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Friday, April 30, 2010

Alex Van Helsing Article: That's my skull on the bookshelf

That's my bookshelf with the skull there. The Star Telegram has an article up today that does the kind favor of giving my neighbors in the Metroplex the heads up about Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, which comes out, what, Tuesday? That's actually just a few days.

The article is by the supremely cool Dave Martindale, who writes a lot about things I love, like classic TV and movies and books. It was nice to have him in my little red study; we chatted about vampires, Hardy Boys and the Man from UNCLE.

The funny thing about this aspect of writing is that it's totally fun and seemingly frivolous, and yet totally necessary if you want readers to find your book. So if you're a writer and kind of an introvert, you suddenly have to become at home with getting up in front of the crowd: Hey look! Book! Vampires! Skull! Luckily I am totally at home with that. :)

By the way: have you taken the Alex Van Helsing Vampire Quiz yet? No? Let me know how you do!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Girls in the Stacks: Alex Van Helsing like MacGyver, Vampire Hunter

Girls in the Stacks have posted their review of Alex Van Helsing and in a formulation I haven't seen yet liken Alex to MacGyver, the guy who can do things like make an airplane out a refrigerator. That's definitely a model; I call them "MacGyver Powers."

 I was hooked from the first sentence!
...
Alex is an extremely likable character, with cool survival skills. I mean, at fourteen he can kill a vampire, single-handedly, with only crude weapons. He is also extremely instinctual; he can come up with plans within seconds after a problem arises.  I think of him as the MacGyver of vampire hunters. Though, I would have liked to see/hear more of his emotions, his internal struggles. 
You can read the rest here.

Incidentally, Stacy and Shannan at Girls in the Stacks are pretty cool. We met up at a local Borders and talked Alex and vampires for a while-- in fact I think there's video of that laying around. If it turns up, I'll post it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tales of the Snow Woman

Today in between working on Alex Van Helsing #2 (so called, because who knows what the title of that book will be), I've been reading up on a few Japanese folktales. Particularly I've been looking at Yuki-onna, the Snow Woman.

Yuki-onna comes to the lost in the snow and leads them astray, freezing and killing. She is the spirit of deadly winter and loneliness. What a wondrous image. There are many stories online, but here are two excellent movie scenes.

First is from Kaidan Yuki Joro, 1968-- as Yuki-Onna visits two men sleeping in the woods.



The second is a terrifying, lost-in-the-snow of Yuki-onna from Kurosawa's Dreams, with music by Ivoux.
 

I tend to write horror with a lot of engines, but of course I find inspiration in every creepy tale I come across. I wonder if we can put Yuki-onna on a motorcycle.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SciFiChick: Alex Van Helsing

SciFiChick has posted a review of Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising and it's very kind:

It’s fresh and fun; and I was completely hooked from the start. A non-stop action and adventure fantasy for young adults, this new series doesn’t disappoint. And the secret vampire hunting organization that gives the feeling of a young James Bond novel… with killer vampires. It’s a fantastic vampire-slayer series debut for readers of all ages.
Thanks SF Chick!

Examiner article on Alex Van Helsing

The Examiner has a fun article/interview from writer Caitlin Stanford on Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising . Check it out!

It’s fresh and fun; and I was completely hooked from the start. A non-stop action and adventure fantasy for young adults, this new series doesn’t disappoint. And the secret vampire hunting organization that gives the feeling of a young James Bond novel… with killer vampires. It’s a fantastic vampire-slayer series debut for readers of all ages.
Van Helsing now has a new place in today's pop culture thanks to local author Jason Henderson of Grapevine.  Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising is the first novel in a young adult series by Henderson that is sure to arouse new interest in classic monster literature and bring the Van Helsing name back to life.  To take a look inside the new book, set to be released May 4, 2010, click here.

Thanks SF Chick!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Literary Agent Advice & What are Rules For?

The Guide to Literary Agents posted a column of Chapter 1 mistakes most lit agents would prefer writers avoid. As a learner, I think this is all pretty useful advice. A lot of our favorites turn up, such as the agent who shares:

"I dislike opening scenes that you think are real (I rep adult genre fiction), then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.  And so many writers use this hackneyed device. I dislike lengthy paragraphs of world building and scene setting up front.  I usually crave action close to the beginning of the book (and so do readers)."
        - Laurie McLean, Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents



That absolutely has to be true. I can tell this as a reader-- not opening with a dream sequence seems like a good rule. Actually, that's the problem with these lists. They're all good and the advice is all useful. But somehow I wish they all came with a caveat like "everything here is a rule of thumb."


Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management (like Laurie McLean above) nicely couches her own advice in what has to be the best possible formulation, that this is about how she reacts: "I do in fact hate it when someone wakes up from a dream in Chapter 1, and I dislike an overly long prologue.  The worst thing that you can do is let that crucial chapter be boring - that’s the chapter that has to grab my interest!" 







You know what that rule is good for? It gives you some decent advice about opening chapters, but also tells you what Michelle Brower doesn't like, which is probably more important if you're showing something to her. 

The prologue question haunts me, though I'm not sure why. I don't actually use prologues myself, or haven't yet in a novel. And everyone can sort of nod and roll their eyes at poor examples of prologues. And yet this is one of the most well-broken rules in books. Harry Potter 1 opens with a prologue; I wouldn't cut it for the world. Every Alex Rider novel opens with the bad guys doing something somewhere to set up the plot. Almost every one (if not every one) of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt(R) novels opens with a historical prologue that presents the particular Maltese Falcon that Pitt will be chasing for this adventure. I can just imagine someone saying, "You know, Clive, how about we open with Pitt in an action scene, and we sprinkle in the stuff about the shipwreck later." I guess we could. I would. But Cussler doesn't, and that serves him well.


All of the advice you read is good. If you take your own work and run it through the advice you read, you'll likely catch a lot of issues. 

But here's the emotional kernel at the heart of these lists that I think needs to be said. These lists of rules and advice are not a magical formula that will protect your work. Following all the rules will not stave away rejection any more than it will stave away boredom. These are not completely unrelated-- a writer who seems to know no rules of writing whatever very likely will product poor work. But following these conventions-- and that's all they are; there's no actual God of No Prologues-- will still not guarantee that our work is good. There is no protection against needing to do more work, or needing to abandon the project entirely. Don't Open with a Dream Sequence is no talisman against rejection.

I read a lot of writing on writing and prefer the nuts and bolts kind; my favorite is Stephen King's On Writing, and I love The Writer's Journey. For grammar I still prefer The Elements of Style. But the advice we read that is more about selling our work is usually more a report of what the agent or editor is tired of, and I tend to find reading it all makes me weary because I can hear their weariness. Your best talisman against that is work that makes them wake up, and the rest is noise.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Take the Alex Van Helsing Vampire Quiz!


Over at HarperTeen, the gang has posted a quiz to test your knowledge of all things vampire. I wrote this quiz, so it's also a pretty effective map of my vampire-lit brain.  But my favorite part is, when you're done, I've provided a cool page of my favorite vampire movies and trailers for them. Where else will you find side-by-side links of Horror of Dracula, Dracula's Daughter, and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires?

Definitely check it out!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Alex Van Helsing, Vampires and Twilight

Comic Monsters has an article up today where I answered questions on Alex Van Helsing.  I really enjoyed these thought provoking questions from a writer who calls himself "Dwight Frye" after the frighteningly deranged dude who graced both Dracula '31 and Frankenstein.

Read the whole article here, but here's a snippet:

Dwight Frye: Tell us about Alex Van Helsing?
Jason Henderson: Oh, man, this is exciting for me. Alex Van Helsing is a young adult series from Harper Collins about Alex, a 14-year-old who can sense vampires and gets recruited at a very young age to join the Polidorium. Alex is actually a character who showed up in Sword of Dracula as an adult. Ronnie Van Helsing actually gets mentioned in Alex Van Helsing #1, though of course she’s much younger, because the Alex Van Helsing stories take place years earlier than Sword of Dracula.
Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising is the first AVH book, and it comes out from HarperTeen in May 2010. I’m already contracted to write two more, so #2 comes out in May 2011, and #3 comes out in 2012. Those are the hardbacks; there will also be paperback versions in between. And the initial response, a month or so before it's out, is very positive. The ALA gave us a great review, and so have a lot of the bloggers who have seen early copies. Of course now I’m busy also working on a Ronnie Van Helsing book, though I have no idea what will go down with that. My whole life isn’t wrapped up in that universe—I have other plans—but those are definitely taking up a huge amount of time. 

...

Dwight Frye: If Dracula was really a vampire and alive today, what do you think he'd make of "Twilight?"
Jason Henderson: I think it depends on if Dracula had some money in Twilight.
The Dracula in my universe is a cruel, sadistic schemer. I actually think he’d completely ignore Twilight. The vampires in it would not be recognizable to him. Vampires in the Sword of Dracula universe are evil because the curse that makes you into a vampire burns out your conscience and makes you a sociopath. So Edward Cullen wouldn’t happen in my universe, or if a kind and generous vampire did happen he’d be a highly endangered anomaly. The vampires of Sword of Dracula come in several varieties—the smart, the near-zombie-like, and everywhere in-between—but generally they are the bad guys, the fallen, allergic to crosses and Holy Water and all that. They’re the dark side. Plus they have really big plans. So Edward Cullen would be like “Wait, we’re gonna poison the Chicago water supply? We’re gonna kill some Senators? We’re gonna take over a penitentiary and make an army of zombies? Um, I just wanta fall in love with a teenager, man.”
...
I actually really enjoyed Twilight myself; I love seeing other concepts for vampires. I’ve heard some vampire writers hating on the series and I can’t figure out why—it’s not a threat to your bad-vampire story to have good-vampire stories. Plus I guarantee you, if you’re a writer going on the record insulting a popular series, you look pitiful. We should respect one another.
... check out the whole article here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SLJ review and Alex Van Helsing Teaser Trailer

So we now have about two weeks until Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising comes out. The good news is we had a fantastic review from the School Library Journal:

“Henderson references Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to weave a great story line full of action, suspense, and adventure. The satisfying story captivates readers with a modern-day spin of James Bond meets Dracula. It has lots of bite that will have readers thirsting for more.”  (Donna Rosenblum, SLJ Reviewer) 

(*Editor's note-- you forgot to mention that it's a STARRED review!) Okay. Now we have mentioned it. Thank you, Ed.

I actually am too thrilled by that to have anything to add to it, other than gosh, Donna. Thanks!

Also, we have a new teaser trailer for Alex Van Helsing-- a little 30-second message. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who's afraid of Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein?

Monica S of the Bibliophilic Book Blog gave Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising a "4-Crow" review. Thanks, Monica!

Monica brings up an interesting point that I wanted to try to answer.
I like this new thing among authors, whether intentional or not, to include references to some of the world's classics. I think that if teens see some of these books in their modern favorites it will inspire them to give them a try outside the classroom. I just read an article about the impact from the mentioning of Wuthering Heights in Twilight has had on sales of Wuthering Heights. It makes me want to clap and cheer. I hope the trend continues. 

I have a couple of thoughts on author's including references to classic books. For my part I have to say I never gave it much deliberate thought. For those who don't know-- and I have to reckon that's everybody, since Alex Van Helsing #1 isn't out-- the book is an action adventure, but the characters are concerned with the young people who hung out with author Mary Shelley during the writing of Frankenstein. Now, you don't have to have read Frankenstein-- or indeed know who Mary Shelley even is-- to follow the story, because the characters themselves are reading the book in school, and anyway they tend to explain to us whatever's important.

I think of this as being the same phenomenon as soccer in Bend it Like Beckham.  You don't actually have to know a lot about soccer to follow the movie-- you get that the character knows and cares about soccer.

Anyway, in Alex Van Helsing, Alex and his friends tend to find their clues hidden in books-- and generally not in made up books, either, but real books. If it were to happen that a reader decided to go read Frankenstein or Dracula, that sure couldn't hurt anyone. But it's not necessary. (Actually, Alex isn't even that careful a reader, either. He relies a lot on friends.) In these books, books really matter, which is a defensible position for a writer to hold.


So: I am not afraid of making references to anything as long as I make some explanation for those who don't know the subject. All that matters is that the character care. There are always subjects that some of us know a lot about and others are just coming to: classic books? Sure. Nuclear physics? Why not? Expensive shoes? That too.Young adult readers today are far more sophisticated than they were in past generations, with far more ways to look up anything that comes along. I'm pretty sure that there's nothing that should throw these readers for a loop, so I'm not surprised that no editor took a red pen to Bella's Wuthering Heights.

Books really matter in my books because books really matter to the characters-- and because they really matter to me. The alternative would be sort of sad, wouldn't it?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Huckleberry Dracula

The Adventures of Dracula (Excerpt), with apologies to Mark Twain

(Note-- I performed this for the Polidori Society, but try as I might I cannot find it posted anywhere. So here it is.)

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of DRACULA, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Bram Stoker, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Mina, or Lucy, or maybe the captain of the Demeter.

The Captain of the Demeter—the Russian ship Demeter, that is—is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before. Now the way that the book winds up is this: I had returned to my home all by my lonesome, and that boy Harker, and Mina his wife, and Van Helsing, and the Doctor Seward, and that Texan Morris, all lit after me and caught me asleep, all coward-like, and that Texan he stuck me with a knife the size of a Pope’s hat, and it was a knife I heared him call a Bowie, which made no sense because it was made of metal and if you throwed it in the water it might do many a thing, it might kill a fish, and it might hold down your line, but surely it wouldn’t float, and he stuck me with it and I crumbled into dust and they was all happy. Except that Mister Morris he died, but that ain’t no matter because when he died he was recitin’ poetry and spread himself so over his death that surely there wouldn’t be nothing more to do with near so much flair after that. So I crumbled all to dust and Mr. Morris he died. And Mr. Harker he married Mina Murray, and Mr. Van Helsing he apparently spent his years with Mr. Harker and Mina bouncing their child on his knee and sayin’ things as to sum up a story.

And that I don’t know if that was true because as Mr. Stoker said I crumbled all to dust.

The reason I crumbled all to dust was this—I was tolerable tired of these people and their ways, which was why I had lit out for home in the first place. And crumblin’ to dust ain’t no big thing; and it always amazed me that they was so satisfied with themselves and so spread across their triumph, even with Mr. Morris dyin’ all gallant as he did. Here were these men and this woman, and they had Van Helsing with them, and remember—here, in Chapter 18 he said:

"The branch of wild rose on his coffin keep him that he move not from it, a sacred bullet fired into the coffin kill him so that he be true dead, and as for the stake through him, we know already of its peace, or the cut off head that giveth rest. We have seen it with our eyes."

So there is some truth in that, because a stake through the heart do indeed giveth rest, and they had seen it with their own eyes, because I had turned Miss Lucy into a vampire, and they did stake her and she died. She died—did she crumble into dust? No.

So think about this, there these people are, and they have chased me, and shouted to one another, and they know because of what Dr. Van Helsing said that they have got to take it serious, and drive a stake through my heart and for good measure cut off my head.

And what did they do? Why they stabbed me with a Bowie Knife and they slashed my throat. And I was asleep but not once they commenced to stabbing, and I woke up, and like I say I was done with these people, and being not dead because of the knife not being a wooden stake, I crumbled to dust and went home.

I mean, these people knew I could do that—look in Chapter 18, where Van Helsing he says “he can grow and become small, and he can at times vanish and come unknown.-- He come on moonlight rays as elemental dust-- He become so small, he can slip through a hairbreadth space at the tomb door. He can, when once he find his way, come out from anything or into anything,” so they knowd I could do those things, but when I crumbled to dust they was so pleased with themselves and so took with the powerful feeling of Morris’ dyin’ and all that they assumed I was dead.

And that’s just as well for me.

But there’s other times I could tell you about where the same thing happened, where I am going about my business bein’ the Lord of Vampires, Prince of Filth and Degradation, Principal of Pandemonium, and Seducer of Victorian Women in Taffeta. And I can tell you have seen all of them and all of them is mostly true and very much not true neither. Like in Dracula, Prince of Darkness, a title I surely do respect, where in it I come running across ice because my coffin has fallen on the ice, and the hero girl she shoots the ice, and the ice opens up like a music box lid, and I slide in. Now first, that just didn’t happen that way, because remember that when push comes to shove I can just crumble into dust. I actually slid into the ice because I was very, very drunk.

Also there was that one Dracula of 1979, which I also respect because in it I have my hair all blow-dried and big and I get to dance with Kate Nelligan, but in that one I die because I get hooked in the back on a ship and flung up into the air and the sun takes me apart. Now let’s review. Stakes. Dust. Same thing. Not dead. And anyway, anyone who knows that book by Mister Stoker knows that sunlight don’t kill me. But I don’t mind people thinking it do, because that way I get away more.

Or there’s Scars of Dracula, which I guess means scars that I cause because, vampire, I don’t scar none, not even no scars that would make me look surely more scary than I do, like a big scar acrosst my face, no scars, but in that movie Scars of Dracula I’m about to give the hero a mighty beat-down and then I get struck by lightning. Now, that’s some damn luck. And then I go to tumblin’ off the cliff on fire and I look like a blow-up doll someone set on fire and threw off a cliff. All this happened, I really did get struck by lightning, but that wasn’t me that burned up. I turned to dust and I had my manservant set fire to a blow-up doll I keep around for just such an occasion.

To tell the truth there ain’t a one of them movies that tells it like it is any better than that book by Mr. Stoker, but they is all truthful in a ways and I don’t see no harm in it. I make one exception as to this for there is one movie very true, and that’s Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. That’s a good dog, and he is real.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reading is a Social Activity. When I was a kid, it totally wasn't.

Reading has changed utterly, and I'm thrilled by it.

On my bookshelf in the "movie" section sits a copy of The Golden Turkey Awards, by Michael and Harry Medved. Next to it is Nightwalkers, an excellent book on Gothic horror movies by Bruce Wright.

Golden Turkey came out in 1980 or '81. Nightwalkers came out in 1995-- that one's just fifteen years old. But when both of these books came out, it was a different world, both in terms of how one read and enjoyed them, and how one went on to check out the movies that the authors talked about.

Let's look at Golden Turkey-- this is a funny book that uses the gimmick of imaginary awards like "The Most Ridiculous Monster in Screen History" to gather together the best nominees. (My favorite was always "Robot Monster," a man in a gorilla costume wearing a diving helmet.)
When I first got this book in the mid-80s, it was essentially a fun read to pass around the school bus. That would be the extent of the social aspect of enjoying it. If my friends laughed at the comments about Robot Monster, that was the extent of our experience.

We couldn't actually have a party to watch Robot Monster because, of course, no video store carried it, and it wasn't likely to turn up on TV. (It might, but who knew? You only knew what was coming up within the current week.) We couldn't order it from Amazon, because Amazon did not exist, and when that first came around, it didn't offer movies, and anyway, who was going to sell Robot Monster?

In 1996 I wound up in Austin and, wandering the streets in a daze brought on by the blinding sun so well described in James Hynes' NEXT,  I dropped into a downtown library and borrowed Nightwalkers.  Now, this was '96, so the first thing I did was post a review on Amazon. Because I was unemployed but somehow had the Internet.


But you know what there wasn't? There wasn't an online universe dedicated to discussing books like Goodreads-- at least not that enough people used that it could make sense to check in every day. Authors didn't have blogs where they discussed their books. I didn't start blogging until around 2000, myself. And in the meantime, if Golden Turkey Awards or Nightwalkers came out today, the experience of reading them would be vastly transformed, because of course now, if you want to see anything, you can.


When I was a child in the 1980s, I walked across the sunbaked fields of central Texas to a used bookstore and bought spy novels at 25 cents apiece. I read them alone. Today we still read alone, but that's where the loneliness ends. It is an utterly different world.

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Review of AVH1: "highly recommend"

WillowRaven has posted an awesome new review of Alex Van Helsing #1:

The world of vampires that Jason has created is both classic and unique. We get vampires who have no desire to act human. Vampires that are taken straight from the pages of myth and legend. But we also get secret societies, family secrets and hunters with a touch of the paranormal....

I highly recommend this book to fans of good vampire stories. Alex, as a male protagonist, I feel would really appeal to younger male readers. Any fans of good paranormal young adult books would enjoy this one, in my humble opinion of course :)


Thanks WillowRaven! It really makes a huge difference to the book when someone not only reads the book but feels compelled to write something about it. I appreciate the call-out!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Buffy Reviews posted

You may notice that suddenly "Buffy" is the single most common label on my blog. The reason is that I have imported 58 (really, Jason? 58?) reviews I did of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer episodes and comics, most of them when the show was still on the air. So if you get a hankering to read my blow-by-blow reviews, there they are. The cool thing is that these reviews are essentially trapped in amber, written at the time each episode aired, with no clue how it was going to work out.

It's funny; I haven't thought about Buffy in years. I was at a school a few weeks ago and mentioned that I used to cover the show, and no students had seen it. I've never written anything like it-- Alex Van Helsing is in a truly different universe-- but I still very much admire this work. It is one of the few modern vampire tales I've watched.

Smash

In September of 1996, I was married, unemployed, living in Austin and running out of options. I'd graduated from law school, but I wasn't going to be a lawyer. That much was clear: I'd spent most of law school writing fantasy and franchise novels and now, back in Texas, I wasn't really likely to work for a large firm.

But there wasn't much else. By my birthday in early September, I'd been in Austin for a Summer and had not found a job.

Then on my birthday, a box arrived at our apartment-- it was a stack of X-Files comics from Topps. The editor of a web magazine called Smash!-- an online mag intended to drive consumers to the brick-and-mortar store Another Universe (now TFAW)-- had sent these to me as part of a new assignment. I was to read the comics and post blow-by-blow reviews of the comics.

This was a lifesaver, because I was paid a few cents per word. My reviews were epic in length, but I strove to be very detailed. Every nook and cranny of the issue would be explored for meaning-- if the evil General's name was Shadenfreude, I'd include a definition of the word; if writer Stefan Petrucha hid references to classic songs in the dialogue, I'd make a note of it. It helped that Petrucha is a writer who includes layers upon layers of hidden meaning. But anyway: what this meant was that I had a job. I was writing for the web, and it actually paid the bills.

For several years, writing for web magazines was one of the chief bread-and-butter gigs I had. For Smash!, which became Mania!, and then Another Universe, then Cinescape and finally Mania again, I wrote reviews of comics, books, movies and TV: I reviewed X-Files, Buffy, and Angel for all media, Spawn and Witchblade comics, and eventually added three weekly columns: a manga column called Otaku, a comics column called The Graphic Novelist, and a gothic horror column called The Hammerscape.

What's amazing is that I couldn't keep up with demand: at that time there was an unending appetite for content.

 I started writing for games, often as a full-timer, but sometimes I got by for years as a freelancer, one by-the-word assignment at a time.

All of this came back to me as I was looking at the Internet Archives of Smash! and thinking how it all just kind of lined up. I wondered: if I had been born 20 years earlier, would I have survived the Summer at all? In the past twenty years most of my writing has been in the technology field, for games and websites. (Yes, I've done some novels. And that did exist before.) But I can't help wondering what this life would have looked like if I'd landed in Austin in 1976, and not 1996.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew Meet Dracula

I watched something amazing.

I trace my love of the character DRACULA to one piece of media. Not Lugosi's Dracula, no. Not Nosferatu, not Lee, not Palance or Jourdan.

No, my first taste of the character that would come to be so important  to me came from a 1977 episode of HARDY BOYS/NANCY  DREW, where they, yes, "Meet Dracula."


I saw that Netflix was carrying the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries on DVD and had to get this. If you're not familiar, here's the great opening credit sequence, with it's swell Night Gallery-like opening theme.



Oh, by the way, if you want to know what we were watching when I was a child: this was it.

The plot? The Hardy Boys, a pair of young, wealthy amateur sleuths, head for Europe when their father disappears while investigating a series of art thefts. They run into Nancy Drew, a young, wealthy
amateur sleuth as well, who is trailing her father, who has been working the same case. But where the boys make everything up as they go along, Nancy is meticulous and kind of a priss.

A lovable priss, though. Did you get that? This is the episode where the Hardy Boys meet Nancy Drew. 

The art thefts seem to coincide with the concert dates of "Allison," a prog rocker played by no less than Paul Williams. Allison is headlining and organizing a concert-- a sort of 36-hour Draculapalooza -- at Dracula's castle in Transylvania, and so the Hardy Boys bribe their way into a rock group.

While older Hardy Boy Frank creeps around looking for clues, younger Hardy Boy Joe will sing in the band. This works out okay because Joe is played by Shaun Cassidy, and he and the band both seem to know
Cassidy's songs. Down below the castle? Dracula.

Also, Nancy and Frank kind of get a thing going, but very, very slowly.

God, this is great stuff. Castles, cobwebs, rock and roll, way cool 70s gear, and Dracula, who is portrayed the best way I have ever seen: boots. That is, we see not the vampire king, but his boots. I was six years old and I remember the boots of Dracula like it was yesterday.

I also really love the feel of this story, that these characters are so slick and smart that everyone-- everyone, from Mayors to rock bands-- immediately take them in and let them get involved in their lives.

Extra points to the show for, in 1978, including a minor lecture on the history of Vlad the Impaler and even the controversy over the location of Vlad's burial.


I wonder if Lorne Greene, the Romanian Inspector who claims to be a friend of their father's, will turn out to be a bad guy?

Here's part 1!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Early copies are in!

Okay, two new shots to share. My editor at HarperCollins sent me images of the early copies of Alex Van Helsing, with its nifty embossed silvery letters and all. We have a decent shot of the cover...

... and also a pensive shot of the book, thoughtfully looking out the window at New York City.

Live your dream, book! Go run into the street and, you know, throw your embossed hat in the air, or something!

New Alex Van Helsing Facebook Fan Page!

New news: there is now an Alex Van Helsing fan page at Facebook. This would be a great place to contemplate whether or not AVH will have sparkly vampires. Hint: no.


We're now about a month from Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising's release in hardback.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mrs. Dalloway, not a Vampire

I spent the weekend reading two books: Riptide, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. One is a two-fisted technothriller about a doctor who joins a dangerous high-tech expedition to  uncover buried treasure on a cursed island. It is long and detailed and full of suspense, and the characters interior lives are somewhat truncated. The book has secret codes, forbidden love, emergency medicine involving axes, flooding tunnels, booby traps, radioactivity and sailing in storms. If this sounds like the kind of book you would like, you will probably like this book. I did, because I'm predictable that way.

The other book tells the story of a fifty-something woman wandering the streets of London as she plans to throw a party. That's pretty much it; she runs into other people and sometimes we follow them, and everyone thinks a lot about the past and how amazingly complicated life is, or something. It really is very good and I shouldn't mock it: it's a day in the life story. That's what these stories are. They tell a day in someone's life, and usually the point is that it's not a particularly important day, either. There will be no buried treasure. The idea behind Mrs. Dalloway is very much the aching idea in Our Town: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?... No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some."

I don't write anything at all like Mrs. Dalloway or Our Town. Everything I've ever written starts and ends with action and doing.  Sort of like the characters in Riptide, my characters tend to keep their deepest thoughts shoved away for other days when no one's about to set off a biological weapon or assasinate some cabinet ministers.

I try to think of what that would be like, a Mrs. Dalloway, Vampire Hunter:

The clock on the vampire's wall chimed, a reverberating sound, shrill and vibrato as it hung over the vampire's bedroom door, and Clarissa found herself annoyed, how could she be, even now when what she needed to do was step in, just a step like so many steps when she was young and wondered if ever she would feel any less deeply than she did then, and find the coffin just beyond, and rummage through her belongings, the rosewood stakes and crystal chalices of holy water that showed what she was capable of owning now, now that she had married Richard and that was the sort of thing that would be annoying, but wait no it was the clock that was annoying, why was that again?

Of course it's a gorgeous book, Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Honestly and truly. Anyway, that's what I read this weekend, in between easter egg hunts and reading to the girls.

I did an online interview this week that should be going up soon and someone asked me how much I liked various recent vampire series and I had to admit that I don't read much recent vampire material at all because I don't want to be influenced by it. The last vampire story I read all the way through was written in 1912 (and plays a heavy part in Alex Van Helsing #2.) This isn't a cardinal rule: I've skimmed and even read some recent vampire work, but if it was written since the Clinton administration and involves vampires, chances are I haven't read it. I do read old vampire stories and ghost stories and then pretty much anything else that catches my fancy-- potboilers like Riptide, lots of horror novels and thrillers, and lately more classics, as an attempt to make up for what I regard as lost time. I've started watching way less TV and replaced it with anything I should have read but didn't, hence the Woolf, and To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca.