I started this book with absolutely no idea what it was about. I bought it on a whim and forgot about it until I noticed it sitting on my Kindle when I was looking for something to read. The first part of the book is very engaging. I could hardly put it down. Caz is a lovely character who is drawn well and eminently likable. The writing is excellent. Overall it’s an easy, fun read.
This brings me to the book’s one and only drawback. The plot is obvious. I didn’t find the mystery at all mysterious. It’s labeled as a Romantic Suspense, so I kept expecting to be suspended. It’s good, but with a little more tension and mystery, I think it could have been great. I’d say it’s a solid 3.5.
I’ve been plugging up a rather large plot hole in Broods this weekend. In the process of hole plugging, I had to rewrite one full chapter, and parts of four others. It occurred to me while I was doing this that there was another problem, so I started fixing that too. Ten hours of work later, I have only a couple hundred new words. Frustrating barely begins to describe my weekend so far.
I know they say you should just write the whole story out and fix the problems later, but I just can’t make myself do it. If I know there is something to fix, I have to go back and fix it! I am so distracted by the knowledge of the problem that writing new words becomes impossible. The good news is that with this plot hole taken care of and the subsequent chapters fixed up, I’m liking the flow of the story much more.
Honestly, I could be delaying the ending just a little bit, because I still don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve got my heroes all set up to go confront the bad guys, but I just can’t figure out what should happen. At this point, it’s nerve-wracking.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you’ve come upon this story expecting a romanticized, pretty version of the vampire, move along. This is horror, gritty and bloody. It’s also very good.
The western flair of the Midwest setting gives the horror vampire an entirely new feel. No castles and black velvet here. The hero, Keith, is a cowboy. He’s tough in the way all good cowboys are, and has troubles aplenty.
The story moves fast, and if I have any complaint, it’s that it ended too quickly. A good read, worth the time of any horror lover.
The vampires in Burden Kansas might piss some vampire purists off. Vampires typically have magical origins. I know of a few cases in which they are a separate species–such as in Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls–but most of the time vampirism is a magical disease, often with religious undertones. For instance, the first vampire is sometimes Judas, or Cain of the brothers Cain and Abel.
Some people would call the feral vampires that stalk the prairies of my Kansas more like zombies than vampires. When one of my vampires bites its prey, it injects venom that damages the central nervous system, anesthetizing the victim and causing brain damage. Living in this venom is a microorganism similar to a virus. The virus can only infect humans. If a vampire bites a human but doesn’t kill it, the contagion quickly spreads throughout the body, killing the human but leaving them undead. But the venom leaves them stooooopid.
While that provides enough content for a short story, to fill a novella I needed an antagonist to rise from the legion of feral vampires. My vampires are dumb, underpowered, and prefer to feed on cattle. They’re afraid of people and each other. None of them is a match for my protagonist, rancher Keith Harris. So what could prevent the brain damage the venom causes?
Methamphetamine. When the town drug dealer gets bitten and feels the darkness closing in, the thing it most reminds him of is a heroin overdose. So he instinctively snorts massive quantities of roughly-crushed crystal meth to bring himself back up. He still dies, but he retains his human intelligence, and his hatred of Keith Harris.
And that’s why I needed to create a quasi-scientific basis for vampirism. If it were a curse of Cain, there’d be no way I could work meth into the story. And really, forget about protagonists and antagonists. The real hero here is the meth.
One of the first comments I received after the book hit Amazon was, “My long term goals now include becoming a methpire.” And that made the whole struggle worth it. Reaching out and touching people like that, spreading my message. To be honest, I do this all for the kids.
Seriously, though, I like writing about lowlifes. I wouldn’t know how to write a majestic vampire, an ancient, powerful vampire, or an erudite, cultured vampire. They’d come off as phony. I think there’s a place for all of those vampires in literature, but maybe not in my work. What I can write convincingly about is the battle between a mean redneck and a small-town tweaker with big fangs.
I just lost the last of you, didn’t I?
Despite my glib description, Burden Kansas isn’t a comedy, and my characters aren’t caricatures. I love my characters, and I think you’d be surprised by how you feel about them by the last page.
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Alan Ryker writes good fight scenes because he practices Muay Thai boxing, though not as often as his coach would like. He lives with his wife in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, where he writes both dark and literary fiction, and tests the boundaries of each. He has previously published short fiction in a number of print anthologies and magazines.