I wrote about the process of creating Starblood the graphic novel and its sequel Psychonaut on my blog, including the script, character concepts and finished pages. Follow this link to read more.
“Deadsville” by Dale Elster and T.D Trask is a collection of short stories all connected by their setting – Rock Creek. The styles reminded me of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Both writers, Elster and Trask have similar writing styles, which work well together in this collection.
There were a couple of stand out stories. “Head Shot” about a young man trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, and “Still Water” about a haunted river and two teenage boys, both by Dale Elster.
In each story something spooky and unexplained happens and it is this spooky event which is the crux of the story. This works. Masters of horror have often crafted tales this way. Don’t expect character progression though. That isn’t what these stories are about. The setting, Rook Creek, is the main character and all the stories link back to that place.
It’s an enjoyable read and a great introduction to both writers. 5*
Cellar Door, by Carmilla Voiez (part 4).
It was dark when I woke. My body shuddered with cold and my mouth felt dry. I tried to stand but my body wobbled so fiercely I decided to crawl to the kitchen to get myself a drink. Sweat dripped off my nose. The floor was closer than I thought and scraped the skin from my hands and knees each time I misjudged the distance and tried to slam my limbs through the floorboards. Somehow I reached Carl’s door and knelt up to open it. I had to shuffle to get through the narrow crack I’d managed to open. The kitchen was full of dense fog. It pressed against my mouth and nostrils. I felt its pressure against my eyeballs and eardrums. My brain writhed like a bed of snakes and the fierce noise of hissing was everywhere. I shook until my limbs could no longer support me and landed heavily on my belly, forcing the air from my lungs with an even louder hiss. Between the table legs I saw the cellar door, wide open and darkness beyond.
My thirst felt like broken glass in my throat. It took all my strength to pull myself up at the sink. Thankfully there were clean mugs on the draining board and I filled the same one three times from the tap. The water was cloudy, but it dulled the pain and only made my stomach churn for a few minutes.
I let my legs buckle and carry me to the floor, wondering whether I would make it back to the settee before passing out.
I woke with Carl’s blankets wrapped around me and no clear memory of making it out of the kitchen, let alone to the sofa bed. I felt as cold as death. My teeth chattered so hard I wondered if they’d shatter against each other. The skin on my chin felt too tight and the light in the room too blinding. I closed my eyes and placed my hand over my forehead. My fingers felt like ice and my head like fire. Checking one’s own temperature was problematic at best, but I was certain I had a fever. I tried to sit up and felt bile rise in my throat. It was no good. I just had to rest. I lay back on the damp pillow and tried to remember snippets from the past twenty-four hours. There had been dreams. Dark creatures expelled from my pores, slithering over my skin. Yolanda with a cold cloth pressed against my face, Carl holding a filthy tin bucket as far from his wrinkled nose as possible and hurrying out of the room. I tried to call out, but I couldn’t make any sound louder than a rattle come from my chest. My body was soaked as if from a deluge. My thighs slipped against each other as I tried to get comfortable.
Brief periods of bleary wakefulness surrounded by vivid dreams. In the dream world I explored the forest as bright eyes watched me from the shadows. I saw again the slow, heavy movements of creatures in the river, and I heard their siren call, telling me to join them. The sun rose and set and rose again. My body spasmed as countless black leeches pushed their way out through my skin, leaving me wet and sore.
Yolanda and Carl were there but not there. They cared for me and gathered what my body expelled. Changed soiled sheets and made me drink cups of cloudy water that tasted like lead. I was too weak to lift my hand and the drinking straw stuck to my scabby lips. I wished for death and was certain it would come for me soon.
The last time I woke I managed to sit up. My skin felt cool and dry, not cold and clammy. The haze in the room was gone and I saw books, statues and discarded male clothing with perfect clarity. The sunlight, which nudged through the gap in the heavy curtains, didn’t hurt my eyes. The fever had broken.
Carefully I stood up. My legs felt weak from lack of use, but held me steady. Muscles ached as I stumbled to the door, but I did not fall.
I opened the door quietly and stepped into the bright kitchen. Yolanda was there, sat at the table with her laptop. She looked up and smiled.
‘Hi Kate. How are you feeling?’
My knees buckled.
The pressure of her arm against my ribcage pulled me back. She was trying to lift me. I reached out to the panelled wall and supported my weight, pressed against her in an embrace, with my feet on the floor.
‘I thought … ‘
She looked at my face and smiled. ‘What did you think?’
‘How long was I unconscious?’ I asked.
‘Most of the day. If you weren’t better tomorrow we were going to get you to a doctor.’
‘Just a day?’
‘Are you hungry?’
‘Thirsty,’ I said.
‘I’ll get you some water.’
She helped me reach the table and I lowered myself onto a chair. She closed her laptop and filled a glass from a bottle in the fridge.
The water tasted so clear and fresh. It felt as though I had drunk nothing but sweat and sludge for weeks.
‘Where’s Carl?’ I asked.
I nodded. None of it made any sense. I wondered whether this too was a dream. It felt slow and gentle, like an impressionist’s rendition of a scene. Spots of light and only the idea of a kitchen, a friend, a table. I touched the table top and thought I felt wood, but distantly like a memory.
Yolanda pursed her lips. ‘How are you feeling?’
I shook my head slowly, afraid that too swift a movement would send me away from this scene. ‘You don’t want to know. Any new photos?’
‘I’m just working on yesterday’s. I thought it best not to leave you alone.’
‘No need. Maybe you ate something that didn’t agree with you. You didn’t drink the water, did you?’
I shrugged. I couldn’t remember whether I had drunk the tap water or just dreamed that I had.
‘I should have warned you. Sorry. We don’t have drinking water. We don’t even use the tap water to make coffee. Maybe we should take you into town and get you checked out.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
She touched my forehead and I thought I might weep. ‘At least your fever has broken. Will you be okay for a minute if I go and tell Carl you’re awake?’
‘Just refill my glass first.’
As Yolanda left, I found myself staring at the cellar door again. Had it all been a dream brought on by bad food or toxic water? It had felt so real: the noises in the cellar, Carl falling and my locking him in there, Yolanda’s disappearance, the car driving away, leaving me behind, alone. It had all happened, hadn’t it? It wasn’t just a dream. Did that mean I was dreaming now?
I downed the delicious water and made my way across to the door. It was bolted again. I touched the cool metal and stood there for a moment, weighing my options. If I went down there what would I find? Could I prove to myself either way, whether Carl had been locked in the cellar? Whether we had even gone down there together?
I heard footsteps on the porch and returned to my seat.
‘Katie!’ Carl said smiling. ‘Welcome back.’ He didn’t look angry.
‘When was the last time you saw me awake?’ I asked.
He frowned. ‘Dinner. You went to bed early.’
‘We didn’t go into the cellar?’
He shook his head.
My mind screamed, liar! But I couldn’t trust my memory and why would Carl lie to me?
‘Do you want me to take you to the doctor?’ he asked and walked towards me, touching my forehead in the same gentle way Yolanda had before.
I shook my head and a fat tear pooled under my eye then rolled down my cheek.
‘It’s okay,’ he said, clasping my hand. ‘It was the fever.’
‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Yolanda asked. ‘Your dream, I mean.’
My cheeks burned and I felt ashamed as if I really had locked them both in the cellar and left them there. ‘I just remember the cellar was really muddy, flooded.’
Carl searched my eyes for more, but I wasn’t ready to offer it. That’s it. If the cellar was muddy it couldn’t have been a dream.
‘Can you show me the cellar?’
‘So I can convince myself it was only a dream.’
Carl looked over his shoulder at Yolanda who shrugged.
He looked back at me. ‘Sure. If you want.’
‘Will you come with me?’ I asked.
He looked a little nervous.
‘Did you get locked in there? As a kid I mean. You look frightened.’
‘How did you know that?’ he whispered.
‘It was dark and I was scared. I thought … ‘
‘There was something down there with you?’
He nodded slowly. ‘I’ve never told … ‘
‘Did it hurt you?’
Yolanda stepped forward and placed her hand on Carl’s shoulder. ‘Enough.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said.
‘Maybe you should go to bed.’ Yolanda’s stare was cold. Was she angry?
‘I’ve slept enough,’ I argued.
Carl drew away from me. Yolanda whispered something in his ear. He nodded. I couldn’t hear what she said, but it made me anxious. Carl glanced at me, frowning, then left.
Yolanda sat beside me. ‘Tell me about your dream.’
I shook my head.
She sighed. ‘Okay, you want to see the cellar?’
My skin crawled. I wasn’t sure any more.
‘Come on then.’
The light switch was the same as my dream, but the cellar was brighter when Yolanda switched it on. No longer just a dim puddle of light that barely reached past the end of the stairs, but a swathe of illumination that filled the small room. The floorboards were dry, not mud and concrete. I almost didn’t bother to follow her down the stairs, until I saw something familiar in the corner. A tin bucket, the one Carl had carried from my room. Logically it probably contained my body waste, vomit or something else. The way he’d held it suggested a strong, unpleasant smell. But it was the only touchstone that connected my waking world with the fevered dreams and I wanted to take a closer look.
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Cruelty, sexual obsession and death.
Starblood (book 1) Be Careful What You Wish For.
When Satori invokes a demon, hell comes to earth.
Sex, Goth subculture and violence mix to create an explosive narrative.
“Carmilla Voiez makes Clive Barker look like Stephanie Meyer.” Jef Withonef (Houston Press)
Psychonaut (book 2) An epic journey within the mind of a magickian that spans worlds.
Psychonaut is a unique mix of horror, BDSM, sex and magic with Kafkaesque surrealism to terrify and inspire.
“A work of genius or insanity.”
“Carmilla Voiez is more of a singer than a writer. She tells her compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life.” Graham Masterton.
Black Sun (book 3) An intricate web of murder, intrigue and magic allows gods to rain chaos and despair upon all. of human life.
“’Black Sun’ is the perfect conclusion to the Starblood Trilogy. The book is well written, with Gothic atmosphere, and it’s a refreshing look at life, death, family, friendship, and the every changing world around us.”
The Starblood Trilogy available discounted on Kindle Countdown or for free on KindleUnlimited.
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All 3 books – Starblood, Psychonaut and Black Sun are now available in one volume for Kindle (and paperback). I remember the first time Starblood was released. It was in 2011 and an indie publisher Stone Circle had signed it. It’s travelled about since then. Vamptasy signed it (and the sequels) in 2012 and now I am publishing it myself. I didn’t realise while I was writing it, but the story is in some ways an analogy of how I struggled during the breakdown of my second marriage. At the same time it is very much a fantasy with demons, dragons and magic. Of all my stories to date I am most proud of this one, and I hope you will love it too.
My first graphic novel, Starblood, came out on May 29th 2015. Illustrated by Anna Dmitrieva, the story was adapted from
the novel of the same name that was published back in 2012.
I would like to talk a little about the process of converting the novel into the graphic novel.
In addition to the normally expected issues to be considered, about how language can be interpreted differently by the
reader, English is the second language of my artist, so I had to ensure that instructions were clear and unlikely to have
more than one meaning that could be corrupted by a translation tool.
The graphic novel is much shorter than the novel so the next thing I had to bear in mind was what to keep and what to
lose. I chose to concentrate on three characters’ story arcs. We agreed the concept art for these three characters before
we started on the panels, but we still needed to make a few changes at each stage of the process.
After the character sketches I wrote a script for the graphic novel. My artist, Anna, first hand-sketched the idea for each
panel and then created the final art. This was vital as for many pages her vision and mine varied significantly. Sometimes
my vision won out and at other times I agreed with her changes. In this way the graphic novel is very much a
Before writing the script I did plenty of research, both of finished graphic novels and of scripts I had been lucky enough
to obtain. I used certain industry standards, such as capitals for text that appears on the page and lower case for
descriptions of how images should appear.
At this point some examples from the script I handed to my artist might be useful and of interest.
“1. We open with a ¾ page image of a room. The room contains a single bed, a wardrobe and the floor is bare boards.
Everywhere (walls, floor, ceiling) magical symbols have been scribbled. Satori stands naked in the room in a magical
circle. On the bed we can make out photos of a woman’s face – Star. In Satori’s hand he holds a dagger with gems on
the handle and a wavy blade.
SATORI: THIS IS MY WILL
In the final ¼ of the page a woman is stepping through a rift in reality. Behind her we can make out swirling chaos. This
woman is Lilith. She too is naked and she is also completely hairless at this point with bright green eyes.”
I numbered the pages but just left a line between scenes, or panels. I kept the same format throughout the process.
“4. The man is on his knees. Lilith towers above him. His knife is held between her thighs like a dildo and her face is full
of rage while his is terrified. We can see the moon above them.
LILITH: SUCK MY COCK!
CAP: HE PLEADS WITH HER TO SHOW MERCY. HIS BROKEN TONGUE SPITS PROMISES HE WILL NOT KEEP.
EXQUISITE SCREAMS OF AGONY ECHO THROUGH THE ALLEYWAY AS SHE MAKES HER VIRGIN HOLE AND
FUCKS HIM UNTIL HE STOPS TWITCHING.”
The script took about two months to write, but the novel had taken 18 months, so no doubt a script from scratch would
take longer. The art took over a year from concept art to finished pages, 15 months to be exact. During that time the artist
and myself were in contact almost daily, discussing what was needed and making changes as the work progressed.
And that is pretty much it. Finding the right artist and establishing a suitable form for two way communication are tricky
but essential and the rest is trial and error until you get something both are happy with and proud to own.
Now Anna and I are doing the same with Psychonaut.
Satori’s eyes shine in excitement. In the half-light one seems to glow red. Star shudders. She has seen this manic look before: the look that says anything is possible. Star swallows hard. She cannot argue the point. A few hours ago she was dead. Now she lies here in his arms. Her heart beats and her lungs draw oxygen from the air. Anything is possible. That is his law, not hers, and yet her reality confirms its validity in the same way the law of gravity is confirmed by her inability to float above this itchy and uncomfortable bed. For one second she hates him for being right.
Star sits up. Her back is rigidly straight. She stares at the metal door. ‘Run? I feel that’s all I have ever done. Maybe it’s time I stopped?’
‘We’ll figure it out.’ He places his body between her and the door, smiling gently.
She strokes his beautifully pointed face and gazes into his eyes. One sparkles with deep grey brilliance. The other is damaged. She wonders when that happened. She kisses his lips and snuggles into his chest. His steady heart beat calms her.
A fluorescent strip light flickers above them like a strobe on a dance floor. Energy crackles around the room, making their hair stand on end. Star clings to Satori as freezing air whips around the cell, like a hurricane. Satori sits up and touches her shoulder, instructing her to stay down. Star feels cold and unnaturally exposed in her nakedness. The light flickers again then fails and the cell falls into darkness. The air feels thick, almost solid. It punches Star’s ears and throat and chills her skin.
‘Satori!’ she screams.
‘It’s okay.’ Satori grips her shoulders and pulls her up towards him. They sit on the narrow bed together, shaking.
Air crushes her. She struggles to catch her breath. A vortex of wind drags Star from the bed to the centre of the room. Satori’s hands fall from her shoulders. She cannot feel or see him. She stands up, alone. Air surrounds her, separating her from him. Her heart hammers and her legs shake. Wind swirls around her. She spins with it, not knowing which direction she faces when suddenly the spinning stops and she is pushed to the floor by a heavy blow. Crying out, she tries to push herself back up against the weight of air. The room stinks of blood and decay.
Available from Amazon and other retailers –