Drawn to the Vampire, Part 7

I took a longer break than expected since my last Drawn to the Vampire post, though that one was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception on the interwebs. Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, Instagram–I still get notices from people telling me how much they liked it (including Christian Camargo, the subject of the illustration!!). OK, I’m boasting a bit, and I rarely do that. But it felt good. Moving on…

These last couple of months have been busy for me. We moved into a new house in July, and since then we’ve had numerous friends and family come to visit from the Midwest and beyond (meaning, when they come, they’re here for a while–no complaints we’ve had a blast!). We also rescued a new dog (yay!), but we don’t get to keep him (awe–he’s just not the right fit for a house with young kids). In addition, I’ve been working on a novella intended to be a companion piece to my first novel, and I’m happy to say that I’m well over half-way done. I’d love to have the first draft done by the end of this month, but we’ll see how much life I can continue to ignore to see that through. Ah, the life of a writer…

But, back to the vampires. That’s why you’re here, right? This latest addition to my list of favorite pop culture vampires is another classic. Her story predates Dracula by more than 25 years and it very likely influenced Bram Stoker‘s writing. For the uninitiated, I’d like you to meet…

Carmilla

mi-vampire_carmilla

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer and the author of the novella Carmilla about a young female vampire, set in central Europe. In addition to being a vampiric precursor to Dracula, it’s also presented as a casebook of Dr. Hesselius (along with four other tales in Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly), and while the doctor is not presented in the same manner as Stoker’s vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing, Le Fanu’s character is recognized as being the first occult doctor to appear in literature.

Le Fanu’s Carmilla is also noted for its homosexual themes, though its lesbian tone and nature are quite tame compared to the standards of today. The story begins from the perspective of a young girl named Laura, who lives with her father in a forested castle in Styria where she longs for companionship from a girl her own age. An unfortunate carraige accident leaves the stranded Carmilla in the care of Laura’s father, and the two girls seem to recognize one another from a shared childhood dream.

I’ve read this story numerous times, in both written and audiobook format. With Halloween approaching (about two weeks away as I write this), the mood always strikes me for a classic piece of gothic horror. I’ve tried watching theatrical versions of the tale, but I’ve yet to find one that had any substance. The modern producers and directors want to make it a tale of lesbian eroticism, and that’s just not what the story was. Don’t get me wrong, the lesbian tones do exist in the book, but they’re suggestive at best, and in the most heated instance quite mild. Do not turn to this novella if you’re looking for some late-night erotica–trust me, you’ll be disappointed. I should correct myself and say that there’s a YouTube series based on the book (a modern retelling) and it’s been met with a fair amount of praise. Check it out.

As far as my illustration goes, I struggled with it for months–quite literally. Looking through my digital archives, it was late May when I began working on this, and mid-June when I left off (and here we are, mid-October). I did two early versions of the illustration before I settled on a third, which is what you see here. Evelyn Nesbit, who was idealized in the early 1900s as a Gibson Girl, was the initial model for the illustration, though I felt she appeared a bit too old for the teenage Carmilla. I’m quite happy with the end result of this digital poster, though I have no desire to spend this much time on a future post.

That’s it for today. If you’re a fan of gothic horrors (and, like me, a fan of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful), you should definitely check out Carmilla, available here as a free download. And if vampires are your thing, perhaps you’ll give my own book a shot–The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel is available at Amazon.com. Get your copy today! [star fade]

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 5

 

“A last fire will rise behind those eyes
Black house will rock, blind boys don’t lie
Immortal fear, that voice so clear
Through broken walls, that scream I hear…”

Cry Little Sister, Gerard McMann

As a child of the 80s, there really is just one vampire flick that comes to mind in association with Generation X. And said vampire flick boasts one of the most 80s soundtracks imaginable, next to the Breakfast Club. I mean, can you look upon the poster for the 1987 film The Lost Boys and not hear the lyrics, “Cry little sister…“?

And the vampires. I mean, from the perspective of an 80s teenager, these guys were cool as shit. It’s no wonder they chose Kiefer Sutherland to play the role of David, the leader of this rag-tag group of lost souls.

David

Mi Vampire_David

The spiked hair, the rocker mullets, The Two Coreys, Jami Gertz (mmm…)–this movie had it all. And speaking of Coreys, did anyone else notice that Corey Haim’s character had a poster of Rob Lowe hanging in his bedroom? I would have loved to be part of that art direction meeting:

Art Director: “We need to decorate the teenage boy’s room. What do teenage boys like?”
Assistant Art Director:”Rob Lowe?”
A.D.: “Perfect.”
A.A.D.: “I was kidding.”
A.D.: “It’s already done.”

(Note: On the DVD commentary, director Joel Schumacher says that it was there because he had recently directed Lowe in the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire. But still…)

Apparently, this movie also introduced us to the phrase “vamp out,” a term used regularly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Lost Boys clearly influenced the world of Buffy, especially when you compare the stylistic nature of said “vamping out.” You could swap any given vampire from either movie and you’d hardly notice a difference. That’s not a negative critique–I’m a fan of Buffy, and the style suits the show perfectly. Interestingly enough, Kiefer’s father, Donald Sutherland, starred in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992.

I’ll keep this post short, ending it with a little throwback video of the above-mentioned song, Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMann. Take a quick second to grab yourself some hair gel… Got it? Good. Now, enjoy.

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 4

Rise…

Sadie Blake

Mi Vampire_Sadie Blake.png

See what I did there? I got right to it with this post. Meet Sadie Blake, as portrayed by Lucy Liu from the movie Rise: Blood Hunter (or simply Rise, as writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez intended, which admittedly, I prefer). Sadie is not what you would consider a conventional vampire. There is no “vamping out,” no fangs, no supernatural powers. In fact, much like the 1982 film, The Hunger (starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, & Susan Sarandon), the word “vampire” is never uttered in this movie.

Sadie was a reporter who was raped and murdered following a story she wrote about a secret gothic cult. After waking up in the morgue, she realized that the cult held more secrets than she previously thought and she vowed revenge against them, hunting down their members one by one.

There’s another interesting correlation between Rise and The Hunger; since the vampires don’t have fangs, they need to use other means to acquire the lifeblood that satiates their cravings. In The Hunger, they use an Ankh pendant. In Rise, Sadie uses a similar secret blade, this one in the form of a cross, as shown in the above illustration tied around her neck.

In Lucy’s own words regarding the movie: “I first read the script at 3:00am in the morning and so I understood the project from that perspective, what it needed and what the character was about. It wasn’t strictly horror—it has an incredible emotional undercurrent, that and it had a thriller, noir quality about it.” I enjoyed the movie but more importantly, it was Lucy’s performance that places her among my favorite pop-culture vampires. How can you not love Lucy Liu? And not for nothing, but in addition to her acting, she’s also an amazing artist–definitely check out her work.

That should do it for today. Hope you enjoyed this illustration, and if you’re not already following my blog, maybe now’s a good time to start, yeah? I mean, really, what’s stopping you? Oh, and if you’re a fan of vampire fiction, my own book is for sale from Amazon. (nudge-nudge)

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 3

For the third installment in my Drawn to the Vampire series, I ventured back to the earliest days of cinema, offering my rendition of the infamous Count Orlok, from the 1922 silent film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, starring Max Schreck.

Count Orlok

Mi Vampire_Count Orlok.png

This one was a blast to work on. Nosferatu is a classic vampire flick, holding a rating of 97% on Rotton Tomatoes (which ain’t too shabby). It’s a must-see film for fans of both vampires and horror. In the case of this movie, the silent nature of the film actually adds to the suspense, and Schreck’s performance as Count Orlok is wonderfully creepy.

This was originally intended to be a Dracula film, but due to issues the German production company faced obtaining the rights, they released the film as an unauthorized adaptation (changing vampire to nosferatu, and Count Dracula to Count Orlok). Stoker’s heirs sued and won, and all copies of the film were to be destroyed. Fortunately for us, some survived.

In 1979, Werner Herzog wrote and directed a stylistic remake of the film titled Nosferatu the Vampyre (or Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night, translated from German). In this version, some of the original names from Stoker’s Dracula were used, like changing the name of Count Orlok back to Count Dracula.

The image of Count Orlok, as depicted above, has been revamped throughout countless media (does that count as a pun?). Vampire: The Masquerade is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons. One of the classes of vampire players could choose to belong to was the Nosferatu Clan, and the disturbing character descriptions are strikingly similar to the visage of Max Schreck’s Count Orlok. In 1996, Aaron Spelling produced a short-lived TV series based on the RPG titled Kindred: The Embraced, and in it actor Jeff Kober masterfully played a lead member of the Nosferatu Clan named Daedalus. I loved this show, and it’s hard to saw how long it would have lasted had the lead actor of the series, Mark Frankel, not faced an untimely death from a motorcycle accident.

That should do it for today. As always, stop back soon for the next installment of Drawn to the Vampire!

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 2

30 Days of Night.

Welcome to the second in my series of illustrations featuring my favorite pop-culture vampires. My inspiration for today: After an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires (from IMDB). Who wouldn’t want to watch that, eh?

Danny Huston, who you might know from season three of American Horror Story: Coven, plays Marlow Roderick, the leader of a group of vampires who are understandably drawn to the town of Barrow, Alaska, where their food is plentiful 24/7. And Huston plays his role masterfully. Josh Hartnett is the sheriff who comes to the rescue, and he does a fine job as well, but this post ain’t about him (he’ll get his day when I do my Penny Dreadful posts). The movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name (written by Steve Niles and Illustrated by Ben Templesmith), and while the movie deviated from the novel at some points, it was fairly faithful to the overall concept of the comic (a very noticeable change being the merging of two characters, Marlow and Vicente, into one character, the aforementioned Marlow Roderick). Which brings us to my illustration.

Marlow Roderick

Mi Vampire_Marlow Roderick

Loved this character. Gore-loving, bloodsucking, devilish–an all-around joy to watch on the big screen. And it was Danny Huston who brought the character to life. That’s what I attempted to capture here, and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

The movie has a sequel, Dark Days, which I’ve yet to see, though as I understand, it follows the comics more closely than the original film. The sequel doesn’t have the most favorable rating on IMDB, though I’ve never let something as silly as a rating get in the way of my enjoyment of something.

That’s all for today. Trying to keep this short, since–like me–you’re really just here for the pictures. Enjoy, and stop back soon for Drawn to the Vampire, Part 3!

Drawn to the Vampire, Part 1

In light of the recent release of my first vampire novel, I thought I’d do a series of illustrations showcasing my favorite pop-culture vampires.

The first on my list does not come from a traditional vampire series, rather he’s a prominent character in an urban fantasy series by author Kevin Hearne called The Iron Druid Chronicles. The main character in the series is the charismatic, if often sarcastic ancient druid, Atticus O’Sullivan (born Siodhachan O Suileabhain–find someone who speaks Old Irish to pronounce that one for you). Despite being human, he’s managed to survive for more than 2,000 years through the help of his own herbal concoction of Immortali-Tea® which he also provides to his faithful Irish Wolfhound companion, Oberon (Oberon even has his own Twitter account. Seriously. Check it out). Assisting Atticus in his legal needs is an attorney by the name of Leif Helgarson, who happens to be–you guessed it–a vampire (come on–he’s a lawyer; he was either going to be a vampire or a land shark, and this ain’t no SNL sketch).

Leif Helgarson

Mi Vampire_Leif Helgarson

As his name suggests, Leif is of Scandanavian decent. More specifically, he was born a Viking. After his family was murdered by Thor (yeah–that Thor–turns out he was kind of a dick), Leif went in search of a vampire who could embrace him, so he’d have the strength and power to take his vengeance on the old Norse god. His first wish came true–he became a vampire. But he’d have to chill a few centuries before he could face the king of dude-bros in battle. As it turned out, he needed help to traverse the godly planes to Valhalla, and so he secretly buddied up to a druid named Atticus, pretending to be his friend for as long as it suited his needs.

That’s as far as I’ll go with his backstory. After all, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you haven’t read The Iron Druid Chronicles, I suggest you look into them. They’re action-packed and laced with wonderfully dark and sarcastic humor (something Hearne has a gift for). For the sake of this illustration, I deferred to his description in the books; he’s a sophisticated gent, prone to wearing high-quality suits and is fond of well-aged beverages (his favorite drink of choice is a vintage 2,000-year-old blend–the blood of his old pal, Atticus). And while he lives in modern times, he’s never quite adjusted to the era, having a tendency to speak in a lyrical prose more suited to a Shakespearian play. He makes for a fun and interesting character to read about, and I look forward to seeing more of him in Hearne’s novels.

Much like Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods, the Iron Druid Chronicles are packed full of gods from pantheons worldwide, both past and present. These assorted gods attain their strength through the power of faith (they exist as the result of belief itself, and the more people who believe in/worship them, the stronger they become). Atticus O’Sullivan is among the few beings capable of traveling back and forth between the godly realms, and unfortunately for him (or perhaps fortunately for us), he has a habit of causing a bit of mischief wherever his sandal-clad feet may take him. Hounded is the first in the Iron Druid Chronicles, and is a great place to start, available at Amazon.com. If you’re like me and a fan of audiobooks, voice actor Luke Daniels does an incredible job with the series over at Audible.com (highly recommended).

That’s it for today, folks. Short and sweet. Check back soon for Part 2 of my Drawn to the Vampire series.

The Well of Gilgamesh

My debut novel, The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel, is now available from Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions!

Mi Book

This has been an incredible journey, inspired by my love of vampire fiction, both written and cinematic. I’ve longed for the story of a vampire that could fit into a world without superstition, without mythology, and without magic. A world ruled by science, logic, and reason, where everything has a rational—albeit fantastic—explanation. I wanted vampires who mirrored the elegance and mystique that Bela Lugosi engendered in Dracula during the Golden Era of Hollywood, without the self-loathing, goth-inspired aloofness that has become the trope of his modern day counterparts. That’s what I’ve brought to The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel. This is set to be my first in a series of three novels through which I’ll reinvent the classic monsters of Hollywood using a careful mix of historical revisionism, evolutionary science, and subtle nods to the stories that gave the original monsters their first brushes with celluloid fame.

A spine-tingling novel of preternatural suspense, The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel straddles the line between thriller and horror, often reading like a graphic novel. Captivating and action packed, readers will not be disappointed by this stunning new twist on a classic genre. The following is a brief synopsis, as seen on my Amazon.com page:

When Ayden finally has the chance to confront his obsessive fan—the man in the red-feathered fedora—he seizes it, though it may be the worse decision of his life. It isn’t long before a dark and deadly picture emerges; his were the stories whispered by candlelight, the reason darkness is feared. He calls himself Hendrik, and he is a vampire. Hendrik claims lineage to a pre-Sumerian tribe of naturalists who discovered the key to perpetual life through artificial selection, splicing a new branch onto mankind’s evolutionary tree: a breed of humans born into darkness, fueled by bloodlust, and living the lives of gods, laying the groundwork for the earliest surviving work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Hendrik’s interest in Ayden is unclear, but when a centuries-old feud is reignited, a bloody turf war ensues and Ayden is unwittingly drawn into a nightmarish world of feral cannibals and preternatural carnage.

Set against the turbulent winter of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, The Well of Gilgamesh: A Wampyr Novel is a briskly paced story that combines ancient mythology and a remarkable modern scientific theory into a vivid and stirring tale of one vampire’s mysterious fixation on a local musician and another’s desire to repopulate the frozen metropolis with a new, deadlier breed of vampire.

If you purchase the paperback, the Kindle version is available as a complimentary download. Get your copy today, and remember, positive reviews are an author’s best friend! (nudge-nudge, wink-wink!)

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