by Camela Thompson
One of my favorite things about all things vampire is that each book, movie, or television show has the opportunity to adhere to a traditional legend or create their own. Even today's more traditional vampire stories diverge from the vision made popular by Bram Stoker in some way. Stoker wasn't the first to write about vampires, but he was the beginning of Dracula. The name is derived from the House of Drăculești. People have presumed Dracula is based on Vlad III (the Impaler) of the House of Drăculești because of his gruesome history, but the name "Vlad" was never mentioned in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Vlad the Impaler is a rich source for a story, and that is where Dracula Untold begins.
While checking out his region with his men, Vlad stumbles upon a cave. A creature lashes out and kills all of the men except Vlad, who barely manages to fight his way into the sunlight. Later, the Ottoman empire commands him to give up one thousand children plus his own son in tribute. Vlad the Impaler elects to uphold a promise to his wife and spare his son despite the lack of an army. Out of desperation, he returns to the cave and strikes a bargain.
A man struck a deal with a demon in order to gain power and strength. The demon fooled the man. Although he developed great power, he could not leave the cave until someone willingly returned and bargained with him. Until then, he was destined to be trapped, feeding on the hapless humans who wandered into his domain. He was no longer human, now a creature of the night. If a man drinks the creature's blood, he will gain strength, powers, and immortality. He will be able to see and hear through the creatures of the night. He is able to shapeshift and regenerate from grave injuries. In exchange for these powers, the man who drinks the blood loses the ability to walk in daylight and is susceptible to silver. A terrible thirst will take over and if he succumbs, he will be a creature of the night forever. If he does not cave into his desire, he will revert back to a human on the third day. The coolest part? When the turned wants to go fast, they become bazillions of little bats.
I enjoyed the movie, particularly the special effects. The historical deviations made me twitch a little, but I found the take on the vampire interesting and the story was solid. I like how the lore was a throw back to Stoker's Dracula. I think it deserved more than the 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (considering I'd happily sit through it again, I'd put it at 60-70%). Go into it expecting little in the way of plot and a lot in the way of action and special effects and you'll be entertained. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
For more on Vlad the Impaler, I recommend the documentary Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula.
by Camela Thompson
Edited 5/5 to reflect Kindle sale end
Things are happening! The past few months have been outwardly quiet, but a lot has been in the works and now I can finally talk about it. Book two of The Hunted is being released by Booktrope on May 7th!! Haven't read All the Pretty Bones yet? You should get on that. Go here to get your very own copy.
Want free stuff? Okay! (See how easy that was?) Get the FREE Companion Stories for The Hunted series by signing up for my newsletter here. Newsletter members get early announcements and exclusive free content. I even hold contests from time to time. Emails go out at most twice per month and you can unsubscribe at any time (at the risk of missing out on awesomeness).
Back to book two. Greg Simanson has done a great job keeping Blood, Spirit, and Bone in line with his first design for book one of The Hunted series, All the Pretty Bones. He impresses me so much. Here it is:
Do you love it? I hope so! Book two dives deeper into the supernatural world, and we really wanted that to come through.
Join us for the Facebook bash on May 7th! It runs from 9AM-2PM PST. Stop by to meet new authors and a chance to win some cool prizes like Blood, Spirit, and Bone. In fact, there's already a contest running! Check it out:
Because I'm so excited about the upcoming launch, I'm posting a free chapter. After a lot of deliberation, I've selected one that will not contain spoilers for book one.
Warning: Adult language and content ahead. Only proceed if you are over the age of 18.
Winter was Theodore Oswald’s least favorite season in the cemetery. After parking the golf cart behind the maintenance shed on the north side of the grounds, he hunkered down in his seat and patted at his substantial arms. He had an unlikely composition for a security guard, with his sleeves of tattoos and long, black hair, but it was hard to find people willing to work the night shift, and he showed up on time. Theo was supposed to keep moving around the perimeter, but the shed helped break the wind and take the sting off his ears. The graveyard under a blanket of darkness was not new to him, but he preferred the summers. Besides being warmer, it stayed light until almost ten. He shone his flashlight over the stunted grass and a withered bunch of flowers next to one of the stones lying flush in the ground, and he shuddered. There was something that spoke to him about line after line of headstones without a single decent bouquet.
Working security at a cemetery wasn’t a bad job. It paid the bills, unlike the gigs his heavy metal band landed. Theo didn’t believe in ghosts. When life was over, it was oblivion for everyone, but he appreciated the silence. There was a symmetry that appealed to the artist in him. The weather was cold and the bodies were buried deep, rotting underground as they were supposed to. It didn’t matter how old the person was when they were put in the ground; the days and months that followed progressed pretty much the same for all of them. He understood what took place around him. When he had first landed the job, he had spent a little time researching the process of decomposition. He didn’t want to watch over something that was a mystery.
Theo unzipped his jacket and slid his thick finger into the front pocket of his shirt. He pulled out a blunt and grabbed his lighter. The flame temporarily blinded him in the darkness, but it was worth the burn that sat in his chest after a long drag. Another upside to working in a graveyard: The dead didn’t care if you killed time by getting blazed.
He held onto the toke as long as he could, but the burn got to be too much. His body shook as his breath jerked out in spasms with puffs of smoke escaping his nose and mouth. It took several moments of fighting the squeeze at his chest, made worse by the icy air, before he could take in a full breath.
“This shit,” Theo paused as another staccato burst of hacks shook his body, “is righteous.”
Within minutes, Theo’s chin numbed and warmth spread throughout his body. The crisp winter breeze felt good as a heat bloomed in his chest and cheeks. He tipped his head up toward the sky, marveling at stars and a sliver of the moon between puffy clouds. It was beautiful.
A faint rustling prompted Theo to lean out of his cart and look up to the branches above him. A black bird stared down at him in the moonlight, its head tilted with an eerie intelligence.
“Nevermore.” The Poe inspired quote sent Theo into a wheezing fit of laughter. Tears welled at the corners of his eyes before he realized he couldn’t remember what he had found so funny. “This is some serious weed.” Feathers rustled, recapturing his attention. “Right. The raven.” The bird tilted its head in the opposite direction, opened its beak, and shut it with a snap. It was an oddly threatening gesture, giving Theo visions of the creepy animal swooping down and clawing at his eyes. To ease some of his paranoia, he sat back in his seat to put the cart’s small canopy between himself and the bird.
Despite the barrier between them, Theo was uneasy. The atmosphere had shifted—something ominous hung in the air. It was possible that the marijuana had made him paranoid, but Theo shrugged off the suspicion. His normal reaction was couch lock and a profound need for cheese. As time ticked on, his anxiety intensified. He flipped the golf cart’s ignition and pulled forward so his vision wasn’t hampered by the tool shed. The cart was electric, but he switched it off out of habit to prevent any additional noise. A feeling of foreboding crawled up his back like a giant spider, making him sit up straight and squint into the night.
What Theo saw next nearly had him falling out of his seat onto the narrow asphalt path. A small patch of ground heaved near one of the grave markers. A ripping noise carried to him, although he couldn’t be certain whether it was from grass roots tearing or his own gasps. He convinced himself that he had gotten a bad batch of weed. Mold or something extra mixed in could cause hallucinations.
In the beam of the Maglite the ground moved. Was it a mole?
The theory died as quickly as it had been born—the small patch of heaving earth turned into a mound the size of a soccer ball.
Theo’s eyes were as dry as his mouth, but he couldn’t bring himself to blink. It was like passing an accident: Despite the fear of seeing something horrible, he couldn’t look away. The rustle of fabric made him jump and realize he had his hand hovering over the key to start the cart back up. As if the noise had caught the burrowing creature’s attention, the heaving stopped. This time Theo blinked twice, hoping to end the strange vision. As he was about to blow out a shaky exhale, the earth moved again, sending a small rock falling end over end down the mound.
His voice seemed to make the thing more frantic. Earth shifted and split, falling over to reveal a fissure. A hand, rotted with pieces of bone exposed at the end of the frayed fingertips, shot through the surface.
Theo didn’t wait for the rest of the creature to claw out of the ground. Whatever was digging its way up to the surface didn’t belong there. He hit the gas pedal to the floor and his eyes finally watered with the wind slashing at his face. White knuckles strained under his tattoos. He wished he had skipped the pot. Something rustled behind him. He risked a look back. Nothing but gravestones. When he faced forward he let out a scream, nearly tipping the cart as he swerved to avoid a marble statue. He had driven off the path and was bouncing over graves. What would have been dismissed as superstition minutes before had Theo praying that he wasn’t disturbing the bodies underneath.
“I shouldn’t have smoked! Shit!”
Theo sped for the parking lot. It seemed to take hours to drive the half mile down the winding hill. When he finally reached the front gate, he mashed his foot into the brake. The cart lurched as it skid to a stop. He risked a glance over his shoulder, expecting to see the gaping mouth of a monster. Instead, there was movement in the lowest branches of the closest tree. One lone crow landed and sat with its feathers puffed, watching, its eye gleaming in the moonlight.
Compared to the thing digging out of the ground, a crow was a welcome sight. Theo grasped at the keycard on his belt and slid it through the lock. A red light flashed and he swore. He flipped the card so the magnetic strip was facing the correct direction and the gate slowly slid open.
Once Theo was on the parking lot side of the gate, he turned and entered the code to close and lock it behind him. “I may be a coward, but I can’t unleash the zombie apocalypse on the world.” He nearly whimpered watching the metal fence first finish opening all the way before jolting forward to close. As the mechanism squeaked, he looked up at the hill. Branches hampered his view, but shadows moved in the distance. It was too dark to be certain whether a figure was looming, and the beam of his flashlight was too weak to bring clarity.
The gate had another foot to go when Theo yelled, “Zombies be damned!” He ran to his little car, opened the door, and crammed his key into the ignition. The dilapidated beater sputtered and wheezed, dying out several times before the motor finally caught. A cry of joy was followed by a frown. Driving a golf cart down a hill was one thing, but operating a car while high was something he had never done and didn’t believe in. After a furtive glance at the graveyard, Theo put the car in reverse and pulled a K-turn to face the highway. He spent several moments with his hands squeezing the steering wheel as he debated whether or not to proceed. He could call the cops, but he was scared he would be arrested or harassed. Marijuana was legal, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t lose his job. Furthermore, it was still possible the whole thing was a drug-fueled hallucination. Theo turned in his seat and looked at the cemetery again. No movement caught his eye, but he didn’t feel like getting out of the car to take a better look.
After much internal debate, Theo decided to drive a mile up the road and have a drink at the bar. It was still early enough that he could nurse a beer for two hours and then come back to see whether or not it was all in his head. His employer would never miss him and he could keep his job. Perhaps the late-night horror flicks and internet searches on decomposition had finally caught up to him. He leaned forward to check to the left and then to the right. It was as if darkness had descended on the car, burning out the street lights and obscuring the world around him. His arms felt fuzzy and his head was full. Theo double checked the traffic and leaned out further to see to the right before pulling onto the street and making a left turn.
Looking back to the left, the fog of darkness dissipated like the flip of a light switch. He was blinded by two giant beams of light and a bellow like a foghorn rattled his teeth. For Theo it all ended in a flash of pain.
by Camela Thompson
I find it amusing that I declared it was time for a break and then proceed to take on ambitious projects. Maybe it's the perfectionistic tendencies or perhaps it's the Protestant work ethic pounded into my head at a young age (my real theory is that is has a lot to do with our current culture in the US, but that's a post for a different blog). This compulsion is definitely borderline dysfunctional, but it sure is productive. With just over two weeks until the launch of book two in The Hunted series, it isn't time to slow down.
Those of us who are authors and have done research know that the chance of being discovered through a blog is slim. That isn't to say I'm not grateful for anyone who takes the time to read this post. I'm only saying I don't expect to be the next Julie & Julia phenomenon (seriously though, I wouldn't turn the opportunity down). In an effort to reach out to more people, my marketing guru suggested a vlog (video blog usually hosted on YouTube). The chances of being discovered through a vlog are also slim, but I love geeking out on stuff and people seem to find that entertaining. I reached out to Z.D. Gladstone to see if she would be up for cohosting. She graciously accepted with the condition that we only use the audio as she is a little camera shy.
Fair enough. We could do a podcast.
Wait. What do I know about podcasts?
That all changed pretty quickly, although there is still so much to learn. Z.D. and I brainstormed on a theme, tag line, and topics (Shadows on the Sound: stories, superstitions, and mythologies that withstand the test of time). I reached out to some author friends and we had guests who also like to geek out on similar topics. With the self-imposed hiatus on lucrative employment, it was important to find technology options that were low cost. Equally important was the need for the interface to be easy to understand and free to access for the people I ask to join me.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options.
From your Google+ account, click on the Home button and select Hangouts.
From there, click on the Hangouts On Air option in the center. Once the Hangout is scheduled
I find people can get confused. It helps to send instructions on how to access events on their
Google+ page and send invite links once it begins.
The easiest for us was Google Hangouts on Air. "She said Z.D. was camera shy!" you say. You're right, but we discovered that the video feed helps us figure out who is talking when. It cuts down on awkward pauses and talking over one another. As an aside, I find it very important to shut off all other programs running on my laptop and ask the husband to go for a run so he isn't taxing our Internet bandwidth.
While the Hangout is recording, it feeds to my YouTube channel as a private video. When you first set up Google Hangouts on Air and associate them with your YouTube account, you can select the download settings to YouTube. Those of you who are comfortable with broadcasting a live recording can stop here. Those of you who want a vlog, I would recommend downloading the video as private, editing it, and then uploading the edited version as public.
Right now I am using Audacity, a free download, to edit my audio. Unfortunately, the library used to convert MP4 (video) files into audio is not working. I've tried uninstalling everything, just reinstalling the package, moving the package, and remapping the package through the preferences. None of these things work, but the software is free so I'm not going to throw stones. As a work around, I use the iMovie program that came with my Mac to do some initial editing, transfer it to an AU audio file, and then import it into Audacity for final editing. Once the final file is ready to be converted into an MP3, I upload it to an audio hosting provider.
Just about every website provider will allow you to upload audio files, and some of them even set you up with an XML (RSS feed) file for iTunes. This XML file is my final frontier before I start focusing on improving audio and bandwidth during recording. I can tell you that I prefer to host through a provider meant for hosting large files. If I ever get a substantial audience, the number of downloads can be taxing on my website provider. Embedding from a third party meant to handle a higher volume made sense. I chose SoundCloud because it's affordable (free for the number of audio files I post per month) and it's easy to embed the uploaded audio in my website. This option is a little hidden in the SoundCloud interface. After I upload my file to SoundCloud, I have the option to share. At the top of the sharing popup, there are tabs - one of these is Embed.
The somewhat hidden Embed option is highlighted orange.
This is on the Share pop up on SoundCloud.
For now I'm posting the podcast exclusively through this website using a blog template and embedded audio. This week I'm throwing myself into RSS feed XML files and attempting to submit to iTunes.
Does it sound easy? Well. I'd be lying if I didn't admit it took a long time to figure all of those steps out. There was also substantial fist shaking at the computer and some swear words. Now that it's done, it isn't so bad.
If you're interested in hearing more about any of these steps or have suggestions for better audio or tech providers, please let me know! I'd love to hear comments and suggestions. We'd also love to connect with more people who are passionate about the paranormal and all of the myths and stories that come with them. Let us know what you think!
by Camela Thompson
Things haven't been going as I expected. Somehow the more I planned, the worse things got. In retrospect, that shouldn't have been surprising.
I'm lucky. I'm good at my day job and it's a position that is in high demand. When I started getting twitchy at work after almost ten years at the same company, I decided that it was time for a change. Normally, that would make sense. Less than two months before a book launch, it proved to be one of my dumber ideas. Add to that a heavy sense that I was burning out and a new work environment that wasn't a good fit, and, at least in my case, you get a hot mess. I don't mean hot as in "attractive." I mean hot as in that disgusting chocolate bar that melted onto the seat of your car in the middle of summer that you didn't see before sitting down. Do the math. Crap-your-pants fantastic.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming the companies I worked for at all. I decided to work full time and write full time, along with all of the social media and speaking obligations that come with it. After doing my taxes, I know I need to work full time. It is what it is. The problem was I didn't understand how much pressure I was putting on myself. A healthy person has a hard time working more than forty hours a week for a prolonged period. When stress levels went up, I instituted a strict work out schedule. That stressed me out more because I couldn't keep up with it. I was going to publish three books this year. I set goal after unobtainable goal.
I haven't written more than four chapters since December. I felt tired all the time.
What clued me in to a big problem wasn't my lack of writing. It wasn't the way I couldn't work up the energy to get out of the house on the weekends. To be honest, I didn't understand I was burned out until I was talking myself out of bed every morning. Things got very bleak. I didn't understand why I was burned out until I talked to my mom. Isn't that the way of things? Moms seem to just know things. It's borderline creepy.
"Cam. You've been working nonstop since you were fifteen. Don't be an idiot and just take a break."
For once, I'm taking her advice. Mostly. I have a book launch in less than a month, so there is a lot of work to do. I'm giving myself until the end of the summer to have only one job - writing. I'm looking at Cons and blogging opportunities. I have a podcast to run, social media to maintain, and a blog. I'd love to write a couple books, but I've got a list of housework that hasn't been done in WAY too long because I was coming home from the day job to work the night job. It would be nice to volunteer. See? This is how I get in trouble.
The most important thing for me to do is recharge. I believe this is key for me to enjoy a day job and be a successful writer. It's the key to staying healthy.
Since deciding to take a break I've written a couple chapters. Considering my dry spell, it seems like I'm off to a decent start.
by Camela Thompson
My new job is in the heart of Seattle, which means the only sane way to get there is by bus. Parking in Seattle is astronomical (many places top $20 a day) and the traffic sucks. King County public transit isn't the greatest but it certainly isn't the worst and can be downright convenient if you have the right combination of residence locale and destination. We lucked out in the combo lottery and I'm near an express "commuter" line. I call it a commuter line because it only runs during rush hour(s), starts in a residential area, jumps on the freeway, and then exits immediately into the bus tunnel. It's a different demographic than the bus line that travels up the highway I feature in my novels as a place for shady dealings (read: drug dealers and hookers).
The upsides to the commuter express include less urine and people who stare at their books or devices throughout the ride. The majority of riders observe the unspoken rules, which is good because my shift in business hours to rush hour means that more than half the time I'm standing. The seats get taken quickly. We shove ourselves all the way to the back, sometimes cramming two rows down the aisle. As an introvert with mild social anxiety, I find myself ratcheting up to moderate on the anxiety richter scale when I'm staring into a man's armpit (less than fresh after a long day of work) and a woman's purse is firmly pressed into my derriere. There's something about hurtling down the freeway at more than fifty miles-per-hour with nothing stopping you from being ejected from a bus but your grip and a metal pole. It's like high stakes stripper aerobics without the music or the fun.
This is what Mariner's Opening Day looks like for people upstream from
the stadium stop. The line went up the stairs. You should have seen the inside of the bus.
Other than a fear of being freeway decor, the biggest complaint are other passengers who are inconsiderate. There's a gentleman I've had to squeeze next to because his legs are splayed as though he's riding a Clydesdale. Bench seats sometimes result in cuddling because I'm sandwiched between two big guys. But for the most part, these are #FirstWorldProblems. I'm lucky to have an easy and safe way to get to and from work. When I do get a seat, I get more time to read. The best part of my day is when Lance and Annie meet me at my stop in the evening. It's the greatest thing ever.
It's a hike to the bus and to the office, so I've adopted the ugly bus shoe phenomenon (running shoes with business slacks, business shoes stowed in the backpack). I'm still getting used to the new schedule and haven't figured out when I'll get my writing done, but it will come with time. After nine and a half years at my last company, adjusting to being the new person has been a bit difficult. Books have helped me find some new work buddies, but more on that later. All I'll say for now is: Thank goodness for the love of reading.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.