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The Gang’s All Here: My Favorite Fictional Mobsters

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“Aw, shoot. I got my hat and forgot my gat…” (image via Buy Costumes)

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Being fanatic about real-life gangsters is a touchy subject. Following the lives of say, Al Capone, Griselda Blanco or Carlo Gambino is an interesting read, for sure. Until your stomach starts to twist a bit. Luckily, there’s been a whole host of fictional mobsters to captivate our imaginations and deep-seated need to be bad to the bone. These are personal favorites and there’s a noticeable lack of anyone named Corleone or Soprano listed on here (though, to be fair, I considered Tom Hagan and Sylvio Dante)…

The Kingpin

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(Image via Wikipedia)

Mega-sized supervillain Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as the Kingpin, is a badass among badasses within the Marvel universe. Stan Lee’s creation came to life in 1967 and has since gone up against Spiderman, Daredevil and the Punisher, among others. The Kingpin doesn’t possess superhuman powers. It’s simply his brute strength and tactical mind that contribute to his masterful Machiavellian scheming. Even as an enemy to the reigning Maggia and terrorist group HYDRA, the crushing fists of the Kingpin are nothing to scoff at. His ‘look’ has been reappropriated by Hollywood at large: we now expect all gangsters to be fat, bald and toting a cigar.

Johnny Boy

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(Image via MovieCrazed)

Martin Scorsese clearly loves gangster culture more than I ever will. He’s crafted a life out of shining light on the decadent underworld of every era. In Mean Streets, a fresh-faced Robert Deniro plays Johnny Boy, a reckless, goofy hothead with a rather visceral swagger for a small-time thug. He practically charms his way off the screen as the strutting, obnoxious sidekick to Harvey Keitel’s straight man. At the risk of sounding superficial, my favorite thing about the character is the way he looks. Between the jaunty hats, plaid suit coats, scruffy locks and one of the biggest guilty grins to grace the silver screen, I’d be in love…if I didn’t want to punch him in the face.

Keyser Soze

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(Image via EmpireOnline)

Motor-mouthed, limping Kevin Spacey wins for simply being renowned as a semi-fictional gangster, inside a work of fiction. In 1997’s The Usual Suspects, tales swirl about international heavy, Keyser Soze, throughout the course of the unfolding plot. It’s hard for me to think back to fifteen years ago, when I didn’t know the ending to this movie, but I’m pretty sure it caught me off guard. Surprise plot twists aside, Keyser Soze is the kind of omnipotent, grudge-holding villain that makes for cinema gold. He shows true gangsters are all about the long game. Though, if he weren’t simply a small-time crook, this paragraph would definitely be about Benicio del Toro’s character instead.

Jabba the Hutt

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(Image via Wikipedia)

Jabba the Hutt is totally gangster. Star Wars’ space-slug hoodlum is ‘our kind of scum’. Plus, his hard-partying palace is my kind of joint. I read somewhere that it took six separate operators to portray the worm-like warlord at any given time. Rumored to have been based on Orson Welles in his obese later years, this intergalactic thug is surrounded by packs of interesting groupies, followers and slaves. Salacious Crumb is no Paulie Walnuts, but hey, you take ‘em where you can.

Gus Fring

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(Image via HowsYourRobot)

The soft-spoken Los Pollos Hermanos kingpin put a new spin on gangster gravitas. Gustavo Fring ran a tight ship. Very few actors can walk the line between polite and threatening – Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito drew that line and silently tap-danced on it. His calm demeanor was enchanting and his cool, aloof manner most unnerving. Though he dies at the hands of protagonist Walter White, his character was the true professional of the whole bunch, displaying zero ego and maintaining perfect posture.

 

 

Lydia Mondy is a freelance writer with absolutely zero ‘gangster’ qualities. Unless you count her penchant for pinstripes and bourbon. You can find her blogging about everything from her Jem obsession to the big business behind all things ‘geeky

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Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

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loki agent of asgard

Beware: There be spoilers ahead.

I am a big fan of Loki, and not just the superb version in Marvel’s cinematic universe, but also the original. The one in the Poetic Edda, who is the Norse God of Fire and Mischief. Who is known as Loki Silvertongue and The Trickster. So I decided to pick up Marvel’s newest Loki story, Loki: Agent of Asgard. I went in, having read a preview of the series, with some pretty high expectations. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

The issue begins with Loki stabbing Thor in the back as he says, “Trust me,” to the reader. It’s such a classic Loki/Thor moment that the reader assumes Loki has a nefarious purpose. It turns out he had a purpose but it wasn’t really nefarious, just self-serving. As a somewhat newly-minted teenager, Loki is attempting to purge all the evil he committed and replace it with acts of good. Of course being Loki, he goes about it in his own special way. Including singing a Loki-ed version of The Wizard and I from Wicked, that I think shows some real promise, running up the side of Avengers tower in stolen Seven League boots and a coat made from shadow thread, and hacking the internet to delete all traces of his old self.

But the moment that really stood out for me was when the reader realizes something is wrong with Thor. He can apparently sniff Loki out and, after Loki causes a Hulk-Sized(literally)distraction to reach the Avengers database, Thor attempts to attack his brother with Mjolnir but he can’t lift it. She has deemed him unworthy because he meant kill Loki. This scene brings us back around to the beginning where Loki stabs Thor in the back. Turns out Thor had been possessed by a dark force and the sword Loki stabbed him with caused him to see the truth of his possession and force the darkness out.

We are treated to a glimpse of the All-Mother, three goddess, who make up a powerful triumvirate and are the ones who sent Loki on the mission to help Thor. The last frame features the All-Mother releasing the darkness from it’s magical prison, and from the smoke comes the Loki of old with his green spandex and gold horns and evil grin. And he wishes to talk about the future.

This comic made me laugh out loud, it made me cringe and it made me sing. All in all it was a great first issue and it gives me hope that Loki can become a mainstream COMIC character again, and not just be known for being played by the delicious Tom Hiddleston.

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Skyjacks and more

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Comics Review: Doctor Who: Skyjacks Vol. 3 by various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

This is a fun TARDIS-dimension-loop story which are enjoyable because of how timey-wimey theydownload get. This is an 11th Doctor/Clara story, and we get more about the Time War, information and fun images re: the various rooms in the TARDIS, and get to hobnob with some valiant WWII soldiery. There are various references to the previous Hypothetical Gentleman storyline, but not so much they’ll get in your way if you’ve missed it.

There’s an extra, unrelated story attached to this volume called “In-Fez-Station”, which is an 11th Doctor/Amy & Rory tale which involves the Slitheen, and mind-controlling fezes. Yes, you heard me, the fezes are evil. Or at least tools for such. Really bouncy and light-hearted fun after the epic, timey-wimey feel of the longer Skyjacks story.

Bottom Line: recommended, especially for fans of the 11th Doctor.

 

Bonus Review: Dead Man’s Hand #3 by various

Now I haven’t had the pleasure of catching the first two in the Dead Man’s Hand story, so admittedly I was a tetch lost re: who’s who and what’s happening. What I can say is that this is a fun romp in the Wild West with a meta twist, referencing Westerns all over the place. It does get a tad long-winded, as all the Doctors explain his philosophy to Sondrah. But oo, look: the War Doctor actually makes an appearance!

Bottom Line: definitely only if you’ve been following the story till now. But I do recommend it.

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Comics review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time #9-12 by various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

The Prisoners of Time storyline that continues with the recent Doctors and concludes pre-Capaldi with a twelfth issue is a fitting and compelling cap to the story up till now. What has been highly entertaining about the whole series is the dedication of one “episode” each per Doctor, with a thrilling, classic episode-like throughline for the whole thing. In general, the stories are varied enough yet coherent to the throughline that it reads like an actual series you’d find on TV. The art is also varied as per each artist, yet maintains a high quality we’ve come to expect from the Who comics and again makes us almost think we’re watching favorite episodes on TV.

#9 is of course starring the 9th Doctor (and Rose). It’s a fun megalomanaiacal villain who captures Rose both as a selfish romantic interest, and to trap the Doctor. (Incidentally, is it me or are you sick of Rose as a romantic interest?) The art is very Lichtenstein, very cinematic.

#10 stars the 10th doctor and Martha, and is a charming story set in 1950s Hollywood, where Martha is recruited as an actress. Lovely cute moments, including one where Martha declares: “I’m acquainted with Shakespeare.” Ha! Of course, it’s an alien invasion of Earth. Because you can’t have too many of those.

#11 centers around the 11th Doctor’s climactic attempts to stop Adam’s machinations through time. At this point, Adam has captured all of the Doctor’s companions and it’s finally time to put a stop to it. Wonderfully dramatic moment when the villain pontificates (as Doctor Who villains are wont to do) on why he hates the Doctor so, and poof! Who’s he in league with? The Master! Thanks SEP130396-03to the artists for making him the Delgado Master, too.

#12 is the conclusion to the whole story, which I won’t spoil, other than in #11 the Doctor was posed with a moral conundrum and in this concluding issue must solve it. What I will say, though, is that this is the Three/Five Doctors episode all Whovians fantasize about, that could never happen on television: all 11 Doctors and *all* companions facing the evil Master in an over-the-top, dramatic showdown. All of them, that is, as we knew them on TV. In comics, apparently, one can time-travel just a little better than on TV.

Bottom Line: I recommend this whole storyline, but especially had fun with the conclusion.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 3 Dark Horse Manga Story by Kazuo Koike, Art by Goseki Kojima

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Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s graphic novel is an impressive, violent journey through Edo period Japan. Dark Horse Manga’s Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 3, is filled with the cyclonic intensity of Koike’s stories matched by Kojima’s generous panels where the black ink leaps off the page.

In Omnibus 3 we continue to view the travels of Ogami, the assassin known as Lone Wolf and Cub through the desolate Japanese countryside, sword fighting his way through his tumultuous path.  Accompanied by his young son Daigoro the lone swordsman battles to survive and protect.  The challenging characters that they meet in their travels range from gifted artisans to would be assassins working with blind desperation as insane edicts are passed and dispatched.

The original English translation  of Lone Wolf and Cub, released by First Comics back in 1987, featured an introduction by Frank Miller and captured its audience with broad detailed panels and clear concise story.

Dialogue plays a secondary role in most of the series, Koike allows Kojima’s art to cultivate and develop the stories. This third Ominibus released by Dark Horse Manga, delivers the art, angst and riveting trials that each story holds within this massive tome to one of my favorite Manga.  With rich stories like The Guns of Sakai, The Soldier in the Castle and Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger this Ominbus keeps you turning the page, grateful you have the next story following instead of waiting for your pull list to be sent.

Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 3 is violent and at times quite sad, but it is a solid collections of some of the best stories in this series.  A true fury of emotion and action driven Manga, worthy of your collector’s shelf.

 

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Two Comics reviews: Rat Queens & Sherman & Peabody

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Comic Review: Peabody and Sherman #1

Review by: Prof. Jenn

How delighted was I to learn of the origin story behind dynamic time-traveling duo, smart-dog MR-PEABODY-AND-SHERMAN-1Peabody and his boy Sherman. These two have long been a favorite of mine in the Rocky & Bullwinkle pantheon, and this comic delivers in style, both the witty, snappy writing and the bold, colorful art design.

In issue #1, we learn of genius canine Peabody’s early life and his reasons behind (and early struggles with) acquiring and taming a pet boy. Of course  as any genius knows, the best way to keep a little boy occupied so he doesn’t mess up the house is to build a time machine, natch. This first issue is just as rollicking and quick-witted as its cartoon origin, and I’m happy these characters live on in comic form.

Bottom line: highly recommended.

Comic Review: Rat Queens #2

Review by: Prof. Jenn

You know? I *like* these ladies. I like em a lot. They are a terrific balance of chummy buddy-comedy fun, bitchy good humor, sexiness, and straight out action adventure. The pseudo-D&D setting is splendid and well drawn, and as we travel and fight (and drink) with these ladies, the more interesting, round, and complex they get as characters. Moreover, the story is unfolding sort of like a good adventure video game (like old school Thief or Assassin’s Creed) in that, the more we survive with them, the more information is revealed as to who may be behind the trouble we  been getting into.

As you’ve heard me say before, the art of Rat Queens is superb. I especially like the costuming. :) Dark outlines, rich color, and dynamic, diverse character appearance all adds up to an adventuring group I’ll be happy to keep following.

Bottom line: yep, still good. Better and better.

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Classics vol. 9

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Comics Review: Dr. Who Classics Vol. 9 [by various and sundry]

Review by: Prof. Jenn

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The ninth collection of Classic Who comics are all centered on the 7th Doctor, which is a lot of fun, as he’s not one that often gets his own spotlight in fandom or on TV these days. Many of the selections are light, comedic, and sometimes downright silly, and all read like a good classic episode, which is really what you want out of a volume like this. In general, the art is bold and colorful, the characters well drawn–it’s a matter of finding the balance between representing a fictional character and having a good dose of the actor’s likeness who played him. Some of the time this illustrated Doctor doesn’t look much at all like Sylvester McCoy, but the overall light-hearted ness of the collection makes this not such a big deal. In general, I’d recommend this collection for any classic Who fan. Here are some notes on the individual stories within vol. 9:

“Time and Tide”

This one is a very Star Trek TNG style plot: do you interfere with the clues aliens to save them, or do you leave them to their fate? It’s a sweet little tale with a lovely ending, and it’s the kind of story I’m glad is illustrated instead of on live tv, as the aliens are allowed to look really weird without the jarring effect of a dude in a rubber suit (or CGI).

“Follow that TARDIS”

A futuristic world in which there are stereotypical ’40s gangsters and Sinatra is president? Yes, please. This is such a slapstick-silly romp: what happens when two hilariously inept gangsters hijack the Doctor and his TARDIS to chase a monk through time? And one of them has a hand-held nuke? Hijinks, that’s what.

“Invaders From Gantac”

The poor Doctor just can’t seem to find Maruthea. Poor guy. This one centers around an alternate 1992 dystopia, wherein aliens have invaded London. But the aliens have got the wrong planet, and it’s up to the Doctor to convince them of this. We have an endearing hobo character in Leapy, and  his function does end up being quite important, but I’m just not sure about his effectiveness as a character. He seems more of a punch line.

“Nemesis of the Daleks”

I’ve already reviewed one of the issues in this story, and my opinion of the whole rains the same, after it’s resolution, etc. so. Yeah.

“Stairway to Heaven”

Hm. This one falls short. It’s too much a redone “Carnival of Monsters” but without the suspense.

“Hunger from the Ends of Time”

The art in this one is much sketchier in the outlines than the rest, and it’s very pleasing to the eye. Also, you gotta love a giant library/giant bookworm plot! I mean, this is no Vashta Nerada, but it’s still an exciting one-off monster tale of huge proportions. “Sainted geeks preserve us” is something I will say from now on.

“Train Flight”

Yay Sarah Jane! Oo and we have a terror-on-a-train story, with squicky bug-like aliens! So very fun!

Bottom Line: this is a fun, rollicking collection. Definitely recommended.

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Book Review: The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes

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Book Review: The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes by George Mann

Review by: Prof. Jenn

 

Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes have been gallivanting around Mann’s alternative Victorian London for several novels now, and this collection of short stories is an excellent addition to their adventures. The stories are a good variety of POV and all are exciting, creative,download (1) steampunk adventure mysteries that shouldn’t be missed.

A couple of particularly interesting points: there is one story in this collection which is entirely epistolary, which ups that story’s suspense level multifold. There are several Chirstmas-y themed tales in here as well, which somehow adds more to the Victorian feel (as Mann himself says in the Story Notes). One thing to note: I have not read any Newbury and Hobbes books before reading this collection, and, though the stories and characters do stand alone just fine, as I read I got the feeling I wasn’t in on some of the more nuanced relationship evolutions, and got the feeling that someone who was familiar with the characters might have some OMG moments of origin story that was lost on me. I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, however, and these stories made me eager to explore the rest of the Newbury and Hobbes books.

Bottom Line: This collection is highly recommended, especially for those who already know and love our intrepid steampunk duo.

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Book Review/Interview: A Taste of Blood Wine

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Book Review / Interview: A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

Review / Interview by Prof. Jenn

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There are so very many vampires running around in pop culture these days. Between True Blood and the Vampire Diaries, and the continued popularity of Twilight (and does anybody still read Anne Rice?) we are inundated with the sexy undead these days. So why would Titan Press want to republish a vampire book, into the midst of the maelstrom? What does A Taste of Blood Wine have that makes it a worthwhile reading endeavor?

One word: character. This is not a romantic and mystical Dracula knockoff falling in love with an ingenue with no personality. This is a realistically-drawn female nerd who still has a healthy dose of fear for the main vampire character even after she sleeps with him. The vampire himself is downloadscience-minded (I mean, doesn’t it totally make sense that an immortal undead bloodsucker would try and use science to figure out how the heck this is happening to him?) and not at all whiny and apologetic about being what he is. He’s no brooding Edward or whining Louis, but a real person, still grieving for his family in completely realistic ways, and yes okay he happens to be beautiful, but isn’t it wonderful that he falls for the nerd, not her social butterfly sister?

The setting, too, is something unusual–we don’t get typical Victorian or contemporary society, but England in the 1920s. What a compelling scene, to see our friendly neighborhood vampire strolling across the WWI battlefield, finishing off some wounded for his existential crisis lunch. The Crystal Ring, which connects vampires to their geography in this universe, is also a compelling concept, as is the use and flouting of traditional vampire tropes.

The vampires of Blood Wine can exist in sunlight, though they don’t sparkle. They cannot be killed but fire or stakes in the heart, but can be crippled and rendered useless by extreme cold (and indeed killed by some forms of extreme cold, as we see. No spoilers here!). It’s fascinating to see how the various vampires have dealt with their “condition” in a realistic way: from Karl’s pragmatism in the face of grief, to Kristian’s insane self-worship and cult following, to Ilona’s pure rage, and then of course our hero Charlotte’s love-fueled choice, it’s all compelling.

Bottom Line: A Taste of Blood Wine is a great read. Highly recommended.

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Now, please to enjoy the below interview with author Freda Warrington.

5 Questions: Freda Warrington

Interview by Prof. Jenn

1)      With all the vampire craziness happening these days (between the popular TV shows and Twilight), what made you desire to add your own take to the lore?

Actually my Blood Wine series was originally written and published in the early 1990s, long before the explosion of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and other more recent vampire fiction! In fact I began the first, A Taste of Blood Wine, way back in the 1980s as escapism from a difficult period of my life. So my influences were old school: the Hammer Horror films with a brooding Christopher Lee, the original Dracula novel, and Carmilla (by JS LeFanu) along with a selection of classic stories and the first couple of Anne Rice novels. Why did I want to add my own take to the genre?

             Well, I’d long been fascinated by the vampire as a lonely, mysterious, dangerous yet intelligent and strangely attractive figure… However, I was frustrated that he or she was always a monster to be hunted down and staked. Ms Rice brought new life to the lore by showing vampires as thinking, feeling beings with their own story to tell. Part of their tragedy was that any kind of relationship with humans – other than predator and prey – became impossible. But I wondered, what would it be like if you could break through that barrier, despite the difficulties, and come to know this mysterious stranger as an equal?

             So I did what I always do when I can’t find the story I want to read. I wrote it myself!

             Obviously, human-vampire relationships and romances are commonplace now, but when I first started A Taste of Blood Wine, it was something quite fresh and unusual. My shy heroine Charlotte meets the devastatingly gorgeous, enigmatic Karl. At first he terrifies her, then gradually he begins to fascinate her…

             The three books – A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance in Blood Velvet, and The Dark Blood of Poppies – were first published in the UK by Pan Macmillan. They went out of print for a number of years, despite many plaintive emails from readers who wanted them and couldn’t find them. In fact I was just on the point of reissuing the series myself, when Titan Books stepped in and republished them in gorgeous new covers. I’m also writing a brand new fourth one, The Dark Arts of Blood. If you look at my website, www.fredawarrington.com, you’ll find all the details.

2)      The early ‘20s is an unusual time period to experience as a vampire novel setting. What made you choose this era?

When I wrote the earliest version of A Taste of Blood Wine I actually set it in the 18th century! Later, when I came to rewrite it, I found that time period too Georgette Heyer-ish. I wanted something more modern – so my characters could zoom around in cars if need be! – but not too modern. I settled on the 1920s as a period that had not been overused, a decade with a perfect blend of old and new. You’ve got the Edwardian world morphing into the modern world, scientific advances being made, women starting to achieve emancipation. It’s a period of glamour, but also of horror, because the shadow of the First World War still hangs over everything. The social changes of the ‘20s mirror the internal journey that Charlotte makes as she develops from being a shy, suppressed individual into becoming her true self.

3)      What lies in store for us in the sequels to A Taste of Blood Wine?

Ooh, without giving too much away… For a start, I couldn’t drag out the “will-she, won’t-she” tension of whether Charlotte will become a vampire over three or four books. In fact it never occurred to me to do so, because I wrote the first book as a one-off. So A Dance in Blood Velvet begins to explore the complications and difficulties of actually being a vampire. Not least the pain of leaving her family behind – every choice my characters make carries a price, and I’d also like to point out that these are vampires who are NOT AFRAID TO BE VAMPIRES! No abstinence or living on animal blood for them!

             So just to give a flavour – an old flame of Karl’s intrudes unexpectedly into their new life, in such a wretched state that Karl can’t abandon her. Feeling insecure and rejected, Charlotte becomes fascinated and then disastrously obsessed by a prima ballerina, Violette Lenoir. However, Violette has secrets of her own, not least a mystical connection with the dark goddess Lilith. There’s also a pair of rival occultists in the mix – very much in keeping with trends of the 1920s! – who really stir things up for Karl and Charlotte.

             As for book three, The Dark Blood of Poppies, that will be issued in May 2014 in the UK and October 2014 in the USA. You can see the cover on my website, it’s stunning – all blood-red and “Black Swan” style gothic gorgeousness! Anyway – it continues the story of Karl, Charlotte and Violette, and also introduces a different flavour of vampire-human romance in the form of the bitter, twisted vampire Sebastian, and the warm, passionate, but equally-screwed-up-in-a-different-way American beauty Robyn. If you want power struggles, tragic romance, painful voyages of self-discovery, sex, death and general mayhem, look no further!

             I don’t want to say too much about the new one, The Dark Arts of Blood, as it’s still a work in progress, but I’ll try… Just as Karl and Charlotte think they’ve reached a state of equilibrium, a new menace arises that may be connected to a guilty secret in Karl’s past. Meanwhile, Violette tries to hold her ballet company together when her principal male dancer, the splendid, egotistical and irreplaceable Emil, goes off the rails in spectacular fashion and disappears… This one is set in 1927 and has silent films, the rise of fascism (but not where you might expect it) and yet more fraught relationships, murder, madness and mystery. In fact I think this one will turn out to be more of a mystery story than the first three… wait and see!

4)      It’s a brilliant stroke to have our main vampire protagonist exploring the science behind his condition—trying to find a solution or an explanation. Do you have a scientific explanation set in your head for your universe, or are you discovering along with Karl?

You could say I’m discovering along with Karl and Charlotte! I have an explanation that’s more metaphysical than scientific, although it could turn out to be scientific on a quantum level. See my answer to the next question…

5)      Discuss the fascinating concept of the Crystal Ring a little more for our readers.

The Crystal Ring is a parallel dimension of reality that my vampires can enter. This enables them to vanish, to escape danger, and to travel rapidly to distant places (so they’re not arousing suspicion by feeding in the same area all the time). More than that, it’s deeply entwined with whatever strange force makes my vampires, vampires. I can’t exactly remember where my idea for the Crystal Ring came from but I think it was partly inspired by the paintings of John Martin, and just from looking at the sky – you know when clouds form amazing shapes that resemble mountains you could actually walk on? Oh – and also a documentary about certain sea creatures (sharks or rays, I think) being able to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and use it to navigate. I thought, what if my vampires could do that?

   The Crystal Ring, also known as Raqia, is an unearthly place like a stunningly beautiful sky-scape, but semi-liquid, so they can more or less float or fly through it. Basically it occupies the same space as the sky. It’s not somewhere the vampires actually live. In fact it can be dangerous, because if they stay too long they become torpid and unable to escape back to Earth. The very highest level, called the “Weisskalt”, is so icy cold that a vampire could be frozen there forever – a fact that plays a big part in the plot, naturally.

             The nature of this mysterious realm defies science, so Karl struggles to find an answer. Each character has his or her own theory. For example, the megalomaniac Kristian in the first book, a religious zealot who believes vampires to be “instruments of God”, insists that the Crystal Ring is the actual mind of God. Others, with more of a guilty conscience, might think it’s a layer of Hell. Charlotte comes up with a more plausible theory – as rational as something so weird can be – but I’m afraid you’ll have to read the books to find out!

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How to (Subtly) Nerdify Your Holidays

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Optimus Santa -http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcogomes/4159883203/

Optimus Santa -http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcogomes/4159883203/

In my family, I’m an acknowledged nerd. Everyone dear to me accepts my interests with responses ranging from enthusiasm to mild concern. Thus, no one would be particularly surprised to see me show up to our family Christmas dinner dressed as San from Princess Mononoke. Not surprised, perhaps, but not happy, either.

So I had to start getting a little tricky to bring some nerdy goodness into the holidays. If you’re like me, your nerd-dom cannot be contained. So here are some ideas for how to bring your hobbies to your holidays without having to explain to your grandmother what LARPing is.

Steampunk Santa - http://www.flickr.com/photos/segansca/6120791486/

Steampunk Santa – http://www.flickr.com/photos/segansca/6120791486/

Dress to Impress

One way that I’ve found to work my love of cosplay into my holiday season is to dress in an appropriate costume. You can be creative and delight the family by nerdifying any Santa suit- sure, someone might take exception to Sephiroth Santa, but no one can be mad at Steampunk Santa! Other options include any elf (like Legolas, Deedlit, or Link), Jack or Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, and Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians, who is great fun to lead merriment as. Of course, these all work best when there are children to entertain, but I wouldn’t be deterred by a room full of adults. Maybe it’s just me.

For anyone who wants to emphasize the “subtlety” that was promised by this article’s title, there are gads of restrained nerdy accessories that you can wear to get-togethers. From 8-bit hair bows to Rebel Alliance cufflinks to Game of Thrones pins, there are definitely ways to work your obsessions in without even the slightest bit of notice. Also at your disposal are Harry Potter leggings, Death Star dresses, and Doctor Who scarves and jackets. You can stylishly represent without any hassle.

Bring Activities

Especially if you’d like to corrupt your younger cousins and niblings into becoming as nerdy as you are (yes, yes, let the nerd flow through you), you can try bringing some fun pastimes with you.  While most folks will be watching the football game on Christmas Eve, you and the other super cool members of your family can slip away to play Minecraft. Bring along your Munchkin game and use mini candy canes as level indicators.

You might also ponder having some games that are friendlier to all generations. Playing Droidel (the R2 unit version of a Dreidel) is a fun way to unite generations over an ingeniously nerdy activity. Maybe go outside and make a nerdy snowman (Bowser’s a good challenge) with your parents. My favorite is to bring along materials for gingerbread houses, but bring blue frosting for a T.A.R.D.I.S. As a standby that my family enjoyed, bring along one of your cardboard cutouts (I chose Batman), pop a hat or garland on them, and have your family take posed pictures with it. The pictures are pretty priceless.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystaltips/5236919739/

Leia Tree Topper http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystaltips/5236919739/

Host the Celebration

If you’re at the point where you’ve established a home away from your childhood home, maybe you could offer to host the Christmas Eve dinner. Not only will your family be impressed by your put-together presentation, but they’ll also be wowed by your geektastic decorations. A Lego menorah? A Star Wars or Star Trek Christmas tree? A Cthulu wreath? There are plenty of ways to be festively geeky without shoving it into people’s faces.

There are also nerdy foods you can serve at your assembly. I find it amusing to turn the hummus bowl into a mini Sarlacc pit with a Lego piece in the middle. Rolls wrapped in leaf-shaped paper easily become Tolkien’s lembas bread. You can emulate Dr. Seuss’s roast beast by adding a couple of extra turkey or chicken legs to your roast. Of course, butterbeer is always a good choice for beverages, as well. Get creative and you’ll be showing your loved ones the best side of nerd culture.

I stalwartly believe that you should be able to be yourself and have fun when you’re with your loved ones. But sometimes, it takes a little discernment and nuance to make our favorite fandoms suit the occasion. Be mindful of and considerate to the tone that your loved ones want to strike for holiday gatherings, but putting a little extra fun into the festivities never hurt anyone. Long live the nerdy holiday!

 

Marie is a cosplayer and costume consultant who has found, through trial and error, that there are very few places that are not appropriate for nerdiness.

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