Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maybe I Did Make a Grave Mistake? Immortal and Vampires

Hi, Jennifer Graves here, photographer and vampire hunter. Since my chronicler Sue London loved the book Immortal so much I thought I'd check it out. Having been in the supernatural hunting business for almost twenty years I was fascinated by Adam's description of vampires. Honestly, it leaves me feeling a bit guilty. One of the first things he said about vampires was "the percentage of vampires that are also evil killers is about the same as the percentage of normal people who area also evil killers." The first vampire I ever met was one of those evil killers and I haven't really revised my opinion. I guess it would be like an alien landing on Earth and the first person they meet is a psychopath. They would report back that Earth was nice but we need to exterminate all those humans. But the original incident where I met the vampire (you might remember this) has a different context based on one of Adam's recollections:
I remember a long conversation I had once with a vampire named Bordick, some time in the late seventeenth century. He was one of the oldest I’d ever met, meaning we had a good deal in common with one another, because how often does one get to compare two-hundred-year-old war stories with someone else? We got onto the subject of the somewhat unfair public perception of vampires—a perception that was actually worse in the seventeenth century than now. It was Bordick’s theory that people, in overreacting to vampires, tend to create their own monsters. He meant this rather literally.
As he told it, some time around his first century the villagers of a small Latvian hamlet figured out what he was and decided to do something about it. So one afternoon they sealed up the crypt where he was spending his daylight hours. Without elaborating on why they did this—he wasn’t bothering anybody and had restricted his nightly drinking mainly to livestock—he pointed out that this is just about the stupidest thing you can possibly do to a vampire, because they don’t starve to death like people. They just get hungrier.
Hang out with a vampire who drinks a small allotment of blood two or three times a week and you’ll swear there’s hardly any difference between him and your average human. But one who hasn’t drunk in two or three weeks isn’t the best company around. The hungry ones tend to fixate on your neck a lot, which can be very uncomfortable, and it becomes obvious somewhat quickly that they aren’t listening to what you’re saying because they’re too preoccupied listening to your heart pumping. It’s like conversing with somebody who’s wearing a Walkman, only much more disturbing.
According to Bordick, anything longer than thirty days is utter agony. Two months and this constant pain spawns dementia. Longer than that and you’ve got a vampire who is, mentally, entirely too far gone to listen to any sort of reason whatsoever. So after a full calendar year sealed up in that crypt, Bordick was utterly out of his mind.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

D is for Darn This is Hard

This A to Z writing challenge is actually a great illustration of how hard it is to fit writing into my life. But all of the stories tell us that writers have ALWAYS had these problems, right? Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Snooki - they all had busy schedules (work, being a mom, being crazy) and they had to tuck writing time in around the edges.

Give me your zaniest "...and I was writing..." story in the comments! For me it would have to be while sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting on news of a loved one. At times like that a writing project is both the weight of responsibility AND the solace of escapism into the land of words. I have also written in the car, on the beach, and on a sailboat between snorkles. (Vacationing with me is maybe a bit of a drag. Hmmm...) So where have you been caught writing?

C is for Catching Up

Ok, so... maybe committing to the A to Z challenge on three blogs was a little crazy. I do find it interesting that my lowest priority seems to be on the one that should be my HIGHEST priority. What does that say about my approach to writing. Also, this blog has the highest hit to comment ratio and for that I would like to say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH, WONDERFUL PEOPLE OF THE BLOGSPHERE!!!" It's very nice to get responses on my creative writing and contemplations about writing.

Thanks for coming by and hope everyone is having a great A to Z Challenge!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

B is for Banana Splits

I'm using the April A to Z Blog Challenge as an opportunity to come up with prompts for flash fiction.

Growing up the best thing that Cassidy shared with her father was banana splits. At least once a month, even the cold months, they would find their way to the local Dip n' Do to share a banana split and talk. Cassidy's conversational skills had advanced from purple ponies to rock bands to philosophy. Her father always peppered the conversation with anecdotes about his students but seemed happy enough to indulge his chatty, excitable daughter. She found that sitting here now, looking across at the empty booth seat, was harder than the funeral.

"Why didn't I let you talk, Papa?" she whispered. There was so much she didn't know, so much she wanted to ask now. She looked down at the ice cream, the little boat set on the table the way it had always been, the chocolate on her side and the vanilla on his, strawberry between the two. She had only managed one bite and the flavors were melting together into a cold creamy soup. Looking at it she realized she didn't know if he had even liked vanilla.

The April A to Z Blog Challenge

Well, I jumped into the April A to Z blog challenge yesterday without giving a great deal of thought about what approach I would like to use. This is my notification that I'm changing my approach from "about writing" to doing flash fiction. It should be easier on all of us.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lights! Camera! Action!

While reading KarenG's post "A is for Action in a work of fiction" is struck me that the old Hollywood phrase "Lights! Camera! Action!" is very good shorthand to remember key elements of compelling fiction.

Lights! We need to SEE what is happening. Don't explain it to us, SHOW us.
Camera! The story needs to be told from the right perspective. Pick the right things to show from the right angle.
Action! It's all about what happens.

Someone else has probably already made this observation. Feel free to tell me in the comments which book, blogger, cousin has already pointed this out.

A is for Alternate Realities

My development as a writer was definitely informed by my environment. In particular, the hobbies and interests of my family since as the youngest I was a sponge observing some very headstrong, peculiar, and intriguing people (imagine You Can't Take it With You but in a 70s suburban setting). We are all readers and entertainment hogs for television, movies, and...anything else you can think of that is at least mildly entertaining. Everything from crossword puzzles to Walt Disney World.

As such, my interest in speculative fiction has very deep roots. Dad loves science fiction. Mom loves the fae. And my brother has been a real Bigfoot hunter. Our dinnertime conversation would range into topics such as ghosts, reincarnation, and debates about what the future might hold. So no one was particularly surprised when I started writing science fiction in my teens. While other girls were most likely dreaming about the perfect prom or the perfect wedding, I was contemplating the distant future, other worlds, and the implications of human behavior carried out to its logical extreme.

Granted, those early novels were barely disguised Star Trek and Dune fan fiction, but they set the stage for the type of writing that I would be interested in pursuing for years. And all those dinner conversations set me up with creative alternate realities to pepper my fiction.

Blog post for the April A to Z blogging challenge.

My New Life as a Blogger and Book Reviewer

Growing up my intention was to be a novelist, screenwriter, and veterinarian. Yes, one of those things is not like the other, but those were my goals. Reality intruded, mostly in the form of parents, but also in the discovery that sick animals are icky (and I'm not all that good at hard science). As for the first two items, writing was given up for a new dream in advertising copywriting and graphic design because business was a "safer" major. Parental pressures continued and advertising was given up for accounting. This is the point in the board game where you've gone back so many spaces you know that you have no hope of winning without a magnificent stroke of luck.

In many ways my magnificent stroke of luck has been the advent of the world wide web. Without it I would still be writing all this stuff, but in notebooks that were tucked into my purse and under the bed. Being able to share my thoughts and creativity online has spurred my own productivity, and being able to learn from and "hang out with" all my online writing friends has been invaluable.

But a funny things happened on the way to the market.

For the longest time I've been receiving free books. Even before setting up this website for my own writing or talking much online about being a writer or what I was reading, somehow my online friends identified me as an avid, enthusiastic reader with whom they wanted to share their work. I was honored but also confused. I wasn't a reviewer and wasn't precisely sure what I should do with these books other than read and enjoy them. Slowly but surely I began to work reviews into my posts on my blog Thoughts That Get Stuck in My Head. And I began to meet more and more writers online.

It struck me that it would be cool to have a forum where we could read interviews with unpublished authors, both to support and validate their dreams and to connect with each other. Then some of my contacts got their first publishing contracts. Then I started making contact with "bigger" names in the industry. Out of all this grew the website Writing Insight where you can discover writers at all stages in their careers.

Then today I rebooted an old idea for an entertaining blog about occult topics called The Arcane Hour, this time being joined by a great list of Contributors. I took the day off from work so that I can finish two articles and an interview with the science fiction living legend Frederick Pohl. It was at this point that I thought, holy mackerels, things sure have changed since I set up Thoughts That Get Stuck in My Head back in 2003 with the slogan "My Virtual Frontier Cabin."

So I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Although not having arrived yet at the square on the board labeled "novelist and screenwriter," being a blogger and book reviewer is a heck of a lot closer than accountant. And it's because of your interest, sharing, and caring that I'm here in the first place.