Excerpt, Love Lies Bleeding

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I bought wine, vodka, and whiskey. The guy behind the counter asked if he could come to the party. I smiled and wondered how he’d feel about being an hors d’oeuvres.

Two o’clock. I was going to be waiting in agony for the rest of my life for the sun to set. But it wouldn’t be the rest of my life. In nine years I would be his mortal age, if we managed to stay together that long. Then, well . . . then things would really get interesting.

The Gentle Adventures of Justine and Vivian 2: Vivian

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Vivian 2

What is there to say about me? Once I was a mother. I lost my daughter.

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I felt that I was becoming a shadow. I couldn’t bring my daughter back. I couldn’t keep living in our home. One day, I woke up and packed a valise and went to the airport.

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I don’t require much, and when I make a decision, I act. I left England for the United States. I was used to a quiet life in a green countryside. I took a taxi cab from the airport to the train station, and when I walked out onto the street and looked up at the metal and glass buildings and heard the noise of so many people and so many cars, I almost turned around.

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I thought I had made a dreadful mistake, that I should return home, but I kept walking until I found myself in an old part of the city. Though the buildings were young compared to my home, I did sense age, and the passage of many lives, and there was life all around me. Street vendors selling food, clothes, handbags, shoes. I didn’t need shoes. I thought that I might seek lodging in this neighborhood, at least for a little while. Then I heard a woman calling a cat. I looked up, and she was standing on a balcony with a wrought iron railing.

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“There!” she called, and pointed, and I saw a kitten with blue eyes hiding under a food vendor’s cart.

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I have never been a great fan of cats and was surprised when it came to me. The woman ran down, and I saw she was just a little older than my daughter had been. I told her I was new to the city. She said that she had a room to rent.

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This is how I came to live with Justine. She loves books and old-fashioned things. I am an old-fashioned thing. She said that I must have more clothes, so she took me to her dressmaker. I paid. I paid for a new dress for her, too. One thing I did bring plenty of was money. The apartment is tiny, even thought it has two bedrooms. We’ve been talking about moving. I’ve grown to like the little beast, whose name is Pyewackett after a cat in an old movie. We like old movies. We aren’t exactly friends yet. Perhaps we are both trying too hard. I must never tell Justine how much she reminds me of my daughter. Sometimes I hear Justine’s step behind me and think it is . . .

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But it isn’t, and it never will be.

Can a Villain Be a Villain?

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Or, can a monster be a monster?

This is a hard one for me because I write vampires, all of whom would describe themselves as monstrous in many ways, but not monsters.

Of course the sympathetic vampire started with . . . Carmilla! She beat Dracula by 25 years!

What prompted this post wasn’t vampires with whom you can sit down and earnestly talk before they drain you dry. It was goddamned Jeepers Creepers.

I hate this movie so much that I watched it and the sequel last night, and I figured out why Jeepers Creepers works and Jeepers Creepers 2 doesn’t. The sequel brought us too close to the monster.

Okay, let’s define the movie monster we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with the bizarre, horrifying, disgusting, demonic, soul-devouring THING that’s never been a person. This isn’t the type of monster you can even try to reason with because once it notices you, you’re dead.

Monsters got wimpy for a while there; maybe that’s why zombies are so popular. Zombies are way worse than the demon from Jeepers Creepers. They aren’t even interesting.

And that right there is why Jeepers Creepers 2 fails. It brings us too close to the monster. The closer we get to the monster, the less it scares us.

The monstrous vampire in my first book has a backstory that readers learn as the series progresses, but essentially, this vampire was a human monster and was chosen to become a vampire for that reason. But you’re not going to get chummy with it. You’re not going to spend much time with it, for the same reason we shouldn’t have spent so much time with the monster in Jeepers Creepers 2: Both are simply evil things.

Times are bad and we’re trying to make chummy with century-old villains, like the villains in fairy tales. There’s no understanding of why DAMMIT THAT PERSON IS JUST BAD. There are too many excuses.

Vampires can be amplified versions of ourselves, our desires, our evils. Or, they can just be monsters.

If your villain is a vile creature, let it run free. Monsters require no reason nor rhyme. Just don’t allow it to spend to much time onstage, because the more we see of it, the more we question it, and questioning the monster saps its power.

The Gentle Adventures of Justine and Vivian 1: Justine

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I’m twenty-two (my birthday was in January) and have been living in a little apartment since I was eighteen. My apartment is in an old-fashioned brick building with cast-iron door handles and balcony railings. There’s no elevator, but I don’t mind climbing the stairs.

Someone in the building has a lady cat that goes outside, and she had kittens. I adopted a boy kitten and named him Pyewackett.

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He has enchanting blue eyes. My favorite colors are blue and pink. We had a lovely Valentine’s Day together.

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I work in a library, in the history room. I shelve the very old books. On my way home, I sometimes stop at a shop that sells vintage clothes and little treasures. I bought my doll there, and my chest of drawers, and bedding. I like imagining that I saved someone’s favorite thing from being thrown away, and now it’s one of my favorite things.

I don’t need much, just books and Pyewackett. One warm day I did a terrible thing: I left the balcony door open, and Pyewackett disappeared.

The Gentle Adventures of Justine and Vivian

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I write. I’m an amateur photographer. I collect dolls. Necessarily, the three must come together.

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I desperately wanted this doll (Tonner, Urban Legend Lizette, nude) and when I got a little financial windfall, she was still waiting for me. I renamed her Justine, after characters in my books.

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If you knew the characters in my yet-to-be published series, you’d know that this is pre-vampire Vivian (doll’s original name is Delightful Miette, another sold nude) being a really good girl.

I live with Justine/Lizette for a couple of months before Vivian/Miette joined our little family. It’s eerie how Justine came to be a presence with emotions.

Now, how to write the backstory of Justine and Vivian?

Justine and Vivian are not romantically involved and will never be. Per my books, mortal Vivan lost her teen daughter. Ensuing events gave her a cruel streak. She is not a “good” vampire, but she has a little soft spot in her heart for young women who remind her of her daughter.

In this doll backstory, Vivian left England after her daughter’s death and came to America. Vivian was not yet a vampire, so this is an alternate backstory for an established character. She was seeking lodgings, or maybe she was just walking the streets with her valise. I think that she saw a lost kitten.

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Vivian is not a particular fan of cats, but perhaps she heard a young woman calling frantically for Kitty and returned Kitty to Justine. Justine saw her valise and said that she had a room for rent.

Justine preferred her solitary life but needed additional income. She and Vivian are suspicious of each other. Vivian doesn’t want to get too close because she can’t bear to lose another daughter figure . . . yet she’s fascinated by independent Justine. They have things in common. They both love old-fashioned fashion. They both prefer to be alone, but fate drew them together in a little apartment in an old part of a big city. How will they get along while not falling into a mother/daughter relationship? Vivian must establish a new life for herself and finds herself seeking advice from a woman young enough to be her daughter.

How confusing! Let’s see how they progress over the coming months.

 

So Why Am I Crying?

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I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2011. It’s hard work because every article has to be perfect by the AP Stylebook. It’s frustrating because you can’t please some clients, and because you have to spend years on short, low-paying articles, and it seems that you’re just wasting your time.

I kept working. I kept taking little articles for websites for exterminators, parking lot paving companies, and companies that install walk-in bathtubs. I’m not denigrating that work. The business owners needed well-written content to bring in clients, and the clients needed to learn about the businesses. And I feel good about writing anything that helps seniors or people with disabilities, because I’ve spent so much of my life caring for older relatives with physical problems or Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I applied for hundreds of jobs through websites, the local newspaper, and just walking into businesses. I’m 44. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2004. My ex-husband wouldn’t allow me to work. I know that’s the main reason that I can’t even get my foot in the door for an interview.

I kept freelancing, and over the last six months, I’ve gotten two major clients and one small but regular client. My two major clients are repped by the same editor. After I wrote, oh, 20 articles for him, he offered to double my rate of pay if I would agree to be available for 20-30 articles a month. He asked if he could add me to a team of writers for a particular subjects because he wants his best writers on that team. He sent me eight more articles today.

I can work from home. I can work whenever I want as long as I meet the deadline. There are disadvantages to working at home: you don’t have co-workers, you get used to living in your PJs, you get interrupted by family members. But there are advantages: no commute, no annoying co-workers, no meetings.

Freelance writing is feast or famine. Even with these great clients, I sometimes go weeks without work. If you freelance, you have save your money. Your “boss” tells you that a client has shut down their ad campaign. You get depressed. Then one morning you wake up to a week’s worth of work, and the client has decided to restart their campaign.

I looked at all the orders, and I know that the client likes my work, and I know that they will buy all my work, and I started crying. Not because of the time the work will take (two-four hours per article) but what if I fail this time? What if I do all the work, and the client decides they don’t like something?

What if I screw it up and lose the client?

There’s no job security these days, but I’m in a particularly tenuous position. Many, many days I wish that I could just stand behind a cash register in a department store eight hours a day.

That’s not my job. I applied for this job, got it, and I’m building a career. I just have to keep believing that I can do it.

Ann Wilson, Queen, and Writing

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I have been laid up for three days with the worst chest cold. We had two weeks of spring temperatures, everything started pollinating, and now we’re under a winter storm warning. Last night I was so delirious that I had a dream about being at a music festival in Central Park in the 70s and Queen and Heart were playing. Roger kept trying to hook up with Ann, but she had a baby and blew him off to go back to the hotel after the show. I dream about Queen a lot.

ANYWAY.

I have been struggling with my vampire books and struggling to write a story about a witch without any vampires sticking their noses in, and I got stuck in my all of this has been for nothing, you can’t salvage the vampire manuscripts, you can’t write about anything but vampires, you’re screwed.

I woke up at two in the morning, and I was so weak that I couldn’t sit up or cough. Thank goodness my mother was still up, and that she had the strength to pull me into a sitting position. I spent the next three hours coughing, you know, that burning, croupy cough. In between periods of coughing, I kept thinking, I really want to write. I know how to fix all the things.

I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in 12 hours, but I wanted to write.

Now I’m up, and I’ve figured out my problems. The last third of book one of The Empire State Vamps is weak. I rushed through it. I have to rewrite it.

I have a good beginning for a story about fairies and changelings, set in the present. I think that’s my strongest story in progress. I need to do some plotting and outlining.

I have a good idea for a story about a witch. I have a good beginning. I don’t want to lose my momentum, but I have got to get this vampire book ready. I thought it was ready to query. It’s not. I was right for not just “putting it out there,” as people kept pushing me to do.

I have a lot of work to do and I’m still sick and very tired, and it’s frustrating. But I did start reading a new book last night that hooked me immediately (it’s about books and writing): The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s the perfect book for a wintry weekend of getting my strength back. And more resting means more thinking about stories, plotting, and dreaming about Queen.