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Sarah Jane Stratford

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

The Midnight Guardian (Excerpt)

, || It's 1938, and the tentacles of Hitler's terrifying Third Reich have commenced their stranglehold on Europe. The Nazi empire will soon be clean of all bloodlines deemed tainted or undesirable…including vampires. London's ancient tribunal of vampires is aghast at the destruction taking place on the Continent. Though vampires try not to interfere with human politics, Hitler's terrible plans force them into action. They resolve to send five of their most formidable vampires to Berlin— millennials that have lived over 1000 years and whose age and wisdom make them close to invulnerable— to infiltrate, disrupt, and destroy the growing Nazi war machine. The brilliant and beautiful millennial Brigit is loath to go, but her powers are needed if the mission is to have any chance of success. She must summon all her strength to endure the separation from her lover Eamon, whom she made almost eight centuries ago, but whose lack of millennial status makes him an unacceptable choice for this operation. Though he longs to join her, his duty to Brigit is best served from afar, by nurturing their deep psychic connection and reinforcing her spirit with his fierce devotion and memories of his tender embrace. But as the millennials attempt to penetrate and sabotage Hitler's armies, they discover that the Nazis are more capable than any human force they've yet encountered and more monstrous than they'd ever imagined. Forced to take bolder, more dangerous steps, they soon attract the attention of specially trained vampire hunters loyal to Hitler and his vision of a vampire-free Europe. Exposed, deep inside enemy territory, with vicious Nazi officers and hunters at her heels, Brigit must attempt a daring escape from the Continent, guarding precious cargo that marks the only hope of salvaging their mission.

Vampires as Drama Queens

I can’t equivocally state that my own passion for theatre is what led several of my vampire characters to love it as well, but it does seem a safe assumption. My personal proclivities aside, however, their interest in the stage seemed only natural. Theirs is a life that is not quite real and they spend a great deal of time pretending to be what they’re not. For vampires, all the world really is a stage.

There is something both appealing and saddening about this aspect of the vampire life, which is a major part of why I wanted to explore it in-depth. We might dress up as vampires on Halloween, but they pretend to be human every night of their lives. I don’t believe it wears on them—I think there is always some thrill and there is certainly acceptance, but it must occasionally feel strange. They can dress up and play the part of insiders, but are the ultimate outsiders.

[Which is to say—Drama Club!]

“Living” History

I’ll admit it, I’m often jealous of The Doctor and his TARDIS. In company with many (perhaps slightly unhinged) historians/history geeks, I’ve fantasized about efficient time travel that would allow me to safely drop in on this or that event and observe it first-hand. Preferably without picking up strange diseases or having to fight Daleks.

So this desire was one reason I found so much joy in writing about such ancient vampires. They allowed me to go back in time through their eyes. I studied history at the University of York in England, which is an incredible city even if you’re not a history geek. But if you are, just walking the streets is an education. The history is literally under your feet and you can feel it, as well as see it. The city is simultaneously ancient and modern, just like the vampires, and it was only natural that they lived there for many centuries before moving to London.

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Making Fantasy Historically Accurate

There’s an old saying: “God writes lousy drama.” It’s very familiar to anyone who writes historical fiction in any capacity, and even if you’re an atheist, it’s still apt. The idea is that you can’t write most stories exactly as they occurred (to the extent documented, that is) because even riveting history can make for a dull book or play. Writers can derive a lot of comfort from this saying, because it offers a certain amount of carte blanche to alter history as needed to suit a narrative. Of course, you can also run into trouble if you start thinking it lets you off the hook when it comes to complicated history and research.

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The Midnight Guardian (Excerpt)

Enjoy these sample chapters from The Midnight Guardian: A Millennial Novel, from St. Martin’s Griffin, recently released in paperback!

 

PROLOGUE

Berlin. Midnight. March 1936


“Well, Kunz? Do you think it’s true?”

“Nonsense. Fairy stories. Grandmothers’ folk tales.”

“But the Fuhrer must believe it too,” the younger man insisted. “Else why arrange those secret squads we’re not meant to know about?”

“Creating more work, isn’t he? Preparing for the great days to come.”

His comrade nodded but still looked nervous. He had a sense of being watched. Worse, he had a sense of being smelled, even tasted. The street was quiet, and surely no one would dare to confront the SS, not if they knew what was good for them. Yet still…he was sure someone was stalking him.

Kunz lit a cigarette. His companion’s chat annoyed him. He thought he might ask to switch to a daylight patrol.

The sound of breaking glass in an alley made both men jump, despite their strict training.

Kunz drew his pistol. “Who goes there?”

[No answer.]