Miss Stacy at Gothic Romance Reviews invited me to write
a blog post on the Gothic Romance genre.
Find it here:
Vampires are a mainstay of Gothic Fiction. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has long been on my bookshelf, once quite dog-eared, now a bit dusty. We do move on.
Researching Victorian London for my Lizzie Siddal novel in progress: Infernal Muses, I found this wonderful documentry about the developement of the Victorian craze on youtube and wanted to add it to the Gothic Library. I also unearthed an old blog post I wrote back in 2009 for David at Occult View. You can find the original post and his excellent blog–still going strong— here: Occult View
Originally published at Occult View.com as a guest post by me in March 2009
As the resurrection of Springtime is upon us, the Vampire sleeps a little longer in his grave. Now I feel it is safe to tell you a story of Vampires little considered on our side of the pond.
Vlad Tepes may have been a warlord from ancient Wallachia, infamous for his cruelty, but Vlad Dracule was a man of the theater! Though not the first Vampire to tread the boards of the London stage, he is certainly its star. It was he who brought his nefarious race under the spotlight, and his lustre remains undimmed for over a century.
The first literary Vampire was invented by the physician, John Polidori in 1818, during the famous snowbound ghost story contest in Swiss Alps where Mary Shelley created Dracula’s erstwhile rival, Frankenstein. Polidori’s novella was called The Vampyre; A Tale. It’s menacing antagonist, Lord Ruthven, was based on Polidori’s character assessment of the infamous poet, Lord Byron, legendary womanizer, and destroyer of souls…Not long after his book was published, to scandalous success, the 26 year old Polidori killed himself.
The Vampyre was staged many times in the 1800’s, with multiple spinoffs, much like the film versions since Bela Lugosi brought Dracula chillingly to the screen. These plays were particularly popular in Paris where they merged with the horrific Grande Guignol, and even inspired the German Opera, Der Vampyr, first presented in Leipzig in 1828.
John Polidori was uncle to the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti whose beautiful, red haired wife, Elizabeth Siddall, was his model and muse. Ten years after her tragic death from an overdose of luadanum, Rossetti had Elizabeth’s body exhumed to retrieve a volume of poetry that he had buried with her in Highgate Cemetery. The men who dug her up claimed her shining red hair filled the coffin, and that her body was still as young and lovely as she had been in life. Haunted by grief, and remorse for the horrible deed he had done, Rossetti succumbed to chloral addiction and went mad.
Bram Stoker himself was man of the theatre. Manager to the famous Victorian actor, Henry Irving, Stoker was the driving force behind the commercial success of the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden. Henry Irving was considered its resident genius and, like many geniuses, was a moody tyrant. Bram Stoker was completely under his spell.
Shakespeare was Irving’s specialty, and Stoker was immersed in the blood soaked tragedies, and rich poetry of the Bard of Avon on a nightly basis. His discovery of a portrait of Vlad Tepes caused an explosion in his imagination! It is not too far fetched to see in Tepes’s aquiline features, a reflection of the face of Henry Irving. Irving was known to excel at dark, brooding, villainous characters, his tall, thin frame often clothed in black as he lurked menacingly about the stage.
Dracula was published in 1897 in London. Stoker dispensed with the charming, aristocratic Byronesque Vampyre. Rather, his Dracula was creepy and repulsive in the extreme, based as he was on Stoker’s research into the Balkan folklore about the Undead preserved in their graves by feeding on the living.
Significantly, the book was first reviewed in The Stage on June 17, 1897 where it was referred to as a tour de force. Many of the classic qualities we associate with Vampires were invented by Stoker such as his fear of crucifixes, (strange aversion for an impaler…) the Host, the need to sleep in his country’s soil, even sleeping in his coffin by day, to only come out at night, changing into a bat — all were inventions of Bram Stoker’s fertile imagination. The association of Vampires with wolves, though, is a deep part of the tradition in the wolf haunted forests and mountains of Central Europe.
On its 1897 release, a staged reading of Dracula, or The UnDead, was held at the Lyceum Theatre to secure its copyright. Behind the actors loomed the set of Irving’s current production of MacBeth. Dracula was already being prepared for dramatic performance, but Irving refused to play the part. When the play was produced, it was not according to Stoker’s vision, rather in cheap, pirated, slipshod productions in London’s theatre dives that were an embarrassment to the disappointed Stoker.
Though he failed on the stage due to theatrical politics and B level productions, Dracula would be raised from impending obscurity by the new art of Cinema. The 1922 German Expressionist film, Nosferatu, would seal his future as a movie star. Despite a few alterations, and name changes, the script of Nosferatu sticks very close to the spirit of the novel, so close in fact that Stoker’s widow, Florence, was outraged at what she considered a violation of copyright, and sued the film’s producers, the Prana Film Company, and director, Friedrich Wilhelm Murneau. After a three year battle, the tenacious widow Stoker won, and demanded all prints of the film be destroyed. Woe to the future of Dracula, and his fans, had her wishes been carried out to the letter!
Dracula refused to bow out gracefully.
After the success of Nosferatu, many more productions of Dracula were staged in London and Dublin with varying success. But, by then, Dracula had found a more responsive audience in the movies. In the 1930’s Bela Lugosi, an actor from the same part of the world as Vlad Tepes, would make him a Film Superstar. Perhaps it is Lugosi’s portrayal, a blend of the Byronic, sexy, cultured aristocrat, with the supernatural powers bequeathed to him by Stoker, that made Count Dracula truly immortal.
Thank you to David for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog. I hope my little insights have contributed to your audience’s pleasure by adding to your inspiring series on Vampires.
I am a professional Clairvoyant, Healer, Writer and Artiste. More of my articles, in a similar vein to David’s, can be found on my blog at www.houseofwinterspells.com : Life on the Magical Path, Legacy of the Witchblood.
In my quest to get a handle on this Indie Publishing thing I listen to a few interesting podcasts. I prefer listening to reading because it allows me to learn while keeping the house clean or getting ready for work and all the routine stuff of life. One of the most common ingredients for Indie Author success, which for me would be to make a full time income with writing, seems to be speed.
I figure this has a lot to do with rising above the competition by sheer number of books as well as the speed with which the publishing world is changing. Traditional authors who have been around for a long time are also self publishing their backlists, getting lots of books out there in the process. That’s shelf space is what that is.
The key word in Internet Marketing is Dominate and this a way to do it.
The boys over at the hilariously entertaining Self Publishing Podcast, Johhny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright released an excellent book at the end of 2013, Write, Publish Repeat in which they talk about writing really fast first drafts. Given that they are a team, they wrote a million words in one year and got several series of books out fast. This has indeed paid off for them. They are making a full time income writing fiction.
On Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, the charming Simon Whistler interviews highly succesful Indie Authors. It seems those who can write full time out of the gate and have substantial financial resources hit the big time in around one year’s time. Simon asks the best questions and really brings out the author’s deeper insights so the rest of us can learn. He has some fantastic podcast interviews! Some of the authors can be very daunting if you are looking for direction, but are inspiring as well. Lots of famous authors are interviewed on here, so if you want to hear from your favorites, Simon may have an nterview with them.
The famous author and nice guy, Hugh Howie. is the one success story I have heard where he took his time and kept writing according to his ten year plan, then hit it big with Wool.
Joanna Penn at the brilliant blog, The Creative Penn, has published fiction at a pace I can relate to, but also does a huge amount of blogging and speaking. If you dont’t already know about her, she’s a brillaint business woman and inspiration. She does great podcast interviews as well—-the first ones I found when I was trying to figure out this Indie Publishing thing.
The main advatange to writing super fast is that by having sheer numbers of books available, you make more money. Selling small numbers of several different books brings in more cash than relying on one or two books to sell a lot.
Gothic author, Virginia Coffman is an example of this. In her lifetime she sold over 5 million books, but had published over one hundred. All those sales add up over the years.
Get books by the authors mentioned above here:
I write slowly. I have been forced by all the advice out there to think about why I am such a slow writer. I have discovered some answers:
1. I do not have the gift of the gab. I relaized this one from Anne Rice and her thirty pages a day. She loves to talk. So do some of these others and they write as they talk, without taking a beat. I wish I had this gift but I don’t.
2. I don’t think my stories, I feel my way through. Once I have an outline, the thinking part is over. It still takes a while to get going because I go so deep. I sink deep into my characters’ psychology and emotions. Creating drama at this level is a slow process and sometimes so intense that at the end of three hours, I’m emotionally exhausted.
3. As a frustrated visual artist, bailing out when I discoverd how cut throat the art world can be, even at the student level, it is important to me that my descriptions be highly visual for the reader. I want to transport you to another place and time. It is easier said than done to paint accurate pictures with words.
4. When I began this Indie thing, I published a couple of novellas prematurely. Luckily they attracted some good reviews, but they all said I should develop the stories more. I stayed very much under the radar while I did that and am living proof that even when you strive to be invisble, there are people who will find you.
4. B. The point of this step is that Self Publishing is like email. You can be blind or impatient or too speedy and put your book out there before it’s ready. Readers are quick to complain about plot holes and other evidence of immature work. Patience wins out here because going back to revise an already published book takes more time than you might think.
5. The best books are multi-layered. Novels in my genre, Dark Fantasy, tend to be deeply layered because they deal with psychological and moral, if not religious themes, and explore the agonies of the human heart. Its still genre fiction, but leans toward literature. This stuff ain’t writ in a day.
6. Even with my slowness and determination to resist hitting the upload button too fast, I have had a reviewer complain that the ending of one my books seemed “rushed.” This is not because I rushed through it, I can tell you that. I’ve read reviews of other books complaining of the book being “rushed”. Maybe they are trying to get the next book out in the much lauded schedule of every three months. This might work for some authors, for others it could be artistic suicide.
This is a subjective issue in many cases, but as a writer, I prefer not to rush. I want the full sensuality of langauge and story to pentrate the psyche of the reader. I, for one, have to go slowly to achieve this.
What do you think about this issue? Can you tell when a book has been written quickly of if the author grew the story gradually?
When I was in the theater the teachers used to tell inexperienced actors, “Take your time….”
In my Victorian Gothic novel, The Lady in Yellow, young governess, Veronica Everly, has rooms in Belden House that include a family treasure room. It isn’t long before she discovers it contains a dreaded Ouija Board:
“Flickering firelight turned the room from intriguingly haunted to downright ghastly. The wallpaper was covered with white camellias with black leaves. The furniture, all dark wood upholstered in red velvet, was full of uncomfortable twists and turns like medieval torture devices. There was a cushioned settee and a few French chairs, including an elaborate hooded porter’s chair, set around a table holding a square board and a downturned glass. On the board, the large white letters of the alphabet curved in a bold arch above the words oui and non, while on the left side, a horned devil with a long, snaky tail cavorted, tipping his hat like a cartoon master of ceremonies.“—The Lady in Yellow
The discovery of a room such as this in the remote Yorkshire home of a wealthy noble woman who had the time and resources to explore what she wanted, might not have been unusual in Victorian England. The services of Trance Mediums were sought after by many people who, bereaved in a age of high child mortaility and general early death, sought contact with loved ones who had passed beyond the veil. This was also an age of religious faith, when most people firmly believed in the Afterlife.
That didn’t mean that there were not lots of pragmatic tyes who saw Spirtualism as nothing more than a hoax. This was an age of science, after all.
This excerpt is from an interesting article on the history of Spirtualism on The Victorian Web.
Go here for the entire article: http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/spirit.html
“What I can’t accept about spiritualism is the idea of millions of dead people (there must be standing room only on the Other Side) kept hanging about just waiting to be sent for by some old girl with a Ouija board in a Brighton boarding house, or a couple of table-tappers in Tring, for the sake of some inane conversation about the Blueness of the Infinite. I mean at least when you’re dead you’ll surely be spared such tedious social occasions.” — John Mortimer’s barrister in “Rumpole and the Dear Departed” (1981)
“Spiritualism, the belief that the dead communicate with the living, became a fad throughout America and Europe during the 1850s. Spiritualism, which owes its beginnings to Emmanuel Swedenborg‘s writings on the spirit world, received additional stimulus from Anton Mesmer’s experiments in what he called “animal magnetism” (hypnotism) that he believed involved the influence of celestial bodies upon terrestrial. Many Victorians, particularly those who had begun to abandon conventional religion, fervently believed in spiritualism, Elizabeth Barrett Browning among them (much to the dismay of her husband).
Although the Victorian era is often associated with scientific and technological progress, many Victorians were prone to the paranormal, supernatural and occult, of which the most popular forms in the late Victorian period included mesmerism, clairvoyance, electro-biology, crystal-gazing, thought-reading, and above all, Spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like many late Victorians, was fascinated by the possibility of
communication with the departed souls….”
The Lady in Yellow is about a noble family suffering under a curse of Lycanthropy. Veronica begins to find out that there is much more going on at Belden House then the mere sighting of the odd wolf in the garden. She discovers a set of photographic plates in which the heads of etheric wolves have been formed around the heads of the participants in Lady Sovay’s séances.
“In the box was a file of glass plates. She pulled one out. They were photographic negatives. Etched on the glass in golden sepia tones, was an image of Sovay de Grimston. Her eyes were hypnotic, her hair loose in long waves of shadowed light. At the level of her throat was a cloud, a mystic vapor that seemed to spread out beyond the edges of the frame. The negative vapor looked so dark that the real one must have been like a blast of snow….”—The Lady in Yellow
The appearance of ectoplasm could be faked. (See the picture above!) But as a lifetime psychic, I know that there is a reality to this exudation of force. If you concentrate hard enough, you can emit a white misty light around the body, but it is most likely only visible to those who have the ability to see such things. That makes it very hard to verify.
The rest of if this fascinating article on the History of Spiritualism can be found at Steampunk Opera!
Click here to read it: The Rise of Spiritualism
“While Spiritualism became huge in Victorian Britain, it actually started in the US, in upstate New York with 3 teenage girls.
In the township of Arcadia lived the Fox sisters. In 1848, 15 year old Maggie and 12 year old Kate discovered that when they clapped their hands, raps would sound back. They demonstrated this to neighbors and eventually a system was worked out where a spirit could rap Yes, No or the letters of the alphabet to communicate. The spirit claimed to be Charles Rosa, a peddler who had been murdered by the previous owner of the house, John Bell. Later examination did indeed find human remains buried in the cellar…”
(Sounds like the dreaded Trench Sisters in Rosemary’s Baby!)
Of course, in The Lady in Yellow, practices like these were meant to be kept secret. Lady Sovay had a public image to maintain! As Veronica discovers more evidence of black magic at the de Grimston house, she is targeted by the wicked spirits she is determined to expose.
“The books were old and fine, but their spines were difficult to read in the dark. On one of the lower shelves she found a flat folder wrapped around a sheaf of rag-edged parchments. That looked interesting. She took it into her bedchamber, and under the light of the candelabrum, rifled through the parchments.
Some of the pages were yellow with age, others looked quite new. They were notes, written in a neat, precise, masculine hand that gave them an air of great importance.
Perusing one of the sheets, a strange word jumped out at her: Ectoplasm.
Tonight Our Lady successfully drew forth an astonishing quantity of Ectoplasm within which a spirit began to take form. We queried it via the Ouija Board but the message was garbled, or perhaps communicated in a language unknown to us.
“That must be the mist oozing out of their throats,” Veronica said aloud. Ectoplasm…
A dark mood fell over Veronica. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know these things. Why was she, a girl raised in a convent, sent into this godforsaken house?” —The Lady in Yellow
I don’t mean Amanda’s career. She’s a natural story teller, the most talented YA author I have read on my Kindle. I hope she goes on to the heights.
No, I mean the Amanda Hocking Kindle Era.
Like Amanda, I’ve been writing all my life and have a considerable backlog of books to polish up and publish. But I could never produce the way she did when she first began on Kindle and rose to fame.
According to her, weeks of Red Bull-fueled nights of relentless writing resulted in three series that were released on demand by her growing number of fans. Sleep was the enemy and she pushed through it.
I, on the other hand, have not got this ability. I am quite a bit older than 26 – the age she was when she performed this feat – and my mind would refuse to cooperate with such extreme conditions. So more power to her!
She did inspire me to self publish on Amazon and Smashwords though. Being a DIY kind of gal, this appealed to me, I haven’t made much money at this stage, and am daunted at the work required to get my books noticed in the ever-growing Amazon slush pile, but I know my stories are worth the effort. I chose to start small and move incrementally, which is what this blog post is about.
The thing about Amanda’s pace of writing books, and I have heard her discuss this, so I’m not being catty, is that her books were not edited. At all. But she was selling to teenagers, who seem to be much more forgiving about this sort of thing if they like the story. Todays teenagers are the generation who do not know of a time when computers did not exist and who got the first Kindle Readers in their hot little hands. They bought Amanda’s books for their Kindle readers, loved them and the story goes on.
When I decided to try this e-book thing out, I published a few short stories that had been published elsewhere. It was a beta test. It takes me a while to get the hang of technology so I needed a chance to play around with Kindle and Smashwords and see what it was all about. My stories went public. Then, in the interests of science, I published two novellas: a very old story (2004) Memento Mori and a newer piece The Lady in Yellow. People downloaded The Lady in Yellow in droves from Smashwords. I was shocked! It attracted good reviews with one major complaint: it should be developed into a novel. (This is what I am doing, along with Memento Mori. Being an early experimental work written when I was coming out of my Poet phase, Memento Mori has always had problems. But I love it and so do a few other people.)
My reviewers have been adults. They are a lot harder on an author than teenagers. Had I not had the ease of self publishing — had I contemplated sending the novellas out to agents and publishers — these would not yet have seen the light of day. I just wanted to see what would happen. Lucky, so far—no disasters.
Too many authors have been throwing their novels up there when they are not finished or developed. I am shocked when a writer says they will produce four novels in one year to keep their sales funnel pumping. Maybe they have the time and the talent I don’t have but I don’t think they will be able to get away with that for much longer.
Like Facebook, originally created to attract teens, Kindle readers are falling into the hands of adults. Adults who READ. Educated, READING adults who have zero tolerance for bad grammar, sloppy execution and typos. Serious, sophisticated READERS who will cut you a new one on your Review Page for producing books that fall below traditional publishing standard.
If you want a career, it would be a good idea to take this change very seriously. Too many bad reviews citing shallow characters, plot holes, bad pacing, bad grammar, and those demonic typos, will not only sink that book, but any books that come after. Short of changing your pen name, you won’t be given much grace for changing your ways.
Thank you Amanda Hocking for opening this door. But as she has breezed through it, those of us who have followed have found a thorny path that may lead back to traditional publishing where the serious readers find their serious, even on Kindle, books.