Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Desmodus

Melanie Tem's DESMODUS (1995) takes a unique approach to vampires as a natural species evolved separately from us. Tem portrays a vampire community entirely detached from human society, interacting with our kind only where absolutely unavoidable. To the first-person narrator, Joel, his clan members are "people" and Homo sapiens the dangerous outsiders. (The novel doesn’t explain why these creatures adopt human-derived names and, apparently, speak no language except English.) Essentially intelligent, humanoid bats, they can pass unnoticed within human settlements only by covering themselves in voluminous clothing and taping down their ears. Besides their wings and ears, their other nonhuman features include fangs and long, curved nails, as well as less visible details such as echolocation, nocturnal activity, the anticoagulant in their saliva, and the ability to detect heat waves. From Joel’s perspective, his people’s vampire bat traits don’t arouse the revulsion the human reader may feel. He views behaviors such as feeding blood to infants by mouth-to-mouth exchange as ordinary facts of everyday life. Unlike most fictional vampires, his species leads a gregarious communal life, tightly knit to the point of claustrophobia. Their babies, like infant bats, stay together in a communal nursery where mothers visit to feed them, each locating her own child by calling to him or her. Joel finds the nursery, "fur-lined with the little writhing bodies of all those eternally ravenous babies," unsettling, but from masculine nervousness, not human-like squeamishness.

One of the most peculiar characteristics of the Desmodus species is their seasonal cycle of migration and hibernation. While the females, after an orgy of feeding and mating, withdraw into hibernation, the males migrate south each winter. To keep the clan together and safe, the vampires have adopted human technology; the men drive huge, temperature-controlled trucks that shelter the dormant women. Females store semen from mating until the optimum time for ovulation, a process under conscious control to ensure that babies are born in the spring. Besides conserving energy, hibernation supposedly bestows upon women a "life-changing or -centering, hallucinogenic" experience, "connected directly to the divine.” Females live much longer than males and display "greater stamina, discipline, creativity, productivity, and all-around class.” Males are assumed to be, by comparison, irresponsible and dull-witted. As far beyond ordinary women as women are beyond men, the near-mythical Old Women remain permanently dormant, shrouded in a transcendent altered state of consciousness.

Tem's vampires take pride in their ability to survive without killing. Upon finding a shriveled, bloodless rabbit, Joel’s mother reacts with extreme displeasure to such lack of self-control. The Desmodus clan regards human beings, in contrast to themselves, as potentially dangerous creatures who might at any time try to exterminate the vampires if that species’ existence became known. Having to venture into a human community for any reason provokes anxiety, and the rumors that some of their kind have even lived in disguise amid human society horrify them. Joel and his male friends leer over the presumed nymphomania of human females, who are sexually active all the time instead of having estrus seasons like vampires. Like many other stories of vampires as naturally evolved creatures, this novel emphasizes that we’re all animals, but in DESMODUS, the vampires are the standard against which other species are measured.

Oddly, young Rory, Joel's nephew, who has "little use for anybody who wasn't 'like me,'" brings home the only individualized human character in the novel, Ernie, as a sort of pet. When Joel questions Ernie about his reasons for staying with the clan, Ernie says he is estranged from his family and has nowhere to go. A pair of misfits in their own families, Rory and Ernie form a tenuous union. As for Joel, he tolerates Ernie but has no respect for him, since the human boy is "a stranger" and "an alien.” Joel becomes an outcast from his clan when he assumes the gender-bending role of caretaker for the out-of-season infant born to one of his young female relatives, Meredith. Possessed by an unexpected love for the baby, whom he names Eli, Joel flees with the newborn when he discovers a secret females hide from males: Women feed upon the brain fluids of infant boys, a habit that probably accounts for the stereotypical mental backwardness of men. Rory, eager to feed on the baby, too, makes himself into an outlaw by pursuing Joel and Eli. Ernie, in turn, follows Rory. Joel conceals himself and the infant in a cave, reminiscent of the underground caverns where their race evolved. From this point, Joel’s story becomes visionary, drawing upon the ancient mythology of his people. Although Ernie plays a role in Joel’s discovery of forbidden secrets, otherwise the human world is irrelevant to the important concerns of his life. If you’d like to read about vampires that are creatures of neither romance nor traditional Gothic horror, but simply alien, try this book.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Devil in Midwinter guest post with Elise Forier Edie

It's a bit of a late start today, for a blog post anyway, but I'd like you all to welcome author Elise Forier Edie to our little corner of the blogosphere as she shares with us her inspiration for The Devil in Midwinter. Happy Monday! ~Anna

THE DEVIL IN MIDWINTER AND THE 21 RUN

Would you believe one of the inspirations for “The Devil in Midwinter” is a college drinking game?

In the town where I worked as a university professor for eight years, the students had (and probably till have) a tradition for celebrating their 21st birthdays, called the “21 Run.”  In this decades old hazing ritual, the celebrant was taken to the town’s five bars, and forced to drink “every single drink bought for them, until they totally passed out.”  The horror stories told about the ordeal used to make me sympathetically sick to my stomach—shots of tequila, followed by a Sex on the Beach, followed by a double Cuba Libre, followed by a Long Island Iced Tea, followed by puking in the alleyway and then after that, a few more shots. Needless to say, many mornings I entered my classroom, worried that the inevitable had finally happened, and one of my beloved students had expired of alcohol poisoning, just as his or her life was beginning.  (That never happened, by the way, but I always worried about it).

And of course, the symbolism of being “forced into unconsciousness,” and “drinking to black” on the very day one is finally free to choose one’s own destiny was never lost on me.  Actually, I thought about it the whole time I was writing “The Devil in Midwinter.”  

In the book, I put my heroine Esmeralda through her own harrowing 21 Run, although not a single Long Island Iced Tea crosses her pretty lips.  Instead, for her 21st birthday, she has to solve a mystery, fight a fire- breathing demon, save her family and claim, once and for all, her true love.  In doing that, she chooses not to fall into unconsciousness, but instead runs into her destiny with her eyes and arms wide open. She uses all of her wits and all of her skills, rejecting convention, turning down the easy offer, and risking everything for love.

Now that’s a 21 Run!

Okay, not really. I’m not actually asking that my university students conquer dragons on their 21st birthdays.  But dammit, I would so like to see that frigging“21 Run” replaced by something totally awesome. I long for the day that one of my students tells me, “It’s my twenty first birthday and so I’m fulfilling a cherished dream of riding in hot air balloon at sunset with champagne,” “It’s my twenty first birthday, and my friends and I are going river rafting and then cooking a feast on the beach,” “It’s my twenty first birthday and I’m taking my parents out to dinner to thank them for getting me here,” “It’s my twenty first birthday, and I’m collecting checks for a year-long trip to Australia.” Whatever. But something that says, “It’s my life now and I’m living it fully.”

In the meantime, I cross my fingers every time one of my favorite young people bows to the inevitable Central Washington ritual.  After all, one can always get to the dragon conquering after the hangover is gone.



Book Description:


A handsome stranger, a terrifying monster, a boy who burns and burns…
Mattawa, Washington, is usually a sleepy orchard town come December, until a murder, sightings of a fantastic beast, and the arrival of a handsome new vintner in town kindle twenty-year-old reporter Esme Ulloa’s curiosity—and maybe her passion as well. But the more she untangles the mystery, the more the world Esme knows unspools, until she finds herself navigating a place she thought existed only in storybooks, where dreams come alive, monsters walk the earth and magic is real. When tragedy strikes close to home, Esme finds she must strike back, matching wits with an ancient demon in a deadly game, where everything she values stands to be lost, including the love of her life.

Excerpt:


“You’re trying to remember who you are.” Idly, he reached down and broke off a stem of lavender, brown and withered from the cold. “Watch this,” he said. He blew his breath on it and the stick burst into flames, like a little torch. He dropped it on the frozen ground where it burned, giving off sweet smoke.
“Are you a dragon?” I asked, only partly joking. “Like Quetzacoatl?” I added, thinking of the feathered serpent I had just studied about for my test.
He gave me a sharp look out of his gray eyes and reached down, breaking off another branch. “No. Not Quetzacoatl. Now you.” He handed the stick to me.
“Now me, what? You want me to light this on fire?”
He shook his head. “That’s not what you do,” he said. His arm squeezed my shoulder. “Do you trust me?”
I turned the dead branch in my hands. I looked into his face. “What do I do?”
“Blow on it and see”
I blew on the stem and watched it turn green and then burst into purple flowers. It was like watching a stop motion film, only I could smell the leaves and the fresh clean scent of lavender blossoms. I laughed with wonder as little purple flowers rained on the step we sat upon. The wind picked them up and blew them around the frost-covered ground.
“Doesn’t matter if its Ashmead Kernals, corn or poinsettias. Or lavender flowers. This is you. Just like the fire is me.” He suddenly kissed my cheek and nuzzled my ear. “Wake up, preciosa. Before you get stolen again. Please?”
“I don’t want to wake up from this,” I said, as little tingles of pleasure shimmered down my neck and I turned the blossoming branch in my hands. “This is the best dream ever, Xavier.”
“No, cara,” he said, suddenly serious. His other hand reached for my shoulder, so he could turn me to face him. “You have to be more careful. Yesterday, I told you to choose, and you didn’t. And now he is one step closer to having what he wants. And this is what he wants.”
I pulled a little away. “What are you talking about?”
“Yesterday. Your uncle sat in his office and drank with the devil—”
“Justin Colter is just a vintner from Italy—”
“And the devil asked you what you wanted—”
“That was a casual conversation—”
Xavier shook his dark head. “No. There are no casual conversations with him, Esme. Every word he says is a trap.”
“What are you talking about?” I thought back to yesterday afternoon, my uncle’s office, the two of them sitting with their cups of cider. Colter’s blue eyes twinkled up at me; Uncle Oscar gazed into his glass. Colter had said, What do you want, Esme?
“We were talking about college,” I said to Xavier. “That’s all.”
“That’s what he makes you think, every time,” he said, voice cold. “That’s how he always makes it seem. The stories have you signing a contract in blood, with this big ceremony, but really, he makes it seem like nothing, you understand? Like an afterthought. Like ordering a cheeseburger in a restaurant. When the whole time it’s your soul you’re giving away—”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying your uncle could have set you free, if you had asked. But now he can’t help you—and I cannot either, not without your—”
I sat up, my sleeping bag slipping down. “What do you know about Uncle Oscar? Where is he?”
“He’s gone, Esme. And you missed—”
“Where did he go—” I jumped to my feet.
Xavier ran a hand through his thick hair, standing. “It doesn’t matter. He’s gone. Listen. You have to listen, Esme. Do you understand? Because if you don’t choose yourself—”
“No!” I cried. “I don’t understand! I only know you come here and tell me what to do and I don’t even know who you are!” I was suddenly furious. “Where did you go? Where did you go all this time and why did you leave me here all alone?” I put my hands on his chest to push him away, but he grabbed my wrists, his fingers so hot they seemed to burn into my skin.
“Nothing in this world kept me from you, I promise,” he said. “And everything you do from now on will determine whether or not we can be together.”

Author website and blog can be found here. Publisher info for World Weaver Press can be found here


Amazon   All Romance   Kobo   

New Release from Christopher Moore

Book Release: April 22nd, 2014

Christopher Moore's new book is due out on April 22nd, and after that he goes on tour for a book signing! If you haven't read him before, he is a comedic author, similar to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. But where Pratchett writes about his fantasy world, Discworld, and Adams wrote about science fiction, Moore's work tends to include paranormal creatures and re-imaginings of historical events. His books are clever, irreverent, imaginative and highly entertaining.

Book Description:

 "New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters-the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago-have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio's beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn't even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he's got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve."

Book Tour Dates
 
Tuesday, April 22 / San Francisco, CA
Books Inc. @ Opera Plaza (7 PM)
601 Van Ness,
San Francisco, CA 84102

Wednesday, April 23 / San Diego, CA
Mysterious Galaxy (7 PM)
7051 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Suite #302,
San Diego, CA 92111

Thursday, April 24 / Phoenix, AZ
Changing Hands Bookstore @ Crescent Ballroom (7 PM)
308 North 2nd Avenue,
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Friday, April 25 / Highlands Ranch, CO
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch (7 PM)
9315 Dorchester Street,
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

Saturday, April 26 / Beaverton, OR
Powell’s Books @ Cedar Hills Crossing (2 PM)
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.,
Beaverton, OR 97005

Sunday, April 27 / Seattle, WA
Elliott Bay Book Company (3 PM)
1521 Tenth Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98122

Monday, April 28 / Lake Forest Park, WA
Third Place Books (7 PM)
17171 Bothell Way NE,
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155

Wednesday, April 30 / Skokie, IL
Barnes & Noble (7 PM)
55 Old Orchard Center,
Skokie, IL 60077

Thursday, May 1 / Milwaukee, WI
Boswell Book Company (7 PM)
2559 N Downer Ave.,
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Friday, May 2 / Ann Arbor, MI
Nicola’s Books (7 PM)
2513 Jackson Road,
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Saturday, May 3 / Lansing, MI
Schuler Books (2 PM)
2820 Towne Center Blvd.,
Lansing, MI 48912

Sunday, May 4 / Decatur, GA
Alfred Uhry Auditorium,
Druid Hills High School
(2 PM)
1798 Haygood Dr NE,
Atlanta, GA 30307

Monday, May 5 / Raleigh, NC
Quail Ridge Books (7:30 PM)
3522 Wade Avenue,
Raleigh, NC 27607

Tuesday, May 6 / Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University Bookstore (7 PM)
3330 St. Paul Street,
Baltimore, MD 21218

Wednesday, May 7 / Brookline, MA
Brookline Booksmith @ Coolidge Corner Theatre (6 PM)
290 Harvard Street,
Brookline MA 02446

Thursday, May 8 / New York, NY
Barnes & Noble (7 PM)
33 E 17th Street,
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, May 14 / Menlo Park, CA
Kepler’s Books (7:00 PM)
1010 El Camino Real,
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Saturday, May 17 / Los Angeles, CA
Barnes & Noble (2 PM)
189 The Grove Drive,
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Sunday, May 18 / Pasadena, CA
Vroman’s Bookstore (4 PM)
695 E. Colorado Blvd.,
Pasadena, CA 91101

Tuesday, May 20 / Online
Livestream Event (6 PM)
(link will be posted when available)

Wednesday, May 21 / Petaluma, CA
Copperfield’s Books (7 PM)
140 Kentucky Street,
Petaluma, CA 94952

You can pre-order on Amazon now!
 

 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

If You Aren't Watching These Shows, You Should Be!

What's good on TV right now? Quite a lot, actually. This is just a wrap-up of some of MY favorites. But I can't watch everything, though. There aren't enough hours in the day! So, I'd be happy to hear about any other things you think are noteworthy as well.
Spoilers possible- Beware

First there's Grimm, which is in the middle of their third season. Monroe and Rosalee are engaged, and Nick is set to be the best man, but he worries that the guests might get just a little...unruly?...if they find out he's a grimm. He isn't real keen on the idea of slaughtering the wedding guests in self-defense, so their big idea is to have him wear sunglasses, so that the wesen can't see his eyes. Hmmm...I don't think he's going to get away that easy.
Another cool thing this season- Adalind has had her baby, and dang...the little thing is just so darn powerful. The baby can cause a little earthquake just because it's hungry? What are the "terrible twos" going to look like? Yikes!


Next on my list is Bates Motel. This series tells the story of Norman's teen years, and provides the answers to why he becomes the little "Psycho" that he does. And man, is this season shocking! We found out last season that mom, Norma, had a brother who used to force her to have sex with him. And we knew that her relationship with her oldest son, Dylan, was strained, but we didn't know why. The big reveal so far in this season, is that Norma's brother, is the father of Dylan. So, he's his Uncle-Father...Father-Uncle...just eeeww. Naturally, he freaks out.
And speaking of freaking out, Norman is getting more and more disconnected from reality. I expected him to kill his uncle actually, when all of this came out, but instead he had a psychotic episode and accused his uncle of raping him when he was a little girl. Wait, what? Yeah. Norman has "flashbacks" of being his own mother. Ummm...creeeeepy!





Then, I am loving Vikings. Ragnar is having those sons he wanted so badly with his new wife, and Lagertha and Bjorn have been living with her new husband, Jarl Sigvard, who is as a major-league a-hole.( But he gets his in the end, so it's all good.) Ragnar has been having problems with Jarl Borg. First Borg sacks Ragnar's village, then Ragnar drives him off, then King Horik tells them they have to work together because he really wants to keep raiding England...these guys have such a complicated relationship. But the really big thing this season (literally) is Bjorn. The oldest son of Ragnar grew up and dang...he is turning into a little hottie. But what else can you expect- the boy is destined to become the legendary Bjorn Ironside, so it's not like they could make his character into a skinny wimp or something.





The Walking Dead  just wrapped up an exciting season,  but I am not going to discuss that one too much because I am still not even caught up all the way yet! Gah! I have a backlog in my DVR, and my family wants to watch them together, so I have to wait for days when we are all in one place. Like I said, not enough hours in the day for all of the good TV out there. So for now, I am trying to avoid spoilers until I finish this one up.

 

And Game of Thrones is finally back! Dany's dragons are getting bigger and very feisty, Arya and the Hound are teaming up to take out bad guys, but they aren't exactly friends, either.  Tyrion is dealing with the guests coming in for Joffrey's wedding and we meet a new character- Oberyn Martell. He doesn't seem like a real nice guy, but he hates Joffrey and all Lannisters, so...the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess.  Jon Snow manages to convince the Night's Watch to prepare for attack and not kill him for breaking his vows, and Jaimie Lannister has a fancy new gold arm. So excited for more episodes!



My next show is brand new- Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. I have been enjoying Face Off, for several seasons now, and SyFy added a new, similar show this year that challenged contestants to create special-effects critters worthy of Jim Henson's studios. And the winner will get a 1 year contract to actually work for Jim Henson's Creature Shop. That is a dream job. No kidding. So, the contestants are all pretty impressive skill-wise. In order to make these things you need to know sculpting, painting, robotics, fabrication, puppet-making, and have a sense of how something will look on screen. It's very demanding. I am totally fascinated by what they are able to create each week. On the last episode, each team had to create a Skeksis, from The Dark Crystal. That is one of my favorite movies ever, and it was soooo cool to see them make new takes on some of my favorite movie creatures.



And while we're discussing non-fiction, my very very favorite thing on TV right now is Neil DeGrasse Tyson's new show, Cosmos. I LOVED Carl Sagan, and the original series, and I have to say Tyson has knocked it out of the park with this continuation. I actually teared up a bit when he said the classic line- "We are made of star stuff." This show reminds me why the universe is so dang amazing, and I have learned things I legitimately always wanted to know. Like for instance, on the last episode- they explained why scientists can determine the composition of atmospheres on other planets. It is by analyzing the spectrum of light that it emits and looking at the "code" written into beams of light, emitted by different elements. That is amazing! And I never knew just how they did that! What is best about this show, is my 14 year old is completely engrossed in it. It is furthering her interest in science. When she learned that she has to take physics in Freshman year, her response was "Yes! Physics is awesome!" And my little mom-heart just about burst with pride. Thanks, Neil DeGrasse Tyson!





So, what do you think I left out? Tell me what shows are filling up your DVR right now.




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ghosts, vampires and Paris — Kickstarter book project

I don't know about you, but once in a while I like to back an interesting Kickstarter project.  And there's one out right now that I thought readers of the blog might be interested in.  Father Sebastian's book Mysteries of Paris is a guide to ghosts, urban legends and even vampires in Paris.  Go check it out!