Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: Art of The Vampire Noctuaries

Today, my guest author is Eric Muss-Barnes. You may know him from his vampire novels The Vampire Noctuaries. If you haven't discovered Eric's Gothic fiction yet, here's your chance as he talks about the artwork that helped him promote his books.

One of the aspects of my duology The Vampire Noctuaries I have always been most proud of is the artwork.

Back when I wrote the first book in the series, The Gothic Rainbow, I knew I wanted to create some cool fliers and images to go along with it. Although the sequel, Annwn's Maelstrom Festival: Concluding Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries was published in 2013, keep in mind, The Gothic Rainbow came out in 1997 and the Internet was just getting started. There was no such thing as social media yet. No job boards. No dating sites. Certainly no video streaming when everyone still had 56K modems. There was nothing. Therefore, if you wanted to market and promote something creative, you were still just going to coffeeshops on college campuses and posting fliers.

My three main resources for promoting my novel would be goth clubs, independent record stores, and punkrock clothing boutiques. Since my book was a dark and eerie vampire novel, set in the counterculture of the gothic/industrial nightclub scene, those locations contained my audience. Even in terms of printed promotions and reviews, I focused on things like underground and alternative music magazines, not literary ones.

All along, I knew this would mean I'd need really cool fliers.

The purpose behind the imagery wouldn't be to depict actual scenes in my novel, rather they would be created to elicit an emotional response - to give the same feel as the book; To put people in the correct mindset of the dreamy and surreal nightmare which are The Vampire Noctuaries.

Months before my novel was released, I started calling all my gorgeous punkrock and gothic friends from our club scene and began asking them to model for my Gothic Rainbow fliers. We were all just a bunch of kids, ranging from about 18 years old to 22 years old. We shot pictures in spooky cemeteries, and in makeshift livingrooms, and basements, and wherever else we could. All captured on film, of course. No digital cameras yet either. Then, I'd scan the 4x6 prints with a flatbed scanner and start playing around with them in Photoshop. All the digital manipulation was painstaking work, as computers were so wimpy back then, and a 20MB file could bring a system to its knees. Sadly, as a result, I don't have layered versions of any original fliers because I simply didn't have enough memory or storage space to save them. I'd have to work on an image in a few layers, flatten it, work on it more, flatten it again. That was the only way I could get anything done without the whole system crashing on me.

Not only did I composite these cool gothic images to use on fliers and postcards, but I also made some fliers that were pure text. White fonts on a black background. They were all written in second-person and had very poetic and dismal descriptions of why you need to read The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries and why it appeals directly to the kind of person you are.

All of this worked better than I could have imagined.

Word got around town about these fliers and this book. When I started doing my initial promotions, before the book was released, I had a booth set up at a goth music festival and kids were coming up to me, asking me for extra copies of the fliers to autograph them. Several teenagers told me they had them hung up in their bedrooms as posters. I was stunned. At first, I figured they were pulling my chain. I thought they were ridiculing me. Slowly, I began to realize, they were completely serious. You want my autograph, on a flier, for a book that hasn't even been released yet? Really?

One kid even said he wanted to get a tattoo of the logo from the front cover of The Gothic Rainbow. Don't know if he ever did that, but the fact he even thought about it was mindblowing to me.

A local fantasy artist whom I really respect, Joe Vargo, complimented me on my "artwork", telling me how talented I was. In fact, when Joe first met me, he didn't even know I was a novelist. He assumed the fliers and the images were the art I was promoting! He didn't realize they were nothing but advertisements for a book.

To everyone else, these weren't just ads.

This was art. What? Artwork? These are nothing but fliers! That's how I saw them. This wasn't "art"... was it?

That was the first time I began to take the artwork a lot more seriously. Maybe I had something here. Maybe the creation of these images was more than just promotions for my book. The fliers-deemed-artwork had taken on a life of their own and were resonating with people in a way I never expected.

Therefore, I made a last-minute decision, before The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries went to press, I'd put copies of all the images in the back of the book and allow people to buy them as posters, if they were so inclined.

As it turned out, some of that artwork resulted in a bigger financial success than the book itself. Back in 2002, a very large national company stole some of my Gothic Rainbow artwork and started printing it in a "vampire journal" and were selling it in retail stores all across the county. We settled out of court and the funds from their copyright infringement allowed me the financial freedom to pick up and move to California in 2003. 

When the time came to release the sequel, Annwn's Maelstrom Festival: Concluding Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries, obviously, I needed to create a new set of images, to match the flavor of the first book. Although I shot a large amount of new portraits, I also went back and occasionally picked up a number of old photographs which had remained unused from The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries publication.

Today, you can still download copies of the original text fliers for free or purchase copies of all the posters and fliers in full-color in almost any size you can imagine, from little postcards up to giant movie posters.

Not only did the images gain a great acceptance and a fanbase independent of the novel, but when artist Joe Vargo opened his own art gallery, he requested my images from The Gothic Rainbow be part of the grand opening show.

The artwork of The Vampire Noctuaries changed my life and raised the bar of everything I thought my novels could become. Being featured in art galleries wasn't a thought that ever crossed my mind when I began shooting those images. Just goes to show, when you put in the work and effort to make your dreams a reality, you never know what other unexpected and fun opportunities will end up coming your way.


To find Eric Muss-Barnes's unique vampire novels, you can buy them on Amazon. 

The Gothic Rainbow -

Annwn's Maelstrom Festival

Also, check out Eric's website -

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Season of the Witch

They come from mythology, folklore and fairytales and go by names such as crone, conjurer, necromancer and witch. Male witches are called warlocks and wizards, although the archetypal figure is predominately depicted as an ugly old woman--the hag. Some live as hermits in hovels in dark forests. Others gather in secret places and form covens. They operate in the realms of magic and have the power to cast spells and charm us. They can tell our fortunes or curse us with the evil eye. Old, wicked, beautiful, seductive--witches of all forms have enchanted our stories since the dawn of storytelling.

In Norse mythology there were the Norns, three immortal women who controlled the fates of gods and men. In Greek mythology, the Graeae were three old crones who shared a single eye. The hero Perseus met these witches on his way to fight the snake-headed gorgon, Medusa. These ancient myths most likely inspired Shakespeare to include three “weird sisters” in Macbeth. Even King Arthur of Camelot had his dealing with witches. One of his greatest enemies was an evil and powerful sorceress, Morgan Le Fay. King Arthur also took counsel from a wizard named Merlin.

As a child I remember witches from bedtime stories and movies like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and my all-time-favorite: the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. In stories, there are good witches who operate in the light--like Oz’s Good Witch of the North--and evil ones who practice black magic, such as the Old Witch in Snow White.

As I got older and started writing historical horror novels, I discovered that history is rich with stories about real witches. In Pagan times, witches honored the sun and moon, the winter solstice and the coming of spring. We owe our holiday of Halloween to the Celtic pagans who celebrated the festival of Samhain on October 31st at the end of the harvest season.

Witches are even warned about in the Bible in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Exodus 22:18. Scriptures like "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" gave religious people a reason to believe that all practitioners of magick were evil. In Europe and America from the 1400s through the 1700s, righteous men went on witch hunts and burned men and women at the stake.

These fears of the terrifying witch inspired several horror movies in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Films like Season of the Witch (1972), The Wicker Man (1975), Eyes of Fire (1983), Warlock (1991), The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Lords of Salem (2012) are just a few that come to mind. For the past decade or so, vampires and zombies have dominated books, movies, and TV, but there are signs witches are coming back into the spotlight.  

Already in the first half of 2013, there have been a number of witch movies to hit the theaters. Beautiful Creatures, based on the YA novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is about a family of witches living in a small town in South Carolina and the secrets they keep. In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the brother and sister from the famous Brothers Grimm fairytale are all grown up and now hunt evil witches, which are depicted as monstrous hags.

This is also the year that Hollywood did a remake of one of my favorite horror movies of all time, The Evil Dead. It opens with a witch performing a ceremony and involves five friends finding a demon book that’s filled with witchcraft and evil spirits. I counted 13 new witch movies that will release later this year and next, including two that I find intriguing: The Last Witch Hunter and Lords of Magic.

Now this fall (2013) two new TV shows about witches will be starting in October. The first is The Witches of East End on Lifetime Channel, which has some sexy witches in it. And I'm really looking forward to the second show, American Horror Story: Coven, which airs on FX.

I don’t know if it’s happenstance or if something mystical is at play with all these witches making their way into current books and movies, but last year I wrote my own witch stories: The Girl from the Blood Coven and The Witching House. Both will release as ebooks this summer through Samhain Publishing. As a horror fiction writer, I like to combine history and legends with scary supernatural stories, as I did in my first two books, Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist. While both of those stories deal with mysticism and evil forces, it is my next two stories that allowed me to have fun creating my own legend about a coven witches living in the backwoods of East Texas.

My first story, The Girl from the Blood Coven, is a short story prelude to The Witching House. It’s the year 1972. Sheriff Travis Keagan is enjoying a beer at the local roadhouse, when a blood-soaked girl enters the bar. Terrified and trembling, Abigail Blackwood claims her entire family was massacred at the hippy commune in the woods. Sheriff Keagan knows that Abigail’s “family” is a coven of witches that inhabit the Blevins house. They’ve been rumored to be practicing blood sacrifices and black magic. When the sheriff and his deputies investigate the alleged murders, they discover what happened at the Blevins house is more horrific than they ever imagined.

My second story, The Witching House, is a novella that unravels the mystery of what happened to the Blevins Coven. It’s forty years after the massacre at the hippy commune. My main character is Sarah Donovan, a young woman recovering from a bad divorce and boring life. She recently started dating an exciting, adventurous man named Dean Stratton. Dean and his friends, Meg and Casey, are fearless thrill-seekers. They like to jump out of airplanes, go rock-climbing, white-water rafting, caving and do anything that offers an adrenaline rush. 

Sarah, on the other hand, is scared of just about everything--heights, tight places, the dark--but today she must confront all her fears, as she joins Dean, Meg and Casey on an urban exploring adventure. There’s an abandoned house set far back in the woods, they say. The Old Blevins House has been boarded-up for forty years. And it’s rumored to be haunted. The two couples are going to break in and explore the mysterious house. Little do they know the Old Blevins House is cursed from black magic, and something in the cellar has been craving fresh prey to cross the house’s threshold.

Writing these two stories allowed me to research the long history of witches, from Biblical times, to Norse and Greek mythology, Celtic Paganism, the Christian witch hunts, as well as the modern-day practice of Wicca. In fact, Sarah Donovan’s grandmother is a Wiccan who practices light magic and becomes Sarah’s voice of reason as she is confronted by dark forces. I also studied the differences between White Magic and Black Magic, even combed through a 17th Century spell book for conjuring evil spirits. As with my other books, I have interwoven much of the historical facts that I learned into my stories to offer readers a richer reading experience. My short story, The Girl from the Blood Coven, releases in July as a free ebook, and my novella, The Witching House, releases August 2013.

Witches and witchcraft have been a part of storytelling for centuries. At times they sink below the surface of human consciousness, as other monsters take the stage in books and movies. Some years it’s werewolves, mummies or Frankenstein. For the past several years, we’ve seen a countless number of vampires and zombies. While these monsters are still popular, you can rest assure that witches are back for another season of witchery.


Download The Girl from the Blood Coven at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Samhain Horror.

Pre-order The Witching House at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain Horror.

Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels, Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist, are now available. His third novel, The Devil’s Woods, will release in December 2013. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is joyfully writing his next horror novel. Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianMoreland. Visit: