Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where Do Vampires Come From? Hint: It’s not Transylvania by Kathryn M. Hearst

I started writing “Feast of the Epiphany” with the intention of writing a vampire novel. Life happened, and I set the manuscript aside for almost a decade. By the time I returned to it, vampire novels had saturated the market. I had agents telling me that paranormal romance and urban fantasy were dying genres.

I refused to believe that human beings had turned their backs on creatures that have haunted us since the beginning of time or, at least, since the beginning of recorded history. I did what any other nerdy girl would do and researched the history of vampires. My goal to find common themes led me to some unusual tidbits that I used to make my characters unique.

The first English language use of the word vampire was in the poem, “The Vampyre of the Fens,” in 1734. However, nearly every culture since ancient Mesopotamia has included vampire-like creatures. Early forms of blood drinkers were generally believed to be spirits or demons, but not always.

Ancient Sumerian myths included creatures called ekimmu. Humans, who did heinous things or were improperly buried, would return as these vengeful spirits. The ekimmu sucked the life out of the living. They preferred to consume beautiful young people while they slept.

The Lilitu of ancient Babylonian, which later became Lillith and her daughters in Jewish traditions, were spirits (and later corporeal beings) who consumed babies and their mothers. The medieval version of Lillith was able to transform into an animal, compel her victims, and either drain their blood or sex them to death—a theme that gained popularity as Christianity grew and continues to modern day. 

Arabia gave us ghouls; ancient Egyptians worshiped Sekhmet; Icelandic cultures believed in draugar, but the most disturbing form of ancient vampire are the Hindu Preta. These creatures are the starving ghosts of people, so horrible in life, they are destined to suffer incurable cravings as they wander eternity. What do they crave? Pretas have a taste for anything disgusting: such as corpses and feces. Side note: “If I were a Preta, my incurable craving would be lima beans.”

Ancient Greeks didn’t consider their “vampires” undead, though the Empusae, Lamia, and striges did feed on human flesh and blood—a step up from the Preta as far as I’m concerned. Like the Greek, Roman vampires or strix were half-bird half-human creatures who hunted at night. The term strix later became Strigoi in Romania, Shtriga in Albania, and Strzyga in Slavic regions, though in these incarnations the vampires took on a decidedly more human appearance.

The Inquisitions during the Middle Ages gave rise to the true precursor to the modern day vampire. Bloodthirsty creatures, both demons, and demon-possessed humans, are mentioned throughout Church records. It should be noted that the Catholic Church conducted many inquiries throughout history regarding the existence and extermination of supernatural creatures. A notable example of this research is “The Malleus Maleficarum,” published in 1486. This work became the witch- and vampire-hunters’ handbook of the 1600s.

After I’d filled a notebook with various incarnations of vampires, weird facts, and a bunch of crazy ideas, I had an outline of the mythos I wanted to use in the Order of the Sinistra Dei series. While the characters aren’t traditional vampires, they do share some similarities. They primarily feed from prana, or life force, but can also feed from sex and blood.

I’m fascinated with the psychological impacts of immortality on the human mind. My creatures both evolve and devolve depending on their mental health and other factors. They were considered horrible human beings before they were executed and imbued with eternal life. What started as a vampire book turned into a mash-up of ancient Babylonian mythology, vampire lore, and a hearty dose of Catholic mysticism.

How does that work? You’ll have to read the books to find out.

Feast of Mercy
Order of the Sinistra Dei
Book Two
Kathryn M. Hearst

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and
Black Butterfly Publishing

Date of Publication: October 4, 2016

Number of pages: approx. 300
Word Count: 75,000

Cover Artist: Marcela Bolivar,
Designer Shawn T. King

Book Description:

An ancient feud. A threat from the Vatican. Two lovers caught in the middle.

Nick never wanted to live forever, and he certainly didn’t want to join the Order of the Sinistra Dei. Unfortunately, before he’s able to get used to the idea of immortality, the High Judge from the Vatican arrives in New Orleans to investigate the strange events of Fat Tuesday. If Nick doesn’t play his cards right, his forever could be a whole lot shorter.

Marin, a relatively new immortal, is forced to serve as assistant to the High Judge while he investigates the alleged crimes of those she holds most dear. She’ll do what she has to do to protect her clutch. However, her efforts bring her closer to facing the executioner’s blade.

As their world spins out of control, Marin and Nick struggle to reconcile past hurts and hold onto their budding relationship. New enemies, new abilities, and new desires threaten to tear them apart. It isn’t long before they realize love can’t heal all.

Loving someone means you want the best for them...but what happens when what’s best isn’t you?

Feast of Mercy is the second book of the Order of the Sinistra Dei series, an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance like no other. If you like mysterious supernatural creatures, conflict-ridden romance and a lot of heat, then you’ll love this series.

Short Excerpt:

Nick expected sounds from her—moans, maybe a scream or two. What he didn’t expect was for her to bolt upright and let out a blood curdling scream. Déjà-fucking-vu.
“Get out,” Marin shouted.
For a brief terrifying second, Nick thought she spoke to him, then a male voice spoke from the door.
“Marin, I require your services,” a man said from behind him.
Nick covered her body with his unsure of what else to do. He didn’t recognize the voice, though he detected a European accent. Anyone who called her by name would have recognized him, even with his face buried between her legs. It had to be Lysander.
When the door clicked shut, he hopped off. “Who was that?”
“The High Judge. He’s practically a priest. A freaking priest saw my boobs.” Marin scrambled off the couch in search of her clothes.
“He’s not a priest. Worse.” Nick laughed deep in his gut. If looks could kill, he’d be stone cold dead, for keeps this time. “I’m sorry. Do you think he recognized me?”
“Where is my bra, dammit?” She pulled her jeans on commando style.
Nick handed her the scrap of lace she called panties. “Where are we going?”
“You aren’t going anywhere. You’re going to hide here until he’s gone, then go back to Gia’s. I need to find out what the hell he wants.” She snatched her bra from the edge of the desk and rushed it on.
Nick ran his hand through his hair. “Shit. This is bad.”
“Call Gia.”
“I will.”
“Now.” Marin slipped out the door.
Gia’s phone rang until he thought it would go to voicemail. “Hey, Nick.”
“Gia, the High Judge came looking for Marin.”
“Where? Did he see you?”
“The bar.” Nick’s stomach clenched. “I don’t know if he saw me.”
“Did he say why he wanted Marin?”
“No, but you need to be careful. Nicholai and Serena are still in town. If he comes to the townhouse, Nicholai doesn’t need to be the one to answer the door.”
“Shit, hang on.” She spoke with someone. “Okay, where are you now?”
“I’m still upstairs in the office, he barged in and caught us…um…making up. I didn’t get a look at him.”

About the Author:

Kathryn M. Hearst is a southern girl with a love of the dark and strange. She has been a storyteller her entire life, as a child, she took people watching to new heights by creating back stories of complete strangers. Besides writing, she has a passion for shoes, vintage clothing, antique British cars, music, musicians and all things musical (including theater). Kate lives in central Florida with her chocolate lab, Jolene; and two rescue pups, Jagger and Roxanne. She is a self-proclaimed nerd, raising a nerdling.

The Order of the Sinistra Dei is her first series and includes titles, Feast of the Epiphany and Feast of Mercy. Kate's novel, The Spirit Tree, won a publishing contract with Kindle Press through the Kindle Scout contest. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies.

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