Different, Not Weaker – Guest Post by Cindy Koepp

One of the main points I make in my Vampire Syndrome Saga is that ‘different’ does not equate to ‘weaker’. My friend and fellow PDMI Author Cindy Koepp shows us the same piece of wisdom in her upcoming novel, “Like Herding The Wind”. 🙂

“Different, Not Weaker” by Cindy Koepp

Too often, we perceive things that are different from our idea of “normal” as weaker or deficient. Sometimes, that is the case, but more often, different is just different. The things that make us unique are not weaknesses but can become our greatest strengths. The perception of strength and weakness is.

In “Like Herding the Wind: An Urushalon Novel,” soon to be released by PDMI Publishing, an Eshuvani generation ship crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Germany. Unable to find the resources on Earth to fix their ship, the Eshuvani built enclaves and tried to let the humans develop without interference. Three hundred fifty years later, Eshuvani criminals start a crime wave in the Texas coastal town of Las Palomas. With police officers being injured and killed in the efforts to stop them, Sergeant Ed Osborn attempts to use his ties to the Eshuvani community to get help for his men, but the local leadership wants nothing to do with humans. Ed contacts his urushalon, Amaya Ulonya, the Eshuvani mother he adopted when he was a boy, and seeks her help.

After the death of her partner, Amaya, the captain of a police and rescue team, finds more grief than joy in her current assignment. Amidst controversy, she arranges to spearhead the new Buffer Zone station between Las Palomas and the nearby Eshuvani enclave of Woran Oldue. She hopes the opportunity to help Ed train his people will help her bury the past. The indifference of the local administration leaves her with Ill-functioning equipment and inexperienced staff. It only gets worse when the attacks of an Eshuvani criminal grow personal. Amaya must get control of her grief to help Las Palomas or risk losing someone even more dear to her than her last partner.

As far as humans are concerned, Eshuvani are superhuman. They’re fast, seeming to react at blur speeds; and they’re strong enough to pick up an adult human male and throw him against the wall with considerable force. That strength and speed make the Eshuvani criminal element such a hazard among the human police. Without proper training, the humans don’t know how to overcome their attackers.

From the perspective of the Eshuvani, humans have incredible endurance and a remarkable resilience particularly in the face of psychological trauma. Eshuvani admire the humans’ ability to keep going both physically and mentally even after the most persistent of their own people has run out of steam.

At the same time, members of each race find the other intolerable in some ways. Eshuvani find humans too aloof and detached, while humans consider Eshuvani emotionally unstable and secretive.

Into this quagmire of misunderstanding, Amaya arrives to help her urushalon train his people to use their differences to overcome the threat.

***

“Like Herding the Wind”, releasing January 15, 2016, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Cindy Like Herding The Wind Cover Small

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Taking Orlok to the Ultimate

Most of you are at least a little familiar with Count Orlok, the vampire in the 1922 film “Nosferatu”, which forever changed the face of cinema.
Nosferatu Self-CheckoutThe story itself may have been an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula”, but “Nosferatu” revolutionized the visual art of cinema. The now-classic “burn-up-in-sunlight” trope started with this film. Count Orlok’s sun-ray immolation is just one of the great, ground-breaking visual effects featured.

Count Orlok himself is, of course, another bold visual statement. What many may not realize is that Nosferatu’s director, F.W. Murnau, intended Count Orlok as a return to the hideous monsters of original vampire folklore, as they were two centuries before Nosferatu’s release.

From TVTropes’ “Looks Like Orlok” page:

History time: In the original folklore, most vampires were short, ugly, Eastern European peasants. Then (in 1819) Polidori creates the character of Lord Ruthven and suddenly they’re all elegant, English, aristocratic and look suspiciously like Lord Byron. Rymer’s Varney the Vampire (1847) gives them fangs and the whole “wandering the world hating what they’ve become” thing. Then Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla was written (in 1871), and vampires suddenly became alluring, bisexual upper-class gothic girls. Then, Dracula was written (in 1897), and they’re still elegant aristocrats, but moved back to Eastern Europe, sexy and deadly, outwardly beautiful yet disguising an inner corruption. Thus, horror turned to fetish, and pop culture… ahem… the world was never the same again. And we all know what happened since.

In the early 1920s, F.W. Murnau had a great idea. Since the German Expressionist movement was all about stylization, why not apply this to vampires? Why not create a vampire that looks exactly like what he is: a parasitic bloodsucker?

In the ninety-odd years since “Nosferatu”, Orlok’s appearance has influenced dozens of characters, vampire or otherwise. From The Master in “The Strain” and the Elder Vampire in “Dracula: Untold” (yes, Orlok has now ‘officially’ crossed over into a Dracula tale!), to Voldemort.

The one thing that’s been missing for all these nine decades is why the Orlok-type vampires look the way they do. We can’t undo three centuries’ worth of humanizing vampires, after all, so there must be reasons as to why the Orlok-type vampires look different from vampires of basic human appearance. This is where most vampire novels and movies drop the ball, usually not explaining this in any detail, or using the “old master” mythos where vampires will eventually age to an Orlok-like appearance.

Until now, the best explanation for Orlok-type vampires comes from the Role-Playing Game “Vampire: The Masquerade”, wherein the Nosferatu are the most ‘vampiric’ of the seven playable vampire subspecies.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Nosferatu

The Nosferatu are one of seven playable clans in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. The damnedest of the damned, the Nosferatu are disfigured and have a frightening appearance. This means that they can only use sewers, and should they be seen by humans, they will violate the Masquerade. Due to this however, the Nosferatu have become very gifted at sneaking and hacking, which means they have information on almost everything and everyone. They gather information not only as a means of survival, but out of pure pleasure as well. The Nosferatu are ostracized by other vampires due to their appearance, but also their ability to dig up dirt on everyone. This doesn’t stop the leaders of other vampire clans to come to them when they need information, however.

When I set about creating the universe for my Vampire Syndrome Saga, I found many of the classic folkloric abilities attributed to vampires (ie. clinging to walls and ceilings, aversion to acidic plants such as onions and garlic, harmed/weakened by ultraviolet radiation/sunlight) would not make scientific sense for my living human Vampires. The human genome has millions of years worth of evolved tolerance of sunlight or garlic, and to undo these would require (basically) a ground-up total DNA rewrite to where the being would no longer be “human”.

So I created planet Sek’Met, and its race of humanoid alien carnivores. With aliens, the folkloric attributes I could not (personally) justify for human vampires became easy to rationalize scientifically for the Sek’Metian race, who evolved on a different planet, under different conditions.

And it follows that alien carnivore humanoids who evolved on a different planet would also have distinct appearance traits of their own. Which gave me the best explanation ever as to why Orlok-type vampires appear they way they do: They’re aliens!

A sketch that captures the essence of my character Syl’Tes 🙂
VTM Nosferatu Waiting by Oharisu

Third Anniversary, with my special guest Clay Gilbert

Hello everyone!

Today, October 16th, 2013 marks the third anniversary of Vampire Syndrome blog. So, to commemorate this wondrous occasion, I will celebrate in the most logical fashion.

By featuring another author. 😈

Clay Gilbert, and his new book, Annah (Children of Evohe (Book 1).

The reason why this makes perfect sense: Two months after this blog celebrated its second anniversary, “Vampire Syndrome” was signed by PDMI Publishing. A milestone from which the repercussions are still unfolding. “Changed my life” is almost an understatement, and far more will happen by the time this blog marks its fourth anniversary on October 16, 2014.

Over the past year, I have come to know Clay Gilbert as not just an author, but a friend. He and I share the bonds of rapier-wit rhetoric, rock/metal appreciation and giving voice to characters of extraterrestrial origin. Annah, Clay’s child of planet Evohe, gets to revel in her center-stage role of main character and protagonist while my Pures from planet Sek’Met hide in the shadows as supporting characters.

Annah Cover

SYNOPSIS:

Annah, a young female of a world on the Edge of the Sea of Stars named Evohe, feels there is no place for her among her people.  She is seen as strange both for her appearance, which is different than that thought to be normal for an eighteen-cycle old seed-maiden, and for her dreams, not of finding a mate and making a homeplace and a family with him, but of exploring the Sea of Stars that she looks up at every night and longs to see.  Her parents lie at rest in the Elder Grove deep in the woods near her homeground, and, since the passing of Lilliane, the elder who had been her guardian since she was fourteen cycles old, Annah has lived alone; the ‘girl who walks with no one.’
She remains alone until the night she sees a great fire streak from the starry sky above her parents’ homeground and, following its path, finds the wreckage of what she knows from the shared Memories of her people is a star-vessel of the sort her own people had once traveled in.  Inside the ruined craft, she finds a human male, badly injured and close to death.  Torn between the Memories that tell her the people of Earth were responsible for the near-extinction of her own world and the voice of Spirit that insists all life is the same, she nurses him back to health, finding in the human Gary Holder a mirror of her own search for belonging and desire for a larger purpose. Their growing connection, and the Evoetians’ sense of humans as enemies, sets in motion a chain of events that may either destroy Annah’s world a second time, or lead to a new future of understanding:  a new age of the Shapers.

“Annah” is the first novel in Clay Gilbert’s science-fiction series “Children of Evohe”, published by Rara Avis, an imprint of PDMI Publishing. “Annah” was released on October 15, 2013, to be followed by “Annah’s Exile” in 2014 and Children of Evohe in 2015.

Annah’s World is the official site for the “Children of Evohe” series, and has a character blog featuring Annah’s own commentary about her world and her people, designed to fill in narrative gaps before and between the volumes of the series.

Meet Clay Gilbert:

Clay Bio

Clay Gilbert lives and works in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he divides his time between writing, teaching English for Strayer University, and working across the electronic sea of the Internet as the Chief Editor for PDMI Publishing. He believes, as Annah does, that it takes many notes to make up the Song of the World, and that the understanding of differences between people, nations and cultures holds perhaps the most important key to the future. This book, he hopes, will help make a difference in that. He shares his living and writing space with his cat, Bella, and his ball python, Andy. He is currently at work on “Annah’s Exile”, Book Two of the “Children of Evohe” trilogy, coming soon from PDMI.

The Metaphor

One of the many little details hiding in Vampire Syndrome is a metaphor.

Is is the human condition? Well, I do have the alien Pure Vampires, whose DNA bought about the existence of the genetically-mutated human Vampires. The “Humans”, as the Pures call the human Vampires, embrace their humanity with passion, even when they shouldn’t. The “Normals” (non-vampire humans) deem the human Vampires monsters, but of course no human ever considers themselves to be a monster, human Vampires included.

So, we have these beings that are basically human, yet infused with basal, predatory urges, courtesy of the mutations performed to their DNA sequence by the Pures’ DNA.
A metaphor for the human condition?
Yes, and a rather illuminating one (if I presume to say so myself).

But that’s not the metaphor I’m referring to.
The combative relationship between the human Vampires and the Pures is a metaphor for the vampire itself.

How the evolution of culture has shifted the vampire from the grave-escaping revenants of old-world folklore to the sympathetic, revered heroes of romance.
And how the core supporters of the “classic monster” verbally joust with paranormal romance fans.
Vampire versus Vampire. Old versus new. Demon versus angel.
What the vampire was, versus what the vampire is.

Not to worry, my human Vampires are not “totally Twilight”. Damien and Lilith are as twisted as their rocky 253-year marriage. Zetania feels disconnected from Normal humans after the last of her Normal human family died off. And Jack’s battle to be the champion of human Vampires will far exceed even the challenges he faced in becoming a record-setting Special Olympics champion athlete.

Yet each values their humanity. The difference between them and the carnivorous Pures. The two-legged sharks striking terror in the hearts of all human Vampires.
An apex of fear the Normal humans will never know, except in their collective subconscious. The demon monster of old, refusing to die, rising forth once more to challenge its progeny, the human Vampires of today’s stories.

Even mine.

E.T. phone here

Two great songs about extraterrestrial contact, yin and yang.

By then, the Carpenters had made so much money for A&M Records, the only answer they could give to “Can we hire a 160-pc. orchestra for a song about contacting aliens?” was “Sure, we’ll get right on it, Mister and Miss Carpenter!” 😈

Mod fashion or punk? Both! The best album of 1978, in my humble opinion.

Meet the vampires of “Vampire Syndrome”

Jack Wendell

down-syndrome1-300x252
Physical and Calendar Age: 19

Former Special Olympics champion sprinter and 400-meter sprint national record holder. Now the world’s fastest running Vampire, able to run at over 100mph for long distances. Retains his sincerity and good will towards others while living and interacting with a Vampire population generally not known for these qualities. Jack gets his first girlfriend in my trilogy’s second novel, “Vampire Conspiracy”. Jack’s heroism and unique abilities gradually become known to the world’s human Vampire population… and others. 😈
Bricks

Damien Tepesh

CBAP
Physical age: 39
Calendar age: 267

Chief Venator (law enforcer) of the United States region. Targets Jack for termination, as Venators traditionally do when they discover a new special-needs Vampire. Jack escapes two of Damien’s assassination attempts, eventually causing Damien to reconsider his position about Jack.  Damien enjoys fast cars and fast women. Damien has been married for over 250 years, and has had several mistresses as well.
Bricks

Lilith Morrigan

Jessica Chastain
Physical Age: 44
Calendar Age: 308

President of the world’s human Vampire Community. Breaks with her own Venator past by protecting Jack from her husband Damien. Feels some maternal instinct for Jack, but Lilith realizes she would not make the best adoptive mother for him. The conflicts over Jack push her relationship with Damien to a breaking point.
Bricks

Zetania Vinescu

fortune_teller

Physical Age: 25
Calendar Age: 135

Chief Venator of Romania. Summoned to Colorado by Damien, to help him hunt Jack. Lilith over-rides her husband and orders Zetania to protect Jack from Damien and the other Venators. Zetania gradually realizes Jack’s incredible potential, and discovers that Jack may be the key to help Zetania and the Romanian Vampires end their dispute with their most feared enemy… one way or another.
Bricks

Ronald and Diane Pepper

Ron Diane
Physical and Calender Ages: 40

Ron Pepper, Jack’s former Special Olympics coach, and his wife Diane are the closest that Jack has ever had to a real family. Damien and Lilith come to a rare agreement and choose the Peppers to be Jack’s new adoptive parents. Damien and Lilith turn the Peppers into Vampires and hire them as private investigators. The Peppers’ longtime hobby of investigating cattle mutilations becomes their full-time occupation, as they finally uncover the mystery of who is behind all of those mutilations.

Bricks

Stella Reynolds

StellaKP
Physical Age: 27
Calendar Age: 71

Lilith’s presidential secretary and Damien’s current mistress. Over the last 250 years, Lilith has killed Damien’s previous four mistresses (and several other women who had short-term flings with Damien). The fact that Lilith hired Stella to be her secretary suggests a major change of strategy on her part, in which she plans to heighten her control and influence over Damien.

Bricks

Gl’Ag

Gl'AgPhysical Age: Mature Adult Male
Calendar Age: Over 25,000 years

The human vampires’ worst nightmare. And he realizes Jack’s true potential far more than any human Vampires can.

Bricks

Fred Henderson

Fred HPhysical Age: 41
Calendar Age: 266

Chief Mechanic, the MacGyver of Vampires. Owner of Roman Auto Salvage. His kindred’s predilection towards fast cars ensures Fred’s job security. Enjoys customizing pickup trucks and hunting deer. Owns a large collection of vintage film prints, including an original print of “Nosferatu” acquired during his vacation to Germany in 1922.

Bricks

Tivor Sebestyén

Tivor
Physical Age: 25
Calendar Age: 43

Mute autistic Vampire, native to the city of Debrecen, Hungary. Pursued by Hungarian Venators upon his change to human vampire in 1991, reported “missing, presumed dead” that same year. Confirmed sighted by several U.S. Venators in Colorado twenty years later. Possesses a unique superpower that could be dangerous to the human Vampire community.

Early version of Vampire Syndrome: Sept. 2010 snippet

Here’s a previously unreleased snippet, © September 2010,

from the original version of Vampire Syndrome:

Who’s knocking? I hope it’s not Lilly.
What’s she saying? “Turn on the juice?” C’mon, sweetheart, I’m still half-asleep.
Wait, that’s not Lilly’s voice. It’s Zetania.
She knocks again and yells, “Turn on the news, Damien.”
“Be there in a minute,” I reply
The news? Did the Normals find Jack? Holy shit.
I reach over Stella, grab the remote and turn on the TV. Stella wakes up and asks me in a groggy voice, “What about the news?”
“Next on Eyewitness News,” the anchorman says, “A rancher has reported a mysterious cattle mutilation, north of Fort Morgan.”
Stella whispers, “Uh-oh.” She’s awake now.
Great. A Pure’s out in the sticks. Hopefully just one.
I put on my pajama pants, and rush to the door. Stella’s slips on her pink silk négligée. I let Zetania in, and she places her black duffel bag on my antique wood dresser.
“Hi, you two,” Zetania says.
I glance at the TV. A used car commercial.
“Tell those damn Pures to stay in Romania,” Stella replies.
Zetania unzips her duffel bag, and reaches inside.
“I’ll tell them with my Uzi,” Zetania retorts.
Look at that. The mini-Uzi made for the Romanian Military Police. Zetania didn’t even bother to paint over the “Poliţia Militară” logo.
“Do you need that just to hunt Jack?” Stella asks.
A news reporter comes on. “Last night in north Morgan County, cattle rancher Martin Rodriguez discovered the carcass of one of his cows, Mizzy. Mizzy was last seen alive around 7PM. Martin’s daughter found Mizzy’s carcass the next morning. The eyes, tongue, udder and tail had all been removed with surgical precision. The carcass was entirely drained of blood.”
The cow’s body appears on the screen. Zetania studies the TV picture.
“See how there’s not a drop of blood on the ground?” Martin asks the camera as he points to the grass.
“The Pures may have found out I left home,” Zetania says,”and one of them might be here in Colorado to ‘welcome’ me.”
“Maybe,” I suggest, “that secret airstrip of yours isn’t secret to them anymore.”
“They’ve never attacked it.”
“They’d be smart not to. They can just watch it from a distance. I bet they saw Lilly’s Gulfstream pick you up.”
“We have Security agents all over the area,” Zetania replies. “None of them have reported contact with any Pures.”
You’re focusing on the obvious, Zetania. A Venator needs to be a detective, not just a hunter.
“In Cluj, you all expect Pures to attack you, not evade you. My worry is when they don’t attack. That means they’re up to something. And at least one of your pale white shark-toothed friends made it here.”
“Do they still hide in shipping crates?” asks Stella.
“Yeah,” Zetania and I reply in unison.
They have to. They can’t pass for Normals, and their skin blisters and pops in direct sunlight. One reason why we moved the World Headquarters to Colorado back in 1904. Three hundred days of sunshine a year, average. A Pure’s worst nightmare.
“I’m worried there might be a group of Pures here,” I state. “They might be planning to hit this compound again.”
“No way, Damien,” Zetania snaps, “When Gl’Ag’s raiding party came here in 1904, you and Lilith killed his wife and three other Pures with your Gatling guns. And now you’ve stockpiled enough weapons to arm everyone here. Over five hundred of us.”
“Gl’Ag’s not gonna try and sneak up the main road again,” I say. “He barely made it out back in ’04, and we put a few bullets in him. We chased him as he ran away, but we couldn’t catch him. I’m still amazed that he made it back to your country. Today we have two guards with Miniguns, 24-7, in those same turrets Lilly and I used.”
“Gl’Ag? Didn’t you wreck your STI chasing him last year?” Stella asks Zetania.
“He snuck up on a Roma wagon camp,” Zetania replies. “That’s why I still check up on my distant relatives. They would have been easy prey for him, if I hadn’t been there.”
“Guess what Zetania was doing when Gl’Ag came?” I ask Stella.
“What?” Stella leans head toward me.
“The Gypsies were gathered around the campfire,” I explain, “and Zetania was reading them Vampire Moonlight: Bewareness.”
Stella laughs.
“What’s so funny?” Zetania asks.
“If there was such a thing as an irony meter,” I say, “you would have broken it. A real Vampire, reading a fictional vampire book to Gypsies who tell tales about real Vampires.”
“Better yet,” interjects Stella, “By chasing Gl’Ag away, she accidentally created a new Vampire tale for Roma folklore.”
Lady Dhamphir in the Black Subaru,” Zetania replies, “I’ve overheard it twice.”
Zetania’s so proud of herself. For blowing her cover, no less.
“Lucky you,” I growl. “Gypsies don’t tell their stories to outsiders,”
Zetania smiles and extends her fangs.
“Must be nice to live around Normals who don’t run their mouths,” I continue. “That lady in Grand Junction who backed her TrailBlazer into the ditch probably called the media before she called the tow truck. ‘Oh, I was getting away from a Vampire!’ Good thing no one believed her.”
“Normals don’t know about the hideout in Colorado National Monument,” Stella says, “Damien and I went there the next day, and we had a little talk with the squatters.”
“I told them if I had to come back again,” I state, “I’d bring Lilly with me.”
That sure got those little brats’ attention.