Saturday, 20 July 2013

Guest blog: Margaret L. Carter - The allure of the vampire

About 'Passion Blood': Twin sisters Cordelia and Miranda know nothing about the mother who abandoned them soon after their birth. When their father dies and Miranda insists on tracking down their mother, the sisters discover the dark heritage in their bloodline. Their mother is a vampire, and from her they have inherited certain psychic powers. When Miranda disappears, Cordelia has to seek help from Karl, an old family friend. Unknown to her, Karl, a vampire, has been watching over her family for generations. He loved a distant ancestor of theirs, and Cordelia bears a compelling resemblance to his lost love.

A would-be vampire slayer has kidnapped Miranda to strike at Karl through the family he has vowed to protect. At the same time, their mother’s brother, who scorns humanity as an inferior species, has his own agenda for his half-human, half-vampire nieces. Karl and Cordelia must join forces to save her sister. In the process, they form a blood bond that leads to deeper intimacy than either one expected. Cordelia struggles with both her dawning love for Karl and the exhilaration and terror of embracing her inhuman side. 

Reading DRACULA at the age of twelve marked me for life.  While the idea of the vampire had intrigued me the first time I’d heard of it, years earlier, I had never seen a vampire movie or read a novel of that kind before.  Stoker’s tale captivated me so much that I became obsessed with the whole field of horror, fantasy, and “soft” science fiction. That interest inspired me to start writing at the age of thirteen and eventually to major in English in college and graduate school. In my late teens, love for speculative fiction even brought me together with my future husband, the only person my age I’d ever met who also wrote stories. So DRACULA ultimately shaped the whole direction of my life.

On first reading, the book fascinated me mainly for its erotic implications of blood-drinking. The “baptism of blood” scene between the Count and Mina, although clearly intended as horrifying, enthralled me. Which goes to show that the sexual subtext of the novel was not invented by Freudian critics! I also wondered how the vampire saw those events in which he was portrayed as a satanic villain, given no opportunity to speak for himself except in a few passages of dialogue.  My first long story (over 30 single-spaced pages), written when I was thirteen, comprised the first-person narrative of a decent man unwittingly being transformed into a vampire.

Very early, therefore, I became absorbed by the vision of the vampire as the Other, a creature who looks human but isn’t, quite, who gives us access to an alien viewpoint on human existence. To me, the vampire as “alien” has much the same appeal as Spock in STAR TREK (a hybrid between human and nonhuman). Another dimension of the vampire’s allure, of course, lies in his or her immortality, a lifespan that encompasses centuries or millennia, giving this person—whether formerly human or a member of an entirely different species—a perspective on history the rest of us can’t experience. Furthermore, the traditional supernatural vampire can bestow immortality on his or her mortal lover.  The epitome of the alluring vampire lover, to me, is Count Saint-Germain in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s series, beginning with HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. One of the most convincing depictions of the vampire as a naturally evolved species at the top of the food chain is Weyland in Suzy McKee Charnas’s THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY.

My own vampires also belong to another species, not undead. In my first vampire novel, DARK CHANGELING, psychiatrist Roger Darvell suffers from a very strange midlife crisis. At the age of forty, he discovers vampires exist, and a rogue bloodsucker is targeting his patients as well as his newfound lover and professional partner, Dr. Britt Loren.  Roger has fought vainly against a secret craving for blood for most of his life. As DARK CHANGELING begins, he meets Sylvia, a vampire who claims he must be a member of her species, brought up by human foster parents in ignorance of his own nature. But he can’t be, can he? She has powers he doesn’t have. A timeline for the novels and stories in this universe (although almost all can be read in any order) can be found on my website under the “Vanishing Breed” link. Here’s a sample from the scene in which Sylvia proves to Roger that she really is a vampire, not a delusional human blood-fetishist:

  In the passenger seat of Sylvia's car, Roger stole wary glances at her. Since leaving her apartment earlier that night, she'd hardly spoken to him. Nor had she stopped to claim a victim. He felt her anger but couldn't guess the reason for it.
     Finally, on an expressway deserted except for the speeding Mustang, Sylvia said, "I guess I'm cooled off enough to talk now. Roger, does the name `Neil Sandor' mean anything to you?"
     He went cold. "So you really do know him."
     "What I'm asking is, how do you know about him?" Her anger felt like an ice pick between Roger's eyes.
     "I helped the police in their investigation of the serial murders, as a consultant to the prosecution."
     "So somehow you unearthed his name -- and you gave it to them!" She gunned the engine. "How in the name of all the powers of darkness could you do something so stupid?"
     Now that the jolt of hearing her mention Sandor had receded, Roger felt indignation rising in him. "Stupid? Turning in a murderer? What would you expect me to do, shield the man?"
     "Yes!" She screeched the word, and her fingers worked spasmodically on the wheel. Calming herself, she said, "You never, never betray one of us to ephemerals, no matter what he's done."
     In no mood to cater to Sylvia's fantasy, Roger said, "You know I don't believe there is an 'us.' And even if there were, I'd feel no obligation to protect a killer."
     "You still need convincing? Well, stand by to be convinced." Taking an off-ramp two exits further along, she drove into a rural area, unlit two-lane back roads overhung with trees. She cruised with the headlights off. Some twenty minutes after leaving the freeway, she pulled the Mustang off the road into an open field. "Looks good and deserted." She killed the ignition and stepped out.
     Roger followed her a few hundred yards through damp weeds. "Pleasant night for a walk, but I don't see the point of it."
     "Just watch." She lifted her face to the sky, spreading her arms to test the wind. With her back to Roger, he could see her muscles undulating beneath the skin as the outline of her body blurred and re-formed. The glow of her aura intensified, and the energy she radiated ruffled the hair on Roger's arms. Her skin color darkened from white to glossy blue-black, sprouting velvety fuzz.
     Petrified with disbelief, burrs clinging to his trouser cuffs and gnats buzzing around his head, Roger stared at what unfurled from Sylvia's back.
     She had wings.
     Veined like newly-budded leaves, they spanned over ten feet from tip to tip. When she spread them to full extension, they quivered in the cool breeze. She glanced over her shoulder and laughed at his astonishment. He noted that her ears had become pointed, her face more feline than human. She took a running start for a leap into the wind that reminded Roger of a child trying to launch a kite twice her own size. She kicked off her sandals as she left the ground.
     Catching an updraft, Sylvia glided toward the trees, her body arched like a bow. She barely skimmed the highest branches before attaining a safe altitude. Not much of one, around fifty feet. In a gradual spiral she managed to ascend another twenty or thirty. Recovering his powers of observation, Roger noticed that the motion was more of a glide than birdlike flight. The wings flexed only to restore balance or to steer. 
     After a few minutes she spiraled down, drifting to the ground a few yards from Roger. Her aura crackled with energy, as if she'd absorbed electricity from the atmosphere. She combed her tangled hair back from her face with both hands, arching her neck with a wordless purr of delight.
     Her elation infected Roger. He stepped up to her and gave her an exuberant hug, half disappointed that the change was already reversing. Holding her at arms' length, he gazed into her glowing eyes. They're red, like live coals! "My God, that would be worth a lifetime of lurking in the shadows!"

Margaret L. Carter


Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks for guesting today on the Lindsay's Romantics blog, Margaret! I've tweeted your fascinating article and excerpt.

Rose Anderson said...

Interesting post Margaret. Best luck!


Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Enjoyed the post. RT it!