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Occupation: Girl

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

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Why hello there
twilight lolcat
I don't have much to say, but I figure I ought to check in and say it anyway. I've had an energy drain of a sinus cold this week, plus I'm trying to get some reading done. Mostly I'm trying to read up on vampire lore from a historical perspective--i.e., what someone living before 1900 would have known, culturally speaking. I'm about to attempt a reading of Varney the Vampire, which ranges from something like 160+ chapters to 223 chapters, depending on which version you tackle. (I'm sorry, but nothing should ever have 223 chapters. Nothing. Ever. Ever. Everrrrr.) But I and my love of trashy 1800s sensation lit cannot resist something with passages like,

With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen—with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed—Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the bed—she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction—horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!

For those of you more recently joining us, I've been working on a Victorian vampire series (eight books, it looks like) since 2003--yes, six and a half years now, and don't think I don't smack myself every single day of the week for letting the bandwagon leave me in the dust. I just keep telling myself that, if I can finish the damn thing, maybe people will be tired of the Chastity Vampire trend and they'll be ready for something else (she said, even as True Blood is already very much the opposite of the Chastity Vampire, SHUT UP, OKAY, IT'S WHAT I HAVE TO TELL MYSELF TO GET BY) and it'll actually benefit me to show up in a post-Twilight market. I don't know. But this is why I can't read anything written in, oh, say, the last forty or fifty years. I read a lot of Anne Rice as a teenager, and I made an exception for the Sookie Stackhouse series because I got sucked into the show (and I was comfortably sure that modern-day Louisiana vampires were plenty different from my thing), and I made an exception for Twilight because obviously Twilight does not count (yes, that was a burn), but... no matter how many other things people recommend to me, I don't feel like it's good for me to read them at this time. I set down my own world-building vampire mythology a long time ago, but I'm still working out the finer points of vampire "science" (or at least vampire logic), and being off in my own little writerly backwater has helped me develop the story on my own. I'm mostly afraid that I'm going to read current vampire lit and go, "Oh, shit, [whoever] got to that idea first, now I'm going to look like a copycat asshole," or, more broadly, "Oh my God, everything I have ever thought has already been done." Both of these are probably true. It's just that I don't need to know it. It's like walking a high wire: don't look down.

(Part of the reason I check in with an update on the novel-writing process every now and then is that I want it here, on the internet, dated, in writing, that I am working on this, so that if something similar happens to coincidentally come out, you'll know that I've been here working on my own thing all this time.)

So I'm immersing myself in pre-1900 and pre-Rice vampire lit, because Anne Rice was a huge popular turning point in the way audiences viewed vampires--maybe not the first writer to make the vampire a hero, but the one who really set the stage for a large number of writers to follow (my critical reading is telling me). The vampire was at His Hideous Repast before that. I'd like to go back to that. I have a number of different angles I'm taking along that line, but I'm afraid to say much more, given how long it's taking me to write this. Mostly it's taking me so long because life keeps getting in the way, as it does, as well as my own writerly anxiety. I've come to view the delay as necessary--commenting on and writing about and deconstructing Twilight over the last two years has been really instructive, honestly--not just in terms of how not to do it, but in terms of looking at why it does appeal to people and what does work, because clearly something does, and how to possibly use those dread powers for good. I have theories on that as well, and while I've mentioned them before, I should probably not expound on that at this time.

A lot of what's dragging me down is that I am not good with the spatial concept of geography--I can't drive, after all, so I don't have a very good sense of how big places are or how long it takes to get from one place to another. And then you have the potential hubris of writing about a place you've never been to. I've done a lot of research on the Victorian era--like a lot of people, I've been into it since my early teens--but in more of a closeup detail sense. Fortunately, I now have someone who knows Victorian London very well and can Britpick for me--which presents the new anxiety of, "Oh dear God, I'm going to write this and hand it to her and then she's going to be forced to tell me how very stupid I am." Yay.

Another thing that's slowing me down is--would you understand what I meant if I said the story is a lot like Harry Potter? Because it's not like Harry Potter at all, it's not about wizards or a school or even people under the age of twenty. It's not one year per book, either. But it's similar in the sense that things actually happen, as opposed to Twilight, where the emotions are the plot; it's similar in that it's got a large cast of characters and a central mission/mystery and major antagonists and a lot of clues and foreshadowing to work out. So you kind of have to map out the entire series up front--at least the general direction of the second half. So the whole writing process has been front-loaded with plottiness and "This is great and all but what do these characters actually want that they would be doing all this, what's their agenda, what's the end game?" Where am I going with this, and how am I going to get there? And what about the stories of all these side characters, how do they fit in--do they fit in?

Because, really, it's the characters that keep me going at this point. You see all these vampire books and movies and TV shows coming out and saturating the market, and you start to get really, really depressed. They've already done everything there is to do, and even if they haven't, your audience won't care by the time you show up. But I've been living with these characters for nearly seven years now, and I keep telling myself that I'm doing this to tell their stories, and if people like the series, it'll be for their sake, not because I did or did not reinvent the wheel.

And I can also use vampire research in general for the second Movies in Fifteen Minutes e-book. So. That's where we are right now.

ETA: Varney the Sparklepire, as it were.

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223? Is that person crazy? O_o

That is an epic quote. I feel like fanfiction should be more like that, actually.

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You know, I never knew that Black Ribbon was a vampire Victorian project. I was excited when I just thought it was a steampunkian, intricately plotted mystery novel. Now I'm even more curious.

But I think that angle, how it's essentially a plot-driven story, will really work in your favor. I personally love reading books like that, but there are so few of them nowadays. I can't plan plot at all, so I have major respect for writers who dedicate themselves to that.

Yeah, I was kind of trying to obscure that plot point when originally talking about it, but in trying to come up with a one-sentence summary pitch, I've had to go ahead and mention it. I mean, it's revealed pretty early on, and we're at a point in the market where "vampires" would be a primary selling point.

You know, even if I didn't already like your writing, just listening to you talk about the books, and your process makes me want to read them.

If one day -- when you've finished the black ribbon books and they are available for me to read -- you fancy reading other books about vampires again, I would recommend 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova. You could read it now, if you wanted to, because I think it is sufficiently far from Victorian era vampirism. It's a book about Dracula, but it is also so much more. Carefully and splendidly written, definitely worth your time.

Don't worry too much about the oversaturated vampire market... I think most of the readers of the blog will buy your books! I will!

I love the Historian! I cannot wait for a film on the book.

Cleo, I want to read your book(s) SO HARD. You do not even know. I am bad at waiting. :(

You know, I think there's always a market for vampire novels -- they've almost become a separate genre, like romances or police procedurals. So I wouldn't worry overly much about the vampire trend having passed you by by the time you are ready to publish.

Yeah, there's a big, constant market for paranormal romance and urban horror/fantasy, for example. It's one of those things where there will always be some kind of market, even if the book's not a breakaway hit or something (which is statistically rare anyway). Someone will publish it, even if it just ends up being me self-publishing on Lulu again.

Er, um, did that quote change tenses in the text, or was that a transcription error? Cause if it was the first, I think I'm a little in love.

I'm pretty sure that's the text as it is, because I've seen it quoted two different places that way. Isn't it fantastic?

Yes, it's hard writing a book with a plot, where things actually happen, that isn't just about the Sue-vatar being protected from vague menace by Perfect Broody Sparklepants while trying to get into same (CAN I HAZ TEH SEX NAO PLZ?)... but the tradeoff is that at the end, you will have something that will be good, and which you can be proud of.

Sympathies and support from a hobby-writer, whatever they may be worth.

"Sue-vatar" makes me think about Eru!Sue, and that's just wrong.

Varney the Vampire sounds like a delightfully cracky book! Love the tense changes in the passage you quoted. I also have an image of Jim Varney as Ernest being the vampire, so lots of lulz there.

Your posts about Black Ribbon really, REALLY make me want to read the series. *sending you good writerly thoughts*

Oh, you beat me to the "Varney" thing. :-) I thought I was the only one.

I'm right there with you, but my series has only grown to 3 books so far and I only just started in November. And yes, it's also vampires (but not Victorian). And yes, I too am constantly slapping myself in the face for a) writing about vampires when the market is annoyingly saturated and b) going into this knowing that it's highly likely that most everything I might want to do with vampire lore has already been done.

My main concern when starting was to have an engaging plot and introducing it right away. My biggest fear (as a housewife/mother writing vampire fiction) is being compared to SMeyer and so I too have used my "experience" with Twilight as a DO NOT WANT scenario.

I also know what you mean about feeling obligated to your characters, now that they're out of your head, to tell their stories. I kind of look at it as it being my story and I'm telling it because I have to get it out. So what if no one else likes it (although it sure would be nice to get paid for it too).

Reinventing the wheel is overrated. You know what I want, that I haven't enjoyed in too, too long from current fantasy authors? A nice, old-fashioned, heroic, follow-the-bauble adventure yarn. Oh, no, we have to get all post-modern, or overly grim-and-gritty, or some other approach designed to "bring fantasy storytelling into the new millennium," whatever that means. I mean, the Joe Ambercrombie "First Law" books, are they very well made? Hell yes. But are they a good fantasy epic adventure yarn? Hell no! (Especially since the only main character who comes out of the trilogy even remotely "heroic" is the most miserable, misbegotten, twisted bastard of the lot.)

So I don't want my wheel reinvented. I just want a reliable wheel what'll get my cart from home to market and back again. I'll even take a retread as long as the workmanship is solid and there's a reasonable warranty, you know?

Er. Sorry, I seem to have gotten rant all over your writerly speculative post. I'll grab some paper towels...

Myee hee hee, YOUR ICON. ♥

I read the chapters you had online a while ago, and I really got into it. So, I don't care when the project finally sees the light of day, I'll be there to buy it.

Yes, me too! That was one of the reasons I friended Cleo, actually. So I would know if she ever wrote any more of it. And I love character-driven plotty stuff anyway – I don't even particularly care about vampires one way or the other. But fantasy adventure + awesome characters = me buying it.

PS Cleo – that quote is incredible. I don't really understand how she was on the bed, then on it again. But it doesn't matter. There were quivering limbs and strange howls.

I always love hearing that you're working on Black Ribbon! And hey, vampires will be popular forever, they're just trendy now.

Personally, I think 'vampires with plot' would be a novel concept for a lot of vampire readers today... might be just what they're looking for by the time Back Ribbon makes it to shelves.

I have never been able to read the title "Varney the Vampire" without hearing Weird Al's "Harvey the Wonder Hamster" going through my head. ("Varney, VAAAAR-NEY, Varney the Wonder VAM-PIIRE!")

I wish I could find the hysterical MST someone made of the first three chapters back in the 90s. ("Who is she, the president of the Crystal Gayle hair fan club?")