Vampire Shmampire

I’ve read or watched three vampire tomes that I truly enjoyed.  The original Dracula by Bram Stoker – along with several movies based on it, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and HBO’s True Blood.  Each of these novels has something about them that – God help me, but I swore I’d never use this putrid phrase – transcend the genre.  Dracula is full of Victorian angst and an undercurrent of fear in the two decades leading up to World War I.  Salem’s Lot uses the vampire Barlow to goose a town into showing its true colors, which aren’t all that pretty to begin with.  And True Blood has a Plots With Guns vibe I find irresistible.

Beyond that, I am majorly bored with vampires.  I know, I know.  Vampires sell.  Edward and Bella.  Let’s not forget Lestat.  But Twilight has a limited appeal, which is why I’ve always preferred Harry Potter for my YA fantasy.  Harry lives in a geek’s world with a deliciously whiny villain.  I certainly applaud Stephanie Meyer for getting a new generation of fans to read, but it doesn’t really appeal.

Why?  With the exception of True Blood, the vampire tomes I’ve read depict vampires for what they are, basically zombies with a mind still working in their skulls.  Stoker’s Dracula is a filthy, nasty thing more repulsive than frightening.  His movie counterparts, with the exception of Gary Oldman’s faithful version, may be charismatic aristocrats befitting the undead king of Romania, but Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Frank Langella all projected an undercurrent of death and malevolence underneath that veneer of charm.  They are, in fact, the spiritual brethren of Hannibal Lecter.

King takes it a step further.  Barlow comes to town, using his toadie to create the illusion of a witty, erudite English gay couple settling down to sell antiques.  But the filth and fear ooze out in the town.  Naturally, the elderly gay couple is a novelty, so the townsfolk start blaming that writer fella for all the strange goings on.

True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, takes a different tact.  This is noir with fangs, and the gritty, 35mm kind you’d expect Tarantino to shoot.  Harris’s vampires interact with humans, kill them, have sex with them and each other, and are just as vicious in undeath as they likely were in real life.  In other words, they are caricatures of us.  The horror is there, and often as not, the humans are just as monstrous as the vampires.

Edward and Bella?  Not feeling it.  The undead are monsters, maybe unwilling at times, but monsters.  Nor do I care for Lestat’s three centuries of self-love and self-loathing or Louis’s incessant whining.  If anything, I found Anne Rice’s Claudia, the girl frozen in childhood when she became a vampire, the creepiest.

I know, I know.  The bloodsuckers sell.  A couple of writers I know make a good living writing about them.  But for me, the fad has worn out its welcome.  It’s become a gimmick, not a vehicle for good storytelling.  Frankly, the undead leave me…


The Mail I Get

Ebooks have become an emotional issue for many writers.  Why?  Most people have a bad habit of blindly embracing change or fearing it to the point of phobia.  For any writer wishing to continue their career, there is only one chance for survival:  Find the happy medium before it’s too late.  Every time

Of course, that medium is hard to pinpoint.  Certain writers are making money hand over fist going the ebook route.  Others can’t figure out why no one is buying theirs and conclude that ebooks are a fad.  (You mean like television and the Internet?)  Everytime I post on the subject, I get an email from someone upset I stomped on their belief about ebooks, as though I pissed in the holy water.

But the fact is there is a lot of hyperbole, both pro and con, about ebooks.  Let’s debunk some of the myths, some even touted by notable writers.

  • The iPad is not a magic piracy device.  It doesn’t really do anything your smartphone, laptop, or desktop doesn’t already do.  It’s just a better platform for certain functions.  No one will write a novel on a Droid, and not that many people make phone calls on their tower device.  (Yes, I’m aware of Skype.  I also notice most users still have phones they use.)
  • Publishing will not go away.  Someone will have to edit, format, and market a book.  Just sticking it up on Amazon for a cheap price will not sell the book.  How do I know?  I’m a consumer.
  • I keep hearing ebooks are not selling.  Usually, I hear it from someone whom I didn’t know had an ebook out.  Hey, guess who fell down on that one.  Wasn’t me.  I’m the consumer.  You have to come find me.
  • The Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc. are not replacements for print.  Sorry, but they’re not.  If they were, the generation of teenagers today would be looking at the rest of us going “Dear old person, why are you reading ink pressed into the flesh of dead trees?  You silly, silly old person.”  Except that they don’t say that.  Where are they reading Twilight?  On paper.  My stepson, who spends huge amounts of time on his Xbox and Wii and in the World of Warcraft, doesn’t like reading on a computer screen.  Most of his friends don’t, either.  But they are reading.  They read books.
  • “Ebooks are not selling.”  Um…  Look again.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Apple are selling a lot of devices.  Why?  Somebody’s buying them.  And no, it’s not the manufacturers buying them back.  If it were, all four lines would have disappeared.  It’s consumers.  And consumers want them for one reason:  To read.  Hmm…  What are they reading?  Well, I’m reading Ken Bruen’s Calibre.
  • Ebooks do provide an enormous opportunity to reinvent a sluggish publishing industry.  However, the same hype that came about in the POD era is still around today.  “Oh, now you can be published!”  Well, remember, a lot of crap is getting self-published.  And while I haven’t run into an e-press yet that’s sticking a vacuum cleaner in writers’ pockets, they’re out there.
  • Do not believe that the publishing sky is falling.  It’s not.  Do not believe that print is dead, and that no one needs agents or editors anymore.  Rubbish!  What is happening is change.  Embrace it, learn what is changing, and adapt.  It’s the only way to survive.

MTM Cincinnati: Ft. Ancient

On a hill overlooking the Little Miami River about 30 miles north of Cincinnati sits Ft. Ancient.  It’s a mysterious site once occupied the culture named for it.  The Ft. Ancients were a civilization that lived in the Ohio River valley from 1000 AD to around 1650.  However, the Ft. Ancients, who were what was known as a mound-building culture, didn’t build Ft. Ancient.  An earlier civilization called the Hopewell built it.

But what did the Ft. Ancients and their predecessors leave behind?

For starters, they built earthen structures resembling pyramids beginning nearly a thousand years before the Egyptians.  The most famous of these is Cahokia in Illinois.  The mound building civilizations were usually short-lived.  Indeed, by the time the Ft. Ancients had disappeared, the modern Iroquois and Algonquin tribes.  The cultures often lasted only a few generations before disbanding and moving on.  They did, however, leave behind many mounds in the Cincinnati area, including Woodland Mound in Anderson Township east of the city.

Ft. Ancient is the site of a former village.  Like many Mound Builder villages, Ft. Ancient is built in terraces overlooking a river, in this case, the Little Miami.  The park that exists is surrounded by an earthen wall that was likely used for defense.

Inside the park, near the museum center, are some mysterious small mounds.  What are they?  Don’t know.  I tried Googling it, but I’m sure someone can enlighten us.

In a few weeks, I’ll get some shots of Woodland Mound so you can see what an actual Hopewell mound looks like.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

Boneshaker By Cherie Priest

Blimps!  Zombies!  A mad German scientist!  It’s Boneshaker, Cherie Priest’s alternate history/steampunk novel set in what’s left of Seattle.

In 1860, the Russians found gold in them thar hills up in Alaska.  The trouble was there was no way to get to it under all that ice.  They sponsored a contest to build a machine that would do the job.  A bizarre man from Seattle named Leviticus Blue won, building his “Boneshaker.”  Blue tested the Boneshaker and wrecked the bustling frontier port.  Days later, a mysterious gas known as “blight” leaked out, killing some, turning others into…

Well, Priest doesn’t say it, but they become flesh-eating zombies called “rotters.”  Seattle is walled up to contain the blight, but some people don’t leave.  They find ways to survive.

Twenty years later, Ezekiel Wilkes, Blue’s son, decides to breach the city to find proof that his father was innocent, that the Boneshaker’s havoc was not his fault.  Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes, decides to go after Zeke.  When an earthquake seals off the drains that allow passage into Seattle, Briar uses the air technology of the day to drop in – airships, specifically one stolen by a black pilot from the still-fighting Confederacy.  She drops into a world where rotters hunt humans in mindless packs, everyone at street level wears masks, and air is pumped in by Chinese workers to underground living space.  She finds people who have survived on an independent spirit but are under the thumb of the mysterious Dr. Minnericht.  The Doctor has something to hide, and most people think it’s his true identity.  Most people believe he is Leviticus Blue.

Boneshaker is a fun romp through a well-shaken mashup  of Harry Turtledove’s post-Civil War south, a Seattle twenty years ahead of its time before it is rendered a rotter-strewn wasteland, and your favorite B movie from the 1950’s.  Priest’s Seattle has grown because the Russians have found gold 20 years before it was actually found in Alaska.  Her America is still divided by the Civil War, though the South is only holding on by grit and the survival of Stonewall Jackson.  And Dr. Minnericht is straight off the old Saturday afternoon horror shows of old, a man in a breathing mask predating Darth Vader by about 97 years, but more at home in a low-rent version of James Bond.  He is also sufficiently intriguing.  Briar knows the truth about Leviticus Blue, but with the secret kept to herself, it’s impossible not to believe Minnericht is who he says he is.  Then again, even Briar’s belief waivers eventually.

Boneshaker is fun.  After all, when you have a mad scientist and zombies, what more could you want?

Holland Bay Update

No vlog this week.  Here’s the skinny:

I’ve decided to rewrite part of it.

Only 300 pages out of 420.  Not a biggy.  I’m outlining what I’m going to write now.

Thank God I’m not on a deadline.

See you on YouTube next week.

I Love You

What do Nita and I say to each other first thing in the morning?

“I love you.”

Before we go to sleep?

“I love you.”

When we hang up on the phone with each other?

“I love you.”

When we’re mad and not talking, what’s the one thing we still say?

“I love you.”

When one of us is sad?

“I love you.”

When one of us is ill?

“I love you.”


“I love you.”


“I love you.”


“I love you.”

When neither of us has said a word for a while?

“I love you.”

It’s not forced.  We don’t take it for granted.  We just say it.

Secret to a good marriage.


Lately, I’ve been finding myself working in places where normal cell phone reception isn’t happening.  Lately, I’ve had an itch to try my hand at building mobile apps.  Lately, I’ve wanted a phone that wasn’t…  well…

Just a phone.

This past week, I’d had it.  An important business call went to voice mail because, while ATT covers 97% of America, my house lies in the other 3%.  So, after carefully laying out the facts, as well as plying her with alcohol, I told Nita it was time I made sure the door hit ATT in the ass on the way out moved to her Verizon plan.  Oh, and if I could learn to write mobile apps, I could get a better paying job than the one I have now.

Sufficiently plied with booze informed of the facts, Nita agreed.  So Sunday morning, we went to the Verizon store where we got my Motorola Droid.  As an added bonus, we turned on the 3G service.  Just this morning, I figured out how to answer calls.  I’d have done it sooner, but I was busy playing with the Internet.

The Droid is bigger than a lot of phones I’ve had, including the Crackberry BigHugeCo made my lug around.  But it does so much more.  My Gmail goes directly to it.  This blog is rendered quite nicely on the screen.  And I downloaded the Kindle.  So far, looks good.

I haven’t played with all the features yet.  Hell, I’ve been so busy playing with the Internet connection that I haven’t had a chance to turn on my voicemail yet.  I also haven’t tried the phone out as a music player nor do I have any newsfeeds or sports scores streaming to it.


Hey, it’s summer and fair weather for the Cincinnati Reds.  I should probably get on the bandwagon soon.

So does this mean I’ve forsaken the iPhone for the Android platform?

Child, please.  The iPhone’s biggest drawback, besides its antenna, is that it’s on ATT.

And my house still sits in that 3% not covered.

Fake ID By Jason Starr

Aspiring actor and degenerate gambler Tommy Russo bumps into a smelly guy with a proposition at a race track.  For $10,000, he can buy into a race horse.  After hemming and hawing, Tommy jumps on board.  Trouble is, Tommy doesn’t have $10K.

Instead, he is struggling just to get auditions.  He is picking up women and dumping them after one night in his dumpy apartment.  He does have it sweet as the bouncer at a bar and getting cheap rent in exchange for being a part-time super.  His boss, Frank, thinks of Tommy as a second son, much to the chagrin of his real son.  And a girl likes him, enough to loan him money.

So what does Tommy do?  He robs Frank, robs his girlfriend, blames Frank’s son Gary, and sleeps with Frank’s wife.  Tommy Russo is a douchebag, and he doesn’t care.  He’s going to be a racehorse owner.

Fake ID is a classic Starr tale about a guy who does everything in his power to screw himself royally.  It’s an early effort by Starr, reissued in 2009 by Hard Case Crime.  All the familiar elements of Starr’s work are in place:  The protag who digs himself a hole he can’t get out of, the lies the protag tells to cover mistakes, and the woman who stands by him despite being used as a doormat.

However, in Starr’s later work, the protag is usually somewhat sympathetic, often a guy struggling to get by who catches a bad break who manages to make it worse, often fatally.  In this one, Tommy Russo is unlikeable from the beginning.  He’s charming to a point, but after he steals from someone for a second time, you realize Russo is an total degenerate.

Read this for Starr’s brilliant style and ability to put the reader in a world of bleak despair.  The one thing that would improve it is a protag I could actually root for.  For Tommy Russo, I kept shaking my head and saying out loud, “What are you?  Stupid?”

That, of course, was the point.