The Dark Angel’s Dilemma

200px-Varney_the_Vampire250px-Vlad_Tepes_002Unknownvampyre

Knowing my obsession with the vampire, a writer friend tossed me an engaging question … does the vampire have a soul? Traditionally the vampire was considered a soul-less creature, having lost its soul to eternal damnation by becoming a blood-drinking monster. I expect someone will remind me that vampires are … not … real, so what’s there to talk about? And they are so right. But I can’t help my idiosyncratic leanings. My head long ago floated off my shoulders and hovers in the clouds. No, I do not believe in vampires (or ghosts, witches, zombies, demons, etc.), but as a fantasy writer, I find the things that come out of the human imagination fascinating, especially that alluring and dangerous monster, the vampire.

638256-blood2We’re familiar with Dracula, (published in 1897), but Bram Stoker did not invent the vampire or the vampire tale. He created Dracula based on the historical Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia known as Vlad the Impaler, and East European folklore, primarily Romanian. That same folklore was used by John William Polidori in his creation of the deadly, cruel, day-walking  vampire Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre (1819); also by Sheridan Le Fanu in writing his seductive vampire Carmilla, (Carmilla (1871), and by James Malcolm Rymer, creator of Varney the Vampyre or Feast of Blood (1845-47), (also attributed to Thomas Preskett Prest, but now thought to be the work of Rymer). All were part of the sensationalistic literature of the vampire, a myth that pre-dates the rise of monotheistic religions and can be found in nearly every culture around the world. When there is not a logical explanation or when one cannot be found for one phenomenon or another, people tend to create one—that’s how we get folklore. The folklore of the vampire was born from ignorance and superstition about the dead and dead bodies. It’s not only nature that abhors a vacuum; the human mind isn’t too fond of it either.

The English clergyman and vampirologist Augustus Montague Summers, states in The Vampire: His Kith and Kin: Throughout the whole vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred, yet dight with such fearful fascination, as the vampire. Additionally, he reminds us: There is no more terrible tradition than that of the vampire, a pariah even among demons.

A pariah even among demons. Wow. That’s a damning statement, and begs the question, does the vampire have a soul?

The soul can be interpreted as that part of us where resides our mercy, our pity, our compassion, our capacity to connect with others. We can love with all our soul and hate with all our soul too. You’ll hear it said of someone who seems to lack compassion, “She has no soul.”

We have no proof that the soul exists, that there is an amorphous entity inside us that can be called the soul, but we feel we have something more within us, don’t we? We express ourselves as if the soul does exist: “Bless my soul.” “Save my soul.” “She’s a dear soul.” “God took his soul.” (Better than the alternative!) “He sold his soul.” “All Souls Day.” In the Holy Bible, the soul is a prime subject.

638256-blood2 There are vampires who have a soul and vampires who do not. The canonical vampire’s soul was considered damned for all eternity. In the Francis Ford Coppola film, Bram Stokers Dracula (1992), the iconic character was more than willing to give up his soul in vengeance against God, swearing to never die and live in defiance of God for all time. In the television series Angel (1999), Angel, was the vampire with a soul (given back his soul as a curse to never know happiness.) When Angel loses his soul, he becomes Angelus, a soul-less demon vampire from Hell. There is Saint-Germain, the compassionate and caring heroic vampire in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s series of novels, first introduced in Hotel Transylvania (1978). Saint-Germain definitely has a soul.

“If this is about my soul,” Bella Swan declares in Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance New Moon. “Take it! I don’t want it!” But we know Bella’s soul stayed with her even through her death and revival as a vampire. Edward Cullen tells Bella his soul is damned so never mind. But the Cullens are most compassionate, foregoing the traditional vampire’s diet of human blood in favor of the blood of animals. I’d say the Cullens have souls, but the Volturi—not!

638256-blood2 Anne Rice’s romanticization of the vampire in her series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, beginning with Interview with the Vampire (1976), altered the iconic view of the vampire as loathsome and evil, a soul-less creature by virtue of its murderous existence, killer of the innocent. Anne Rice presented the vampire as a beautiful, irresistible, predatory being tortured by its existence (You can’t be tortured by your existence if you don’t have a soul.).

Whether we can prove it or not, we think we have a soul. The vampire was once human, so the vampire has a soul too. The soul doesn’t get up and walk out after the vampire’s victim is given the Immortal Kiss. However, the other side of the coin is damnation. The vampire may retain his soul, but according to tradition, it is lost to redemption.

dark_angel_by_qiubi-d5asy1mNo longer a repulsive, soul-less creature in  contemporary books, television, and films, the vampire has become an elegant being dealing with the issues of immortality and attempting to reconcile its undead existence within the realm of Life, and yes, contemplating the dilemma of its soul.

blog’s got a new name

A_Fair_Reflection

Not that I wasn’t fond of the name “pendrifter.” I remember doodling words until I came up with it, when I decided to start a writer’s blog ten years ago, but I received an offer on it–someone wanted to buy it. Not one to turn down money, I sold it! So baby needed a new name. My tag name,”Dayya,”  suits fine. I’m happy.  d:)

On a different note, I’ve got a few miscellaneous posts and 3 essays planned for the blog, one focuses on vampires, The Dark Angel’s Dilemma. I hope to have it up soon. I’m doing July Camp Nano and all my writing time is devoted to wrestling with the outline of my fantasy novel, Chained. It’s about a married vampire, a deal with a demon, chained souls, and breaking the deal–so far.

I sent A Useful Blind (formerly Sleight of Hand) out to betas and have comments back. My birthday was July 4th, and my best friend gave me Caitlin Kiernan’s The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories, which I’ve wanted for ages. My short story, Dust, may be lingering a while longer. Yes I’ll have another slice of procrastination pie!

blue, white, and gold

Peaches in Sun
I’ve written about ten short stories and each of them, except for one, took a long time, like finding every grain of rice in a pot of sand. Back in 2011, I think, or maybe 2012, I began a short story titled Dust, wrote about three pages at the time, came up against the wall and put it away. It’s lingered in my story file since then. Last week I dug it up out of its paper grave and wrote some more of it. It’s now at 3,947 words and I may finish it soon.

For nearly a month I was at a loss with it, particularly a scene I call the “house blessing.” I couldn’t write one word of that scene although I knew some of the action, I didn’t know its actual purpose, what was to happen and where it would take the story. Any number of things could happen, but I needed to know why and what for. What stopped me for the past couple years was once I’d written those three pages, the well ran dry. The brain said, “That’s all, folks!” Pretty much like Porky Pig.

I’m thrilled as a bunny in a newly-grown garden of lettuce to have managed thirteen additional pages, though I’ve no idea how long it’ll be.

I love reading short stories; I love the short story form, its tight structure containing character, conflict, and resolution all in one tidy package. I’m determined to master the art of the short story.
Not so much June gloom this year. The days have been gloriously sunny with lots of blue sky; the nights have been cool and summer is sweeping in, blue, white, and gold.

faves

My evocative post set me to thinking about my favorite books, particularly my favorite vampire novels. I love so many books that they are all favorites really, but then there are those particularly special books that still make my reading heart butterfly and I’ve read them over and over. Their delight never fades for me.

 The Vampire Chronicles The Vampire Chronicles, particularly Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and oh yes The Vampire Lestat. Before I discovered Interview with the Vampire, I’d read only two other vampire novels, Dracula by Bram Stoker and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Didn’t surface for days while reading Interview with the Vampire.

Twilight Forever RisingTwilight Forever Rising, by Russian writer Lena Meydan. Despite its title, similar to Meyer’s, this was one hell of a good vampire novel. A thriller, It tells the story of vampire Darel Ericson of the Dahanavar clan caught in the machinations of the other vampire families and particularly targeted for death by one clan’s ambitious scheme to bring war to the vampire Houses and gain free reign over humanity. Somewhere I read a sequel had been published in Russia. I hope it gets translated and distributed.

Yarbro-Hotel-Transylvania_web Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (a new release of the first of the Saint-Germain chronicles with a new cover). Love the entire series. Count Ragozcy Saint-Germain, a vampire thousands of years old, has the remarkable quality of compassion. He most certainly has a soul. (Original cover, published by Saint Martin’s Press, hard cover, 1978.)Hotel Transylvania

 

 

 

Twilight Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (I enjoyed all four books (and all five movies), but the first book is my favorite. It may not have been ideally written, but it told a compelling story.) People sneer at Meyer’s glittering vampires (don’t know why given the great variety of vampires to be found in today’s books and movies, like vampires who eat solid food and use the bathroom), but I think she found a great way to solve the problem of daywalking vampires (no bursting into flame) by giving them stone skin that glitters in sunshine (and marks them as non-human and supernatural) and connects to the canonical view of a vampire’s skin as extremely white and highly reflective (yes, like Lestat’s). I don’t find the Cullens and the Volturis at all “like rainbow ponies and fairies.” And they bite. And their bite is torturously painful with none of that romantic ecstasy found in other vampire books and movies.

The Five of Cups The Five of Cups by Caitlin Kiernan. Favorite line from this book, “Sunrise was still a long way off, and Gin’s heels clicked down the Atlanta sidewalk like castanets played slow.” Can’t you hear the rhythm of her stroll? I loved this book not only for the high quality writing, but also because it encompasses the Gothic, the ragged urban reality, and mid-nineteenth century history in a fascinating tale of vampires in the contemporary world.

This list is but the tip of the iceberg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

evocative

Michelle Knowlden, author of the Abishag Wife mystery series, tagged me in the Chocolate Blog hop where you relate favorite books to chocolates. A delicious idea. Here are three of mine:

Vampire_Lestat_Original The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. Bourbon-Vanilla Ganache infused with Provencale Lavendar, enrobed in Venezualan Dark Chocolate by Z Chocolat. A far from mundane chocolate for an aristocratic vampire unlike any other–shameless, witty, egotistical, and exotic. Lestat remains my favorite vampire.

Historiancover The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt by Z Chocolat. I fall into this book every time I read it and am overwhelmed with the desire to visit Eastern Europe. Her descriptions of the Slovenian countryside, of the Roman town of Emona, and particularly of the art-nouveau teahouse where the narrator and her father took their tea, bear the richness of caramel wrapped in dark chocolate. I love the way Kostova combined folklore, myth and history, salted with the mystery of Vlad the Impaler, whose dark history formed the basis of the legend of Dracula to create a story that never fails to draw me straight through from the first page to the last.

madamebovary Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Strawberry Chocolate Cream gowned in Milk Chocolate. I’m entranced by the perfection of Flaubert’s prose, the beautiful and precise details of each scene that conveyed Emma Bovary’s foolish behavior, her hungry romanticism, her desperate desire for a refined and glittering life, and her tragic end. Henry James described Madame Bovary as “ideally done.” True.

I tag Ruth Kozak whose first novel, Shadow of the Lion, an historical novel about Alexander the Great, is slated for publication in the United Kingdom in 2014 by Media Aria-CDM Publishers.

And I tag Rebecca Lang. Books and chocolates–what say you?

Riddle In Bones

 

Riddle In Bones

I particularly enjoyed Riddle In Bones by Michelle Knowlden, the third in her Abishag Wife mysteries. I was so engaged I found myself commenting out loud to the narrative, and chuckling over the French housekeeper’s slight mangling of English. Leslie, as always, carries out her Abishag Wife duties compassionately and with great sensitivity while, at the same time, trying to solve the mystery of who shot her comatose husband.

Michelle Knowlden creates a fine puzzle in this tale of long-delayed and misguided revenge. In the satisfying end, a surprising and unpredictable turn solves the mystery, reveals the killer and shows the deeply romantic nature of the victim, and Leslie makes a wonderful decision. As the lazy days of summer approach, tuck Riddle In Bones between the beach towel and the suntan lotion.

blue bubbles

Black Forest 2

The past week has been suffocatingly hot–day and night; heat radiating off glass and concrete, falling from the gaping blue sky as if a great furnace door had swung open, and at night, relentless. The chance for sleep practically nil. But today, here near the beach, a cool fog has rolled in and this morning is beautifully fresh. A great relief, I’m sure, to all those for whom heat is a torture.

Last week I finished the third round of edits on A USEFUL BLIND, (formerly SLEIGHT OF HAND) but I’m not done yet. A fourth round waits in the wings.  Reading Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit; it’s illuminating, casting a great light on editing and revising. She quotes the poet Paul Valery, referring to the process of endless revision, who once said of his poems, “A poem is never finished; only abandoned.”

Lake of the Rose. Have made a number of good notes in planning this novel again. The draft I have is dreck. Now with the re-plan, I’ve decided on a better, stronger start, but I can’t begin writing it yet. I must determine the incidents; what happens in the story and see how the characters react. Right now Summer’s husband, Josh, is a handsome cipher, barely real in my mind. Summer’s grief at the loss of their baby, her second miscarriage, defines her somewhat for me. And there’s the antagonists, Dani and Vaughn. All charm; all evil intent. What do the innocent do when they encounter pure evil?