Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Short fiction: On An Empty Shore III

The Anatomy of a Junkie

A vampire isn’t all that different from a junkie. Kept away from a regular supply of fresh blood we get sick.

In the old days, when I was still scoring brown, there were times when I couldn’t get any. Could be that the cops intercepted a big shipment, or there was a delay somewhere along the line. The price would go up and either you made a plan to get money or you got sick; sweating and half shitting yourself to death going cold turkey.

If you were desperate, you scaled paregoric from the pharmacy. That was until the pharmacists cottoned on and started keeping the shit behind the counter. Paregoric is a tincture of opium, and prepping to shoot it was a mission. Even if you got it right, it burned like shit and the taste of camphor lingered in your mouth.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Being a vampire had one advantage. I never needed heroin again. While I got nostalgic-like about some of those old days, I can’t say I missed that never-ending worry about where I’d get my next portion.

My unlife revolved around a far more terrifying addiction. It wasn’t that I found blood disgusting. Far from it. It’s just the idea of hunting people freaked me the fuck out because I never was the sort to go out looking for trouble. To have to approach someone to bite them, although it felt like the right thing to do, still scared the crap outta me.

Most people were bigger and stronger than me. Guns and knives could still hurt me, though I healed a helluva lot faster. Once I got blood. But it was the getting blood that wasn’t easy.

Laugh all you want. I don’t care. Just be glad you’ve never fiended bad for the one thing that keeps you from turning into a fucking wild animal, foaming at the mouth like a dog with rabies, and go around biting people.

Biting people isn’t cool. Vampires that went around biting people in the old days got put down. They had to be sneaky. The warmbloods must never know. As much as I didn’t ask to be turned into a vampire, I was still attached to existing. No one likes the idea of dying. Even if God existed, I wasn’t prepared to take the chance that I really was damned.

It took about two nights to come to terms with what I’d become. By then, I was starving. My veins almost clawed their way out of my skin to throttle me but the more water I drank the more I puked. I’d holed up in my digs I shared with a buddy who put up with me because I scored him weed.

Food was the last thing on my mind. I was thirsty, like I could drink out a swimming pool and never kill the need for liquid. I spent those two nights sicker than ever before. During the day I was dead to the world, but at night I shivered and shook. It’s only when I looked in the mirror on the second night, and saw what had become of my teeth, that it sort of sunk in. A big WTF moment. I had great big fucking canines. I smelled my buddy, asleep in his bedroom.

I mean he smelled really good, like I could eat him.

I wasn’t quite all there. I was tripping off my tits from the thirst and I did what any vampire in my condition would do. I let my thirst ride me.

Maybe I spared Sean a worse death. I wasn’t very good at being a vampire and I bit him a few times and it must have really hurt before I got it right and drank him up like he was the best wine ever. But it sure beat what the zombies would have done.

And I think he kinda got into it near the end. That’s the thing with vampires. Warmbloods sink into the whole vibe of being sucked on. Maybe it’s something in our spit. They go limp the moment the fangs sink into the skin.

It’s better than sex. It’s better than junk.

I got beaten up a few times until I learned to be clever about stalking my prey. I always took out the ones that would have died anyway. At least I keep telling myself that. I didn’t always kill, but often then ones I drank from were so weak, I don’t think they survived every time.

Some of the other vamps said we were the apex predators. Whatever that meant. Just fancy words. Still didn’t change the fact that we killed and that didn’t always sit right with me.

Nowadays I don’t kill at all. They’re so scared, the warmbloods. Their blood is thin and bitter. I look into their eyes and I see fear. Real fear. In the old days they could pretend they were immortal, like us. That illusion’s been stripped away. There’s no pretend-pretend now.

Maybe if I work hard at it, I can somehow show that I’m better than the mindless flesh junkies roaming the street. I don’t want to be like that, just eating and eating and eating. I want to be something better, and I’m not quite sure if I am.

I’ll never kick this habit unless I greet the sun. And I’m too chicken shit to do that. Some small part of me wants to make up for what I was when I was still a warmblood. It’s all bullshit anyhow. I don’t know what I really want anymore. I can’t change anything.

* * * *

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Fang feature: Sweet Sips of Blood

And today I hit pause on my usual round of activities to give my friend and fellow author Tony-Paul de Vissage a little link love.

Some vampires want to have their cake and drink it, too

Sweet Sips of Blood…a collection of vampire tales written with a pen dipped in crimson ink…

After the Apocalypse of 2012, humans and vampires unite to face an assault from a mutual foe…

A famous writer of vampire novels goes too far with her latest literary effort…

A vampire with a toothache seeks out an unusual dentist…

Blood will Freeze…Working-class Vampires…the Best Dentist in Orange County… and seven other short stories, some whimsical, some sad, a couple horrific, but all designed to titillate and chill…

Sometimes the vampire gets his “cake”; in others, he’s still outside, staring in through the bakery window. Like the sweet sips of blood sustaining the vampire’s existence, these stories are sweet sips of vampires’ secret souls…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Short fiction: On An Empty Shore II

They Always Ask This Question

Part I

Before the zombies ate nearly all the warmbloods, there was one question people always asked. Sometimes I’d be hanging with another vamp and he or she would be curious.

It’s the thing a lot of vamps get asked. Kinda like when the warmbloods sometimes wanted to know where you went to school or what job you had. Or where you were born or where you came from.

So, Dracula, who made you?

I’m not a complicated person. I was born in Cape Town, grew up in Cape Town, and died in Cape Town. Plain and simple, and not very exciting. The way I was living at the time I should have pegged a lot sooner but some fucking demon watched over me. The smack shoulda gotten me a hundred times over.

Fuck, I ODed so many times it was a joke. And every time my buddies, other junkies, would get me breathing again. Once night they were even driving me to hospital when they got me breathing after I shot up too much smack. We turned round and went home to shoot speedballs.

So it’s sorta funny, now that I think about it, that it wasn’t the brown that got me dead. It was a vampire.

I remember that it was summer because there was a drought, in more ways than one, and there was a whole bunch of us smack-heads left high and dry. We were all scratching and sweating, five of us in a row by the call box there on Kloof Street. All of us waiting for The Man.

We were so damned obvious I’m surprised the pigs didn’t come and pick us up and lock us away for the weekend. May as well wave a big red flag and scream “spot the druggies”. We were all pretty terminal. In it for the long haul. In and out of rehab fuck knows how many times.

A car pulled up―a resprayed Honda with tinted windows like the gangsters on the Cape Flats always drive. You know, the 2 Fast 2 Furious types? Car even had those dinky blue lights in the undercarriage that I guess was supposed to make it look like a UFO or something. Really styling. Not. Even we knew this vibe was so not cool. Our dealer drove a VW Polo, gunmetal grey.

Soft music spilled out, and it was fucked-up weird. Whoever was in that car was listening to some symphonic stuff that had like this horrid eighties beat to it with a synth-pop vibe my uncle sometimes played when we were there for Sunday lunch.

The others all looked to me to go check it out, so I got up real slow to take a peek. It was almost night and the interior of the car was dark. When I leant in, I could barely make out the driver, some coloured guy. I remember he smoked one of those mini cigar things and it smelled like vanilla.

That’s all I can recall.

Next thing I knew, I’d lost a chunk of time and it was almost dawn. I came to in a pile of rubbish in a side street in the Eastern City Precinct. A rat had bitten me. That’s what woke me up. That and the fact that my skin was smoking and I could smell burning meat. And it was me that was cooking.

I’ll never know who turned me into a vampire. Or why. The dude didn’t do me a favour. I went from being a scum-of-the-earth junkie to being a bottom-of-the-pecking-order vampire. No diffs, really. I exchanged my drug problem for a blood problem.

I had nothing to offer the guys at the top unless they needed some idiot to do their dirty work and almost get killed in the process. I didn’t owe them anything. They deserved what they got when the zombies came and ate nearly all the warmbloods.

Rats like me got to slip between the cracks. Guess I’m a survivor.

I should count my blessings, my mother would say. My parents are dead. All the people who said I’d turn up dead in a gutter with a needle in my vein, are dead. For all I know, the vampire who turned me is dead too.

I’m the one who’s left roaming the streets like one of those starving dogs not even the walking dead will touch.

I can only laugh when I think of those vampire movies that I watched when I was still living with Ma and Pa. Tom fucking Cruise, Gary Oldman, that glittery Edward boy. It’s all shit. There is no glory to this life. It’s dirty and, if you’re unlucky, violent and short.

In all the time since the zombiepocalypse I saw only one other vampire―a stranger. We both crossed Strand Street and it was close to dawn, and what caught my eye is that we both hurried. He kept looking over his shoulder, like me, to the east, where the sky got lighter.

Like me he was dirty, his clothes ragged. His eyes bulged slightly when he recognised me for what I was. No human would walk in the open like that. Unarmed. I knew what he was, right off.

I wanted to stop him to speak to me, to tell me his story, of where he came from but he slipped sideways into the shadows and was gone. Just like that.

I’m kak lonely. There’s nothing fun about being a vampire. But I’m a survivor. Tomorrow might get better.

* * * *

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cat Hellisen Uncovered

Today I welcome Cat Hellisen to my world. She's a close friend and writing partner, and I'm absolutely thrilled to reveal the cover art for her YA fantasy novel, When the Sea is Rising Red, which is pegged for an early 2012 release.

Can you tell us about When the Sea is Rising Red in a nutshell?

It's about a girl who fakes her own suicide in order to run away from an arranged marriage. She thinks she's choosing to finally break free of her society's constrictions and limitations, only to discover that it's not all that easy to escape her upbringing. Especially when she ends up falling for the guy who wants to destroy her family.

I think one of the hardest and scariest things about growing up is
realising that the choices you make don't have simple repercussions and that no matter what you do or how much it blows up in your face, you can't return to the safety of childhood. You have to own your
mistakes and make them work for you.

What is it about your "Hobverse" that offers something special to your readers?

As a South African I'm influenced, however obliquely, by the classism and racism I see around me. I've brought that to Felicita's universe: the casual Colonialist racism of the privileged, the human desire to somehow get a label that makes you Better Than another human, no
matter how ridiculous that concept is. But I also loved messing about with all the classic fantasy tropes and picturing them at their most unfantastical.

The Hobverse originally began as this idea of "what if fairies were just like us? What if the magical was utterly mundane and ugly?" And so I ended up building this universe where the unicorns were genetic mutant goats bred as sports for rich women, and magic was accessed by
a kind of drug and rigidly controlled, where vampires, when they did appear, were lower than dogs and about as far from superhuman as you could get. I had a lot of fun playing with ideas.

When is the novel releasing?

February 28, 2012, and it's available for preorder now on Amazon

What was the soundtrack you had playing in the background while you wrote When the Sea is Rising Red?

The closest thing to musical inspiration was Chumbawamba's rendition of the partisan song Bella Ciao. It still manages to give me shivers. For this particular book I drifted into a fairly unmusical headspace. Odd, considering I have constructed lengthy soundtracks for other novels.

Who are some of the voices in YA literature you drawn most inspiration from?

We can sit here all day. *grin* YA is BOOMING, and right now it's filled with some of the most amazing voices. Sticking specifically to fantasy, I love what I've read of Holly Black and Lisa Mantchev's work. Some awesome titles are coming out in 2012, most of which are

I also grew up reading loads of Diana Wynne Jones, Tanith Lee, Ursula le Guin, and Clive Barker, so they were a major inspiration.


Goodreads for When the Sea is Rising Red:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Short fiction: On An Empty Shore I

For Once We Weren’t the Greater Evil

Where were you when the zombiepocalypse happened? Nasty piece of work wasn’t it? They didn’t see it coming, the dumb fucks. One moment everyone went on like the world wasn’t going to come to an end, chasing their daily lemming-grind. The next boom! neighbour ate neighbour and everything just ground to a standstill.

Me? I noticed the shit was going down when I came out at night to see the streets were all but deserted. Lots of sirens. More than usual for Cape Town by night. And, of course, the other weird factor. No street people. Doorway after doorway was empty of bodies wrapped in blankets or makeshift cardboard shelters. No easy snacks for nocturnal lurkers like me.

At the time I was doing what any self-respecting vampire would do at night—prowling and keeping an eye out. For what I wasn’t quite sure. No acting like the big dude like those snooty bastards in their penthouses, who got their food brought up to them all discreet like.

Being all high and mighty didn’t help them when things turned to shit. By the time the warmbloods called in the army, it was too late. Damn zombies pretty much chewed their way through everyone who put up a struggle. What a waste of perfectly good blood. Zombies were only after one thing: meat. And they weren’t too picky about the condition they found it in, so long as it filled the gap.

This kinda left us vamps at a loose end. The clever warmbloods who survived were armed to the teeth and extra freaked out, which made it tricksy for the rest of us to get a meal. In the end vampire turned on vampire, and this is where it was better to be streetwise.

No one ever paid me―Joost Brink―any attention when I was alive. They paid me even less once I was undead. Small, skinny ex-junkie. Not important in the grander scheme of things, hey? This saved my bacon when the almighty papaya hit the proverbial fan. The old ones at the top were the first to go, if they weren’t clever enough to go into hiding. Which they weren’t.

They expected their loyal lieutenants to keep them safe. The lieutenants did what any self-serving creature of night would. They looked after number one, and number one wasn’t the boss man. Who knew?

The things I saw during those first nights of fire, blood and terror I don’t want to remember. I am glad vampires don’t dream because if that were the case I’d have daymares. Or whatever you’d call it. Dunno.

It’s kinda twisted that a monster like me would want to puke after seeing stuff like kidlets all ripped into bits, the horrible gnashing mouths chomping onto tender flesh. Lips blue in death smacked as fat dribbled between the gaps where teeth had been knocked out. Even I never killed kids, okay.

An old man made his last stand, cornered in his driveway. Armed with only a nine-millimetre pistol, he fought off a mob of walking dead. He took out one with a head shot at almost point blank range but by then it was too late―too many of the rotting things clawed and moaned at him.

The truly fucking hysterical thing about this whole drama was that the zombies simply weren’t interested in other undead. Not that I claimed any relations to the shambling rotten things. As far as they were concerned, we belonged among their ranks.

The night I discovered this I would have pissed myself if I could. I’d walked straight into a pack of the beasts, and bumped into a creature that may once have been a secretary or a sales rep, had half her skin not hung off her in loose sheets. Grey meat gleamed in the low light. We bounced into each other and I staggered back half a step then froze, half expecting her and all the rest to fall upon me the same way they’d dismember warmbloods.

To my fucking disbelief they shoved past me, as though I were just a lamp post or some other obstacle in their path. They did not even pause to sniff in the air. Bully for me. I should have smelled them but there were parts of the city where the overall stench of rotted meat was so strong I sometimes overlooked the obvious. I tended to go on sight rather than smell. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

It still didn’t help that my food was in short supply. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn to zombies for a Happy Meal. Their blood, such as it was, was viscous and black, and smelled like they looked―days-old road kill.

I preyed on the lost, the hopeless, much as I had before the zombies took over, but somehow now, despite my hunger, I simply lacked the taste for the kill. I used to see myself as an angel of death, wouldn’t drag out the inescapable shit. The warmbloods who cowered in their nooks and hidey-holes were even more pitiful than the dregs I used to cull. I just couldn’t do it. They clung to life like kittens drowning in a bucket. Often, I slunk back to my lair hungrier than when I awoke.

Mind you, a starving vampire was about as frightening as a horde of zombies. I stalked the deserted streets, stepped around cars discarded like oversized toys. I stooped to feeding off feral dogs, of which there were many and, besides, the infernal things tried to hunt me of occasion. I may have been the runt among the vampires, but I wouldn’t allow mere dogs to make me roll and show my neck.

Cape Town was weird without the cheery bright lights or the low rumble of traffic. From time to time I’d see the flicker of candles from some of the high-rise buildings, tenacious warmbloods barricaded from the gore-fest in the streets below. For the most I let them be. It’s almost as if for once, they deserved a break, the poor bastards.

Warmblood or vampire, we were in this mess together. I didn’t know where those zombies came from any more than the warmbloods. We were equally fucked.

The silence was louder than a siren.

* * * *

Liked this? See my Goodreads author profile here or check out my fiction at Lyrical Press.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stuff is happening, okay?

It's been a little quiet around my blogging for the past few days and there's a very good reason for it. I'm on leave from work in the salt mines and I've been busy catching up with my editing obligations, as well as just taking time out to sit in the sun, drink tea and read. For those of you who know me in person, you'll understand why I need to do this. To give you some indication of my state of mind: I slept the whole first day of leave, I was that tired.

But stuff's been happening, okay? During the past week or so I've written a blog serial that will release in weekly installments for the next eight weeks. It's a bit of a monster mash-up but I've had good responses so far from my beta readers, who've been invaluable with regard to the advice they've given me to help fine-tune the writing. Many thanks to Carrie, as well as the ladies at ERA. I'll be releasing it every Tuesday, from this blog, so keep your eyes open.

Last week also saw the release of the Bloody Parchment anthology, which was a project that kept me busy between all the deadlines and madness for the past year. I'm crazy enough to have announced that the entries for volume two are now open. Get the download link and details for the competition here. The winner receives a full batch of edits on a novella- or novel-length work.

Other than that, I've been reading submissions, working on beta critique and catching up on Lyrical Press editing obligations. It's been absolute bliss staying at home, in my PJs mostly. This ends on Thursday but the illusion can continue until then, I reckon. Then it's back to early morning starts and doing my usual two-hour commute every day. I'll say this much, that I've knuckled under and started work in Khepera in Shadow, which is book three of my Khepera series. So far, books one and two, are available. In order they are Khepera Rising and Khepera Redeemed.

For those of you who have a fondness for cocky, foul-mouthed anti-heroes, you may want to give Jamie a try. He's a bad-ass black magician and bookshop owner in Cape Town, South Africa, and his world almost literally becomes hell on earth when stuff goes wrong in his life. I can guarantee you'll be cheering him on though at times you'd dearly love to slap him.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Artslink award!

Well, I interrupt your blog-reading pleasure with a small announcement. I kinda won the June Artslink award for my article on Leon Botha. I'm very stoked about this.

And for those of you here in South Africa, do buy the Weekend Argus on Saturday or Sunday, and read my article about Kersefontein. Photographs taken by my dearly beloved.

Then go and buy a copy of the Sunday Independent and page to the life section, 'cos I've got an article about Sam Shearon appearing that day.

Double whammy of editorial goodness for the weekend, folks! Now go forth and buy the papers!