Today, guest author Robert S. Wilson is here to discuss some topics close to my heart. I'm a big fan of his work, so it's an honor to have him here. Thanks so much for stopping by! Take it away, Robert!
First of all, I’d like to thank my host for having me on her brilliant fantastic blog. Now, with that said, you must all now listen to me… or maybe you’ve already clicked the X and went on to a different site in another tab. No, if you had, you wouldn’t still be able to read this—so…
For the purpose of making sure you know just what the hell it is I’m talking about, let me give you some background. In September of 2011 I published a novel called SHINING IN CRIMSON: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK ONE. Yes, a vampire novel, but not just a vampire novel, a dystopian vampire novel… To be more accurate, a religiously dystopian vampire novel. Now for those of you who are still with me and haven’t rolled your eyes out of your head, I’d like to talk about SHINING IN CRIMSON and separation of church and state.
I think many would agree that separation of church and state is a necessity. However, often in this country some people only think about separation of church and state in regard to their own religion, giving them a distorted idea of what it is and what it should ultimately be.
I think it’s also safe to say that a large population of Christians in this country would prefer that the United States would be—and some believe that it has always been—a Christian nation. Now for those of you who believe in diversity and are considerate of others’ beliefs and so on, so forth, please do not think that I am labeling all Christians as such. I know many Christians who enjoy our nation’s diversity of religions, philosophies, culture, and lifestyles. I also know quite a few who do not. Every group of people has them, don’t they? Bitter, self-righteous, narrow-minded folks who won’t stop the “good fight” until every last person is converted to their way of thinking.
As an agnostic and a skeptic, I’ve also seen this exact sort of behavior among the free-thinking. Though I respect and understand their views on logic and reason, people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are behind a very recent movement of what I call militant atheism and skepticism that I personally find deplorable for the same reason I find it deplorable when people of religion try to push their religion on me. So even when religion is not in the picture, idealism can become a sort of religion on its own. But as an agnostic, I chose to convey my thoughts and feelings about separation of church and state through a Christian-like religion in my novel.
And yet at the same time, I also chose to reveal some of the things I enjoy about this particular religion—the imagery, parables, and so on. But most importantly, I want you, the reader, to understand that what I set out to truly illustrate with this dystopian novel—regardless of what religion or lack of religion was chosen to be at its center—was a mirror image of our own society with one of its basic foundations—the proper separation of church and state—not just taken away, but more accurately, ultimately discarded by choice.
Some of the following back story is very clear in the book and some is only hinted at. Early on, a charismatic megalomaniac by the name of Joseph Caesar secretly started a campaign to overthrow the United States by starting a single Christian militia. He convinced his followers he was a prophet of God, that America was corrupt with sin, and the only way to fix this would be to cleanse the nation of that sin by any means necessary. The militia quickly grew to a formidable size, branching out into different factions in each of the fifty states and within a short period of time, it was large enough to be a formidable threat. And so, Joseph used his new army to wage war against the “evil” secular United States government and anyone who would stand in the way of his promised true Christian America under God.
But in the heat of the bloodshed, Joseph’s power becomes so complete over so many of his people that when he reveals himself to be God incarnate and twists Christianity into a new kind of religion that sets him at its center, his allegiance and charisma not only continue to endear him to them, but this new revelation thrusts him into the ultimate form of power. And when the United States falls to Joseph’s knees, those who oppose him—secular, followers of other faiths—especially Christians who refuse to convert—become targets hunted down and murdered in public display.
Oh and did I mention there are vampires? Haha. Yeah, in the midst of all this war, the vampires, sick of hiding and ravenous from so much bloodshed, begin attacking soldiers from both sides of the war. So, when the smoke clears the people have two rival fears: the newly self-appointed Emperor, Joseph Caesar and his army as well as a now openly public society of terrifying supernatural bloodthirsty vampires. In a quick attempt to funnel both streams of fear together, Emperor Caesar makes a deal with the vampires—a blood pact—of mutually beneficial peace. In exchange for a city of their own and a regular supply of blood—the blood of criminals and sinners—the vampires must stay within their own city limits and leave the public alone. Not only does this protect the people, it instills even more power onto Joseph Caesar, the new ultimate judge of what is right and wrong.
So, when the novel begins, the people of the former United States of America are ruled by The American Empire of Almighty God, an imperial empire ruled solely by its religious leader and self-professed living deity, Joseph Caesar. To be clear, within the confines of this story, THERE IS NO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Imperial church attendance is mandatory on Sundays. A morality law is instilled and upheld in that those who are caught in violation are sent to the newly formed city of Necropolis: City of the Dead—formerly known as Las Vegas—where the vampires wait to be fed.
Now, ultimately vampires aren’t real and we Americans, for the most part, live comfortably in a nation protected by a foundation of separation of church and state. And many other countries also enjoy this freedom. But what if it were to suddenly disappear? What if the majority of any democratic nation were to suddenly decide it wasn’t needed? Or what if, in real life, a single religion or idealism decided to wage war in order to relinquish it? For some separation of church and state is a necessary evil that allows them to believe what they want, without fear of intrusion from the government. But separation of church and state is and does much more than that. It protects us all from a much larger evil than vampires. An evil constantly lurking and waiting for a single momentary opening to slip in and dissolve our freedom to believe and practice our beliefs as we so choose. Do we maybe take that for granted… sometimes?
Robert S. Wilson is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor and the author of SHINING IN CRIMSON and FADING IN DARKNESS, books one and two of his dystopian vampire series, Empire of Blood. His short fiction has appeared or will be appearing in the following anthologies, magazines, and publications: A QUICK BITE OF FLESH, [NAMELESS] Magazine, HORROR D’OEUVRES (a website from DarkFuse), BLEED (a charity anthology for kids with cancer), FEAR THE REAPER, THE BEST OF THE HORROR SOCIETY 2013, EVIL JESTER PRESENTS COMICS and more. His cyberpunk/horror novella EXIT REALITY was published in February of 2013 by Blood Bound Books.
SHINING IN CRIMSON: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK ONE is now completely free to download and read from the following websites: Smashwords.com in all eBook formats, BN.com for Nook devices, the iBooks store for iPad users, and Wattpad.com. Coming soon to Kobo.com, Sony, and more.
Robert is currently holding an Indiegogo fundraiser to raise funds to finish the third novel in the Empire of Blood series: RISING FROM ASHES. There are plenty of great perks in exchange for donating for new readers as well as long-time fans of the series including eBook, signed personalized paperbacks and limited hardcover editions of books one, two, and three, as well as an omnibus edition of all three novels together, signed Empire of Blood bookmarks, the chance to name a vampire or other important characters in the upcoming novel, a few one of a kind signed personalized manuscripts, and more. Donations of any size are welcome. Even the smallest donation will be a huge help toward writing and publishing expenses to get RISING FROM ASHES out by January 2014!
Magda’s mid-life crisis is far more complicated than most. Her husband has long been deceased under the most surreal of circumstances, her only son is a monster, and she seems to be . . . getting younger? Her experience of the “change of life” is proving far different than she had expected.
The story opens beautifully, with exquisite prose and a unique premise that will draw the reader in from page one. About halfway through, it falls into a few clichés that are obviously intentional, but not quite fitting with the preceding seriousness of tone. Still, anyone familiar with Lopez’s work will appreciate the lighthearted feel that prevails throughout most the rest of the work. JUGULAR is a fun, quirky story that turns the vampire tale on its head in a way only Lopez can. I give this work 4.5 stars.
This short collection includes the novella, Sudden Death Overtime, the short story, “Time Out,” and a preview of Nothing to Lose, by author Steve Vernon. For the purposes of the review, I will be including my ratings and responses to the former two, as I do not like to review partial works (but with that said, I did find the preview of Nothing to Lose an enjoyable read).
Sudden Death Overtime is a short work that begins very fluidly—almost literary in prose—and slowly transforms into a horror comedy with absurdist attributes. The story mainly follows a small group of geriatric men, far past their prime, and their response to what they come to realize, after a number of people go missing, is an encroachment of vampires in their sleepy town. Although I do have to admit I was disappointed when the style changed from lyrical to fast paced and abrupt, I still really enjoyed the read. I’m typically not a fan of absurdist stories, and I’m very critical of horror comedy, but the author pulled it off. I think a continuation of literary prose would have offered a neat juxtaposition against the backdrop that unfolded, but for what it was worth, it was a fun story and definitely a refreshing break from the onslaught of vampire tales currently going around. I rate Sudden Death Overtime a solid 4 stars.
“Time Out” is a lovely piece about childhood, nostalgia, and the changes that occur as we go from child to adult to older adult. Short but sweet, “Time Out” took me back to my own childhood and the reflections I have from the perspective of my own age. I rate this short story 4.5 stars.
Overall, this short collection will delight anyone looking for a unique jaunt through two different genres pieced together by their common themes of hockey and youth remembered. It’s a quick read, one I rate at 4.25 stars.
It is my pleasure to have pop culture author Bertena Varney here to talk about her recent release, Lure of the Vampire. As an added bonus, one lucky reader will win an electronic copy of her book, so make sure to leave a comment and share with your social networks. Thanks so much for coming here today, Bertena! Tell us about Lure of the Vampire.
When I began to write this book, it didn’t begin as a book. It began as part of my master’s thesis. The long story of how Lure of the Vampire came to be is included in my book, but the short version is that I needed a final class to graduate and how my wonderful professor allowed me to create an independent study course looking at the sociological lure of the vampire.
Well, I finished my paper and several people said that it would be a great beginning to a book. So, I spoke to new authors that I met on Facebook and researched how to publish a book. It
looked simple enough. So, I decided I would do it. Boy was I wrong but I will save that for a later post.
Once I decided to write the book I began what would be almost two years of research. I looked up folklore stories, serial killers known as vampires, author websites, vampire games and much more.
While researching I found that people are very passionate about their vampires! Being a sociologist and criminologist by trade I decided to be as objective as possible ensuring that I didn’t take sides on the sparkly vampire versus traditional vampires. I even came up with a theory that showed why we need all types of vampires. But, still that was all the battles and arguments that I came across dealing with this creature of the night.
It wasn’t just the Twihards that were passionate about their Twilight vampires or the real life vampires that were protective of their lifestyle (and rightly so) but it was the everyday person who had a different idea of what a vampire is.
I received hate emails from people saying that I was bringing demons to life and into their world and I was going to hell. Other emails ranged from a battle of what television shows were better and who is the best television vampire. I have to say Henry Fitzroy and Mick St. John fans are passionate and don’t let me begin discussing the True Blood fans.
But, the most passionate groups are the women who love the romantic vampires and the erotic stories. They have their favorite knight in a black cape and will defend them to the end. Their vampire heroes come into their bedroom at night off the pages of the books they read and bring romance and passion to their lives. These women may or may not be the traditional fan of the vampire but when it comes to their favorite character they are every loyal and passionate.
My findings after researching vampires was that there are no two vampire fans that are alike, vampire fans are very passionate about their vampires and that there is a vampire for everyone- they just need to know where to look for
As a result, I decided to categorize my reference book into sections dealing with the different types of vampires. I thought that if one person wanted to know more about children’s vampires or learn more about recreational events that deal with vampires then the book should be easy to use.
Here are the ten sections that the book is divided into are: vampires in mythology, vampires in history, vampires in literature, vampires in movies, vampires on television, vampires on the web, vampires in recreations, vampires for kids, vampires in education and vampires in real life.
Each section includes one or more of the following: fun lists of facts, websites, essays, and interviews. Readers can go to a section and find websites that they can use for more information as well as read fun lists such as the top 10 Romanian Tours or the Top 10 firsts in Literature.
As a result of the research and feedback that I received from the myriad of vampire fans that I met along the way I decided to make Lure of the Vampire a resource that can help you find the perfect vampire for you while providing resources for you to learn more about that vampire.
So, what is your favorite type of vampire? Who is your favorite vampire character?
I will be here answering your questions throughout the day. I look forward to hearing from
Win a Free PDF of Lure of the Vampire
I will be giving away a free PDF of Lure of the Vampire. All you have to do to be registered for the contest is to do the following:
- Comment below
- Friend me on Facebook here
- Follow me on twitter @tenavarney
- Join my website: www.bertenavarney.com and http://searchforthelure.webs.com
- Share this link on Facebook and twitter.
Make sure you comment or send a message to let me know that you have done all of these. Each one is worth one chance to win, and all five will get you double the points.
Lure of the vampire is available here.
~ Bertena Varney. M.A.
The TRS treasure hunt is coming to a close, but the clues are still pouring in. My question was a simple one: In my erotic horror series, how do the vampires take their coffee?
Make sure to stop by TRS to submit your answers--remember, there is an Amazon Kindle up for grabs.
So, how do vampires take their coffee? Read the following excerpt from The Darkness and the Night: Blood and Coffee to find out:
There was a knock at the front door the following night, not long after dusk. The
same escort from the night before had come to invite Karen and Billy to John-Michael’s
house for a cup of coffee before church. The two quickly followed the escort across the
stone paths, to the other side of the commune.
John-Michael and his wife, Vivian, sat beside one another on the front porch,
awaiting Karen and Billy’s arrival. John-Michael had short, colorless hair, an unenviable
face, and beady blue eyes. Vivian also had naturally pale hair and eyes, with long hair,
fine features, and a thin, shrewd smile. She appeared to be about half his age. Her
conservative, hand-sewn attire hardly seemed to suit her, just as she hardly seemed to fit
beside John-Michael. Vivian was a goddess and John-Michael was a troll. Neither
seemed to notice.
The escort led Karen and Billy all the way to the porch, then disappeared back down
the path as soon as John-Michael and Vivian acknowledged their guests. Four cups of
hot coffee sat on a small glass table between two sets of wicker chairs.
John-Michael and Vivian stood as Karen and Billy walked onto the porch and offered
their hands in greeting. They both had firm, enthusiastic handshakes, and they seemed
almost too excited to see their guests. The four sat as John-Michael and Vivian
immediately picked up their coffee cups.
“Coffee?” Vivian asked, pointing to the two other cups.
“Thank you,” Billy said as he and Karen politely lifted their cups. They both smelled
a strangely familiar, yet somehow hard to place, scent masked in the coffee as they
moved the steaming cups up to their lips.
Karen hesitated, but Billy went so far as to take a taste. They paused for a moment as
Billy recognized the additional ingredient as soon as it hit his tongue. Blood. They
added blood to their coffee? A regional preference, perhaps? Billy didn’t think too much
about it, finding it added a fullness similar to that achieved by adding milk or cream, but
Karen found it disturbing.
Billy reminded Karen with a quick mental note that there was nothing strange about
blood to these people. A food product was a food product; milk and blood differed only
in that one came from a teat and the other a vein. Upon further consideration, Billy
concluded that the idea was rather novel -- the boost of caffeine combined with a small
snack -- and he wondered why he hadn’t thought of the idea before.
Karen set down her cup, unwilling to try the combination. She didn’t care if John-
Michael and Vivian thought she was rude, nor did she care that even an extra ounce or
two of blood would be an ounce or two less she would need later. Whose blood was it?
Some poor donor’s, perhaps, his wrist slashed and held over their cups, his value to these
people no more than the value a human might place on a disposable milk carton?
Vivian set down her cup, as well, playing the gracious host. A smile spread across
her pretty face as she did her best to address Billy and Karen together, although her eyes
found and fixed upon Billy’s far too many times for Karen’s comfort.
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you. I’m so sorry I was unavailable last night,” John-
Michael said between sips of coffee.
“Jean-Michele tells us that you two only plan on staying for a couple of days,” Vivian
added, her smile fading to a trite look of disappointment.
Karen and Billy thought about the comment for a moment and, to Karen’s surprise,
Billy began to reconsider his desire to leave as soon as planned. This place had its own
history, its own culture, and in a strange, remote way it was the only real heritage he
could claim. His people belonged to an underground society back in the “real world” and
forced to hide who they were and remained scattered to avoid detection. Although no
one in the Xavier bloodline had ever called this safe haven home, he knew deep down
that these were still his people. They had a society to call their own, a place where they
could build a real life -- they could safely raise their child here, if only they were willing
to give the place a chance.
“Our plans aren’t set in stone,” Billy said, smiling back at Vivian. “This coffee is
really good, by the way.” He finished his cup, and then switched it with Karen’s. “You
aren’t going to drink this?” he asked her aloud, although he already knew the answer.
“Take it,” Karen said, feeling her face flush. She mentally asked Billy why he
suddenly had such a change of heart, and he simply responded by telling her he knew
what he was doing and she needed to trust him. She glanced over at Vivian and John-
Michael, and the hair suddenly rose on the back of her neck as she noticed a startling look
of contempt in both of their faces.
“You really should try just a sip,” Billy said. “It’s very good.” He held the cup up,
offering her a taste, but she pushed it away, intentionally knocking it out of his hand.
The cup fell to the wooden floorboards, shattering and sending the hot liquid
splattering in all directions.
Bonus question: I'm offering an additional free copy of any of of my currently available novels to the first person able to answer the following question: Name the character living at the vampire commune who is based on a children's fairy tale.
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with my friends and peers at Un:Bound, when we got on the subject of vampire television shows and movies. The chat proved to be quite inspirational. Fellow author C. M. Kempe beat me to the punch in blogging about some personal favorites, but after sitting on this for several days, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and post this.
Following is my list, in chronological order, of five vampire films and TV shows that are must-sees. If you are a fan of vampire fiction, then you might be familiar with everything on my list. If not, but you still enjoy a good horror, check out these five greats:
Near Dark (1987)
A man gets pulled into a group of vampires—and their very dark world—after getting bitten. He struggles to survive, the moral dilemma of “kill or be killed” weighing heavily on him. He falls for the woman who turned him, learning that she is as much a hapless victim as he, while he works against the clock to reclaim his humanity.
Near Dark is a rare gem, with good dialogue, great acting, and an ending that will leave you with goose bumps. The special effects are great for 1987, and the vampires’ mythos and lifestyle are both well conceived. The story gives a terrifying look at the vampire’s point of view, without romanticizing or glorifying it. These vampires are hard, gritty, and as evil as they come. They can’t fly or control minds, but they are nonetheless scary.
Near Dark won’t leave you with nightmares, but it will haunt you.
Forever Knight (1992-1996)
An 800-year-old vampire attempts to right the wrongs of his life by swearing off murder and becoming a police detective. He becomes close friends with the medical examiner, who learns his secret and researches a way to make him human again.
Forever Knight is one of those rare guilty pleasures that I looked forward to every week. The special effects are on par with other early ‘90s television shows: minimalistic, but effective. The character dynamics are fun, the story is provocative, and the progression of the series is well crafted. The lead character’s struggle to interact with and “be” human is fascinating. I still can see in my mind’s eye the recurring scene in which he watches the sunrise through live camera feeds while drinking blood from a wine bottle. Brilliant!
Kindred: The Embraced (1996)
A Police detective stumbles upon a vampire underground while investigating mob activities, finding the five secret clans on the brink of war. He and the leader of the clans, who slowly falls for a human reporter, work together to keep order and prevent the truth about the “Kindred” hidden from the mainstream. The series is based on the role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade.
It is unfortunate that Kindred: The Embraced only lasted for one season, as it had amazing potential. The characters were well developed, the acting very good, and the storyline intriguing. Tragically, the lead actor died in a motorcycle accident before another season could be shot.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
This has got to be one of the most novel vampire movie concepts I’ve ever seen: A vampire plays a human playing a vampire in the silent film, Nosferatu. The director finds it makes for a realistic horror film—but he also loses most of his cast and crew during the filming.
Shadow of the Vampire is artfully dark and delightfully smart. The acting is phenomenal across the board, the character progression flawless (particularly the director’s descent into madness as he sees the repercussions of bringing a real vampire onboard accrue), and one of the best endings I’ve seen. This movie is highly disturbing and equally provocative.
Let the Right One In (2008)
A little boy befriends a little girl, who turns out to be a vampire temporarily living next door with her adult caretaker. As the town becomes plagued with murders, the boy slowly learns his friend’s secret.
Let the Right One In has so many amazing qualities, it’s hard to know where to begin in describing it. The dynamics created between the perceived childhood innocence in both lead characters and the bloodthirsty monster the little girl truly is makes this story both creepy and genius. The friendship that develops between the two lead characters is deep and touching, but the moral dilemmas posed through the story’s progression are equally poignant—while also, at the same time, being absolutely horrifying. Let the Right One In may be the last on this list, but it is probably one of the greatest vampire films ever made.
What do you think? Is there a movie you think should be on this list and/or removed? Do you think any of the more popular vampire movies are better? If so, why?