Blood and Chrysanthemums

blood_and_chrysanthemums  FEB 2014 NEWS

A new e-book edition – complete with introduction by Suzy McKee Charnas – will be published by ChiZine Publications in March 2014.   Thanks to Gillian Holmes of The House of Pomegranates Press for the stunning new cover.




Blood and Chrysanthemums: Jacket Copy

BloodandChrysanthemumsBecoming a vampire was easier than she had ever dreamed …

Ardeth Alexander surrendered her mortal life in a night of despair and desire – initiated into a new existence by the five-hundred-year-old vampire, Dimitri Rozokov.

Living as a vampire was more complicated than she had ever expected …

Fleeing Toronto, Ardeth and Rozokov settle in the tourist town of Banff, Alberta.  While she tests her new strength against the mountains by climbing, Rozokov returns to astronomy, the science of his youth.  Together they hunt the dark reaches of the park, preying on the animals they find there, upholding an unspoken agreement not to taste human blood.

Yet all their activity cannot disguise their restlessness and soon their fragile happiness is shattered by bitter conflict and inevitable betrayal.  Angry and unhappy, Ardeth returns to Toronto to try to recatpure the life she believed she had left behind forever.

Understanding what it means to be a vampire would prove harder than she had ever imagined …

What Ardeth and Rozokov do not know is that they are being hunted.  A member of the yakuza, the Japanese underworld, is on their trail, seeking the fulfillment of his most secret ambition.

So is his employer, Sademori Fujiwara – a vampire whose extraordinary history is revealed to Rozokov through his diary.  From the seductive nights in the imperial court of the eleventh century to the horror and tragedy of the darkest days of the twentieth, Fujiwara’s story is a tale of poetry and violence, of delight and despair.  In his life, Ardeth and Rozokov see the promise of the answers to the questions of love, mortality and morality that have torn them apart.

Fujiwara’s power draws them back together to face those questions again – but the price that they all have to pay for the answers will be higher than any of them expected.

Blood and Chrysanthemums is a tantalizing tale of modern horror, with a twist of Japanese gothic, certain to leave an indelible mark on the imagination. — written by NB

Blood and Chrysanthemums: Publication History

Penguin, 1994
ISBN 0-670-85622

Canada: Trade Paperback, 1994
Paperback 1995

U.K: Paperback, Penguin/Creed,  1995

Germany: Paperback, Blut und Chysanthemums, Bastei Lubbe, 1997

Norway: Paperback, Take-netter, Fredhois Forlag A/S, 1995

Blood and Chrysanthemums:  Reviews

“Baker’s style combines, or alternates between, traditional realism and fantasy; realism with its developed, motivated, complex characters; plots which attempt to reflect life as we live it; and straightforward, transparent prose – and fantasy, with its more stereotyped characterizations; stylized story lines; and formal, sometimes poetic language.  The latter style is more prominent in the part of the novel which flash back to ancient Japan, where the prose lilts gracefully.”
Toronto Star

“Nancy Baker writes about the vampires next door…they bicker over petty, everyday things.  They are jealous when a partner flirts with someone.  They worry about paying the rent… “They’re Canadian,” she says.”
The Vancouver Sun

“Baker evokes the various figures from Japanese culture familiar in the West – yakuza, samurai and medieval court ladies and their pillow books – but she goes beyond cliches and invests these characters with a solidity and poignancy that contrast sharply with the simpler Canadian horror of The Night Inside.  This is a more contemplative offering, and while it is not always successful, it has moments of great effectiveness.  Ardeth’s nocturnal cross-country hitchhiking trip is particularly noteworthy for its undercurrents of violence and loneliness.”

Blood and Chrysanthemums: Notes

My contract for The Night Inside required that I write either a sequel or a prequel.  This stumped me for a while, as I viewed the ending of the book as “the end”, despite the obvious ambiguity.  The last thing I wanted to do was write “The Night Inside II”, even if that was the most natural and commercially viable thing to do.

So instead, I took the big loose end lingering at the end of the novel and tried to determine what the most interesting element of it was, at least for me.  My conclusion – the contrast between Japanese and western experiences of the vampirism – set a whole new series of challenges.

Could I write in a believable fashion about a culture to which I did not belong?  Could I find an actual plot that would let me explore the things I thought were interesting about the central theme?  (One on-line review of this book says that it has no plot and is nothing but character development.  But at least the reviewer thinks it’s good character development.)

There was one added element that was both a boon and a challenge.  My copy editor, the wonderful Mary Adachi, is Japanese-Canadian and extremely knowledgeable about Japanese culture and literature.  If I could write a book that would pass her approval, then I knew that I would have gotten at least one of these things right.

So I set about doing research.  Six months of it, in fact, just to figure out what was possible to happen in the historical sections of the novel.  In the end, I decided that my best way into the complexities of Japan was through popular culture and literature. As vampires are part of our own popular culture, I looked at the things that held similar positions in Japan.  This led inevitably to ghost stories, the great Heian novels, Noh theatre, samurai and the yakuza.

Even when I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to happen, the first day I sat down to write Fujiwara’s sections of the book was frightening.  To my surprise, I actually found these some of the easiest sections of the novel to complete.  I liked Fujiwara’s voice and the layers of artifice that he shields himself with in his diary were somehow comforting.  Many of the sections, especially the Heian court sequence, lent themselves to a lyrical style that I love.  To me, the chapter on the bombing of Hiroshima is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  When promoting that book, I used to include that chapter in readings and it was always a struggle to say the last two or three lines through the massive lump in my throat.

The other key issue I wanted to explore in the book was the idea of fidelity.  What does emotional and sexual fidelity mean when you’re a vampire?  The relationship between vampires is profoundly different than that between vampires and humans.  I’ve always thought that one of the tragedies of being a vampire is that you destroy what you love by turning it into yourself.

This issue was one I’d never seen explored in popular books featuring vampires, which tend to focus on rebellious, omnisexual characters.  For all the changes she’s gone through, Ardeth is essentially a straight, middle-class woman who has always believed that she would one day be involved in a monogamous marriage.

At the end of the day, I had a book that featured 1,000 years of Japanese history, modern views of monogamy, father-child relationships, rock climbing in Banff, and goth bars in Toronto.  And some sort of a plot.  I think.