Death is for the Living by JC Steel is an adventure of Tropics, yachts and vampire hunters.
By day, Cristina Batista is a deck girl on a Caribbean charter yacht, with all the sun, smiles, and steel drum music that entails. By night, she and her crew hunt the monsters that prey in the dark: the powerful vampire clans of the New World.
Unfortunately, Cristina’s past is hunting her in turn – and it’s catching up. Without her partner, sometime pirate, sometime lordling and ex-vampire, Jean Vignaud, Cristina wouldn’t simply be dead. She’d be something she fears far more.
Cristina and Jean are experienced, motivated, and resourceful. One faction wants them despite it. The other wants them because of it…
At night, it was all too easy for the hunters to become the hunted.
Cristina Batista, her feet slipping in the sand, hauled the dinghy down to the water in a near-silent, scraping rush. With even the mosquitoes whining around her seeming inordinately loud, it sounded more like an avalanche.
Something fingered her leg, and she jumped violently, cursing under her breath as she recognised the touch of bottom-growing weed. The night had begun to wear at her nerves several hours ago, but the scent of the sea was a welcome change, clearing the stench of expensive perfumes, fear, and blood from her nostrils.
Another figure, heavily burdened and struggling with it, broke free of the shadows of the trees, dressed much as she was in black trousers and a long-sleeved, off-black shirt. Cristina judged her partner’s balance and leant on the gunwale, steadying the boat against the sudden weight of the limp body he decanted into it.
Seawards, the horizon was defined by the line where the blazing stars ended, and the bay’s headlands bulked dark against the sky. Unlike the luxury motor yacht moored to the dock on the far side of the bay, a towering white slab in the night, the eighty-five-foot schooner she was looking for was invisible, carefully anchored to take advantage of the darkness.
Her partner straightened from the side of the dinghy, still gasping for breath. “Let’s get out of here.” The murmur of his voice barely carried over the soft sounds of sand and sea as the dinghy floated free of the beach.
Cristina slotted the oars into place and headed just inland of the tip of the northern headland, rowing as quietly as rowlocks and wooden oars permitted. With the breeze audible in the trees fringing the beach and the repetitive, arrhythmic swishing of the wavelets on the sand, it was unlikely that the faint noise of her oars would attract attention, even from the inhumanly sensitive ears that could be on their trail. It was why they used oars, not outboards, on these trips.
Her feet bumped against the man her partner had been carrying, and she jerked away, her heart knocking against her ribs. He was sprawled in the bottom of the boat in the kind of boneless collapse that only the dead and the truly unconscious achieved, but the rational knowledge that he was unconscious and bound was very little reassurance for her imagination.
“Is he still out?”
Sean leant forwards, a pencil beam playing over knots in the darkness. The boat swayed a little under her with his movement, and she compensated automatically. The glow rested momentarily on the bound vampire’s face, and for an instant, present and the past collided, stopping her breath. Harsh shadows along lips and bones drew similarities where there surely were none, summoning memories from their pit.
“Looks like it.” Sean paused, oblivious to her reaction, and squinted at the view over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, he has my—nearly—undivided attention.” Her partner’s habitual American drawl sounded a slightly strained. “Remind me just one more time: why did we rescue him?”
Every stroke of the oars taking them further from the dangerous shore, Cristina managed to laugh. It sounded a little forced, even to her ears. “Because you and I both wanted to know why vampires would kill another vampire.”
A Bite of... JC Steel
Q1: How much of your writing is autobiographical?
Usually I can look innocent and say almost none; the majority of my books are military sci-fi, so if they were autobiographical, I’d probably be having this conversation through a necromancer. Death is for the Living, on the other hand, contains a lot of material drawn from my childhood aboard a sea-going yacht in the Caribbean (obviously not the vampires part… um). But the day-to-day of life aboard a yacht all comes from personal experience. I wrote the first draft years ago, when I was penned up in a boarding school in North Yorkshire, and, not very surprisingly, very homesick for the yacht, the freedom to go outside alone, and, by far not least, sunshine.
Q2: What is worse, ignorance or stupidity?
I’d have to say ignorance. You’re born with a certain IQ level, there isn’t much you can do to change it. Ignorance, on the other hand, is absolutely in your power to change. Read. Research. Apply a healthy dose of scepticism. Travel. Talk to people. Ignorance, unlike stupidity, is a choice, and it’s one the world can’t afford for much longer.
Q3: How much of what you write could be classed as therapy?
Hah. Great question. Most of it. I have a fairly high-stress day job, and coming home to a sci-fi or urban fantasy adventure is a great mental break to mark the end of the day and also fantastic escapism. I get to follow a career mercenary through space battles, hunt vampires, explore new planets, and, when I stay up too late researching, accidentally type things like ‘coronal mass ejaculation’ into my search bar (don’t do that at home).
Born in Gibraltar and raised on a yacht around the coasts of the Atlantic, I’m an author, martial artist, and introvert. In between the necessary making of money to allow the writing of more books, I can usually be found stowing away on a spaceship, halfway to the further galaxy.
Science-fiction and urban fantasy are my favourite genres to write in. I grew up on a rich diet of Anne McCaffrey, Tolkien, Dorothy Dunnett, and Jack Higgins, and finally started to write my own books aged fourteen. I can’t point the finger at any one book or author that set me in my current direction, but I blame my tendency to write characters who favour drastically practical solutions on some mix of those. If I can toss in a bit of gender- and genre-bending, so much the better. Status quo is boring.