The Indiana Jones Moment and Dracula by James Lyon
Greetings from Sarajevo in the heart of the Balkans.
Whether you like them or not, you just can’t seem to avoid vampires these days. There are comic vampires (Johnny Depp, George Hamilton, Leslie Nielsen), classic vampires (Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee), sparkly vampires (You-Know-Who), and Gothic romance vampires (Anne Rice, True Blood, romance novels). We lack only tap-dancing vampires with top hats, tuxedos and canes. I wanted to put tap-dancing vampires in my new novel, “Kiss of the Butterfly”, but they refused to attend dance lessons. J
Here in the Balkans, vampires have an entirely different context than they do in the outside world. The reason is simple: this is where the creatures known as vampires originated. The word “vampire” entered western languages in the 1720s from what is today Serbia, from the Serbo-Croatian word “vampir”. Today, throughout the lands of the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia), one finds that vampire lore is still present, and that in the villages in particular, many people still fear or believe in vampires.
I am an historian, and I had an “Indiana Jones Moment” many years back. That is the point in the movie where Harrison Ford is thumbing through some dusty old book and he comes across an interesting tidbit of information that sends him scurrying off on an epic quest. Well, my “Indiana Jones Moment” occurred in an archive decades ago, where I found a dusty old book with a reference to Dracula’s last military crusade in 1476, when he carried out a horrific massacre in the Bosnian mining town of Srebrenica. Then in 1995, Europe’s worst massacre since World Ware II took place in Srebrenica, with the murder of 8,000 men and boys. I began to wonder if there was a metaphysical connection to Dracula.
My “Indiana Jones Moment” prompted me to do two things: 1) start studying local Balkan folklore about vampires; and 2) buy an Indiana Jones hat. My wife drew the line when I asked if I could buy a bullwhip. But now that she’s read “50 Shades of Grey”, perhaps she’ll reconsider. But I digress.
Balkan folklore and history hold numerous mentions of vampires. Did you know there was a famous law passed in 1349 by the Serbian Emperor Tsar Dushan that forbade digging up graves and impaling the body? The penalty was the blood price in gold for killing a live person, and any priest who participated would be defrocked for 7 years. In the 1660s there was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer wannabee running around the Dalmatian coast in armor with a stake. In the 1730s, twelve people were put on trial for vampire related charges in the Adriatic coastal city of Dubrovnik – shades of the Salem Witch Trials!! Also in the 1730s, an Austrian army surgeon conducted autopsies of suspected vampires in Serbia. Even today, you will find reports of suspected vampires in Balkan media.
I tried to base the vampires in “Kiss of the Butterfly” entirely on characteristics
found in Balkan folklore and history. This means that they may be different from any of the vampires you have encountered up until now.
So to give you an idea of how they differ, I have put together a short 12 question quiz.
1) What shape and color are a vampire’s eyes?
2) What are a vampire’s teeth made of?
3) Where does a vampire’s power reside?
4) Which side of the body do vampires feed from?
5) How does someone become a vampire?
6) How do you kill a vampire?
7) What time of year are vampires most active?
8) Where do vampires like to hang out? (not the blood bank)
9) Where can you always find vampires on Good Friday?
10) What are the most common professions for vampires? (telemarketers do not count)
11) Can vampires have sex?
12) What is the relationship between a vampire and a butterfly?
The answers to all of these questions (and more) are in “Kiss of the Butterfly”. Although it would be unfair to give away all the answers (spoiler alert), let me note that vampires must always return to sleep in their graves on Good Friday. Therefore, if you must visit the grave of a loved one at Easter, make sure you take a sharpened Hawthorne wood stake (other types won’t work), a hacksaw, as well as matches and copious quantities of lighter fluid. And avoid any butterflies you see hovering around the graves. Just in case.
Now, where I can find a bull whip for sale?
About the Author
James Lyon is an accidental Balkanologist, having spent the better part of 32 years studying and working with the lands of the former Yugoslavia. He has a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History from UCLA and a B.A. in Russian from BYU. He has lived in Germany, Russia, England, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, and California, and spent the better part of 18 years living in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and has worked in Macedonia and Kosovo.
He has traveled widely, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, and all over Europe. He currently works in Sarajevo and bounces back and forth to Belgrade. In his spare time he likes sailing through the Dalmatian islands and eating Sachertorte in Vienna at the old Habsburg Imperial Court’s Confectionary Bakery, Demel. He lost his cat in the forests of Bosnia and can’t find it. If you see a black and white cat that ignores you when you call the name “Cile II”, a reward is being offered…provided the cat hasn’t turned into a vampire.
Kiss of the Butterfly is available for purchase at Amazon
Kiss Of The Butterfly by James Lyon
In the year of his death, 1476, the Prince of Wallachia — Vlad III (Dracula) — committed atrocities under the cloak of medieval Bosnia’s forested mountains, culminating in a bloody massacre in the mining town of Srebrenica.
A little over 500 years later, in July 1995, history repeated itself when troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica and slaughtered nearly 8,000 people, making it the worst massacre Europe had seen since the Second World War. For most people, the two events seemed unconnected…
Amidst the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, a college student embarks on a journey into its war-torn lands. The narrative transports the reader from medieval Bosnia to enlightenment-era Vienna, from the bright beaches of modern-day Southern California to the exotically dark cityscapes of Budapest, Belgrade and Novi Sad, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
Naively trusting the advice of his enigmatic academic mentor, the student unwittingly descends into a crucible of decay, destruction, passion, death, romance, lust, immorality, genocide, and forbidden knowledge promising immortality. As the journey grows ever more perilous, the protagonist realizes that he is being drawn into something sinister from which there is no turning back. He will be forced to confront an ancient evil that has been once again loosed upon the earth.
Meticulously researched and written, “Kiss of the Butterfly” is set against the backdrop of Yugoslavia’s breakup. It weaves together intricate threads from the 15th, 18th and 20th centuries to create a rich phantasmagorical tapestry of allegory and reality about divided loyalties, friendship and betrayal, virtue and innocence lost, obsession and devotion, desire and denial, lust and rejection. The book blends history and the terrors of the Balkans as it explores dark places of the soul, and is about the thirst for life and the hunger for death, rebirth and salvation. And vampires.
Vampires have formed an integral part of Balkan folklore for over a thousand years. “Kiss” represents a radical departure from popular vampire legend, based as it is on genuine Balkan folklore from as far back as the 14th century, not on fantasy. “Kiss of the Butterfly” offers up the real, horrible creatures that existed long before Dracula and places them within a modern spectrum.
Available for Purchase
October sees the first release of Wah Lum’s Library the offshoot of Twisted Dreams Magazine. All inclusions for this release were by invitation only. Yours truly was fortunate enough to be invited. My featured work includes; Part 1 of a serialisation of Vampires Revealed and several articles written by alter-ego Bektamun.
Many thanks to Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc for her continued encouragement and for thinking of me when putting this together.
Grab your copy now:
House of Shadows by Walter Spence
Befriended as a young teenager by a beautiful and mysterious benefactress, Eugene Evans believes the downward trajectory of his white trash existence has finally been arrested and his life turned around. Then, after he becomes a man, he is confronted by a horrifying and unavoidable choice between two unacceptable options.But it doesn’t stop there.For once his decision has been made, and the consequences accepted, he finds himself in a new and terrifying reality threatening all that he loves, where his first wrong choice will be his last . . .
Available for Purchase
Judgement of Souls by Margarita Felices
If you have to find a sacred book in order to redeem your parents, find and kill Max, the person responsible for their punishment. The same man that broke your heart and turned your perfect world upside down and try to keep the mortal man you now love safe from this vindictive Vampire’s sword, then you should read Rachel’s story.
JUDGMENT OF SOULS is a Gothic horror in which a naïve pureblood Vampire is tossed into the mortal world. Rachel meets Daniel, a nightclub owner and his group of friends and after Daniel’s best friend is murdered by Max, becomes embroiled in the search for an ancient Vampire artefact. Rachel tries to fight off her feelings for Daniel, even siding with her Vampire friend Arun to think again about Daniel’s involvement, but he’s her love and she’s going to protect him, no matter what.
Angel Of The Abyss – Book Three Eternal Hunger by Francene Carroll
After walking away from her mortal life, Lucia discovers that the glamorous and sophisticated vampires she has chosen to join are, in reality, sadistic killers. She is determined to hold onto her humanity and not become like them, but she faces great difficulties when she is confined to the castle and watched over by vampires night and day. She maintains her humanity by thinking about the loving husband she left behind, and looking forward to the day they are reunited.
When she is finally given her freedom, Lucia returns to her former life to discover that things have changed a great deal. Instead of going home to her husband as she had dreamed, she is forced to back into the world of vampires, where she must again make a decision about whether to join them or expose them for their crimes. To her great surprise, it is Drake L’amour who steps forward to help her when she is at her weakest and most vulnerable. He gives her hope to go on, and reveals more depths to his character than she believed possible.
Could he really be a vampire with a conscience, or is Lucia falling into a dangerous trap by believing that L’amour could ever change?
Available for Purchase
Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater
Amaliya wakes under the forest floor, disoriented, famished and confused. She digs out of the shallow grave and realizes she is hungry in a new, horrific, unimaginable way. Sating her great hunger, she discovers that she is now a vampire, the bloodthirsty creature of legend. She has no choice but to flee from her old life and travels across Texas hoping to escape her creator.
Available for Purchase
Vampire’s Trill by Lorelei Bell
Lorelei Bell has created another unique and mesmerizing mystery masterwork that tops its prequel Vampire Ascending in drama, fast-paced action, love, passion, heartache, and devastation. New friends, new adventures, shocking revelations, and harrowing experiences make for riveting reading in this second installment of the Sabrina Strong Series.
Sabrina learns more details – through Vasyl’s recounting of his human and vampire life of what her role as a sibyl means and how the past and the future will come together. She finally learns what role Vasyl has played in his search for the next sibyl and why she is so tremendously important.
As Sabrina’s partner, Dante, puts himself at risk to help all of mankind, Sabrina learns why newcomer, Bill Gannon, is so interested in her, and she works to protect Bjorn Tremayne from losing it all. Sabrina’s past catches up to her, and she discovers that not everyone is, or was, what she thought. New characters, some kind and trustworthy, and some not, contribute to a captivating story line, and Sabrina finds herself on a journey she never thought possible.
Available for Purchase
Sudden Death Overtime by Steve Vernon
Meet Sprague Deacon – one of the toughest old-time hockey players who ever skated upon a rink of hand-poured ice. Sprague was born and raised and he expects to die here on the Northern Labrador coast. What he did not expect was a tour bus full of vampires – none of whom glitter in the least bit – to pull into his town and begin lowering the population level – one corpse at a time. Sprague and his three best friends – an over-the-hill never-say quit bush league hockey team from Northern Labrador go toe-to-tooth with a tour bus full of vampires in an immortal-stakes showdown of street hockey? For the answer – throw Paul Newman’s Slapshot into a blender with Steven Niles 30 Days of Night and hit frappe!’
Best of all – you don’t even need to be much of a hockey fan to enjoy this yarn.
Recently I did a guest post over at Bloody Good Vampires, discussing which was more evil; humans or vampires. In that article I barely began to scratch the surface of humanity’s crimes. As I commence research for my next book, humanity’s innate ability to cause harm to itself becomes ever more apparent.