Archive for November 2013

The Half World of Ash Krafton

“Blood Rush” is the second in a series of books by Ash Krafton. I received a free copy in return for this review.

I have to admit I was a little leery of this book when I saw it was part of a series titled “Demimonde”. The term usually refers to those ladies of leisure kept by wealthy men during the Victorian days of repressed sexual desire. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I wasn’t really up for a novel about kept women. Thankfully, this book wasn’t about that at all.

Literally, the term means “half world”, so I took it literally: a domain for those who belong to the shadowy realm of the supernatural. And, this is what I got from my first read:

Sophie lives in a half world: half in reality, half in the supernatural. She does her best to keep these worlds separate, but the supernatural is encroaching on reality with increasing frequency. You see, she’s being chased by werewolves and vampires.

Sophie works as a columnist for a magazine. She also does freelance consulting for creatures known as demivampires, or DVs. She has empathetic powers and acts as an oracle for the DVs.

She has a history with a DV called Marek; he was her lover and, she thought, soul mate. One fateful night, however, he turned full vampire and took a chomp out of her, draining her life’s blood, leaving her to die. This is all played out in the first book.

In this, the second book, she’s called upon by Marek’s brother, Rodrian, for help with his troublesome teenaged daughter. Apparently, she’s supposed to be reaching the DV equivalent of menarche and hasn’t yet. It’s a serious thing in the DV world.

So, that’s the gist of this second book and these are my impressions:

I enjoyed the read. It kept me interested to the point of feeling annoyed when I was forced to set it down for more mundane tasks, like sleeping. It’s well written, for the most part, and the characters are nicely fleshed out. However, there were a number of questions that arose as I read, some of which took me out of the story on occasion.

Why is she being chased by werewolves and vampires? Why do they want her dead? Her job as oracle to the DV seems to be pissing them off to no end. It may well take a second read for me to suss this out.

I know it’s not good form to spend too much time hashing over past events, such as those from the first book, but I feel the author left too much out. I had trouble understanding what exactly happened to Marek. It seemed to be a very important event, and I would have liked to have more of a clue. Hmm… Maybe this is the author’s devious way to get me to buy the first book. Well played, Krafton. I may just have to purchase the first book in the near future.

Impressions of San Francisco

Here I am, on the left coast, in the weirdest city in the US. Ostensibly, I am here in my role as supportive wife to my husband while he attends a conference. In reality, I am here to do research for my third book — a book that will come to fruition toward the end of 2014 (provided I survive the extensive reworking of my second book).

This particular visit is very different from the two previous forays I’ve made to San Francisco. This time, I am forcing myself to put my impressions and observations down on paper. By writing down the events that go on around me, I’m compelled to look, listen, smell, and feel things with greater intent. I find that I pay closer attention to each and every little gesture, conversation, glance; every sound that assaults my ears, loud or soft; every scent that drifts by my quivering nostrils. As I’m bombarded with sensations, I have to sort them out, categorize them, and give them meaning.

It’s as if I’m observing myself observing the world around me. An out-of-body experience without leaving my body. It’s also setting the impressions in my brain like handprints in wet concrete.

It might seem an obvious thing for a writer to visit a place, experience stuff and things, and write it all down. My problem, before I had this amazing idea to record my experiences, was I relied too much on my recall abilities. Too often, I found that shortly after leaving a city or town, the feelings and thoughts had faded and were useless. I have the memory of a steel sieve, apparently. So, this time, I resolved to get something useful from the pain-in-the-ass it is to travel by airplane in this day and age of Heightened Airport Security.

Today, I offer my observations on the needy people of San Francisco:

On every corner, and I do mean every corner, there is one panhandler with a large take-away drink cup. The cup rattles with a few coins as the beggar shakes it at passers-by, often accompanying the rattle with a hopeful “Good Morning!” or “God Bless!”. Sometimes the person is dressed quite nicely, sometimes he or she is in rags. I try not to make snap judgments, but the well-dressed panhandlers often give me pause. I have to avoid eye contact, though, or these people, sensing a sympathetic soul, will glom onto me and follow me for blocks, demanding money, cigarettes, or… my name (the most difficult thing for me to offer). So, I keep walking, head down, ashamed of myself, but unwilling to make the effort that would alleviate that shame.

San Francisco seems to have more than its share of shelterless folk. There’s an undercurrent of muted despair and hopelessness here that I haven’t felt in any other large city I’ve visited. The homeless are everywhere here. They huddle against concrete retaining walls in the entrance ways to the subway. They lay rolled in ragged camping bags and blankets on the slopes of the park lawns. They slouch in doorways at all hours of the day and night. I can almost see the aimless souls drifting above each unconscious body. Sleep is the only escape, it seems, from this day-to-day existence of nothingness.

This morning, I stood on the sidewalk outside the hotel at which we’re staying; my back to the street, smoking a cigarette, and watching the endless stream of people stroll by. Over the constant roar of traffic, punctuated by horns blaring and tires screeching, I can hear the rhythmic cry of a man whose synapses seem to be misfiring. His rhythmic cry of “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” echoes off the building walls, with a beat I imagine timed to the pulse of his heart. I stop hearing the traffic noise, the passing conversations of the crowds, and listen only to his mournful expression of pain. What happened in his life that he cries his anguish to an unfeeling, uncaring city? I’m tempted to go find him and ask; but once again, I am unwilling to take that risk.

Cowardly? Yes, of course I am. It’s far easier to sit here and type out my thoughts and fears than to go confront them in the person of some mentally challenged vagrant.

I stubbed out my cigarette and retreated to the safety of my hotel room.