Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Radiant Shadows: Beginnings" by Sarah Baethge

Radiant Shadows: Beginnings
by Sarah Baethge

In Radiant Shadows: Beginnings, the book's dedication reads: "To my brother Joshua and his wife Jill. Thank you always for my niece's cool name." Joshua and Jill gave their daughter Olivia the middle name of Sarah, in honor of her aunt. You can read my interview with the author.

Say there is an official organization to control how vampires and humans interact.
What would happen to violators of its 'laws'?
How would the breaking of its rules be fixed?
What could even be the motivation for members of this alliance?

Believe me; I never imagined the eventual result I was left with.
When I was called to stand before that vampire high council myself, the oddness of the situation had me a little concerned that their whole event may just be a dramatic bit of show before I was killed/possibly turned (vampires seem to enjoy creating eerie situations like that for their own amusement), the only reason I felt that I might possibly keep my human life was because of the presence of one specific other human I saw who was sitting among them.
And you have this admission of nervousness coming from a guy who had long ago simply decided that the risk of becoming a vampire was just an unmentioned, yet rather obvious, chance I had taken when signing the contract for my job.
I worked as something of a human diplomat within the HVA (Human-Vampire Alliance). This is the organization that exists to tend the fragile threads of agreement both sides want, in order to prevent some type of all-out supernatural war between our two societies. If you ask why this is necessary, then I’m sure you can’t understand exactly how many thousands of vampires really do exist.
That one human I’m talking about was Caroline Ace, a steadfast human huntress who outwardly despised most vampires. There is no way that she would voluntarily attend a death or turning ceremony, and she certainly didn’t look unhappy as if she were being held there against her will.
–oh sure, like no vampire has ever thought of breeding and keeping a supply of people in a tiny dark little basement full of cages reminiscent of some sort of inhumane egg producing facility. ‘Twould make things a bit easier at their end of the equation, something like that. Yet, I doubt somehow that their blood-cow choices would include a huntress.
Childish happy ideas about keeping our dark brethren content with animal blood are really something of a fairy-tale too. Understand please; some sort of iron or hemoglobin doesn’t nourish a vampire’s body like it would yours. Vampires are dead. Every person that becomes a vampire has first died. A dead body has no need of nourishment.
When the life in a body ends, that living energy normally produced in the brain simply drains out through the jugular because it can no longer cling directly to the body that produced it; in the moments just after death, this force has been knocked loose enough that it can be stolen by a vampire who moves to take it quickly enough. Sure, some vampires develop a taste for the blood itself, yet the chemicals within this fluid have very little use to their dead organs.
When a vampire takes someone’s blood, what they are ‘feeding’ on is human life. By ‘life’ I mean that energy or spirit of self existing within, throughout a living person that their healthy body will continue to replenish within itself until death. You might scoff were I to call this force ‘magic’, but if properly controlled, it can have effects that I have trouble describing any other way.
You see, a good part of what I negotiate comes down to acquiring vampire help to stand against human criminals when it might be convenient to simply have them ‘disappear’. I won’t try to pretend that a good number of confessions from especially nasty human-outlaws haven’t also come about through the choice of either that or a close encounter with a grinning set of vampire fangs, as well.
Having no way to make this living ‘spirit’ energy for themselves, those vampires who do not take another’s ‘life’-force can just sit back and wait to watch as their own body begins to rot away without it. I’m not saying that animals don’t have this energy, most likely they do; it’s just that this force is quite complex and has a slightly different physical structure for every individual that can produce it, much like the blood that is normally taken with it. And like that blood, pumping yourself full of what came from a deer or a moose probably wouldn’t work all that well.
Robbing a blood-bank couldn’t really provide it either; a little plastic bag full of blood is really quite inert, dead and lifeless.
Ultimately; although neither side may be ready to admit it, vampires and living-humans, physiologically, are all the same creature. We actually rely on them because of how they must rely upon us.
To keep relations civil, vampires will try to have no part in decisions passed against criminal vampires by the humans as long as humans don’t stand in the way of their fair and justified human killings (when such a thing becomes necessary).
You see, vampires are more adept at handling and using this life-giving ‘magical’ power I’ve described that is so integral to everyone’s survival (even though for some reason most humans seem to be completely unaware of it) and so, they can more easily use this energy willingly as a seemingly otherworldly force for everyday supernatural situations than a human could. These aren’t unusual occurrences, but are actually so real and so dangerous, the HVA hires diplomats like myself to work out terms and agreements of behavior between the living and the non-, that keep both sides happy. The best example of this that I can think of off the top of my head is the vampire preference that most of humanity is kept unaware of their darker brothers’ very existence.
This is mainly done to prevent self-praising human vigilantes from attempting to hunt and kill vampires to extinction for the supposed ‘good of all humanity’ Actually, my living co-workers and I will hold the threat of publicly disclosing this secret about our coexistence as a roadblock against the formation of groups containing angry vampires ready for a field-day of unprovoked human kills.
Aside from diplomats like me, my human colleagues, and our vampire counterparts, the HVA has 2 more divisions:
1. Human hunters who are out to get vampires who break the rules,
2. And vampire stalkers who work to strike down any human, self-appointed vampire-slayers.
This had always worked fine until the day came when I was called by a vampire council who weren’t arguing against human actions; instead, they wanted to help incite a more efficient than human-based judgment after one of their own.
Who exactly they were after here was the vampire Randy Martin. He wasn’t just turned yesterday and rebelling against the new set of vampire-laws that he now suddenly found himself subject to.
Believe me; we get plenty of that, and the vampires have their own ways to quickly just deal with it. Generally it’s something less than total destruction (forgive my wording here, but having already called all vampires to be dead, I’m not sure that death could really sound like all that much of a true threat), a period of forced starvation or something similar to that is usually the normal sentence that these ‘criminal’ vampires actually end up getting as a punishment.
Although, to call him old doesn’t really fit the profile either, I know more than a couple vampires with turn-dates of earlier than 100 years ago. Randy’s was only like 50, at most 75 years before today. He wasn’t exactly ancient, but he certainly wasn’t new either.  He just had the years of experience and the learned magical control that would easily enable him to avoid capture.
Assuredly he’d been around long enough that he was aware of the havoc that his actions would probably cause; he had to know better than to just jump up and start feeding off of people who had done nothing to deserve it while, at the same time, leaving their blood-drained bodies in very open places for unwary innocents to find. It was bizarre enough to get local living, non-HVA police to jokingly refer to these crimes as ‘vampire murders’.
Actually, by now I’ve decided that their council meeting with me more was done to decisively impress upon both the huntress Caroline I mentioned before, and myself, just how seriously they took what they were making it possible for her to do.
At that time of course, my law abiding vampire friends felt quite threatened by Randy’s almost uncaring actions and didn’t find the nickname of ‘vampire-murders’ to be funny at all. I suppose it’s similar to how you might feel towards criminals in your neighborhood if you knew that they had a good chance of angering the closest mad cult into storming out to your place of residence on some type of murderous, fire-spewing rampage of revenge.
They wanted Randy taken out for his misbehavior as quickly as possible; permanently stopping the threat of any more deadly actions that might come from him. Their rize against his attacks was meant as nothing more than a simple precaution, just so that they could return to their own carefully built and well looked after anonymity.
Vampire leaders wanted to put an end to Randy’s reign of terror even if it had to come by their own direct guiding of the oft’ hated and distrusted human hunters’ hands. They certainly didn’t want to just sit around idly watching as this much loathed rival group of law enforcement between the two peoples fumbled around ineffectively; not if Randy’s random actions could possibly have innocent vampires blamed and outed for his misdeeds that they were desperately trying to stop.
Now/then, you’d probably be surprised to learn just how many paralegals are actually vampires. Not as often are they full-lawyers; vampires usually try to stay out of the direct public spotlight, but I can’t really say that about most attorneys. It’s just that the paralegal profession is really a hotbed of vampire activity! (This would probably be why I gave up trying to go any further in the legal profession myself, actually.)
The vampires figured (at least I assumed when they requested to meet with me) that humans could be used in much the same way as we made use of them; I could be a convenient human presence to make Randy’s own instincts lead to his eventual, almost voluntary downfall.
I’m not sure I can stress enough, just how unusual it is for an official vampire council to be formed simply to address a mere human, however. Sure, humans have been asked to sit among councils plenty of times, but the person addressed is always a vampire.
Just as well, I supposed when my notice of Caroline dispelled my immediate dread of oncoming fangs; working as closely with vampires and their uncontrolled desires as I did, I had long ago given up the silly adolescent fantasy of being turned myself. Who could knowingly throw himself into an eternity where any split-second scent of a person walking by can become a deep-rooted obsession for the chance to take a possible taste of their blood? I hear it’s a terrible, desperate wanting; one so strong, in fact, that you would become willing to risk near-certain death just to get at it!
And unless all of your friends are close to invincible when you’re originally turned, your new unnatural strength combined with all of the fun created through possible flashes of eerily uncontrolled, deadly magic can make you unintentionally kill off almost everyone you know before you ever come close to learning how to reign in your new, now supernaturally powered, anger and desire.
As I saw my eventual transformation into a vampire to be something that was almost inevitable (considering how unlikely it was that I could ever stop doing what I did for the HVA without ticking off someone of the no-longer-living persuasion), I had worked to drive off all of my non-hunter/huntress human friends as well as relocated my place of living; over the last few years, I had taken to residing in a cabin in the countryside a short bit away from the city. I wasn’t really totally off of the radar as my little house was still within driving distance of gas and groceries. Occasionally, I could even manage to get a pizza delivered. The important thing is that I had no close neighbors whom I would take with me when my time of turning inevitably came.
The vampire who led the council that night would have easily impressed me enough by himself -He who seemed to be their local-leader. We’re talking a guy who looked to be more than 1000 years old here, even though vampire growth and aging comes dead slowly. I can’t tell you his real name, I’m still not quite sure of it, myself, actually; I think it was probably just assumed that everyone present already knew what to call him. Caroline later referred to him as The Count, and I’m still not quite sure if she was just joking with some sort of fancy fabricated vampiric-sounding title.
Whatever you want his name to be, this well-aged blood-sucker seemed to look directly through me as he commanded: “You vill follow Mizz Ace out to ze home of Olivia Dominicus. Olivia haz been given ze infusion; it iz ze last in our supply. It can be used to make Mizz Ace become stronger. Sir Martin vill stand no chance against an infused huntress. Your sacrifice vill make ze infusion take hold.”
Then, a flash of fire - a moment of darkness and smoke… No one can make a dramatic exit like a vampire - that’s unless you want to differentiate between one dagger-fanged shadow and a whole room-full of vampires. More quickly than the blink of an eye, only me and Caroline were left in the suddenly empty and darkened room.
She made it over to open the main doorway for light where the sun could be seen setting on the horizon. I stood in place half frozen with my teeth almost chattering uneasily; I was still sure that I could still feel the Count’s scathing gaze.
“You coming?” Caroline called over to me as she walked outside.
“What was he talking about??” This grim event wasn’t going at all like I had ever imagined. Did they somehow expect me to follow and beg for my own death?
Surely they’d noticed my loss of fascination with their ever-prolonged Hell.
“What he suggested that I take from Miss Olivia and use as a seraphic infusion,” Caroline began explaining, (without seeming to take any notice of my dismayed looking around to make sure that we weren’t being followed); “I’m pretty sure from what I’ve read that it is something close to angel blood.” She called this back to me as if somehow that idea could explain everything.
If those vampires had truly wanted to feed on me in some sort of sacrificial right, why was I still alive?
Still not understanding her exact reasoning for wanting whatever might be going on in the first place; I followed the huntress Caroline as she started walking with a purpose towards something past the horizon.
“But they didn’t get me. They just ran away…” I replied in confusion.
She stopped walking and looked at me because she couldn’t seem to figure what I meant.
“Why would I care about blood?” I tried to explain.
Understanding then flashed on Caroline’s face. “You don’t get what I mean to do,” she answered as a grin started to steal across her face. “Stephen, what happens when a human who has had their goodness/life-light sucked out of them, then partakes of vampire blood?”
“You’re talking of how a new vampire is made.” I answered with a slight uncertainty as to why she was trying to explain this to me.
“With the respect those leeches showed you tonight,” Caroline suggested without hiding her disgust; “would it be fair to say that you could go back and beg a little blood off one of them in order to thereby save yourself, had I a way of taking away your living light?” The question glowed in her eyes.
The proposition might work, could I find a willing vampire quickly enough, but a person drained of life-force sounded rather helpless to do such a thing. “If you took that power from me, wouldn’t I just die?”
“Taking away the light of your life would forcibly bequeath my living-darkness unto you,” she explained. “That primal force of wrongness is stubborn and unwilling to just sit back and give in, much like that old Count we saw tonight. You’d have to have at least a couple of hours in which to act before death sets in.”
Earnestly, she was holding out to me what I had ceased to want.
“But surely, you’d be in danger as well,” I tried to throw out there. How could I explain to her that this supposed treat she seemed to be trying to tempt me with was really the last thing that I wanted anymore?
“Because; if you can take away my darkness,” she continued explaining; “those vampires believe that my body fully accepting the seraph-like touch of what Madame Olivia now holds will transform me into the most righteous anti-vampire!” Caroline looked at me with pleading eyes.
When I only looked at her with confusion, she added; “Randy or any vampire would become unable to stand against me...”
If what she had proposed were true, lives could be saved.
Unrest and greater troubles might be avoided.
I just had to be willing to give up my life or at least my humanity in the bargain.
“…a sacrifice..” I muttered. It was what The Count had been talking about earlier.
“But not for you!” She answered all too cheerily as she turned back towards wherever it was that we had been headed before.

I love a good vampire novel and Sarah had some interesting ideas in this novella. The scene is told from three points of view in three separate chapters. While there is naturally some duplication, each chapter offers new insights into the stories and characters.
Caroline works for the Human Vampire Alliance as a huntress. Her friend Stephen takes a seraphic infusion brewed by one of the shadow people to make him an anti-vampire. This results in Caroline and Stephens minds being linked together as they hunt a vampire named Randy. Caroline is also hampered by her boyfriend, Marshall joining them in the vampire hunt.
I like the magical powers such as sparking coming from the fingertips too. This and the magical ideas could use some more development in future writing.
There are a few areas for the author to work on including: increased used of emotions, having a hook at the beginning and refining the writing technique. An example of this would be "You see, I'm pretty sure that was the moment I died." Such a dramatic statement requires an equal emotive response such as shock, terror, panic or confusion.

Interview With the Author
Hi Sarah, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, Radiant Shadows: Beginnings.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Anyone old enough to enjoy vampire stories.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I started writing a poem about vampires and when I finished it, I just felt that I wanted to go a little deeper into the story.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The story came well before I decided to try making a book out of it.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I suppose it was attempting to show my characters horror and fear while attempting to leave the story tame enough to be read by most people.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope they enjoy it, it’s not meant to be anything other than a bit of fun.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Just a couple of months.
What is your writing routine?
I try to write every day, yet I also try not to write all day. I think my stories turn out better if I don’t complete a work in one sitting so that I am sure to take some down time thinking about what I have written.
How did you get your book published?
Amazon KDP
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Just go for it!
Well said! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to read.
What does your family think of your writing?
They tell me that they are proud of it.
That's great! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
Not really much to tell, I guess I had good grades in school.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
All the time.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was hurt pretty bad in a car wreck and decided that there was no reason not to try. What is the worst that could happen?
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Sure, forever reading has left my mind trying to develop a story about whatever I see without ever even trying to.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I like Stephen King and Michael Crichton, should I mention Anne Rice?
Why not? Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I’m pretty much unknown, when I do hear from readers it’s usually just a general "good job!" or "this sucks!"
Ooh, that's a bit harsh. What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I do have a pretty long werewolf story in the works.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Sarah. Best of luck with your future projects.
You too!

About the Author
Sarah Baethge is a fan of science-fiction, fantasy and drama, who lives and writes in Salado, central Texas.