Tag Archives: vampires

Vampires and Magic: Your World’s Rules

I’ve given a lot of thought lately to the way different worlds have different rules for things that don’t exist in our reality. I talked about this awhile ago when I did my posts on magic and how to make your own rules. The basic idea is that if you’re writing about things that don’t have established rules in the real world, you can make up any rules you like, as long as you’re consistent and your world makes sense. That’s why you can have wizards in the Harry Potter universe who need wands to cast their spells, and wizards in the Harry Dresden universe who use magic circles to contain the energies of their spells. Each rule system is different, and they contradict each other at points, but it works as long as you make it believable within the context of your own novels.

Since I started reading an Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel, I’ve been thinking about how this concept applies to the well-known and sometimes overused genre of vampire stories. There’s a million ways to depict vampires, from the classic evil nobleman to the dark suave seducer to the suffering anti-hero to the deformed monster that preys on humans like a feral beast. And within all of these variations, the rules always change. Consider the usual vampire strengths and weaknesses:

Sunlight: Vampires are either weakened by it (Bram Stoker), instantly killed (Dungeons & Dragons), set on fire (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), slowly cooked (True Blood), or . . . well, we won’t talk about the other possibilities.

Holy water and crosses: Vampires are either repelled by them (D&D), physically hurt by touching them (Buffy), or unaffected by them at all (True Blood).

Silver: Some stories never mention silver at all, and sometimes it harms, weakens, or debilitates vampires. People are never quite sure.

Turning into a vampire: Sometimes you just get bitten and become a vampire, sometimes they need to feed you their own blood. Sometimes the vampire that made you can control you, sometimes you’re on your own.

Then there’s garlic, mirrors, whether or not they can enter a home uninvited, and plenty of other variables. No two vampire stories ever depict a vampire quite the same way, and yet the reader or viewer accepts the rules as they’re presented to them. If you’re reading a book where the author says inviting a vampire into your home makes them immune to crosses and garlic, then you accept that. If you’re reading one that says a vampire can force its way into a bachelor’s apartment but not a family home (because there’s more strong positive energy from a loving family), you accept it. The important thing is that the writer is consistent within their own rules and that everything makes sense.

Which makes me curious about other classics that can be modified and updated with new rules. There’s already plenty of examples. Maybe your werewolf built up an immunity to silver (like with iocane powder). Maybe Dr. Frankenstein the Third made his monster out of parts from aliens that crash landed at Area 51. Maybe trolls get more powerful the bigger their bridge is, so the Troll of the Golden Gate Bridge becomes an unstoppable beast. You never know.

I like it when writers keep things interesting. I like to see unique rules. And it’s always fun when something unexpected pops up and it really makes me think.

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Free Nukes in Chapter One

Nuclear ExplosionI’m currently reading a series of books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The Strain, The Fall, and The Night Eternal. I’m not reading them strictly for fun; they’re part of my research into apocalyptic stories with supernatural or paranormal elements, in order to better understand the genre. These books deal with a vampire apocalypse, with vampirism spreading to victims through parasitic blood worms that infect the body after the person is bitten. They’re a much darker, more gruesome look at vampires than the Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer variety. In many ways, the series has more in common with zombie horror films in the style of the Resident Evil series.

I’ve just started the third book, and . . . I’ve got some issues with it right off the bat (spoilers ahead!).

In the first book, a Master vampire arrives in New York city, his coffin delivered in the cargo hold of an airplane. This starts off with a feeling very similar to how Dracula traveled by ship in the original Bram Stoker story. The plane lands with all the passengers and crew dead, and unknown to anyone, already incubating the parasitic blood worms. Over the next few days, all the dead turn into vampires, then return home because the remaining shreds of humanity fill them with the urge to be with their families. Their families become the next victims, resulting in hundreds of new vampires being born. Throughout the rest of the book, the vampire plague spreads more and more, unable to be stopped.

In the second book, it gets even worse. More planes of infected victims land around the globe, spreading the plague to more and more cities. The vampires increase their population each night until they have the strength of armies. Some humans try to fight back and hold them off, but they fail. Eventually the entire world starts to fall.

Then at the start of the third book . . . we skip ahead to two years later in the first four pages, getting only a brief summary of how the vampire hordes seized power, toppled every world government, and turned the human race into slaves. We don’t actually get to see any of that conflict, or really understand how no government in the world was able to put up any resistance. It’s just summarized in the prologue in a very disappointing fashion.

It’s basically the exact same thing that happens in the first 30 seconds of Resident Evil 3:

The reason I think the writers do this is the same reason I think all apocalyptic story writers skip over the apocalypse: they don’t want to deal with all the hard questions. How did the vampires stamp out the resistance so easily? How did they coordinate this on such a global scale in such a short time period (compare the two years here to the length of any real-life war, such as a timetable of the events in World War II). The reader is told the vampires destroyed most of the world’s planes to restrict travel, but no explanation is given about how they pulled it off. We also find out the vampires destroyed most of the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, with no explanation of how.

It seems to me that the writers wanted to write the next stage of their story as a human rebellion against their vampire overlords, but they just didn’t want to deal with the complicated questions of how the vampires became overlords in the first place. It’s like the first Matrix movie: we’re shown a world where humans are subjugated, given very brief explanations that provide no real answers, and we’re simply asked to accept that this is how things are. The rest of the story can’t proceed if these pieces aren’t in place at the beginning, so they’re simply placed there.

I see this over and over again in apocalyptic stories, and it’s one of the specific issues I decided not to repeat in my own novels, starting with Manifestation. I don’t want to skip over the apocalypse, the most interesting part of the story. I don’t want to drop a ready-to-go shattered civilization in front of the reader so they can see the downtrodden humans rise up and overcome the darkness. I want to actually shatter the civilization, step by step, and show every piece along the way.

In fact, it took me six books to do it.

But one of the worst crimes I feel this book committed, and the one that inspired this blog post, is that the characters aren’t even shown overcoming one of the big obstacles of the story. See, one thing they’ve learned is that they can’t simply attack the Master vampire and kill him with swords or a stake through the heart. He can switch bodies and implant his essence and his consciousness into a new host body. In order to destroy him, they need to destroy his metaphysical tie to the earth, which is how he draws his immortality. In order to do this, they need to scorch the earth itself (specifically, the land where the Master’s original grave was) with a cleansing fire. It’s explained that in biblical times, this “cleansing fire” was the sort of divine wrath that struck down Sodom and Gomorrah. And that the only modern-day way to duplicate it is a nuclear bomb. In other words, they need to drop a nuke on the Master’s graveyard.

And one of the main characters gets a nuclear bomb on page 21.

We’re given a hand-wave summary of how the character made contact with smugglers who operate in secret, working against the vampire government. That these smugglers were able to get an old Soviet bomb they bought from former generals who are selling off military goods behind the vampire’s backs. And that the main character was able to (somehow?) acquire a huge arsenal of other smuggled goods to trade for the bomb. No explanation about how all this was pulled off in this post-apocalyptic, vampire-controlled world. The nuke is basically just dropped into the character’s lap with no effort.

Now, I’m sure there will be tons of conflict and struggle later on to actually find the Master’s grave and nuke it. I’m sure there will be plenty of tension building up to that point. But I’m very disappointed that there wasn’t even a full chapter devoted to the seemingly-impossible-yet-somehow-so-easy task of acquiring a nuclear bomb. Heck, even the summary of how it was acquired only lasted two paragraphs.

I’m determined not to hand-wave any difficult questions like this. If my characters ever need to acquire a nuke (wait, that’s a spoiler for Book Three, Collapse), I’m going to make sure a lot of effort is put into it. No free nukes in chapter one for my characters.

And no skipping over the destruction of all civilization.

mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Review of Fallen Son, Darkest Night

FSDN Cover ArtI read “Fallen Son, Darkest Night,” by Melissa A. Petreshock without any prior experience with her work. Even though it’s Melissa’s newest release, it serves as a prequel to her novel, Fire of Stars and Dragons, so I decided to read the prequel first.

The opening of the story was simultaneously intriguing and a bit confusing. The reader is introduced to a goddess who is distraught over the fate of her son, who seems to have been banished from the divine realm down to the earthen realm. Down on earth, the goddess’s son, Dante (a vampire), is waging death and destruction on innocents, possibly out of rage due to his exile. These elements of the story are quite fascinating, though the way the information is laid out at the beginning is a bit hard to follow, relying heavily on the dialogue between the characters in order for the reader to put together the pieces of this world’s rules and mythology. The dialogue is also hard to follow because there aren’t many dialogue tags or other indications of who is speaking, leading to confusion about who is saying what.

The story then shifts to the goddess giving Theo Pendragon, a dragon who can take on human form, the task of stopping the vampire’s rampage. This part of the story has some interesting descriptions of Theo transforming from man-form to dragon-form, and it paints a vivid image of the dragon soaring through the skies in search of the vampire. But a bit of confusion continues to be threaded throughout the narrative. One confusing thing is the dialogue; it has a lofty, medieval-fantasy tone that is both elegant and at times hard to follow. The other point of confusion is the style of the names, with things like the “Arcai Ylanjae islands” and the “Sqaera Brej village.” I ended up having trouble understanding or even pronouncing those names, which pulled me out of the narrative a bit.

A brief battle between Theo and Dante ensues, after which Dante flees. Dante then comes upon a stranger and attacks him, only to end up turning him into a vampire as well. This was another interesting sequence with some good descriptions, but it was lacking a bit in emotion and drama, particularly since the fledgling vampire accepts his fate and his new unlife without the least bit of resistance.

Dante then takes a somewhat sudden shift, now turning towards the path of repentance. He changes his ways and begins destroying the other vampires he has been responsible for creating, with the exception of his newest fledgling who “has a pure soul.” Though the story barely touches on his time hunting his offspring, which is a bit of a disappointment. The reader is told by the end that he killed nearly 250 vampires, though we only see one of those, and it’s a fight that is over so fast, there’s never any reason to believe Dante was in any danger.

By the end, I felt that the story was “good” but not “great,” with some unsatisfying aspects that left me wanting more. The plot jumps around too much, as if the author were trying to squeeze in a lot of different elements into a short span (most likely to connect as many aspects of this prequel as possible to the main novel). I would have liked to see the story trimmed down and focused more on a central conflict that got more development, instead of shifting focus so much. I became interested enough in the characters that I’d like to see more about what they’ll get up to in the novel, but I feel like more could have been done with them here.

A Tale of Two Witches, by Lisa Dawn

A tale of two witches smashwordsI had the opportunity to interview another indie author this week, Lisa Dawn. Her book, A Tale of Two Witches, just came out on Amazon this summer. Lisa was kind enough to answer some questions about her book, her writing process, and her plans for the future.

1. Your book, A Tale of Two Witches, has been described on Amazon as fun, exciting, and having characters with “just the right mix of evil and sass.” What drew you to working in an upbeat, sassy tone, even while dealing with issues of violence and death? Do you ever have trouble maintaining such a tone, even when the story takes a dark turn?

I have always leaned towards the “dark side” and I love anything that is horror and twisted but when it came time to write that way I just couldn’t do it.  I am an upbeat and sassy kind of gal and that really reflects in my writing.  There was a point when I was writing A Tale of Two Witches that the darkness appeared and a few chapters needed to be rewritten.  I got so involved with the story that I kept thinking “What would Stephen King do?” then I remembered the type of audience I was writing for–my daughter and her friends.  So yes I do sometimes have a hard time maintaining the upbeat sassy tone but then I look at my daughter and continue to write what she would love to read.

2. What has been the most difficult part of working on this book? The most rewarding?

Between work and life I do not really have a whole lot of time available to write.  The most difficult part of writing A Tale of Two Witches was where I was when I wrote–in the school car pick up line waiting to pick up my daughter.  The ideas were flowing and I needed to write quickly within the fifteen minutes I had available to me.  I am working on my time management issues, lol.  I have wonderful ideas and know how I would like the story to go but the time to write is my nemesis.

I loved the look on my daughter’s face when I finally finished the book and published it.  She beamed at me proudly and brags about me at school.  That is the most rewarding feeling.

3. Do you plan to release other books and turn this into a series? If so, what can you tell us about the things you have planned in the future?

Yes this is going to be a series.  A Tale of Two Witches is book 1 of the Lexi Reed Series and I am currently working on book 2, By the Light of the Moon.  I am not sure yet how many books will be in this series but I will have a book dedicated to Leticia, how she became to be what she is as well as about Tessa and Drake who are the keepers of the underworld.  I have too many ideas about By the Light of the Moon that I keep changing it but I will have it ready soon.  I am also working on a series that deals with high school drama the paranormal way.

4. Every author puts a certain amount of themselves into their characters. What parts of your own life or experiences have you put into Lexi, and how did that influence your writing?

Wow, this one is tough.  Lexi is a big part of me.  She is strong willed, determined, spunky, and scared all at the same time.   A lot of the emotions and issues I faced growing up play a big part in developing Lexi’s character.  I became very close with Lexi (I know that sounds weird) and want nothing but the best for her.  Her struggles were similar to some struggles that I had and that influenced me writing her tremendously.  Sometimes certain things that Lexi was going through or doing I wrote how I wish they ended for me.  I feel I grew stronger as a person the more that I wrote Lexi to be a stronger character.    I want my daughter to know that it is okay to have self doubt but if you power through and believe in yourself and believe that you can achieve anything, you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome and feel empowered.

5. When dealing with any supernatural setting, whether it be a superhero series like the X-Men, a wizarding world like Harry Potter, or a paranormal story dealing with vampires and werewolves, the author needs to make certain decisions about the rules for magic and how they work in that world. What can you tell us about the way magic works in your world? How did you decide on the rules, such as what is or isn’t possible to do with magic?

With magic the rules can always change except for one.  Magic always comes with a price.  I read a lot and watch supernatural TV shows and movies and wrote my favorite from each and incorporated it into my story.  In the mortal world, Lexi’s world, you need to be careful with your magic.  If you don’t learn to control it things can go haywire.  For instance in the beginning of A Tale of Two Witches, Lexi is a hormonal, emotional teenage witch and whenever she was feeling angry she would create thunderstorms.   She needed to learn to control her emotions as well as her magic.  But, all magic comes with a price right?  So the stronger her magic became Leticia could feel it and she fed off of it leading to chaos, Kevin in danger, and people being angry with her.  There is so much going on in Lexi’s world that it is hard to really describe how it works and it’s best if you read the book.  I will mention one thing I think is the coolest part of my book.  I read a book where a witch turned into an animal and I fell in love with idea.  So not only is Lexi becoming one of the most powerful casters, she has the ability to transform into a beautiful fiery Phoenix.

6. Your book is described as having witches, vampires, and a vampire witch. What is it that made you decide to blend those separate types of paranormal characters together? Were you influenced by any particular novels or movies?

Everything that I read and watch has influenced me in some way.  It’s fun to write about witches and vampires.  I had a lot of fun developing Leticia’s character.  I thought how cool would it be to have a vampire witch.  I can’t remember where I read this, but I read when I was younger that some witches that were tortured, burned at the stake or whatever spiteful thing that was done to them, came back from the dead as vampires and avenge their death.   I thought that would be a great back story for Leticia and developed her hateful character.

7. While some people categorize paranormal books differently from more “literary” works, many authors are able to blend literary elements and deeper meaning into a book while still having fun with vampires and witches. A classic example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which dealt with complex issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, personal identity, and family illness. What kind of deeper issues or meanings would you say are conveyed by your book, and what made you decide to include them?

I see some of the struggles my daughter as well as other kids her age and older are going through now.  Some are similar to when I was growing up and some are different.  I want to write about certain issues that are going on but in a fun way.  Like it is okay to be different and love who you are.   Ignore the bullies or people that treat you differently, it’s a reflection of themselves because they are not happy with who they are.  Be strong, independent, unafraid and stand up for yourself and what you believe in.

8. What is the most important part of your writing, and what would you say makes the writing process the most worthwhile?

The most important part of my writing is what I have to say.  I want to write books that people would read and know exactly what my characters are going through or think “wow that’s a great way to handle that” or something along those lines.  I write for fun and it is a great way for me to express myself.   I am becoming a role model not just for my daughter (who I have inspired to write and she is great at it)  but her entire class.   Her teacher has asked me to come in and talk to her class about my book, the writing process, and writing in general.  I hope to inspire more to be creative in some way, we all have it in us.  Every part of the writing process makes it all worthwhile if it means my daughter will look at me proudly.  That really is the best feeling.

Lisa DawnLisa Dawn lives somewhere in Texas with her wonderful husband, amazing daughter, two cats and three dogs.  For as long as she can remember she has loved to put a pen to paper.  You can find her books on Amazon


Lisa’s blog

I just published my first YA book, A tale of two witches and I am working on two others books that will be ready to publish by the end of the year.
I would love to hear from my readers so please feel free to contact me either by email, facebook, or twitter.