Thursday, 31 March 2011

Hunting Karoly

All this vampire talk over the last week has got me thinking of the very first vampire story I wrote - a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the genre I loved :). A novella originally published as Undead Men Wear Plaid, and is now expanded a bit and reissued by Ellora's Cave as Hunting Karoly.

My vampire hero is lazy, bored and lonely - and mouth-wateringly gorgeous. In search of pastures new, he's rolled up in Glasgow, Scotland, where, dressed in an antique kilt, he hangs around wedding receptions, imagining he blends in with the locals. Jenny, my no-nonsesne heroine, is struggling to believe she has the psychic powers she's been told she has. Until she runs into Karoly and recognizes him instantly as a vampire. Anyway, here's a snippet to entertain you!

HUNTING KAROLY  By MARIE TREANOR,
Now available from
Ellora's Cave
Also available in the paperback anthology: SEDUCING SCOTS
By MARIE TREANOR, from Ellora's Cave.

You’re not meant to fall for the bad guy…are you?

On the rain-soaked, famously mean streets of Glasgow, Jenny, a reluctant psychic, hunts Karoly, a dangerous but incredibly sexy vampire. Clad only in his antique kilt, he hangs around wedding receptions, biting the guests and seducing an unsuspecting vampire hunter—Jenny in particular. Half ready to stake him, half ready to beg him to have sex with her again, Jenny sets out to hunt Karoly.

After amazing, intense sex and a dramatic exit from Glasgow, he follows Jenny to London, fueling both her growing awareness of her psychic powers and the hot, sexy dreams that fill her nights, leaving.  When he shows up at Jenny’s workplace, cooking for her friends and apparently determined to share her life, Jenny has to figure out who’s hunting whom—and if she’s ready to share her life with the evil, sexy, gorgeous undead.   



Excerpt:

    He knew that I knew. Slowly, a smile began to form on his full, sensual lips and the terror galloped through me till I thought I would be completely crushed.

    Then a lamp clicked on by the window, causing both me and the vampire to look across the room. Bathed in light, Maggie got up from a sofa, still in her fine white wedding gown—not quite spotless, since someone had spilled red wine on the sleeve, but still looking pretty regal.

    “Hi Jenny.” She walked straight past me. If she noticed her best man clutched in the arms of the kilted vampire, she didn’t mention it. “Back to the guests, I suppose…”

    Fear for her finally broke through my torpor. Why had she been sitting there motionless in the dark, unless…? My mouth opened to demand if he had hurt her, but something—the dull, objectionable training perhaps?—stopped me. Maggie was walking and talking and leaving the source of the danger. Davie was not.

    I turned back to the vampire.

    “Let him go,” I said hoarsely. I was surprised any words came out at all. I was even more surprised when the vampire obeyed, casually releasing the best man so that he slumped gracefully to the floor, revealing a long expanse of muscled thigh. I just wished I’d seen in it in other circumstances. A thin trickle of blood ran down the side of Davie’s neck into his collar.

    “Is he dead?” I whispered in horror. I don’t know why. It wasn’t as if the vampire was about to call an ambulance.

    Astonishingly enough, the evil one answered me.

    “Of course not,” he said irritably. “Why would I leave dead bodies lying around?”

    His voice was another shock. Smooth, deep in timbre, curiously beautiful and yet with accents that came perilously close to Bela Lugosi.

    “Oh please!” I said, rolling my eyes. “How gullible do you think I am?”

    The vampire misunderstood. Frowning, he said, “For your information, he’s asleep because he is dead drunk. And he tastes disgusting!”

    He kept the accent. More worrying, he started to walk toward me, his kilt swinging subtly with his graceful, cat-like movements, for all the world confusing evil demon with noble Highland warrior.

    His words, however, were merely carping. “What is the matter with the people in this town? What do they eat, for God’s sake?”

    “Meat and cakes,” I said, surprising myself as much as him. He actually paused in his stride to stare at me.

    “What?”

    “And chips,” I babbled. “Lots of chips. No fresh fruit or vegetables. Curry.”

    For a second, a frown puckered his smooth, pale brow. Then, to my amazement, a definite glint of amusement sparked in his inhumanly cold eyes. They shifted to my throat. “Thank you for taking the trouble to answer me. Do you eat your vegetables?”

:) Marie

Welcome Bonnie Dee!

As our guest of honour today, I'm delighted to welcome the very talented Bonnie Dee, my partner in the Fairytale Fantasies series at Samhain, and multi-published author in many genres, including, most recently, the vampire menage tale, Vampires' Consort.  Pull up a drink. Bonnie, and tell us about your vampire world!

Vampires: Day or Night Walkers? 

We tend to think of vampires as creatures of the night, barred forever from sunlight. There’s something tragically romantic about that which seizes our imaginations. Eternal life lived forever in darkness. I think female readers in particular like the idea of the heroine being the “sunlight” the vampire hero has lost. She brings light into his cold, dark existence, hope to his hopeless emo-brooding self.

But the idea of vampires only walking at night isn’t a given. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I recall a scene set in daylight, albeit a foggy day, when Dracula is outdoors. In current works like the Twilight series, vampires don’t appear to be allergic to sunlight at all, although it does make ’em sparkle so prettily. And where would the Salvatore brothers in The Vampire Diaries be without their super decoder rings that allow them to walk by day? The plot would move a lot more slowly if they could only come out at night. Plus it would make it impossible for 100-year-old Stefan to attend high school with his girlfriend—not that they ever actually go to class in Mystic Falls.

I may have some issues with the over-the-top craziness of True Blood, but I wholeheartedly approve of the way those vamps sizzle and smoke like bacon in sunlight. Ditto the blood-suckers in Buffy and Angel. Yes, I have to say I’m a much bigger fan of night-slinking predators than day-walking supermen. How about you?

In my recent ménage story, Vampires’ Consort, I have a vampire hero who chooses to spend much of his time at a most unlikely location, a tropical island. He may not be able to walk in the light but Valarian Kaspan loves to experience it in a house with specially treated windows with a gorgeous ocean view from every one.

The consort in the story is Akila Massri, average American girl of Egyptian descent, who is approached by a stranger in a supermarket one day and offered an invitation to join Valarian at his tropical retreat. The bearer of this invitation is Jacob Baum, thrall to the vampire and the third side of this romantic triangle. Thralls don’t get much mention these days in vamp lore, but in early tales you might recall that the creatures of the night had servants who did their bidding in daylight. I thought rather than have Akila paired with two vampires, it would make a more interesting dynamic to include a man caught in a sort of limbo, a man with a love-hate relationship with his master.

As a thrall, Jacob has some extra powers although he’s definitely not as strong as Valarian. He can’t take too much full-on sunlight but he won’t burn to a crisp if he catches a few rays. Part of him regrets his pact with the master and wishes to make a change in his life, but he also recognizes that they’re linked forever—or until one of them turns to dust. How does a woman wedge herself into a relationship that strong? By not detracting from it, merely enhancing it. Thus a pair becomes a threesome.

Here’s a blurb from Vampires’ Consort, followed by an excerpt that introduces the main characters. Drop a comment for a chance to win a copy of Vampires’ Consort.


One riveting glance from the handsome stranger stalking her in the supermarket shakes Akila Massri down to her soul. And when Jacob Baum hands her an engraved invitation to visit his billionaire employer’s retreat, curiosity—and the need to pay off her student loans—overcomes the instinct to refuse.

Once on Valarian Kaspan’s private tropical island, her dark and deadly host confronts her with several incredible facts. Vampires exist. Her Egyptian ancestry traces back to the sun god, Ra. And her bloodline is critical to the future of mankind.

From his thrall’s heated reaction to the supple-limbed Akila, Valarian is certain she is destined to mingle his Genghis Kahn bloodline with that of Ra. As a vampire, Valarian is sterile; it is through Jacob that a prophesied savior of mankind will be born.

As Akila tries to wrap her mind around all this, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of erotic passion for two, very complicated men. When they all come together, something powerful unfolds within her. Something that makes her the target of evil vampires who plan to use her—and her unborn—to erase humans’ very existence from the earth…

Excerpt:

Akila glanced at her silent companion, sitting beside her as if there were only two seats available in this empty eight-passenger Leer. Jacob looked even sexier today than she had when she’d first met him. He was wearing a plain white Oxford button down over another T-shirt. Apparently, the man liked layers and long sleeves even in this humid Florida weather.

“How long have you worked for Mr. Kaspan?” She watched a flicker of emotion chase across his face like a cloud on a windy day.

“Too long,” he said dryly.

“You don’t like him?”

The corner of his mouth drew up and his eyelids slightly lowered. “That’s beside the point.”

Oh, so their relationship went beyond employer and employee. She could sense sex in those bedroom eyes. Gay, then? But no, she’d definitely caught an appreciative look in his eyes when he’d examined her and she was rarely wrong about male interest in her. He must bat for both teams.

“You’re tired of him, but you can’t leave him,” she guessed.

A quick widening of his eyes told her she’d nailed the crux of their relationship with one blow.

“Mr. Kaspan is a fair employer. I’m compensated well for what I do.” He went stiff and formal trying to backpedal from that admission of “too long”, but it was too late. Akila had glimpsed an emotion, a disgruntled impatience he preferred to keep hidden from his boss and possible lover. This knowledge gave her a little bit of power and she liked that.

Settling back into the comfortable seat, she took a sip from the bottled water Jacob had given her. “It’s all right. Your secret’s safe with me. I know what it’s like to get that ‘moving on’ feeling but not be ready to go yet. It happens in both jobs and relationships.”

“You’re very perceptive.”

“Thank you.”

“Sometimes it’s better to keep your perceptions to yourself.” He turned the full force of his gaze on her and Akila suddenly felt like a child who’d been prodding a lion with a stick.

“You really have no idea who or what you’re dealing with,” he added. “A wise man keeps his mouth shut and his ears open.”

God, she just couldn’t help herself. She had to poke again. “But a wise woman ferrets out the truth by asking the right question.”

She could hear herself being obnoxious, but couldn’t turn it off. When she was nervous she grew even more smart-assed than usual. And despite her attempts to appear at ease, she was pretty damn nervous right now. Her mother used to say her outspokenness would get her into trouble some day. This might just be that day.

“Sorry. You’re right, I don’t know anything about you or your…employer.” Akila tried to patch things up and even then she couldn’t help the little pause that gave the word “employer” a whole other meaning. “But you could tell me something about him. I’d like to know a little about what I’m walking into.”
Jacob paused a long moment. “There’s really nothing I’m at liberty to say. Mr. Kaspan will explain everything.”

She could tell it was his final word on the matter so she stopped poking and looked out the window at the azure sky above and the sapphire water below. A few seconds later a blob of green appeared in the water. She’d barely had time to decide it was an island and not some coral reef beneath the water when the plane approached a bone-white landing strip. Akila braced herself as if they were coming in for a crash landing. Here we go. What in the hell have I gotten myself into?

The plane touched down, light as a feather, and rolled to a stop.

Jacob rose and ushered her from her seat. “This way, Miss Massri.”

They descended the steps of the plane and Akila stood for a moment, absorbing the tropical sun’s heat and the glorious view that lay before her.

Fantasy Island, indeed. The place was pure paradise. From the airstrip she could see bleached sand and gently breaking surf on one side, emerald green foliage laced with showy tropical blooms on the other.

Jacob carried her bags to a golf cart. They climbed inside and zipped along a path through the trees. The track climbed upward in the cool shade and then broke through into a sunny glade. Gracing the crest of the hill was a huge house with white walls that shone in the sun. A red, clay-tiled roof made a pretty contrast to the harsh white.

Akila thought of every action movie she’d ever seen featuring a drug lord. They always had mansions like this, paid for in blood. For all she knew, Kaspan dabbled in the drug trade too, but he had enough legitimate businesses it hardly seemed necessary. Besides, criminals didn’t usually fund schools, hospitals, orphanages and programs to build roads in third world countries—all philanthropies Kaspan was involved in.

“Home, sweet home, eh?” She glanced at Jacob’s chiseled profile and wondered what he was all about. She couldn’t imagine such a somber man ever having been a playful child. Where had he come from and how had he ended up as the lackey of one of the most powerful men in the world?

She was tired of wondering about things. Patience wasn’t her strong suit and she’d been pondering a million questions ever since that day Baum had handed her the invitation. Kaspan had allowed her little time to consider the offer. The airline tickets had been for the following week, which was just as well or she might have talked herself out of this crazy adventure.

Now here she was, getting out of the golf cart and facing a glossy red door behind a decorative wrought-iron grill. Tendrils of vines grew in a trellis arching over the walkway and plants erupted in lush profusion from beds on either side. The path to the front door meandered invitingly down the tunnel of green. The house was not at all the Gothic mausoleum she’d half expected an eccentric recluse to live in. Akila’s fears were somewhat alleviated by the welcoming atmosphere.

“What a lovely place to live.”

Jacob looked around as though seeing it with fresh eyes. “It is.”

He held the door for her and she walked from the humid heat into the refreshing coolness of the foyer. A fan swept lazily high overhead in the vaulted ceiling and sunlight from a window illuminated the open space. A plush carpet in deep reds and earth tones covered most of the tiled floor. Potted trees and plants brought the outdoors inside.

Akila barely had time to glance at the artwork on the walls or the exotic artifacts scattered here and there before Jacob guided her down a corridor.

“I will take you to your room first so you may refresh yourself before meeting Mr. Kaspan.”

She decided his courtly, almost old-fashioned manner of speech may have been from learning English as a second language. “Are you from Germany? I keep catching a trace of an accent.”

“Yes,” he said. “But I’ve lived many places in the world since then.”

“Mm. I did the European backpacking thing one summer when I was in college, but money’s always been too tight for me to travel much.”

This tropical retreat was a dream come true, especially with icy gray slush still piled alongside the streets back home. Whatever Kaspan wanted, she would enjoy her time here in this paradise for as long as it lasted.

Jacob opened a door and Akila stepped into a room that reminded her of the iridescent inside of an oyster shell. The floor underfoot was covered with dove gray carpet, but the walls were swathed in fabric, the colors of which seemed to shimmer and change as she looked at them. Cool blue, lilac, rose and flashes of green mingled with gray and white. The same colors were picked out in abstract designs on the comforter covering the bed. Embedded in one of the walls was a saltwater tank with fish darting among colorful corals. Entering the room was like stepping into an undersea world.

“This is beautiful,” she murmured, turning in a slow circle to take it all in while Jacob set her suitcase on the bed.

“I’m glad you like it.” Something about the pleased way he accepted her compliment made her look at him.

“Did you design this?”

He shrugged. “Master Kaspan gives me free rein on decorating decisions. It’s my hobby, I suppose you could say.”

Akila studied him. She’d just learned two extremely interesting things. Jacob possessed an artistic streak at odds with his rigid manner and he had slipped and referred to Kaspan not as his boss, but as “master”.

“The bathroom is there.” He indicated a door. “I’ll give you an hour to rest and then take you to see Mr. Kaspan.”

She’d half hoped the man would be waiting at the door so she could get this meeting over with. She should’ve guessed he’d summon her to his throne room.

Jacob turned to leave, then paused and looked back at her. The blue in the room enhanced the vibrant hue of his eyes and Akila saw uncertainty there for the first time.

“I would like to say I’m glad you accepted Mr. Kaspan’s invitation to come here. Even if you don’t choose to go through with his proposal, it was a pleasure meeting you.” Abruptly he lifted her hand and kissed the back of it, then he was out the door before she could say a word.

Akila stared at her hand, feeling the warm, moist pressure of his lips. Her heart pounded as if he’d dipped her into a backbend and kissed the hell out of her. What did he mean by “go through with his proposal”? Now she was more curious than ever about this mystery. God, she couldn’t wait another hour to find out.

But, by the time she’d hung a few clothes in the wardrobe, washed her face, fluffed her short hair, applied a little eyeliner, watched the mesmerizing fish and examined the decorative artifacts throughout the room, the hour was over and Jacob was knocking on her door.

“What’s he like?” she couldn’t help asking, even though she’d know for herself in another minute.

Jacob paused for only a second before answering. “Charismatic. Valarian Kaspan leaves his mark.” A small smile curved his lips as though at some inside joke.

“I feel like I’m about to meet Oz,” Akila said as they approached an open archway. Through it she could see a wall of glass and a stunning view of the ocean.

For once, Jacob understood her reference. “Except Mr. Kaspan is no fraud. He truly is great and powerful.” His tone was almost reverent, a far cry from the frustration she’d sensed earlier. Apparently he was very conflicted about his feelings for his “master”.

Then there was no more time for talking as Jacob ushered her into the large, airy room and she beheld her host. Her first impression was that, despite the generous size of the living room, the dark-haired man seemed to fill it. He sucked up all the oxygen and the light. His eyes, trained on her, were midnight black like his hair and his skin was olive-tone. He was not overly tall, yet seemed enormous and quite overpowering as he strode—no, glided—across the floor toward her.

“Ms. Massri, I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation.”


To be entered in the draw for Bonnie's ebook Vampires' Consort, answer Bonnie's question above: do you prefer day or night walking vampires, and why? Or make some other comment on her post. The contest will end at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Lust at First Bite

Okay, what is it with those hot, sexy vampires that keeps us coming back for more?
On the face of it, they are hardly the stuff of romantic heroes. They’re dead for a start – have been for centuries in some cases! Some of them live in coffins, lined with their native earth. Traditionally, they’re not fond of running water, so I can’t see many of them washing. And what about laundry? Although I confess I did once have a vampire hero of mine washing his shirt - which, biased as I am, I found quite endearing – I can’t imagine Saloman in the Awakened by Blood novels, doing anything so mundane. My heroine found herself noting in Blood on Silk that Saloman couldn’t have brushed his teeth in three hundred and twelve years. Ew. So, unclean and evil as they are, why in the world are vampires so attractive?
Well, being undead, they don’t do anything so ill-mannered as rotting, like zombies for example. And as far as personal hygiene goes, they need not be “dirty” as in “minging” (to use a good Scots word for filthy or smelly!). But in the world of vampire romance, they are very often “dirty” as in “sexy” – and, yes, we love that!
Vampires have always had a very definite sexual allure. This was understated but definitely present in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and even in Dracula’s predecessor, John Polidori’s The Vampyre (published back in 1819). And they like to act on it. In today’s steamier romantic fiction, they tend to have voracious sexual appetites intensified by heightened sensitivity. They entice partners and readers alike into their heady, sensual world. They have supernatural power, immortality, eternal youth and superior strength to defeat their enemies and protect those they love, and, of course, the undoubted attraction of the ultimate bad boy. It’s partly this, the forbidden element, that makes the vampire such a wonderful hero of steamy and erotic romance.
Besides, being immortal, they tend to learn a few things about the pleasures of the flesh over the years. And their strength – physical and supernatural - is as irresistible as their attraction.
And so any human heroine of vampire romance, however strong a character she might be, has an excuse for giving in to her lust for evil congress – he really is, literally, impossible to resist, so why try any longer? As a reader as well as a writer, I love that – the build-up of sexual tension, and its final release. And a bit of sexy detail enhances an intensely physical story of this kind. Most modern romance readers need to feel with the heroine – all her conflicts, emotions and desires.
So let’s hear it for all those hot vampires out there! They’re my favourite fantasy, and I hope they’re yours too!

Your Hostess - Marie Treanor!

Hello again :). Yes, it's my featured day at the party, because I'm almost holding my breath now until the release of Blood Sin in less than a week!

So - vampires! Our love affair with vampire stories really goes back to Bram Stoker in the nineteenth century. And since it's well known that he took the name of his Count Dracula together with some of his heroic history, from the fifteenth century prince, Vlad Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, I thought it might be fun to look at this vivid historical personality.

Here are some FAQs about the real Dracula.

1. Was he a vampire?

No! He was the ruling prince of Wallachia, now part of modern Romania. Bram Stoker took his nickname and some of his history for his own creation, Count Dracula. Before then, no one had ever accused him of vampirism!

2. When was he born and when did he die?

He was born around 1431, and died in 1476.

3. Did he really have a connection with Transylvania?

Yes. Although it belonged to Hungary at the time, the princes of Wallachia traditionally held several several towns there. However, he was never ruler of Transylvania.

4. When did he rule?

He had three turbulent reigns: the first in 1448 for only a few weeks, when, with Turkish help, he seized the throne and lost it again within weeks. In 1556, he returned, killed the previous incumbent who was reponsible for the murder of his father and brother, and ruled until the Ottoman invasion of 1462 replaced him with his younger brother, an Ottoman puppet. His final reign was in 1476, until he was killed within months by a rival claimant to the throne.

5. Why was he given the nickname, Dracula?

"Dracul" can mean "Devil" in Romanian, and some say he earned the title through the atrocities he committed. However "dracul" can also mean "dragon"; so Vlad's nickname is more probably to do with the chivalric Order of the Dragon bestowed by the Holy Roman Emperor on his father (also a Vlad) who was thereafter known as Vlad Dracul.  Young Vlad also received the honour and was known as Vlad Dracula, Son of the Dragon. It was clearly a name he was proud of since he signed several documetns Vlad Dracula.

6. Why was he called the Imapler?

This was a nickname given him by the Turks, "Lord Imapler" because of his penchant for this form of punishment. The worst case in terms of numbers was when he displayed a "forest" of the implaled" outside his capital city of Tirgoviste, which scared the Sultan's invading army into retreat.

Impalement, vile as it is, was not a particularly rare form of execution in this period or in this area, being practised by both Christians and Ottomans.

7. Was he the cruel, pysychotic tyrant of legend?

According to many pamphlets and books of the time, yes he was. But according to the folk memory of his own people, he was a hero who defended his country from Turkish invasion, and prevented the Sultan's forces stealing Wallachian children to become janissaries.

In fact, the worst of the horror stories - which are clearly exaggerated as to numbers if nothing else - came from the German towns of Transylvania which rebelled against him and paid the price, and from the Hungarians who imprisoned him on false charges for twelve years.

So... a gentle man? Probably not!

A tyrant? Probably! It was more or less expected of princes of the period, but he always ruled with the agreement of his "boyars" (noblemen).

Cruel and psychotic? I doubt he was crueler than other rulers of a period when Machiavelli advised that it was better for a prince to be feared than loved. He seems to have been rigid and strict in dispensing justice, but a psycho hell-bent on torture and killing at the expense of the propserity of his country? It doesn't fit with the way the people rallied to him to fight the Turks, and helped him escape when the war was lost. Or with the fact that no one assassinated him when he was at his weakest. Like the real king Macbeth in Scotland, I very much doubt that Vlad Dracula was a hated man in his own country.

Which brings me to Saloman, vampire hero of Blood on Silk and Blood Sin  :). Vampire overlord, determined to rule not just vampires but humans too. Although Elizabeth acquitted him of insanity in Blood on Silk, he can be cruel by human standards, and he definitely has tyrannical inclinations! Here's another ambiguous moment with Saloman from Blood Sin...



BLOOD SIN: Awakened by Blood 2 by MARIE TREANOR
Coming 5th April from Signet Eclipse
Available now for Pre-oder

Even if you stand in the light, you can dwell in the dark.

Months after her dangerous encounter with vampire overlord Saloman, Scottish academic Elizabeth Silk is still trying to cope with both the demands of her ancestral bloodline—which marks her as a vampire hunter — and the overpowering desire she feels for the immortal she brought back from the grave. But she is not alone in her fascination with Saloman.

When Elizabeth tracks down a distant cousin from America, she learns he possesses an antique sword that has caught the interest of the Grand Master of the American hunters. It is the ancient and mystical sword of Saloman — a treasure of vast occult powers and a prize beyond measure to both vampires and humans. Now the race is on for possession of the sword.

Even as her enemies and allies shift their allegiances and battle for supremacy, Elizabeth must decide which will rule her own perilous fate: unwanted loyalty or unholy love.

Excerpt:

She was distractedly brushing her hair in front of the mirror when Saloman entered without warning. He wore a smart business suit and a snow-white silk shirt, open at the neck, and although his hair was loosely confined behind his head, he still managed to look just a little bit wild and dangerous. His beauty made her throat ache.
He walked across the room to stand behind her chair, and met her gaze in the mirror.

“You do have a reflection,” she said faintly. “I never noticed before.”

“Of course I do. Bram Stoker wasn’t right about everything.”

“It’s a myth I’ve heard from several sources,” she said defensively.

Abruptly, his figure disappeared and she jerked her head in alarm to see him standing several feet to the left.

“Speed of movement,” he observed. “If I move fast enough, you might think I still stood behind you and had no reflection.”

Elizabeth closed her mouth. “What I pity I couldn’t use that in my thesis. What’s with the suit? Going to see the bank manager?”

“Almost. I’m going to visit Edward Dante.”

She frowned and laid down her brush. “Edward Dante? Not Grayson?”

“Not Grayson,” he agreed, wandering toward the window. “It’s time to consider what will happen to the Dante wealth when Grayson dies.”

She should have been prepared for disappointment, but she wasn't. It felt like a pain corroding her stomach. “‘The way to power in this age is wealth,’” she quoted bitterly. “You don’t really give a damn about Dante’s threat to the world, do you? Was any of that even true?”

“Every word,” he said mildly. The curtain moved, apparently of its own volition, blocking the sunlight, which had threatened to move directly on to him. “But the money won’t go away. I can make excellent use of it.”

Oh, God, oh, fuck, why did I agree to come with him? “What are you planning to do with Edward Dante?” she said hoarsely, dragging her gaze away from the self-closing curtain.

Saloman turned from the window and met her gaze. His eyes were black as coal. “Sup on him slowly. Like a gourmet meal.”

She sprang to her feet, to do or say what, she wasn’t sure, and before she could decide, he was already speaking again.

“Or I could just talk to him. You can come, if you like, and see.”

She stared at him, and slowly convinced herself to relax. She could almost imagine she’d hurt his feelings. At any rate, she discounted the “supping” jibe. He was dressed, she imagined, as Adam Simon, and was going to conduct business rather than death. There was relief there, and yet the tiny incident served to remind her all over again how irreconcilably different were their points of view.

She turned away. “I don’t want to see. Do you really imagine the accumulation of money will bring you power?”

“It worked for Dante.”

“Along with family connections that stretch back generations. Dante is pure American establishment. You are anything but.” She drew in her breath. “You despise Dante. Can’t you see that you’re actually just like him?”

His long black lashes swept down over his pale cheek and lifted to reveal his dark, mocking eyes once more. He walked toward her with such deliberation that it took every ounce of self-control not to panic and bolt. He came right up to her, so close that his jacket brushed the swell of her breasts. Her breath caught as he bent his head, but his lips didn’t touch hers, not quite. There was no warmth, no breath to stir her skin, and yet she was aware of every movement of his mouth almost gliding across her jaw to her neck, and up to her ear.

“No,” he whispered. “I’m not.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, as terrified by her own upsurge of fierce, desperate lust as by the knowledge of his anger. Had she ever angered him before? Weird triumph warred with fear and regret.

Nothing happened. When she opened her eyes, he was already across the room. “Don’t go out,” he advised. And the next instant he was gone. She didn’t even hear the door close.

Elizabeth let her breath out in a rush and grasped at her throat as if for comfort. Part of her wanted to laugh; the rest was far too angry with him, both for pursuing wealth and power—just like Dante, whatever he said—and, more trivially, for daring to tell her not to go out. Stuff that.


And now the Contest! To enter the draw for either a copy of either Blood on Silk or Blood Sin - winner's choice - comment on this post, or tell me, in Elizabeth's position, would you go out against Saloman's advice? And if you did, would you go shopping or would you follow Saloman to see what he's up to? The contest will close at midnight tonight, and the winner will be annoucned tomorrow on this therad.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Screen Vampires

OK, who ar your favourite screen vampires? Who makes the best film or tv vamps?

From monster-type vamps like Nosferatu, to the suave, cloaked noblemen like Bela Lugosi's or Christopher Lee's "Dracula", many have been eye-catching and mesmeric in their undead roles. Gary Oldman's Count looked positively bizarre at times, and yet he draws you in and still manages to be tragically sexy by the end.


Of course, things have moved on since the Victorian gentleman idea of a vampire. Now we have undead bikers, teenagers, punks, rockstars. I've confessed before to a soft spot for Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and for the punkish Spike from the same show. And Tom Cruise as the irrepressible Vampire Lestat from Interview with the Vampire. I know there are many fans of The Vampire Diaries and True Blood...


And let's not forget the comedy vamps! Who remembers George Hamilton in Love at First Bite? ("For you, never ze quickie. Always ze longie.":) ). And vampiresses, like Countess Dracula and the Queen of the Damned, to say nothing about Drusilla from Buffy (for whom my husband has an inexplicable penchant!)


Anwyay, that's a few to be thinking about! (Sorry, by the way, for the slightly odd arrangements of photos - I couldn't make Blogger put them where I wanted them!)  Let's hear your favourites - heroic and villainous!

Welcome Michele Bardsley!

Today we're thrilled to welcome bestselling author Michele Bardsley as our guest of honour! Michele is justly famous for her hot and humorous paranormal stories, most notably the Broken Heart series...

Brush Your Fangs, and Other Vampire Mom Advice
Okay, maybe my vampires don’t really tell their children to go brush their fangs (well, Jessica from I’m the Vampire, That’s Why does, because she thinks it’s funny). But they do have to deal with the day to day parental hassles of raising their offspring with a little twist … they’re undead. Um, the moms and dads, that is. The kids are mortal, alive and breathing, and learning to live with parents who can lift a couch one-handed and vacuum underneath it.
Sticking to a night schedule is something of a pain in the neck (har, vampire humor). Not to mention the blood diet, the potential danger of large, sharp objects, and oh yeah, people generally don’t like vampires. Not even mom vampires. I think it’s the whole “you can drink my blood and mesmerize me into doing the chicken dance.” It’s too easy to post that crap on YouTube, you know.
Writing about single parents turned into bloodsucking fiends is a lot of fun. It’s an interesting take on the world of vampires, mixing the mundane with the fantastical. Can you imagine having the ability to bash through walls, or wield an awesome power like tossing fireballs, but at the end of the night, you’re still the one loading the dishwasher?
I guess the (un)life of the immortal undead isn’t always as fun as one might think, especially when you’re a parent. Of course, baring your fangs and letting your eyes go red while telling your children to clean their rooms now certainly can motivate far better than a timeout. Just sayin’.

EXCERPT FROM CROSS YOUR HEART

The rain dampened my senses, but I could still hear something big moving in the woods.
Most large animals in Broken Heart were shifters. A security lycan wouldn’t try to hide its
presence from me. Another series of cat yowls interrupted my ruminations.

I didn’t know what was going on, all that my instincts were screaming at me to get going.
I hurried to the path, but my foot caught on debris, and I tripped.

Oh, perfect. I landed on my side, splashing into an icy puddle. I spit out the nasty water
as the skull rolled out of my grasp. I really was the heroine in a horror movie, waiting for the
axe-wielding maniac to cut me down. What kind of moron left the safety of her home to follow a ghostly voice to a grave? At night? In a bloody storm?

So long as I was making idiotic choices, I decided I wouldn’t leave the woods without the
skull. I needed something to show for my efforts, and by God, the woman deserved whatever
closure I could give her. I saw my ghoulish prize at the edge of the path, lodged into a scraggly
bush. I crawled to it and yanked it out. Then I rose unsteadily to my feet, triumphant.

I stilled.

A cat, and my goodness was that an understatement, crouched on the path four or five feet away from me. He, and I could help but think of it as “he,” was massive. He had sleek black fur and green-gold eyes. He growled; a warning to me to stay put, or so I assumed. It wasn’t as if I could move. Be calm, Elizabeth. A shifter, I hoped. Otherwise, I would have to believe a jaguar had been living in Broken Heart without anyone noticing. His muscles rippled under that glorious coat as he moved into a pouncing stance.

His unstaring gaze looked beyond me, his nostrils flaring.

Fear pulsed through me, but I couldn’t get my legs to move. Even if I could, I knew I could run faster than him, but not in the woods. There were too many obstacles. I took an
unsteady step back, and he yowled.

I stopped.

The rain pounded me. My nightgown was plastered against me, offering no shield, no warmth. My toes sunk into the slick, cold mud. My hair lashed my face and neck.

Seconds ticked by.

The dawn was coming—I could feel it in my waning strength and rising panic. I had to either risk the jag’s attack or risk roasting in the sunlight.

The cat roared: a terrible, fierce sound that sliced right through me.

Something hard smacked me on the back of the head.

Pain spiked all the way down my spine, and I went down to my knees, my gaze on the beautiful, angry jag.

He tore down the path toward me.

My vision grayed as I fell forward.

The cat launched over me, and I marveled at his grace, at the power he so wonderfully
exhibited. He knocked something, no, someone, over, and I heard sounds of struggle.

Then I passed out.

#

“Lady? Aw, hell. C’mon, sweetheart. Wake up.”

As I assimilated the unfamiliar male voice, I felt the sting of a light slap on my cheek. My eyes flew open.

“Stop that immediately!” I demanded.

His hazel eyes widened, and then he grinned. “No problem, princess. You wanna get up now?”

“Certainly.” I took his proffered hand and struggled to my feet. I felt dizzy and lightheaded.
It had stopped raining, although the sky rumbled ominously. “Where’s my skull?”

“Attached to your neck.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I snapped. “I mean the one I dropped.”

One brown eyebrow winged upward. I realized several important things right then. One, I
didn’t know this man. Two, he was quite handsome, with skin the color of caramel, and three, he was unaccountably naked and very, very well built.

And endowed by the gods.

Did I just look at his … his … package? Embarrassment shot through me, and I averted my gaze. Ah. I spotted the skull grinning up at me from a shallow puddle. I scooped it up, and turned to the gorgeous nude man. For a moment, I couldn’t get my throat to work. Finally, I managed a crisp: “Thank you for your assistance.”

I marched away.

He followed.

“You’re welcome,” he said lazily. “Anything else I can … assist you with?”

His sensually charged question nearly made me trip again. What the—really? Sexual
innuendoes now? And why did I feel like my cheeks had been dipped in lava? Vampires didn’t
blush.

I stopped, and turned to glare at him. “Are you a nudist?” I asked in a frosty tone.

“With the right person.”

His gaze let me know that I could be the right person. Was he insane? I was muddy, my hair was a mess, and my clothing … oh! I looked down and it was exactly as I feared. My satin
nightgown was plastered to my body, outlining every curve and showcasing my turgid nipples.

Oh, sweet heaven. If I waited long enough, maybe lightning would strike me.

I felt suddenly woozy, and for a moment, I wondered if the man had rendered me nigh
unconscious with his virility. Then I realized that was not the case at all. Sunrise.

Michele is generously offering a $25 Amazon certificate to one lucky winner who answers the question: If you were undead, what advice (or command!) would you give your children? Or who comments in some other way on her post. The contest will close at midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Transylvania, Home of the Vampire…

Transylvania… Doesn’t the very name send delicious shivers rippling up and down your spine? It conjures pictures of dark, threatening forests and ancient, ruined castles looming out of the mountain mist – the perfect setting for a good vampire story.

It’s all Bram Stoker’s fault, of course, but I’m happy to go with it. In fact, many years ago, when I was a student, a couple of other Dracula fans and I spent a summer holiday following the route of Dracula’s Jonathan Harker through Transylvania. It was fun, and the countryside more than rewardingly beautiful. We found friendly people, picturesque towns and, when we got farther into the hills, a rural life not so very unlike the one which existed in Stoker’s day: men and women in traditional peasant garb, driving horses and carts and scratching a living from the land.

This was in the days of communism, of course, and in the hill village we stayed in, there was some sort of major construction work going on to provide a bizarre contrast – JCBs and ugly mounds of concrete and earth without obvious purpose! However, we could ignore the unsightly bits in the dark when we went walking under the full moon, soaking up the atmosphere. There were plenty creatures of the night to enchant us, including whizzing insects and bats, and the not-so-distant howl of a wolf…

(Can I just say, “Listen to them, the children of the night! What music they make…”)

Or it may have been a dog. We chose to believe it was a wolf J.

And come Saturday night, we had to defend ourselves from another predator. Lots of young people came to our hotel from all the surrounding villages for the weekly dance – and when the music began, the lights in our bedroom went out...  When we crept nervously downstairs in the dark to investigate, I suddenly found myself seized and bent almost double in the arms of a male predator, while my friend hung on to my hand for dear life and tried to drag me free…

It would have made a fantastic story. But the lights were nothing more sinister than electrical failings, because all the power was needed for the disco; and I confess the predator was merely our friendly waiter with a little too much to drink. Although he was remarkably persistent (I remember a conversation where we all had to assure him there would be no “tiki-tiki” that night – don’t ask), he was also funny and since he was being told off by his friends at the same time, he wasn’t exactly threatening either. In fact it was a fun night and I was sorry to leave.

One day I’m going back. Until then, I’ll keep reading, and writing!

Marie