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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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*internal screaming*
dracula hildebrandt
Sooooooo a thing is happening. Here's the deadline I referred to with such vagueness:

I'ma be in it. This is also why I asked the Twitters for help with an author bio, the writing of which was complicated by the fact that I've hardly DONE anything:

Cleolinda Jones is the author of Movies in Fifteen Minutes; she has written many novels and might even finish one of them someday. A classy dame who knows what’s what, Cleo currently supervises the House of Bark, recaps when she is least expected, and maintains a howling vortex of delight on Tumblr. She is still blogging on Livejournal out of pure cussedness. Like a drifter, she was born to walk alone, but is available for podcasts.

Let me expand on what I posted on Tumblr:

The Novel of the Damned that I’ve been working on for ten years and still have not finished, as many of y’all know, is called The Black Ribbon, and it’s a Victorian vampire slightly-steampunk, slightly-alternate-history horror/suspense thing. (TEN YEARS, I SWEAR TO GOD. Every bandwagon you can think of has come and gone and possibly come around again, it’s taken me so long. I posted some really terrible rough chapters back in 2003, back when I thought I’d just dash it off as a Halloween serial in five chapters and really broad strokes, which is how some of y’all know about it.) I don't even know how "steampunk" the book really is; it's got some alternate/advanced technology, which hasn't necessarily affected history... yet. The growing relationship between the two main characters is really the center of the whole story, but I don't know that you'd call it a romance, in terms of genre. Maybe it's horror, because there's a good bit of gore, but I've always loved psychological suspense, so there's more of the latter. At this point, I'm willing to let the book be what it wants to be and let someone else figure out where to shelve it, should I ever be so fortunate.

The premise is revealed a bit slowly in the book itself, but it’ll probably come out in the marketing some far future day from now, so why not: it’s basically about West, a vampire hunter/mercenary hired to kill everything in sight, and Rose (Rose Hannah in the original version), a young doctor who is, uh, extremely motivated to look for a cure instead. Essentially: he’s a hunter, she’s infected, slow-burn Victorian romance, THEY FIGHT VAMPIRES.

I’ll be honest, one of my inspirations for Rose was Mina Harker, since I was sort of obsessed with an illustrated edition of Dracula as a kid, and I was always impressed by the way all of these men rallied around her and depended on her emotionally and she was the one who compiled all their research and she was the one who had the train timetables memorized and she was kind of the actual most capable person in the entire book (Lolcat Van Helsing aside). So Rose was partly born out of the idea of, what if Mina was a doctor and could research saving her own damn self? And then, on the other hand, you have the merciless vampire hunter who starts to realize--if a cure might be possible... what has he done?

And I have really, really enjoyed writing about the two of them, the way they assume too much and misunderstand each other at first, then gradually change their minds. The book's in limited third person, sometimes her perspective and sometimes his, and one of the things I've really enjoyed doing is playing with point of view and flashbacks and chronology. That said, I have learned a lot from Film Critic Hulk's essay about overly-convoluted narratives and Bryan Fuller talking about the "show them the bomb" theory of suspense, both of which led me to rethink how much information I was holding back and to reveal a number of things a lot sooner. This is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to write the book--I keep outgrowing my own writing, not just on a sentence-by-sentence stylistic level, but on a plotty, narrative level. I mean, I came up with a really great character who solves a ton of story problems only two weeks ago. I keep hoping eventually I'm going to reach some kind of singularity where I solve the problems before I outgrow them and have to start all over with new problems and I can finally finish the book.

Also, there are inventors and magicians and scientists and tigers (okay, just one tiger) and a chapter about Jack the Ripper, because go hard or go home, I always say.

Also-also, I’ve worked on creating diverse characters in a Victorian context (different sexualities, ethnicities, class backgrounds, ages, and tons of women because that’s who I like to write anyway), but I’m terrified I’m Doing It Wrong. But it's something you have to try, because what's the alternative? And there was diversity in the Victorian era; you just have to make up your mind to look for it. And I could have just as easily said, "Well, this is steampunk, which means it's essentially fantasy, which means I can write utopian diversity and tolerance if I want." Which I did seriously consider that at one point. I just finally decided that I wanted to work with some of the tensions and obstacles and conflicts that were really there, and the choices people might have to make as a result--like Rose being a doctor but also a socialite, and how she leverages that status in her work, specializing in "female complaints" because women's health was so marginalized and misunderstood at the time. Or the way a lot of the panic surrounding the Jack the Ripper case was driven by anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Or the way that Chinese neighborhoods like Limehouse and Pennyfields were exoticized as this opium-smoky criminal underworld that was actually, like, shopkeepers and sailors and dockworkers just living their lives. That's the "punk" element of it to me, all these various characters making their way in the world, pushing back against the dim rigidity of The Way Things Are Supposed to Be. And then I get terrified that I'm going to screw it up and what right do I have to try to tell any of these stories? But what kind of story am I telling if I don't?

I want to finish the book, but sometimes I just spend hours staring at Word documents, paralyzed with fear--lots of different fears. And I'm willing to tell you this because I can't be the only writer working through that, and being honest about it is the only way I've ever been able to get past it.


And it is the first book in a series (sorry), because I don't think in terms of shorter stories very well. If I go to the trouble of creating characters I really enjoy and spending years on the world-building, I don't want to walk away from that after one book. On the other hand, if I can retrain myself to think in terms of short stories, I now have all these characters I can write about. The Athena's Daughters story, as I pitched it, will be set before the timeline of the novel; it's Rose telling a ghost story that happened to her mother, to give you a look at both Rose and someone who’s important to her, and a little glimpse of some of the friends who appear in the book as well. You should be able to read the story and not need to read the book; you should be able to read the book without having read the story. But the way I've planned it thematically, your brain will explode a little bit if you read them both. That is, if I live through this. Seriously, prayer circle for me finishing this, you guys.

So. There’s going to be a Kickstarter for the anthology later this year; my deadline for the story is November 1st, which is the unspecified project/deadline I mentioned before. I am fortunate as hell that the NBC Dracula recapping, starting late this month, will only overlap with this a little bit. (Also, you now maybe see that I’m coming to the recap table with a… distinct perspective on Dracula, let’s say.) I’ve also agreed to write a second, non-Black Ribbon story for a different project, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow, when that Kickstarter goes live.

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Congratulations! I swear that is the BEST AUTHOR BIO EVER. I thought "a classy dame who knows what's what" couldn't be topped, and then I got to "supervises the House of Bark," and THEN I got to "howling vortex of delight." Seriously. Best EVER.

Well, I have to credit @PrairieHamster for "classy dame" etc., and @awillett for "howling vortex" etc. When I say I asked Twitter for help, I'm not kidding.

sometimes I just spend hours staring at Word documents, paralyzed with fear--lots of different fears

This here is where I'm at. It's been about 2 years since I've written anything substantial. For me it's been a tornado of self-doubt and this obsessive idea that I need the first go-around to be perfect. But, hello, it's supposed to be a crappy draft of the story so you can improve it. (My "writer's block" also happens to sync up with my father passing away 3 years ago; so that just adds another level on top of everything else.) And now that it's been so long I'm at the point where I'm like, "OMG, I don't even know how to sentence anymore!"

Also: If I go to the trouble of creating characters I really enjoy and spending years on the world-building, I don't want to walk away from that after one book.

This is me, too. Although, I think I'm guilty of having my series inter-connected, where things that happen in Book One have ramifications or foreshadow things to come in Book Two and beyond. (Probably this is why I latched onto Hannibal because things just keep feeding into the next episode/next season.)

Good luck with your short stories and The Novel of the Damned!

Thanks! See, I also have a deep and terrible need to foreshadow and plant clues and build foundations for things, so a lot of the plotting and world-building for any potential series had to be done up front, which may be why it's taken so long. And when you come up with a ton of minor/side characters, you have to sit down and think about what they've all been doing that led them to this starting point, and what they'll all be doing going forwards, whether we see them in the next book or three books later. And I love it, but sometimes I feel like it's all just falling around my head and I sit there going "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this" for an hour. My idea of progress is that I don't launch into that until after I've done my writing for the day, nowadays.

*claps and BARKS like a baby seal* Congrats!

Ooooooh yay! This is really exciting! And as someone who discovered and read your Black Ribbon chapters online wayyyyy back in the day, AND as someone who will read whatever you write, literally, SIGN ME UP. I started looking for a link before I finished reading the post, like WHERE DO I PUT MY MONEY OH WAIT "Kickstarter later this year" heh. I'm guessing the fact that you have major doubts in itself is a good sign that you're Doing It Right, so full steam ahead. Congrats on the progress you're making in every sense!

Also, that book cover and title are awesome.


I'm an atheist - would you consider another bunch of virtual manuls in virtual flower crowns an acceptable substitute for praying? (Sorry for not having actual manuls' pictures on hand. Well, actually, I do, but they're on someone else's tumblr.)

Yay for different sexualities, ethnicities and tons of women! Too bad I've no idea if I ever get to read it. I hope books obviously written for adult readers don't count as "propaganda" yet, so after you finally finish and publish it, it might even be translated. (If things here won't get worse, at least. They might.)

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude or annoying, and I don't wish to come across as a know-it-all busybody, but... I am an Editor, and "congradulations" is 'congratulations' spelt wrong, and *twitches* it's just *twitch, twitch* I wanted to make sure you knew that, is all. Sorry again for butting in.

Good luck with them both! I look forward to reading them.

I have struggled off and on with HUUUUGE anxiety over writing, which caused multiple projects to be worked on for years and then never finished. I still wrestle with it, to be honest, but have gotten a lot better since I started going in with the midset that I would finish the story first, and THEN judge whether it was too bad/potentially offensive to be released into the wild.


Honestly, what's keeping me sane this time around is that I'm making "finish the story to say you finished it, and focus on being professional" as my goal, rather than "write the bestest story ever." It probably helps that I already know it's going somewhere, whether anyone likes it or not...

Wen does the kickstarter kick?

Actually, I think in December or January--they very wisely want to have our stories in hand first, I think.

YIPPEE! This sounds great, and that author bio is a thing of wonder.

I sort of blame the internet for my inability to get any project completed. Every time that I think I've got something decent written, I end up stumbling across someone's excellent criticism of some other author's work and I think "Gah! I'm not good enough! I don't have enough empowered female characters! I got the empowerment all wrong! I have to scrap everything and start again!!!!"

I've always enjoyed your writing. Your style and perspective are always interesting and entertaining and it will be fun to get a peek into the world of your novel :)

I love the author bio! I left a comment on Tumblr, but this just...this is so amazing. I'm so happy for you. I've been having a lot of Doing It Wrong fears over my novels, too. But I guess there comes a time when you've just gotta get your stuff out there and believe that you're doing the right thing, and it sounds like your time is now. YOU CAN DO IT!

I am excited to read more things that you have written. This is great news - congratulations and good luck.

I think all your recaps and internet-published M15M stuff deserves mention in your bio! You've been quite prolific on the internet, and it still counts as writing!

Aw, thanks--I agree, it totally counts, but I felt kind of twiggy about listing a bunch of things I didn't finish or haven't updated in forever. "You may know her from such failures as..." I figured "recapping when least expected" might cover that in a short bio; in a longer one, I guess we could start listing movies and shows.

Congratulations and good luck!

*KERMIT FLAIL* That is awesome!! Congratulations, and good luck! :D

Period, British, strong women characters, sassy dialog, vampires....and that would be a BINGO on my Stuff I Like card!

Please know that when this is published, I will be giving you all my money. I've lit a candle for you and I'm willing to sacrifice a fatted calf over a fire to aid you. All right, it's a stuffed cow toy. And I'll use the heat vent on the floor. I still think it will totally work.

Good luck, give'm hell, and go for broke!