The Final Hurdle

I have just eight weeks  to go before I complete my undergraduate degree in English Literature and History. Just the matter of a dissertation on fairies, an essay on children’s literature, two essays on creative writing, a 3000 word short story plus edits and one final dreaded exam to get through and I’ll be free, to do what I want – most of the time.

In preparation I’ve been making a few plans. First and foremost is to complete the first draft of Persephone Reborn. I’ve been going through my plot notes and what has already been written and it currently stands at around 32,000 words. That’s about a third of the way through the story, so another 60-80,000 words and it will be ready for the first round of rewrites and edits. It makes the 15,000 words or so that I have left to write for university seem almost easy in comparison, but I would much rather be working on the novel than planning another essay.

Having had to put my writing career on hold for the best part of the last five years it’s been a struggle to build a readership for my books, but I’m hoping to change that by using this blog as a base from which I can share insights into my writing process and interesting (I hope) posts that relate to what I’m working on. You can probably expect things about the locations, history and myths that feature in the next novel, everything from Greek vampires to Liverpool’s sunken graveyard and I’m going to try and become more active on  instagram, facebook, twitter and pinterest. All things I’ve neglected over the last few years.  I’m not the most natural self-promoter so we’ll see what happens.

For the moment it’s back to that essay…

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

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Mathematical Models on Vampire Population Strategies or How to Stop Your Vampires From Wiping Out Humanity

And the award for longest blog title goes to….

But seriously (really?) it’s a real problem.  The majority of vampire novels, Stoker’s included, don’t consider the logistics of vampire to human ratios or how long it would take their vampire populations (the predators) to wipe out humanity (their prey) – around a 165 days for Dracula in case you’re wondering. You might be surprised to find that this has actually been worked out by a number of academics who have published papers on their findings (see links at the bottom of the post) and as I’m currently in the middle of writing a novel with vampires in it it suddenly looked like a good idea to waste an afternoon reading them. Also, I’m always on the lookout for a possible dissertation subject that will make my Academic Advisor roll his eyes.

These maths equations are mesmerising…

Most of these papers use a Lotka-Volterra system (1) that gives equations for working out how natural world predator-prey populations change or adapt over time. We know that fluctuations in one population affects the other, a reduction in prey results in a reduction in predators, but also, in the natural world, predators (lions, tigers etc) and their prey (antelopes, buffalos etc) both have a finite lifespan that results in natural death, whereas vampires live forever, so the model has to be altered in order to compensate for this and other certain variables.

One paper (2) uses a very simple equation to work out how long it would take for the entire global human population to be wiped out entirely. They begin with one single, solitary vampire and a human population of over 500 million and calculate that if vampires only fed once a month, we would all be dead (or undead) within two and a half years. Their reasoning falls down however, because they assume that every human being fed upon will turn into a vampire. As a result vampire numbers increase exponentially and humans reduce exponentially.

But we know that not all bitten humans turn, nor do they all die.  And vampires are still rational thinking beings (mostly), capable of understanding that if they eat or turn their entire food source it’s going to cause problems for their own survival. Something normal human beings don’t seem to be able to grasp, given their continuing destruction of the planet they live on – but that’s an argument on a different subject.

A more sophisticated model by Hartl and Mehlmann (1980) (3) introduced the birth rate of humans and the death of vampires by vampire hunters, as well as optimal rates of feeding that showed vampires would have to manage their resources if they were to survive. Appalled by what he saw as the authors attempt to help vampires “solve their intertemporal consumption problem” (4), D Snower wrote a paper in which he proposes that a human labour force be put to work producing stakes with which to destroy vampires, the more vampires that exist the more stakes are needed. However, he does not seem to take into account that stakes (depending on which vampire infested universe you happen to be in) could be used more than once. In Buffy for example, one human could kill any number of vampires which turn to dust on staking, whilst in other milieu vampires can be revived after a stake is removed from their chest.  He then goes on to prove, through some mathematical equation I can’t possibly hope to understand or explain, that wiping out vampires completely would not be good for the human race!

Finally, a paper published in Applied Mathematical Sciences in 2013 (5) used the same nefarious reasoning as paper 2 to show that in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles it would take Lestat and Louis 48 years to eradicate humans from the world, but again they forget that Lestat was not the only vampire in existence when he turned Louis. There is no mention of Armand, the Theatre de Vampires or Marius, Pandora etc etc, their reckoning is wrong.  Ok it’s only a hypothetical mathematical model, but I say if you’re going to do something based on a fictional world you should at least do it right. They then came to the conclusion, using Meyer, Harris and Kostova’s books,  that certain conditions would result in a peaceful co-existence of vampires and humans where both species could survive in a world not too dissimilar to our own. The balance was fragile though, and any deviation from the appropriate conditions might bring the whole thing toppling down.

At the end of the day, all of this only matters if you think fictional worlds should conform to real world science – which I don’t. Or at least I don’t believe that real world science has all the answers which certainly helps when you write about angels, fairies, demons and vampires. In Persephone Reborn I intend keeping my vampire population in check by using a system of human/vampire co-operation in which some humans are aware of and work for and alongside vampires while the majority of humans are oblivious to their existence. In addition, at some point in the past, an organisation called The Covenant came into being for the sole purpose of regulating vampire numbers and ensuring they abide by a set of rules that, should they be broken, will have dire consequences. Of course, there’s always someone, somewhere, willing to break the rules…

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotka-Volterra_equations

2. Cinema Fiction vs Physics Reality Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies Costas J. Efthimiou and Sohang Gandhi

3. The Transylvanian Problem of Renewable Resources by R. Hartl and A. Mehlmann

4. Macroeconomic Policy and The Optimal Destruction of Vampires by D. Snower

5. Mathematical Models of Interactions Between Species: Peaceful Co-existence of Vampires and Humans Based on the Models Derived from Fiction Literature and Films  by Wadim Strielkowski , Evgeny Lisin  and Emily Welkins

 

 

 

 

How To Start A War.

We all know that the trigger for the start of the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but what might not be so well known is that pure chance put him in the firing line of the man who shot him.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On 28th June 1914 the Archduke narrowly escaped being blown to bits by a bomb thrown at his car. The bomb bounced off, rolled under the car behind and exploded, injuring members of the Archduke’s entourage. They were taken to hospital, but later that day the Archduke decided he would go to visit them and ordered his chauffeur to take both him and his wife, Sophie,  to the hospital.

In real life Ferdinand’s chauffeur was called Leopold Lojka, in Immortal, my latest novel, Lojka’s place is taken by Malachi. When the bomb is thrown he swerves, managing to avoid it and so bodging  the mission Lucifer has sent him on, but instead of punishment Lucifer gives him a second chance.

Under pressure not to mess up a second time poor Malachi drives around, hopelessly lost and stops at a junction to decide if he should turn left or right. He makes his choice, fingers crossed and by an amazing stroke of luck (for himself, not so lucky for the Archduke) manages to drive straight past the Archduke’s assassin.

Princip, the gunman, later confessed that hemmed in by the crowd he was unable to throw the bomb he had on him he had simply raised his pistol and fired off two shots without aiming. Sophie was shot in the stomach and Ferdinand in the throat. Princip could not have predicted the war that ensued and the incredible loss of life that resulted from his initial action, but had the chauffeur turned right instead of left history might have been very different.

If you would like to read more about Malachi and how he became Lucifer’s errand boy you can buy my book – Immortal –  from Amazon.

My first novel, Blackfeather,  is also available from Amazon too.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

 

 

Sinking The Titanic, An Alternate History

Titanic – Ship of Dreams

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, from insurance fraud to a mummy’s curse, but none of them mention Malachi.

It’s generally accepted that one of the contributing factors to the tragedy was the lack of access to binoculars.

David Blair

Second Officer David Blair photo from Mail online 2007

Malachi’s involvement in the sinking is based on the real life figure of second officer David Blair, who had been due to serve on board Titanic, but had been removed from the ship’s staff a few days before it sailed and simply forgot remove the key from his pocket and leave it for the crows nest binocular cabinet.

At the inquest, Fred Fleet, the ship’s lookout,  was asked how much difference access to the binoculars would have made. His reply was “Enough to get out of the way.” A blunt, but honest summing up of the situation that caused the death of 1522 passengers and crew

In Immortal, things happen slightly differently in that Malachi deliberately boards the ship as the passengers and crew are preparing to leave port and removes the key, placing it in his own pocket before walking swiftly away.

The only trace of this event in history is inside Malachi’s memories, viewed by Ashrafel as he searches Malachi’s mind for an answer to his own question about the woman who haunts his thoughts.

The chain of events that lead to bigger things fascinates me – the forgetting of a crucial key, the stray ember that leads to the burning of a city – some people call them coincidences, others synchronicity, but what if there’s more to it than that. What if these events are predetermined and all someone had to do was prevent one little thing that sets of the entire chain –  would the sinking of the Titanic have been prevented if Blair had left the key?

The Devil is in the details as they say!

The Missing Key

Immortal is available as an ebook and in paperback from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

Who Really Started The Fire of London?

1666, a rather ominous year if you stop and think about it. It certainly turned out to be so for those unfortunate enough to be in London on the 2nd of September.

At one o’clock in the morning a shady young man, hiding his face beneath a hood, let himself into the premises of one Thomas Farriner, baker. Within minutes he had lit the oven, leaving the door ajar and making certain that the wood propped up nearby was close enough to catch the spark he knew would soon fall upon it. He stayed long enough to fan the flames, ensuring the fire did not go out then quietly left the building and hid himself in the cobbled alley to watch his handiwork take hold.

As smoke filled the baker’s house he caught sight of the family climbing from an upstairs window and scrambling across the rooftop to their neighbour’s house. The fire was already burning merrily and from nowhere a breeze sprang up carrying small glowing embers into the air and dropping them on the tinder dry warehouses of Pudding Lane, all of them filled with highly flammable oil, pitch, rope and timber.

Satisfied his work was done, Malachi detached himself from the shadows and hurried away.

Firehooks.1612

As the fire spread people grabbed what they could carry and ran to the river to load their belongings on boats or made for the city gates and the fields beyond where they set up camp in makeshift tents. The quickest way to stop the fire spreading was to pull down the buildings, but the wind carried the flames across the gaps. On the third day they began to blow houses up in order to get the job done quicker.

Thousands of  businesses and  homes  were destroyed along with eighty nine churches including St Paul’s Cathedral and it took fifty years to rebuild the city. Officially only six people were recorded as dying in the fire, though many more went unreported. The first to die was Farriner’s maid.

When asked afterwards Farriner swore he had put out his oven and made sure all doors and windows were shut before retiring to bed, but he did mention that his maid had spurned the advances of a particularly handsome gentleman in a dazzling white suit no more than two days before the catastrophe.

Above is the fictional account of how Malachi, central character in my novel Immortal and the man who does Lucifer’s dirty work for him, caused one of the most famous events in British history. You can read more about Malachi and his part in history’s tragedies and catastrophes in Immortal.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

Would You Be Tempted by Immortality?

Immortal Final Cover 5 x 8   The title character of my latest novel, Immortal, is a man who has lived for two thousand years.  Tricked into a deal with Lucifer he has spent immortality as the instigator of disaster and a cause of  chaos in the human world. Given the name Malachi, meaning messenger or prophet, he has almost  forgotten his real name or how he became Lucifer’s pet. All he knows is that he hates what he must  do, but to refuse would mean losing his soul to the eternal torments of Hell for far longer than he has  been alive.

   The inspiration for Malachi comes from a biblical character called “the rich man’s son”. When he  asks Jesus how he can enter the kingdom of Heaven and be given eternal life he is told that he must  renounce his worldly wealth, give up his possessions to the poor and follow Jesus. Only then will he  be rewarded with riches in Heaven.

   The young man cannot accept this, he doesn’t want to give up his comfortable life and I found  myself wondering what he would do if he was offered immortality under different terms. If someone, a stranger, had told him he could not only keep the wealth he already had but accrue even more, be powerful and attractive and spend the rest of time doing anything he wanted in return for nothing more than a few “little jobs” as and when necessary – would he be tempted? Would he resist and question the stranger’s motives? Or would he jump at the chance to live forever?

Once the deal is done it cannot be taken back and Malachi finds himself in an impossible situation. Forced to do Lucifer’s bidding Malachi is at first appalled, but the ever present threat of Hell’s horrors keeps him at his post. Shunned by his own kind he comes to hate humanity and vows to carry out his work with zeal, but revenge is not so sweet and overtime this hatred turns to self loathing and a desire for oblivion.

We have met Malachi once before in Blackfeather, the first book in the series, where his role was to persuade Thomas Whittle to kill an angel and win immortality for himself. Without Malachi’s interference Catherine Whittle would not have died and Ashrafel would not have been exiled from Heaven. Now, five hundred years later, he meets Ashrafel again and all Hell could break loose.

Over the next few posts I’ll explain Malachi’s involvement in some of history’s disasters.

You can get Blackfeather from: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk,

Immortal is released tonight, at midnight, click here to purchase Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

We Need To Talk! – Another Immortal Excerpt.

She had made up her mind before Brian finished speaking and was now driving towards York. The dream, coupled with what Brian had told her on the phone had not only piqued her curiosity, but had kindled the first glimmer of hope since “the incident”.

Ignoring Brian and the curious looks that James and Nathan threw her way, she hung up her coat and frowned down at the piles of work on her desk.

‘Alright, Kate?’ James said.

‘Hmm,’ she grunted.

‘Happy New Year,’ Nathan offered.

She gave him a non-committal look before grunting once more then gathered an armful of folders and moved them from one side of the table to the other. They twisted in her arms and before she could recover several files began to fall, spilling their contents across the desk and onto the floor. The boys stepped forwards to help, but she held up her hand and waved them back. With a sigh she bent to pick the papers up noticing a sealed, slim white envelope among them. It was addressed to her, beautifully handwritten in a flowing script that reminded her of the engraving on the silver casket. Her pulse quickened as she tore it open and reached inside, something silky brushed her skin and her fingers curled away from it. The colour drained from her face. She already knew what it was before pulling it out into the light – a jet black feather. Along with this unmistakable calling card was a note, written in the same hand that had addressed the envelope.

We need to talk!

She flipped the note over. There was no signature, but the reverse had an altogether cheekier and not at all angelic message.

p.s. I wouldn’t have waited five hundred years 😉

Incredulous she raised an eyebrow, if the note hadn’t come from Ash, then who? Were her colleagues playing a joke on her? She looked quickly round at them, but neither James nor Nathan had ever known Ash and Brian no longer seemed to remember him. There was only one other possibility. The image of a tall, dark stranger standing with Ash at the bottom of her garden came to mind. Could the message be from the Watcher she had unknowingly met in Monty’s Rock Club the night she had gone to meet Brian and found Ash instead?

But Ash was gone. Wasn’t he?

Surely there was nothing more to say. Unless…

 

Behind her, the boys, who had been chatting quietly, suddenly became silent, listening instead to the sound of steady footsteps approaching the door. Kate stuffed the note and feather back into the envelope and slid it out of sight between the folders just as the handle began to turn. The sound of Brian clearing his throat caught her attention and he gestured at her to close her gawping mouth. As she slowly turned her eyes back to the door she was gripped with an uncanny sense of déjà-vu.

The man in the doorway looked round at the four silent, expectant faces before him. He was tall, blonde and pushed his wayward fringe off his face to reveal green eyes. But the resemblance to Ash ended there and Kate let out the breath she’d been holding and flopped onto her chair in disappointment. Though his eyes were green, they were pale and unremarkable, with no spark of fire in them and handsome as the young man was, Kate felt no attraction to him, no connection at all. The hope she had nurtured that Ash had found a way to return to her blew away like a paper bag in a storm.

The man stepped forward, held his hand out to Brian and said,

‘Hello, I’m looking for Peter Sharpe.’

It was enough to make Kate want to scream.

‘Sam,’ said a perfectly pleasant, but ordinary voice above her. When she looked up he was grinning at her, a puckered, thin, pale scar ran from beneath his right eye along his cheekbone and disappeared into his hairline. It was fine, but jagged and spoiled the symmetry of his face and Kate stared at it until she realised he had offered her his hand and she shook it, giving him a weak smile.

‘Kate,’ she said, her voice husky with unshed tears, grateful when he moved on to the boys.

She stood up, put on her coat, shouldered her bag and was taking the envelope with its mysterious message from between the files when Brian said,

‘Why don’t you give Sam the guided tour, Kate?’

She glared at him, why was he picking on her? Couldn’t he see all she wanted was to get out of there? He simply folded his arms and sat on the edge of his desk as though he could wait forever. Kate sighed. Brian had done a lot for her the last couple of weeks, not least arranging the rebuilding of her living room wall and replacing the French windows. He’d removed the blasted, twisted remains of the cherry tree too and planted the rhododendron bush in its place, though he didn’t seem to remember any of it. She knew she owed him a favour. So, instead of running back home to hide from the world she took off her coat, laid it over the back of her chair and turned reluctantly towards Sam.

‘Come on, I’ll show you how things work around here.’

After a couple of hours Kate had come to a disturbing conclusion about their new colleague. Sam Hale had arrived fresh from a postgraduate degree, newly accredited and completely clueless. She had spent most of the morning, not only showing him where everything was, but explaining exactly how genealogy and probate worked. She wondered exactly what it was that had persuaded Peter to employ him. In the end she had set him to work searching the censuses for one of her probate cases and left him to it. If there were any problems Brian could sort it out.

Spread across her desk was what remained of The Markham Family Tree. She stared at it for several minutes a frown of anguish on her face as she remembered the close connection she shared with the names on the list then buried her face in her hands at the futility of it all. When she emerged she was surprised to find Sam watching her. She shut the folder and flung it in the top drawer of her desk. Sam was still staring in her direction and continued to do so until she started to feel self-conscious and began to squirm beneath his gaze. At that moment the sun chose to peek out from behind a cloud and a strange shaft of light lanced the room illuminating Sam’s face. His eyes suddenly flared with incandescent green fire that sparked and glittered the way she knew only Ash’s could do. Kate, transfixed, watched in shock as Sam’s whole face seemed to metamorphose into an altogether more familiar face.

Throughout the whole extraordinary episode he simply gazed back at her as though nothing out of the ordinary was taking place, and then he smiled at her, that warm, loving, lopsided grin that she missed so very much and before she knew it Kate was on her feet, her chair toppling over behind her. The clatter it made seemed to break the spell and as quickly as it had come, the light faded. Sam was just Sam again and Ash’s face was just a memory.

You can buy Immortal here

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter