Category Archives: vampires
When my review copy of In The Blood arrived, I was a little overwhelmed by holding it in my hand and seeing it in person, feeling the weight of it, breathing in the new book smell of paper and ink.
Those of you who know me and have followed me for a while know that I was devastated last fall by the loss of my former teacher, Nicki Alexopoulos. I had already intended to mention her in the dedication to one of my novels, but I knew it had to be this one after the events of last year. I hope to present a signed copy to her daughter, and I do hope that she would be proud to see the work I’ve put in to make this book happen.
I started writing the book back in 2012, and in the spring of 2013, I made a first attempt to self publish it. After meeting with an editor at the World Horror Convention, however, I was convinced to take it down and do some major revision. He was right. The book was pretty good, but it wasn’t fully ready to be out there yet. Over the four years since then, I reworked the manuscript and spent time learning about the business side of being an author. I took some online classes, went to some writer’s retreats, and even took a course in forensics so I could bring that knowledge to bear in the novel as well. I also quit my job as a library supervisor and adjunct English professor in order to focus on my writing full time.
Though I could have gone the traditional route with an agent, there are very few who are willing to take a risk on a first time author who approaches them with a series rather than a standalone novel. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever be interested in submitting a manuscript that way, but for this series, starting my own publishing house and doing the work myself was a better choice.
Book Two, Out for Blood, will come out sometime next winter. The book is written and is in the process of being edited. Book Three, Trial by Blood will come out in 2018. I don’t want to make people wait too long for sequels. Those three books finish a story-arch. However, I have ideas and outlines for several more books beyond that, so if this series takes off, then I’ll definitely be working on those stories for a long time to come.
There isn’t room in the book to list everyone who’s helped me along on my journey. I’d like to list a few of them here, though the list is by no means complete.
- My coworkers at Smiley Library – Cindy, Leasa, Carrie, Crystal, and John – who put up with six years of me talking about what I wanted to do and who were supportive throughout the process. They were inspiring, helpful, encouraging, and understanding, and they never made me feel that I was making a mistake when I decided to go pursue my dream. Thank you.
- Crystal appears as a character in my novel, and I mention her in the afterward of the book. She asked to be in the book, and after I made the character and gave her life, it turned out she has some pretty tragic things happen to her. Sorry Crystal! I swear, the characters made me! And I promise, this won’t be the only time she’s mentioned. What happens to her will have a ripple effect in later books.
- The students who became like my children were also a great inspiration and encouragement. John, Stazhia, Cameron, Denise, DaSean, Kelsey, Brenna, Cortney, Thomas, Jordan, Kayla, Jessica, Geofrey, Lindsey, Kelly Jo, Eldar, Megan, Tyler, Bailey, Cecilia, Mariah, Roger, Aubrey, Ginney, Wynter, Dani, Danielle, Shamika, Marco, Vin, Drew, Angelica, Darrell, Jane, Adam, as well as my fabulous student intern assistant Miranda….THANK YOU! I love you all dearly.
- Keith Abernathy taught my forensics course and never failed to come by my desk just to chat and invite me to things. He passed away last month, and I miss him very much. He was so encouraging and helpful and such an inspiration to all his students. I intend to dedicate Book Two to him. I will be forever grateful for the things I learned from him.
- My online friends are completely amazing. Those I met because of True Blood or through writing amazing characters together are truly some of the best people in the world. Thank you to Julie, Jenny, Louise, Emily, Susy, Shanda, Melissa, Mayra, Shawna, Shyanne, Suzanne, Cassy, Sharon, Joie, Jyoti, Michaela, Elizabeth, Sha, Latoya, Catherine, Tammy, Geena, Anitra, Kristie, Frank, Missy, Kim, Cyndi, Dawndela, Holly, Maxine, Misty, Rima, Rachael, Mimi, Sara, Tiffany, Renee, Dawn, Kira, Sarah, CeCe, Jennie, and especially Wendy and Andrea who are gone far too soon and I miss horribly. These are only a few. There are many more on Twitter, but I think they know I adore them. I try to tell them as often as I can.
- My muse and favorite writing partner Bekah who makes me shine and feel inspired all the time, thank you for putting up with me, for supporting me, and for being so completely amazing. You make me look forward to every day.
- My writing friends through conferences, retreats, and FB and Twitter groups, I thank you. You’ve taught me about craft, and you’ve been a constant source of help, inspiration, and encouragement. My writing buddies from Room 217, THANK YOU. I love you guys. You are all completely amazing. And thank you to the Horror Writers Association for being such a great organization. I’ve learned so much from all of you, and I couldn’t have finished this project without the connections I’ve made there.
- My friends Erin and Anthony at Vamped and The Vampirologist, who have known me now for over five years, have been fantastically supportive throughout this journey. Thank you for the laughs, the research material, the help, and the friendship.
- To the friends and family who have known me in the years before the internet and who have backed me up as I tried new things, THANK YOU! Your support means everything.
- And to my parents for whom there are not enough words of thanks. I have been truly lucky in my life to have parents who understood and believed in my dreams. Thank you.
And with that, I’d like to thank you. If you’re reading this, you’re part of my journey too. Even if your name doesn’t appear above, I am no less grateful for you.
If you’re reading it, I’d love to know! Find me on Goodreads!
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The pitch sessions went extremely well. I’ve sent off my manuscript to three different people, and now the waiting begins. Hopefully, I’ll know something in a month or so.
In the meantime, I’m going to be working on Book 2 (still untitled), and trying to get ahead on that while I’ve got my momentum going. I also want to get as much done as possible before the summer is over. Once the fall semester starts, I’ll have to slow down a little on my writing once more in order to keep up with my other obligations.
The next book has already been outlined, and I’ve written up a plan for the chapters. Of course, as I write, the characters may lead me in ways I haven’t anticipated, but that’s what I love. I have some new characters added into the mix that I think people will really enjoy, and I’m doing a great deal of research to prep my mind for what lies ahead.
- Of course, I’ve got a lot of background info for my characters. I never like to be too tied to literal facts when the story can benefit from embellishment, but I do think it’s absolutely essential to read as much as I can about the real lives of the people I’m writing about before I just start making stuff up. Then again, they are vampires, so you can’t expect everything to be factual in every detail. This is fiction, not biography.
- I’m also going to be taking a course in forensics over the fall semester, which I’m extremely excited about. I’ve already bought the book and have taken tons of notes, poring through it in detail. I think it will enhance what I’ve already written and open up new avenues throughout the series.
The entire experience left me feeling even more energized to keep working and improving and moving forward with the next part of the story. I hope that in the next few weeks and months to have some exciting news. Whether or not a publishing deal comes out of the convention, I’m more determined than ever that if those three people aren’t interested, I will find the folks who are. Patience and hard work will eventually pay off.
The completed Kindle version of Ma Chère Antoinne is now online and available for download. Only $4.99, less than the price of a burger and fries and lots more fun.
Vampires, mystery, horror, suspense, romance…it’s all there!
Check the video below for reviews of the sneak peek edition.
Nook and paperback versions are on their way soon, and there will be release celebrations coming up starting the last week of June.
If you’d like to be the first to know about these other editions, special events, giveaways, or release dates for Book 2 in the series, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive updates and newsletters in your inbox.
ONE DAY ONLY!
On Sunday, May 5, the Sneak Peek Edition of my upcoming novel, Ma Chère Antoinne, is free on Amazon Kindle!
If you haven’t read it, there’s no better time to check it out! And if you already have your copy, share it with your friends! It’s free all day!
Click here to download:
Sneak Peek Edition, Ma Chère Antoinne
Private detective Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) was smouldering in every scene and the chemistry between him and reporter Beth Turner (Sophia Myles) was hot enough to set the screen on fire.
I loved the back and forth “will-they-won’t-they” each week, and the tension when Mick’s ex-wife Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) made an appearance kept me on the edge of my seat and desperate for answers. Just when I thought I hated her, I’d see something that made me wonder if she was really so bad as we’d been led to believe. If the show had been continued, I really hoped for more of her story.
But I have to say that my favorite character was none of the three corners of the love triangle but Mick’s wisecracking rich sidekick, Josef Kostan (Jason Dohring). The wicked humor Josef was a delight, and he always seemed to say just what the rest of us in the audience were thinking:
Josef Kostan: So, have you sealed the deal yet?
Mick St. John: It’s not about sex.
Josef Kostan: Everything’s about sex.
Mick St. John: I’m 52 years older than her, I drink blood bought from the morgue, and I tend to bite down when I…
Josef Kostan: Some women like that.
But Josef also showed a secret heart of gold and over the course of the season, it became clear why he and Mick were such close friends. His story was one I really was begging to hear, and it disappointed me that we only got a glimpse into his backstory.
Each episode of Moonlight was smart, sexy, exciting, and full of mystery. Mick’s narration made it feel like an old time detective story, but with a supernatural twist that made it fresh and unpredictable. The writers managed to make a show that was full of surprises, and when I heard that CBS had decided to cancel it before it really had enough time to reach its potential, I was really disappointed. I think they missed out on a great opportunity by not taking a chance on a vampire mystery/romance. The same year, True Blood premiered on HBO, and obviously, audiences were quite willing to watch and keep coming back for more. Moonlight could definitely have given it a run for it’s money if CBS had been willing to take a chance on it.
Episodes of Moonlight are available on DVD or can be downloaded from Amazon, Netflix, or iTunes. If you missed it, you’re in for a real treat. And if you haven’t seen it in a while, it’s definitely worth rewatching.
Vampires have been a part of human mythology since before recorded history. However, they were generally shown as inhuman, ravenous monsters rather than the more mysterious and sexualized creatures of the night as we think of them today. That change is due in large part to a novella entitled The Vampyre written in 1819 by Dr. John Polidori.
Polidori was not originally an author. He was a physician, and a young one at that, earning his degree from the University of Edinburgh at the age of 19. Being an attractive prodigy, he caught the eye of the poet, Lord Byron, who hired him on as his personal physician and took him to Europe.
Byron was by then very famous throughout the continent, and the scandal of his divorce and speculation about his sexuality was rampant. Publisher John Murray offered Polidori 500 pounds to keep a journal of his travels with the poet. This journal became a source of contention between Polidori and Byron, who was on the one hand flattered by the attention and on the other annoyed and angered by the intrusion into his privacy. There has been speculation that Polidori and Byron became romantically entangled. Certainly, Polidori was fascinated with the famous poet, but whether the feeling was mutual is debatable.
During their travels, they spent time in Geneva, Switzerland, and in the summer of 1816 they met the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his soon-to-be-wife, Mary Godwin, and Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont. Shelley and Byron became fast friends. Due to the explosion of Krakatoa, the weather that year was frigid, and they were forced to stay indoors for much of the time. To entertain themselves, the group told ghost stories, and Byron suggested a writing contest to pass the time. Shelley’s story was published posthumously along with a portion of his journal. Mary Godwin began and later published Frankenstein, the first real science fiction story ever written in English. Byron’s own story was abandoned, but Polidori took the basic elements of that fragment and wrote what became one of the very first English vampire stories–The Vampyre.
Byron and Polidori quarrelled, partly because Byron felt Polidori had puffed up airs, delusions about becoming a famous author, and was not content with doing the job which he had been hired to do. He found Polidori’s personality irritating, and Byron’s journal is full of dismissive and acerbic references to Polidori’s shortcomings. Byron also feared that Polidori’s journal would expose too many of his secrets. Thus, Polidori was dismissed from his position. Devastated, he traveled through Italy and then returned to England, where his book was published two years later.
The main character of The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven, is pretty clearly based on Byron himself. Though Polidori had intended the book as a thinly veiled attack on the poet and a warning about his predatory nature, that intent backfired. In fact, the book was initially credited to Byron, a fact which irritated them both but which surely increased the sales of the story tremendously. The name Ruthven came from a character in a novel by Byron’s famously spurned former lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, entitled Glenarvon, and Polidori intended it as a reminder to the readers of the scandal surrounding the poet.
Ruthven, the vampyre, is seductive and deadly. He is strong, masculine, handsome, and sneering at those he feels are beneath him. Readers today will recognize the basis for the English literary vampires which followed, including Dracula. Ruthven is a romantic, alluring, and devastating character who cuts a swath through a room full of women like a hot knife through butter.
On the other hand, the other main character, Aubrey, who finds himself drawn to Ruthven and who observes the terrible effects of being close to him, is meant to be a sympathetic character and most scholars agree that Polidori identified that character as being like himself. There is a clear (at least in my mind as a reader) homosexual subtext to the work, and Aubrey is drawn to Ruthven and seems most angered at the fact that Ruthven chooses young women as his victims rather than noticing him as a potential suitor. Aubrey comes off to me as a sad and bitter man who wishes he were smart enough, handsome enough, strong enough and who fails miserably. In the end, that is the impression which Polidori himself makes as well.
In trying to ruin Byron’s reputation, Polidori only added to his fame. The novella was made into a French play the very next year and later into two operas.
As for Polidori himself, he committed suicide in 1821, leaving behind a string of gambling debts. His sister Charlotte transcribed his diary, omitting anything that might embarrass her family (which likely included anything relating to a possible relationship with Byron), and then she destroyed the original.
Whatever you might feel about the author himself, the book itself is a classic. The character of Ruthven is an archetype and serves as a model for all vampire authors who have followed.
The Vampyre is available as a free e-book through Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6087).
For the last four years, I have been a member of a large True Blood roleplaying group across several online sites–Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. The group I’m a part of has been writing one continuous storyline spanning that entire time. Some people dedicate themselves to creating one specific character, while others play several roles on an as needed basis. All of the people in the group are talented, creative, funny, and fascinating, and in that four years working with them to tell stories, I have learned a lot about writing. It’s a great training ground for writers to develop their own voice and style. It’s also wonderful practice in an environment that makes learning fun for everyone.
Lessons I’ve learned through RP:
- Writing doesn’t have to be solitary. RP is a fantastic chance to collaborate with others, and it has taught me how to write alongside someone else. I would love to have the chance to write a short story or novel as a joint project with another author, because I have learned how to listen, how to share, and how to expand my own ideas by listening to others.
- Accepting constructive criticism is essential and the editing process should be collaborative and non-threatening. RP is all about listening to others and seeing another side to a project you’re working on. If you’re going to work with others on a storyline, you have to be willing to listen to their ideas, suggestions for improvements, and be grateful when they notice spelling errors or plot holes or ways the story should be expanded or cut for clarity. Working with an editor is the same process. The editor should be someone the writer collaborates with, not someone who is seen as a threat. Your ego as a writer has no place in the editorial process. It’s essential to realize that the editor is there to help you improve your story, not take away your voice.
- Planning your storyline is essential to the writing process. When writing long RP storylines, the group I work with always has an outline for large group RPs so everyone knows his/her role in the plot and can keep track of what’s happening with the other characters. We schedule events and plan how long it will take to write each part. This type of organized plotting is essential for writers. Currently, I’m writing a mystery, and in order to complete the novel on time and to make sure that I give the right clues at the right moment in the plot, every chapter has to be carefully planned. I know approximately how many pages each chapter is, when I’m dropping the next cliffhanger/clue, and what each character is doing in every scene.
- The key to having great characters is having a detailed character description before you ever begin writing. In RP, if you’re going to make the role you’re playing believable, you have to know that character inside and out. What makes the person tick? What are their fears, motivations, and goals? What is the person’s backstory that leads them to the place where he/she takes part in the plot? What is going to be the final outcome for the character in the storyline? How does he/she interact with the other characters? All these same questions must be answered when writing any type of fiction. If my characters are going to be believeable, I have to know every detail of their lives. Otherwise, their actions will seem false to readers and will throw off the rest of the story.
- Cliffhangers keep people coming back for more. Our RP group has several “fans” who follow our characters’ storylines. The key to maintaining their interest in what’s happening is having a cliffhanger with nearly everything we write. Whether it’s a short paragraph teasing the next big plot or a long group RP, every story ends with a cliffhanger. The same is true in fiction writing. Cliffhangers keep people coming back for more. They want to know what’s going to happen next. It makes them think about possible scenarios for how things might play out.
- Interacting with the audience/readers is the number one most effective way to keep them coming back for more. Readers of our RP group love getting to interact with us, either in comments on our story posts or inboxes asking about the next storyline. They love getting the chance to talk to us both in and out of character and feeling like they have inside understanding of us as a group. And they like joining in active online formats for talking with both you and other readers. The same is true for fiction writers. If you want to maintain and grow an audience for your writing, get to know our readers. Talk to them. Interact with them. Give them places and ways to share with you and with one another. If they feel a connection with you personally, then they’re not only more likely to keep reading what you write, but they’re also likely to tell others about you and help you find new readers. They will share your links, your photos, your information, and help you increase your visibility. They will talk with one another about you, about your posts, about things that you all have in common. It will also increase your audience’s sense of group identity and the likelihood that you will have a fan base who have a sense of pride in your success.
- Your only limitations are your own imagination. In my RP group, we write across several “verses,” combining characters from True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Walking Dead, Interview with a Vampire, General Hospital, Doctor Who, and many more right alongside original characters who take part in the action as well. If someone can justify the character and make the actions believable within the storyline, they are free to let their imagination soar. The same should be true of fiction writing. The only limitation is yourself. As long as what you write has an internal logic within the universe you’re creating, then there is no limit to what you can create.