We are delighted to welcome back mystery authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall as our guest bloggers today.
The second title in their "Cowboy and Vampire" thriller series is Blood and Whiskey (Pumpjack Press April 2012 Trade Paperback and eBook editions).
Today Clark and Kathleen tell us about blood and whiskey, love and lust, and other weird cocktails. And they're giving one of our readers a chance to win a free copy of their new book; details below.
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Welcome to LonePine, Wyoming, population 438 — soon to be 439 (there's a half cowboy, half vampire baby on the way). Rugged, rural and hardscrabble, LonePine is a long way from happily ever after. It's damn beautiful country to live in though, or — more likely for a broke cowboy and a newly turned vampire — to die in.
Photo provided courtesy of
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Blood and Whiskey, the second book in "The Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series", picks up where The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Darkly Romantic Mystery left off. After narrowly surviving a vampire apocalypse, Tucker, a down-on-his-luck cowboy, and Lizzie, a newly-turned vampire with a growing thirst for blood, have hightailed it back to LonePine to settle down and start a family. But nothing ever comes easy for these two lovers.
The vampire world is in disarray and the undead are facing the prospect of mortality for the first time in, well, forever. Without a blood savior to turn the willing, the Royal vampire line faces extinction. The mysterious Council of Nine is headed to LonePine to determine if Lizzie has the power; if not, they'll lay waste to the tiny town. But the Reptilian vampires, conveniently able to reproduce the old-fashioned way, have other plans.
Chafing under thousands of years of brutal oppression at the hands of the Royals, the Reptilians see their chance to finally alter the balance of power by assassinating Lizzie. They've sent their own "ambassador" to LonePine, a cowboy killer straight from the old west.
The long-simmering ethnic undercurrents — and what they mirror in the "real" world — are captured nicely by a Kirkus reviewer: "Introducing racial issues isn't the only adjustment the authors have made to the vampire mythos, but it's more than just the details that set this series apart. Rather, it's the way the authors utilize those details to create meaningful conflicts and world-altering choices for the characters." (Thank you, Kirkus!)
Meanwhile, Rose, the niece of Tucker's best friend Lenny — a quirky conspiracy theorist and improvised weapons expert — has disappeared from the streets of Portland. When Tucker and Lenny investigate, they uncover a horrible, depraved mystery centered in the sagebrush-soaked isolation of remote Plush, Oregon.
But all roads eventually lead back to LonePine.
But enough about the plot
Rather than dig too deeply into the plot, we thought it might be interesting to excavate the tension between the "opposites attract" theme in Blood and Whiskey. Like the beverages themselves, tension is always best when shaken and served on the rocks.
Love is blind, and irrational
A cowboy and a vampire in love? It makes sense if you share our belief that love is a function of conveniently matching neuroses. Their differences brought Tucker and Lizzie together, but that might be why they fit together so well. She is an intellectual, a voracious reader and a closet anarchist who geeks out on political theory. The simpler things in life — cold beer, rodeos and watching the sunrise — are enough to satisfy Tucker. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they carve out a relationship founded on a heart-stopping passion that initially bridges their differences. But like any couple, as lust wanes they struggle to find ways to connect on deeper levels. They have their share of quotidian arguments. He flosses too loudly and she has to kill humans to survive. But they're working through their problems and would probably make real progress if the fate of the world wasn't in their hands and a band of murderers on their trail.
Beyond evil and good
There's possibly no better way to have fun with the concept of good versus evil than by bottling up cowboys — icons of strength, courage and all that's right in the world — in the same remote western town with vampires, a timeless symbol of corruption, decay and decadence. It's a pressure cooker set on high and left unattended, luckily for readers.
In Blood and Whiskey, the evil isn't just black and white. Vampires from the Royal line have a centuries-old religious edict to feed only on the blood of evil humans, and there seems to be a never-ending supply. The Reptiles have no such moral imperative. Elita, the fierce, sexy Reptile vampire who now serves Lizzie, is grudgingly re-learning how to sense true evil and control her dark thirsts. It's a slow and painful process, but at least she has the beautiful Virote, a human woman offered up by the Russian vampire Rurik, upon which to slake her sexual frustrations.
Big city meets wide-open country
Aside from the obvious differences between humans and vampires (she dies every dawn but arises again at night, sunlight is terminal and she is strong enough to bend steel), their backgrounds have shaped Lizzie and Tucker in fundamental ways. Tucker grew up in the middle of Wyoming in a tiny town surrounded by sagebrush and mountains. Lizzie grew up in New York surrounded by skyscrapers and millions of people. Their worldviews, understandably, are radically different.
The urban versus rural tension doesn't stop there. The vampires, by and large, are sophisticated, amoral and completely perplexed — especially Elita — by anyone who willingly chooses to live in a small town. The people of LonePine, on the other hand, are proud to live on the edge of civilization and while they may be simple in some regards, they are certainly no less complex. Lenny, for example, is ex-military, possibly an alien abductee and incredibly well read on the latest conspiracies (like how the government killed Michael Jackson).
Life and death simultaneously (at least for some)
Our vampires are very hard to kill, but they are quite familiar with death. They die themselves, every dawn, like clockwork. That means their long undead lives are characterized by an endless cycle of near death, and then post death, experiences. We wondered how conscious beings, even those motivated by such dark impulses, could survive death — the biologic shut down of the brain and all body functions — and then resurrect mere hours later with memories intact.
We came up with the concept of the Meta— a giant energy field that surrounds, contains and sustains all life. It's the opposite of the individual embodied consciousness. When vampires die, their sense of self rushes off down the tunnel of light and exists in the Meta until nightfall. Human consciousness exists there too, but only when we die with more finality. A few lucky humans have returned from the Meta with scant memories but a new sense of purpose and belonging. Even for vampires who can remember the Meta, the experience is a jumbled mass of sensory experiences. But vampires with the power to turn, like Lizzie, also have the ability to make sense of the Meta. As the Kirkus reviewer observed, the Meta "has all sorts of ramifications for human spirituality."
Blood and Whiskey
Love and lust, life and death, good and evil; these are just a few of the contradictions we smash together in Blood and Whiskey and the nuclear energy released makes the book a real page turner. We think Blood and Whiskey has strong existentialist underpinnings that set it apart from the sparkly vampire world, but first and foremost, it's just pure, unadulterated fun.
Smart and fun — opposites really do attract!
Learn more at CowboyAndVampire.com, Facebook.com/cowboyandvampire, or by following us on Twitter: @cowboyvamp. We'd love to hear from you.
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About Blood and Whiskey:
Wanted: Lizzie Vaughan, Dead or Alive.
Relationships are always hard, but for a broke cowboy and a newly turned Vampire, true love may be lethal. After barely surviving an undead apocalypse in The Cowboy and the Vampire, Tucker and Lizzie hightail it back to quirky LonePine, Wyoming (population 438), to start a family. But she's got a growing thirst for blood and he's realizing that mortality ain't all it's cracked up to be when your girlfriend may live forever. With a scheming Vampire nation hot on their boot heels and a price on her head, how far will Lizzie and Tucker go to protect their unlikely love?
Blending evolution, religion and an overly sensitive cow dog named Rex, Blood and Whiskey drags the Vampire myth into the modern west, delivering double-barreled action, heart-pounding passion and wicked humor.
For a chance to win a copy of Blood and Whiskey, courtesy of the authors, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall: Blood and Whiskey" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (6285) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends May 8th, 2012.)