Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why Vampires Make Bad Boyfriends

Writers of any genre involving paranormal creatures are united in their fondness for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". And sooner or later, amongst Buffy fans (at least the female ones), the question invariably arises: which of Buffy's boyfriends is best?

Fans of Spike and Angel seem fairly evenly divided. I, however, have always gone for Riley. Yes, I know, he's usually considered boring. I rather like 'boring'. Riley was solid, dependable, reliable, trustworthy (well most of the time, anyway). And he had a healthy respect for independent-minded women. And, most importantly, he was human.

I do understand what the whole 'sexy vampire' thing is all about. Vampires are the ultimate Bad Boys, and a lot of women are attracted to bad boys. For some reason, I never have been. The only 'bad boy' I ever had a thing for was Han Solo, and when I wrote my Star Wars fan fiction, at age 14, the alter ego I created to put myself in the Star Wars universe was Han Solo's half sister - even at that age, I had worked out that dating someone like him would lead to trouble.

But let's look at why vampires make bad boyfriends. First of all, there's the whole 'immortality' thing. If you want someone to grow old with, don't choose a vampire because they don't. He's still going to be looking young and sexy when you're old and wrinkly and drawing your pension.

Then there's the issue of not being able to go out in sunlight. You won't be able to go on beach holidays with your beloved. Or for picnics in the park. Or anywhere, in fact, that requires going out in daylight. That's going to be problematic in any relationship.

Another thing that occurs to me is that actually, it shouldn't technically be possible for a vampire - a male one, anyway - to have sex. Vampires don't have heart beats, and without a beating heart the blood does not flow through the body, and...well, let's just point out that blood flow is a key factor in being able to have sex, at least for men. But OK, vampires aren't real, we are talking fantasy, and the act of sucking blood has been equated with sex since Bram Stoker wrote "Dracula". So I am prepared to suspend my belief for this one, at least.

But ultimately, human/vampire relationships are doomed to failure, and even Buffy realised this in the end - it's why she accepted her relationship with Angel was over.

Maybe I'm far too sensible for my own good, and that's why I've never gone for the 'bad boy' idea. But I'm happy to let all the other Buffy girls fight over Angel and Spike. I'll take Riley. I prefer 'boring and dependable' over 'exciting and dangerous' even when it comes to fantasy men.

I accept I'm in the minority here. Maybe I'm just weird. I'll take a geek over a bad boy any day. In the long term, they'll cause less heartache.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Requiem is Available Today

The moment that every author waits for has finally arrived. My book was released.
Requiem is now available from Noble Romance and I couldn't be more excited.

Requiem is the story of Kate, a vampire succubus, who has wandered through life feeding on both the blood and sex of mortals, with an utter disregard for human life. Even that gets boring after a while. But problems don't arise until Kate meets the new “Hollywood Heartthrob,” Aidan Cross.

Aidan is human, which would normally put him on the menu, but Kate finds herself attracted to him in more ways than one and decides to wait before she kills him to see if the allure is something more than his irresistible good looks.

Jack and Kate have a very complicated relationship dating back to the fall of Rome. He's an angel, she's not. One night with her will make him fall and be damned to life in the demon ranks, and she'll become mortal.

With Aidan, she gets a chance to play human. One night with Jack and she'll actually be human, but that also means giving up everything she loves.

Requiem is an unapologetic look into the journey of one vampire--a memoir of sorts. Kate is unrepentant about her lot in life and her need to feed, but instead of being a complete villain, she undergoes a journey of redemption, and learns that life is more the selfish pleasure.

To give you a little taste, I'll give you an excerpt:

If I weren't already dead, I would die of boredom.

In fact, I wondered if I could die again from the crushing wave of tedium the lecturer's words stirred as he droned on about microquasars, primordial magnetic fields, and dark matter. So what was I doing at an astrophysics lecture? I was out hunting. And as soon as the speech was over, I would lure the handsome graduate student two rows in front of me out back to the quiet little alley and drink his sweet life's elixir.

Or at least that's what I would have done, had my phone not started going off in the middle of the lecture. Annoyed, I made a quick exit out of the auditorium. Another missed opportunity. One I was particularly upset about, considering I had already invested a little over one hour of listening to that boring discussion.

The phone stopped ringing before I could answer it. A cool breath grazed the back of my neck. Only one person would call me off of a hunt and play like this. "This had better be good Nick," I said, through gritted teeth. I hadn't fed any of my hungers in nearly a month, and I was ready to tear the head off of a cow if that would've quenched my thirsts.

He materialized in front of me, a mischievous smile on his face.

Nick was a demon from way back, although his exact age I couldn't be sure of. He never would come clean about that. We both usually stopped at the Roman Empire, although sometimes he would hint at knowledge of Mesopotamian culture far beyond what's known in history books.

Unlike the popular culture images of demons, he didn't have scales or claws. Most demons didn't. Nick had a passing resemblance of a young Johnny Depp this century. He was fond of changing his appearance to avoid being recognized, especially if he chose to stay in a city for a long time. One of the first things you learn, as an immortal, was to either stick with really big cities or move a lot, in order to avoid being recognized.

Of course, most of us avoided social interactions with mortals. They tended to have the pesky habit of dying just when you'd finish breaking them in like a pet. It was a lonely existence we led. Most of us were solitary, having brief moments of companionship and no true circle of friends. Immortals tended to have very little patience for other immortals. Perhaps it was the fact that our longevity made us very depressing to be around—we often spent too much time reminiscing about the good old days. Then again, there were always exceptions to the rule.

I think one of the things that endeared Nick to me was that, unlike a lot of other demons I had come across in my years of living, he had at one point been mortal. Like me, he had made a choice that led him to the life he had now.

"I need you to do me a favor."

Not in the mood for what he had in mind, I shook my head and walked out of the building into the cool spring night.

Nick followed behind me, "Kate, please."

"Nope. I'm not interested," I replied, walking briskly down the city sidewalk.

"You know you've been in a bad mood for five years now." He kept pace with my rapid steps, breathing down my neck.

Five years might as well have been a few months the way time passed for us. One of the first things people think of with immortality is how cool it is to know that you get a chance to live forever. You get to see the world change. In actuality, it can grow quite tiresome. The world changes, but you stay the same, locked in an unending cycle.

Sure, you drift along doing whatever you please, but soon enough you've seen it all, then the thrill is gone. Humans have no idea what the phrase "the more things change the more they stay the same" truly means, but I do. I learned the meaning millennia before the phrase was ever created.

God I was bored. Could you have a midlife crisis when you were well beyond a mortal mid life?

I stopped abruptly and did an about face. "What's the favor?"

"Now we're talking." Nick smiled. "There's a party over in West Hollywood at some house. I need to get a few contracts signed."

"Don't you have enough celebrities who have sold their souls?"

"This is not a celebrity. It's some agent who wants to be head of a studio."

I crossed my arms over my chest. "What do you need me for?"

Nick did his best to be charming. "I need you to use that lovely succubus charm of yours to get me in the door."

My succubus charm. I rolled my eyes at the mention. I didn't like using my so-called succubus charm if I wasn't in the mood to use it to feed.

It's a well-known fact that most vampires feed off of blood alone. But the much lesser known fact is that some of us had the ability to feed off of other things, such as emotion, energy or sex.

I could feed off either blood or lust. Unlike my pure-vampire brethren, I got the chance to choose what sustenance I wanted at the moment. It was all because my maker was an incubus, a male vampire who could feed off of lust. So when I died, I got the very same abilities.

It came with some perks. My maker was a very handsome man. His skin glowed milky white, his lips were lush, his hair a rich black. But his eyes were the most beautiful, the most compelling—violet with silver rings around the irises. His incredible looks and mesmerizing eyes were for luring in prey, the succubus and incubus arsenal. Things he couldn't help but give to me when he made me. When I died, everything about me changed, and the people I had known would not have been able to recognize me. Becoming a vampire succubus changed my appearance so much, I scarcely remember what I looked like in my mortal days.

"You know I don't do parties." I sighed. I hadn't been to a Hollywood shindig since the Rat Pack were the Kings of Cool and Marilyn Monroe was still making films.

"Please. I don't ask you for many favors," Nick reasoned. "Besides, it could be fun."

"You know how I feel about today's Hollywood," I reminded him.

"Yeah, and that's why you haven't been to a movie since A Clockwork Orange in nineteen seventy-one."

Knowing what it meant for him as a soul collector, I couldn't hold onto my reluctance for long. Live long enough, and you had a habit of collecting favors that could be cashed in anytime, place, or century. "Fine. I'll help you."

He smirked and pulled my hand, tugging me in the direction of his car.

The party in question was being held in the West Hollywood hills. It didn't matter which decade in Hollywood's history you were in, the parties remained the same. The elite came to rub elbows and network, while young starlet hopefuls acted as eye-candy for the lecherous executives and agents. Although it had to be said, the starlets today were far more forward about the things they were willing to do to fulfill their ambitions than their predecessors had been. Where the infamous couch sessions were kept secretive in the old days, today's hopefuls had a definite exhibitionist streak.

Security at the mansion was tight. So tight that there was no way for a crasher to get in without making a scene. No wonder Nick needed me. Soon I stood before the burly doorman, who'd been assigned to check invitations.

"Your invitation, ma'am?"

I smiled and turned on my preternatural charm and charisma. "Darn, I must have left it at home." I let my voice roll over him like velvet, cloaking any suspicions he might have had. I flashed him another quick smile. One that said, look at me, I'm cute. He smiled back and let Nick and me through the door.

The party was just as I had anticipated—too cool and trendy to really be hip. The room was dim—what they liked to call mood lighting. Truthfully, it was just irritating. My eyes could adjust to any level of light, but I suppose I felt the halfhearted attempt was ridiculous. On or off, was my thing. One or the other, none of this mood crap.

I looked around the party with a hungry gaze. My brain switched over to predator mode, scanning the crowd for a meal. There were plenty of victims . . . err . . . I mean, oh hell, why finesse the truth? I meant victims. I had only to choose the hunger I wanted to feed.

A short man carrying two drinks approached me. He had a shiny bald head that reminded me more of grease than anything else. I found him utterly disgusting as he smiled and handed me the second drink in his hand. I sniffed it, taking in the scents of mint, rum, lime, club soda and sugar. But there was something else in the cocktail no human nose would have detected. A Mickey. The poor, greasy, little bastard was trying to slip me a dose of Rohypnol, a date rape drug, not knowing what I was and that his special cocktail would have no effect on me. I took a sip of the drink and gave him a sensual smile.

He showered me with the usual slimy compliments lowly producers, without any real clout, gave to all the wannabe starlets. The typical, "You are a very beautiful woman", "You ought to be in movies", or my favorite, "I can help you get into the pictures, if you're willing to do what it takes".

I smiled and nodded politely, every so often offering a gracious giggle while I pretended that the drug in my drink was starting to take effect. He examined my tired eyes. His black irises narrowed on my bosom. I recognized that dark glimmer, the vicious stare. He hunted those he felt were weaker, stupider, and more susceptible to what he perceived as charm.

He had no idea I was a predator, too, and that he had just become prey.

I let him usher me out of the party and to his waiting car. He smirked as I pretended to drift in and out of consciousness.

I decided to kill him tonight. I didn't have to kill him to feed, but I wanted to. I wanted to feel his blood run hot down my throat, hear his pathetic whimper as he realized what was happening, and I'd enjoy it. I'd decided from the moment he approached me with a cocktail laced with Rohyphnol that he would die in a painful manner. I would not roll his mind or seduce him into sex to feed. That would make him enjoy it too much. I'd made up my mind, when I decided to kill him, to make him suffer.

He pulled the car into a dark, open field. He was going to rape me—well, attempt to rape me—in the open, away from anyone who could bear witness to his crimes.

That was fine and dandy for me. No witnesses.

Opening my eyes, bright and full, I smirked and moved to the edge of my seat. He nodded and smiled as I placed a hand on his groin.

He unbuckled his pants and wriggled them down around his ankles, before leaning his seat back. I suppose he merely assumed he didn't use enough of the drug to keep me asleep. But judging by the look on his face, he wasn't too disappointed.

I sniffed the foul smell of his sweaty crotch. He disgusted me on every level. But the prize was yet to come. I could smell the blood in his femoral artery, flowing just under the surface of his white-gray skin. It was a smell I knew very well. A smell I relished and enjoyed, especially now that I was starved for it.

A smirk graced my lips as I extended my canines into two dainty fangs. I kissed his thigh, right at the femoral artery, and licked the area, anticipating the scalding release of his blood. He let out a happy sigh. Mustn't play with my food, I thought to myself, just before I plunged my fangs into the meat of his flesh.

He yelped in pain and tried to beat me off of him. I took both of his hands into one of mine and held him firm. His blood was hot as it flowed out of him and into me, filling my belly with its warmth.

When his heart stopped beating and the blood had run dry, I released my grip on him and let his corpse slump in the seat. He had been a good meal, if nothing else.

My hunger satiated, I got out of the car and ran with my superhuman abilities away from the scene. To anyone who might have been passing by, I would have only registered in their subconscious as barely a blip on their radar.

Was I worried that when the cops found the body they'd trace it back to me? Nope. They would find no evidence that I even existed. No remnants of shed hair or skin for them to find. Nothing with a shred of DNA. That sort of stuff didn't really apply when you became an immortal. Like I said, the world around me changed, I didn't.

I, like every other undead creature on this planet, was stuck in a permanent stasis.

Full, I felt better, physically, but my mood was still shitty. And, I was still bored. The kill had been easy, too easy, like everything else in this modern world. I'd had millennia to perfect my techniques, to learn to stalk and truly hunt my prey, but in this modern world of technology and instant gratification, it had all become so easy. There was no thrill of the chase anymore. Hell, there was no chase. Humans had grown soft.

Young vampires relished this culture of instant gratification. This breed of human that was so easy to catch. There was no thrill to it. I remember the days when humans had true warriors who would put up some fight. Sure, they lost every time, but it was a hell of a lot more fun. And people thought these modern days were violent.

I was in a sour mood when I finally got back to my house in Redondo. The home came complete with its own private beach access, a little ways down a hill.

Built in the mission style, with lots of Spanish architecture, the home had attracted my attention and I'd purchased it when it was still brand new during the twenties. I mean the nineteen twenties, although I did buy a little villa in Greece during the year 20 B.C. It's was a nice home in Athens. Unfortunately, it got destroyed in an earthquake and the subsequent fires. Oh well.

I opened up all the windows in the two-story home, with lightening speed, allowing the sea breeze from the Pacific to fill the house. The morning sunlight peeked in, chasing the darkness from each room. It was an old wives' tale that vampires would burst into flame or turn to dust from contact with sunlight. We could be out anytime we pleased; however, in the days of old, it was easier to hunt at night.

I curled up in my favorite chaise and began to read Eugénie by Honoré De Balzac in its original French. Being fluent in most languages, including the dead ones, was one of the perks of having lived for so long, in almost every corner of the world, and not having to sleep as much as a mortal.

Vampires, in general, slept when we felt like it, where we felt like it. Hell, there'd been years where I hadn't slept at all, and then times where I slept for years. I missed the entire American Revolution. I had decided that since I was so bored of that era, I'd find a nice place to sleep it out. I slept for an entire decade between 1776 and 1786 in a mausoleum in France. It was the safest place to be at the time. I didn't need to worry about some overzealous villager or uneducated peasant believing folklore and trying to stake me.

Not that a stake through the heart would kill me. I learned that early in my afterlife. It would hurt, be uncomfortable and plain irritating, but it wouldn't kill me. Very few humans could actually kill an immortal. It took a special breed. They had to be born, but often these natural slayers had no idea they held such special powers. And as time went on, there were less and less demon, vampire, or whatever else-slayers out to kill us. The humans had become so used to our presence, they typically ignored that little voice in their heads that said there was something wrong with the person standing next to them. We were living in an age of political correctness; no one wanted to be the one to point out that there was something different or not right about his or her neighbor, or the beautiful woman sitting at the bar. They didn't want to be stuck with a negative social stigma.

In truth, most of us were thankful for that. Those of us old enough to remember the bad ol' days, where bringing attention to yourself made you a pariah, were well accomplished at blending in with the humans and not arousing suspicion. Sure, there were a few little clues that we were not like them, but for the most part, we looked like any other humans. Even demons and angels blended in well. They shifted in and out of forms when needed.

Do you know how to tell when there is an ageless immortal in the room? It's not the expensive clothing they're wearing—that can be imitated by mortals. It's the jewelry they wear. Those of us who are old tend to collect pieces throughout the years and wear them. Pieces that belonged in museums. Of course, mortals would think they were clever replicas if they had even noticed them to begin with. That little distinction was not enough to cause humans to think we were unlike them.

It was the young ones we worried about. The ones who tended to be reckless and impulsive, bringing attention to themselves by acting out their God fantasies. They were the ones most at risk and who needed to be kept in line. That's why, when a new vampire is made, their sire is around them for a few years, showing them the ropes, even if they don't plan on making them a companion. We weren't completely dog-eat-dog. We did have some sense of moral responsibility. Mainly our code was limited to the whole life in the shadows thing.

Granted, we didn't really live in the shadows, but we were the ultimate secret society. Only a select few even knew of our existence. We immortals, all of us, not just the vampires, liked to keep our existence secretive. We didn't want mortals to spoil our fun and games.

I was just getting comfortable in the chair, reading the book's climax, when I felt a presence in the room. I looked up from my book to see Nick sitting in the chair across from me. He had a glow about him, a glow I'd seen a hundred times before. The glow he got when someone signed their soul away.

Nick had once told me that collectors were motivated to collect souls not only because it was their job, but also because they got a real energy boost from it. It was like a feeding for them. He explained it was similar to the glow and feeling of complete satisfaction I got when I fed on sex and lust rather than blood.

"You know when you sit utterly still like that, it's unnerving. It's like you're a statue or something," he said.

"It takes years of practice to be able to sit like this," I replied. It was true. After being dead for a while, you find you don't really have to do things like move. You never get uncomfortable from staying in one position for too long.

"Centuries, I suppose," he said, taking two tickets out of his jacket's inner pocket. He looked around the living room. "You know there are really only two things you need in here, a refrigerator and a television."

"When I do eat regular food, I eat out. And you know I haven't owned a television since I Dream of Jeannie went off the air." I loved that show with all its kitschy humor. They just didn't make sitcoms like that anymore.

Nick snorted at that. He and I had this discussion a lot, and he knew he would gain no ground. It was always fun to get two very stubborn immortal beings together.

"I've got two tickets here for a movie premiere tonight." Nick fanned himself with them.

"So," I replied indignantly. "I've been to plenty of premieres. None of them have been as much fun as the one for A Streetcar Named Desire."

"You only say that because Marlon Brando was the last celebrity crush you had and you fucked him afterward."

I smiled at the mention of that tryst. "What can I say, Marlon was a good shag. We lasted the whole weekend actually."

"Ah yes." He smiled fondly. "I got an excellent soul out of that deal."

I shagged Brando, and Nick got his soul. Oh, don't feel too bad for the bloke, he did go on to be one of the biggest movie stars of all time and live a long life.

"Come on, Kate. You've been in a rut. Maybe this is just what the doctor ordered." Nick put on his best charming smile. "Besides, there will be plenty of food there."

I frowned and put down my book. "I'm full."

"Oh right, you probably drained that guy you left the party with. But I bet you haven't fed the succubus part of you yet." He no doubt noticed the lack of a glow in my skin.

"I can go years without feeding that."

"But then you need blood more often," he reasoned.

I nodded. He was right, damn him.

It wouldn't kill me to get out and go to the premiere. I just didn't do the whole Hollywood scene anymore. It was hard to keep a low profile in this digital age if you insisted on being at every hot spot or celebrity haunt. The paparazzi were bolder these days, and with everything being recorded for posterity, people would notice the lack of aging.

"All right. I'll go." Nick was one of two people who could get me to go to these sorts of things. I considered Nick one of my only two very close friends. The other one was a very old friend, and was due for a visit very soon.

Nick got up from the couch. "Great. I'll pick you up at five thirty. Movie starts at seven."

"Who's the soul?" I asked.

"Does it really matter? Some bit actress. Let's just say she'll soon be a star." Nick liked working the Hollywood beat. Besides the perks, like movie premiere invitations and award shows, there were lots of easy souls, ripe for collection. Plenty of people would sell their souls for money, power, and fame; Nick was just there to collect. All they had to do was say the magic words, "I'd sell my soul . . . ." or some variation thereof, and poof. There was Nick, contract in hand, ready to have them sign away. And no, it wasn't signed in their blood. It was done with a ballpoint pen, preferably black ink.

I wasn't really in the mood to read anymore. Nick had ruined it with his movie talk. Instead, I decided to go shopping and get a little pampering done. I wanted to look my best if I was going to a big movie premiere tonight. Although, for a vampire who was a succubus, it wasn't really hard for me to look appealing. All I needed to do was smile.

Now that its out, I have to ask you to purchase your copy over at Noble Romance
But stayed tuned, The Witching Hour will be out this November. And don't forget to head over to my website for the virtual release party!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Biting your tongue

I've never had a problem understanding the difference between fiction and reality. If I read something in a work of fiction that made me curious, I looked it up to learn about the reality of the subject. Frequently that reality was a long way from the fiction, but then, fiction isn't real, so that was never a surprise for me. The first time I saw Star Wars I knew Chewbacca was a dude in a furry suit (I was four), but that did nothing to dispel my enjoyment of the story. I thought it was awesome that somebody went to the trouble of making all that up and creating this non-existent world out of dreams and ideas.

The fictional stories that I write, no matter what their length might be, are just that - fiction. Not biography, not memoir, not magical or demon-hunting how-to works. Fiction. I use metaphor (oh gods how I love metaphor) and symbolism and myth and poetic license and I make stuff up. Sure, I do plenty of research, look up facts and learn lots of different things. But then I twist what I've learned and reshape it to fit the fictional narrative I am creating.  I can do that, because fiction isn't real.

But frankly, I don't know what to when faced with remarks from people who are so literal they don't recognize metaphor and other storytelling tricks. It leaves me with such a mix of facepalm, headdesk, and WTF?!, I just can't even form a coherent response. So I don't respond - which I believe is the correct thing to do as long as the only response I can come up with is, "are you stupid or just dense?" Because that's not nice and it's not going to do anything but start an argument. In addition to wondering what, if any, would be an appropriate response, I also wonder why some who present themselves as readers and writers don't seem to have a good grasp of the nature of fiction. Is it the popularity of memoirs and reality television? Is it another example that the American War On Education is being won? I had great high school English teachers and remember learning about storytelling devices like metaphor and poetic license. Is that stuff not taught anymore? And if so, what has taken it's place? A few years ago a kid I knew had to watch Lord of the Rings in their English class and take a test on it. Just to be clear: an English teacher had their class watch a movie, and then gave them a test on it, rather than read the book that was the movie's source material.

I've never given much thought to the posts of agents and editors who talk about how demoralizing it can be to read slush. Now I wonder if some of that slush they're drowning in was written by people who never met a metaphor they understood. I don't mean to put anybody down, but creative writing isn't for everybody. I just know I never want to be the one that has to explain that to someone who dreams of being a writer, but just doesn't have what it takes.

I think the main point I was trying to make here is, sometimes it's best to not say anything at all. Even if you have to bite your tongue so hard you have to practically bite it in half.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Lesson #1: Fiction Is Not Real Life

I've been running a series of posts on my blog over the last few weeks dealing with the lessons I've learned about writing over a lifetime of practice. These posts have been popular, and seem to be relevant to this blog about writing, so I am going to adapt them to share with you.

I'm going to start at the beginning.

I wrote a lot of stories when I was a child. In fact, I was writing stories all the time. As soon as I learned to read, and write, this is pretty much what I spent most of my free time doing. I created characters. I drew pictures of them, I made up family histories, personality traits, the whole deal.

I was about ten when I decided I wanted to be a published writer. Not long after that, I decided to write my first full length novel. It was written in longhand, in pencil, in the back of school exercise books. The concept of ‘redrafting’ was alien to me then, so I just wrote it as it occurred to me and never changed a word.

It was about a girl who accidently encountered a witch’s spell that turned her invisible. With the help of her older sister, she tried to find the spell that would make her visible again, while the two of them worked at disguising her invisibility with make-up, wig, and so on so that she could live her life without anyone noticing she was invisible. I gave this whole deal a lot of thought. My character rinsed her mouth out with red food colouring and put whitener on her teeth so that her mouth appeared visible.

I also remember – very clearly – at that age, whenever I read a book, I would imagine the characters as real people. And it used to bug me that nobody ever brushed their teeth or went to the bathroom or did any of the ordinary things that real people do. So in my first novel, my main character (I seem to remember her name was Joanne) got up every morning, got dressed, had breakfast, went to school and so on.

I was 11 years old, and knew nothing about writing. But in writing this first novel, "The Invisible Girl" I learned Lesson Number One. Characters in novels don't do all the ordinary things that real people do because they are boring to read about. A story should only include scenes that move the plot along in some way, or reveal character.

That novel is still chained up in the attic somewhere, never again to see the light of day. It remains a clunking, lumbering horror. But what I learned from the experience of writing will always be worth far more than the words on the page will be.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sometimes you just need a hobby

I have just completed edits for The Witching Hour and I find that my current WIPs are stalled. My imaginary friends have essentially turned their backs and decided they don't want to talk to me. Naturally, I am alarmed by this. I'm not use to silence when I sit down at my computer, I'm used to the chattering that is my muse telling me my story.

So a friend of mine suggested that perhaps my characters are telling me I need a break--to which I respond in my head with, "If I'm not writing what am I going to do?"

This went on for a couple days and then I remembered a hobby I used to do before I decided to neglect it. Acting.

Low and behold my local theater was having auditions. I go, I do okay (won't know til I get the call) but I get home and the creative juices were flowing.

Moral of the story--maybe a life away from a computer screen is healthy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

POV Issues

During the editing process for Bring On The Night I had to clean up a lot of point of view problems. Basically I was head-hopping like a meth-addled bunny rabbit. At least, that's what I felt like during edits. It led to a lot of thoughts of "why did they even offer a contract for this story, it's so terrible" and "OMG I have no idea what I'm doing!" As I worked through the edits I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong - I don't mean the end result of head-hopping, I mean what mistakes in my writing process was leading to that - and what could I do to change.

My biggest problem was a general ignorance of point of view. Beyond the basic definitions of first, second, and third, I had no idea what POV was really all about. There's a lot more going on than just your choice of pronouns. I learned from the edits but I also did some internet searching. One of the most useful links I came across was a series of posts on deep POV by Jordan McCollum. You can read the series on her blog or download the free PDF. The most important takeaway from this or any other article on deep POV is this: you have to restrict yourself to a single character in each scene. And you have to realize that character's not walking around with a mirror in front of them all day.

Think of it this way: instead of method acting, you must become a method writer, and put yourself inside a character's head in order to write deep point of view. In Bring On The Night the main character is Jessie, a vampire. This week I wrote a fifteen hundred word short about one of her earliest days as a vampire and how she got the name Jessamine. It's one scene basically, in third person all from her point of view. In writing it I put myself in her head, discovering her thoughts and feelings. What she was experiencing via her senses - her hunger for and reaction to blood was especially important, being a new vampire.

What I can't do is write as if there's a mirror in front of her all the time. She doesn't know what she looks like during all this. It's also very important to stay away from other character's thoughts and perceptions. Actions and dialogue, of course, but what they're thinking and feeling? No. Save that for a scene change, then you can switch your point of view to another character.

So have I been successful in improving my deep POV writing? Well, I think so, but I won't know for sure until I submit another story in third person deep POV. My release slated for next year, Mojo Queen, is in first person. I don't want to write everything in first person, though, and I hated that I had such a problem with head-hopping. I'll keep practicing and hopefully the next time I submit a story in third person there won't be any editing comments about head-hopping. That meth-addled bunny will have been to rehab and had a full recovery.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet...

...that is the question. Or, to put it another way, do social networking sites help the e-author with sales?

I have a MySpace page. I don't do much with it, as since they fiddled with the layout I can't work out how to make anything work on it. My LinkedIn page is similarly neglected. I do spend a lot of time on Facebook - at least I know how to make that work. But I've so far resisted Twitter.

It baffles me that in our world of mobile communication, instant messaging and social networking sites, things that were once considered private are blatantly broadcast to the world. On my daily commute to and from work I listen to people having very private conversations on their mobile phones - conversations that twenty years ago they would never dream of having in someone else's earshot. People use Facebook to put up embarrassing pictures of themselves - or other people - after too much to drink on a night out, and don't seem to be too concerned that the whole world can see them. Is this really the impression you want to make on a potential employer - or editor? Every once in a while one hears stories of someone being fired because they bad-mouthed their boss on Facebook whilst forgetting that they've added said boss to their friends list.

And then there's Twitter. The combination of Twitter and mobile phones with instant internet access (and I don't have one of those, either) seems to result in people posting inane statuses every five minutes. Do I really want a minute-by-minute account of your trip across the road to the shop to buy milk? If you're Jon Bon Jovi and you're going to the shop across the street from me, maybe. Otherwise, probably not.

And this, in a nutshell, is why I've resisted Twitter so far. But I keep being told that as an e-author, it's an essential marketing tool.

There's no doubt that for the e-author, the internet is the way to promote one's e-book. With a print book, you can do signing session. With an e-book, all of your readers are online, so the best way of reaching them is through the internet. I have, I admit, been using Facebook differently since the publication of SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Once upon a time it was just a means of sharing my holiday photos with my family and friends in Canada, and playing Scrabble with people far away from me. Now I find I use it to plug guest blog posts and news about my e-book, and most of my status updates have to do with writing.

At the moment, though, I am one more writer nobody's ever heard of, and I've become something of a publicity tart - seeking it anywhere and everywhere. But I know there's at least one copy of my e-book I've sold because of someone I've connected with on Facebook, and that alone makes my presence there worthwhile.

So I shall probably crack eventually and sign up for Twitter, even if it's just to tweet about my e-book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Loup Garou in Children's Literature

Lycanthropy legends go all the back to antiquity. Every culture has a story, from King Lycan of Greece to the wild were-cats of Japan, people have been using lycanthropes to explain away some of the more monsterous aspects of human behavior.

So imagine my cool meter going off when the history channel pointed out the Little Red Riding Hood is a werewolf cautionary tale. Honestly, I had to think about it (I even pulled out the book). Let's analyze shall we?

First Red (Little Red Riding Hood) is sent to her grandmother's house and decides to take a short cut through the woods (a big no, no in medieval times--never go through the woods alone).

Then the wolf finds her and wants to eat her, but not in public (not wanting to reveal his bestial nature), so he approaches her and she naively tells the wolf where she is going.(Never talk to strangers kids.)

The wolf suggests Red goes and pick some flowers for Grandma (What grandma doesn't want flowers from her grandkid) and she does. In the meantime, the wolf goes to grandma's house and swallows granny whole (Grandma: the other red meat).

Red gets to grandma's house. She notices Grandma's strange appearance, comments on it, but doesn't run (Rule #1 for avoiding old school horror beasts: CARDIO). Instead, she's swallowed whole.

Queue the hunter (Can you say Van Helsing types or even Buffy type). He cuts into the wolf, kills it and rescues Grandma and Red. They all live happily ever after. Yay!

So where's the werewolf part? Its in the fact that the cross-dressing wolf can talk and be understood by humans.

The story also conveys medieval ideology. During the dark ages, the woods represented danger and a place full of devils. So the lesson was stay out of the woods and in the safety of the village kids, or a werewolf might eat you. Especially in a time when people genuinely believed that werewolves were real and would tear you from limb to limb.

Anyway, thanks for staying tuned for this interesting analysis of Little Red Riding Hood. Now back to your regularly scheduled internet.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Some thoughts on digital publishing

The decision to start my writing career in digital first/only publishing was an easy one for me. I had written a novella, I went searching online for publishers that accepted works of that length, and found one I liked. The only full length novel I'd written at that time was a big rambling mess, so it got put away. I still haven't tried to find an agent and with publishing being in such a state of flux, I don't know that I'll worry too much about getting a traditional deal with a big house anytime soon. There is a great deal of freedom in digital publishing. Freedom for publishers to take a chance on new authors, freedom for authors to stretch the boundaries of genre and convention. Freedom to learn and grow as a writer in a supportive environment, while still making a little money. (Very little, but that's okay.) It's a good fit for me right now and I'm enjoying it.

It's not perfect, though. Having to explain what an ebook is to people who still live in the twentieth century is always, um, interesting. I can't wait to get a Kindle. Seeing me read on an actual ereader may really blow some minds. It may be the thing that converts some people, too. It's both entertaining and annoying to hear people talk about physical books like they're some kind of fetish object, saying they like the feel of a book in their hands, the smell of the pages, reading in the bath. I always want to say, you and that hardback need to get a room. As much as I love to read, I've never been too particular about whether I was reading a hardback, mass market paperback, trade paperback, new or used. What mattered to me was the story, the world I was entering when I began reading. That part of the reading experience is exactly the same for me with digital books. Right now I read on my laptop, and I have no trouble becoming engrossed in a story that I'm reading on a screen. I realize it's not the same for everyone, though it's very hard for me to understand. Especially as a writer - does all this work I've done only mean something if it's on paper? Is the paper, the physical object, more important than the story being told?

There's a lot for a writer to think about when they're considering submitting to a digital publisher. You may or may not ever see your book on a shelf. Your family and friends may or may not be willing to support you by purchasing something they can't hold in their hands. You may or may not ever hold a book signing. But there is a readership for digital books, and it's growing every single day. The business model of digital first, then print on demand for full length novels, is most likely the wave of the future. Being an early adaptor can have it's advantages, and it's exciting too. I'm happy to be starting my career this way and who knows, maybe I'll bring a few converts into the twenty-first century with me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Writing Nasty Stories

My grandmother was always somewhat disapproving of my writing. She didn't like the fact that I appeared to have a preoccupation with death, despair and depression. "Why don't you write nice stories, with a happy ending?" she used to ask me.

I think the answer, for me, is that writing has always been a form of exorcism. Starting with the angsty poems I used to write as a stroppy teenager (you know the type - "it's not fair"; "everybody hates me"; "I wish I was dead" and all that malarky), I have used my writing to deal with negative emotions. My emotional baggage comes out an awful lot in my writing - themes of depression, isolation, betrayal. Consequently, I don't write happy stories because happy emotions I want to hold onto, and keep inside me. It's the ones that make me feel sad inside I'm trying to escape, so I write them onto the page in an attempt to exorcise them.

Some people like reading romances because they like the escapism. They want to forget about their problems and be transported to a world where everything's going to be OK in the end, and everyone will live happily ever after. Reality is uncertain; reality is sometimes unpleasant, and people don't always live happily ever after.

I think for those of us who like horror and things that go bump in the night, the attraction comes from an opposite pole. When we read horror we escape from our uncertain life into a world where everything is much more scary. In real life a wrong decision might mean a bad relationship or a job we hate, or financial loss. In a horror novel, a bad decision could mean a horrible death. Or worse.

So, in a nutshell, this is why I like writing - and reading - nasty stories. When I come back to the real world, where vampires and werewolves don't really exist, I'm not going to be devoured by a demon and the world isn't really going to end, and the worst thing I'll have to face today is a 6am start and another day doing the Evil Day Job, somehow life doesn't seem so bad after all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dark Heroines: love 'em, like 'em, hate 'em

As an urban fantasy writer, I prefer to tackle the dark side of the world, exposing the gritter elements of the world, and the monsters that lay inside humans rather than their traditional "monsters".

In my worlds, my heroines aren't rosy. Their not the glass-fulls types. Why you may ask? Because bad shit happens and sometimes you walk away with scars (both physically and mentally).

So why is it that we have double standards for heroines vs. heroes?

I've been told that heroines that are too dark are grating on the nerves. Why is that? When a hero has a number of bad life experiences, we expect them to be dark and gritty. We like that in them.

So why if a heroine goes through those very same experiences is she expected to not be just as dark?

I pose these questions not for the sake of starting any fires, but to give everyone something to think about. Maybe none of these things apply to you, maybe you like your heroine like your chocolate...dark and rich.

Love 'em, like 'em, hate 'em: Dark heroines--at least in my fiction--are here to stay.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The joy of writing

For weeks now I've been struggling with a work in progress that's been decidedly uncooperative. It's the sequel to my second contracted work, titled Mojo Queen, that will be released next year. It's a book I want to write, that I have a lot of good ideas for, but for whatever reason it's not coming together right now. There's probably a lot of reasons for that but I think these are the two biggest: over-thinking the story, and putting pressure on myself because it's something I'm writing with the intention of submitting. I've got a little over ten thousand words on it, and after the first chapter every word felt like pulling teeth.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a WIP is close the file and stay away from it for a while. I decided to do that, but I didn't want to stop writing. It's been a long time since I wrote something purely for fun, with no thought toward submission and possible publication. I tumbled on an idea and ran with it, having fun telling a story and not worrying about length or rules or anything. I started over the weekend and by Thursday afternoon had ten thousand words, the same amount it took me weeks to reach on the WIP.

 I don't know how long this story will be, though I am sure it won't be a full length novel. I have no idea what I'll do with it when it's finished. I just know that right now I'm rediscovering the sheer joy of storytelling, and I'm loving every page of it. Stress and pressure can rob you of the fun of writing. It's important to let go of that and write something that reminds you of why you're a writer in the first place.