Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Tale of the Vampire Bride by Rhiannon Frater

By now, you should all know that I love vampire tales more than any other type of horror novel and also, that Rhiannon Frater is one of my all time favourite authors. So it pretty much stands to reason that this novel is going to be right up my street... and it is! I normally write my own description of the plot of the novel I am reviewing but after reading the introduction to this wonderful tale by Rhiannon herself, I thought I should simply copy her words as she sets up the story very eloquently and gives an insight into her mind as she prepared this story.
"In celebration of the new covers for the Vampire Bride Series and the interior overhaul of the trade paperback, I decided to share a bit about the back story of the series and the epic battle between the heroine, Lady Glynis, and the villain, Vlad Dracula.
The Tale of the Vampire Bride was born in a very vivid dream. Encapsulated in the mind of Lady Glynis Wright, I bore witness with breathless anticipation of the events of the first chapter of this novel while they unfolded, I dreaded where the carriage would carry the family from England and when it rolled into the courtyard of a formidable, yet crumbling castle in the Carpathian Mountains, my fears were confirmed. I awakened with the green eyes of Count Vlad Dracula searing into my soul.
Immediately I knew I had to write the tale of the fourth Bride of Dracula. It didn't take long for me to fall utterly in love with Glynis, her world and her struggle to free herself from the most villainous and evil vampire of all time.
The challenges of writing a novel that takes place in the 1820's were difficult enough, but capturing the personality of a legendary character from one of the greatest books in literature, Bram Stoker's Dracula, was incredibly daunting.Stoker's novel is one of my favorites of all time, but I still felt I truly did not understand the vampire. Since Count Dracula is only seen through the eyes of his enemies in the novel, I decided to delve deeper and read about the Romanian hero, Vlad Tepes. I immersed myself in the tales of Vlad the Impaler, struggling to understand how a man could be so cruel, so violent, yet so revered by his people. Slowly I began to see a pattern in his actions, his strict adherence to his own moral code of what was right or wrong. I remember reading one terrible story about him killing a woman for not properly mending her husband's clothing and finally grasping the key component to the personality of Count Dracula. His absolutely unyielding viewpoint on how the world should operate and his role in ruling it made him the perfect, terrible villain in Glynis's life.
Lady Glynis is a rebel. She chaffs against society and all its rules. Though she is still an aristocrat through and through, she defies the strict moral codes of her time. That she should become the Bride of Dracula is not only ironic, but sets up an adversarial relationship between the two that is sometimes difficult to witness. The word "bride" in the title of this book does not imply the happily-in-love woman on  the day of her wedding, but the designation of a female vampire created by a male vampire. Glynis's beginnings as Dracula's Bride are not born out of love but violence and blood. Glynis may be the Bride of Dracula, but he is her tormentor, her abuser, and her nemesis. This dichotomy sets the stage for their battle for control of Glynis's life.
Without a doubt, Lady Glynis is our heroine and Vlad Dracula is our villain. Yet there are many more characters in this epic tale that will choose sides and impact the tale of the vampire bride named Glynis.
I hope you enjoy this first volume in her story and the many to follow."
I certainly did enjoy this novel and I'm currently reading volume 2 - The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride, whilst eagerly awaiting volume 3 - The Lament of the Vampire Bride. This is a hefty tome, running to just over 600 pages. It is a real door-stopper of a book. I easily fell in love with Lady Glynis Wright, although her habit of stomping her feet when things don't go her way did become irritating after a while. Other than that one minor point I couldn't find anything to complain about or criticise story-wise. However, proofreading was a bit dodgy with a few misspelt words and far too many words that had been hyphenated unnecessarily. Clearly something that had not been picked up on when the book changed to a different format. That is not Rhiannon's fault but it should have been picked up by a competent proofreader.
I bought the paperback version of the book for £10.42 from Amazon. It is also available in Kindle format for £1.84. I enjoyed it immensely and I'll happily give it a 9 out of 10 rating.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Black Cat Bases Female Civilians 01

I'm posting a short review today as I'm busy playing a new ATZ-FFO scenario this weekend. The batrep should follow very soon. My last order to Black Cat Bases mainly consisted of females. Here are three of their Civilians and Townsfolk range.
The first two figures in line are known as Night Clubbers with Handbags. I'm sure most of us recognise them as typical slappers getting ready for "a neet oot on the toon" as we Geordies would say. Take a trip down the Bigg Market in Newcastle on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and you'll see them, invariably smashed out of their skulls on cheap booze. Actually, they are not just native to my home city but can be found in any major town or city. The  fat lass with her bottle blonds hair has squeezed herself into a tight fitting miniskirt and sleeveless top. Note the  matching pink top, shoes and handbag. Her more glamourous looking friend wears a low-cut gold mini-dress with matching gold handbag and silver high heels. They cost £2.00 each or you can buy the pair for just £3.50. Not bad value for money.
The third figure in line is based upon the actress and glamour model, Bettie Page. She actually comes with a scenic diorama base but I rebased her on a standard 25mm diameter slottabase. I can well imagine that Bettie will be unfamiliar with many of you. She rose to fame during the 1950's when she became one of the very first Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine in 1955. It is only in recent years that I have become familiar with her. I quite like Bettie.
This is a photo of the figure taken from the BCB website, showing all the component parts of the diorama - 28mm scale figure of Bettie, base featuring a tiled floor and rug, a chaise longue, side table and telephone, book and lamp and a "Bettie x" decal. This is a rather expensive figure, costing £10.00, but you do get a lot for that amount. I have no need for the base but the other items will find a home in my St. Trinian's School in the headmistress's office.
Here is actress Gretchen Moi playing Bettie in the film, "The Notorious Bettie Page" and this is a very close likeness to the figure. I wonder if the sculptor (Martin Baker) was inspired by this photo? It certainly looks like he was, although he has omitted her riding crop. There is something of the dominatrix about her in this photo. Nice! Special thanks to Chris Sheets for pointing out that this was not actually Bettie. Even so, she still looks like Bettie.
So, here is the real Bettie in an iconic photo that originally appeared in Playboy magazine in 1955.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Demo's MDF Hippo APC WIP

In my last Monthly Musings post I made a cryptic reference to a new project I was starting involving Team Vampifan. Well, wonder no more what it is. I recently purchased this stunning 28mm scale model from Demo's Laser Cut Designs of a Hippo Armoured Personnel Carrier. Here it is in all its glory in a couple of photos taken from the Demo's website.
 It is an absolute monster!
The roof comes off and there is loads of space inside for figures. The one and only thing I don't like about it is the machine gun at the front. It is rather naff and I know I'm not the only one to criticise it.
This is the first MDF model I have ever made and I was so impressed with it I know it won't be the last. The level of detail on it is staggering. All the wheels turn, the back ramp opens and shuts and the machine gun moves up and down. Speaking of which, note that I have replaced the wooden gun with a metal Minigun from my spare parts collection and I'm sure you'll agree it is a vast improvement.
 So, just how big is it? It is 8.5" long (21.5cm) by 3.25" (8cm) wide by 3" (7.5cm) tall.
There is a LOT of space in the back for placing figures. You could fit 15 figures on 25mm diameter bases in there! The instructions were clear and precise, although there were two omissions. First, the rear interior wheel covers had been omitted from the instructions. That was no big deal, as it was obvious where they went. Secondly, there was no mention of the front headlight arrays but by referring to the website photos I could see where they were meant to go.
Here you can see the headlight arrays in place. You have the option of buying the model with a large front shield wall or, as I chose, a front knee-breaker ram plate. As these are just work in progress photos I have not glued the front cab window and roof in place. I am unsure as to whether to add interior detail to the cab (seats and control panel) or just leave it bare and paint it black. Hmm, decisions, decisions. Any thoughts?
I'm thinking of painting the model a mid grey colour as in the two photos from the Demo's website.
The connection with Team Vampifan is this - I want the group to find and acquire this battle-wagon. Obviously, it won't be easy to come by. I'm thinking of having it parked in the garage of the Prosperity Corporation, the bad guys from the ATZ-FFO scenario, High Rise To Hell. This would be a worthy prize if they successfully completed that mission. I even know what Vampifan will call it - the Vampivan. Come on, what else could I call it?
The price of this fine model is a very reasonable $13.00. I must admit that this has been a real eye opener for me as to the viability of MDF models. I'll post more photos as soon as I finish painting it. I was so excited by this model that I wanted to show you it as soon as possible. I've  never shown any work in progress photos before but in this case, I felt that they were warranted.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Recreational Conflict 4-of-1 Figures 02

As promised, here is part two of my review of the Recreational Conflict 4-of-1 sets of 28mm scale figures, this time concentrating on the females. So without further ado, here they are.
To start off with, here is the Asian businesswoman. In her civilian form, she is speaking on her mobile phone. I'm not too sure what she is holding in her left hand. It could be a pager or even a second mobile phone.
With the survivor version, she is armed with a 12 Gauge Pump Action Shotgun. KACHING! This lady means business!
The zombie version of her is without doubt, the most extremely disfigured of all the zombies in this range. She has been cut in two and has had her left arm ripped off. She'll still be able to drag herself along the ground with her one good arm, but her progress will be very slow. She could still surprise an unwary passerby by hiding under a vehicle.
Richard Brooks, the head of Recreational Conflict, told me last time that the corpses had all been left intact so that you could decide how they died. So, I gave this corpse a cut to the forehead and a bite wound to her left cheek.
Next in line is the waitress. She has a napkin draped over her right arm and she holds a silver tray aloft in her left hand.
In her survivor guise, she is armed with a frigging huge revolver, most likely a Magnum. I'd definitely class it as a Big Ass Pistol in All Things Zombie.
The zombie version of the waitress has lost her left arm, resulting in massive blood loss. Also, notice that her ponytail has come undone.
I painted the corpse version with a gaping cut to her throat. I must admit to a certain ghoulish pleasure in deciding just how the corpses had died.
Moving on, we come to the chav shopper. She is dressed in typical chav clothing - jogging pants with faux gold belt, hoodie top, crop top T-shirt showing her midriff and belly button and of course, a pair of designer label running shoes. Her bottle-blonde hair has been tied back in a ponytail. She has been out shopping and holds a shopping bag in each hand.
The survivor version has swapped her shopping bags for a pair of 9mm Pistols.
From the front, the zombie version looks unmarked but from behind you can see she has suffered appalling injuries. most of the skin from her back has been flayed off and she has a deep bite wound at the back of her calf on her right leg. Just like the waitress, her ponytail has come undone.
The corpse version got shot or stabbed in the right eye.
What I really love about this set of figures is the individuality of the figures. They are not all average sized Caucasians and are all the better for their different sizes and ethnic origins. This female is clearly overweight, bordering on chubby. She could be a tourist reading a tour guide or maybe she is the tour guide. She is well-tanned, so obviously spends a lot of time outdoors. I also deliberately painted her with grey hair to acknowledge the fact that not every survivor will be young, fit and healthy.
In her survivor guise, she carries a 7.62mm Model 85 Parker-Hale Bolt-Action Rifle with fitted Scopesight - a very good sniper rifle.
The zombie version has suffered a massive stomach wound and her intestines are just starting to spill out. Gross!
Her corpse has blood coating her lips, chin and neck.
I'll finish off with a better view of the four corpses. As with the males, I am a massive fan of this complete range of figures. I must give a special nod to Brian Cooke, who sculpted them. He has done a superb job on capturing them in their various forms. Every one of these figures looks as if he or she has a story to tell. I'm now looking for an excuse to introduce them to my ATZ-FFO campaign set in Mayhem City.
So, by now, you are probably wondering how much they cost? Every civilian, survivor, zombie and corpse can be purchased separately. The civilians, survivors and zombies cost $2.50 each, whilst the corpses are cheaper at $2.00 each. However, it is better value to buy them in groups. The 8 civilians (4 males and 4 females) cost $18.00. Likewise for the 8 survivors and the 8 zombies. All 8 corpses will cost you just $14.00. You can also order the Gearing Up set, which consists of all 8 civilians and all 8 survivors for $36.00. You can find all of these figures under the Lead Bones heading of the Recreational Conflict webstore.
These are amongst my all-time favourite zombie apocalypse figures and I give them my highest recommendation.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Recreational Conflict 4-of-1 Figures 01

Over two years ago I reviewed a set of 16 Recreational Conflict 28mm scale humans, featuring 8 civilians and their 8 survivor counterparts. I really raved about these figures and the whole concept of making "before and after" figures for a zombie apocalypse game just appealed to me so much. I made a plea with Richard Brooks, the head of Recreational Conflict, to extend this range further and add zombie and corpse versions of the 8 figures. Well, to my absolute delight he took my suggestion on board and late last year he very kindly sent me the new figures free of charge to review on my blog. My heartfelt thanks go out to Richard and I can only apologise for taking so long to getting round to reviewing them. In this post I shall review the male figures and on Sunday, I'll showcase the females.
Although I have already reviewed the civilian and survivor types I felt it just made sense to show all four variants together so you can see a natural progression. I start off with the basketball player. as befits such an athlete, he is the tallest figure in the range. He has his basketball tucked under his right arm and in his left hand he holds a bottled energy drink.
The survivor version sees him armed with a 9mm Ingram MAC11 Sub-Machine Gun with fitted suppressor. Joe and I recently had a discussion about how the word "silencer" is a misnomer. It does not silence a gun, it merely minimalises the sound.
I wasn't too sure if the zombie version should come before the corpse version as a person has to die before they become a zombie but from an aesthetic point of view it looks better to have the three standing figures grouped together, followed by the prone figure. Here, the zombie version keeps a hold of the energy drink in his left hand. However, he has lost his right hand, so I think we can assume he bled to death from that wound.
The corpse, however, is intact and shows no obvious signs of wounding. Hey, it's not unheard of. He might have suffered a sudden heart attack or a blow to the head.
Moving on, we have another young African/American, only this time he is a skate-boarder. He is quite tall, as well. Note the silver chain hanging on his right thigh.
The survivor version is armed with a 12 Gauge Double-Barrelled Sawn-Off Shotgun that has had both barrel and shoulder stock cut down, making it more like a big pistol.
The zombie version has certainly suffered. He has lost his left arm and the lower half of his face has been bitten off, although his jawbone is still intact and in place.
The corpse version is curled up as he has suffered a gaping wound to the stomach.
 With so many ethnic minorities in this range of figures I was able to make full use of my extensive range of Foundry flesh colours. The business man shown here is another African/American and although he is darker skinned than the skateboarder, he is not as dark as the basketball player. All three are brown skinned but not the same shade of brown. The civilian version is depicted talking on his mobile phone whilst holding a briefcase in his other hand.
The survivor version is armed with a 9mm Heckler and Koch MP5 Sub-Machine Gun and a baseball bat. Rather foolishly, he looks like he is about to fire the MP5 one-handed. All I can say is, "recoil!"
The zombie version retains the baseball bat, but because of the way he is dragging it behind him is probably unaware he is still holding it let alone realise it can be used as a weapon! The MP5 has gone along with his right arm.
The corpse version clutches his stomach in a vain attempt to stem the flow of blood from either being shot or stabbed.
Finally, we have a Caucasian figure, although he is nicely tanned. The civilian version shows him as a cameraman. Given that he is wearing a multi-pocketed waistcoat for storing lenses, he is most likely a professional. He must be filming somewhere hot seeing as he is wearing T-shirt, shorts and a sweatband on his head.
He is probably used to "shooting" people at long range, which would explain the choice of weapon for the survivor type - a .50 Calibre RAI Model 500 Sniper Rifle with Scopesight.
The zombie version has lost the waistcoat and both arms. I'll resist making the joke about him being 'armless. Oops, sorry, it just slipped out! The front of his T-shirt is almost black from the congealed blood that came from him having his jaw ripped off. Note that his tongue is still intact. Actually, with no arms and no jaw, he can't be that much of a threat, can he?
The corpse version is still whole but he has been cut across the neck and has obviously bled to death.
And finally, here is a better view of the four corpses. I mentioned in my last Monthly Musings post that I was going to review what I thought were the best zombie apocalypse figures currently on the market. Well, that accolade goes to these sets of  figures. From a narrative point of view you have everything you need to play a campaign here - civilians, survivors, zombies and corpses. Now I have painted each group of four with the same colour schemes but there is no reason not to paint all 32 figures in the range as separate individuals. This would give you more bang for your buck.
I'll give you the details of their prices and reference codes next time, when I review the 16 females of the range. All I can say now is that I give these figures my highest recommendation. Once again, a HUGE THANK YOU to Richard for not only producing this range but for sending me the figures soon after I returned home from hospital. That gave me a massive boost.