Hey, it’s July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been participating! Mostly.
I feel like after the first week of Camp NaNo, the excitement of the new endeavor to write words tends to die down, and this month has been no different. I feel it both in the writing community, in the cabin of people I’m hosting, and in myself. It really is a shame that the motivation to GO GO GO splutters and halts within 7-10 days like it’s standard shipping.
So take this post as a few things:
We are still under the half-way point today as far as progress, but my word count is far below that. My goal for the month is 50,000 words by July 31, and I still intend to get there. That means that to be on-track, I should be at 20,967 words by the end of today. I can tell you now that, with a current word count of 14,474, that’s not going to happen.
I could be discouraged by that, and my first instinct is to see the disparity between those numbers, consider how much WORK that would be, and to consider giving up because there’s no way to catch up. My goal word count and my actual word count are now fare enough apart that giving up has become a tempting option to me.
So let’s address this emotional response. I feel certain that I’m not alone in the “all-or-nothing” mentality that comes along with perfectionism, so let’s take a close look at this response together.
First of all, this is very much an emotional response to my situation. That means all I’ve done about it so far is feel, and aside from choosing to write a blog post about it instead of working on my word count, I haven’t really acted on it either. Decision-making is done based on emotions, and guess what. If you always do only what you feel like doing, there’s probably a lot of things that you need to do even when you don’t feel like it that are falling through the cracks. For me, this creates a cycle of feeling worthless because I’ve accomplished nothing I need to do, and not changing anything about it because I’m making decisions based on how I feel right now, and not on how I’ll feel after I’ve accomplished them. This is the kind of decision-making that can get you into trouble. Making decisions based on your emotional response to something is the way you get into fist fights or arguments, or that causes you to insult someone who didn’t really deserve it. They might feel nice to act on in the moment, but they are usually paired with bad consequences that you’ll have to deal with later. In the case of giving up because I’m not meeting my own word count goal, I might gain the relief of removing a responsibility from my own shoulders, but since that doesn’t actually change the fact that I want to write a novel, I’m still going to have to do this eventually, or have a mindset change later and give up on my dream. I’d argue a mindset change now is the better option.
So it’s time to employ logic and reason! Huzzah! The heroes have arrived! …Or have they?
So now that I’ve recognized that the instinct to give up is misguided because there’s just a part of me afraid of hard work, I can look for a solution. The obvious other choice is to make it to my goal word count today even though there’s still a part of me that feels like giving up.
Okay, so let’s take a look at that for a second. I have over six thousand words to write. Which is a lot, but I’ve done it before. In fact, I did it the first day of Camp NaNo this month! The logic stands that I can accomplish six-thousand words again.
But now that we’re focusing on logic, it’s easy to forget the emotional component to this. Sure, we just faced our emotional response, recognized it’s hindering us, and we moved on, but until something changes, that emotional response is going to be the first thing that happens when we think of this problem (which if you remember is “I feel like I can’t catch up in time”) therefore, the solution cannot be to do the thing that we’re afraid of and not also confront the fact that emotions are a part of us and we can’t go through this experience without them. Writing 6,000 word on Day 1 was a LOT easier when I had a few extra hours on the clock, and the motivation to write as much as I could. AND that 6,000 was supposed to be 10,000! Which was a goal I had set with the expectation that I would not reach it (and so falling short of it was not something that elicited the same emotional response as my current predicament does).
So I can’t give up, but I also don’t actually have a hope of catching up today. So then… maybe I don’t catch up today, but I can split up the extra work over today and tomorrow, or even a few extra days. It’s not ideal, but I have tomorrow off work, and it’s possible. But what if doing EXTRA work doesn’t work out for me tonight, and then I’m just as out-of-sync tomorrow as I was today, and I get to have this entire conversation with myself again. Ugh! I’m not actually interested in doing that. But 50,000 words by July 31 is looking like it will just become more and more difficult day-by-day. So if I don’t split up this work over a few days, or I don’t catch up RIGHT NOW, then I really am going to fail as the burden of missing out on writing days just increases as time goes on.
The Camp NaNo status software does a cool thing where it will recalculate how many words you need to put out every day for the rest of the month in order to reach your end goal. This is nice, and I’m sure that for some people, this would be an acceptable solution to their problem. But here is my problem with that: As someone who is VERY motivated by the graphs that Camp NaNo displays to show you a visual representation of your progress vs. where you should be if you’ve written every day so far, if my bars are below the par line, I have anxiety about it. This is actually motivational if I’m close to my goal, but once it can’t be solved by an extra ten or twenty minutes of writing, it starts becoming the reason, as we’ve discussed, I consider giving up.
But here is the GLORY of Camp NaNoWriMo (with no offense to November’s NaNoWriMo, but really this is the GAME CHANGER for July and April):
I would say that for most of us, getting to 50,000 or whatever goal we’ve set for the month, is arbitrary. You don’t actually know how many words it’s going to take to finish your novel, even if you can guess closely, so 50K is an ambitious goal without being entirely unreasonable. If you’ve won NaNo in November before, as I have done twice, then you know you can accomplish 50K in one month. This knowledge can be empowering, but it also can enforce your expectation that now you MUST do 50K in one month, even when you don’t have to set your goal that high and is likely to do to you what it has done to me and make you worried that you won’t live up to your own expectation, so you should just quit now.
I guess if you have someone waiting for you to turn in 50K at the end of the month, then you really do have to find a way to get it done. But if you’ve set this goal for your own personal progress, you’re not going to lose a job or a friend or piss off your editor if you don’t hit your goal by the end of July. And that goal that you set earlier? It doesn’t even have to be your goal.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go take a look at that graph and the stats that accompany it, and see how many words I need to write every day in order to reach 50K. Then I’ll write that down.
Then, I’m going to go into my word count goal and change it so that the word count that I have RIGHT NOW is on par.
After that, I’m going to write my words for today based on the 50K catch-up daily word amount I wrote down a minute ago.
And I am going to blow my new goal OUT OF THE WATER.
And THE SECOND this becomes too easy and stops motivating me to write more because now my graph is showing I have words to spare and so I don’t have to write today… then I’m going to bump that goal up and make it a challenge again.
So the lesson today is: It’s okay to fall short of your expectations. You might be scared to push forward, but being aware of your own shortcomings or obstacles is going to give you the power to work with those things to reach your goal, instead of pushing and pushing against them and grinding your gears instead of making ground.
If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, good luck to you. Don’t let fear win; Follow your dreams. <3
In Vampire Book Club for June, we read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, and I’m here to give you my opinion on it.
As we’ve discussed before, I have not yet read very deeply into the world of vampire fiction. My love for vampires has been primarily spurred by television and movies, and I won’t deny that I was an obsessed teen reader of the Twilight series when it came out.
But the point of my Vampire Book Club is to expand on my vampire fiction reading history and really get a feel for what’s out there. So we’re starting with what people are telling me are the best vampire books, and the ones that seem to me to be the most foundational reads of the vampire subgenre.
Interview with the Vampire is technically about a journalist known only as The Boy who is interviewing The Vampire to potentially write about The Vampire’s story in whatever publication The Boy is affiliated with. The actual narrative of the story however is made up in bulk of the protagonist Louis de Pointe du Lac’s side of the dialogue detailing his life from just before he became a vampire all the way to a time when he has finally achieved the emotional freedom he’s struggled to secure all along.
Anne Rice’s story was full of immediate action and active descriptions, and while on occasion Louis would go off on a descriptive tangent or would repeat himself, I enjoyed the straightforward language and approach to writing. With most of the story in first-person POV, I enjoyed getting in Louis’s head and witnessing the struggle between his desires as a vampire and his religious guilt that weighed on him throughout the entire story. The story was atmospherically dark, and I liked the details about New Orleans and the attention to other small details that kept the story grounded in the time periods it intended to portray such as The Boy having to flip the tape in the tape recorder. There were such details that might have been insignificant if considered alone, but were done excellently and when considered as part of the overall experience, really help to round it out and make the story seem full.
I feel like this book was really talked up to me before I read it, and I don’t know if it gave me inflated ideas of what to expect, or if it simply did not cut it for me when it comes to story. I have a few problems with this story:
Love. The word “love” is tossed around a lot in this book, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I understand that love is pretty abstract, that there are different types of love, and that every person Louis “loves” is its own unique type of love. But Louis says that what humans experience as a desire for sex, for vampires, is the desire to feed on a human. So with this equivalency put into place, it shines an interesting light on the view that perhaps sexual desire or acting upon sexual desires is destructive. I then find it unsettling that Louis’s first real taste of human blood was a child, after repressing the urge for so long, and that he speaks of her later that she is like his wife or lover, but that it is also explicitly not a physical attraction to either Claudia or later Armand. I think this is a good time to point out that not only is this first-person narration, but it’s also told in dialogue, and that the likelihood that a vampire wracked with Catholic guilt is being 100% honest in his own self-assessment is not likely, and we should probably treat Louis as an unreliable narrator.
Despite this weird creepy vibe I’m not getting from Louis since I’ve started analyzing him, he really is the most complex and likable character in the story for me. I know that many people are fans of Lestat, but judging on the way Louis portrays Lestat throughout the story, I would wager I would have to read on to later books in the series in order to unbury the parts that actually make Lestat a character to fangirl about.
While I had some qualms with this book that ultimately kept it from being a favorite for me, I did still enjoy it, and I think I would enjoy a closer, more analytical reading of it if I read it again. Since it remains a favorite of vampire readers everywhere, I would recommend it to someone looking for a vampire book who has somehow managed to pass this up. Also, since I am curious to find out what everyone loves so much about Lestat, and I am intrigued to find out if he is what Louis said he is, I would read the next book.
Contents: Blood drinking, bullet wound, rape mention.
This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.
I thought drinking a vampire’s blood would be more intimate, but Matthew had made the whole thing transactional. I stood on the other side of the island from him while I watched him ooze his own blood into a glass from a slice on his palm.
Watching him fill the glass had become a normal thing at that point. I wasn’t a vampire—yet—but I was well on my way after drinking Matthew’s blood before every meal for a month.
I spaced out on the bloody knife nearby until Matthew handed the glass to me. After a deep breath and a sigh, I closed my eyes and chugged the entire thing. It stung all the way down to my stomach where it churned with a sickening bubbly feeling. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it happened every time.
When I set my glass down and opened my eyes again, he smiled at me. I licked my lips and my teeth while he turned to the sink to wash up, taking the knife with him.
“You look especially handsome without your glasses,” he said.
“That’s because I am.” I swallowed a few more times to try and wash the rest of the blood away. “I’ve never been able to see this clear before. Are you sure I’m not already a vampire?”
He grabbed the glass from the island, examining me with his dark brown eyes. “You still survive in the sunlight just fine. How about your sense of taste? Does food taste normal?” Matthew’s gaze lingered on my face while he turned around to wash the glass.
I bent at the waist and leaned my palms on top of the island. “Same as always.”
Matthew shut off the sink and dried his hands. One glance at them, and I could see that the cut across his palm had already closed up, though it still left a pink line in its place. He stepped around to take my hand and pull me to him.
“What’s it like to crave blood?” I asked.
He smiled his gorgeous white grin, glancing at my lips, causing me to self-consciously lick them to make sure no blood was left over. “Not much different from craving salad.”
I snorted. “Has anyone ever actually craved a salad?”
Matthew laughed and reached up to pull my face down and kiss my mouth.
My hands came to rest on his waist, only to slide around to his back and hold him close as he made the kiss deeper. My heart thumped in my throat, slow at first, but quickening. I heard it in my ears, and it pounded faster and faster and louder until it became all that I could hear. A tingle shot down my throat and spread out across my chest, morphing into a tightness that wrapped me up like a boa constrictor. I stopped breathing. I couldn’t breathe.
Intense pain erupted in my chest, a sting and a deep ache all at once, only made even worse each time I attempted again to breathe in. I stepped back from Matthew, clutching my chest. When I looked at him, he screamed in slow motion, shrieking at me or at nothing, not sure. Despite the panic of the moment, I thought how odd it was to see his face contorted into anything other than a smile.
I opened my mouth again to gasp for air, but instead it filled up with blood, overflowing my lips and chin, pouring out like a spring.
A slap across the face brought me back to my apartment in LA.
“Don’t you die on me, you motherfucker!” Jess screamed at me from above, hoarse and baring her teeth.
I tried to take a breath in to ask what the fuck, but my lungs wouldn’t work. I laid on my side, face to the floor where blood poured from my mouth for real. My blood. Not the stinging shitty blood Matthew had.
Jess pushed me onto my back. I tried to cough, but I couldn’t do that either. Everything was dim, blurry, speckled. I lifted my head just to drop it on the floor and pass out again.
When I woke up a second time, I still couldn’t breathe. I heard sirens outside. I didn’t know what was happening. I think Jess was crying. I gasped over and over even though it hurt like fuck. I’m not even sure I had to breathe being a vampire, but my instincts told me I needed air if I didn’t want to die. And at that point in my life, I didn’t.
EMTs came to take me away, and it wasn’t until I was up on the gurney that I saw Seth on the floor, surrounded by medics. I couldn’t make any more sense out of the situation than that. I realized for the first time that the back of my head throbbed.
Jess came to my side, her three-toned hair—brown then blonde then fruit-punch—almost as much of a wreck as my apartment. “I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry!”
The medics pushed her aside and walked me out of the apartment to the ambulance, leaving Jess and her distant, echoing voice in the apartment with Seth.
At the hospital, the lack of oxygen fucked me up. My entire body cramped up like one big charlie horse, and the drugs they gave me for surgery kept wearing off too quick. They told me I shouldn’t even be alive, but since—if the pain had anything to say about it—I was very, very alive, they kept going. While surgeons removed the bullet, I nearly removed my own tongue from biting down so hard.
Once the bullet had been dug out of my lung, my body took over the healing process, now able to fix the damage from the gunshot. The stitches helped, but the vampire magic bullshit that made me heal stupid fast was already doing its thing. It would still take time to recover, but I had to guesss not anywhere near as long as it would take a normal human. Who apparently would have been fucking dead.
“Oh my fucking god, Lai!”
I opened my eyes from my recovery nap, complete with an excellent dose of morphine, to see Ras, my brother, enter the hospital room. He looked wrong, though. More put together, since, you know, he’d been missing his right ear for years. His face and hand were scarred up. He walked with a limp and a cane. Or at least he was supposed to. This Ras looked brand new, like how he did when we were in college, fresh out of 1989. But wearing my clothes for some reason.
I blinked at him, taking a slow, painful breath through my oxygen mask. I grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pointed at the athletic shorts he wore.
“Yeah, they’re yours. I didn’t exactly have any lady clothes when I monkeyed out at your place.”
I stared for a long time, attempting to figure out what he meant.
He rose an eyebrow at me, then rolled his eyes.
I didn’t get it, but my eyes went straight to his hair as it went from dark brown to a familiar tri-color brown, blonde, and Kool-Aid.
Ah. Jess. Fucking shapeshifter. I forgot she did more than just animals.
I closed my eyes to enjoy my morphine drip again.
“Seth’s dead,” she said, still with my brother Ras’s voice.
I lifted my hand, flapped it once and dropped it again before half-shrugging.
“He shot you then he tried to shoot me,” she said. “Do you remember any of it at all?”
I opened my eyes and found her—or I guess his—face. I thought for a moment about what I could remember. It wasn’t much.
I shook my head. All I could really think about at that moment was how weird it was to know I’d fucked this person—the one who looked just like my brother right now. Goddamn, that was fucked up. And kinda funny.
“So you don’t care at all?” She frowned at me. With my brother’s frown. That disapproving one. Ugh.
I reached for the table by my bedside where a pad of paper and a pen sat. Jess understood what I wanted and passed them to me. I wrote a messy note on the top page: You’re much hotter as a chick.
Jess took the notepad and read the message. She handed it back, stony-faced. “Have the cops come by yet?”
I shook my head.
“I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”
I shrugged. I had no fucking clue.
Without me being able to say much, and falling asleep anyway, Jess let me rest until the next day. She came back, this time dressed as Ras with scars down his face, missing an ear, carrying a cane.
The best part was that I could finally fucking breathe. I sat up.
“Wow, babe,” I said. “You really went all out on the Ras disguise this time.” It hurt a little to speak, but I didn’t intend to write any more notes. I grimaced as the sewed up hole in my chest ached with the motion.
“I am Ras.”
I spent a minute looking him over. Jess could have been anyone. She might have been fucking with me, but I knew this wasn’t her.
“Fucking shit,” I said, dropping my head back against the pillow and staring up at the ceiling. “What are you doing here, Ras?”
“You need to get out of town,” he said. He hobbled over to the armchair next to my bed and plopped into it with a groan. “They should have taken you to the Red Tech hospital. You’re lucky they didn’t.”
I rolled my head to the side to look at him. Red Tech was that place that did the membership service for vampires. The one that cleaned up dead bodies after you fed on them. “They have a fucking hospital?”
“It’s called a donor station, so not really. But there is an occasional vampire surgery when things like this happen.” He gestured to my chest.
My breathing in and out sounded sort of wheezy, and I took a moment before trying to talk again. “So why am I at a regular hospital?”
“Most likely you didn’t use the Red Tech number to call for help. It’s for the best, really.”
“You keep saying that.”
The door opened again, and a man in a lab coat walked in. He picked up the clipboard from a place near the door and came forward smiling, pulling a pen from his coat pocket. After a moment of reading the chart, his smile faded and he looked at me again. “You’re Lai Martire, right?”
“Why? Does it say something else?” I asked.
“No. No…” He looked down at the clipboard, puzzled, flipping it over multiple times before scratching his beard. I could tell he must have been promising himself to stop drinking before work. He set down the clipboard on my bed, and I stayed quiet while he came to examine me. It was the first time I’d really looked at the bandages, let alone the bullet wound when he peeled the bandage away.
I watched the amazement on his face, his mouth dropping open as he moved a gloved hand over the area where there had been a wound before, and now just a silvery pink, sensitive scar. He looked at me and swallowed. Then he backed away.
I cleared my throat. “Hey, I’m in a lot of pain. Think you can up my dosage on the morphine?”
Ras groaned, and I could basically hear his eyes roll.
“Sure,” the doctor stammered. “I’ll send a nurse right in.” He clumsily tried a few times to put the clipboard back in its holder and then left.
I grinned at Ras. “Is that why I should have been at the other hospital?”
Instead of looking entertained–but really, when did he ever?–Ras stared at the door. His cheek bulged with the shape of his moving tongue underneath while he clearly considered how to break something to me. I just wasn’t sure what.
“Matthew would have been your surgeon.”
My smile disappeared. I stared at Ras while he stared ahead, obviously unable to look at me.
“So what? He wants to kill me now?” I asked.
“Knowing Matthew? Far worse,” Ras said.
I turned my face away and sucked on my teeth. I knew he was right.
He stood up and faced me while I tried not to look at him. “You need to leave. Whatever happened at your house last night wasn’t Red Tech sanctioned. The cops are going to be involved. I can smooth that over, but your dead boyfriend’s friends and family…?” He tilted his head and shrugged.
“They don’t know who I am.” Without thinking, I rubbed my chest where it hurt, which only lit up the recently healed wound with fresh pain. I hissed and squeezed my eyes shut.
“Does that matter?” Ras asked. “You get someone killed, and someone is bound to come after you.”
I growled. “He got himself fucking killed!”
“With your gun.”
The simple sentence shook me, and I didn’t understand why. I fixed my eyes on him, open-mouthed and bewildered. “How the fuck do you know all this? How did you even know I was here?”
“It’s my job, remember?”
“To stalk me?” It hurt to yell, but I had to.
“No, you fucking idiot! To investigate subscriber cases. Red Tech has to keep close tabs on this shit so it doesn’t cause widespread panic. Anything that has to do with a vampire that’s not an open-and-shut case has to go through me.”
“So you’re the cops.”
Ras sighed, taking a seat again. “It’s more complicated than that.”
We fell silent for a long time.
“So when am I getting out of here? How am I fucking paying for this?”
“So Red Tech is vampire health insurance now too?”
“I wouldn’t say—”
Someone screamed outside the room, and it sounded like some sort of supply cart had been knocked over. The door flew open letting the sound of chaos flood in, and a nurse tumbled in after, catching herself on the ground. Behind her marched a familiar three-piece, gray suit with a hot pink tie, a platinum blond undercut, and the stone-cut jaw of a constipated angel. Micah Castagnier, Red Tech President.
Two uniformed LAPD officers followed him in, one carting a wheelchair to my bedside.
The nurse got to her feet and her voice trembled. “Sir, you can’t—”
“Leave this one alone,” Ras said, quickly scooping her arm up before she could say more. He led her in a wide berth around Micah and out of the room. She seemed relieved to abandon her obligation to protect the patients of the establishment.
Micah trained his ever-intense green eyes on me. “Get him in the chair,” he growled to one of the officers, and before I could object, I was being lifted into the wheelchair.
It hurt too much to struggle, so I went along with it. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to question anything. “What the fuck?”
Micah didn’t answer. He only led the way out while one of the cops ripped out my IV and took my oxygen mask. Way to ruin a dude’s good time, bro.
I don’t think Micah was much more than maybe nineteen in appearance, but his presence had such command that just walking caused people to leap out of his way. Or maybe even humans were aware of his reputation for decapitating people with his bare hands over almost nothing. I’d never seen it myself, but it wasn’t something I would put past Micah. And the trail of destruction he’d wreaked on his way to my room was a pretty good indicator that no one was ready to fuck with him.
Micah’s goon patrol loaded me into a cop car.
“So am I under arrest?” I asked.
Still no answer. I watched him through the window while he stopped to talk to someone else. Another uniform. He lowered his voice, and a lot of it was jargon or unrelated. A different officer got in the driver seat.
“Hello? What the fuck is happening? Where are you taking me?”
This man didn’t say anything to me either.
I looked back out the window at Micah. He seemed to give a final order before he turned to get into a purple Camaro, only to be cut off by Ras stepping in the way. I tried my fucking hardest to catch any of what they were saying, but the most I could make out was the tone of their voices, which escalated. Then Micah backhanded Ras straight onto his ass and got in his car. He peeled out when he sped off with Ras yelling after him. I couldn’t make out much, but I did hear one thing: “He’ll be dead if Solak finds out about this!”
My heart dropped, and I stopped listening. I knew Solak. It was Matthew Solak. My sire. My ex. My abuser. My rapist.
Finally, some fiction from me! This begins the first chapter of a serial novel I’m going to be winging. I don’t know how often I will actually update it, but at this point, I hope to do so once a month.
Contents: Mature language, cigarettes, nudity, blood, violence.
This story is updated monthly. You can be the first one to know when new chapters have been published.
Jess showed up at my apartment wearing nothing but a long white t-shirt and some high heels. I couldn’t tell if her eyes were all glassy from weed or from crying.
“Just a sec, all right?” I said through the tiny space I’d opened up to talk to her. I shut the door again after she gave me a quiet nod.
I turned back to the bedroom, but stopped short and turned to go into the bathroom. I’d made a mess. Looking at myself in the mirror, I found I’d managed to spill blood down my chin and neck and—fuck, did I get blood on my dick? Goddamn it.
I did a rush job of cleaning up and finally put some clothes on, just throwing on a t-shirt and a pair of athletic shorts in lieu of underwear. I checked in on the lump in my bed. I could still hear Seth’s heartbeat, even if it was kinda weak. He needed the rest anyway. I shut the bedroom door to give him some space.
Finally I made it back to the door only to realize Jess was already curled up and sobbing on my couch. I raised an eyebrow and came to sit by her, yanking a blanket from the back of the couch and covering her up. She didn’t say anything to me, only pulling part of the blanket up to her face.
I watched her for a moment, but when I realized she wasn’t going to volunteer any information, I sighed.
“All right. What the fuck happened?” My eyes darted over her while I assessed her current state. “It was fucking Johnny, wasn’t it? Piece of fucking shit. Need me to kick his ass?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Can I just sleep here?”
“I don’t have any food,” I said.
“That’s okay. I’ll just eat this Luke Skywalker blanket.” Even though her eyes were puffy and red, a genuine smile touched them and she put it into her mouth to chew on.
I returned the look with a scoff and a playful push to the back of her leg since I was sitting with her ass pointed at me. I tugged the blanket out of her mouth. “Don’t make fun of me, or I’m not getting you any tacos.”
She gasped and lifted her head out of her fetal position, eyebrows high. “You’re getting me tacos?” she asked. From the way her lip quivered, I thought she was about to cry.
And then she did.
“What? I’m—Did I do something?”
“You’re getting me tacos,” she whined, tears falling down her cheeks.
I stared at her with my mouth open, uncertain how to take that.
She breathed in through a stuttering gasp. “I just thought you’d be mad I came over, but you’re going to buy me tacos, and I just—Oh, Lai, thank you.” She sat up and leaned toward me.
Understanding, I relaxed some, putting my arm around her and allowing her to lean against me while I rubbed her arm. “You’re so fucking drunk right now.” I chuckled. It took her a few minutes of otherwise comfortable silence for her crying to die out completely, hiccups too. I had to wonder if it was only tacos that she was sobbing about.
“Cigarette,” she demanded, holding her hand out.
I snorted. “Demanding little beast, aren’t we?”
“I can be a big beast, if you don’t get me a fucking cigarette.”
Laughing, I eased away from her and stood up. “Want some pants while I’m up?”
“Give me your shorts,” she said.
I looked down at my shorts. “Pretty sure they won’t fit you.”
“Uhm, I’m a fucking shifter, duh. There’s not a pair of pants in the world that don’t fit me.”
Huh. “Good point. Just wait right there.”
“You’d better come back with tacos too!” she called when I’d made it to the bedroom.
I rolled my eyes in an endeared way and quietly shut the door, glancing at the bed again. I took a few careful steps over to Seth and looked at his face. Still asleep. Who knew the hot mailman would be so open to dating a vampire? I wondered how long I could make it work for.
When I came back to the living room, I passed Jess the lit cig and then held up a pair of black gym shorts.
“For you, ma’am,” I said before tossing them into her lap. And then I held up a pair of pink lacy panties. “And I’m pretty sure these are yours too.”
She snatched them from me. “Are they clean at least?” Her cigarette bounced between her lips while she flipped the blanket out of her lap and stood up.
“I wouldn’t just keep a pair of dirty panties around—Actually, that’s not a bad idea.” I shrugged.
“You’re disgusting.” She pulled on the underwear before I could remember I wasn’t supposed to be watching. She didn’t seem to care, though.
I turned my back to her and got my cigarettes back out to light another one, this time for myself to keep.
“So did you get laid tonight?” she asked.
I heard her plop back onto the couch, so I turned back around, letting the smoke roll out of my mouth slowly. I sat next to her and readjusted the Luke Skywalker blanket to cover us both. “Would I have come to the door naked if I hadn’t?”
“Don’t try to act like you wouldn’t. I’m surprised you got dressed at all.”
“I thought it wouldn’t be appropriate.”
“That’s a fucking first,” she said with a laugh.
I glanced back at the hallway. When Jess noticed me being dodgy, she did the same.
“I’m just seeing someone right now,” I said.
“Ohoho. That sounds like commitment.” She nudged me hard in the side with her elbow.
“I don’t know.” I took another long drag of the cigarette and checked again to make sure the hall was clear. “It’s still kinda new—”
“And he lets you feed on him. That must be nice.”
“Exactly!” It was a bit of a relief that she must have seen the blood and understood. It wasn’t easy to keep non-vampire friends all the time, but Jess was a true goddamned blessing. I turned toward her more, resting my elbow on the back of the couch. “It’s just nice to not call up a clean up crew. I’m not all about killing, but damn, I gotta eat. And then what are you supposed to do when you suck their blood and leave them alive?”
“I thought that’s what that subscription service was for? The Red Tech place? The people you feed on go to the police and no one takes them seriously and it never matters. You’re still paying for that, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, but then they still might send their beefy boyfriend or brother after you, and then you’ve either got more bodies on your hands or you get shot, and I ain’t fucking dealing with all that.” I shook my head and took another drag while Jess did the same. “I’d rather drain ’em, and call the number on the card—or! Have a hot boyfriend who lets me have snacks in bed.” I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
“I can’t believe I think this is a normal conversation.”
“What’s Johnny do when he feeds?”
“I try to stay out of that part of his life.” She sighed. “I pissed him off tonight. I’m sure he took it out on someone else. S’what he does.”
I looked her over, trying to remember the last time I’d even talked to Johnny. I knew she lived with him—or rather, that he was staying at her place because he was a fucking bum. I guessed that she was so sick of dealing with him that she didn’t even have enough energy to kick him out. I could only imagine how that would go.
“I’m really fucking surprised you hang out with that guy.”
“He’s a good guy.”
“Is he?” I asked, eyebrows coming together.
Jess ashed her cigarette onto the floor. “Fuck off, Martire. You don’t know shit.” She said it calmly, yet somehow that made it more unsettling.
“Do you realize how many times you’ve come by to cry about Johnny over the past few months? Over just the last month alone?”
“I do not cry about him,” she spat.
“Fucking really? Jess, you look like a fucking mess. Your makeup is running. You—”
“Fuck off, Lai!” she shouted. She rubbed the cigarette out on my blanket.
I yanked it out from her grasp and looked at her with the most offended look I could muster. “Motherfucking shit, Jess! You’re a goddamn psychopath.”
“A psychopath? I’ll show you a goddamned psychopath!” She kicked off the couch and climbed onto me to strangle me. My cigarette fell to the floor, still lit while I tried to grapple with her hands.
A normal woman, I could have bucked off of me with little to no effort, but Jess being a shifter allowed her arms to swell into those of a bodybuilder—until realized they were sprouting fur and she was becoming awfully gorilla-like.
I had to roll back and use my feet to kick her off of me, knocking myself to the floor and sending her tumbling over the coffee table and onto the floor with a crash as the TV fell down on top of her. She screamed some mixture of woman and gorilla screams while I rolled straight onto my cigarette. The good news was that I put it out. The bad news was that it burned like hell.
“Jess! Come on. This is just straight up fucking unnecessary!”
She launched herself toward me again, this time in full gorilla form, and I tipped the coffee table over to put something between us, still on the floor. A plastic ashtray spilled all over the carpet along with a day’s worth of cigarette butts. I picked up the table and used it like a shield, shoving it at Jess’s face and trying not to get smacked by her massive fists in the meantime. It worked well enough that I managed to get back on my feet, though my arms felt like they were bruising.
It was almost like a dance the way she tried to grab me, and each time, I had to pivot a little more to get away from her. I had half a mind to run, but I didn’t know what she would do if she was left alone with Seth. Or even just my stuff. I was pretty sure the Xbox would get smashed next.
Eventually, she figured out that she could hold the coffee table, and she ripped it from my grasp. She reared it back and swung it down hard. I put my arm over my head to block it, but the table broke, and I think so did my arm. I stumbled back until I fell on the ground. I could have taken her, maybe, but I didn’t want to kill her and I didn’t know what to do with a gorilla once I had it in my possession. “Come on, Jess! Just shift!”
“Stay down!” Seth stood at the end of the hall, looking feeble and shaky. He pointed a gun at Jess, and with that look of concentration pulling his eyebrows to center, I knew he thought he was protecting me.
Jess stopped swinging and turned her attention on Seth.
I clambered to my feet, feeling dizzy. I must have taken more of a blow to the head than I’d realized.
The blast of the gun thundered in my ears.
The first line of your story— whether it’s a novel, short story, or work of nonfiction—must hook the reader. It’s probably the most important line in the entire book. It is the first impression, the easiest line in the book to find, the easiest line in the book to say “no” to. A good first line is in itself interesting, and makes the reader wonder, and to fulfill their curiosity, they’ll read the next sentence or two, and on and on until you’ve convinced them to trust your storytelling and that they should read the whole book. At least that is the dream.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a single line of a book. It’s the kind of pressure that feeds the blank page, building it into the scary beast we all fear as writers. If you already have a story started, hopefully you’ll revisit your first sentence before you submit it. The good thing is that your first line does not have to be perfect until the book is done.
For most of us, the fear of failure is hard to overcome. And if you want to write a story, but you don’t even have an idea for a story, that can intensify that paralyzing fear. I urge you not to let it keep you from writing the first line of a new story.
I’m here to help you start a new story! Below are 20 first lines to new stories that haven’t been written yet. Feel free to use any of them to write, to change them however it suits you (different names, POV, etc.), and by no means do you have to keep this line as your first line by the time you’re done with your story. Don’t let anything limit you.
If you need a jumping off point, here’s 20:
If none of these really work for you, that’s fine! The key is to come up with a tiny mystery or to mash together things that you wouldn’t expect together or to toss in a person doing something that isn’t normal. There’s no wrong way to do it. Use these however you need in order to get the juices flowing!
Already have a story written, but don’t know how to talk about it? Boil your story down to one sentence you can memorize and have at-the-ready, by using this worksheet to make the perfect elevator pitch/logline.
Fangs for reading! Snatch ya later. UvvU
Writers’ Biggest Fears Revealed is a blog series where we commiserate about all the things that get writers tripped up, and I talk you through how to alleviate those fears so you can move on to the next one. Stick around to the end of the post to get your hands on a free tool to help you face your fears.
Allow me to paint a scene for you:
It’s mid-June in 2017. I’m at a conference for writers in St. Louis known as Gateway Con. I’m here because I’ve decided to get serious about writing. I love learning, but I’ve never been to a writer’s convention before. This one offers workshops, opportunities to pitch your novel to literary agents, a keynote speech, a gala dinner, a book fair, and plenty of opportunities to connect with and get to know other writers. I only sort of know what to expect. I’ve tried very hard to find someone else willing to put up a few hundred dollars to keep me from being alone, but there’s just not anyone else who can put that sort of money toward this sort of thing.
So I’ve spent my two-hundred bucks, and I’m at the conference. I find it’s actually not hard to just talk to people, and we’re all here because we’re serious about writing or getting published, so there’s one question that is guaranteed to get you an answer: What are you writing about?
Is anyone else’s skin crawling?
The truth is, this question is super easy to ask someone else. It’s so easy, that you can do it without thinking. You’re expressing genuine interest in another writer and looking to establish a connection with someone who must also be here to connect with people or else they wouldn’t have convened at the convention.
But have you ever had this question turned around on you?
Someone who’s had a book published might have this down already. They’ve already thought about how to talk about their book to other people. They probably had to query an agent or an editor, and they probably had to be good at it. They may even have written the copy on the back of the book meant to convert browsers to buyers to readers.
In 2017, this isn’t me. I have what I’ve approximated to be a third of one novel, and a handful of short stories. I know what my story’s about. I could spill all of the juicy details about the struggles my character is facing, but I keep changing my mind on who the antagonist is; I have no idea what happens throughout any of the middle of the book; and I very well know that whatever I have planned for the end could drastically change based on whatever middle I vomit out.
So when asked, “What’s your book about?”… What’s my answer?
The easy answer would be to say, “I don’t know.” It’s not quite accurate, but perhaps to some extent it’s true.
But if I—the author of this mess I’m daring to call a “book”— don’t know what I’m writing about, then why should anyone else care?
So the answer I give? I put on a big smile, a nervous laugh. I say, “That’s a good question!” (which doesn’t sell books), and then I go on to ramble about my main character and throw in a few other details as they pop into my mind (which also doesn’t really sell books), and then I only know I’m done talking when I can’t stand the lifted eyebrows bobbing up and down to the polite nods of my listeners anymore.
It’s sloppy, clumsy, and I just don’t feel like I’ve represented my story in the golden light I feel it deserves. Despite my terrible description of my own work, I’m proud of where my story is going, and the development my main character has undergone. It truly is my baby, and I let it down.
The good news about this fear is that all it takes to alleviate it is to be prepared! Putting a tiny bit of work into really understanding the story you want to tell is going to keep you from missing out on opportunities to connect to other writers or potential readers—or even potential agents or publishers! The truth is, if you’re serious about making your manuscript into a real live book and you want people to read it afterward, you need to put in the effort to truly understand how to talk about your work-in-progress or the book you’ve already published and wish to promote.
Here are the basic components you need to understand in order to have a simple, yet intriguing conversation about your own writing.
OKAY, OKAY. We’ve decided on a genre. We’ve written down a few scenes and characters we’re excited to talk about, and we have a perfectly crafted logline. What now?
Great job! You have everything you need to survive The Question without sweating visibly or suffering so strongly from dry mouth that your lower jaw crumbles to ashes.
Conversations are always going to be unique, so you’re going to be ready to navigate them mostly on your own, but when it comes down to The Question, I’ve got you covered. Here’s how to use your newly developed weapons on the battlefield.
Start with the genre. “I write horror.” “I’m a romance writer.” “It’s a coming of age story.”
Continue with your logline. “The ghost of a meteorologist wakes up in the past, three days before the hurricane that killed him…and everyone else in New York City.”
Keep 2-3 interesting facts about your story on deck for answering follow-up questions. Use them or don’t use them. Just be familiar enough with a few that they’re there to pull from when you need them.
It’s that easy. Or at least you’ll be making it seem that way when you show up prepared to a conference or the next writers group you attend.
The best news of all: From here on out, if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to just… not have an answer to a question. You have proven you have a command of where your story is headed overall, so you’re not going to look like a fool, you’re just having the same struggles all writers are—but also please let me know when you figure it out because your little spiel has got me all interested.
So if there’s something you haven’t thought about yet or that you can’t make a decision about, it’s okay to be honest and just say, “I don’t know.”
More than it being okay not to know, it’s also okay for you to just not share. If you’re not ready to talk about your story, please feel comfortable saying, “I’m not ready to say yet.” To keep it personable and to come off as more confident, even if maybe you’re not actually all that confident, drop a teaser. It doesn’t have to be much: “I’m not ready to say yet, but there’s definitely a dragon in it.” Fake it ’til you make it, Honey Bunches.
If all else fails, talk about what makes you excited about your story, and talk about it confidently. You deserve to be heard, and if you truly believe in your work-in-progress, your excitement is going to rub off on others.
Are you still uncertain about how to answer the question “What’s your book about”? Do you want to feel more confident about your story? Learning How to Craft a Logline That Hooks Your Audience, is a great place to start, and you can have it for free RIGHT NOW. What are you waiting for? Get your FREE DOWNLOAD.
You may have heard about my quest to become a vampire fiction aficionado. This month, I’m reading Dracula by Bram Stoker.
I’d like to invite you to join me on this journey. If you’ve been meaning to read this book, the time is now! If you’ve already read it, get prepared to chat about it. I’m going to be hosting #vampchat LIVE on Twitter on Wednesday, May 29 at 4PM CST.
Fangs for reading! See you next Satórday! And don’t leave without your FREE DOWNLOAD of How to Craft a Logline That Hooks Your Audience! You’re going to need it for more than just talking about your book.
“Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”re: May 4th. Old lady at Bistritz—Dracula by Bram Stoker
Wouldn’t it be nice to understand your relationship with written words? I bet you have a great understanding of what sorts of elements you get excited about in a story. Maybe you love prophecy stories. Or you can’t pass up a paranormal romance. Perhaps you can’t wait for your next bout of self-inflicted insomnia from a horror story that made your skin crawl all the way to the neighbor’s house.
For me, that thing is vampires. I love me a good dark fantasy series. If a story projects itself in my mind with a gray filter over everything, I’m hooked. Beyond that, I’m driven by some mysterious force to write stories that involve vampires too!
But I’ll be the first one to admit that I haven’t read enough vampire-involved fiction. And that’s not me saying, “I’ve read a bunch and it’s still not enough LOL.” That’s me saying… I just don’t read often enough.
So with that in mind, I am here to commit myself to understanding my own relationship with fiction and with writing and reading about vampires, in particular. Sure, I love a story focused on change, but what is it about me that drives me to the fangers?
And while I’m at it, maybe I’ll get to learn why the Hell people cringe when they hear the word vampire.
These are some of the things actual people have said to me in senior-level creative writing workshops. That’s right. Somebody required to read my story for a grade, saw “vampires,” and chose to forego the assignment. He left one line of feedback on my story: “I didn’t read it.”
Oh well! I would argue that his feedback wouldn’t have been much more useful than “why don’t you make this story about AIDS instead?” But I guess we’ll never know. Aw, shucks.
If I sound salty, it’s because I am! But not just about undergrad writing workshops.
This stigma that fiction about or including vampires is somehow to be hated just for the presence of vampire characters prevails not just in higher education, but throughout the literary world. I get that there’s no genre that’s for everyone, and I’m not here to convince anyone that vampire fiction should be exciting or interesting to them if it’s just not their thing. I totally understand!
But the fact that there’s a vampire in a story is hardly a limit on plot possibilities or even genre possibilities. So what is it about vampires that repulses people before they even bother to get a gist of the story?
I have a few hunches, but I want to find out for myself. I’ve developed a mission that I’m going to explore right here through this blog.
Here are my goals in regard to this blog:
I know that I have a lot of work to do, so I’m going to get on it right away! First up? Dracula, by Bram Stoker. You’ll see a review coming through and my first attempt at cataloging all the mechanics of the story in their most stripped down form. Quick! Someone get me a pic of naked mechanics!
Need to sink your fangs into a story with vampires that you’ve never read before? Explore your own relationship with vampire fiction with this FREE chapter from my upcoming novel Destroying Eden.
You might remember Nathaniel from last Satórday’s post. You can expect to see more of this precious boy in my novels one day, but since those are still under construction, here’s your sneak peek.
I do not consider the following snippet to be canon. The events of my canon universe may be vastly or slightly different from this, but Nathaniel’s character remains the same. Please enjoy.
Nathaniel shut the door to the old Boston brownstone with more force than intended. He turned back toward it, pushing his shoulder against it—the deadbolt refused to lock without some pressure. His tired green eyes browsed the room as he stepped away from the door, slowly taking his bag off his shoulder and setting it against the wall in the foyer. He reflected on the day, taking his keys and his university faculty ID from his pocket and setting them on the counter in the kitchen. He didn’t much need the kitchen, so it was covered in file boxes, storing old drafts of stories and poems he intended to return to one day. Nathaniel felt one of the boxes with his fingertips, trying to remember what works he’d put in this one. It had been too long since he’d written. Perhaps it had been some sort of blessing to have been approached by Ira that day. A reason to write again. He didn’t even have a word down or an idea of his own about it before being guaranteed payment, assuming anyone bothered to buy a ticket to the show when it went on in the winter.
He’d slept at the theatre, so he could have been more tired. It wasn’t as though he wasn’t used to staying up until sunrise or later, but he’d made the mistake of staying at the theatre until the sun had risen and beyond. So here he was at 8:30PM finally returning home. Perhaps it was only because Ira’d had something he needed to do elsewhere that he even managed to escape him—not that Nathaniel had minded the company.
Penelope would be by soon, he realized. He took his phone from his pocket while he kicked off brown dress shoes in the middle of the kitchen, checking to make sure Penelope hadn’t tried to contact him. No word yet. He pocketed the phone again and sighed in relief. He loved Penelope; she proved herself loyal and caring over and over again. However, he didn’t enjoy how he had to behave around her.
It wasn’t that she had imposed a set of behavioral rules upon him. She loved him no matter what. Nathaniel’s dissatisfaction—no, his fear—of the way he acted stemmed from a change he could not control, but that was an inevitable outcome of his existence. He didn’t know any other vampires with the same condition.
Penelope would bring a “friend,” and Nathaniel would feed off of said friend. Then he wouldn’t be Nathaniel anymore.
It always happened that way, no matter how often they fed him or how much he drank. They had come to learn that feeding daily had consistent outcomes. It meant he became that Other Him every day, but it was briefer, and generally milder, than if he waited in between feedings. And Penelope was there to keep him in line, keep him in the house, out of trouble.
Of course that was no small part of why he hadn’t been laid in years, and he had to wonder if the long drought had anything to do with his sudden, very strong attraction to Ira, whom he’d just met. Ira, tall, handsome and just… charming. And married.
Nathaniel sighed, diving into his light purple sheets. He pressed his cheek against the cool, unslept in sheet and stared at the wall. It was too quiet here. He didn’t have to be lonely. He had Penelope and her… well, Nate didn’t know what Trevor was to Penelope, but he considered himself friends with both of them. There were the other vampires in the area, the ones who were capable of feeding responsibly, the ones that told Nate if he couldn’t control himself, they would find out, and they’d make sure he would never do it again. When he was alone in his home like this, when it was quieter than quiet, and he became conscious of the slow beat of his heart and the breath that powered the dangerous machine that he was, he could admit to himself that part of him welcomed the solution: to just terminate him and end everyone’s suffering at his hands, including his own.
He closed his eyes and rolled onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. Life had become monotonous. Everything was expected to happen just as it did. He expected Penelope to show up every day. He expected to go to work during the week. He expected his student Teresa to ask unnecessary questions after each class. He expected to spend from 1:00AM to 3:00AM answering emails and grading homework, and to spend his time until bed reading or writing or talking on the phone with Penelope. Lately, however, he’d received a few calls from Sam during those hours. He found himself surprised he enjoyed it. A change of pace. Sam took interest in what he had to say, no matter how mundane and boring Nathaniel’s stories about his own life had been lately. On the weekends, he expected to visit the bookstore and read there until close, and sometimes Penelope would come over for a social visit and not just to feed him.
But today—no, it was yesterday—class ended, and Teresa asked her question. Then Ira dragged him away to the theatre and gave him a new job. It was anomalous, to be sure. He knew on Monday he would teach the same course, and Teresa would ask her question, and he’d answer other students’ questions, and then he would go home, press his shoulder into the door to lock it, set his keys and his ID in the kitchen, and flop into his bed, wondering if life would ever come to remotely reflect his ideal version of it.
But tonight—yes, tonight—the sun went down, and Ira smiled at him for the hundredth time in twenty-four hours, and Nathaniel felt his heart beat faster than it had in years. He drank brandy, and he enjoyed himself with someone new—the beginning, he felt, of a new friendship, one he hopefully wouldn’t ruin with feelings. It had just been so long since—
The phone rang and Nathaniel sat up to answer it. “Hello, Penelope,” he said with a soft smile.
“Hey, baby. You thirsty? Trevor’s still resting up, but I can bring Sasha. She’s always excited to see you,” Penelope replied, a big smile in her voice.
“I remember Sasha. Bring her, I guess. I don’t have a preference.” He picked at a fuzzle on the sheet, his voice falling flat.
“I know you’re not excited about this, baby, but just be happy I can find these people.”
“I just hate to put anyone in danger. You know that.”
“All right, sweetie. What happened to you yesterday? I thought we was gonna do this last night. I mean, we done it every night for four-and-a-half years, ain’t we? What’s going on, baby boy?”
“I got a new job. I mean, I still have the old one, but I was offered a gig as the author of an upcoming play for a local theatre. We started work right away, and I should have paid better attention to the time, but I had to spend the day there.”
“I didn’t know you was looking for a job.”
“I wasn’t, actually,” Nathaniel said, eyebrows raising as he recalled Ira’s arrival in his class. “I was approached just after class by a man who’d walked in while I was lecturing. He didn’t really even ask much. He just literally dragged me to his theatre and told me how much he paid and that it wasn’t really even my writing that made him want to give me the job.”
“Hoo boy,” Penelope said with a laugh. “If it ain’t your writing and you ain’t looking for a job, then what—oh no, Nathaniel-baby, you didn’t…”
“Didn’t what?” He knew what, but wasn’t really willing to suggest that he got a job because of his looks or simply because Ira was just weird or… because he’d performed some sort of sexual favor. He liked to think he had professional merit, perhaps in the way he conducted himself or… something else. Just not his hot bod. Did he even have a hot bod?
“You ain’t fuck him, did you?” She laughed again.
Nathaniel laughed. “No! Of course not. He’s married.”
“And that’s the only reason you didn’t do it.”
“Oh, you sooo wanted to!” She cackled through the phone, causing Nathaniel to pull the phone from his ear.
“It’s not like that,” he said, putting the phone back to his ear with a bit of a laugh he couldn’t help. “I just met him. Plus, our relationship is strictly professional… despite all the brandy we drank and spending the night and day together…” He chuckled at himself. “Okay fine. I would have enjoyed it if it were to happen, but it didn’t and it won’t. It’s not really an option. Even if I was okay with it being not just professional, he’s still married.”
“You know, people think vampires ain’t real. Anything’s possible, baby.”
“Married, Penelope. That means something to me, and to him too, I hope.”
“Aight, baby. Well I’mma get Trevor taken care of. I’ll be there in an hour. Love you, babe. Bye.”
Nathaniel hung up and set down the phone with a small smile. Aight—…all right. Time to find something to do. He breathed in deeply through his nose and looked around to see if he had a book nearby.