Zeitgeist: Vampires

Image

Ah, the zeitgeist! A fancy German word that means the “spirit of the time” or “spirit of the age” meaning, of course, the popular trend in a culture. We are all affected by such spirits in our age. Some more than others. It’s what resonates inside of as a culture, a people and as individuals.

I have chosen the ultimate zeitgeist creature for this discussion: vampire. Also, vampyre, vampyr, strigoi and other things. Essentially an Eastern European legend that, forgive me, never seems to die.

Years ago, when I first delved into the lore, I remember turning to my friend Keith and saying, “Now, Keith, I want you to answer me totally honestly. If you–if they were real, would you become a v–”

“Yes!”

We all know what vampires are and what they do, and are mostly familiar with the basic mythos surrounding them from Vlad the Impaler to Dracula to Edward Cullen. But the question in this blog is not what they are or what they do, but why they stick with us like they do. I mean, come on! Do we ever tire of vampire tales. No, we don’t. I mean, we just don’t.

So why do they resonate so well? Why do they represent this spirit of the age for all ages?

Big Lance had a theory. It went like this. Vampirism is really a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease. After all, the “infection” is transmitted through the blood, through bites and exchange of bodily fluid and the swoon from drinking the blood compares with the sex act itself.

I believe he had a point.

I never got into vampires before Anne Rice‘s “Interview” and outside of enjoying Bram Stoker’s original, never cared much for other renditions. I did like how China Mieville portrayed them in The Scar, but then, I like how China Mieville portrays everything.

I read Twilight and was disappointed with them in that book, not that that is such a surprise, but I admit, I liked the first Twilight movie. I thought the movie was better than the book. But, that leads me to my theory of why they resonate.

They are the perfect creature for eternal love and by that token, eternal loss.

They are wonderfully romantic, even when–or especially when–they are drinking from a woman.

I think most people would agree with that, but why? How is that even remotely romantic? I dare say, if I were to take a woman out and attempt to drink her blood, most women would shut me down, quick. They wouldn’t even think twice about it and afterwards, after I left and she was safely tucked away in her apartment, she would not remember it with anything but disgust and fear and perhaps, a little pity. And this would be despite her bookshelf that is FILLED with vampire romance novels!

So…that leads me to this: they are the perfect creature to explore our own human nature.

Now, the vampire has the unique ability to defy death and sickness, two things humans cannot overcome. Even if you NEVER get sick, you will die. Eventually.

Or will you?

For certain, the body will die. That much we can say without question. I would, however, venture to say that most people believe in some kind of life after death scenario. Some kind of soul, human spirit, ghost. Medical science is familiar with OOB’s or Out of Body Experiences. More than one person has “been standing there watching” when they lay him out and do the operation. Most people believe in such a thing, not all. But assuming that the human organism possesses a non-material aspect, one could postulate that when you die, some part of you survives.

Then in comes speculative fiction. What if that part of you, was all of you? What if your body survived its own death? What would that look like? And what if in order to maintain that state, you had to drink human blood? To what lengths would you go? How would you feel about that and how long before you tired of living, and yet, lived on anyway?

Anne Rice’s vampires go “into the ground” every seventy or so years. In other words, they simulate death. They need a rest, a release. Some go insane, others jump on a funeral pyre and commit suicide and beg the survivor to spread the ash so they won’t come back. Some slump into apathy and otherwise resign to their fate.

And some, find ways and means to keep it interesting and create reasons to celebrate, to carry on.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds eerily familiar to me.

In this light we see ourselves without all the societal props. Through the eyes of the vampire, we begin to see beyond the immediate need to work, to make money, to collect possessions. We get a break from the hectic live-live-live pace of raising a family and doing everything we can before it’s too late. Suddenly, we see, its never too late and then we glimpse eternity.

We glimpse just how long eternity can be. And that scares us more than death ever could. Only then do we see what horror really is. An eternity trapped in this earthly existence feeding on the life of our friends and watching all those we love die and die and die again, while yet, forced to live on. Forever.

Eternal love. Eternal damnation. The perfect creature to see ourselves and the universe that has us.

That is how, I believe, vampires form the zeitgeist.

The Indie Author’s Life Digest #101

I had an old friend who after high school went off and became a hobo. A real life hobo with a hanky on a stick. He began train hopping.

It is still legal to shoot train hoppers. With guns and real bullets. It’s one of those Old West laws still on the books. Well, he got shot AT on several occasions, but managed to hop enough trains to see the U.S. One does have to admit a certain romanticism of such adventures. He probably tired of eating cans of cold beans and peeing out of moving side cars, though.

Shortly after I first set foot in San Francisco and became dumbfounded at the homeless population there, I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of this “epidemic.” I found an approachable bum, a young woman with dread locks and nose ring sitting on a colorful quilt down by Powell and Market. I thought, ah, the perfect “bum” for me to interview. She was pretty, after all.

I invited her to lunch. On me, of course. She declined saying that this time of day was her best time and she really couldn’t miss it. Determined to get my interview, I decided to bring it to her. She accepted gratefully. A couple of minutes later, I laid out a McDonald’s picnic for the both of us and sat next to her.

So…how did you come to be in this condition? I asked, innocently. Of course, I expected a terrible story of victimization and loss. She simply said that she and her husband got tired of the rat race and decided to sell off everything they owned and hop trains. And so they did. They hopped trains all over the place and wound up in San Francisco where the gettin’ was good. A younger man gently handed her some cash at that moment.

I have decided to hop on the train. The Indie Author Limited. And what’s more, I have decided to blog about the journey. Wins and losses, what makes me happy, frustrations, dreams. No holds barred. I have my hanky on a stick if I get cold and a cheese sandwich in my back pocket if I get hungry.

It’s not been an easy decision for me. And I hold the opinion that I must be a late bloomer in this arena. It feels a bit like jumping off a cliff. I decided to wade into the waters last year when an incident occurred that sort of pushed me in that direction. I wasn’t planning it. But it occurred to me that fate was playing the card. I’ve stopped kicking and screaming for the most part.

Last year it became apparent that if I wanted to put a certain book out at the highest quality, I would have to do it myself. I had found that no one else (even the publisher) cared as much as I did about the work and so, I began the foray into the unknown. So far, that book has a beautiful cover, a restored title and 75%-complete editing job. It’s nearly the best that it can be right now. This, of course, makes me happy. Tears of joy happy.

Well, it was just a foray then, a bit like a detective with a flashlight. It started with that one book and spread to all my manuscripts and short stories. So, I’ve got five manuscripts under heavy editing (or in the queue) and cover designs that are mostly done, at the moment. Two are close enough where I am shooting to get them up on Smashwords in January. (I have to figure out how to format them, but I am expecting minimal resistance on that front. Keep fingers crossed.)

I have spent $824.00 and owe $350.00 more for cover art. And no, that’s not money that “I don’t miss.” It took several fights with my wife and much pondering to get that money allocated in the family budget. Mainly because at the same time, I have been setting up a new business, my day job, and laid out several thousand for that, so, I am feeling it, as they say. And all that has brought up the stress levels considerably. I am heartened by the fact that the above cash outlay pretty much covers everything that comprises my unpublished “back list.”

Anyway, that was $300.00 for the first cover on 99 Designs, plus 1 stock image at $12.00. Then $200.00 on 3 other covers and another $12.00 stock image. Then I owe $250.00 on another cover and another $100.00 for another one, which will have to be paid sometime in 2014. I am having Amalia Chitulescu doing most of my covers and Alex Donovan do one entitled Poppycock, A Midsummer Night’s Mare.

I had planned to go to Necronomicon in Rhode Island last summer where I was going to set up a vendor booth for Demon of Montreal, newly released then, but cancelled that trip and expense in favor of getting these covers so I could do a roll out the first of the year, of which I am dreadfully behind on.

I have about 1 million words in unpublished manuscripts, about 5 first-in-the-series novels plus short stories. I kept starting new series in hopes that something would bite in a big New York publishing house and as a result ended up with many first novels. So…minimally, I have several series to continue now. Which is kind of good.

I am still groping in the dark, however, and I believe my flashlight needs new batteries, because my other book, Demon of Montreal, published by Damnation Press last June, is suffering from a lack of reviews and exposure. And this is the eternal mystery of my days.

I decided to offer a free giveaway on this blog and see if I could garner any takers that way. I asked for a review in exchange. I got some takers and emailed off about 5 review copies that way. That was in June. One reader expressed much interest, but may not have completed it. Otherwise, its radio silence on that front. Not the end of the world, but mysterious. That is the thing that gets me the most, I think. The mystery of what happened. Of course, as a writer and my own worst critic, I assume they hated it. But that may not be true.

However, I did realize that my blog gets some traffic and that is pretty cool. The idea that I can write a blog and connect with people around the world genuinely makes me happy.

Then I found out about Bookbub and rested on my oars for a good long while secure in the knowledge that I could do this service and get my book in front of hundreds of e-readers who are looking for new books in whatever genre I am selling. I think the reason I waited so long to really look into it is because the hope factor. As long as I believed I had a way to promote the book, I felt more secure. The act of actually going out and seeing if it was a viable path endangered that security. If that makes sense.

When I finally looked into it, I found that Demon of Montreal (DOM for short) simply isn’t long enough. A 30,000 word novella doesn’t make the cut for Bookbub. So, since that was my ENTIRE marketing strategy for DOM, I had to look for another way.

From this, I discovered that my own barriers and unwillingness to let go of a security blanket (like Linus in the Peanuts) is really holding me back. It seems the idea that big success is right around the corner pacifies me into not really looking for fear of what I might really find. So, have to overcome those insecurities.

It’s really odd, I only have those insecurities with my writing. Nothing else. Not business, relationships, etc. Just my writing.

All is not lost with Bookbub, however, because I’ve got 5 novels that I potentially may get accepted for that service, so, there is some possibility of future traction there. Keep fingers crossed on other hand.

I tried my hand at casually approaching reader’s groups on Goodreads for a free givaway, but am pretty sure I got the sympathy card response where I got any response at all and this has not panned out in terms of reviews. I have also come to learn, or hear, that Goodreads people hate that practice anyway, so probably won’t be doing that again.

I signed up with another subscription service that trolls through Amazon and pulls out the email addresses of the top reviewers in a specified genre. So, I type in Gothic horror and then watch the whirley gigs spin after which I get a dozen or so email addresses of Top Reviewers.

So, I sent out…I want to say, a dozen email requests asking these reviewers if they would be interested in receiving a free copy of DOM and putting up a review on Amazon. The idea behind this is to garner attention from Amazon’s algorithm robots and thereby get your book promoted by Amazon. Sounds promising.  I got no response on that deal. I am not sure if I should do it again and send out to a dozen more or maybe 2 dozen more. I am still debating on the efficacy of this service and not so sure about it.

Someone had mentioned on some internet board that LibraryThing had a place where you could post your book and get reviews. And to be wary because they give scathing rebukes if they don’t like it. After some thought, I jumped at it. Got DOM posted on there and day by day watched the number of readers requesting a copy grow. I put up 100 available e-copies and gave it one month. Every day I checked it and by the end of the month, I had managed to net 70 readers who apparently had all agreed to provide a review in exchange for a book, that’s LibraryThing’s statement to the reader. Not bad at all and I was pretty happy about that response.

LibraryThing sent me a message saying that 69 of those 70 had “won” the book and gave me their complete addresses to mail or email the book to them. I emailed out an epub and MOBI format book to all of them and got a “thank you” type response from about 5 of them.

That all took place on November 17th and I have yet to receive any reviews. Not complaining really, that’s just the facts. LT states that they expect their readers to provide a review within 90 days. So, no one is late yet. Of course, I am worried like a Jewish mother, but then, that’s nothing new.

Grandma Schwarz once said that all Schwarz’s are by nature pessimists. I have tried very hard to undo this early Schwarzian training, but old gene pool habits die hard. So, I worry.

I do have 6 stellar reviews for DOM on Amazon now in the 4 and 5 star categories so I am not a total pauper on that front. All of them I have individually solicited. One could not post on Amazon because he lives in Canada and never orders from Amazon so cannot post the review, which is kind of a bummer because he gave it a 4 star.

I am hoping that LibraryThing does pay off and if so, I will have a stable venue to outflow my other work in the future and hopefully grow a readership. Keep other fingers crossed.

I had a wonderful experience with Nerd in the Brain blog who not only readily accepted my solicitation for a review, but read it in a week and posted to Amazon forthwith and conducted an interview on her blog with me. So, Nerd in the Brain rocks.

I also just mailed a hard copy review copy to Horror Novel Reviews blog, which for all I can tell seems like a literal gold mine for, well, horror novel reviews. I became a fan when I purchased the novel Exoskeleton by Shane Stadler off of HNR’s recommendation. http://www.amazon.co.uk/EXOSKELETON-A-Novel-Shane-Stadler-ebook/dp/B008UYSTRO

But I am on the prowl. Still. For more outlets and options. And running out of fingers to cross.

I am reading David Guaghran’s books on Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. That man seems like a saint in the Indie Author Universe. And I am taking the advice of Joanna Penn by calling myself an Author Entrepreneur, which has the effect of separating one from the generic indie trend. If David Guaghran is the saint, then Joanna Penn must be the Madonna of the Indie World. Of course, that’s Catholic parlance and you could move it over into any belief system you fancied.

The other side of this coin is all of the life events that seem to distract you from the Nirvana-like goal at the end. This time, the burst fire sprinkler pipe really made a mess of things. I am currently living in the apartment complex’s Model Unit. You know, the furnished unit they show you when you’re thinking about renting there, to show you the possibilities of what can be. Anyway, some of my things are here in the model, while my furniture is under plastic sheets in the other unit. This has made it pretty hard to do things like eat breakfast and go to work on time. Plus the weekend time will be sucked up by moving into another unit.

Living in the model is funny because half of things don’t really work. Like the DVD player. From the couch it looks like a real DVD player with movies underneath. But upon closer inspection you see the player is just made out of cardboard and the movies are fake movie covers. The phone is the same way. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I am living in a simulated reality for dumb humans.

Those are my adventures so far on the train car. Hobo life isn’t so bad, it’s just sort of uncertain. But the worst is done. The leap. Now, let’s see if we can swim.

Carnival Barking for The Age of Aquarius

Ah, ’twas the moment I had been waiting for. The day my books came in the mail!

photo domday

No writer should be denied this little moment in time where he gets out of his head and stops self-deprecating long enough to appreciate what his toil hath wrought.

Call me an old fashioned Luddite, but the e-copy just ain’t the same.

photo (8)domday

Slender little devils.

I got 25 copies which I will take with me to Rhode Island to NecronomiCon which should be an absolute blast. I will set up my little table and wear my silver Cthulu pendant that I ordered from Italy on Etsy and carnival bark all the weary travelers over to see my wares.

“Step right folks and get yer Demon O’ Montreal books! One for a half-penny, two for a shilling!”

Well, perhaps I should up the price.

In the old days they used to carnival bark all kinds of things on the streets of London. You had a lot of immigrants coming in there and they needed work. So, they found it in very odd ways. You had the mudlarks who dug in the Thames and found various objects washed up on shore from trade ships and sticking in the mud, which they would hawk on the street.

The penny dreadfuls which were a kind of newspaper with lurid headlines to shock you into buying wherein your would read all manner of half truths and outlandish rumors. Sold by urchins. Entertainment.

You had the ratters who ran the high stakes ratting dens where prize fighting dogs would take on a horde of rats, slaughtering them in a mad frenzy. Of course, inevitably the best dogs would fall sick and die after however many matches with rat hordes. Then they would taxidermy the head and put it on the wall with a plaque to honor it. Strange business.  But they had a lot of rats back then.

One of the most prominent tribes of the time were the Romany, or gypsies with their own brand of magick and legend.

So, in the tradition of 19th century London, carnival bark it up!

As Above So Below

As above, so below. As within so without…

I’v been completely immersed in research for my next book. Studying the philosophy of this guy: Image

You guessed it, Hermmes Trismegistus.

These ancient dudes developed a whole system of magic called Hermitc Magick. It’s incredible the amount of information that is available about this. These guys really went for it and I don’t know that they were just “making it all up.” Here’s a nutshell version of this whole Hermetic Magick deal: 

Basically King Solomon (named as the wisest man in all the world in the bible) was quite adept in the handling and taming of demons. Whole books of have been written–contemporary with the bible–about King Solomon’s “keys” of control. 

Back story: in the days of Noah, a group of angels that were supposed to be watching over mankind decided it would be better if they got involved sexually with mankind’s women. So they had at it. They mixed with biblical humans and gave them all kinds of data about technology and how the celestial bodies work and, anyway, they told them “too much.” They also knocked up the women. The offspring of this strange union were amazing superhero types. Giants and “men of renown.” The Nephilim were great warriors. Goliath as in David and Goliath was one such Nephilim. Anyway, this did not please God so he sent the Great Flood to wipe them out. 

Well, this didn’t work as intended because the Nephalim spirits were still around in the earth and so on. 

Anyway, eons later, King Solomon ended up receiving a ring of power from the arch angel Micheal and this ring of power was a means by which to control this horde of these fallen angels a.k.a. demons. That’s where demons come from. So…Solomon was so good at all this that he built the first temple in Jerusalem with the help of these demon hordes. They would move heavy blocks and do things men could not. Pretty good. Then all manner of occult data became available and a system of magic to rival any fantasy novel was born. 

ImageImageImage

 

 

ImageImage

 You’ve got different things there the first few are alphabets and sigils of this magic language, these last two are Solomon’s seal, I guess what he wore on his ring of power. 

In case you were wondering this is the magick of Merlin and Nostradamus. So, it’s quite famous. 

 

So, that’s the update from the Other World. There’s always a lot happening over there. This afternoon after the meet and greet bar-B-Q thing I’ve got an appointment with Enoch, the angel medium and I am told he makes a mean cup of coffee.