Blood Family is featured today on I Love Vampire Novels!

Happy Easter, everyone!

I am very pleased and honoured that my Young Adult vampire novel, BLOOD FAMILY, is appearing on the enthralling I Love Vampire Novels website today!

Learn more about the story, and, in my interview, the journey I took which led me to write the tale of the powerful half-vampire teen, Daniel Dark…

Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key

Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key

From the site’s ‘About’ page:

“I Love Vampire Novels” began as a simple Facebook page where people who were totally into the best Vampire Books could go, hangout and post stuff about what they were reading.

But after the fan base grew to over 10,500 people in under 5 days, well… let’s just say it was time to expand a bit.

I Love Vampire Novels Website

I Love Vampire Novels Website

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‘Blood Family’ is now available!

I am thrilled to announce that my Young Adult urban fantasy novel, Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key is now available on Amazon US and Amazon UK! Thank you to all the fantastic people who have supported me and this work, and those who helped give this book a professional shine – Ali Cross of Novel Ninjutsu, Anne Victory of Victory Editing, David Rabbitte for his amazing cover art, and Tatania Vila for her superb cover fonts.

Look out for Blood Family on Ultimate YA – where it will be featuring on April 1st (no fooling’!).

The book will also be the ‘featured read’ on I Love Vampire Novels great site.

And that’s not all, I will be appearing on many sites and blogs over the coming weeks. Find out about more about Daniel Dark’s perilous journey, and what inspired my take on vampire lore.

I will be giving everyone heads-up when each and every one of these features has gone live.

A vampire father, an imprisoned mother, and one perilous journey…

Lazy, goalless New England teenager Daniel Dark never intended his life to change so dramatically. It starts with the arrival of a mysterious package, and the revelation that his true father was a master vampire named Dominus. As his own fearsome powers begin to emerge, he sets out to rescue his birth mother, still imprisoned in Dominus’ stronghold. Strange clues take Daniel to the deep forests of southern Mexico and then to the mist-shrouded moors of England. Hot on his heels is his adoptive father – Pastor Nathan Dark, determined to find and kill he boy he had once called his son.

Urban fantasy for Young Adult readers and beyond.

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven. But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven.
But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Interview with Dr Bob Curran – Paranormal scholar!

Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Stalk the Night by Bob Curran

Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Stalk the Night by Bob Curran

Bob has traveled many parts of the world, exploring other people's cultures and traditions. Author Bob Curren lives in Ireland, not far from the famous Giant's Causeway.

Bob has traveled many parts of the world, exploring other people’s cultures and traditions. Author Bob Curren lives in Ireland, not far from the famous Giant’s Causeway.

Today I am very honoured to have Dr Bob Curran appear on Written Worlds. Many of you will know Bob from his many books, especially those that explore the origins of all things supernatural.

Bob lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, not far from the world-famous natural basalt land feature known as the Giant’s Causeway.

Bob has been a frequent guest on Coast to Coast am radio and numerous other shows. His books include American Vampires, Man-Made Monsters, and The World’s Creepiest Places.

First of all, Bob, I would like to thank you for appearing on Mark Knight’s Written Worlds. You certainly know your supernatural stuff, and have quite a few books out there on the subject.

Bob, you are a prolific writer. Your books about the origins of supernatural beings have been very popular. What compelled you to write about vampires, faeries, and werewolves?

I grew up in a largely rural mountain community in Northern Ireland during the late 1940s/early 1950s in which tradition and superstition often played a significant part in everyday life. For example, when I was a child there was a widespread belief in both fairies and ghosts – it was believed for instance that fairies could spirit away children or could cause illness in both livestock and in humans – and this to some extent shaped the world around us. At certain times of the year, the dead were believed to walk the lonely roads around my home and few would venture out after a certain time of day. There were too, old earthworks and standing stones all about – some with a particularly evil reputation and this determined, as children, where we could go and play.

I remember when I was very young, hearing of a girl in our area who had simply vanished near an old stone – there was a hunt for her for several days but she was never found, goodness knows what had actually happened to her – and being told that the fairies or sheehogues had taken her and I was not to visit that site or the same would happen to me.

I was raised mainly by my maternal grandmother and grandfather and it was from him that I got my love of storytelling. As a young man, he had been a labourer in many parts of the North and he had a fund of stories that he could draw on – many concerning ghosts, witchcraft and the supernatural. Such beliefs determined both my community and my grandfather as an individual and so you could say that it also formed part of the culture that I grew up with and that it became ingrained within me.

Later, I began to travel a bit and I began to see how culture and belief systems were replicated in various ways in other parts of the world. Each culture seemed to have variants of fairies, werecreatures, walking dead etc. which somehow underpinned and to some extent explained the world around it.  So I began to write about it in my books, I suppose as a way in which to explore my own past and  to understand what my community was like when I was growing up.

I suppose the question for me is not whether or not these being actually exist – they may do, they may not – but rather why we would want to believe in them and what they tell us about ourselves. And what they tell me about myself.

You have appeared on Coast to Coast and other radio shows, and are always a popular guest. What do people ask you about the most when they phone in to a radio show or podcast?

In a sense this question continues on from the last. Not only do I get a host of e-mails with questions and comments – some through the publishers and some directly to me. A good number of them ask me or want to tell me about experiences which the caller/writer has had. In these situations people are trying to make sense of the world for themselves and to determine their place in, in relation to other things.

I suppose speaking with a psychologist’s hat on, some people are seeking reassurance that they are not “bizarre” or mad; others might be seeking a rational explanation for an event which they can’t really explain for themselves, others still want to know how what I write fits in with other things that they have read pr are thinking about.

Other questioners want to ask me about my religious beliefs and how what I write fits in with them. I have received communications from Born Again Christians who tell me that I shouldn’t be dealing in such things, even to explain them to myself. It is of course their right to question me in this as it frames up their world for them and gives them some form of certainty. Mind you, I’ve been already denounced here in Northern Ireland and in print as “the physical embodiment of the Antichrist” by a leading minister.So you now know who you’re talking to!

But I get all sorts of questions on all sots of topics and no matter how strange I always try to answer them as best I can.

Vampires seem to be perennially popular. You have written three books about them. Do you think that they could actually exist?

Vampires are indeed extremely popular and I think they have changed a lot over the years. For instance, when I was growing up, the vampire was a tall and saturnine East European nobleman who looked something like Christopher Lee who lived in a ruined castle somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains. Now vampires can be some angst-ridden teenager who attends a local high-school somewhere near you. In between these are languid aristocrats who inhabit some gloomy area of New Orleans.

What interests me most is not whether or not they actually exist but why we would want them to. As you say, they have been perennially popular down the years and almost every culture in the world has its own variation of them. Therefore what fundamental human questions does a belief in vampires address?  I would think it might try to answer a couple of them…

A) What happens to us after death? Death is of course the last great mystery. Nobody has ever come back to give us a detailed account of what happens beyond the grave so we can speculate.

B) What would it be like to live forever? Would there be some sort of price it we did? I think that the idea of vampires addresses some of these questions in part – there are of course a number of other elements in the vampire motif such as eroticism, eternal youth etc. Much of our perceptions of the creature are of course determined by the wider popular culture, through books, television and films.

As I said earlier, it was the vampire films of Christopher Lee which determined how vampires “looked” when I was growing up but if you go back earlier you’ll see the horrible creature in black and white films like Nosferatu as portrayed by Maximilian Shrek.

Nowadays, in our celebrity based culture, the vampire has to look something like a rock star. Therefore, here in the West the idea of the vampire emerges out of the dominant culture and often how we see ourselves. In other cultures it emerges out of the fears and nightmares of the people – the old woman living alone; the person who is slightly at variance with his/her community, those who have different ways. These get absorbed into the wider myth. So in a sense it is possible to say that vampires do exist – but only because we create them.

Bob, you have compiled a great deal of information about folklore, and have travelled to many countries. What is the most bizarre myth or legend you have come across?

In a sense, the folklore of any community or country is shaped by the perceptions of the people. This is why I’ve argued that some of these old tales are just as important as actual historical documentation in that they tell us how our ancestors—and their culture—have framed up the world for themselves. And each community frames that world up in a slightly different way. So the culture of say the Middle East is a bit different from that of Western Europe but essentially they address the same problems because no matter where we live, human experience is roughly the same for us all. We’re born, we love, we eat, we sleep, we die – no matter who we are or what status or culture we belong to, the broad experience of being human is roughly the same.

But there are idiosyncrasies in every community/culture just as there are in human  beings, that’s what makes the traditions and folklore of different parts of the world distinctive in their own right. Legends too serve to explain and to provide a context for experience and each one is distinctive. We only consider them to be bizarre, I suppose, if they don’t conform to our own interpretations of the world.

So I don’t think there is a “most bizarre” myth or tradition. Although many would appear to be unique to the culture that has produced them, I think that, in their own way, every one tries to explain some aspect of human experience

You were of great help to me when I was writing my Young Adult novel, Solomon Grimm and the Well of Souls, which is out later this year. The book is set mainly in Ireland and deals with many of the weird and wonderful supernatural creatures known to Irish folklore – the marbh bheo, the Dullahan, and sheehogues. There seems to be more supernatural folklore in Ireland than anywhere else, yet people really only know about the banshee. Why do you think this is?

The Irish are great storytellers and much of their tradition —and culture—in an oral one which has, up until recently, been passed down across the generations.

My own grandfather for instance was a known seanchie —a man of lore or a storyteller who kept old stories and local knowledge alive in the area around our home. Over my lifetime, such tradition has more or less died out, even in country places, largely thanks to television and other media. So it’s no real surprise that some of the beings and entities have in many ways passed into obscurity.

Another point is that although such beings are weird and wonderful they were largely localised and were possibly the product of a localised and tightly knit community. There were of course more widely recognised beings such as —as you say—the banshee or the leprechaun which often travelled with the Irish people, although there were localised variants of each. The leprechaun is well-known I think because of Irish marketing —he seems to appear on everything Irish. And of course the banshee —which also appears in various localised forms—has always been associated with the Irish and in particular the Irish abroad. However, other entities —the Dullahan, the Far Gorta and such were more localised in their aspect.

Bob, you are also involved with your local community in Derry, Northern Ireland. Tell us a little bit about the causes you support, and any important issues that visitors to this blog may be interested to hear about.

The community work is another aspect of my life and is one that I was involved with even before I started writing. I came into it through community education which more or less developed to encompass other social and community problems. I am now working in a part-time capacity for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. That’s not as grand as it sounds of course but there’s quite a bit of work involved.

Here in Northern Ireland we’ve come through between thirty or forty years of conflict. Although we now have what might be described as a “Peace Process” in operation things are by no means over. Scars have been left on many communities —and on individual lives—by conflict; despite the relative peace, paramilitaries still hold a great deal of sway in certain areas and there are still deep sensitivities amongst many people. A good many of the communities have been left devastated, both in a financial, resource and personal sense by the years of conflict.

Part of my job is to go into these communities from which the paramilitaries have more or less withdrawn and help them to rebuild their sense of identity, their confidence and their financial resources. Some of this is done through education – the development of local history programmes for instance —some of it is done through organising local events; some of it is done by working on community projects. Some of my work is done on a cross-community level by organising shared events between Catholics, Protestants and other nationalities —for example in some areas we have large Polish, Chinese and Indian populations who sometimes find it difficult to integrate into already existing communities. I help them set up bodies which will aid that. And, as funding for community programmes gets tighter and tighter, I have to encourage small groups in certain areas to work together – sometimes Catholic and Protestant, sometimes Northern Irish people and other nationalities; sometimes places here there have been local tensions. It’s not always easy.

For instance, I’m working with a small village in North Antrim which has only one street but four community groups operating there, none of which speak to the other. And they’re all Protestant, though varying shades of Protestant perspectives. So a lot of my work comprises educator, counsellor, peacemaker and government official – often with varying degrees of success. And of course in some of the areas I work in —particularly the large estates on the edges of towns—the paramilitaries are still pretty much in control and I have to negotiate setting up community programmes with them. On some occasions I’ve been sitting in a room negotiating with men wearing shoulder holsters and on a couple of times a loaded firearm has been set on a table in front of me.  It can get a bit scary at times. But of course, it’s not all like that —just a few instances.  However, things can still be a bit tense in Northern Ireland.

The recent flag protests have created problems in some areas and recently I suffered from bruised ribs when I was hit by some concrete thrown by a protestor at a venue which I was doing a presentation. But these things are few and far between and are part of the job.  However, the tensions are still very high in some areas – mainly stirred up by paramilitary elements – and so 2013 has really hit the ground running for me in that respect.  

I also chair a couple of community programmes on some of the large and generally neglected estates across Northern Ireland – one, for instance, to help young mothers get qualifications by providing education on their estate and crèche facilities for their children.  I was one of a team who set that up from scratch and it’s now running very well. I step down as chair but remain involved next week.

On an individual level I run a couple of weekly trauma programmes in a nearby town —this was something I set up at the end of last year and which has been a success. This is mainly for the unsung victims of the conflict —people who have had relatives shot, blown up or who have been affected by the conflict in some way. Sometimes people have had to flee the areas they were brought up in and are just feeling lonely where they’ve had to settle. I’ll work with them all. It’s a small contribution but I like to think that I’m doing a little bit to make life more tolerable in Northern Ireland. Although we have a so-called peace process it’s far from perfect and there’s still a great deal to do it we’re to move forward.

Finally, what is the subject of your next supernatural book?

Because of the community issues – and they have got worse over the last four or five months largely because of the flag protests and other elements – I’ve not had as much time to write as I would like. Still having a think about some major books and discussing them with publishers.However, there are a couple of illustrated books coming up for which I’ve done/am doing the text.

One is the Carnival of Dark Dreams and the other is The Witch Hunter’s Handbook. Also another project which I don’t want to say too much about as nothing’s been finalised as yet. But keep watching this space!

More on Dr Bob Curran, his works, and latest projects on his official blog site: drbobcurran.blogspot.co.uk

Book List:

American Vampires

Vampires are much more complex creatures than Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Twilight, True Blood, or scores of other movies and television shows would have you believe. Even in America.

Vampires are much more complex creatures than Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Twilight, True Blood, or scores of other movies and television shows would have you believe. Even in America.

Bloody Irish: Great Irish Vampire Stories
Celtic Lore & Legend: Meet the Gods, Heroes, Kings, Fairies,
Monsters, and Ghosts of Yore
Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Stalk the Night
Encyclopedia of the Undead: A Field Guide to Creatures that
Cannot Rest in Peace
Walking with the Green Man: Farther of the Forest, Spirit of Nature

Lost Lands, Forgotten Realms: Sunken Continents, Vanished Cities,
and the Kingdoms that History Misplaced
Zombies: A Field Guide to the Walking Dead
Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and
Man-Beasts
Biblio Vampiro: An Essential Guide to Vampires and, More Importantly,
How to Avoid Them
The Werewolf Handbook: An Essential Guide to Werewolvesand, More Importantly, How to Avoid Them
Man-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Soldiers, Homunculi and Other Created Creatures
A Haunted Mind: Inside the Dark, Twisted World of H.P. Lovecraft

‘Blood Family’ Preview ~ Chapter Four

The countdown to all-hell-breaks-loose has begun. Daniel is still an average teen; indolent, rebellious, taking a back seat from life. He has friends, like Pearce, who know him only as the lax-limbed son of the local pastor. Daniel knows something is going on with his father. He will soon find out what is brewing within himself.

CHAPTER 4

“I’m telling you, Pearce. It was weird.”

Daniel lay on his bed with his dented-but-functioning cellular phone sandwiched between his ear and a propped pillow. The TV on the dresser opposite was flickering out a rerun of The Munsters with the sound turned down.

“God,” Pearce reacted, mouth stuffed full of takeaway hamburger. “Walking in on a bunch of priests. I’d freak. But I guess you’re used to that.”

“I’m not. Dad’s never had a preacher party like that before, not in this house. And get this: they’ll be having it here every month from now on.”

“With the creepy old guy?”

“I dunno,” Dan said after a shudder, hand recalling the elder pastor’s grip. “Probably. Shit, I hope not.”

“So what do they talk about?”

“Sermons and shit.”

“Yeah, God stuff…”

“Not just that. I overheard my Dad a few weeks back. He wants to open a new church or something. Or a new branch of the church. I think that’s what they’re organizing. As if I don’t have enough grief. So, Pearcey, you going out later?”

“What—tonight?”

“No, not tonight. It’s too late now. Dad would have my nuts for fuzzy dice. Tomorrow night. You know, just to hang out somewhere. A few cans, a few joints.”

“Cool. You bringing Daelin?”

“I’d sure like to,” Daniel said, and he meant it. He nostrilled out a long sigh. “But…Daelin’s been acting kind of weird lately. I don’t know where I stand with her at the moment.”

“Women. I can’t make sense of them, either, man. But hey, Danno, at least you’ve got one.” Daniel could hear his friend choke down another chunk of hamburger. The burgermeister is what they called him, and not because of his Germanic ancestry. Daniel had always said that Pearce would K.O. his heart before he was twenty-one if didn’t reign in his appetite for greasy foods.  “So, what you doing now?”

“Kicking back, watching Munsters.”

“Shit, dude, Munsters again? You live for that old stuff. Even when we were kids you used to think you were that fanged little brat, Eddie.”

“No way.”

“Ya huh! Every Halloween you were Eddie Munster. He was your idol. It’s like you identified with him or something.”

“Whatever. Okay—my battery’s gonna kick. Catch you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, catch you then.”

                                        

‘Blood Family’ Preview ~ Chapter Three

Continuing the preview, we meet Daniel’s father, Pastor Nathan Dark. Relationship between father and son is strained to say the least. But Daniel has no idea just how intense this conflict will go…

                                                CHAPTER 3

The living room was full of priests.

Okay, ministers, really, pastors – of the Baptist variety like his father. They didn’t wear white collars like their Catholic counterparts, though Daniel knew they were pastors all the same. The conservative dress sense and lame haircuts were dead giveaways.

His father, the only one who wore glasses, threw his son a fake smile.

“Ah! Daniel!”

Yeah, right. That was sincere. He might as well have said ‘there he is – the son who’s a constant embarrassment to me!’

“Hey, Dad.”

Pastor Nathan Dark stood and began his introductions. “I’m sure some of you know my son. I think you were the last to see him, weren’t you, Bill?”

Pastor ‘Bill’ set down his coffee mug and stood, shaking Daniel’s hand as though cracking a whip. “Of course! He was only about fifteen then. Changed a bit, haven’t you, Danny?”

Daniel forced a weak smile. In other words, I should clean up my act and dress like a minister’s son, right? Jesus Christ.

“We’ll be having our monthly meeting here from now on,” Dad informed him. “So…”

“Yeah, I got it.”

Nathan was never a lover of his son’s dress sense, unruly hair, slouch, or general attitude. Whenever he saw his son coming through the door he was tempted to say ‘you look like something the cat dragged in’, had it not been such a cliché.  The boy’s shirts were oversized, dark, and moody. And as for his hair – the chestnut-brown tresses that seemed to form a permanent curtain over his nose had caused Nathan to forget the color of his son’s eyes.

Nathan had to admit to himself that most of the pastors he knew had rebellious sons – and daughters – who tried to be everything their parent wasn’t.  Perhaps it was just a natural part of growing up in a clerical family, he mused. Don’t deceive yourself, Nathan, the pastor thought. It’s worse than that. Much worse.

The eldest of the reverends had to be at least seventy. He’d waited until the other men had stood and shaken the boy’s hand before finally doing likewise. Unlike them, he didn’t smile. Instead, he wore a knowing gaze that unnerved Daniel. The snowy-haired pastor looked directly into the teenager’s eyes, unblinking.

“I’ve been a pastor for a lot longer than the rest of these men,” he began. “And I know what’s what…and who’s who.”

Daniel didn’t know what to say. He didn’t like this. His palm was sweating, and not just because the elderly pastor was squeezing it.

Finally the old man released his grip and sat back down, picking up his tablet of lined yellow paper and looking over his meeting notes as though he hadn’t seen Daniel at all.

Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key

Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key

‘Blood Family’ Preview – Chapter Two

We now hit Chapter 2, and meet Daniel’s girlfriend, Daelin. She knows something strange is going on, that something is about to change. And things certainly will – the moment Daniel returns home.

                                                       CHAPTER 2

“Daniel!”  Daelin protested. “Are you kissing my neck or trying to suck it dry?”

“Jeez, sorry. I thought you liked it.”

Daniel Dark had been enjoying the time-honored tradition of ‘parking’ with his girlfriend, Daelin. He had taken her out for an evening drive in his beloved 1969 Ford Mustang fastback – gun-metal gray, fitted with Cooper Cobra G/Ts and, as Daelin had so often pointed out, a contender for pole position as the true love of his life – and had found an out-of-the-way clearing by the local reddening woodlands. This was one of the most stunning of the year’s autumnal forests in this part of New England. There, away from the eyes of parents (or anyone else) they began their teenage rituals. Daniel, like the time before, found that licking and sucking at the skin of her neck proved to be of so much enjoyment to him that he almost forgot that his girlfriend had a face.

“God, Daniel,” she rebuffed, not enjoying herself as much as she’d been anticipating. “What’s with you lately? I mean, this month.” They had been going out for nearly two years. It was only recently that she had noted a change in her boyfriend’s behavior.

“This month?”

“Yeah. You’re just so…ravenous.”

He laughed. “And that’s a bad thing?”

“What happened to kissing, huh? We used to kiss. Now it’s all this lips-all-over-my-neck stuff.” Extracting her mobile phone from her jeans pocket, she checked for messages, a clear sign to Daniel that she wanted him to take her home. “I guess it’s just one of those weird boy things.  You obviously enjoy it.”

Shoving his fingers back through his mass of dark brown hair, Daniel slumped in his bucket seat and folded his arms. “Yeah, and you didn’t.”

She sighed, trying to find the right words. “It’s like…you don’t see me anymore.”

He took a joint that he then remembered having put behind his ear and stuck it in the corner of his mouth. “Hey, I see you. I love seeing you.” Was this the right thing to say? What the hell is she expecting me to say?  Whatever I say, it’ll be wrong.

As always, Daniel said the first thing that came in to his head.

“Want some ace?”

She slapped the proffered joint from his hand. “You know I don’t like that stuff, Daniel. And I don’t think you really like it, either.”

True enough. As usual she was able to read him like a book. He sucked on the occasional joint because it made him look cool, especially when he was in his Mustang. He also did it to piss off his father, Pastor Nathan Dark, who had never actually caught him, though had often smelt the lingering pot odors coming from his son’s room. The stuff made him lethargic and indifferent to just about everything.  From the ages of thirteen to seventeen he had been generally so anyway, even without the substance usage. Nothing in his life excited or challenged him. When school had ended the previous year, both parents bombarded him with prospectuses for all the best State colleges. Emerson College, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, and –  just kill me  – Boston Baptist College. Daniel wasn’t interested. He wanted to take cars apart and get paid for it. Getting a minimum-waged job at a local garage, he became the first grease monkey in the Dark family, much to the mortification of his father. The immaculate Baptist minister and his oil-slick of a son. At least, he consoled himself, Mom seemed to be on his side. She was pleased that he’d found a job he enjoyed. Thank fuck for small mercies.

And then there was Daelin. He’d known her all his life. The one-time tomboy in braids had blossomed. Now, at seventeen, she was slim and ever so slightly taller than Daniel, with shoulder-length honey-blonde hair that shone like silk in the sun. Up until the age of fifteen, a platoon’s worth of teenage boys would ask her out each month. But it was Daniel she had chosen. He couldn’t even remember their first date. They just sort of fell into a relationship, as though it was meant to be. The bank she worked in was right down the street from the garage, and so every day they had lunch together. Often she would bring sandwiches or baguettes she’d made herself. On sunny days they sat on the grass in the town’s small central park. It didn’t matter one bit that this immaculately dressed career girl was shoulder-to-shoulder on a picnic blanket with a boy whose face, hands, and coveralls were smeared with car oil. She accepted him for who he was, and this was who he was. She liked to dampen a napkin with her tongue and dab at the black smudges of grease on Daniel’s forehead and chin. And he liked the little smile on her face as she did it.

Yes, he had Daelin. He had a job that paid an okay wage. He had a secure if often frustrating home life. But something was missing. He just didn’t know what.

One thing he knew was that he loved and cared for Daelin, even if she sometimes didn’t see it.

He drove her home as dusk began to fall over the quiet little suburb. Shifting light patterns from living room windows told the world that TVs were on and couches were full.  Cats hurried across the streets in pursuit of their own nocturnal activities. His own house – a modest ranch-style house built in the 1970s – was not all that different from the other houses on Chacato Street, except for the front yard collection of six tiny garden gnome statues so beloved by his mother, and so utterly despised by his father.

Garaging his Mustang, Daniel made his way to the front door.

He wasn’t prepared for what he walked in on.

‘Blood Family’ Preview – Chapter One

Yesterday I presented for you the Prelude (or ‘Chapter 0’) to Blood Family. Today, Chapter 1. This is a short chapter, but introduces you to our teenage protagonist, Daniel – in those lazy, indulgence-filled days before his life changes forever…

CHAPTER 1

The clock next to the bed glowed 4:12 a.m. All was silent, save for the crickets outside that rasped at the night. Swinging his legs out, Daniel Dark noticed his sheet screwed up on the floor like a piece of unwanted writing paper.

His hair and body were hot and slicked with sweat. Heart was pounding. There was a residual feeling of exhilaration. It was like that after-sex feeling, though without the inner glow of satisfaction.

Reaching through the window, he grabbed the beer can he’d secreted out on the ledge and took a gulp. Daniel had been chugging beer since he was fifteen, unbeknownst to his parents. What they don’t know won’t hurt me, as he so often told himself. Sitting on the pile of car mechanic books he liked to have at his bedside, Daniel looked out in to the streetlight-frosted hedge that separated his house from the McGuigan’s next door. The cool air felt good on his face.

Rolling the night-chilled beer can across his forehead, he thought about the dream. Part of it– the terrifying rituals that his father had made him endure every six months for the first nine years of his life – had been true. But the rest…

Crazy dream shit. No point thinking about it. It was the middle of the night. His head hurt. All he wanted now was to get back to sleep. Later on in the day, he was going to have a rendezvous of the sexual kind and wanted to have as much energy as possible.

Look out for Chapter 2 – posted tomorrow!

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven. But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven.
But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

‘Blood Family’ Preview!

My Young Adult urban fantasy, Blood Family ~ Quest for the Vampire Key, has been gestating in the coffin for quite a while now. Many of you know about its inception, its close call with a big publisher, and how I came to decide to bring this story of one teenage boy’s quest for his supernatural heritage to your e-reading device.

By the end of March, 2013, Blood Family will be well-and-truly ‘out there’. Look for it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and (later on) other good book outlets.

First, an overview.

A vampire father, an imprisoned mother, and one perilous journey…

Urban fantasy for Young Adult readers and beyond.

Lazy, goalless New England teenager Daniel Dark never intended his life to change so dramatically. It starts with the arrival of a mysterious package, and the revelation that his true father was a master vampire named Dominus. As his own fearsome powers begin to emerge, he sets out to rescue his birth mother, still imprisoned in Dominus’ stronghold. Strange clues take Daniel to the deep forests of southern Mexico and then to the mist-shrouded moors of England. Hot on his heels is his adoptive father – Pastor Nathan Dark, determined to find and kill he boy he had once called his son.

Read on and discover the world of Daniel Dark.

PRELUDE

Strapped down, like a lamb for the slaughter.

The boy didn’t know what he hated more, the coldness of the slab he lay upon or the tightness of the leather straps that bound his four-year-old arms and legs.

On this occasion, Dad was accompanied by an older man – an elderly priest with a seriousness that made the lines in his face taut and frightening.  His hands held an open book, The Rituale Romanum.

Both men began intoning strings of words that the boy did not understand, words that scared him. They reverberated off the walls of the empty church, the same church that his mother took him to every Sunday to watch his father talk to the people and say prayers. He liked the church during those times. The singing soothed him. When his Dad preached, he would quietly listen and try to understand. It was, after all, his father up there. At the end of the service, the congregation would file past Dad, who stood at the door, and say nice things to him, sometimes shaking his hand. Old women liked him a lot. Children smiled at him, showing him their colored pictures that they had done in Sunday school or during the sermon.

Then the old priest opened a black valise and took out some containers. From one he scooped out a small amount of ointment with his fingertips and drew cross shapes on the boy’s forehead. Repeatedly he made them, shouting his strange words. Dad just looked on, tight-lipped and grim. The boy struggled mightily, yelling and crying. The two ministers looked at each other as though satisfied that something they were doing was working.

After an hour the ministers sighed, mopped their brows, and brought the torment to an end. His father kissed the boy tenderly on the cheek as he unbound him – saying how sorry he was that he had to do this to him. Saying that it was necessary. Saying that he loved him.

The boy stood upon the altar to which he had been strapped and looked across the chancel to the church of empty pews. The old priest was walking away down the aisle, his work done. This wasn’t his church, or even his denomination. Dad had called the man in from some other place. There was no doubt that he would return when needed.

“Daniel,” said Dad. “Come on, jump down from there. We’ll do something fun. We can go for some ice cream. Or McDonald’s, how about that?”

But the boy remained, concentrating on the receding back of the old priest. After a moment, the priest stopped. Turned.

The old man sensed the boy’s red-hot stare.  Reaching into his vestments, he clutched the secreted wooden cross …

The boy flung himself through the air, eyes blazing, an unearthly roar gushing from his mouth. In a blur he was upon his target. Newly formed fangs clamped on to the priest’s neck, puncturing his carotid artery. The boy’s small nails grew into claws, tearing at the vestments, shredding them from the man’s body and covering his victim in glistening red gashes.

A strong pair of hands wrenched the boy away. His father was distraught beyond consolation, using every ounce of strength to haul his son back to the chancel. He dragged the child to the small, sunken pool, square and shallow, situated behind the altar.

“I was afraid to put you in here before, Daniel,” Dad said, “but now I have no choice. May the Lord decide if you live or die!”

The child continued to roar and thrash. Then…he was abruptly calmed. A voice sounded within his head. Deep…reverberating…familiar…

“Kill him before he kills you…my son.”

The rage built again. The face of the man he had called father for all of his life now seemed to be nothing more than a mask. The voice in his mind was one with which he felt strangely comfortable. It was within that voice that he put his trust.

In five seconds, it was over. Teeth and claws – as well as strength far in excess of a normal four-year-old – tore the life from his father, all before he could wet the boy with even the slightest drop of blessed water from the pool.

The boy stood up, shaken and … exhilarated.  He looked down at the slain body of the one he’d known as Dad and felt no remorse. Quietly, he watched the blood that slicked the pastor’s hand seep into the pool, a silent ribbon of red. Then, something caught his attention. He looked up.

An odd thing was happening to the large portrait of the Savior that hung at the back of the chancel between two stained glass windows. The painted figure seemed to be moving. No, not moving – a dark and misty shape had superimposed itself over it. Wraithlike arms stretched outward in the same way as the Lord’s. The black ghost-figure broke softly away from the canvas and floated down towards him.  The boy felt no fear.

The tall, infinitely black figure hovered before the child and put forth huge, semi-transparent dragon wings, practically dwarfing the figure from which they sprang. An angel?

It was then that he saw its fangs.

The entity flew around him faster and faster. It was exciting as well as confusing for the boy. He didn’t know where he was, what end was up,  anything  at  all,  until  finally –

The set of super-sharp teeth snapped down hard on to his neck. The boy screamed with pain, with ecstasy, with sheer childish delight. Screamed until –

 

CHAPTER ONE WILL BE POSTED TOMORROW!

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven. But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Life as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven.
But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Collecting A Collection – Guest Post by author, Ellie Garratt

Who is this mysterious gentleman in the bowler hat sitting on a bench? This haunting image is from the cover of Passing Time by Ellie Garratt. Not long ago I launched my own small anthology of supernatural short stories. Now I would like to guide you through the mystical doorway that leads to Ellie’s world of strange tales. Ellie is a fellow Brit and a very talented writer with an imagination that will lift you out of the doldrums and into the Twilight Zone. Don’t let Passing Time pass you by.

And now, over to Ellie…

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Thank you for hosting me, Mark. It is an honour to be passing time with you, especially as you’re passing time on my blog today as this week’s Speculative Fiction Writer.

Until I decided to release a collection of short stories, I often wondered how an author chose a collection’s theme and which stories to include and/or write. Was there some magical process by which a theme just appeared or did they have a stash of already written stories that they grouped together in similar themes or genres?

In my case, it was a combination of the two. I took all the stories I’d published or written, and put them into two groups – science fiction and horror. Then I looked for underlying themes. There were plenty of them: life, death, greed, destruction, space, and many more. Several stories soon stood out as not being suitable – they didn’t fit with any of the others – and were discarded. But what I didn’t have was the theme. And that’s when the magic struck. There was one story that was different than all the rest because it had been published online, and that story was called Passing Time.

Passing Time is a chilling tale about how our perception of time is not necessarily reality. Like the cliché of turning on a lightbulb, my theme had presented itself. Glancing through all the science fiction and horror stories I found all of them dealt in some way with the meaning or measuring of time. They weren’t written that way on purpose – it just happened. Within a few minutes of finding my theme, I had the titles for my two collections: Passing Time and Taking Time. After that, it was simply deciding which stories were suitable and which were not.

I believe the theme of a short story collection is the key ingredient. There needs to be something tying the stories together to give the reader an idea of what to expect. The theme, along with the genre, will help provide this. It will help readers decide if it is a collection of stories they would like to read, which is after all our aim as writers.

What do you think? How important is the theme of an anthology or short story collection to a reader? As a writer, have you published a short story collection? How did you decide on a theme and which stories to include?

Book Blurb

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Nine dark fiction stories that may just give you nightmares.

A man lives to regret Passing Time. A father will do anything to save his son in Expiration Date. An author finds out her worst nightmare is back in The Devil’s Song. A woman gets more than the claim fee when she takes out vampire insurance in Luna Black.

In Dining in Hell, the Death Valley Diner becomes the wrong place to stop.

A serial killer wants to add another file to his collection in The Vegas Screamer. In Eating Mr. Bone, an undertaker could meet an unfortunate end. A con man meets his first ghost in Land of the Free. And will truth finally be set free in The Letter?

Book Links

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About The Author

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A life-long addiction to reading science fiction and horror, meant writing was the logical outlet for Ellie Garratt’s passions. She is a reader, writer, blogger, Trekkie, and would happily die to be an extra in The Walking Dead. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online. Passing Time is her first eBook collection and contains nine previously published stories. Her science fiction collection Taking Time will be published later in the year.

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Alien Abduction – A Fairy Story?

My short story collection, From Elsewhere, contains six tales of unearthly vistiors. ‘Them‘ is a story about alien abduction. Everyone has heard of this phenomenon. Is it real, or does it have a secret origin?

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Alien beings have been with us in folklore for a very long time.

Before accounts of abductions by alien beings entered into the public domain, another kind of abduction scenario was known throughout various cultures – especially England and Ireland. These tales of interactions with fairies (or faeries as was the ancient spelling) are remarkably similar to modern accounts of interactions with those other ‘diminutive folk’, the Greys from – allegedly – the Zeta Reticuli star system. Could these tales be based upon knowledge of early interaction between humans and aliens?

From very early times there have been traditions of mortals carried away into faerieland. Often this mortal was a human baby, taken from its mother’s side – shades of the implantation/hybridisation programme carried out by the Greys. The hybrid parallel comes into this comparison in more ways than one.

Faeries were believed, almost more than anything else, to be obsessive about the possession of human children. Infants would be stolen, and duplicate ‘changelings’ put in their place, though the trick was often found out. Mentions of thefts of babies are to be found in the medieval chronicles of Ralph of Coggeshall.

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From early classical times there have been numerous legends of the visits of goddesses and nymphs to human mortals, and their loving intercourse with them, though always ending tragically for the human – the mother usually dying or seeing the infant spirited away to the faeries’ world. So what were these beings actually believe to be?

In England, Scotland, and Ireland, the small ‘people’ were believe to be the spirits of the dead, though in Wales they are simply described as being half way between something material and spiritual. The spiritual nature of aliens is often referred to in modern-day as abduction accounts, many abductees have recalled that, on some occasions, they are taken spiritually rather than physically. An Isle of Man resident wrote in The Nature of Fairies that ‘Fairies are spirits. A man below here forgot his cow, and at a late hour went to look for her, and saw that crowds of fairies like children were with him. It is interesting to note here that in modern abduction accounts our Zeta Reticulan friends are often likened to ‘children’.

When does alien abduction occur? The research shows that it is during the hypnogogic state – the state between being awake and asleep – that the tagged person is taken. In this state, the brain is in ‘alpha wave’, referring to the type of brain activity we lapse into during the hypnogogic state. This seems to attract/suit the aliens. When in this state, it seems, abductees can be transported, mollified, and eventually made to forget the entire occurrence.

Curiously, in Amelia and the Dwarfs (1870), author Juliana Horatia Ewing says in order to see one of the little folk, ‘you must be a little sleepy – but not too sleepy to keep your eyes open, mind. Well, and you ought to feel a little – what one may call ‘fairyish’. The Scots call it ‘eerie’.’

There was no technology during the times of these stories, so an explanation of this phenomenon would have to have manifest itself in a way digestible to the people of the time. Obviously, elaboration and corruption will occur in the telling of any tale, but the basic similarities are intriguing.

Captured. Studied. Humiliated. A tale of an alien abduction from the victim's point of view. What exactly do these creatures want?

Captured. Studied. Humiliated. A tale of an alien abduction from the victim’s point of view. What exactly do these creatures want?