Monthly Archives: February 2009

I drink your milkshake…


There will be blood.

Daniel Plainview, in the film of the above’s name, is a wampyr. Yes, a big, hairy vampire, literally sucking the life-blood out of the earth, in the shape of oil. He fastens his corporate teeth of greed into the earth’s neck and sucks it dry. And then, when he exhausts that, he crawls like the undead through the earth and latches onto other people’s life-blood and sucks that dry too.

In the words of the movie, of him, “I drink your milkshake. I drink it all up.” (You know my usual spiel, ‘Or words to that effect.’ Yes, you know my paraphrasing well.)

Maybe there’s some parallel in the name Daniel here. Can we make something of it? A Daniel playing a Daniel with a strong resemblance to another Daniel. No, none at all, but it makes a nice segue.

The vampire legend has a long and colourful history. There’s theories that it comes from the disease porphyria. This disease, prevalent in Transylvania at one time, causes people to develop photosensitivity, pale skin, red teeth and nails. They will even pee ‘blood’ – simply discoloured urine. Not much of a leap that these odd, unhealthy walking dead individuals were accused of sneaking out and drinking blood at night. After all, the buggers were peeing it, bleeding it out of their eyes.

Probably wasn’t helped that hallucinations were also part of the symptoms. Imagine some poor sick soul wittering the medieval equivalent of, “I drink your milkshake. I drink it up.” Crosses and garlic probably seemed like a damn good idea.

Then there’s the psychological ramifications of vampirism. People stealing your spirit, your soul, your essential essence, your psychic energy. We all know emotional vampires who make us feel tired and drained. People who being with for half an hour makes you feel like you’ve been through the wringer. Succubi, incubi and everything in between.

Then there’s Daniel Plainview, stealer of souls.

Nowadays the vampire is an emasculated comic book villain, a creature of Goth clothing and eye make-up. He’s a kid on a skateboard with no shoulders made into a hero, and about as intimidating. We build them with bigger and bigger teeth, more and more blood, and (maybe with the exception of 30 Days of Night) they get less and less threatening.

The real vampires, the real monsters, are Daniel Plainview and all the men like him. Daniel Jackson Moore, for one. And his big brother for two

Just before my Amazon discussion forum debacle went postal I posted about the book on a thread (two, actually) on vampire novels. I quickly got a slap for my audacity because, quite correctly, “You admit yourself the book is not a vampire story”. I did say that (along with the reasons why I thought it was still relevant), because I didn’t want to disappoint people who were expecting a Buffy or a Blade or any of their clones. But it is a vampire story. It very very much is. I’ve always said so.

You might remember, an age ago, me mentioning our brief foray into reverse shoplifting. This is where you sneak copies of your book onto the bookshop shelves and, the theory goes, once you sell a book it puts it into their system/s. Thus, you get bookshop orders. This is to try and get past the fact that bookshop chains won’t take orders from small firms.

Our reverse shoplifting was both a huge success and a terrible failure. Our books (three of them) sold, all in the first week (two days actually), in all but one store. That one sat there, and sat there, and sat there. In W.H. Smith’s. And on the horror shelf at that. Even more ironically, we hadn’t put it on the horror shelf. In Waterstone’s and Smith’s we’d put it in Crime. In HMV we’d just put it in fiction. There’s no other options there. But Smith’s moved it. Into horror. Where it sat, and sat, and sat and then, finally, sold. But we never did get onto any bookshop order systems. That was the failure part.

But I always felt it was interesting that on the strength of the cover/blurb some member of staff thought it sounded like a horror novel. I’ve always felt that my early horror diet is very apparent in the book. Indeed, I’ve always felt it was a supernatural tale without the requisite pixie dust.

It’s an adult fairy tale. And when we bring out the US edition I will market it as that. First time for everything.

Danny is wampyr. One of the denizens of the night. Think of the overwhelming evidence:-

Danny cannot go out into the sunlight. He has pale skin that burns easily.

He has hair that is frequently described as being the colour of blood. On top of that it is said that his hair looks as if it would bleed when you cut it.

He has “hypnotic” eyes.

He produces an odd lassitude in people. His presence is described frequently (constantly) as “you want to just lie down and sleep” when he is near. This is how vampires traditionally overwhelm their victims. Poisoned breath, mesmeric hold, charismatic ‘being’ – no samurai swords, animal noise dubbing or epic jumping involved.

He feeds off bodily fluids. Not blood, but the next best thing, brimming, literally, with life. He does, indeed, drink your milkshake.

He has minions, his Renfield, recruiting his victims, enabling his ‘sickness’, arguably feeding it.

He has his ‘brides’, a coterie of the enslaved, sitting tight, home in the castle, while he stalks lonely, abandoned places, snaring people without friends (Conley, Stephen, the twins, Ewan, the boy in the Indian restaurant, the Hendersons… the list is endless) who won’t be missed when he vanishes them out of their world into his.

He has his Van Helsing, Harry Greaves, stalking him mindlessly, just determined to put an end to his ‘sickness’ until he too gets snaked into Danny’s twilight allure.

His attributes are legendary. He has sharp white teeth, born and replicated of his vampire creator, the godfather of vampires, his older brother. He is physically perfect, somehow conveying both male and femaleness, a sense of dominance along with unusual supplication, rather like a spider playing dead on its web, all the better to reel you in, pierce you with one prick (yes, every pun intended), then drain your dry.

He has serpentine hair, cat-like eyes, a lithe and dangerous strength.

He always has to return home to his little box of earth (literally, in a farm) at dawn.

He longs to be human, normal, like others, and knows that he can’t.

He seeks out the company of humans, trying to warm a dead soul, but knows he is not one, and never will be.

He is only truly loved and understood among his own kind, fellow vampires, hiding their awfulness from humanity under a veneer of civilisation.

His victims are both willing and unwilling, hypnotised and longing. They want him to want them but don’t want to pay the ultimate price, becoming one of the undead, another bridesmaid, but never quite the bride.

He warn his victims that he will suck them into his heart, hold them closer than they’ve ever been held before, wrap them in his aura, but never feel anything for them, but they are fooled by his supernatural ‘glamour’ and feel that they will kiss the beast and free his beautiful soul. They think they are in Beauty & the Beast when really they are in The Snow Queen. There is no crossing from his world into yours. It’s a one-way ticket, you leave your world to inhabit his. And you don’t come back.

His life is lived in a netherworld, out of sight of the real world.

He has to hide his appetites, his dark secrets, his history and antecedents from everyone.

When people fuck him they often do it vengefully, as if they were staking him through the heart, or trying to make them feel the heat of their humanity. He remains untouchable. And untouched.

He feeds. It’s his prime function. Whenever he ventures forth it is to feed. Be it milkshake, humanity or need that he wants from them, it is always about feeding.

He gives only what he can, whether that’s an illusion of warmth, a touch of otherness, or a moment of being immortal. Humans crave his otherness while it repels them.

He dreams of being separated across a river from his own kind, unable to cross it just as a vampire cannot cross running water, a metaphor for the fact that the river of life forever separates the living from the (un)dead. When he finds his lost brother in the dream, he is bleeding from his hair, sitting with the dead in the rotten bed of the river.

He drinks your milkshake. We are forever anthropomorphising animals, loving all the little cute ones that make us warm and cosy and feeling no empathy for the predatory and ‘dangerous’ ones. When a panther or a snake kills they are merely being a panther or a snake. They do what they are. They can’t be gentle or cute or human-friendly. They are not evil, they are simply being themselves. Thus Danny drinks your milkshake, because Danny has been trained to drink your milkshake. The only thing Danny knows is drinking your milkshake. He just is. It’s inevitable.

DANNY is one of the finest, most exhaustive, profound, moving and psychologically chilling horror stories of vampirism ever written.

I rest my case.

Skin Deep

WARNING!!! AUTHOR’S SPOILER NOTE!!! The following blog discusses the terribly important subject of Danny’s beauty. It will in no (ordinary) way spoil the plot of DANNY for you BUT it could actually change your perspective on the characters completely, which may change the way you then see them within the plot structure, which may act as a spoiler. Of course, you are completely at liberty to disregard my thoughts on Danny’s beauty and stick to your own opinions – which may very well be right. I’m just warning you, if you would rather not have an idea presented to you too early, and prefer to reach these things yourself, you may not thank me for this discussion. On your own head be it…

Well, first let me thank you all for the overwhelming response to my mini-blog asking for your thoughts on DANNY’s genre. I am eternally grateful. I now know that you don’t give a fuck about DANNY’s genre, or, if you do, you don’t give a fuck about letting me in on the secret. This confirms the opinion I have long held about you all. I’ll leave you to guess what that is.

So, here I am, facing financial ruin. Actually, I’m not. It’s all over bar the shouting. What I’m facing now is the aftermath. The ruin’s the easy part; it’s the letters, the lawyers, the endless reading of self-help and of ‘How to…’ books. I know all this rigmarole by heart by now and have done it so often it holds no fear. Unfortunately it doesn’t make it any pleasanter, or easier. But still, this too will pass, as they say.

Because I’m having to overhaul my life, compulsorily as it were, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s important and what isn’t. Something has to be quit – probably many things – so suddenly all the things you’ve been coasting on need to be seen to, thought about. Procrastination is no longer an option, and that’s usually my chief mode of (not) doing: avoiding this, avoiding that. I can fairly say that’s how I got where I am today. Take note.

All this introspection has made me think about why I am supposedly writing this blog in the first place. It’s supposed to increase my ‘profile’ and thus create book sales. Which it doesn’t. So, if you’re a wannabe writer/business person, trust me, blogs are not the answer.

However, what this scrutiny did make me realise was I don’t talk about DANNY as much as I should, chiefly because most of my blog readers have never read it. And I think we can say fairly they’re not going to either. Thus, I don’t give a fuck if it doesn’t interest them, I’m going to talk about DANNY.

Specifically, Danny himself.

Danny is beautiful. That’s referred to over and over and over again in the book. Chiefly by other people. Well, let me say something straight away – I do not believe in Danny’s beauty. I never have.

I notice that it’s the one thing that all my readers take for granted. I assume because so many people in the book talk about it, and because, of course, Danny has such ‘power’ over people that there must be some reason for it. And beauty is so valued in our culture that no-one questions it.

I did want people to question it, but I didn’t expect that to happen until well down the line. Maybe I’m just too soon. Maybe 10, 15 years from now someone might have said (they won’t now, because I’ve spoilered it) “Wait a minute, there’s no actual proof of Danny’s beauty, is there?” And then they would have looked through the book in a furtive and desperate manner to see if they could find the bit where I say he’s beautiful, only to discover it ain’t there. Then they could make themselves unpopular on the book’s – by now, many-blossomed – discussion boards, stridently declaiming, “I don’t think Danny is beautiful. I just think people think he is.” And I would nod in a sagely manner and say, “Clever boy/girl.” And feel deeply rewarded.

Danny isn’t beautiful. I’m telling you, he isn’t. I wrote the book and I should know. Think about it: right at the start, when he’s introduced – about as much of me as you get – do I ever actually say he’s beautiful? (Let me put you at rest – I don’t.) All I say is he’s a redhead. All I ever tell you about Danny is he has red hair and fair skin that burns easily. I don’t tell you what exact colour his skin is, or what shade his hair is, or what colour his eyes are, or whether he’s thick or thin, tall or short.

Of course, after that, everyone else in the book starts feeding you that information.

But, you might argue, we see how other people react to him – they fall in love/lust with him too easy. They pursue him too much. They give him too much, want him too much, need him too much. He holds too much bloody power. Of course, he’s beautiful – what else could it be?

Oh, I don’t know… novelty value? Redheads are rare. Applying the ‘average of good-looks in the populace at large’ to redheads means a good-looking redhead is very rare. So he’s good-looking, you admit it, I hear you yell triumphantly.

Sure he is. But how many good-looking people did you see today? A few at least, of both sexes. Many, if it’s a good day. And only one if you only went as far as the corner shop and back. No matter, good-looking doesn’t cut it. Does it, truthfully? Would you sign your life over to someone who was merely workaday good-looking?

No, there’s something more there. How often do you hear people refer to Danny (and John for that matter) as being supernaturally good-looking, or powerful or magnetic? A lot; I can fill you in on that one too.

They have the power of the vampire, both of them. Probably because my earliest diet was fairy tales and horror novels. But just like I don’t believe Cinderella is really about magic and glass slippers, I don’t believe DANNY is about ‘Special Powers’. Truthfully, I don’t believe even ‘Special Powers’ in any comic book drivel you care to name is really about Special Powers either – it’s just about power, plain and simple. And being special of course (and there it is, right there).

The question you should really be asking is what is Danny’s special power then?

The ‘real’ definition of the word glamour – it’s original definition – is the power to deceive though magic. It was, quite literally, a spell cast over a person or an object to change its surface appearance – generally to make it more appealing than it actually was. You know, like the wicked witch in Snow White, although she arguably does that in reverse.

Danny is glamorous. You’ll see that trait referred to over an over, without it actually being called that. It’s a word that’s pretty much been commandeered by ‘femininity’ now anyway – couldn’t be used convincingly by or for a man, unless it was Queer Eye for The Straight Guy.

But Danny personifies the ancient definition of glamour. He’s a ginge, for Christ’s sake. Everything about him is wrong, just as it is in John. He’s got pale skin, not robust, brown and healthy. He’s thin and tall, i.e. gangly. He has freckles. So many of them it turns his skin a pale gold in places. He has curly hair. And we’re talking thick curls here, that form ringlets, not nice trendy waves. He’s gangly, peely-wally (literally, in Scots, ‘pale as a ceramic tile’), gingery, freckly and, as if that wasn’t enough, he has “weird eyes”. God knows, enough people comment on them.

Yet, despite all this, despite even the king-size clue that he’s the dead spit of John, who people constantly debate whether he’s “ugly” or not, no-one has, within my hearing, questioned the validity of Danny’s beauty. It just is. Because everyone says so.

So why does everyone believe in Danny’s beauty and why don’t I?

Ah, that would be telling. Got to leave you something to figure out for yourself…

P.S. The ‘proof’ copy of How to Write the Perfect Novel is on Amazon.co.uk for a mere £4.95 if you want a cheap one. It has yellow marker throughout and a couple of my scribbles, but is otherwise perfect – apart from all those highlighted errors/changes, of course. Still, even with the post it’s a couple of quid cheaper. Also, we have a lovely new ad on Skin Two, along with a little news feature. Here it is: The ‘Roses’ Valentines Day ad with a difference, plus our mini-feature. You’ll have to search through the pages for the ad though, it’s revolving. Let me know if and where you find it, I’d be curious to know where it turns up. Enjoy.