Category Archives: books

Vampire Fiction: A Beginner’s Guide

vampire fiction

Vampire fiction has exploded in the last three to four decades. There are now literally thousands of books, short stories, films and comics featuring our fanged friends. They’ve managed to inveigle their way into large parts of our society, almost to the extent that many people believe these fictional creatures really do exist.

Vampires have become so popular they’ve bridged the gap between genres. No longer a simple staple of horror, you can find vampires leaching horribly into romance, comedy, young adult fiction, sci-fi, gaming and even the odd serious semi-serious tome such as Let the Right One In.

So what makes vampire fiction endure? Why are we still so fascinated by these undead creatures? Has everything blood sucking been done to death?

Or does our friend the night crawler still have a few more tricks up his or her bony sleeve?
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The First Vampire in Fiction

The Vampyre by John William Polidori, written in 1819 is often put forward as the first blood sucker in literature. Our friends were part of folklore long before that, however. Precursors to the more modern vampire can be found in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt – creatures who came at night to pray on humans and drink their blood. Although we have some evidence the Middle Ages were rife with them,  the true essence of the vampire, however, appeared out of South West Europe in the early part of the 1700s.

In Voyage to the Levant, writer and traveller Joseph Pitton de Tournefort revealed a belief in the undead in the south of Europe including Greece. The word ‘vampyre’ was used in 1732 when the London Journal mentioned it in connection with Hungary.  The country appeared again in ‘Treatise on Apparitions of Angels, Demons and Spirits and on the Revenants and Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia‘ published over ten years later.

People rising from the dead was not an unusual occurence in fiction and poetry at the time. Goethe in the Bride of Corinth talks of a young woman returned from the grave who says: ‘Still to love the bridegroom I have lost, And the lifeblood of his heart to drink.’ In England, Southey and Byron both penned poems that had vampirism at their heart.

Vampire fiction really began to gather pace with Polidori’s Vampyre, a short story that was immediately successful. It spawned numerous 19th century imitations that blended romance and sometimes eroticism as the genre began to evolve and come of age.

The daddy of them all, however, was Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Even now, over a century later, the Prince of Darkness remains one of the most enduring and memorable characters in literary history.

Without him, vampire fiction may well have disappeared into the mist instead of imbedding itself in our collective psyche.
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Dracula: The Ultimate Vampire

We certainly wouldn’t have the plethora of vampire fiction we have today if it wasn’t for Dracula. Published in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, the book introduced two major characters, Dr Van Helsing and the eponymous vampire himself. In truth, the book wasn’t an immediate success when it first came out and it wasn’t until popular movies were made in the 20th century that the character really began to capture the public’s imagination.

In fact, the book made hardly any money for Bram Stoker and he was to die in poverty in 1912. Over the years, Dracula and the vampire myth found it easy to penetrate society, whichever decade happened to be passing by. He gets repackaged every so often for a new audience but his appeal seems to endure. Perhaps, in a literary sense, he really is immortal.

The Vampire in Popular Culture

The vampire has made an impact on practically all areas of modern culture. It’s not just in vampire fiction that we see the fall of the blood sucker’s shadow. In comic books, music, film, and now even online games, the bared fangs and desire to feast on the necks of myriad victims has spread its satanic fictional tentacles.

There are people who profess to be real vampires, there are those who are fans of particular series or genres to the point of obsession, and countless indie writers can’t seem to give up the lure of blood suckers no matter how hard they try. And there are those who just love a good scare now and again.

vampire fiction 30 days of night

My Top 6 in Vampire Fiction

1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

A personal favourite from the mid-seventies about the time when Stephen King was becoming popular worldwide. Salem’s Lot is traditional vampire fiction at its best, as the mysterious Kurt Barlow arrives in a small town and people begin to drop off the radar, only to return when night falls.

2. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I am Legend is another apocalyptic treat, this time from the early 1950s. There is a global pandemic that elicits the symptoms of vampirism and society has broken donw. For its time, the book was move away from the more gothic feel of the caped vampire with a dark secret to something more crude and threatening.

This is probably the point at which vampire fiction began to morph, slowly at first, into other genres. Indeed, Matheson’s book is sometimes credited with the rise of the zombie hordes we all know and love today.

3. They Thirst by Robert R McCammon

Probably lost in the shadow of King’s Salem’s Lot, They Thirst is another traditional vampire novel, this time based in Hollywood. The book is a genuine classic of the vampire fiction genre and if you haven’t read it yet, you should give it a try.

4. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Okay, so there were a whole series of books about vampires by Rice but this was the one that kicked it off. For the first time, we started seeing things from the blood sucker’s point of view and it spawned a whole series of gothic romance wannabes with everything from The Vampire Diaries to Underworld owing something to the anti-hero Lestat.

5. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

While vampire fiction has mostly sat comfortably in its own genre, Let The Right One In moved it into more literary territory. At the time this was hailed as the reinvention of the vampire novel and made into a successful film. It’s less about the blood sucking undead as the rights of passage of youth and the terrifying bloom of first love.

6. The Last Vampire by T M Wright

Seems to fallen off the book list in recent decades, Wrights book is a mini-masterpiece as his unwilling vampire sits at the end of the world in a post-apocalyptic future. One book to read if you can find a copy somewhere. Vampire fiction as it probably should be.

nosferatu vampire fiction

Nosferatu, Dracula and Other Vampires in Film and TV

1. Nosferatu (1922)

Apparently, they’re about to remake this silent classic. The big draw, back in the 1920s, was the actual vampire himself. Max Schrek is the perfect blood sucker and his shadow crossing the wall is one of the most memorable images in horror film history.

2. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931)

For a long while, Lugosi was the iconic vampire and became one of the most famous actors in Hollywood. While now the acting seems wooden and the sets a bit stagey, it’s still one of the most famous vampire movies on the planet.

3. Christopher Lee’s Dracula (1958)

Hammer breathed life back into the vampire legend in the late 50s and this film was an immediate box office success. It gave birth to a lot of sequels through the 60s and 70s, of course, before Hammer finally went under and Lee’s vampire was finally put to rest with a stake through the heart.

4. Fright Night (1985)

A surprise hit when it came out in the mid-80s, Fright Night continues to have a cult following today. Undoubtedly helped by the presence of screen legend (and former monkey in Planet of the Apes) Roddy McDowall, it was one of the highest grossing films of the year.

5. The Hunger (1983)

Avant guard meets vampire eroticism in Tony Scott’s film. Star David Bowie was the perfect choice for an 18th century cellist turned blood sucker. In truth, The Hunger is an acquired taste and have many found it too heavy on mood and with not enough plot. It remains one of the top vampire films of the last 30 years or so though and still has a decent following.

6. Near Dark (1987)

Another surprise hit despite its failure initially at the box office, Near Dark managed to mix Western influences with vampire delights and followed on from successes such as Fright Night and Lost Boys in the 80s. A more serious effort than its two predecessors, it too has gained a cult following over the years.

7. 30 Days of Night (2007)

While many other vampire films and books at the time were focusing on gothic romance and slightly comic book approaches to vampires, including the Twilight series, Blade and Underworld, 30 Days of Night went back to a more visceral approach to our blood sucking friends. One of the better vampire films in recent years.

8. Let the Right One In (2008)

I’ll throw in the film version of Let the Right One In as well, the original Swedish one, not the US remake. In truth, the film is a little better than the book and has some startling performances from young Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson.

9. The Strain

It largely disappeared under the radar as far as the popularity stakes are concerned, The Strain is a traditional good vs evil vampire epic. Forget trying to put a new spin on blood sucking, the makers have gone for an invincible master and destruction of all human life on the planet. What’s better than that?

The Future of Vampire Fiction

Have we said all that we need to say about vampires? In truth, these night dwelling creatures have actually become their own sub-genre over the last 30 years. They have an (undead) life of their own and it’s difficult to see them disappearing anytime soon. There have been some 170 different film versions just of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on its own so far and probably a good few more to come.

There have also been thousands of novels and short stories, as well as poems, produced, written and released over the years. The number is actually increasing, especially with the popularity of self-publishing and a growing band of indie authors who just love a bit on the neck.

Let’s face it, we’re never going to get rid of them. Vampire fiction is here to stay.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite vampire film or book? Why do you like vampires? Why do you hate them? Where next for our blood sucking friends? As always, put your comments in the bloody space below and I’ll try to get back to you.
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What a Photograph Can Teach You About Writing Success

writing success
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Whether you are trying to improve your prose, pad out those one dimensional characters or simply keep your ever expanding plot together, you can learn a lot about writing success from studying a good photo. Any great image, like a memorable piece of writing, needs to be well composed, create a mood and illicit the right emotion in the viewer.

Great photos stand out, get shared, make news, get made into posters and adorn walls. They get people talking and can even change the way we look at the world.

All the main components that make a brilliant image can be also be found in the memorable books that adorn our shelves. From To Kill a Mockingbird and Ulysses to The Great Gatsby, these seminal works all have certain characteristics in common.

Composition

The difference between an ordinary image and a truly inspiring one is undoubtedly found in its composition. It’s all about how the different elements are glued together and provide a feast for the eyes and brain. A book or short story, even a news article or opinion piece, is no different. In writing you might call this structure or plot but it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Just as the composition of a photo is about the overall effect, the small elements within the image and how they hang together are also important. In books, it’s not just the plot but the paragraphs and the sentences, even individual words.

The Difference Light Makes

Nowhere is the impact of light more important than in photography. Take a picture of a landscape iwhen the sun is high and you’ll probably end up with something fairly ordinary. Visit that same scene at dusk or dawn when the contrasts and colours are so much deeper and you could end up with a photograph that lives long in the memory. In writing too, the different shades of your prose are important. It’s the difference between bland, uninteresting text and words that come alive on the page. Writing success here is all about choosing the right words, the correct length length of sentences, the depths of descriptions, and the colour of the language.

Creating Mood

All the great photographs create mood. It can be seen in a piece of photojournalism that elicits a response such as fear, anger, anxiety. You find it in landscapes which leave you in awe or feeling at peace with the world and personal images that make you smile, laugh or cry. Photographs can give the impression of great distances, speed, energy and stillness. The same is true in writing. Your words are supposed to deliver a certain mood, make your readers feel scared, invigorated, worried, combative, joyous, even perplexed.

Right Place, Right Time

To take a good photo you have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to click that shutter button at exactly the right moment. Miss it and that perfect image is lost for all time. In writing it’s making sure that you choose the right devices for your plot to move forward, you pick the best characters to tell your story and you choose the right beginnings and ends.

Writing Success, Photography and Focus

Most great images will have one strong focal point, a part of the photo from which everything else seems to flow or is drawn into. Take this away and the image is nothing but an average snap of the world. Take any great piece of writing and there is a central focus around which everything else revolves. It’s an event, a location or a particular character or set of characters. To make your book or short story successful it needs to be clear, strong, vibrant, memorable. It can’t be watered down, veiled and weakened by unnecessary content.

It’s easy to snap a photo. Just look on Instagram if you want proof. It’s also pretty easy nowadays to write a book too. Is the image you’ve taken and posted online a great one? Are the words you write and the books or stories you publish going to inspire your readers? Have you done everything you can to make it stand out from the crowd?

I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote from F Scott Fitzgerald:

“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”

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Indie Author: 5 Myths You Should Ignore

indie authorSince the rise of t’Internet, indie authors have been doing their stuff, scratching away with their quills and pots of jet black ink, getting it out there, and largely pretending they are writers. The same goes for photographers, painters, indie film makers, and fashion designers.
In fact, anyone with a hint of talent can now access the web and make a success of themselves. It’s as easy as logging on and writing a few lines.

Add in a fine Merlot and you’ve got the perfect recipe for being a literary superstar.

1. Indie author = Sad git who can’t get published

Back in the day (you know, way back when writers wrote under the flickering light of a candle or two) it was common practice to self-publish. It was only in later years that publishing houses came along and decided they would be the ones to choose who was worthy or not. Just because you don’t have some ponce in an office validating your work, doesn’t mean you’re less of an author.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re any good either.

2. Indie author = no chance of success

Okay, so you’re probably not going to sell millions of copies and become a world renowned scribe. But then most writers never get that chance and who wants to be famous anyway? There are, however, a growing number of writers who are making a reasonable at their chosen profession. They may not be earning the big bucks but they’re pulling in a sustainable salary, either to complement the day job or, for a lucky few, as their main income.

The trick? Good Story x Effective Social Media Marketing = Success.

Who are doing it well? I refer my friends to Amy Cross and monster aficionado Jake Bible.

3. Indie author = no one wants to read

Not true. There’s a growing audience out there for indie authors and it’s not just amongst the writing fraternity. E-readers are at their most popular and people can download what they want from a range of sites. Pique their interest and they’ll give you a go, whether you are famous or not, conventionally published or not.

4. Indie author = you have to sell yourself cheap

No you don’t. This is the big bug bear of many reasonably successful indie authors. If you want to give your book away, fine. But it’s so much better to charge a reasonable price for your work. Giving it away says: “Hey, this stinks, but go ahead and read it anyway.”
Value your work, charge the right price and be happy.

5. Indie author = It’s all down to luck

No, it’s down to hard work, research, and a host of fruitless endeavours that add up to something. If you’re not putting in the effort, stop trying to be an indie author and take up basket weaving instead. If you’re no good at basket weaving try pie eating contests. And if you don’t like that, maybe you should consider multiple murder or painting yourself the colour of sky.

Indie isn’t about luck. It’s about finding out how the whole thing works and applying that to your style and content. If you put in the hours, someday you’ll get something out. I’m not saying you’ll be the next JK Rowling, but you may just start to make a living.

10 Films that lived up to the original books

original books

You know how it is Avid Reader. Your favourite book is about to be made into a movie starring a major league actor and you wait with heart beating fearfully, you go to the cinema with sweaty palms…and you weep into your hideously expensive diet coke and popcorn because the director, the actors, the scriptwriters, the producers and even the damn second reserve camera man have all conspired to rip the heart out of your…yes YOUR…story.

In truth, it’s easier to find book to film failures than it is to find successes. Our Dear Avid Reader can name at least 100 films that disappoint compared to one or two that live up to the dream.

I’ve put together a list of 10 films that I think did the original books justice. This is my personal list and not based on anything other than my likes and dislikes. It’s also based on the films I’ve actually read the book for and then seen the film.

  1. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: While the novel is one of my favourites and a great example of the genre, with great one liners and sharply drawn characters, the film is also in my top 10 list. Humphrey Bogart nails the role of Philip Marlowe and when I read the books again, I can’t see anyone else but him.
  2. Jaws by Peter Benchley: To be honest, Benchley’s novel was no great shakes and could have sunk into the depths much the same way as his shark did in the final scene of the book. It took Spielberg’s early magic to bring it to the big screen and make it one of the blockbusters of the Seventies.
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Both versions were faithful tellings of Larsson’s original tale. If I had to choose I’d put the film just ahead of the book.
  4. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist: Okay, here’s an admission. I’m not keen on films that have children as lead characters. I made an exception here. The original Swedish film uses the vampire myth to tell a story of isolation and is quite a faithful retelling of the book.
  5. The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King: Alright, alright Avid Reader, I know this is from a short story (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) but it counts as well. Of all authors, Stephen King has the worst track record of print to film. Most of the films of his books are fatally flawed so it’s nice to see that at least one works.
  6. The Haunting by Shirley Jackson: The original attempt at Jackson’s novella is one of the most atmospheric ghost films ever – forget the sometimes hammy acting and concentrate on those breathing doors and don’t forget the spiral staircase. It was followed much later by the Liam Neeson/Catherine Zeta-Jones remake, probably one of the worst adaptations of a novel ever, ever, EVER!!
  7. Hombre by Elmore Leonard: I started reading Leonard because he writes great dialogue and it’s something I feel I’m weak on. Hombre is one of my favourite westerns, not only for Paul Newman’s stellar performance but because it has oft forgotten bad guy Richard Boone in it. The book’s not bad either.
  8. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene: Again dear Avid Reader, the original not the remake. Dickie Attenborough’s performance of the malign and ruthless Pinky still rates him as one of the best on screen psychos in my opinion. If you haven’t read it, Greene’s novel also is a brilliant insight into 50s gangland life in England.
  9. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy: I like McCarthy’s writing style in both this book and The Road. The No Country film was helped by great performances from the leads including the always reliable Tommy Lee Jones. If I had to make a choice, I prefer the book to the film but it’s a close call.
  10. Blade Runner by Philip K Dick: Known to all sci-fi geeks as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The novel is much less known than the film now. Despite being continuously dragged out with a new directors or remastered cut, Blade Runner remains one of the most enduring Sci-Fi films of the last 30 years.

Okay that’s my choice. Now where’s yours? It’s easy, as I said, to pick your bad films from favourite books, so rack your mushy brains and come up with your favourite adaptation…Answers in the comments section below as usual.

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Erotica and the Sexes by Eden Baylee

I’m not going to write about how men and women perceive erotica, whether one defines it as erotic and another as pornographic. I think it’s subjective, and the topic has been covered to death.

I’d rather provide some real examples of my own experience with writing erotica, and the difference in reactions I’ve encountered with men and women.

Women I know, and even women I don’t know personally love the fact that I write erotica. Their reactions range from interest about the stories to where my inspiration comes from to how I structure my work day.

It’s great talking to them because they are incredibly supportive in every facet. If there has been discomfort around the subject with anyone, I have not felt it. Even my mother-in-law is reading my book. This is a damn cool woman whom I highly respect, and she also reads a lot. For this last reason alone, I must admit I had apprehensions about giving her my book. I am, after all, married to her son.

What was she going to think of me? I’m happy to say she read the first two stories and sent me a note saying she found them steamy and well written. I couldn’t have asked for a better review than that.

I had to wonder why I assumed she was going to judge me. I’m a writer, and it’s fiction. Just because there’s lots of sex in the stories doesn’t imply I’m a sex addict, right? It would be akin to saying that because Stephen King writes horror, he must be a psychopathic axe-murderer—a ridiculous notion. It then dawned on me why I had been nervous. It had to do with some of the men’s reactions I’ve received when I told them I wrote erotica.

I’ve been writing full-time now for a year. During these months, I’ve occasionally socialized with men—some strangers, some acquaintances, and others whom I’ve known in one capacity or another.

When the conversation came around to what I did, or what I was doing, there have been some odd reactions to my response. They fall into one of a few different buckets.

  1. He immediately feels like he can start talking to me about sex, sharing some intimate sexual fantasy he’d like to fulfill. I’ve suddenly become his new best friend.
  2. He tells me I don’t look like someone who’s capable of such “dirty” thoughts (not sure if that’s supposed to be a compliment or an insult).
  3. He is really intrigued and wants me to recite passages from my book (as if I can call up my words at will and recite them like some Shakespearean Sonnet).
  4. He looks at me with raised eyebrows and becomes quiet. I have no idea what he is thinking.
  5. He giggles uncontrollably until I tell him to stop … several times.

It’s endearing, amusing, and awkward at its worst. Little fazes me, and to be fair to most men, I don’t think their reactions are mean-spirited, so there’s no point in getting annoyed. Perhaps it speaks a lot more to their interest in the subject matter, and the discomfort with knowing that someone probably thinks about sex, on a daily basis, more than they do.

I tend not to believe in stereotypes, nor oversimplify the reasons for the differences between the sexes. The belief that men are more visual than women, so they prefer to watch erotica rather than read it has as many studies that support the hypothesis as it has that disprove it.

The primary audience for erotica is women, but men read it too. It’s sensual foreplay, like watching porn, which supposedly men enjoy more than women do—yet another stereotype.

No science here, just my observations. I delight in the differences between men and women. It interests me because people interest me. Perhaps I’ll notice these differences less over time, but for now, I’m savoring the experience.

About Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee remembers hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and reading an erotic novel. It was past her bedtime—she was eleven.

Since then, she has continued to read and write erotica. Her first book, Fall into Winter, is currently available for sale. It contains four erotic novellas; two take place in the fall, and two in the winter, thus the title. Though common elements unify them, each story is unique and stands alone. The themes include: younger man, older woman; ménage à trois (MFM); BDSM; and past lovers looking for a second chance.

Website: www.edenbaylee.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/edenbaylee
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/edenbaylee

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The Secret Cure for Writer’s Block by India Drummond

For any of you who have spent a day, a week, a month (or more?) staring at a blank screen (or worse yet, avoiding the blank screen), I’m going to give you something that is worth gold: the super-secret cure for writer’s block.

There is no spoon.

What the hell?

No, really. It’s bullshit. There is no writer’s block. There is procrastination. There is being busy. There is being distracted. Then, God help us, there is Twitter.

Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Cops don’t get cop-block. Assassins don’t get a vague sense of malaise that prevents them from going out and slitting yet another throat. No, they just get up in the morning and do their damned job. And so should you.

Time to stop thinking of yourself as an artiste and get on with the hard work.

Writing is hard. I get that. I get it because I do it. Every time someone says to me something like: “Oh, I’ve always thought about writing a book, but I’m just too busy. It would be so nice not to have anything to do but sit around and write all day. Maybe when I retire.” I want to poke them in the eye.

Some days I’d rather do anything then face a half-finished outline, a scene that isn’t working, a corner into which I’ve painted myself. But if I lie to myself and say I’m “blocked”, I’ve lost the fight before I even get to my laptop.

So how do you get words on the page when the motivation isn’t there? Easy. Go back in your brain and remember the first time it occurred to you to be a writer. Better yet, the first time you read something of your own and thought, Hey, this is pretty good.

Remember that feeling?

Hang on to that memory until the feeling fills you up. Ignore the doubts, the self-sabotaging chatter in your brain, the voice that tells you it’s too hard, you’re too busy with other things, or you’ll do it later. It’s later now.

Next, think about what you hope to get out of this writing gig. I did myself a huge favour last month and created a ten-year plan for my writing career. I’ve been doing a lot of research into indie publishing ever since I decided to go indie on my next two books.

The one critical lesson I’ve taken away from that?

I now see that the most important thing I can do for my writing future is to write more books. I realised I’m working on a career, not a story. So, I mapped out my next ten years in a business plan. That brought into sharp focus how much work I have to do to achieve the things I want.

The best part? Now I really know what I want. I’ve got it down in black and white. My sales targets, my income targets, and concrete plans for how to achieve those things. Until I’ve implemented my ten-year plan, nothing is going to convince me it can’t be done. That’s ten doubt-free years I’ve bought myself.

That blank page in front of you is not just a blank page. It’s an opportunity. It’s step 32 of 925 in your plan. Imagine how you’ll feel when those plans succeed. Don’t just say it. Close your eyes and picture yourself with thirty published books, making X quid a month, or whatever your own goals are.

Me, I want a fulfilling job where I love the work and make a living. I want my husband to be able to retire at sixty-five and my kid to go to a decent university without a burden of debt. I know how I will feel when I achieve those things, because that is the feeling I take with me every day when I sit down to write about faeries, angels, demons, and witches. I feel that success when I see that blank screen.

Writing is hard work. But it’s work I love, and it’s work I can do. Blocked?

Sorry, don’t have time. I’m one month into a ten-year plan, and I have things to do.

About India Drummond

India Drummond’s debut novel, Ordinary Angels, is a slightly smutty urban fantasy in which Zoe Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void, and saves his living grandson from demons. It will be released April 4th, 2011 from Lyrical Press.

You can find India Drummond on Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog. Join her Facebook fan page to be notified of release dates and info about her two indie books, Blood Faerie and Haywire Witch, also coming in 2011.

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Hard copy books: Exit stage left

hard copy booksImagine it’s 30 years from now.

A mother is with her son in the Apple-Holographic-Museum-Of-Almost-Everything-That-Did-Exist-One-Time-Or-Another. The bratty little tyke is walking round a display, scratching his pimply head.

“What is it Ma?”

“Says here, it’s a book, son.”

“What’s a book, Ma?”

“Well, people used to read them, like turn the pages and stuff.”

“Turn pages?”

“With their fingers.”

And then they fall about laughing a bit like the Smash aliens (remember them?) until they go onto the next exhibit which is an exercise bike and a stuffed penguin. Whether you like it or not, this is the final resting place of the book.

I hear you scream. Yes, I do. From the confines of my ivory tower, I hear and feel your pain.

So, all you hard copy book lovers, here’s the kick in the teeth and the proof. Bookshops are ALREADY beginning to disappear and soon they will be no more. It’s true. The time is fast approaching when you will be unable to visit your favourite bookshop and browse for hours on end before leaving with your precious copy of the latest Bill Patterson.

Their time has come and we should wave bookshops goodbye with a tear in our eyes and try to retain some of our dignity.

So where does that leave books themselves? I don’t mean books in that sense, I mean the physical entity with its pretty cover and nicely printed pages? You know, those things that fill your BOOKcase. The hardcopy.

Well, they’re going too.

The rise of the electronic book

I know some of you are scoffing already. You, the ones who sit in front of the fire with your trusty copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes you. Don’t scoff. Think on this future possibility:

  • Bookshops have gone. Nowhere left to spend your rainy lunchtimes
  • Places like Amazon are the only place you can browse for and buy books and you have to do it online
  • It costs money to store and send these weighty tomes
  • Amazon and other companies think it would be pretty neat if we could have the book at home already (eg, Kindle, iPad) and then they could just send the damn thing over to you for half the cost via the digital superhighway

They are going to decide that we no longer need physical books. And publishers will see the outlay to produce real books as an unnecessary expense. Don’t believe me? Think people will be resistant to electronic books?

Don’t be too sure.

Think of all the trees you could save.

There are a couple of things that will finally signal the death knell of the physical book and that is the price of readers coming down and the agreement of a set format (ah, bring back the days of BETAMAX). Both of these things will, eventually, come to pass.

Once these issues are behind us, the hardcopy book will be at the point of no return. Unless the digital world crashes and, you have to admit, that’s as likely as a worldwide banking crisis, the end is, most definitely, nigh.

But don’t mourn the demise of the real book. It opens up a strange new world for us authors, and while it will take a little getting used to, will provide us with brand new opportunities to have our voices heard.

We just won’t be sitting at a book signing in Waterstone’s.

And in 30 years time we may be sat toothlessly grinning at our grandchildren and boring them about how we used to carry around big wads of paper with stories on them.

And what’s inside is going to change too

The rule is that if a thing is around long enough, sooner or later it’s going to become extinct. And this, my friends, is the case for the content of the book too. It’s about to be hammered into extinction and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Your screams grow louder…Nooooooo!!!

But Apple are already talking about embedding extras in electronic novels – you know the kind of thing, videos, voice-overs…I kid you not. The novel format will change and that’s pretty scary. Because once you start messing with the old formula, sooner or later you’re going to end up with something totally different.

A novel that suddenly breaks into song? Writing that links to additional background information about the characters? Interactive forums that decide the outcome of the book? Advertising embedded in the text?

Just as we are all beginning to believe that we have a chance – that the high ground has been wrestled away from the demagogic publishers and agents – the rules are about to change.

You will need a brave heart.

Change is happening quickly. There is another seismic shift on the way. You can resist for a while, but there’s nothing you can really do to stop it. You will need to be adaptable. You will need to keep your eyes on things.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll come out the other side and blink at this brave new world and come to believe that it is good.

So what’s your take on the creative revolution? Is it going to change anything? Does it scare you? Excite you? Let the world know in the usual way. Go to town on the comments section below.

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