thinks being marked as a vampire is worse than being a devil worshipper. that storyline plays out over the course of several books and it's heart-wrenching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Blood Thirst by Richard Matheson

I first encountered Richard Matheson as a writer on Twilight Zone. He wrote some of the most memorable episodes, including the Richard Donner-directed, William Shatner starrer "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." He also rwote the classic novel I Am Legend.This is a compilation of vampire fiction from the last century that's available in both paper and hard cover. If you want to buy it new, it'll cost you around $15, but Amazon's sellers have it for a penny and postage, which is probably my favorite way to buy books. The book was written in 1997, so it predated a lot of influential vampire storeis, from Twilight to True Blood, but this is definitely a book I need in my library.

A Vampire a Day: Vampire's Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

Like many Kindle owners, I subscribe to the newsletters that advertise free ebooks. Every day. And I scroll through them to see what looks interesting. I've discovered a lot of new writers that way--a free book? You're not risking anything--and I like looking at the covers.

This book caught my eye because of the title. I am not a fan of the cartoony illustration style of chicklit/PNR covers, but I was intrigued enough by this one  to read the product description. (I haven't read the book yet.)

The author has a series called NOCTURNE FALLS and the series seems to be very popular. This book has almost 400 reviews and a 4.6 rating. It is also currently #3 in the free kindle store. That's number three out of millions of books. (To give you an idea, Bride of the Midnight King is currently free and I'm THRILLED to have it ranking 974 in the free kindle store. Number three is amazing. Mad props to Kristen!) I look forward to reading this because it looks like a good time. I'll let you know...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Now the 70s really are over: R.I.P. Glenn Frey

A Vampire a Day: L.A. Banks' Vampire Huntress Legend series

One of the things that has always bugged me about vampire stories is that most of them are about white male vampires. Most of the mythos in these books is derived from Eastern Europe and except for a few things, hasn't really changed since Bela Lugosi first donned his cloak,. Where are the Chinese vampires? Where are the Turkish vampires? Where are the African vampires?
You can find some African-American vampires on screen. (Essence Magazine put together a gallery of their favorites from Vonetta McGee to Eddie Murphy to Grace Jones.) But there are still not that many black blood-suckers stalking the pages of paranormal romance novels.

A handful of authors have multi-racial casts, but as often as not, they get tagged  "urban," as if vampires, like actors who play James Bond, have to be white. (Seriously, for a while there the rumor was that Idris Elba was in the running to be the next James Bond and that would have brought a LOT of people back to the franchise, including me. Although I'd also like to bring Judi Dench back. Maybe as a vampire.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

In an alternate Victorian England, a vampire woman and the human man she comes to love investigate Jack the Ripper, who is killing vampire prostitutes.

Newman’s novel is very ambitious.  In addition to giving the Jack the Ripper tale a new spin—and who doesn’t like Jack the Ripper stories?—the book turns history on its ear, adding a potent element  by adding a vampire police state storyline  that results in anti-vampire riots and other conflicts and clashes.  Readers may be reminded of the graphic novels of Alan Moore, which include both V FOR VENDETTA and FROM HELL, also a Jack the Ripper tale. 

There is also the relationship between Charles and Genevieve, which has more nuance than the usual human/vampire interaction and is a lot more grown-up.  The characters here—and there are a LOT of them—vary in stages of development but a lot of them are really fine.  It’s not necessary to know that one character is real and another fictional in order to enjoy the story.  What we get is a feel for the inhabited world, a Dickensian abundance of people (and vampires) who overflow the pages and seem real.

French words--Free

I'm always looking to improve my French vocabularly and was delighted to see that 1000 French Words in Context is FREE today on Amazon. Go snag it!

QA Vampire a Day: Christmas with the Vampire by Shay Roberts. FREE!!

Yes, the season is over, but isn't Christmas a state of mind? Christmas with the Vampire  is a novelette set in Prague with a backdrop of a medieval town nearby. It's a fun take on the Santa Claus myth and a nice coming-of-age tale. It's available free on Kobo and Amazon.

Cover Love: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

One of my favorite things about Pinterest are all the "boards" with beautiful book covers on them. I don't make my own covers, but cruising those boards is not just fun, it's inspiring. I've always loved fonts and retro images and this cover is a beautiful design executed in a beautiful way. Plus, it really makes me want to read the book. It's based on the true story of one of the first deputy sheriffs in the country. You KNOW there's a great story there.

A vampire a day: Taliesin meets the vampires

I first heard of this site when they reviewed Bride of the Midnight King. It was a great review that compared me favorably to Tanith Lee. (Squee!!!) If you're a fan of vampire stories, this site should definitely be on your "to be read" list. They have a newsletter as well, so you'll never miss anything. And speaking of Bride of the Midnight King. It's free between now and the 20th.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Laurell K. Hamilton's "Anita Blake" series

The first book in the series, Guilty Pleasures, is the very first urban fantasy novel I ever read. I LOVED it, despite the cheesy cover. (I looked for an image of that original cover but could not find it, but more about covers in a minute.)

I loved that Anita lived in St. Louis and not in the over-used locations of New York and Los Angeles. I loved that Anita initially thought of all the creatures she encountered as monsters. (Well, she was willing to make an exception for Jean-Claude, the vampire master of the city.) Anita had a lot of powers. In addition to being a kick-ass vampire executioner, she could also raise the dead. And the series had a lot of intriguing supporting characters, which helped make her universe seem real.

I stopped reading the books about the time that Anita got "torn between two lovers." (The other is a werewolf.)  The writer was veering off from the kind of crime-type plots you see in other UF books (like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden/Dresden Files series) and exploring other dimensions of the character. Anita's her character, Laurell K. Hamilton can do what she wants. But I was kind of disappointed. Because I loved Anita just the way she was. Sigh.

It wasn't just the stories that evolved, though. Hamilton's publishers put the series' covers through a series of upgrades. When I bought the first book, it had an illustrative cover and the vampire on the cover looked like someone had just drawn a couple of triangular fangs sticking out of his mouth. Seriously. I remember my brother making fun of the cover.

Once the books started to sell--and they've sold a lot, according to Wikipedia, the covers started looking a lot more uptown. check them out.

I like the cover font on the cover to the left but pretty much HATE the imag. the artsy one was the redo around the time the book Obsidian Butterfly came out, or at least, that's the first time I noticed the new covers. I thought they were elegant, very "lit fic" in feel.

I'll have to go back to the series sometime, just to catch up with Anita. I'll always be grateful to Laurell K. Hamilton for introducing me to urban fantasy, which wasn't even really a genre when she started chronicling Anita's adventurs among the undead.

A vampire a day: Auld Lang Syne by Katherine Tomlinson


I got a few quizzical looks when I signed in.  It’s possible some of the women working at the registration desk remembered me but I doubted it.  Back in high school I’d had lank brown hair, bad skin and had carried an extra 30 pounds.  I’d spent my four miserable years at Woodrow Wilson High School being invisible and dreaming of better times to come.  Better times had come.  I looked good for my age.
I spotted Alicia Cooper almost at once.  Alicia Womack, now.  Everyone had expected her to marry Tommy Womack ever since they’d been crowned king and queen at our senior prom.  I hadn’t gone to the prom.  I wasn’t asked.  I’d spent that night sobbing in my bedroom while my poor mother tried desperately to distract me with vanilla milkshakes.  I was inconsolable but I drank two of the milkshakes anyway.  I did things like that in those days. 
I never really thought I’d come to a reunion but as the years slipped by, the notion of making an appearance at my 50th began to seem attractive.  I’d long ago lost touch with everybody, but the reunion committee had set up a group on Facebook, so I was able to get all the information I needed.  I sent in my reservation, made my travel plans, and bought a new dress. 
The banquet room at the Sheraton was decorated with huge black and white photographs blown up from our senior yearbook.  There wasn’t a picture of me.  I’d skipped school the day pictures were taken. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Vampire a Day: They Thirst by Robert McCammon

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Stephen King fan. I think The Stand is a monumental book. I first read it while home sick from school with a horrible case of the flu and believe me, the chapters covering the spread of the plague scared the bejesus out of me.
But as much as I love The Stand, I think Robert McCammon's post-apocalyptic novel Swan Song is even better. I first read that while staying in a series of really awful motels during my first cross-country drive. I'd drive for 10-12 hours and then read until I couldn't read any more. I pulled into L.A. with a bad sunburn on my left arm--I didn't have air conditioning in my car--and about 100 pages left of the book.
They Thirst was the first of McCammon's books I ever read. Then I read Wolf's Hour, which is a Nazi/werewolf thing. I liked both of them. They were pulpy fun, the sort of horror novels you could read in a single sitting.
Like King, McCammon defies categorization. He writes horror, yes, but other things as well. I'm a big fan of his short stories, particularly one called "Night Calls the Green Falcon," which Birdman reminded me of a bit.
McCammon disappeared from publishing for nearly 20 years, and that's a shame. He has a new novel out as of last year and it's on the ever-growing TBR pile. 

For the TBR pile: Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian

"He came to them in the heart of winter, asking for his Cobweb Bride."  That's the first sentence of this book and that was all it took to hook me.

Cobweb Bride  is FREE today at Amazon and the cover called me. I liked it so much I did the "look inside" to see who designed it and turns out the writer herself is responsible. Good job Vera! I wish I had that skill.

This book sounds like it's just up my alley--a historical fantasy based on the Persephone myth, a story of a woman chosen to be Death's bride.  And bonus:  it's the first in a trilogy. I'm looking forward to reading it.

A vampire a day: Baltimore by Michael Mignola and Christopher Golden

This illustrated novel is collaboration between Michael Mignola, who created Hellboy and Bram Stoker Award-winning novelist Christopher Golden.  The result is a stylish dark fantasy with enough literary trappings to entice readers who wouldn’t ordinarily be caught dead (undead?) reading a graphic novel.  It’s a character study featuring four distinctly different men with experience in the paranormal, all of whom have unique stories to tell.

We are in an unnamed European city, sometime during the years of Great War.  The battles still rage, but a plague born of vampire blood breath is abroad and inside the City, everything is dead.  In fact, the plague has reduced the war to a mere sideshow, fought only by those who cannot admit that it no longer matters. 

The men, who are strangers to one another, have been summoned by Captain (Lord) Henry Baltimore, whose friendship they have in common.  They arrive at their destination—a deserted inn—before Baltimore and pass the time by exchanging tales of horror.   

Heart of Darkness, the classic Joseph Conrad novella, begins with people telling stories too, and I doubt that's an accident. There are all sorts of "references" in this story, which is rich and layered. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Sequel is born! Daughter of the Midnight King

Not quite eighteen months ago, my novella, Bride of the Midnight King, was published. It was a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella with a vampire gloss on it. I had a lot of fun writing it and to my surprise, a lot of people had fun reading it. It very quickly became my best-selling work to date. I had intended to write the sequel right away but life got away from me for a while--I moved to another state, I ended up writing a movie, I ghost-wrote a DIY book, I mid-wifed the birth of my best friend's own novel-writing career. So it took me a while. But now Daughter of the Midnight King is finally  out in the world. On to the next project!!!

Two People You Wouldn't Expect to Have Written Vampire Novels/Stories

One of the least-known works by Theodore Sturgeon, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer, is his short horror novel Some of Your Blood. Like Dracula, it's told in epistolary form, but it's more like Twelve O'Clock High in subject matter. The story is gritty and unsupernatural, and well worth checking out.

Neil Gaiman's short story "Snow, Glass, Aples" is a dark retelling of Snow White in which the stepmother is not the villain(ess). It's unlike much of his work and makes you long for more twisted fairy tales from his unique perspective. If you want to buy it stand-alone, it can be yours for a little under two thousand dollars (on Amazon here). It was collected in the anthology Love in Vein II, which is available for around $68.  (Look for it at your local independent book store.)

A Vampire a Day: Vamp

I have a theory about vampire movies and the lackluster performance of 2014's Vampire Academy bears it out. I don't think audiences really like comedy blended with their vampire stories. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a hugely successful television series but the movie it was based on only made $16 million domestically and was never released overseas.
Vamp was a movie I saw one weekend when my roommate and I scooped up a ton of videos more or less at random because our local video store was already out of all the new releases. I wasn't expecting much, frankly, but as it turns out, I was pretty entertained. for one thing, Grace Jones as the vampire was both sexy and scary. For another, some of the comedy really worked. (I particularly liked amoment when a character gets staked through the heart but doesn't die because it's formica and not wood.) Robert Rusler as Chris Makepeace's hapless friend was darkly handsome (yes, I can be shallow), and Gedde Watanabe starred as well. Billy Drago and Sandy Baron also co-starred and were perfect.
If you're looking for something pulpy and silly to watch one Halloween night, check out Vamp.

He'll always be Hans Gruber to me. RIP Alan Rickman.

Yes, yes, he was in the Harry Potter movies, but he'll always be Hans Gruber to me. I started working for Silver Pictures the month that Die Hard came out. I've always liked action movies and Die Hard, like many of Joel Silver's movies, established a new story paradigm that other companies were quick to pick up on and run with. I cannot tell you how many "Die Hard on a (fill in the blank)" movies I read in the 18 months I worked there.Some were pretty cool, others were just lame knockoffs.

Bruce Willis ruled as John McClane in Die Hard. I'd only ever seen him on Moonlighting and in those beer commercials but he had a good smirk--only Clark Gregg does it as well--and I  liked his style. He was great. But Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber? He was perfection. Sinister and smart and he had the first "resurrected villain" moment that ever really worked for me.

The next thing I saw Alan Rickman in was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and my favorite scene in the whole movie was the one where he (as the Sheriff of Nottingham) has a conversation with Michael Wincott's hilariously dim Guy of Gisborne. "I'll cut out his heart with a spoon."  "Why a spoon cousin?" "Because it will hurt more."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I Will Make Wine of Your Blood

The heroine of my upcoming urban fantasy novel (Misbegotten)  is a paranormal crime reporter named Kira Simkins.  In the course of the story, I mention that "Kira" has written two true crime books, one about a syndiate of murderous mer-men (Poseidon's Stepchildren) and one called I Will Make Wine of Your Blood. My friend Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services whipped up covers for the imaginary books and I've always planned on writing novelettes to give away to my so-far nonexistent mailing list. But as I get close to finishing Misbegotten, I find myself more and more intrigued by the premise of this paranormal "true crime" book. I really want to write it now, but that will play havoc with my schedule this year.
I love this cover so much.

A Vampire a Day: Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy Collins

When I read this book, Sonja Blue was not yet the heroine of a series of books. I thought I was reading a one-off and was sad because I LOVED Sonja. I loved Sunglasses After Dark. They've redone the covers now that it's a series, and they're wonderfully retro, but the one I first read had the cover pictured.

Sonja's a vampire who hunts other vampires. That's not a particularly new idea (Blade, Vampire Hunter D), but I got a kick out of Sonja's particular brand of kick-ass. She stood out from all those katana-wielding, tramp-stamped hunter chicks  you see nowadays. Sonja is ... complicated.

Nancy Collins sounds like an interesting person too. I hope I run into her some time at SDCC.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Vampire a Day: Gil's All-Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

A werewolf, a vampire and a ghost ruin a Goth girl’s plan to open a portal for the old gods to usher in a new world of darkness.

This is a very, very funny horror story that uses all the tropes of urban fantasy and spins them in a redneck kind of way. The vibe is one part ZOMBIELAND and one part FROM DUSK TIL DAWN with a big dash of DUCK DYNASTY/HERE COMES HONEY BOO BOO thrown in. In other words, although the characters include vampires and werewolves and ghosts and zombies (and zombie cows), the backdrop is pure regional.

It’s a really loopy and off the wall and extremely entertaining as a book. Martinez really does urban fantasy well and he and Christopher Moore seem to have this branch of the genre all to themselves.

The characters are all fully realized and recognizable human beings, even when they’re undead or ghosts or weres or just hapless minions of the manipulative Tammy/Lilith.

A new book in a series that just keeps getting better and better

If you're not yet a fan of Stacy Clafin's "The Transformed" series, then why not?  The best-selling author has just released #11, Obscured. She's also hosting a giveaway on the Free Kindle Giveaway site. So if you haven't started the series, get reading. If you're already hooked--the wait for the new book is over!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Vampire a Day: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

A curious young woman investigates her diplomat father’s past and stumbles across the true history of “Drakulya.”

I loved this book. My review of it read, in part:This book has close kinship with the wonderfully evocative period mystery IN THE NAME OF THE ROSE.  The story is atmospheric and densely fragrant, with details that anchor us in time and space even as the story spins its magic across the centuries.  The characters are rich and dimensional, drawing us into the outlandish tale one step at a time.  

The book garnered all kinds of praise for its literary excellence and no one seemed to mind that it was really a vampire novel.