Deadly Conversations : First Chapter

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

PROLOGUE

The room smelled of blood.

Mykhalo staggered to his feet, drunk with the rush that fresh blood brought. Time always stopped for him right after a kill. The world around Mykhalo moved in slow motion while the emotions inside of him spun and jumped in a wild, chaotic dance. He gasped as the new blood swam through his veins, infusing him with strength and power, sating his insane hunger and at the same time drowning him in the memories of the person he had just fed on.
The problem was he was part of them.

The feelings that came threatened to overwhelm him. He held his head and tried to shield his heart. But the rush of blood strength was stronger than the bonds on his emotions. The flood of powerful feelings was too great. He was drowning under their torrent. He felt his heart would break. He looked about the room, desperate for some way to slow the barrage on his feelings.

A baby grand piano beckoned him from across the room. And then the keys were under his fingers, cool to the touch but soothing and welcome to his jumbled state. The contrast of black and white gave his mind something else to focus on. He closed his eyes against every other sensation and thought of a single note. He was well practiced in the art of music. Muscle memory took over and a stream of melancholy notes flowed outward.

He played what he felt. The music translated the myriad of dark thoughts racing through his mind and heart into a tune low and sad. The notes rang out soft but clear into the silence of the room. The feelings tumbling about inside him began to slow. He squeezed his eyes shut forming grooves into his perpetually forty year old face and played on until the notes grew louder reaching into every corner of the darkened room.

He played his grief, his sorrow, his loneliness. Here he was in this same damned position, crazed with turmoil while the blood of a dear friend raced through his God forsaken form. He had killed another friend. The reason didn’t matter to him. He knew what he was.

It still didn’t make the ache in his heart hurt less.

The victim’s words echoed in Mykhalo’s mind.

“It would be a mercy killing,” Bill Gibson had told him just moments before. Mykhalo gasped and his eyes snapped open. He remembered his reply, laced with anger and dread.

“Not to me!” Mykhalo retorted. “How many times have I saved your life Bill?”

“I’ve lost count.” Bill said with a smile.

Mykhalo’s fingers trembled as his mind relived what had just happened. He continued to strike the keys and the piano continued to sing. His thoughts came slower. He forced himself to face the memory.

“We all die.” Bill had said to him.

“Not me.” Mykhalo growled with anger. “That blessing is denied me.”

“Maybe not,” Bill said softly.

Mykhalo glared at him, pacing the room like an angry lion in a cage.

“Please,” Bill pleaded with him. “See reason. Mykhalo I’m dying, slowly, painfully.”

Mykhalo turned his back on him and shuddered. He did not want to do this. But at the sheer mention of what Bill was proposing, to end his life, Mykhalo could feel the change within him taking place. His hunger and his teeth were growing.

Bill heaved a great sigh which turned into a spasm of coughing. Mykhalo couldn’t look at him. He waited until his friend eased and he was able to speak again.

“I’ve lived my life. I’ve survived a war that claimed many of my friends. I came home, married, raised my children to adulthood, built a home and a family for myself. It’s all over and done with save the dying. And I will not leave this earth a doddering idiot who can’t even see to his own bathroom habits.”

Mykhalo shook his head. “If you want to commit suicide, why don’t you just use your gun? Why do you need me?”

Mykhalo said.

Here Bill reached out and grabbed his arm.

“Because I don’t want to be alone! Mykhalo, I trust you. And I know that you won’t blab this to the police. You are a person that is invisible to society. That’s why.”

“You trust a vampire?” Mykhalo said softly. “Do you know how reckless that is?”

Bill smiled.

“I think we would both agree that as a vampire, you are unique among your kind.”

Mykhalo tore his arm free from Bill’s grasp.

“I don’t want to kill you, Bill” Mykhalo resisted. “Please don’t ask me to.”

“It won’t be killing. It will be releasing me. It is the one gift I want. You’ve saved my life so many times. Now
I’m asking you to take it.”

The insane hunger inside of him was growing.

Mykhalo said nothing. He refused to look at his friend.

“Please. It’s my choice. I want some dignity to my end.”

“It’s not dignified!” Mykhalo insisted. “It’s horrible and brutal!”

Bill had only laughed.

“I’ve lived through horrible and brutal when I was young. Now it takes too long. I want a quick end.” There was a long silence between them. Finally Bill said the one thing he knew Mykhalo would understand.

“I miss Carol.”

He was speaking of his wife.

His hands fastened on the windowsill, fingers digging in like claws and he hung his head. Mykhalo stopped in front of a window which overlooked the back yard of Bill’s tiny little house. He remembered what it was like to be in love. It had been a long time since he had felt this way. For centuries he had guarded his heart against loving any woman in spite of his desire for a relationship. He knew too well how dangerous it would be for him give in. He might kill the poor girl.

Yet Bill Gibson never had to worry. He didn’t need to. He was just a mortal. He had married and raised a family.

And two years ago his wife had died.

“I want to see her again. My life hasn’t been the same without her. Please.”

Mykhalo’s shoulders had slumped as he sighed.

And he relented. He gave Bill the release he so desperately wanted.

Mykhalo squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could. The brutality of the act was still too fresh. He could taste the skin of Bill’s dry wrinkled neck in his mouth as he buried his fangs deep into his throat. He could smell Bill’s sudden fear at the pain and feel his old hands grasp at him trying to fight him off. And he could remember the taste as his lifeblood rushed in a red torrent into his mouth and down his hungry throat, slaking his
monstrous thirst.

And now Mykhalo had to deal with the aftermath.

The piano keys sang under the expert dance of his long white fingers. He felt tears spring to his eyes. He blinked several times. Vampires never could weep real tears, only blood.

He bowed low over the keys as he coaxed a more dramatic melody out of the great instrument. He tried to concentrate on the notes and the tune only and just let the music sweep him along in its rush of power and pain.

It didn’t work.

Two days ago Mykhalo had picked up the phone from his home in Germany.

“Mykhalo,” Bill had said. “I need you to come to the States. I have a couple of things to go over with you.”
His brow furrowed as he remembered the conversation and his fingers hammered on the keys in reflection of his emotions.

“Why do I have to hop a plane?” he asked not understanding. “Just tell me now.”

Bill sighed in exasperation on the other end.

“Because you won’t be convinced if I tell you over the phone.”

Mykhalo snorted in disbelief. He shook his head as he remembered and the piano’s keys laughed at him under his fingers.

“Try,” he dared. He could picture Bill shaking his head on the other end.

“All right. But you’re not going to like it!” Bill told him. “I think I’ve found her.

He dreaded the words to come.

“Found who?” Mykhalo said already suspecting the answer.

“C’mon old friend.” Bill said. “You know exactly who I mean. I’ve found the witch that will heal your shattered soul.”

Mykhalo was silent for a long moment. He remembered wishing he hadn’t trusted Bill with that one deep secret. He had felt betrayed. Why did he tell Bill he had a shattered soul and only a special witch could heal it and he had been searching for her for centuries?

The piano sang his betrayal.

Bill had no idea what it felt like to have a shattered soul. He was only trying to help.

“You’re mad at me, I can feel it.”

Bill was right; he was angry he had trusted him and that he persisted on this pointless quest.

Mykhalo’s fingers hammered on the keys in a dramatic show of force and the piano’s notes reflected what he felt.

“Bill, I’m no longer interested in finding or talking to any more witches.” He said flatly.

“And why the hell not?” Bill countered.

“You know very well why not!” Mykhalo had tried to control his anger but it was beginning to bleed through into his words. “Because today’s witches are useless, each and every one of them! I’m tired of looking for the right one. I don’t think she exists. The prophecy was just a tease, a lie. I’m not talking to this or any other witch ever again.”

There was a very long silence from the other end of the phone line.

“Then I guess I have my answer.” Bill said pointedly.

“What answer? What was the question?” Mykhalo said.

He could sense Bill smiling even though he couldn’t see it.

“How long it takes a vampire to give up. Three hundred years.”

Mykhalo’s eyes narrowed and he growled at Bill’s words.

The memories finally ceased to torment him and his fingers stilled on the piano. The notes thrummed into silence.

Mykhalo was completely alone.

One single bloody tear slowly ran down his face and spattered on a white piano key. He looked down at it. He watched the tear as it sat there, a shiny wet bubble of color until it went from fresh to dried and dark.
Mykhalo rose and turned his back on the piano.

He came around the side of the easy chair where Bill’s lifeless body sat with his throat torn out and blood soaking through his clothes and dripping down to the carpet below.

Mykhalo placed a hand on Bill’s shoulder.

“I will miss you dearly, my friend.” He whispered softly.

D.C. McLaughlin

Book Launch

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

“Deadly Conversations” will be available for purchase on e-readers Wednesday July, 31 2013 at Smashwords. The book will be available in print sometime after this date.

D. C. McLaughlin

Oh No! Not Another Vampire Story!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 13, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

This was the response I got the last time I passed my promotional bookmark to a friend I hadn’t seen in forever.

Hmmm. Really?

When I told the secretary at my doctor’s office I was writing a book, she got all excited for me. She asked what the topic was. When I told her it was a vampire novel, her face fell. Her expression seemed to say, “Vampires? Really? You seemed like such a…nice…person.”

I just have to laugh at these responses.

Yes, vampires are the hot thing right now thanks to series like “Buffy” “True Blood” and “Twilight”. Some people get the vampire craze. Some do not. Many who do not are in my own family so its probably a given they will never read my stories. It is just not their ‘thing’.

And it’s okay. Really. My mother keeps passing me books on topics I have no interest in. It’s totally fine by me. She’s encouraging me to keep reading and that is always a good thing. It is always inspiring the way other writers weave their words. Writers get inspiration from all sorts of things. With me the words fluctuate so inconsistently I find I crave things to fire the spark of inspiration.

It certainly does not mean I live in “vampire world” twenty four seven!

But to many it seems that I am just jumping on the vampire bandwagon and trying to make a big splash with it financially.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I have said before, I didn’t start out writing vampire stories. I wrote my first story when I was eleven and it was about a green horse. I was reading a lot of horse stories at the time mostly written by Walter Farley.

Then as a young teen, I was tricked into reading “The Lord of the Rings” by my father. (Thanks Dad!) I started playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. My stories turned into fantasy hero quests with lots of pretty horses. More recently I have watched lots of movies on vampires. But I never read vampire stories. I do believe Mykhalo is my response to Barnabas Collins from “Dark Shadows”. Mykhalo was designed by my opinion of what a handsome guy should look like. (I like intelligent tall blonde men.)

Notice a pattern? My topics change as my life changes.

This is a natural progression.

What readers who do not write or create stories don’t realize is inspiration works best when you throw away the reins and let the “horse” take you where it wills. This means your mount may take you in directions you never planned to go. When I was a teen, I certainly never told people I was someday going to write vampire novels! Such a revelation would have blown me over.

Then there is the magic that happens from creating characters. This may all be a mystery to you if you are a writer or a reader of strictly true stories with characters that are actual living people. When it comes to creating characters, the writer sometimes has to willingly give themselves over to a kind of harmless possession. It’s their way of dealing with the stress of life in a beneficial way. The characters in your stories become your friends, your children, your pets so to say.

And as I’m writing this I’m also thinking about what fun a shrink would have in analyzing me!

Sometimes the characters need you to design them and sometimes they come already fleshed out. Mykhalo already had bones, skin and a fine Armani suit when I first met him. And he completely refused to have his appearance or his purpose altered by me in any way whatsoever. He had a full story to his life and his purpose was for me to tell it. Period. No wiggle room.

I had to go with it.

See? This is what characters do to you. You think you are designing the story and then they bolt to the right and expect you to stay with them. They start out making you think they are the adult version of your imaginary friend and then they turn into bratty kids! They refuse to be manipulated or controlled. If they have another idea for where the plot is going, you better listen or they will mutiny and all your glorious ideas will evaporate into the mist of forgetfulness. It’s very frustrating to have to deal with. I feel like I’m constantly playing chess with the characters I have created. And I’m an absolutely terrible chess player.

Yet when you do this, when you actually throw away the reins, and trust the horse to take you where it wills, literary magic is born. This is when the best stories walk into the light.

So I sigh, roll my eyes, and go with it knowing I will probably be very happy with the result.

I’m just thankful that I do not need a hospital when my story “horse” bucks me off its back!

D.C. McLaughlin

Profile of an Undead Predator

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 17, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Humans are animals. I know this statement may offend some people’s sensibility but it’s a scientific fact.

We don’t want to be animals. We like to think of ourselves as better or more highly evolved or something else entirely which outranks an animal. We think of animals as a primitive species. Maybe this is why it bothers us so much. But we are, if you will pardon my comparison, “the gorilla in the business suit”.

We definitely behave as animals. Humans expect things to go a specific way. We want people around us to act in a particular fashion or do a certain thing. We take comfort in predictability. In keeping ourselves complacent by making our lives well planned in advance, we have domesticated ourselves. We never see the predator lurking around the next corner or the disaster waiting to happen.

When things do not go as planned or expected, it shakes us to our core and turns our world completely upside down.

Vampires may come from humans but they are definitely not human. There is nothing predictable about a vampire.

Vampires are predators, plain and simple. Every predator has special ‘tools’ bestowed on them by nature to help them hunt their prey like teeth claws or venom.

Therefore vampires have their own unique way of hunting prey. I will attempt to delve into these traits in more detail in this article. Please keep in mind that I am discussing the classical vampires not the more modern interpretations.

The first tool in a vampire’s arsenal is the talent of allure. The dictionary defines the word ‘allure’ as meaning ‘an attractive or tempting quality possessed by somebody or something’ or ‘to exert a very powerful and often dangerous attraction on somebody.’

This certainly describes the vampire in popular fiction. Whether they be male or female they always appear in all the physical perfection a human is capable of possessing. This is one of their most important hunting skills. A vampire cannot feed if he or she cannot attract meals to them. By appearing to the public as incredibly beautiful they lure their dinner to them instead of having to pursue a frightened or wary meal.

We are designed by nature to be attracted to beautiful things, and we find many things in life lovely to look upon. We are drawn to this beauty, like a moth to a flame.

Yet the rose always bears a thorn.

We are also taught from a very young age what behavior is acceptable and what is not. We are schooled from childhood through adult in a series of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

Clean up you mess but don’t touch the perfectly decadent cake sitting on the counter. It is for the party later.

Did you notice what I said? Just by mentioning there is a cake on the counter you want it, now. The hell with waiting!

Just saying don’t press the red button or all life as you know it will cease to be, makes you want to hit it to see what will happen next.

We are bombarded all our lives with ‘don’ts’. All it really does is put the thought in our heads to do just that.

Don’t pet the dog. He bites. Don’t touch the cat’s tail. He doesn’t like his butt touched and he will scratch. Don’t date that man because he’s trouble.

Don’t get involved with a vampire or he will eventually kill you.

We are taught these things but we are also fatalistically fascinated with the ‘don’ts’ and the ‘what ifs’.

We touch the mean dog because we tell ourselves, “If I go slow and talk sweetly to it, it won’t bite me. If we touch the cat’s tail really fast the cat won’t be able to whip around faster to get us. The bad boy isn’t really bad, he’s just misunderstood, or so we tell ourselves.

And what happens? The dog mauls our arm. The cat shreds our hand. The man dances on our heart, rips it out and leaves. Typical. Why didn’t we see that coming?

We are fascinated with danger. We want to stay safe but get a thrill from standing next to the disaster about to happen. The problem is that there is no safe place next to danger. It has a tendency to bite anyone near.

We also want to change the bad to good. We want to be the only person that dog doesn’t bite, the only person that cat doesn’t scratch. We want to be the one woman that can convert the bad boy into a saintly human being.

It’s a human trait to try to change the world around them and make it better. Our intentions are truly honorable. But when we apply that to other humans it often has a tendency to blow up in our faces. Then our friends are standing there, shaking their heads and saying “I told you so.”

Do you really think vampires don’t know this already? They are banking on us to be this way. We actually help them to hunt. They’ve had centuries to observe our patterns and develop their hunting skills. If they choose to prolong the hunt, they can wait lifetimes before they accomplish their eventual goal. Nothing is more patient than a vampire on the hunt.

Imagine the most brilliant ‘shrink’ you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. You trust this person.

And then you found out this doctor has criminal intentions toward the entire human race.

Kind of stops you cold doesn’t it?

Let’s look at another vampire requirement namely blood. It seems you cannot call a human creature a vampire without the need for the blood of others being a trait. (I am specifically excluding energy vamps from this article.)

We all are composed of organs fed by blood. We need to keep our it to ourselves. We can donate small amounts of it but if we lose too much blood at one time, we will die. If it is removed from our body and allowed to sit without agitation or the assistance of heparin, it becomes a solid. Doctors can tell what is wrong with the patient many times by analyzing it. It is the fingerprint of a body’s health. We cannot survive without blood.

Yet people have always been a little squeamish when the subject of blood comes up. Some people faint at the sight of their own blood, it cannot be withdrawn from the body without some measure of pain and blood can carry diseases or poison our system. It can feed our body or kill it. It is extremely important to our survival hence the word “lifeblood”.

A vampire cannot survive without taking it from us. The vampire’s method of feeding itself usually involves great pain for the host. He must also become a primal creature of savagery and great hunger. These can be quite frightening for the intended victim. Some vampires are capable of lulling their victims into a stupor so that they can feed easier although whether this is a kindness to the victim is still up to debate.

Vampires cannot exist without feeding on blood. For a vampire to deny himself this sustenance would cause the predator to become enraged or insane. They would eventually sicken. According to some renditions of the story a vampire can put themselves into a prolonged “sleep” that lasts years even centuries. But they are like the bear which has just ventured out from its hibernation den, very grumpy and absolutely ravenous. Do you really want to be the first person they encounter when they awaken?

And then there is the fact that vampires look human. Again this is part of their hunting mechanism, to seem something else, something common and familiar, something predictable.

But human they definitely are not!

We treat them like they are humans and they expect this. But they are wholly another creature altogether. They do not follow the same rules as humans, their morality. (or lack of it) is completely non-human and the way they like to pursue, cuddle up to and play with their prey, taking days even weeks to get it to trust them is more cat-like than homo-sapiens.

So next time someone tells you they love vampires, just smile sweetly and ask them what kind of flowers they would like at their memorial?

 

D.C. McLaughlin

Advice to Writers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

A well-known author once told aspiring young wordsmiths that in order to be a good writer, one must write everyday. Unfortunately his or her advice, although certainly well intentioned, does not fit into every writer’s daily schedule. Such advice leaves me with the impression that the advisor lives in an apartment, does not own a car, does not have a significant other, does not have a ‘normal’ nine to five job and does not have children. They do not have to deal with mowing the lawn, keeping up repairs with the house and the family vehicle, do not have to deal with problems with the boss or co-workers or their romantic partner or their children’s hectic schedule that most ordinary people have to deal with everyday.

It certainly leaves me out in the cold. I aspire to writing everyday but most days it simply does not happen. I may not have children but I do have a husband, a job, a farm to run and critters to care for. Some days it seems I am mostly a janitor, a maid and an animal chef. With my schedule it’s amazing that I ever managed to sit down and take the time to knit more than a few basic words together let alone finish several novels on my own. (Maybe that’s why my house is less than spotless.) Sometimes I have to make an appointment with myself to write. I’ve even spent my week paid vacation from work staying home and sitting on the computer, editing one of my finished stories instead of gallivanting around the world on a fabulous adventure somewhere away from home like normal people do.

I do this because this is the life that I’ve chosen for myself, both the farm with all its critters that require feeding and daily care and the writing. They are my peace and my literary inspiration. I cannot choose one and live without the other. I do not enjoy the prospect that going a little cuckoo from such a choice might earn me. If you are a writer, you might be able to relate.

It took me a while to figure out this tiny bit of very important wisdom about myself. When I was an adolescent, I wrote and drew pictures like a madman, like my time was short. A good weekend for me was spent home either writing or drawing or dreaming up adventures in my own fantasy world I created in my own head.

Then at twenty-one I married and tried to settle into a ‘normal’ life like just any other married woman. It didn’t work. First thing that happened was my writing died a tortuous, painful death. The worst thing was I wasn’t even aware it was happening. For seven years I either didn’t write or when I did, it was disastrous. I knew the whole story in my head. But I kept writing myself into corners my characters couldn’t get out of. I never finished anything I wrote. My stories were colorless and hopeless.

I had no idea that this was a reflection of my life. I must be in a very good place to write and I wasn’t. So it just didn’t happen. For seven years it didn’t happen, no stories, no dreams, and no magical words. My writer’s mind was impotent, dry and cracked as an evaporated riverbed. I wasn’t happy equals no writing for me.

Then I got divorced. I tentatively began to dream and write again. I got remarried, this time to a man who fell in love with me for the words I penned. The words began to flow again, first a trickle and then a flood. My creative urge to write was reborn like the phoenix, spreading its fiery wings across a beautiful, brand new world. My words were different, more mature, better. Gone was the glitter and stardust of my earlier tales replaced by stories with darker, grittier more realistically believable characters. And the stories were actually getting finished this time.

I guess I better keep this guy around for the long haul.

So for all those would be writers and authors, dreamers and storytellers here is my advice to you:

Live!

This may be confusing to some of you. After all I didn’t say anything that had anything to do with a pen and paper or a keyboard.

Or did I?

I said you are to live just that and nothing more. Go out and have a life. Socialize with people. Make friendships, laugh and fight with your friends make up and mature. Laugh until you cry and your sides hurt, cry until your heart breaks. Fall in like with someone, fall in love, fall in lust. Whee! So much fun! Then get over it and move on. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t repeat the same ones. Experience every facet life has to offer you.

And through all this living you experience, write down your experiences. No, I’m not saying to keep a journal or a diary. Just write down every emotional experience you encounter; write about your joys, your sorrows, your pain, your triumphs. Write about how you’ve learned through these experiences, how it’s changed your perspective on this or that topic, how you’ve matured as a person through having these experiences. Just living life will improve your writing, give it depth and meaning, substance and power. Your words will transform from one-dimensional to many faceted. Life will tweak your words and you will become a person, not a fictional character in your own story.

As to whether you want to keep these words private or expose them to the whole world, that is up to you to decide. Being an open book can have its consequences. Maybe baring your heart to the world might or might not be the wisest thing to do depending on the situation. The alternative is to channel those feelings of hope and despair, happiness and longing and everything else in between, into the words, thoughts and mannerisms of a character. This can be a very safe and cathartic way of dealing with the myriad of experiences that life throws your way. Writing a story can almost be like therapy. It keeps the writer from ‘going postal’ so to say.

If you experience life in all its many colors and angles, so will your characters. This will give realism to your story and believability to the characters in your tale. Therefore the reader will be more apt to bond with the characters you create and become emotionally invested in the journey they go through.

In other words it will keep the readers turning the pages of your tale. And we all want that right? I certainly do.

We, as writers, need to hang a really big carrot in front of the noses of our readers. And we want to make that carrot as tempting as humanly possible.

If your reader doesn’t like carrots…well that’s a whole different discussion!

 

D.C. McLaughlin

“Deadly Conversations” Prologue.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 11, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Deadly Conversations Prologue.

 

 

So for all my fans you finally get to see what I look like!  (Yes, I do smile from time to time!  I’m just more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it).

Anatomy of a Vampire

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 10, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Every vampire is different.

We are human and humans are sadly prone to making assumptions about people, about things and yes, about writing genres. My purpose in writing this is to clear up some of the misconceptions I see in vampires.

The problem is that most people base their interpretation of vampires on the last movie they saw or book they read.

When I tell someone I meet that I am writing a vampire novel, invariably the first question I am asked is, “Do your vampires sparkle?”

No, they do not. Now please stop asking me this question.

A fiction writer, whether they write for the big screen or a novel, is the deity of the world they create. That means they can tweak or alter general beliefs however they see fit. Vampires change. Every book written on them which catches the public’s eye has proven this to be true. So has every movie produced. When Josh Whedon made the “Buffy” series, all of a sudden vampires didn’t breathe. When “Twilight” came out, vampires began to sparkle. Funny, they didn’t before!

What I am frustrated with is the lack of research with which some writers devote to their genre. They seem to write stories on vampires to cash in on their popularity in the media and never think of the history involved.

Vampires have history? But they are a myth.

Yes, vampires have history. Any writer wishing to dive into the deep end of the pool would be remiss in their job if they didn’t do at least some research even if the topic is mythical. Vampires appear in many cultures in the world. And in every culture they appear differently.

I have done quite a bit of research on vampires since I first started writing “Deadly Conversations”. No, I have not used everything I learned in my story. (I did some tweaking of my own.) But to not do the research I feel makes for a very flat character with no substance. The writer wants their characters to live in the minds and hearts of their readers. How can they do this if they are one-dimensional?

The first vampire most people remember hearing about is Count Dracula. He is fiction. Period. Count Dracula was a real person, a ruler who did some truly sadistic things to protect his realm from the Turks. He is the reason that Transylvania is mainly Christian and not Muslim to this day. But he was never a vampire.

However the local populace of Transylvania has had a long tradition of folk tales about vampires. This culture’s rendition was the first that made it to the outside world thanks to Bram Stoker’s dramatic embellishment.

According to Bram Stoker’s account Dracula (the fictional character) could walk around in daylight although his powers were greatly diminished. Dracula also had hairy palms and terrible breath. (I’m glad modern versions of vampires have dropped those qualities!)

Malaysian vampires, otherwise known as Penanggalan, are less pretty in appearance. They usually appear as the disembodied head of a woman that flies about using her hair as bat wings and draining their victims of blood at night.

Scottish vampires, known as baobhan sith, usually appear as beautiful women in a green dress dancing on the moor at night. She attracts men to her like a siren and feeds on their blood. The only sign that she is not human is her goat like hooves which she tries to hide under her long flowing dress.

Chinese or ‘hopping’ vampires, which have been called jianshi, cannot enter a home if it has a ledge because they cannot hop over it. They are held at bay by sticky rice and can smell a mortal’s breath. They also tend to be more zombie like and not very intelligent.

So you see? Vampires are all different.

And then there are the beliefs of what makes a vampire or how to deal with one. These too change depending on their culture of origin.

The wooden stake belief started because a dead body belonged in the ground and superstitious people believed that it was necessary to “stake” a body to the ground with either wood or iron. Archeological digs from Slavic countries still to this day are finding skeletons staked to the ground in their graves.

There was a belief in Europe that if a family had seven children, one child would become a vampire. Or if a person committed suicide, or a black cat jumped over a body before it was buried they would return as a vampire. And another belief that if a vampire was truly vanquished, they must return as a ghost to haunt those who killed him.

Modern writers have added their own spin to the whole vampire story.

The fictional Dracula may have been able to come out in the daylight but when the movie “Nosferatu “ was released in 1921, audiences were introduced to the idea that sunlight could kill a vampire. Movies today seem to flip flop between vampires being able to stand the sunlight or not. Likewise it seems some vampires can breathe while others don’t need to.

My version of this is that vampires can breathe but it is not necessary to their existence. They can turn it off and on at will depending on the situation. They do however breathe cold. Therefore if it is cold you can see a human’s breath but not a vampire’s. This works in reverse in hot climates. So my vampires pretend to smoke to draw attention away from this trait. There’s my tweak to the tale that may or may not ever come up in my story. Also my vampires do not ‘flit’. Yes, their reactions are much faster than a human’s but not in such a way that it would appear superhuman. That would just attract too much attention. I also tend to think of the ‘flitting’ trait especially while carrying a human on one’s back, as plain ridiculous. But then that’s just me.

More than this I do not care to divulge because that would ruin the surprise for my readers. Spoilers!

Vampires have been in the horrified dreams of many cultures long before any movie on the topic was ever made. The advent of film only cemented the public’s fascination with them even more. They do not seem likely to vanish from attention any time soon. We should enjoy their nuances with every rendition that is made and not get stuck on a certain quality or depiction.

And as we shiver in our beds or couches late at night, glued to the pages or the screen’s flickering image before us, we will thank God over and over again that vampires are only fiction.

Or so we hope!

 

D. C. McLaughlin