vampires are immortal, see?

I read a post on Book Chick City, responding to Stephen King’s thoughts on vampires: that they should be evil, soulless killers, not the soft, non-killing types we’ve got parading around book shelves these days, batting their long eyelashes at the lady folk instead of sucking their blood. King is contributing to a new comic series, American Vampire, in which there will be lots of blood and not much eyelash-batting. It actually sounds pretty awesome.

Still, while the overly romanticized vamps are a bit toothless for my taste, I agree with Miss Book Chick; a little variety in the undead keeps things interesting, yes? It just shows the longevity of this creature in the human imagination that it can be reinterpreted in so many ways. In 20 years some book or movie will come around and we’ll be gaga for vampires all over again. But I bet those vampires will look different–not the kind that we’re accustomed to from King or Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer. It will be a new twist on an old story; the fact that the vampire legend can have so many twists is what makes it fascinating to me. That’s immortality, baby!

And since we’re on the subject, here’s a hilarious comic strip version of Dracula, which made me laugh out loud (warning: some four-letter words are used):

So, what’s your favorite type of vampire? Sensitive and sexy? Deadly and dangerous? I vote for a mix of both – a vampire bad boy, still potentially deadly and filled with centuries of dark secrets. Still scary, even if there is a little romance thrown in, too. What about you?

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 2:38 am  Comments (2)  
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movies teach writing

I’ve been thinking about Anna Staniszewski‘s post about learning writing tips from watching a (bad) romantic comedy. Noting how a movie is paced, how it reveals information can offer great writing insight. And watching a bad one can help, too. What could be more fun that to pull apart a bad movie? In doing so, you may expose some of your own pet peeves in storytelling.

Last week, I had the urge to watch cheesey horror films. We watched The Grudge, which I hate to bash because of my loyalty to Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame, but (no offense to Ms. Gellar) this movie did not work for me. Yes, it’s cheesey, what did I expect? But it did make me think about what helps build suspense in a scary story. (Warning: SPOILERS ahead!!)

1. Horror stories need to create rules, and follow them. What’s the specific danger facing your victims? As Tom said “What’s scarier than Nothing? Anything.” I’m sure there are examples to the contrary, but in this case he has a point – if we know the doom facing our characters, it can be much scarier. In the movie The Ring (another remake of a Japanese film, but this one I enjoyed) we know that the targeted characters will die suddenly, faces distorted in terror (though we don’t see how until the end of the film). In The Grudge they die when a weird curse/ghost creature makes a weird noise at them. Sometimes it looks like murder, others a suicide. It’s a bit vague.

2. What’s the result of the danger facing your characters? It should be consistent for all of the victims in question. In The Grudge, this was a gray area. After being attacked, one victim vanished. Another one walked around like a ghost. Others just appeared, well, dead.

3. If you’re going to include back story, include some surprises. We were told early on that the curse started because a man killed his family. Later we learned that…yes, indeed, that is what had happened. What’s the point of all that build up to show us what we’ve already been told?

4. If the hero escapes, show us why she escaped. Make it believable. Make it clever. If your character escapes from a burning building, hearing a detective say “We don’t know how she escaped” is not very satisfying.

In his book HOOKED, Les Edgerton suggests watching movies – especially the opening scenes – to see how the movie captures your attention (or fails to do so). What have you learned from movies, both good and bad?

Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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werewolves do have perfect hair

There is one monster I neglected to mention on my previous post.

This guy is crazy! He will eat all of your cookies if you’re not careful. I hope that ya’ll are having a fun, scary (if that’s you’re thing) and safe Halloween!

In honor of the holiday, let’s howl along with Warren Zevon, shall we?

I’m pretty sure the drummer is a werewolf, and that the guitarist also plays sax for Dr. Teeth.

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  


Inspired by a post on the Enchanted Inkpot, as well as Halloween, I want to talk about monsters. I LOVE MONSTERS! I love reading about them and writing about them. Erzebet in The Blood Confession is about as monstrous as you can get – so obsessed with her own beauty that she’s willing to kill and bathe in her victim’s blood. In The King’s Rose I had some very different monsters to write about: King Henry, and – perhaps even more so – the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. I knew that whenever the Duchess swept into the room and appraised Catherine with her ice-cold eyes, sparks would fly.

As implied above, it’s the human-variety of monster that intrigues me the most. As for my favorite monster from literature, the first that came to mind was Carmilla, the titular character in J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampiric masterpiece. Carmilla’s monstrous identity is concealed behind a pretty, endearing facade. Carmilla’s affection for the main character makes her true nature that much more unsettling: they’re constantly walking arm and arm or whispering secret confidences. That’s awfully close proximity to a monster. And the blood-drenched nightmares “warning” the narrator still give me chills!

What about the monsters that are ourselves? I read Stephen King’s Carrie as a teenager, and I think it affected me so profoundly because the sad sack, depressed, troubled Carrie White was so sympathetic and repulsive – she was everything I feared I was, worthy of ridicule. What could be worse than our own fears about our true selves? And then, when she cracks and unleashes havoc on her tormenters – sweet revenge! Also, quite terrifying. The movie, in particular, scarred me at the age of thirteen.

Speaking of fears of self, I’m so glad that Ellen Booraem mentioned the Dementors and their connection to depression in the Inkpot post. This is much scarier than the scaly skin or eyeless faces: “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

And speaking of Potter, I love a monster that has a connection to our hero. Voldemort’s mind-connection to Harry manifests itself in terrifying dreams. Also, Harry fears that he inherited some of Voldemort’s powers during their first face-off. Likewise, Wilhelmina Harker carries the mark of Dracula (the bite marks on her neck, the burn of a holy sacrament on her forehead) which is both danger and boon – they use this connection to track Dracula down. But they must be wary of any changes in the brave Wilhelmina; the evil aspect taking over her otherwise pure soul.

This comes up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too: she’s the good guy, slaying vampires. But that makes her sort of magical, not like a normal human – and therefore maybe a bit more like her fanged enemies than she would like to admit. Could she really belong to the night, like the demons she slays?

So not only do I love a good monster – especially one in a human guise, with true evil lying beneath the surface – but I also love a hero with some monstrous aspects, as well. It’s all a metaphor for the human condition: there is the potential for true good or true evil in all of us. Sometimes the scariest thing on earth is the face staring back at you in the mirror. We could all be monsters, if only to ourselves.

good morning my lovelies

I was going to write a blog post filled with my worries about my book, and all the work I have to do, and all the publicity stuff I’ve been neglecting. But…let’s not, shall we? Let’s just not. It’s a Monday morning. Let’s sip our tea and ease into the week.

I have a post on Anna Staniszewski’s awesome blog, hooray! It’s part of her “letter to myself” series, and I share things that I wish I had known as an undergraduate writing major:

And now for a little music: a string quartet plays David Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World.”

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm  Comments (1)  

book talk at Malden Public Library

I gave a book talk at the Malden Public Library this afternoon. It’s been a while since I did a book talk and I felt nervous. I talk for a while and then stare nervously at the audience, hoping they’ll have questions. And they did! Lots of questions! Terrific questions! Everything from what I like to write and read to what inspires me to my writing process. I hope the teenagers enjoyed it as much as I did. They were an impressive bunch. I only regret that I didn’t get a chance to ask them about writing. I sensed that there were a few poets in the crowd.

In other news, I’m still revising. Oh, wait, that’s not news at all! In fact, it’s the opposite of news: I’m still doing what I’ve been doing for weeks, now. But I feel like I need to report to this blog, so here it is: I wrote today. I can’t write anymore, I’m too tired. No, I don’t plan on chasing down any more vampires over the weekend – I plan to be good and stay home and write.

artists at Comic Con

Another note about Comic Con, this time about the actual comics.

I loved our collection of comics as a kid (especially our anthology of the “The Superhero Women” by Stan Lee) but I haven’t read much lately. It was fun to browse the tables and see what a lot of artists are up to these days. I purchased two prints from young women comic artists: Celine Chapus and Annie Szabla. Celine draws a lot of angels, unicorns, and mermaids, so I was instantly intrigued (seriously, it’s like she’s inside of my head). And Annie’s style is really lush and fairy-tale-like. I hope to follow these two artists, with their distinctive styles.

Not to get high-horse-ish or anything, but I was pleased to purchase art from women artists, in – if this weekend was any indication – such a male-dominated field. Also, the portrayals of women have changed since I read comic books. Those Marvel women I admired were beautiful and, yes, dramatically curvaceous – but many of the comic women now are anatomically impossible. To be fair, the men are also impossibly muscled. I’m not knocking the artistic choice, I just find it interesting. From what I saw, the women drawn by women (and some men, too) were within the realm of un-surgically-altered reality; this was nice to see.

Also, in Comic Con news: in case you hadn’t heard, I met James Marsters. And he is super fantastic.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I met Spike

I’m back from New England Comic Con where today I met James Marsters – aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I am not great at meeting famous people (the more I like their work, the more of a bumbling moron I become). I didn’t need an autograph or a photo, I just wanted to give him a book postcard on which I had written a message. Luckily, Mr. Marsters was absolutely gracious and lovely and personable. We talked about books and I told him that he was my favorite on Buffy. I shook his hand and was about to walk away when he called me back to say that the reason why Buffy was such a great show is because of the writers. We talked about how genre fiction is so great because you can “tell the truth” through fantasy. Which is exactly why I love writing fiction. It’s so gratifying to meet someone you admire and find that they are genuine and interesting to talk to. Thank you, James!

It was a fantastically fun weekend overall – my sister joined me on Saturday and we saw Nicolas Brendon (Xander) do the “snoopy dance” (yay). Buffy has inspired me over the years, with it’s humor and darkness and parallels between Buffy‘s magical plight and the human condition. Meeting people I’ve adored on screen was, while potentially horribly embarrassing (since this afternoon I have worried I embarrassed myself without even realizing it), also really inspiring and invigorating. As was the Comic Con in general – so many artists (whom I’ll discuss in  a different post) and people dreaming big dreams and writing and drawing and acting them out. It’s fun to meet people knowing that you already have something in common; I bonded with the volunteers (one said “James Marsters said ‘Good Morning’ to me!”). I’m convinced that Buffy attracts good, creative people. Cheers to you all.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 11:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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It was recently suggested to me that perhaps spending three days in a row writing for hours on end may not be the healthiest approach to the writing life. Alas, what’s a writer with a day job to do?

This might be a worthy experiment: is the end result better if I write for maybe three or four hours instead of six or seven (or more)? Or what if I take longer breaks? This is why cookie-baking is nice, because I can give my brain a break: let’s think about measuring flour and cracking eggs, brain. Isn’t that soothing?

But then…the impatience. The part of me that insists on sipping from the mug of steaming hot cocoa, or taking a bite of the fresh-from-the-oven pizza, then informing Tom “I burnt my tongue.” It’s a million times worse when it comes to writing. The impatience monster gets angry and stamps her flat little foot. “You write too SLOW.” She tells me. “You need to finish this draft FAST. So you can revise it again and make it BETTER. You need to do more, better, faster!” Impatience and Insecurity are playmates. One whispers in the other’s ear.

But Motivation – not Impatience, who can be sloppy in her eagerness – is what will ultimately help me get this draft done. And time – wherever I can find it. And cookies.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Comments (2)  

end of writing weekend

I’m packing it in for the night. I meant to blog more, but I’ve been busy revising and have avoided the internet entirely.

How do I feel about what I’ve managed to accomplish? Anxious, mainly. I did a lot, but there’s so much more left to do. Most of all I feel anxious about going to work tomorrow and being away from my book. It’s like I’m afraid it will morph into something different while I’m away. Or I’ll morph – I’ll start fretting and second-guessing and I’ll think I’ve gone in the wrong direction with this revision. Plus, I’m not sure how this next scene plays out.

Sigh. Okay, I’m done complaining. I did a lot this weekend. And not just note-gathering and outline-writing. Actual writing/revising of my new draft of this book. It’s a good start, at least.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 12:48 am  Leave a Comment