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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Original Vs. New Fright Night Trailers: Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 55

With Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool vampire things. Today: 
Fright Night. 

The original 1985 Fright Night was a loving ode to vampire films, about a boy who teams up with a washed up horror host (played by Roddy McDowall) to face a vampire who has moved in next door. There are so many layers of vampire geekdom here, starting with the basic plot lifting a key element of Dracula-- the new neighbor is a vampire. In the original, the vampire was Chris Sarandon-- this Summer we see it all again with Colin Farrell. Here are trailers for both. The remake of Fright Night opens in August.

Original Fright Night Trailer

Fright Night Remake Trailer

Monday, May 30, 2011

World War II Vampires, #happymemorialday , Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 56

With Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool vampire things. Today: The Keep.
Looking for a vampire movie that will keep you in the Memorial Day spirit? How about a movie where Nazis are stupid enough to open an ancient vampire's tomb, and he proceeds to make mincemeat of

them. Also Scott Glenn plays a fearless demon hunter. This movie is utterly forgotten-- and utterly cool-- and you can see it now on Netflix streaming.

Here's a trailer-- Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lair of the White Worm: Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 57

With Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool vampire things. Today: Bram Stoker's Lair of the White Worm.

White Worm is probably the best-known story by Stoker not to have "Dracula" in the title, and the movie by Ken Russell starring Hugh Grant is an 80s vampire classic. Check it out!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Horror Hotty Veronica Carlson (#peopleiveseenlive) : Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 58

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down sixty cool vampire things, one per day. Today's cool vampire thing: swinging 60's scream queen Veronica Carlson.
Several years ago I had the chance to chair a panel featuring actresses who had starred in vampire films in the 60s.

On the panel was Veronica Carlson, a statuesque and stunning actress who was the perfect plainspoken, witty foil for the more baroque Ingrid Pitt. Carlson was in a number of Hammer films, including Horror of Frankenstein, which I regard as an unsung masterpiece, but none was better than Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. That movie had it all: Christopher Lee as Dracula, an amazing series of rooftop sets, and of course, Hammer Glamour.

Here then is a video tribute to the lovely Veronica Carlson, cool vampire thing of the day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

For the Blood is the Life: Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 59

With 59 days until the release of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead, I am counting down 59 cool vampire-related things. So keep coming back!

The Alex Van Helsing series exists in a world where high-tech spies must contend with vampires from classic literature, including Dracula as a key work, but also digging deep into lesser known stories. These old stories are my companions as I write and they've been with me since I was a child.

Today's cool thing is a favorite classic story (and a video with the same name): For the Blood is the Life by F. Marion Crawford, one of my favorite classic vampire tales.

For the Blood is the Life tells in just a few pages a romantic story of an old castle, stolen treasure, and a murdered innocent gypsy girl who becomes a vampire. There's a really nice image that sticks with me today of the ghost of the vampire, visible upon the grave and reaching out for victims, but unable to rise. You can read the story here. You can also find it in many collections, including one bearing the title of the story

When the moon rose high that night the shadow of that Thing was not alone down there upon the mound.
Calabria, Italy, where For the Blood is the Life takes place.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Peter Cushing: VOICE OF THE UNDEAD Countdown Minus 60

Holy Mackerel! We are now just sixty days from the July 26 hardback release of Voice of the Undead, the second book in the Alex Van Helsing series. So to that end I am going to be counting down sixty cool vampire things, one cool vampire item per day until D-Day.

Today is very special, though. It's the birthday of Peter Cushing, who played the best Van Helsing ever, in a series of films for Hammer Studios in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Oh, sure, Abraham Van Helsing in Stoker's Dracula was an elderly (if vigorous) oddball with a strange German accent. But in my mind, it's Peter Cushing who really captures the character who looms in the background of my own imagination. Peter Cushing's Van Helsing was driven, serious, athletic and had a commando-like ability to instantly spring into action, no matter the personal danger.

Here's a favorite moment that gives you some idea of what I mean-- Van Helsing taking the matter of purifying a fresh vampire bite in his own hands by hanging onto a heavy chain and applying a hot iron to his own neck. You do not mess with Peter Cushing.

Tune in tomorrow for VOICE OF THE UNDEAD Countdown Minus 59!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising nominated for Tennessee Library Association Award

I am a huge supporter of libraries. Here in North Texas, I try to take my daughters once a week to the Family Night at my neighborhood library. So there is nothing that thrills me more than recognition from a State library association. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I learned that Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising has been nominated for the Tennessee Association of School Libraries/ Tennessee Library Association  "Volunteer State Book Award."
Why "Volunteer State?" That's the nickname of Tennessee, earned during the War of 1812.

From the site: "The Volunteer State Book Award is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Library Association and the Tennessee Association of School Librarians. Each year, children across Tennessee are asked to read books from a list of nominated titles."

Alex has been nominated for the 2012-13 Middle School Division award. Fingers crossed, but I'm so honored to be nominated that the rest doesn't matter. Thank you Tennessee!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Best Saturday Morning Cartoon Lineup Ads Ever

Here is a wonderful recap of Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup ads. When I was a kid, every new season the networks would run two-page ads in comics filling you in on the new cartoon season. This web page gives a wonderful pictorial tour.

Here's another more complete catalog, with less commentary but organized according to year.

Note Drak Pack-- more on that one soon!

Friday, May 20, 2011

"This is when my heart would beat." -- Brains for Lunch

This week I read Brains For Lunch, a short, lovely and funny novel written entirely in haiku by K. A. Holt, a writer who I've admired a lot over the past several years for her brilliant tweets in the voice of Chaucer ("Fye the dregs who weareth blootooth sets upon theyr heds. Do you speeketh to me or to demones wither sleepe tween your eares?").

Brains for Lunch, though, is a full story about a zombie in middle school. There's a brilliant sort of dance here as Holt moves from gross-out humor (the zombies seem to be rotting and falling apart, like the dragging corpses in Thriller, which Holt references) while also being sort of sweet. The main character and narrator is Loeb, a zombie (or "Z") with a circle of friends (including a zombie girl named Mags and a thuggish Chupacabra) who can't seem to catch a break and bears a huge crush on the school librarian.

I stammer something
And then she's back at her desk
A gorgeous cliche
The librarian thinks that Loeb is smart enough to enter a haiku contest. This strikes Loeb as possible, too, because of something that I did not know about haiku:

Wouldn't be so hard
It's how Z's talk anyway
Maybe I should try
Will Loeb come up with some haiku to read that will win over his classmates and maybe even the heart of a mortal ("lifer") girl? Will his friends support him in the contest, which will be dominated by lifers?

"They're all so smart
with their shiny hair and brains
No way I'm going."
Brains for Lunch is a sweet, short book for 6th to 8th graders. It shows both brains and heart, which is a lot to ask of any book.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dad of Divas reviews Voice of the Undead!

Wow. I can just feel the release of the next Alex Van Helsing book, Voice of the Undead, right around the corner. Well, sort of. It actually comes out July 26. But that's soon-- in fact, it got its first blog review today!

Dad of Divas is a book blog from-- well, a Dad. Of girls, like me! He actually reviewed both Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising and Voice of the Undead, in fact. Here's a clip of what he had to say about Voice of the Undead:

Like the first book, this book kept me on the edge of my seat and kept me asking what is going to happen next.

Run on over to Dad of Divas to check the review out!

Thanks Dad of Divas!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ready Player One is a Gen X Great American Novel

Ready Player One is a Great American Novel.
No joke. It really is. I just finished reading Ready Player One, the debut novel from Ernest Cline, a writer I've met a billion times in Austin but that doesn't matter. Ready Player One, coming from Crown in August, is a great American novel. Every page makes you tremble in awe, that a book can so deftly and even heart-wrenchingly capture so many phenomena of modern life: the love of pop culture, the sacrifice of identity to a better, false, virtual self, the neglect of a world in exchange for a beautiful second one.

In short, Ready Player One is about a young man in the year 2044 whose one shot at escaping poverty is to win a scavenger-hunt-like quest in the OASIS, the virtual world that has essentially become what Second Life would like to be, the preferred mode of living for the entire planet. But to be victorious, the winner of the contest must be able to follow the esoteric clues left by the faintly mad creator behind OASIS, and that means knowing and loving everything the creator did. And that means knowing, and loving, the suburban escapes of the 1970s and 80s. Yes! Our hero must win his fortune by knowing not just the dialog but the blocking of great movies; he must know the quirks of the first versions of coin-op arcade games; he must remember the cover art of old D&D modules and take meetings in replicas of the Family Ties living room.

And all through this giddy, whirlwind marriage of futurism and pop culture festishism, Cline returns again and again to a series of somber, tragic notes: we are alone in a world we are ruining, our culture is beautiful, so beautiful that it draws us to dream away our lives, and that in our darkest moments we do not care. Add to all of this a love story, giant robot battles, and even a final fight like something out of The Two Towers.

I can't say enough. This is an amazing piece of work, the kind of work every writer wants to do. Well done. When Ready Player One comes, you must get it.

Does grammar count?

Not much blogging lately as I take a break and get geared up for promoting Alex Van Helsing: Book 2. But an interesting conversation broke out at the Alex Van Helsing Facebook page that you might want to check out.

How important is grammar in books today (as opposed to the past?)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Please Give to Red Cross (and a letter from a fan)

Please Give to Red Cross (and a letter from a fan)
I received a long letter from a student in Georgia-- one who lost power in the recent storms but did not lose her house. This is someone I've heard from before, a young writer who sends me nitpicky questions about how the vampire's powers in my books actually work. These past storms have devastated her neighborhood.

Day two and I'm strained to breaking and opting to crawl under a
table and curl into a ball. I was in tears driving to my class
today, driving through all that destruction ,seeing people who I
know or met, or heard about, and seeing their loss. I don't know
why I was spared, but seeing the people around me suffer is
heartbreaking. I'm trying to keep up a chipper attitude. Your book
is a good distraction from it all. And the short, pestery emails
with random questions that I hope you don't mind of which I'm able
to send during the times the generator is on. I have nothing to think
about, and Alex Van Helsing just sits and stares at me offering a world I can
hide in. Even if Dracula is my favorite character XD.

Go here if you want to give to the Red Cross for disaster relief here or anywhere.