The third and final book in The Blooddaughter Trilogy is now available for Kindle. The paperback is also now available.
Blood Atonement on Amazon (250 pages, $2.99 on Kindle) – Free on Kindle Unlimited
Names and numbers populated the pages of the pocket-sized book Elsa carried. She stood over the crumpled body of a man whose name she didn’t know and, if she had her way, never would. Elsa gave the body another kick in the kidney. The man grunted, causing Elsa to feel a bit more satisfied. A girl, midway through her teen years, crouched in the corner, trembling. Elsa knelt by her, careful to get close without touching her.
“Do you have a name?” Elsa asked. The girl’s name, unlike the man’s, had infinite value.
The girl nodded as she responded, “Maria Esperenza.”
They were all named Maria in Havana and they all joined their middle name to their first. Elsa ran the name through her mind again and again. She’d need to remember it to write it down. Maria Esperenza would be number four-ninety-three on the second list of six-hundred and sixty-six names in the tiny red leather-clad book.
“Are you hurt, Maria Esperenza?” Elsa asked.
Maria Esperenza shook her head. The bruises on the girl’s naked shoulders belied the truth, or a part of it. The girl, unlike the man, still had her bloomers on. At least Elsa had arrived before the man had taken what the girl would never get back. Elsa couldn’t do anything for the bruises on her shoulders, but she could do something for the damage that didn’t show.
She picked up the girl’s torn dress from the floor of the tiny launderer’s shop and handed it to the girl. It took a moment for the girl to look up. When the girl reached for the dress, Elsa caught her eyes and spoke. She put her will into her words, coercing her as she said, “This man tried to take your money, nothing more. He got rough, but only wanted the money from the till. Another man came and stopped the robbery, taking this man away. Get dressed, lock up your shop then go home. Sleep well. You’ll not remember me or anything I did or will do here tonight.”
Elsa stood and walked to the door. She envisioned a hand in her mind, and used that hand to grab the man from the floor and drag him along behind her as she went out to the dark streets. The only lanterns or torches on the street were the ones hung from shops and those were not alight after business hours. It didn’t matter to Elsa. She preferred it dark. As a vampire, the light of the quarter moon was more than she needed to see clearly. She walked past several streets, careful to avoid the few people awake and about that late. The man she drug along occasionally grunted if he bumped over an uneven cobblestone. Finally, she got bored of dragging the man. She walked back and looked at his face. It wasn’t one she’d remember. She considered drinking her fill from the man, but he was dirty—too many days removed from his weekly bath, if he bathed that often. Lacking any further use of the man, and having separated him from the scene of his crime, Elsa pulled a razor from her boot and slit the man’s throat. His eyes popped open just before the life faded from them. The smell of his blood running down to the gutter made Elsa hungry, but there was nothing for her to drink there. The man was dead; his blood was dead. Elsa cleaned the razor on the man’s sleeve and slid it back into her boot.
From her breast pocket, she pulled out the little red book and a pencil. “Maria Esperenza, 493,” she wrote under Maria Bella’s name. Maria Bella had been the four hundred and ninety-second girl she’d saved. Though that girl hadn’t fared as well as Maria Esperenza, she’d live. Life and death were what mattered for Elsa’s book. A full list of the names of girls whose lives she’d stolen two centuries earlier preceded the pages of names of girls whose lives she’d saved. She’d imposed the penance on herself. It wouldn’t be enough to fill the second list, but it would be something. The one name that would never be on the list, the one name of a woman who could never be saved, was her own: Elizabeth Bathory.
Buy the rest at Amazon (250 pages, $2.99 on Kindle) – Free on Kindle Unlimited
PreOrder for June 1 release.
Blood Atonement: The True Tales of Elizabeth Bathory, Vampire is now for sale from both Createspace and Amazon in print. For Kindle, you’ll have to wait for June 1st. This is mostly because I can’t figure out how to reschedule a pre-order style release to an earlier date.
This is a stand-alone novel, but, works well with the other stories in the world of The Blooddaughter Trilogy.
This is, by far, the darkest of the vampire novels in the world of The Blooddaughter Trilogy. It’s about an infamous serial killer as the protagonist. I mean, if the good guy of the book is this evil, how bad does the bad guy have to be? To be fair, if the title doesn’t give it away, Elizabeth (or Elsa as she’s called–and she was Elsa in my other books long before that Disney movie used the name) is striving to be good, but what she considers good is from a unique perspective.
This is Elsa from The Blooddaughter trilogy, but from a time centuries before those stories–a separate story that can work as a prequel.
As you read, some of the story might look familiar, from history, from classic tales of vampires or from The Blooddaughter Trilogy. You’ll discover it’s much more than what you thought you knew.
Sidenote: This is a work of fiction, starting with the title, as if the word, ‘vampire’ didn’t give that away.
Like many technophiles of the world, I was sucked into the hype around the new iphones. I have had an android phone in the past, but, I prefer Apple. My wife, on the other hand, prefers Microsoft OS phones. That, however is not the point of this post.
I was determined to resist the urge to upgrade my phone early. I still have nine months on my iphone5 contract. I was just going to wait for the iphone7 (or 6s). At first the huge screened iphone plus seemed very unweildly. Then I was in a store with a display and put my phone beside the 6 plus. Bigger isn’t always better, right? Why do we keep having to remind ourselves, then? Still, I resisted. If I truly wanted one come March, I could upgrade on one of my kids lines and pass my phone down through the ranks. This is what everyone does with teenager phones, right? they get last years phones so we adults can stay trendy.
I discussed the situation and the unnatural draw of Apples marketing with my wife. We decided I would wait. We’d leave the option open for when we needed a phone to replace a dead or dropped phone. No, I didn’t ‘Accidently’ drop my phone in the blender or anything. I didn’t slam my phone into a closing car door, not that anyone does that. I resolutely stuck to my guns. No new phone. Period.
And then my wife comes into our room one day and says, “You’re son’s iphone screen stopped working. The picture is there but no touch. He can’t even turn the phone off. I guess you get to order that new phone.” My oldest kid has an iphone4. He would inherit my wife’s iphone4s and my wife would get my iphone5 until we could get her the HTC phone she wants. It took me about ten minutes to have the iphone6 plus ordered.
Then my rational mind kicked in. Not rational enough to try anything like cancel the order, however. I just realized I hadn’t actually tried to fix my son’s phone yet. I went and got it and sure enough, no touch capability. I then remembered you can turn an iphone off by holding the power button and the home button at the same time for a few seconds. When the phone rebooted, it worked fine.
Hey, I followed the agreement. There was a broken phone at the time I ordered the new one.
My wife has killed a phone inside an otter box. Gravity, combined with a closing car door – ’nuff said. To replace that phone, we got an old iphone 4sfrom her friend. Currently her iphone, which might still be her best friend’s iphone on loan, has a shattered backplate. That’s a new thing since it was given/loaned to us. The case will drip glass shards on occassion. So I’m just eliminating an injury risk.
And that’s how I’m rationalizing getting the new iphone.
One of the most difficult things to do when writing stories that take place in the present is to avoid too many pop-culture references. When writing about times in history it adds a little depth to involve people from history. When writing in the present, we can’t do that because people don’t like to have their lives fictionalized without their permission.
We have to be careful how often we reference things that are very popular now, like television shows. They might seem like a way to create a common bond with the reading audience, but sometimes our audience might absolutely hate something in pop culture our characters like and this can turn off a reader’s interest. And readers don’t really like it when they feel something went over their head, so if we do use a pop-culture reference, make sure it’s something the audience will get or miss entirely.
In “Blood Reprisal”, I make a ‘Friends’ pop-reference that is a little oblique. However, I don’t mention the show directly. I like to think I used it like a double-entendre in a kids’ movie – something people who know will get and something people who don’t won’t actually realize they missed something.
Since my vampire stories take place almost entirely during the nighttime hours (duh, it’s vampires) I spend a lot of time with my characters in bars and clubs. So there is a lot of music in the atmosphere. Trying to avoid pop-references means I can’t use a lot of actual band names. I have to come up with new ones. Naming bands is hard. Finding a good name that isn’t already being used by someone is harder. No one wants to make an unintentional pop-culture reference. But, I have three that I’ve come to like: Skeledudes as a Grateful dead cover band, Dire Monotony as a goth rock band and Jalapeno Pop as a band that does instrumental covers of bubblegum pop songs.
And as much as I’d like to mock the teenybopper vampmances out there, I can’t outright disdain the sparkly vampires in my stories. I do gently mock the genre of vampire books that are really just erotica for women in the first chapter of the first book of The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I do this by having two fans of the book talk about a new vampire book. It seems cheesy, talking about vampire writing in my own vampire book, but that particular book in a book (think play in a play) actually is important to parts of the plot of “Second Blood”.
Then there is Pop-History. Taking real history and using popular myths around that real history. All vampire books do this if they mention Vlad Dracula. Elizabeth Bathory is a very major player in The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I also rib on Alex Dumas with my Milady DeWinter character in “Blood Huntress”. No, I did not take every Femme Fatale from history (and historical fiction) and make them into a vampire in my fictional history. Lucrezia Borgia barely makes an appearance in the Trilogy. The only other Historical figures I use are Artemis and Virginia Dare (though I don’t think I ever call that last one by name. Okay, so I name drop a dozen or so more – sometimes making the historical figure a vampire, other times outright mocking the use of historical figures as vampires.
Most avid readers will get the Vlad Dracula and Dumas references. Vampire fans will almost always get the Elizabeth Bathory references and the Lucrezia Borgia ones. Everyone gets the Artemis reference. I try to stick to a historicaly verifiable version of my fictionalized historical characters. Dracula was a bad, evil man. So was Countess Bathory, but she got better. With these guys, I had to try very hard to create characters that would act like readers would expect if they knew the character’s history and/or myth. At the same time, I had to make them unique characters to my stories. Okay, so not so much with Dracula. His part in my books is so minor it’s non-existent. Like pop-references, historical references have to be obvious or so obscure, a reader won’t want to stop and look it up on wikipedia. If they do, if I did my job right, they will see the actual history as just more of the story presented in my books — an added depth to my novel.
I’m on a very short high horse here. I don’t think any of my covers are works of genius. I do think they are good and in some cases great, but none are truly awesome.
I don’t like when works of fiction use photographs as cover art.
I think it’s lazy and cheap. It lowers my hopes of the work being well written.
Fiction covers should be works of art such as paintings and not stock photography. That’s not to say photography is not art. Photography is an art form and there are artists whose medium is photography and these artists create art through selective angles, lighting and subject matter and often Photoshop. Very few photographs can create a feel that a work of fiction is going to be good fiction. For the sake of simplicity, when I mention art from here out, I am talking about drawings and paintings, be they physical or digital.
Photographs have a lot of detail. Our eyes notice the detail. I think this is not the idea of a book cover. A book cover should convey a short, simple message about the book. Art, no matter how detailed, does not have the level of detail of a photograph. A painting will always convey something of the artist’s perception of the subject matter in the way it focuses on some details to the omission of others.
The worst part of using photographs for cover art is that the pictures are so often just stock photographs taken from Flickr. They are not even designed to be that book’s cover. Sometimes the author actually uses some Photoshop to focus the photograph. Usually, they just extract the people from the background and paste them over some other blurred photograph. I see quite a few of these in an author promotion group I joined. The author promotion page sounded like a good idea until I really thought about it. As near as I can tell everyone on that page is an author and no one is actually reading the books the other authors are promoting.
Nine out of ten of the covers of these books are lazy photograph repurposing junk.
There are ways to use a photograph as a book cover. The first thing a fiction cover needs of a photograph including people is a clear view of a character’s eyes. People stop to notice eyes. Actually every animal will stop to notice eyes. It’s instinct. Of course, the independent authors, no matter how talented they are in story craft, are rarely good at selecting photographs as covers. Since romance/erotica is so popular these days, most of the pictures show a man, either shirtless or with a loose shirt, embracing a woman whose clothes are falling to the wind. Often they are kissing.
This is not a good way to sell a book. We are raised to be embarrassed by other people’s acts of affection. We have an ingrained behavior to look away. A voyeuristic person will then look back, usually out of the corner of their eye, but most of us won’t. And those that look back will then spend too much time examining picture on the cover.
And that stock photography is generic. It’s not made to be the cover of that book and often its painfully obvious. I swear one trilogy I saw was the same stock photograph flipped with one of the books featuring someone pasted in front of the old picture. Photoshop is remarkably easy to use and so hard to use well. Ask my wife who thinks I’m a Photoshop expert. I’m not. I just understand how to manipulate color.
My high horse is short because of the cover I use for ‘Of Maia’s Mist’. That is a photograph I purchased the rights to from a photographer. It replaced a hand-drawn colored pencil sketch I had drawn myself. That photograph was a submission for that call for art because the photographer thought the picture would represent the character of a ‘nature girl’ well and it does.
Every other book cover I have out there right now is computer generated art made by me. The cover for Sheillene is the laziest of those since I clearly use a 3D character animation program and the background is a stock painting. But every other cover is exactly what it should be. Ok, so ‘The Nightstone’ cover kind of sucks, but the book kind of sucks so it’s a good cover for that book. The book is only published to give a little more history to the world in ‘Of Maia’s Mist’ which does not suck.
The vampire trilogy covers are also computer generated. ‘Second Blood’s cover was a digital painting using a stock photo model. The other two books from that series are heavily Photoshopped lips generated by the same 3d Character animation program I used for Sheillene. As simple as they look, the cover for ‘Blood Huntress’ took four or five hours and the cover for ‘Blood Reprisal’ took me over twelve hours. Most of that time was working with a digital paintbrush to adjust the colors and clean up some of the shapes. Still, the covers tell you what to expect from the book. Book One is a vampire feeling alone in a new world. Book two has her identifying her relationships with others. Book three has her in a struggle against an “angel”. Spoiler, those are air quotes too.
But that’s just my covers. I am also writing a role playing game manual. The expectation of the potential audience for that book is one work of art for every other page. The book is a hundred and fifty pages long. I spent most of the last two years finding and commissioning art for that book. It took a huge investment in time and a bit of an investment in money. I use a lot of stock art because I don’t have a budget. I did collect about a hundred works of art and used just over half of those because I found a place to marry them to in the book. A few of the works were commissioned for specific pages. I still had to resort to doing a few drawings myself.
Painting and drawings only look simpler than photographs. Any of the three, when done by an artist, will convey a complex message most of us won’t be able to put into words. And the people that can put them into words are just being pretentious. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but that’s an understatement. The trick with a book cover is to have the cover art represent the book. To do that, it should be created for the book. There are good photographs out there that make excellent covers, even for fiction. These cannot be found in stock piles. They must be commissioned to be for that book. It’s so obvious when they are. The thing is, a good commissioned photograph isn’t any cheaper than a good hand or computer drawn/painted cover. Low end professional cover art costs $300-$500. My budget means I have to hire amateurs. Good Amateurs are hard to find. Chances are, if they are really good, they go pro.
Anyone looking for a great amateur cover artist should look up Gabrielle Ragusi on Deviantart.com. She didn’t break my bank for the work I commissioned from her for that role playing manual. No, deviant art is not about deviant art. It’s just an art (all kinds from painting to photographs to handcrafts) website. I have a page there, too. My “art” needs the air quotes.
That’s the first book of the trilogy. I know, in hindsight it’s a confusing name for a first book.
I obviously have not been blogging much. Honestly in a few months I haven’t blogged at all. I don’t use the blog as a diary, so daily boring stuff never makes it in here.
I have not been doing daily boring stuff. I can honestly say the reason I haven’t been blogging is that I haven’t had time.
I have too many hobbies. Writing is not one of them. Writing is who I am. I just don’t get paid much to write, so it looks like a hobby from the outside observer. I have been writing quite a bit. I am have just published the last book of my Blooddaughter Trilogy. I have three or four other active writing projects.
I am also closing in on publishing in print my roleplaying game setting. It’s more work than I thought it would be. Adding pictures to a book is not simple. Adding pictures with a license to actually distribute the book, for money, is exceptionally difficult when my budget is pocket change.
And I still have my forge and still work on knifemaking, though I haven’t actually hit much glowing metal with a hammer in a few months, but it’s been damned cold outside. And an 1800 degree forge really isn’t enough to heat the great outdoors. When it got warmer, I did go back out to the forge and promptly overworked some tendons in my arm. Right now my elbow hurts if I grip something like a hammer tightly.
And I still have my other dabblings in art and trying to learn music, which would be easier if I didn’t have other hobbies demanding my time.
And hobbies are not the only thing demanding my time. My family has been growing in unnatural ways. Somewhere in the last year, my wife and I took up foster parenting. So our house got another bedroom and lost a breakfast nook and the bedroom acquired it’s very own teenage girl. She’s a nice, quiet girl with an odd perception of reality. Luckily I, too, have an odd perception of reality, so we get along okay. I will say, as hard as it is to teach our biological children to learn from our teachings rather than their own mistakes, it’s harder when someone hasn’t grown their whole lives trusting your, or any parent’s for that matter, wisdom.
There have been other kids coming and going from our home. Foster parenting isn’t meant to be a permanent solution. Ideally these kiddos go home but sometimes, such as the one we have now, there isn’t a home to go back to.
Of my hobbies, my blogging is not the highest priority, but when I have something to say, I will.
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I just published “Blood Huntress”, the second book of the Blooddaughter Trilogy. It’s available at Amazon. com right now.
Shauna, Adjusting to life without the Sun and the need to feed, travels to Europe to track down the notorious vampire hunter, Henry the Inquisitor. She finds the night culture there in upheaval as hunters have decimated the vampire populations of France and the surrounding countries. The royalty she meets are not as friendly as she is accustomed to.
Her companion and best friend, the Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory, has particular difficulty adjusting to the new powers in Europe. Defending her friend may make enemies among the vampire royalty.
In case Shauna doesn’t have enough to worry about, her twin sister and vampiric progeny, Laura, free of her mortal addictions, may have found a new, deadlier, habit.
I’m working on the third book as my Nanowrimo project. It wont be ready to publish in a month–give me about six months to have it out there.
Print Version of Blood Huntress will be available soon. If you can’t wait, Amazon’s sub-company Createspace has it now: