Jason Henderson's FB Feed

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sherlock Holmes on Screen-- a New Guide to the Film History of Our Favorite Detective

I love Sherlock Holmes, but I'm not a Sherlock Holmes completist in the way that I am of, say, James Bond or Dracula. (And there's a geek continuum: I'm constantly reminded that there are many fans of those that are far to the left and right of me.) I do have a favorite Holmes-- Ian Richardson, largely because his BBC films were the ones I grew up on, whereas I largely missed the Jeremy Brett version that began the following year. The great thing about true geeks is we have geeky opinions; I remember a megafan of the Doors who could talk for days about what was wrong with the Oliver Stone movie, just as I could about Coppola's Dracula. Even when we're doing it we see the conundrum: we are spending more time on these works than the people who love them do. Sherlock Holmes has such fans.

So I love, love, love books like SHERLOCK HOLMES ON SCREEN, a guide to Sherlock Holmes adaptations of TV and movies written by Alan Barnes, who is a prize geek, opinionated and fussy and possessing a kind of love for even those works he hates. From the first Sherlock Holmes adaptation (1900's one-minute silent Sherlock Holmes Baffled) to the current dueling detectives of the BBC series Sherlock and the Guy Ritchie movie series, and everything in between. 
You can spend hours reading this book. I had no idea that Peter Cushing starred as Sherlock Holmes on TV  in the sixties, for instance. You can start to line up your own Sherlock viewing party.
I totally recommend Sherlock Holmes on Screen.

(Note-- I received this book for review from the great folks at Titan Books. Thanks fellas!)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Word Processing: The Barbarian Savior!

The Slate Culture Gabfest this week spends some time talking about the history of writing on word processors (like Word, or like the blogger web tool I'm typing in right now), and the whole conversation (with helpful links on the Slate page) is well worth checking out.
What really captured my imagination was the lengthy discussion the podcast members had on the actual process of writing. How did anyone ever write a whole book longhand? Does writing with a word processor help you cut corners?
The Brother WP-75, which I drove carts. pushed wheelchairs and wrangled
unaccompanied minors all summer to buy. 
I've straddled the line. In early high school I wrote papers and stories longhand. When I was in high school I had a home computer to write papers on, and by the time I got to college I had actually worked all summer to save up for a Brother WP 75 word processor, which for the young was basically a printer with a keyboard and a single piece of software for writing documents. It was essentially a smart typewriter. I wrote my first book on a Mac, and my next several books on PCs using Word Perfect.
At the time there was a lot of talk about what word processing would do to writing. A lot of this talk came in the form of sour admonishments from other writers, so you heard all the same hand-wringing, but the biggest fear was this:
Writing on a word processor would make writers lazy, because a good writer types his pages, and then re-types them from the top, changing them along the way. Over and over again. And we like it. Word processing seduces you into sticking with something close to your first draft because it already looks pretty. There's a little bit of truth to this-- a first draft of anything really does look decent even if it reads terribly-- but it turns out for most of us that in fact we toss entire paragraphs all the time. Basically if you're a conscientious editor you'll be one whether you're typing, handwriting or using a computer.
And yet, and yet: I remember once I had to re-type about 40,000 words of a book I'd printed but could not retrieve the data from, and I really did enjoy re-drafting the sentences from the top as I went. But I wouldn't do it on purpose.
There was another fear, more obliquely spoken: that using a word processor, because it produced what to the naked eye appeared to be an acceptable manuscript, would allow too many unqualified people into the field of writing.
To this: first, f*** off, snobs. But second, reality tells us differently anyway; editors are pretty good at tossing bad writing after reading a single page. Heck, they toss almost all writing that way.
Check out the Slate Podcast and links!


Our Holiday celebration continues with a brand new Castle Dracula Podcast: a discussion of RARE EXPORTS, A CHRISTMAS TALE.

I LOVED this movie.

(2010) Unusual Christmas story set in the frozen beauty of Finland, where local reindeer herders race against the clock to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus. Single father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) and his young son, Pietari (Onni Tommila), are caught up in the chaos as international scientists dig for artifacts. What they find endangers the entire village.

Hear the new episode of the Castle Dracula Podcast:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Flesh and Blood (Monsterverse) by Bob Tinnell and Neil Vokes review

In 2004, VAN HELSING absolutely broke my heart. (You can hear a podcast review of that one from the Castle Dracula Podcast here.) Here was a big-budget Universal release of a monster mash the likes of which hadn't been seen since the 40s: Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, all combatted by Van Helsing, the great vampire hunter of Dracula. The cast was the kind of thing that seemed to guarantee big box office, with Hugh Jackman-- freaking Wolverine-- and Kate Beckinsale in the leads. And... no. Word got out fast that the movie managed to be both over-complicated and simplistic, over-long and dull.

And worst of all, from my perspective: the movie had no heart. It had no idea why it was there. A story's got to have a reason to exist for people to want to see it. Star Trek is about wonder. Mission Impossible is about overcoming long odds with ridiculously detailed planning and teamwork. What was Van Helsing about? Not being scared, surely. So... wonder? What? To be able to answer the querstion, you'd have to have some awareness of the source material and be able to tell someone what made you fall in love with it and want to write about it. Another way to ask a creator "What is it about?" is: "Why did you want to write this?"

FLESH AND BLOOD is a new graphic novel (actually part 1 in a series) from writer Robert Tinnel and artist Neil Vokes that does what Van Helsing should have done: it shares its creator's love for an alternate world where Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man all co-exist. It's a world they're in love with so much that every page is crammed with details that fans will recognize. Of course, where VAN HELSING was a missed opportunity for its creators to share the wonder of Universal Horror, FLESH AND BLOOD shares the wonder of a different universe, just through the veil from Universal: Hammer Horror.

If there were a perfect Hammer Movie that captured the look, feel, the horror and urgent eroticism of the strange universe that tied all the Hammer gothic horrors together, FLESH AND BLOOD may be as close to it as you will ever see.

The time is the mid-nineteenth century, when the seductive, deadly vampire named Carmilla has been put to death by a team of vampire hunters led by General Spiesldorf, who lost his daughter to Carmilla. The death of Carmilla sets off a chain reaction among humans and vampires alike. Carmilla's sister Ezebet goes to none other than Dracula, Lord of all Vampires, to solicit his aid in destroying the hunters. The hunters enlist the machiavellian Baron Frankenstein, here the spitting image of Peter Cushing, in developing an anti-vampire biological weapon. We meet a young Van Helsing, who like the young Lord Godalming in Dracula is the lover of a vampire, wounded to the quick and bound to learn the "rough work ahead" needed to rid the world of vampirism.

Bob Tinnell, the author, clearly knows his stuff-- he writes a sweeping story that's not only aware of his source material (Hammer movies) but even the source material of the source material. Vokes has a fantastic style for this work, too-- his art is expressive rather than realistic, so that vampires and men leap and swoop in perfect fantasy. His art perfectly with the world of Hammer, which was always a little dreamy and symbolic. I've been a huge Vokes fan ever since Blood of Dracula, a series I picked up in 1988, making him an even bigger Dracula geek than I am.

But even if you're not a Hammer Horror geek, any vampire and monster fan should read this. The Hammer world is just the palette Tinnell and Vokes use to paint a vivid dream of a world of monsters and men.

For those counting at home, by the way, Peter Cushing played General Spielsdorf, Van Helsing, and Baron Frankenstein in the movies. If this had been a movie made in the 70s, the trailer would have looked like a Blake Edwards comedy: "Starring... Peter Cushing! And Peter Cushing! And Peter Cushing!" In the comic, they do not look alike, which is just as well. Cushing's face is reserved for the Baron, and that seems fitting; it was Cushing's greatest role.

The book is brought to you by Kerry Gammill's Monsterverse line, which has been doing simply fantastic horror-geek work. Outstanding.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gremlins: The Bad Chimney Episode

It's Christmas time, and that means strange green creatures swarming your tiny American town. Yes! The Gremlins episode is up!

Listen in and welcome to the second episode of the Castle Dracula Podcast Holiday Season.

In this episode we discuss Gremlins:

Gremlins (1984)-- a film about a young man who receives a strange creature—called a Mogwai—as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. It all takes place in a lovely little town at Christmastime, and it’s chock-full of references to classic movies and even folklore, as you might expect from a film produced (as it is) by Steven Spielberg.

Hear the new episode of the Castle Dracula Podcast:
or here:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Alex Van Helsing 3 Revisions and Style Sheet

So this week I'm doing another rough of edits on Alex Van Helsing: The Triumph of Death, which comes out in Summer 2012.

At this point the kinds of changes I'm making are in a Word document with "tracked changes" from the editor and copyeditor. There are countless tiny choices and changes, and we leave comments for one another in the margins. Is this kind of vampire capitalized? Can we get a different word here to avoid an echo from a paragraph above, or was that on purpose?

One of my favorite aspects of this is a Style Sheet that HarperCollins provides, which is like a field guide to the world of Alex Van Helsing. Not only does it include a synopsis of each of the books, but it has a nifty Alex Van Helsing Glossary:

Neat, huh?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Monster Squad: The Thumbs Up From Limbo Episode is up!

Listen in and welcome to the Castle Dracula Podcast Holiday Season.

In this episode we discuss The Monster Squad

Somewhere in the 80s, a ragtag band of lovable loser kids must save the world from the machinations of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolf Man and the Creature. Definitely a movie for the young and monster fans who are young at heart.

Hear us:
or here:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Alex Van Helsing Christmas Promotion: Order Both Books and Get a TOP SECRET Preview of Book 3

Just this week I got a letter from a student in Denver who published a review of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead in the Denver Post. I was so thankful (and impressed-- I wasn't publishing reviews in the paper in middle school!) that I sent her a bookmark. It was wrapped in scratch paper that just happened to be a page from an editing draft of Alex Van Helsing #3: The Triumph of Death. The student wrote back that she loved the sneak preview as much as the bookmark.

And that got me thinking.

It's Thanksgiving. It's Christmas shopping time. So here's my commitment to you.

Want to get the action-and-vampire-loving reader in your life a great set gift? Know a boy or girl who loves spies, motorcycles, helicopters, and monsters, not necessarily in  that order?

Order them the first two books in the Alex Van Helsing series.

Anyone who orders or purchases Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising and Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead together between now and December 25, 2011 will get an email with an exclusive sneak peek at July 2012's Alex Van Helsing: The Triumph of Death. 

I'll give you access to a whole scene, not available anywhere else until well into next year.

Here's how:
Who: You.
When: now until 12:01 December 26, 2012
What: Order or purchase, online or off,  both Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising and Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead.

  • Email me proof at jasonhendersontx@gmail.com . 
  • Use the Subject Line: TOP SECRET PROMOTION
  • What's proof? Forward me a receipt (be sure to clip out anything you don't want to share) or if you have a paper receipt, just take a phone pic of it and send it. 
  • I'll email you back your top secret preview of Book 3, Alex Van Helsing: The Triumph of Death. This is material that no one outside of my house and my publisher has seen. I leave it to YOU to guard it with your life.
If you or anyone you know would have their world turned upside down by our favorite motorcycle-riding, WaveRunner-stealing, vampire-killing high school superspy, then now is your chance for a completely rare gift.

Pass it on. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Listen to Castle Dracula Podcast now on Stitcher!

This is very exciting news. I've actually been a fan of Stitcher, the best podcast-listening mobile app I've discovered yet, for some time. I've gotten to the point where I'm as likely to listen to my podcasts via Stitcher as often if not more often than I do via iTunes.  So I totally recommend it. But now CASTLE DRACULA PODCAST has been added to Stitcher. You can listen to the latest episode plus past episodes.
Look for a new episode very soon!

How do you get Stitcher? Go to your mobile app store, or go to Stitcher and click the Download tool.

Our show is now on Stitcher!

Listen to us on your iPhone, Android Phone, BlackBerry and WebOS phones..
Stitcher is Smart Radio for Your phone. Find it in your app store or at stitcher.com

Stitcher SmartRadio- The Smarter Way to listen to radio.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Will be back soon!

 Just working on some proposals and haven't been able to post. Looking forward to returning soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween on 6th Street

Halloween Time turns me back to a favorite documentary you HAVE to check out if you're a nut for the holiday.
I previewed a brand new documentary making the festival circuit right now called Halloween on 6th Street, now on Hulu in its entirety.

I cannot say enough about this doc, which its running time introduces us to the amazing phenomenon of Halloween in Austin, Texas, where historic 6th Street fills with equal parts exhibitionists, costuming genius and gawkers. The focus of the documentary, from producer Michelle Canning, is on Bud Hasert, a triathlete whose late Summer is usually taken over by planning his Halloween costume. And when I say costume, I mean production: Hasert plans and builds gigantic costumes with transforming parts, like his Headless Horseman costume featuring a horse. He even recruits extras, and builds costumes for them. All the way through we follow his remarkably patient fiance, who is planning a marathon and a wedding, and hoping Bud will make it to at least one of these. Along the way we meet local designers, producers and inventers, all of whom turn out in a big way for Halloween.

Amazing work. I hope you can catch it soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering the Great Pumpkin

(Note-- we're reviewing The Great Pumpkin at the Castle Dracula Podcast Wednesday at 10:30ET, so I'm reprinting this review to get in the mood. Enjoy!) 

My daughters and I watched IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN tonight. The Charlie Brown DVDs are a big hit with them, so we are careful not to break them out until the right month, so they retain their specialness. We can watch each over and over again, but only in October, or November, or December. The arrival of GREAT PUMPKIN announces the arrival of a bevy of  holiday specials that have drilled their way into my mind. Lately I've enjoyed  returning to these things with fresh eyes.

GREAT PUMPKIN in  particular resonates with me, particularly because of the strangely chilling  fantasy Snoopy the dog has about the most vile and butcherous war of the last  century.

The center of GREAT PUMPKIN is  Linus, whom we recall as the voice of reason in the 1965 CHARLIE BROWN  CHRISTMAS. There, while Charlie Brown obsessed about the growing  commercialization of Christmas, Linus was the even-handed guy who said, 'Charlie  Brown, you're the only guy I know who can take a nice holiday like Christmas and  make it a problem." And at the end, it is Linus who steps to Brown's rescue,  tapping the microphone and simply reciting the Christmas story. That's 1965.

Now, in GREAT PUMPKIN, it's a year later and we find Linus in the thrall  of complete religious fervor of his own device, as the boy proselytizes to the  gang about the impending arrival of a giant pumpkin-being who favors the  children with the "sincerest" pumpkin patch with a visit and gifts. The gang  thinks he's a loon, the girl who loves him loses a whole evening coming to the  same conclusion, and in the end Linus shivers in the cold until being rescued by  his hateful but ultimately caring sister Lucy.

What is this supposed to  mean? If CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS was about keeping the true spirit of Christmas  (while enjoying the benefits of a commercialized holiday), what is GREAT PUMPKIN  about? It seems to be a satire on fringe religion ("we're separated by  denominational differences," Linus insists when Charlie Brown professes faith in  Santa Claus.) But it's kind of sad that Linus, the voice of wisdom in the  Christmas special, is so misguided here. We close out the special with Linus  raving-- RAVING-- that this time something went wrong, but next year his pumpkin  patch will be sincere enough to merit the arrival of the Great  Pumpkin. In this he sounds like one of those cultists who keeps moving back the end of the world.

Meanwhile, I don't think when I watched this as a child that I  realized that these children are all just little adults. There are no parents in  sight, and they get around about as well as college students. Better: in the  beginning, Lucy and Linus pick a pumpkin and carve it with a butcher knife in  the span of about forty-five seconds. They throw a killer party whose only  non-child visitor is a beagle that fantasizes about war and mayhem, and swims in  punch.

I still love Snoopy's fantasy of the Red Baron, the moment I  waited for every year, the dark water-color world made ominous by the high hat  and woodwinds of Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack. Snoopy creeps through bombed-out  France, and all the images of the Great War-- barbed wire, cratered earth, ruined shelters,  blackened skies, bullet-riddled fuselages, churning black smoke-- all become  playthings, and beautiful and chilling ones. Barbed wire is stuff that you  and I don't blink at, but there's a generation-- some of whom still breathe-- that  grow nauseated at the sight of it. Barbed wire was the patchy stitching that  only festered and worsened the wounds of World War I. But there it is, amid the  ruined houses of Snoopy's imagination, and suddenly I realize Disney could have  made a park called Somme Land, named after the famous battle that spat out men like pumpkin seeds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trick r' Treat (2007) - Listen Now!

Anna Paquin in Trick r' Treat
Grab some popcorn, grab your partner, and listen up! We're all about Halloween this month at the Castle Dracula Podcast, so be sure and listen to our latest episode, where Jason, Drew, Tony and Julia discuss TRICK R' TREAT, an absolutely gorgeous horror anthology currently on Netflix streaming. Listen to the show here-- or subscribe at iTunes!

Title: TRICK 'R TREAT (2007 Anthology) Dracula Podcast (Horror & More)
Time: 10/17/2011 10:30 PM EDT
Episode Notes: A look at this 2007 horror movie in the fine tradition of horror anthologies going all the way back to Tales from the Crypt, but with a loopy Pulp Fiction-like timeline.

Monday, October 3, 2011


You can now hear the Castle Dracula Podcast discuss NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, the vampire classic starring Klaus Kinksi. You can listen here or subscribe at iTunes for free.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thank you Mission High School!

Today I had a fantastic day visiting Mission High School in Mission, Texas. Besides presenting all day to over 1400 students, talking about writing in general and Alex Van Helsing in particular, I also had the pleasure of judging a Bookmark contest. Students designed bookmarks about Alex Van Helsing-- with the top three winners receiving books. Take a look at just a few, including the winning three:
The top three were:
 1st Place: Jocelyn Lopez, with her manga versions of the characters
2nd Place: Haily Hernandez, with her wonderful cartoon about the breadth of vampire books
3rd Place: Samantha Garcia, with her cool Alex Van Helsing character.
 It was actually painful judging these because there were so many really cool ones. Thanks Mission High, especially librarians Lydia Perez and Margie Longoria!

Tomorrow I'll be visiting Region 1 ESC (Educational Service Center) in Texas, talking with lots of librarians. Then a book festival in Harlingen on Saturday. I'm being hosted this weekend by Overlooked Books, who arrange a lot of author visits to ESCs and schools.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hear us Discuss The Haunting!

The Gang of Four in The Haunting.
You can now listen to the Castle Dracula Podcast discussion of The Haunting (1963), one of the finest horror movies of all time. Listen here: And don't forget you can subscribe at iTunes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Note: The Podcast Returns this week with a discussion of The Haunting (1963) Sunday at 10:30 ET/9:30CT.

Book Tour Update:
This Friday I visited the ESC 20 Library Roundup in San Antonio and had the opportunity to moderate a panel on YA with Mark Gregory Mitchell, Jessica Lee Anderson, Jennnifer Ziegler, PJ Hoover, Jo Whittemore, and Jenny Moss. We talked about why we write YA and got into a really fun discussion of how closely we work with publishers and editors to sculpt the work-- I talked about removing whole subplots from Alex Van Helsing. The whole thing was sponsored by Overlooked Books, a book distributor that organizes a lot of events I attend.

The Haunting of Hill House

On the way down and up I finished listening to Shirley Jackson's fine book The Haunting of Hill House. Which one is this one? The Haunting of Hill House came out in 1959 and is the reigning King (queen?) of haunted house stories. But you might recall that recently I read Richard Matheson's Hell House, so here it would be helpful to give a brief primer to help you keep all these alliterative haunted titles straight.

  • The Haunting of Hill House (1959), by Shirley Jackson. A professor who wants to study the supernatural gathers a small group of guests to record their experiences in a haunted house in order to prove the existence of the supernatural. All the scares are psychological and suggestive-- touches in the dark, pounding on walls-- but this horror of the mind is a wonderful read.
    • Movies: The Haunting (1963), a masterpiece by Robert Wise, and The Haunting (1999), which most people don't prefer (I don't either.)
  • Hell House (1971), by Richard Matheson, writing an homage to The Haunting of Hill House. Same plot as the Haunting of Hill House, except here the more modern writer Matheson makes the whole affair a very modern "expedition" into the house, where every member of the team is a professional ghost hunter or spiritualist of sorts. Where Jackson's book is all subtle horror and sublimated desire, this book is out there with gory and garish sex and violence. But Matheson is a beautiful writer as well, so this is still a fine gothic. 
    • Movies: The Legend of Hell House (1973), starring Roddy McDowall
I've already written about The Legend of Hell House here-- I love that book and movie! Go check it out! It's so strange to think that Matheson's book, which is a pretty hard-edged update (and just eleven years later) of Jackson is almost forgotten now, its movie subsumed with the wave brought on by The Exorcist, which came out at the same time.

But The Haunting of Hill House. Man, what a fantastic book. The book is told almost entirely from the perspective of Eleanor, Nell, a girl (woman, actually, Nell is 32 but feels always like a girl) whose home life is so unhappy that being invited on an expedition into a haunted house brings her the first peace and happiness she's felt in years. The book is really an exploration of Nell, who has sacrificed her youth serving her ailing mother and now yearns for an identity. She veers constantly into fantasy, throws herself into an instant friendship with the strong and confident Theodora (Theo), whose lesbianism is made clear but never named. (And also never comdemned, unlike in Wise's movie where an unhinged Nell insults Theo by calling her "unnatural.") 
Nell seems to be trying on different identities that range from fantasy to reality-- will she live in a cottage with Theo and spend their days antiquing, will she chase the callow owner of the house, who she realizes is basically uninteresting, will she stay forever at Hill House? 
As the book continued I yearned for Nell to find happiness, to grow up instantly and be able to distinguish fantasy from reality. She finds so much joy imagining her expedition as a family that the inevitable break-up is heartbreaking.

In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson shows us how to write a book that reflects the soft, undulating waves of a person's mind, and shows us the torrent underneath. It's a fine book to read and learn from.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jody Hedlund on Missing Your Own Writing Faults

Check out Jody Hedlund's post today on something that I think haunts all writers: the ability to miss your own mistakes, faults and tendencies.
Instead, most of us polish up our work until we think it shines with brilliant glory. We labour over it and try to get every word perfect. Sure, our fingers might tremble with anxiety when we finally hit send, but let’s admit it: we usually think our work is pretty darn good. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t put it out there.

Yet . . . the large majority of manuscripts that agents and editors see just aren’t ready for publication. And in the contest I recently judged, most of the entries weren’t ready for publication either. They had potential but still needed more time and growth.

Why do we struggle to know our skill levels? When we’re just beginning, why do we often think we’re better than we really are? Why are most of us blind to our own faults?
Be sure and chime in at her blog if you have some ideas beyond those that Jody lays out.

For my part I think the biggest blinder to faults in my own writing is wilful disbelief. I know what line is supposed to sound like! See, the alliteration is cool if you read it like this! As if I could go to everyone's house and read them the sections they might need help with.

The thing that I have to remember as a novelist is that my prose is not a script that I will read on the radio. It's a script that the reader needs to be able to perform in their own heads, and if the direction ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.
It turns out I can deny that over and over, I can be blind to it, but it matters. You don't just have to read your work aloud-- or at least aloud in your head-- you need to forget how it goes and then read it aloud.

Great post.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Return of the Living Dead- Listen to the Discussion!

Hey gang! The Castle Dracula Podcast is back-- listen below or in the margin to hear us discuss the 1985 movie RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Added bonus: for the first time ever, a cast member WALKS OUT!

Questions? Requests? Don't forget to join us at the Facebook Page!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Alex Van Helsing Background: "The Transfer" by Algernon Blackwood, 1912

This morning I was thinking about classic stories (later this week I really want to talk about Benson's chilling The Room in the Tower,) but I wanted to share a fascinating story that vampire fans might not have come across.

The story is called THE TRANSFER by the mysterious, mystical Algernon Blackwood, and at its heart is the psychic vampire known as Mr. Frene:

For this Mr. Frene was a man who drooped alone, but grew vital in a crowd-- because he used their vitality. He was a supreme, unconscious artist in the science of taking the fruits of others' work and living--for his own advantage. He vampired, unknowingly no doubt, every one with whom he came in contact; left them exhausted, tired, listless. Others fed him, so that while in a full room he shone, alone by himself and with no life to draw upon he languished and declined. In the man's immediate neighborhood you felt his presence draining you; he took your ideas, your strength, your very words, and later used them for his own benefit and aggrandizement. Not evilly, of course; the man was good enough; but you felt that he was dangerous owing to the facile way he absorbed into himself all loose vitality that was to be had. His eyes and voice and presence devitalized you. Life, it seemed, not highly organized enough to resist, must shrink from his too near approach and hide away for fear of being appropriated, for fear, that is, of--death.


So this was how I saw him--a great human sponge, crammed and soaked with the life, or proceeds of life, absorbed from others--stolen. My idea of a human vampire was satisfied. He went about carrying these accumulations of the life of others. In this sense his "life" was not really his own. For the same reason, I think, it was not so fully under his control as he imagined.

Frene is a man who destroys your vitality by being in your presence, and he plays a key role in the book Voice of the Undead.

Give the Transfer a read online-- or look for it in the collection The Vampire Archives.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kristi Bernard on Voice of the Undead: Excellent!

Awesome new review of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead! Check out Kristi Bernard's blog for her review:

ith the help of Sangster, his mentor and the Polidoruim, Alex must stop Ultravox, a leader of the Scholomance with a deadly viral voice....
This novel is the second installment of a series written by Jason Henderson. This is an excellent book for all teens but especially boys. It has monsters and excitement to keep them turning the pages and wanting more. If you missed Vampire Rising, you can still follow along with Voice of the Undead, each book can stand all on its own.

Check out the rest!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Listen to our DRACULA (Chris Lee) Discussion! (SPOILERS)

Our new CASTLE DRACULA PODCAST episode is up! This week: DRACULA starring Christopher Lee, AKA Horror of Dracula!

You can also listen right here:

Description: We talk DRACULA AKA HORROR OF DRACULA, the Hammer vampire film starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Hosted by the creators of the Alex Van Helsing book series (Jason Henderson), indy comic Halloween Man (Drew Edwards), and manga Psy-comm (Tony Salvaggio), and attorney Julia Guzman. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Listen to the Fright Night 2011 Discussion (SPOILERS!)

The FRIGHT NIGHT 2011 episode of the Castle Dracula Podcast is up-- you can listen here or right here:

This week we discuss the 2011 "Fright Night" starring Colin Farrell and David Tennant with an amazing Buffy-like script from Marti Noxon. Plus, endorsements, and embarrassing convention-related revelations from Julia.

Also, check out our new Castle Dracula Podcast Blog!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goodbye, Mr. Sangster

Jimmy Sangster, screenwriter of HORROR OF DRACULA (as it was known in the US) and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN-- not to mention all the other films he was involved in-- has passed away.
Peter Cushing as Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula,
written by Jimmy Sangster

The world of cinematic horror fiction lost a true great yesterday: the wonderfully prolific Jimmy Sangster passed away at the age of 83. The man's name might not ring any immediate bells, but any true horror fan (especially a British one) could tell you he was the go-to screenwriter for a large portion of the very best Hammer Films. (Hammer Films being a production company that churned out lots of horror films in the 1950s and '60s.) When Hammer opted to resurrect old Universal favorites like Dracula and Frankenstein, Mr. Sangster was the man behind the typewriter. His 1958 double feature of Horror of Dracula and The Revenge of Frankenstein would be the envy of any horror screenwriter, but Jimmy Sangster just kept on banging 'em out.

Goodbye and thank you, Mr. Sangster.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Girls in the Stacks: Voice of the Undead

Another neat review, this one from Girls in the Stacks reviewer Nancy Tuuling!

my take: Alex Van Helsing returns with a book full of action, villianous vampires, and budding teen romance! We enjoyed the first book in this series (see Vampire Rising review here) and I enjoyed this second book even more.

Nancy even keys in on my New Wave obsession, which creeps into the book:

I have to mention one of my favorite lines – when Alex asks “Who is Ultravox?”, Sangster said, “Well, for one thing it’s the name of a New Wave band.” “What’s New Wave?” Ahhh, Sangster – your young padawan needs some musical instruction. That, or vampires need to find names that don’t make the adults reading hum “Vienna” in their heads. Oh, wait, isn’t that the girl’s name with the green scarf? Hmmmm… Oh, Jason, you punny man.

Yes. Yes it is, Nancy... and here's my favorite Ultravox song (but not the only one that influenced Voice of the Undead) "Vienna."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Associated Press/ABC News on Alex Van Helsing: "Tapping Into the Market of Books for YA Boys"

A great notice on Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead turned up from the Associated Press on ABC's website:
In "Voice of the Undead," Alex attends school during the day and spends his nights searching Lake Geneva for the magic-protected Scholomance, an ancient vampire school. During one of these missions, he burns down Glenarvon Academy, which is forced to relocate to an all-girls academy down the road.
Summer Moore, AP

Meanwhile, the Polidorium want Alex to track down a vampire named Ultravox.

The Alex Van Helsing series is tapping into the market of books for young adult boys, and does so successfully. The novels are engaging and suspenseful, without relying on a central love story.

Check out the rest! And thank you so much AP writer Summer Moore!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Listen to the Dracula's Daughter Podcast!

The new episode of the Castle Dracula Podcast is up. This time our topic is DRACULA'S DAUGHTER, the 1936 vampire thriller starring Gloria Holden. Listen here and join us each week!

And don't forget to Friend the show and leave us notes and questions on Facebook!

Check out a trailer for DRACULA'S DAUGHTER:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

@Bibliojunkies: 4.5 Stars to Voice of the Undead

Awesome Bibliojunkies review of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the UndeadAlex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead from blogger Shel:

My love of the Alex Van Helsing books is pretty well documented and that love continues. This book is fast-paced and fun. I enjoy the way the author illustrates Alex’s thought process when facing stressful situations. I also enjoy that while Alex is extraordinary in many ways, we also see how in many ways, Alex is a typical 14 year old. It was reminiscent of reading The Hardy Boys, except with vampires and cooler gadgets! All in all, I say 4.5 stars and I cannot wait for Alex No. 3! I also cannot wait until my 4 year old nephew is old enough to read Alex. Please tell me it is coming soon!

Read the rest!

Thanks Shel! First off, Alex Van Helsing: The Triumph of Death is coming next Summer. I've even got a draft finished already.

But thank you for kindly comparing Alex Van Helsing to the Hardy Boys-- that's absolutely my goal, to create a new boys' adventure series that can last a long time and mean something important to new readers. Thanks for making my day!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ms. Yingling loves Voice of the Undead:"textbook example of how to write for the Adrenaline rush"

The fantastic Ms. Yingling blog weighs in on Voice of the Undead:
I liked Vampire Rising so much that I nominated it for the Cybils Awards.The second book is a textbook example of how to write for the Adrenaline rush: Alex is chased by two cars, has blood sucking leeches thrown at him by Elle, is attacked by the leeches again in his dorm room, and then the dorm catches on fire. That's just the first two chapters! The boys from Glenarvon have to move in with the girls at LaLaurie school until repairs are made.

Check out the rest-- but warning: SPOILERS!

Thanks Ms. Yingling!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Castle Dracula Podcast on THE LOST BOYS-- Listen here.

Our Lost Boys Episode is up-- listen in here!

This is our fifth episode of the podcast and I'm really enjoying it. I think the guys are beginning to get a good rhythm going, and we're actually having people show up in the chat room to throw questions at us.

Meanwhile, Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead came out last week and we continue to get good reviews. I'll post some more soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Join us to talk LOST BOYS on the Castle Dracula Podcast

Tonight, 10:30ET/9:30CT. Go hear to listen in live, join the chat and ask questions!
Episode Notes: CRY LITTLE SISTER! A look at one of the most important vampire movies of the last forty years, THE LOST BOYS, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric. Hosted by the creators of the Alex Van Helsing book series (Jason Henderson), indy comic Halloween Man (Drew Edwards), and manga Psy-comm (Tony Salvaggio), and attorney Julia Guzman. We'll cap it off with a look at vampires and pop culture, and of course Q&A from the audience!

I freaking love this movie so I can't wait to get into it. To get you in the mood, here's an original trailer and a cool video:

Friday, July 29, 2011

SciFiChick review: Alex Van Helsing series "completely engaging, exceptional"

SciFiChick turns in a new review of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead and loves it!

As the complex story unfolds, the intensity increases. Fast-paced and action-packed, this sequel is completely engaging. There are plenty of surprises and twists leading to a climactic and dramatic ending. A few mysteries still linger that will leave readers wanting more. Full of mystery, adventure, and teenage angst, this fantasy series for young adults is exceptional.
Thank you, SciFiChick!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Castle Dracula Podcast on Interview with the Vampire!

Check out our latest podcast episode: INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE!
A look at INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Hosted by the creators of the Alex Van Helsing book series (Jason Henderson) with panelists Julia Guzman, travel writer and attorney, Barb Lien-Cooper, creator of the online comic GUN STREET GIRL and adapter of many manga and manhwa titles published by Tokyopop and Viz Media, and Dr. Park Cooper, co-creator of the graphic novel HALF DEAD and editor-in-chief of comic-book publisher Septagon Studios. We'll cap it off with endorsements and of course Q&A from the audience!

Don't forget to check out the podcast at iTunes and subscribe!

Meanwhile, tune in next Tuesday for the next episode...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MTV Geek on Alex Van Helsing (with Excerpt!)

Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the UndeadMTV Geek, MTV's website on books, comics, movies and the like, has a post up with an exclusive preview of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead.
Go check it out!

Release day for Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead (and some new reviews)

Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead
Some new reviews for Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead this morning, on the very day that the book is available everywhere. 

Mundie Moms turned in a review of Vampire Rising, which comes out in paperback today:
I really enjoyed this book. It was an engaging, fun, quick read. There's humor, classical references, down to earth and enjoyable characters and of course some great vampire hunting, butt kicking scenes. Now I can see why Alex Van Helsing made the Texas Lone Star List. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Voice of the Undead. This is a clean cut book I'd recommend to older middle grade and YA readers.
Collected Miscellany has a review of Voice of the Undead:
Ultravox was a nice villain and the concept added a thread that could pull both the action of the school(s) and the larger vampire versus human battle.  The continuing battle with Elle and the development of the Merrill brothers added a nice touch as well – some tension and an extra burst of action.
Looks like this is turning into a nice series for those looking for action adventure with a vampire twist.
Voice of the Undead is a fast-paced, action-packed caper.  Alex is in and out of trouble faster than you can say Vampire Rising.  ... Alex is too busy surviving to reflect on anything, but the mishaps keep the story moving forward. 
Finally! The book is here! I want to hear what you think.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shock Value (Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 1)

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool (often vampire) things. Today:
SHOCK VALUE by Jason Zinoman

Shock Value is a deeply researched and thoughtfully told analysis of New Horror, the modern-set, often more unsettling horror movies that came around in the 70s and continue more or less to today.
I had some real doubts about reading this outstanding book from Penguin Press. I'm a fan of horror of the gothic era-- Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, Hammer and Corman. For me the end of the Gothics signaled by the thunderclap of The Exorcist is a sort of sad time, although I appreciate the modern scares of the New Horror era. I mean, The Exorcist is a masterpiece, and I'm a huge fan of a few modern horrors such as The Changeling.

I'd read a series of essays by Jason Zinoman in Slate where he staked out several positions I loved (such as "the less explained about horror, the better") and at least one position I wasn't on board with, that horror has a purpose, and the purpose is to unsettle the audience. That means constantly upping the stakes, because the audience can't remain unsettled long-- so that whereas audiences in the 70s were disturbed by Regan spitting up pea soup, by the 2000s we really need to see someone's eye gouged out with a blowtorch. I'm not really there because I kind of think there's room for both the unsettling and the curiously settling kinds of horror. I'm not convinced that one is superior to the other.

The book makes no such claim-- Zinoman painstakingly traces the rebellious roots of Wes Craven, Dan O'Bannon, William Friedkin, Peter Blatty, and more as they launch modern classics like Last House on the Left, Alien, and The Exorcist. And it all begins with a look at Vincent Price, hamming it up on the Mike Douglas show, musing about what is horror.

Great stuff. I really admire this book and recommend it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Listen now to the Kung Fu & Vampires Episode! (Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 5)

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool (often vampire) things. Today:
Kung Fu and Vampires: The Caste Dracula Podcast brought to you by alexvanhelsing.com

The podcast team recorded our new episode last night and had a great time. You can listen now to our discussion of kung-fu, vampires, and the movie that brought them together.
Description: A look at the one the most awesome and awesomely off vampire movies ever, the kung-fu vampire extravaganza LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES starring Peter Cushing. Hosted by the creators of the Alex Van Helsing book series (Jason Henderson), indy comic Halloween Man (Drew Edwards), and manga Psy-comm (Tony Salvaggio), and token female attorney Julia Guzman. We'll cap it off with a look at kung fu, vampires, and of course Q&A from the audience!
Here you go:

Or you can find the Castle Dracula Podcast at Talkshoe.
Or on iTunes.

Meanwhile, here's a trailer for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SIX DAYS! Pre-Order! (And tune in tonight!) (Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 6)

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool (often vampire) things. Today:

Tune in tonight to the Castle Dracula Podcast! And by "Tune In," of course I mean click that link and you can either dial in or listen on computer. Tonight the topic is kung-fu vampires.
Description: A look at the one the most awesome and awesomely off vampire movies ever, the kung-fu vampire extravaganza LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES starring Peter Cushing. Hosted by the creators of the Alex Van Helsing book series (Jason Henderson), indy comic Halloween Man (Drew Edwards), and manga Psy-comm (Tony Salvaggio), and token female attorney Julia Guzman. We'll cap it off with a look at kung fu, vampires, and of course Q&A from the audience!
Meanwhile: holy mackerel. Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead comes out in SIX DAYS! It's been a long road since the first book came out last year-- I've talked to literally thousands of readers and even got to be the only Texan on the Texas Lone Star List. Now, book two is finally coming out. I want to do more of these-- and I want this book to blow the first one out of the water. 
  1. If you like Alex Van Helsing, pre-order. Pre-orders are everything. If you haven't, pre-order the book by clicking the Amazon link to the left.
  2. Want more to do? Read a Preview of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead at HarperTeen!
  3. While you're there, put the Read Inside widget you see below on your site by going to the preview page and clicking "Put this book on your site" in the upper right to grab the code for the widget. Then you can just paste it into your blog.
  4. Finally, thank you to all the readers who have written in! I've had a blast hearing from all of you.
So! Go read, and then pre-order. Voice of the Undead comes out on July 26 and I for one can't stand the suspense.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ebook Pricing Has Nothing to Do with Physical Book Pricing

I was on twitter and someone brought up a logical question that people have asked often:
How can it be that a book has a cheaper physical price at a store than when I buy it on Kindle?
A few supporting points I hear:
Paper costs more than air, so the paper price should be higher.
Restated as a cry from the heart: On general principle there should never be a book that costs more on paper.

Unfortunately, sometimes the things we think are just common sense in fact aren't true. The prices of ebooks and paper books have nothing to do with one another.

Let's completely set aside, by the way, the cost of network bandwidth and content management. We'll pretend a world where ebook and paper book costs of delivery are equal.

The price of ebooks depends on a lot of things, such as the price suggested by the retailer, the actual price paid by the retailer to the publisher, and any standard price the retailer pays. There are lots and lots of details in here, but basically the thing to know is that ebooks are a product like downloadable games that have a price. The price could vary widely from day to day and hour to hour, though as a matter of policy these prices generally are stable.
The price of paper books depends on a lot of things, such as such as the price suggested by the retailer, the actual price paid by the retailer to the publisher, and any standard price the retailer pays. There are lots and lots of details in here, but basically the thing to know is that paper books are a product like slacks that have a price. The price could vary widely from day to day and hour to hour, though as a matter of policy these prices generally are stable.

You know what these two don't have anything to do with? One another. Sams sells paper books. On Tuesday they might decide, "It's back to school time! Today, paper books will be the thing that brings people in the door. Let's make all paper books half off. We'll lose money on the paper books, but we'll make money on pencils and pens." And Voila, a $15 book is $7. The Ebook on Amazon is still $9.99. Let the cry of the heart begin. They don't have anything to do with one another. They are products, with prices. They have no more relation to one another than their relation to the price of a soft drink featuring a character from a movie based on the book.

But you know, they could have something to do with one another by choice. In theory a retailer could set up a spider that says, if there's a cheaper price in hardback out there, we will undercut it on the ebook version. But that would still be a marketing choice by the retailer. And anyway, why? They are different products. Tomorrow Sams' sale will end; the paper book will go back up.

I might be in an airport and can't find SOLOMON KANE, but can buy it for $9.99 on my Kindle. My price choices here are $0 for zero books or $9.99 for one ebook. The fact that Solomon Kane is $5 at a store down the street from the airport is completely meaningless in this instance.

I might be in the airport and find Under The Dome marked down to $8 on paper, while the ebook remains $11.77. But the paper book weighs approximately 900 pounds while the ebook weighs nothing. At this point, the ebook is worth the extra money, if we're comparing. I'm paying for a value.

Ebook prices and paper book prices: They don't have anything to do with one another.