Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena is out!

Daughters of Shadow and Blood - Book II: ElenaBUY: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks

Gračanica. Kosovo, 1689: Elena, an Albanian peasant girl, has sacrificed her own future to keep her family from starving, but one horrific night they are taken from her, murdered by monsters out of her nightmares. She seeks refuge at the nearby monastery, where she meets Stjepan, a Serbian monk familiar with creatures that stalk the night. Elena longs to return to her farm, but piecing her life back together may be impossible. Stjepan draws her into a dark conspiracy involving an ancient brotherhood, and as war looms, a stranger named Lek appears, threatening to overturn everything she thought she knew about her family and herself.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1999: Since surviving the showdown between the vampire Yasamin and the terrorist group Süleyman’s Blade, Adam Mire has lived in hiding, posing as an unassuming Czech librarian. His life is upended again, however, when a new threat arises—one intent on using Dracula’s legacy to unleash another wave of violence across the already war-ravaged nation.

Meanwhile, Clara MacIntosh, the love Adam left behind, has come to Eastern Europe to find him. While tracking him down, she becomes entangled in a string of grisly murders—deaths Adam is investigating as well. As they both follow clues literally written in blood, time runs short to unmask the killer before history comes full-circle and chaos engulfs the region again.

Monster Monday: The Melrose Vampire

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Melrose Vampire.

A photograph of Melrose Abbey by Henry Fox Talbot (1844)
A photograph of Melrose Abbey by Henry Fox Talbot (1844)

The story of the Melrose Vampire is recorded by the medieval historian William of Newburgh. Melrose is a town in Scotland near the English border. There was an abbey nearby built in the twelfth century. According to the legend, there was a chaplain to a lady who lived near the abbey who did not live a priestly life. He was know as the “Hundeprest” or “dog priest” because he liked to hunt with hounds. He was so wicked that when he died, his spirit was denied rest. He came back nightly and terrorized the village, screaming, and moaning, and attacking people and drinking their blood.

He tried to enter the abbey, in the form of a monstrous bat, but the monks drove him back. After that he returned to terrorize his former mistress, and she begged the monks for help. One night they sent four monks to guard the grave of the suspected vampire, expecting him to rise up at midnight. When he failed to appear, three of the monks left for shelter in a nearby cottage, but one remained.

No sooner had they left, but the grave opened up and the vampire appeared in his monstrous form. He tried to attack the monk, but the monk hit him with an ax, and he retreated back into his grave. The next morning, the four monks dug up the body to discover it exactly as it had been when the priest was buried, except for the giant ax wound. The carried it outside of the church burial grounds and burned it, scattering the ashes to the winds.

Monster Monday: Vampire of Croglin Grange

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Vampire of Croglin Grange.

Illustration from Varney the Vampire (1847)
Illustration from Varney the Vampire (1847)

The Vampire of Croglin Grange is a legend from Cumberland, England. The events supposedly took place in the 1870s. Croglin Grange was an estate near a churchyard. The family that owned it moved into a bigger home and rented it to two brothers and a sister–Edward, Michael, and Amelia Cranswell.

One summer evening, Amelia was alone in her room when she saw a figure at her window and was so terrified she couldn’t scream. The creature had glowing demonic eyes and long talon-like fingers it used to pick out the lead between the panes of glass in the window. When it was able to remove a pane, it reached through and unlatched the window and came into the room. The creature grabbed Amelia and bit her on the neck. She was then able to scream and alert her brothers.

They came rushing into the room after breaking down the door and chased the creature off, saving their sister, who nonetheless lost a great deal of blood. After some time spent in Switzerland helping Amelia recover, the three siblings returned, vowing to take revenge on the creature.

One evening shortly after their return, the creature again picked the lead from between the window panes and entered Amelia’s room, but the brothers were hiding in wait. They both shot at the creature, which howled in pain and fled back through the window.

The next they they followed the trail of blood to the churchyard. In the crypt, they discovered a number of upturned coffins. The only one intact contained a corpse wrapped in a moldering shroud with a fresh bullet wound in its leg. They dragged the body out of the crypt into the daylight and burned it. After that the creature never returned.

Monster Monday: Aufhocker

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Aufhocker.

A Ghostly Black Dog
A Ghostly Black Dog

In German folklore, an aufhocker is a shapeshifting creature that attacks lone travelers at night, especially at crossroads. It often appears as a large black dog, but can also appear as a helpless old woman in order to coax its victim to let their guard down or a horse that lures its victim into riding it to their death. In addition, in some stories it appears as a corpse or a spirit or a kind of goblin. Because of its nature it has been called a kind of vampire.

The name aufhocker comes from German meaning “to leap upon,” and its preferred method of attack in to jump on the back of its victim. In some stories, it becomes bigger and heavier once it attacks so that its victim can’t throw it off. In others it first appears small but gradually grows until it is tall enough to rip out its victim’s throat.

It can be defeated by daylight or the sound of church bells or devout prayer. In some stories it can also be driven away by swearing.


RavenCon, April 29-May, Williamsburg, VA

I’m a guest this weekend at RavenCon at the DoubleTree Hotel in Williamsburg, VA Here’s my schedule. Come find me!

Friday, April 29
5:00 p.m. Southern Gothic Fiction
9:00 p.m. Reading

Saturday, April 30
10:00 a.m. Book Launch for Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena
2:00 p.m. Researching Your Book
5:00 p.m. Book Signing
9:00 p.m. Alternate History
11:00 p.m. Ghost Stories

Sunday, May 1
10:00 a.m. Book Covers that Sell Books
1:00 p.m. The Indie Toolbox

Monster Monday: Dhampir

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Dhampir.

Vampire Killing Kit
Vampire Killing Kit (Attribution in link)

In the folklore of the Balkans, a dhampir is the result of a union between a vampire and a human. It was believed that vampires often came back after death to sleep with their widows, so often a recently widowed woman becoming pregnant would attribute it to her late husband who has supposedly com back.

In many legends a dhampir can be recognized by his or her dark unruly hair or lack of a shadow. In some legends the dhampir is said to lack bones or fingernails. Larger than normal eyes, ears, or teeth were also said to be signs of a dhampir.

A dhampir has many of the strengths of a vampire, such as superior speed and agility, but none of the weaknesses. A dhampir, for example, is able to venture out during the day, and in certain legends, vampires are invisible to everyone except dhampirs. Because of these attributes, dhampirs are particularly effective as vampire hunters.

Despite their striking similarity, the words dhampir and vampire are not related. Dhampir comes from two Albanian words meaning “drink” and “teeth”. In other words, “to drink with the teeth.” Vampire comes to English from Serbian vampir, which is derived from a proto-Slavic root of unclear meaning.

Read a Free Excerpt from Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena (Part 4)

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena, I am releasing a free excerpt once a week until release day on April 23, 2016. This is Part 2. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here.) I hope you enjoy! Please share and order your copy today!


Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

7 October 1999

A crack began at the floor and ran all the way up the white plaster wall to the ceiling, the first thing Adam saw when he opened his eyes. Like a swimmer coming up for air, he fought through the grogginess and the pounding in his head. The smell of musty fabric hung in the air and mingled with the odor of stale cigarette smoke. He struggled to sit up, but froze when he locked eyes with the man from the Special Collections room. Seated in a threadbare chair, he glared at Adam from beneath a mop of dirty blond hair with intense but tired-looking blue eyes. He was slighter than he had seemed in the library, and young, probably in his early twenties.

“Where am I?” Adam asked, his voice like sandpaper.

The man didn’t answer, and Adam didn’t waste his breath asking again.

Glancing around, Adam found himself in the living area of a tiny apartment. The man’s chair was crammed into one corner. His own equally threadbare sofa was crammed into another. A decrepit radiator stood against the wall between them. Above the sputtering radiator threadbare curtains—bedsheets actually—covered the only window. Nearby, a black-and-white television sat on a small table. A newscaster was talking about the ethnic fighting in Kosovo. He spoke Serbian, or possibly Croatian, or maybe even Bosnian. All three languages were essentially the same, except that the speakers of each hated the speakers of the other two.

In the same wall as the giant crack there was a door—the entry, based on the adjacent coat rack. To the right of the door, an opening led into a cramped kitchen. An old gas stove stood in the middle of the room leaving barely enough space for a small dinette set.

Another door in the wall to his left promptly swung open, and a woman emerged from the darkened room on the other side. She wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a T-shirt. Her black hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She could have been a female student in any one of Adam’s freshman Western civilization lectures, except that she seemed to draw all the shadows in the room toward her. Her movements created a slight sense of vertigo. Adam’s heart pounded as he realized what she was.

“Dr. Mire,” she said, “so glad to see you’re finally awake. I trust your trip was a pleasant one?”

“I’d answer, but I’m afraid I don’t remember much of it.” Adam’s hand went to the crucifix around his neck, only to discover it missing. He shoved his other hand into his pocket. His knife was gone as well. He glared at the man seated in the chair, who simply grinned.

“Now, don’t look like that, Dr. Mire,” the woman said. “You’ll get your toys back when you leave.”

“Whether and how I leave is exactly what I’m worried about.”

She smiled. “You needn’t worry.”

He wasn’t sure if her words were meant to comfort him or not.

“Bogdan,” she said to the man in the chair, “would you mind giving us some privacy, just for a few hours?”

Bogdan’s grin melted. He hesitated, as if to ask her if she was certain, before he wordlessly stood and trudged out of the apartment. He slammed the door behind him.

She walked over to the television and turned it off before taking a seat in the dilapidated chair Bogdan had just vacated. Every move she made was deliberate, performed with a fluid grace that contradicted everything about her surroundings. “You’ve been busy, haven’t you, Dr. Mire? Confronting a vampire as formidable as Yasamin. Challenging Süleyman’s Blade. And coming out of the whole affair alive. Quite impressive.”

“Who are you?” Adam asked.

Her mouth twisted into an amused quirk. “My name is Elena.”

“Where am I?”


Adam’s mind went to a day in Prague a few weeks earlier. He was seated in a sidewalk café, drinking his coffee and smoking a cigarette, when his waiter slipped him an envelope. Inside was a clipping from Liberation, Sarajevo’s daily newspaper. It was dated 16 March 1994, during the height of the siege of the city. The article recounted several deaths that could not be explained by the daily bombardment of shells from the Yugoslav army. Among other things, the victims were found completely drained of blood.

The waiter couldn’t remember who handed him the envelope, but Adam knew, even though he caught only a glimpse of her as she walked away, it was Yasamin. And now he found himself speaking with another beguiling, raven-haired vampire. He remembered Stoker’s words from Dracula.

Two were dark, and one was fair …

“Why did you bring me here?” he asked.

“You could thank me for saving your life.”

“Saving my life? How so?”

“Did you honestly think you could keep up the charade of Edvard Novak forever? If I could find you, then others could as well. It was only a matter of time.”

“So I’m supposed to be grateful?”

“I thought you might be.”


“Because I need your help, Dr. Mire.”

Adam barely suppressed a laugh. “My help? Really?”

“You speak nine languages. You’ve published four books. You’re not even forty, and you’re one of the world’s leading experts on Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages … and on artifacts from the time period. Again, quite impressive.”

“What’s your point?”

“During your pas-de-deux with Süleyman’s Blade, you made a show of searching for a medallion depicting a dragon, formed into a circle, with a cross on its back—”

Adam shook his head. “I don’t know where it is. I can’t help you find it.”

Dracula’s medallion, the one he wore as a member of the Order of the Dragon, missing for centuries. In a mad plan to avenge the death of the woman he loved, Adam had used rumors of the medallion’s reappearance to lure the leader of Süleyman’s Blade into the deadly clutches of a vampire, Yasamin, one of Dracula’s legendary Brides.

But the medallion really was out there somewhere. He had almost all the clues to its whereabouts. He had spent much of his time in Prague trying to decipher them, but he always met with dead ends.

Elena cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not asking you to help me find it.”

“Then what—”

“There are others who want it, who mustn’t have it.”

“You’re not the first to feed me that line.”

She glanced at the television set. “They say the war in Kosovo is over now. They’ve been saying the same thing for six hundred years. Tell me, Dr. Mire, who do you think won the original Battle of Kosovo all those years ago?”

Adam replied without even thinking. “The Turks. Their victory on Kosovo Field paved the way for Ottoman domination of the Balkans for the next five hundred years.”

“You know the Serbs say they won.”

“I know that nineteenth-century nationalists mythologized the battle to make a claim for the righteousness of the Serbian nation, but that doesn’t change the facts.”

“Doesn’t it, Dr. Mire? Can’t events happening now affect the past, just as the past affects the present? I was there in 1989 at the rally to commemorate the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, along with a million others. There were icons placed around the stage—of Jesus Christ, St. Sava, King Milutin … and Slobodan Milošević. It was as if those intervening years had never occurred. All the speeches I had heard before, in one form or another. I knew that day what was to come, because it had already happened.”

“Given the history of the Balkans, a lot of us felt what happened was inevitable.”

She shook her head. “No, Dr. Mire. You misunderstand. I don’t mean similar events have happened in the past. I mean the same events. Your problem is that despite all the time you’ve spent here among the Byzantines, you still think of time as the path of an arrow—straight and moving in only one direction. You’ve yet to learn that time is a circle. What is happening now has happened before and will happen again. 1389 is 1689 is 1989 is today. The past, the present, and the future are just different names for fate. To understand my story, you have to understand that.”

Monster Monday: Grando the Carniolan Vampire

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Grando the Carniolan Vampire.

Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)

Jure Grando was from the village of Kringa in the region of Istria in modern-day Croatia. For sixteen years after his death by illness in 1656 he returned by night to terrorize the village. He knocked on the doors of his former neighbors, and if anyone answered the door, someone in the house would die within a week. He also appeared to his widow in her bed.

The priest who buried him when he died tried to exorcise his spirit, but it didn’t work. One night a group of villagers chased him and tried to stab him with a stake made from a hawthorn tree, but it bounced off him. The next night they dug up his body and found not only had it never decomposed, but Jure had a smile on his face. They tried to pierce his heard with a hawthorn stake again, but the stake wouldn’t penetrate his flesh.

Then the priest said another exorcism prayer and a villager took a saw and cut off Jure’s head. As soon as the saw blade touched his neck, Jure screamed and blood flowed freely from the cut. Afterward, Jure never returned.

Jure’s story is notable as it is the first time in a historical record that a once-living person was referred to specifically as a vampire.

Read a Free Excerpt from Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena (Part 3)

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book II: Elena, I am releasing a free excerpt once a week until release day on April 23, 2016. This is Part 2. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.) I hope you enjoy! Please share and order your copy today!


Thessaloniki, Greece

6 October 1999

Clara leapt out of the chair and backed away from the desk where Arion’s bleeding form lay. She frantically scanned the office for the deadly red dot but failed to find it. She gathered up as many of the loose papers as she could and stuffed them into her bag. The professor continued to stare sightlessly at her, his mouth open, his last words still hanging on his lips, while the red stain spread across his shirt.

She yanked the door open and ran out into the hallway, directly into a man’s arms. She pushed herself away, but the man, dressed in riot gear with words in Greek written across the front of his jacket as well as POLICE in large white letters, seized her wrist. Clara looked up into cold, blue eyes set in a bulldog face.

He pulled her back toward him. “Please, miss, don’t fight,” he said in thickly accented English. “I am trying to get you away from here.”
People emerged from the other offices. The man yelled something in Greek, and they all ran toward the stairwell, panic on their faces. The bulldog dashed down the hall after them, dragging Clara behind.

Outside the building, police pushed back the gathering crowd underneath Arion’s window. The bulldog, however, took Clara in the opposite direction, around the corner to the other side of the building. He stopped in the shade of a sycamore tree.

“Thank you,” Clara said, struggling to catch her breath.

But the bulldog didn’t let go of her wrist.

Clara tried to fight until he squeezed. She winced and started to cry out, but he jerked her arm, bringing her close enough to feel his hot breath. He held up a pistol and touched the muzzle to his lips.

Clara glared. “You wouldn’t shoot me, not here, not in broad daylight.”

The bulldog’s mouth twisted into a smile. He eyed the rooftop of a nearby building. “Who said anything about me shooting you? Now if you don’t want someone else to get hurt, you’ll keep your mouth shut. Don’t worry. We’re not going far.”

He led her a short distance to a circular building lined with Ionic columns, obviously much older than the one where Arion had his office. Instead of the main entrance, he pushed her toward a small door on the opposite side. It opened onto a set of stairs that led down into the dark. At the bottom a short hallway ended in another door. The bulldog pushed it open and forced Clara into a dim room. The only light came from a small lantern resting on a low table. Another man already waited there.

The bulldog slung Clara toward the man. “Here, Filip. Why don’t you do something useful and tie her hands. I can tell she’s not going to be an easy one to deal with.” His smile told Clara he was speaking English for her benefit.

The man he called Filip didn’t reply.

The bulldog began stripping out of his police clothes. “Sometime today, Filip. We need to get moving soon.”

Still Filip didn’t reply.

The bulldog paused and snapped his fingers. “Filip, did you hear me?”

Filip stepped toward him, into the lantern’s pool of light. When Clara saw his face, she gasped. It was the man who had recovered her wallet in the market.

“I heard you the first time,” her Good Samaritan said.

The bulldog’s eyes grew wide. He went for his gun, but before he could get to it, the man from the market fired a shot from his own. With a lurch, Clara’s captor collapsed to the floor.

The man turned toward Clara. “Are you all right?”

“No,” she replied. “No I’m not.”

“What happened? How did they grab you?”

“Hell if I know. I don’t even know who they are. One minute I’m talking to a professor in his office. The next he’s dead on his desk from a sniper’s bullet.”

The man swore in a language Clara didn’t know. If she had to guess, she would have said it was Russian. He reached for her. “We need to get you someplace safe.”

Clara jerked away. “That’s what he told me. Why should I trust you?”

“Because I very probably just saved your life. And I also did catch the pickpocket who stole your wallet, which is fortunate because you’re going to need your ID.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we have to leave now. You can’t stay in Thessaloniki.”

Clara shook her head. “Oh, no. No. I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m going back, and I’m going to talk to the police—the real police—and I’m going to tell them what happened, and then I’m going to book the first ticket back to the U.S.”

“I’d advise against that.”


“Because like it or not, you’re in danger. And because then you’ll never know what happened to Adam.”

Clara’s heart skipped a beat. “How do you know about Adam?”

“I have an interest in finding him too.”

Clara tried to study his face in the low light. “Your name’s not Filip, is it? Who are you?”

He motioned with his head in the direction of a heap behind him. “Filip is indisposed at the moment. My name is Arkady Danilovich Markov.”

“Why are you looking for Adam? Does that mean he’s still alive? Is he in danger, too?”

Arkady held up a hand. “Questions later. Now we need to be going.”

Clara hesitated. “How do I know this isn’t another trick?”

Arkady sighed. “You don’t. I’m not forcing you to stay. You can go back, go talk to the police if you want, but just know that I’m your best chance to find Adam.” He paused. “As well as to live to see another sunrise.”

Clara struggled to calm her thoughts. A large part of her wanted to leave, to go back to her hotel, book a flight back to the States, and continue with her life. But something else tugged at her. She loved Adam, and he didn’t have anyone else.

She stepped back and motioned to the door. “Okay. Lead the way.”

Arkady shook his head. “No. We’re going the way your friend here was planning to take you.”

“And what way is that?” Clara asked.

Arkady picked up the lantern and opened a door behind him that Clara hadn’t noticed. “We’re taking the tunnels.”


They could have been walking for twenty minutes or two hours. Not long after Arkady led her through the door in the cellar room, the cramped tunnel opened enough that the weak lantern light left the walls in shadow. Occasionally Arkady gave her a curt warning to watch her step as they navigated around fallen stonework and other debris. Somewhere in the distance, water trickled.

“Where is this tunnel taking us?” Clara asked.

“Away from the university,” Arkady answered.

“How do we know there aren’t more of them waiting for us at the other end?”

“Because these tunnels run underneath most of the city. There are countless ways in and out. There’s no way for them to know where we’re going to end up.”

A lump formed in the pit of Clara’s stomach as she envisioned getting lost in miles and miles of pitch-black, maze-like tunnels. “How do we know where we’re going?”

“I know the way,” Arkady said. “Don’t worry.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll worry until we’re back on the surface.”

Arkady laughed, but there wasn’t any humor in his voice.

At the first juncture they came to, he took a tunnel that branched to the right of the main tunnel. Almost immediately, the ground began to slope upward, and it wasn’t long before the light seeped back in. The walls of the tunnel were different here, made of brick rather than stone. Soon they came upon another door. Pushing it open, Arkady led her into another cellar. This one was filled with crates, most of them emblazoned with some sort of crest.

“Wine?” Clara asked.

“Olive oil,” Arkady corrected. “This house used to belong to a wealthy merchant family. They traded olive oil all over the Eastern Mediterranean.”

“Who does it belong to now?”

“It’s abandoned.”

Clara followed Arkady across the cellar to a set of stairs. With each step she took, Clara’s sense of dread grew. Once they emerged on the floor above, Clara knew something was terribly wrong.

She forced down a wave of panic as she and Arkady made their way through rooms full of abandoned, crumbling furniture. Shadows moved, and voices whispered. Like a fog, tendrils of darkness writhed everywhere the light could not reach. Clara glanced at Arkady for any sign that he saw what she did. He didn’t look back at her, though his steps took on a new urgency. Once or twice, Clara caught glimpses of figures out of the corner of her eye—black, vaguely human shapes standing in otherwise vacant rooms. When they reached the front hallway of the house, Arkady practically sprinted for the door, dragging Clara with him. They emerged onto the street to find themselves at the market, just as the afternoon sun dipped behind the buildings.

Clara looked back at the house, only to discover the same looming façade she had passed earlier. Arkady glanced back as well, his face solemn. He muttered something under his breath Clara wasn’t able to catch before he offered his hand to her again.

“Come this way,” he said. “We have a long drive ahead of us.”

Part 4 >>