Vampires Are Real

A piece of writing advice I see over and over again is “Read within your genre.” This is something I don’t do much, for several reasons.  One is that for a long time, like many other (mostly Indie) writers who combine different aspects of fiction, I didn’t know what to call the genre I wrote in. It was only after an early review called The Unquiet Grave “Paranormal” that I decided I fit into that genre better than any other, if I absolutely had to settle on a recognizable genre for marketing purposes.

But another reason I don’t read much Paranormal is that I don’t like it. And the main reason I don’t like it is that it has a bad tendency to fetishize aspects of the Supernatural in which I very much believe and sometimes relate to on a personal level. I’ve talked about this in regard to Witches and Paganism elsewhere. Supernatural creatures like Werewolves, Faeries, Mermaids, Selkies, and especially Vampires, are most often portrayed as hyper-sexualized, alluring, generally misunderstood and mightily abused beings just waiting for the right Mundane to see through their darkness and lead them into the light, often defined as a “more human” existence. And while I do appreciate the theme of finding a commonality of experience in those different than ourselves, I despise the idea that acceptable behaviour hinges on fitting in with the norm–i.e., Vampires who vow only to drink pigs’ blood (unless engaged in sex with their mortal lovers) and Were-creatures who give up hunting and settle down in the suburbs. I cringe when I read a so-called Romance based in coercion and misinformation. I get sick at my stomach when illustrations of nubile, mini-skirted teens with sparks flying from their fingers pop up in my Twitter feed. I hope most respectable authors would think twice about objectifying LBGTQ people or people of another race this way. But I guess most think “It’s okay, because these creatures are fictional.”

Do you remember what your Romantic hero eats? (credit: leejun35)
Do you remember what your Romantic hero eats? (credit: leejun35)

I’m not going into what I believe or disbelieve about the objective “reality” of the Supernatural here. I want to speak as a folklorist. I’ve studied Other and belief about Other virtually all my life. My specialty is Faery- and gods-lore, but many of the same ideas apply. The stories we tell about the things that go bump in the night don’t exist merely to scare us. They exist to tell us how to recognize and confront the monsters that pop up in our lives. How to communicate with them. How to avoid them. Because maybe the forms they take in story are objectively “real” and maybe they aren’t, but it’s sure as shit that they exist in metaphor. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ve met people who are fickle and manipulative, who look beautiful until you gain access to an “ointment” that shows you their true nature. People who seem benign until you cross them. People who shift from polite to bestial in the blink of an eye or with the phase of the moon. People who suck out your vital energy until you have nothing left, and maybe you resort to sucking the energy out of others.

You’ve met vampires. And they are charismatic and alluring. They’re also no one you want to be around.

As a Pagan interacting with other Pagans, I’ve heard the term “Psychic Vampire” being tossed around for years and years. And you know, I always thought it was a bit absurd. Hyperbolic. Until I read this article, which deals with exorcizing a vampire in a Pagan context. It blew my mind a bit, because I realized that I had experienced the same things the writer experienced in their group over and over again. But I hadn’t understood what it was. Because, even though I’m a Pagan and I believe in a lot of things other people don’t, I had been pre-programmed to dismiss Vampires as myth. I didn’t get the metaphor. I only saw the blood. But, as my professor friend reminded me, before Bram Stoker took a hand, real Slavic Vampires could be anything. They can be people, houses, rocks. It’s the stuff that sucks the psychic energy from you.

And I realized another thing:

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I can think of three, maybe four times people in my life have turned out to be psychic vampires, and the pattern is always the same. I get into a relationship with a charismatic, energetic, motivated individual. At first, it’s exhilarating. Before long, we’re sharing deep truths about ourselves. I see that my friend has a dark center–past trauma, usually–and I feel honoured to be entrusted with it. Then the drain starts. It’s subtle. My new friend needs to be the center of attention, and assures this is the case in various ways, maybe by emoting in a vaguely threatening way when she isn’t, maybe by crying and expressing that their needs aren’t being met, maybe by initiating a conversation on social media from which it’s almost impossible to get away. There’s always some kind of crisis in my friend’s life that means I have to be supportive. And the thing is, it’s always a REAL CRISIS. You can’t say it’s made up. A family member contracts a devastating illness, or my friend loses a job, or is about to become homeless. It’s really difficult to say that these incidents are manufactured. Of course, you can’t blame a person for things happening to them or the people around them. But somehow, more and more of my energy is required. And somehow, though my friend reassures me that they will “always be there for me,” it doesn’t turn out that way.

If I’m really lucky and on point, I see what’s happening and get out. More often I don’t understand how drained I am until someone else points it out, or until some Dea Ex Machina event, like meeting a new lover or getting a new job, forces me to extract myself. A time or two, I rubbed my Vampire the wrong way–I set a boundary the Vampire didn’t like or called them on a behaviour they didn’t want to own–and they ran.

My last therapist told me that I keep getting into these relationships over and over again because of some pattern I learned in childhood, and that might be true. I am perfect Vampire Bait.

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Psychic Vampires are always at the center of the crowd. At least, it looks that way to me, maybe because of the whirlpool of energy that gets created as they suck the juices from those around them. Anyway, I’m a sucker for attention from anyone who looks like they’re the cool kid to be seen with, the one who picks and chooses who gets to be in the clique. (I think this must stem from all those times being chosen dead last for dodgeball.) I crave recognition, and a Vampire gives it by the simple act of including me in the club. I’m also highly empathic, especially where other people’s fears and pain are involved. I want to make them stop. Consequently, I will listen and support and give my energy beyond the point where it is healthy for me, always hoping to fill the Vampire’s deep well of darkness. I’ve noticed that Vampires often prey on empaths for this reason (and it’s a trope you also see in Paranormal fiction with Vampires of the blood-sucking variety). They COUNT ON us feeling sorry for them and wanting to make it better. A few of the people from my past whom I’ve come to recognize as Vampires have claimed to be empathic as well, but I can’t say I ever saw this borne out. Most of them are too hungry to have a good feel for other people’s emotions. And they also have all the qualities I admire in others and believe I lack. They’re motivated, outgoing, outwardly self-assured. They’re attractive. When I’m the object of their attention, I feel important and loved. I feel like I have worth. It’s a hard trap to extricate myself from.

One of the worst things about having been prey to a Psychic Vampire is no one believes you until they’ve also been prey. Usually to the specific Vampire you’re trying to warn them about, less often to another of the same type. So you can’t say anything. I get stuck in the place of telling myself, “Well, maybe their experience will be different,” because I feel like coming out and saying, “Please watch out for so-and-so. I know you think you’re friends, but it won’t turn out well” makes me look crazy. Plus, over and over again I have tried to speak out, only to be told things like “Oh, shit always happens in bands,” or “She may be bad in certain circumstances, but she’s fun to be with,” or “You’re blowing things out of proportion.” So mostly I hold my tongue, and then I have to watch my friends continue to interact with a person I know to be…ultimately unhealthy to be around, engaging in the whirlwind of activity, talking about what a good friend the person it. It pains me on a deep level. A couple of times, people who have been involved with the Vampire have come to me later and said, “Shit, you were right. They did the same thing to me.” This helps, but it’s not as validating as it would be if, say, people believed me in the first place. If people took my part and told the Vampire, “That thing you did to Kele was really messed up.”

This is why I cannot get on board with the fetishizing of Vampires in fiction. The things that typify Vampire mythology aren’t romantic. They’re damaging. Some people rewrite aspects of Vampire mythology to minimize the horror. They justify. They create a more family-friendly Vampire, one you can marry and settle down with. In my opinion, this is just as repugnant as finding ways to romanticize wife battering or child abuse, and I wish it would stop.

People are fascinated with things that are other. They always have been and they always will be. I understand it. I understand the allure, the wish to explore our own shadow sides by giving then life in the form of dark heroes and heroines. It’s a safe way to touch a place most do not even want to acknowledge. But it’s unwise to forget the meaning behind the symbols, and to fall in love with things who survive on your vital energy.

Reread the old stories and remember the blood.

 

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The Work In Progress Writing Tour

Hello, and welcome to another Blog Tour post! This week it’s the “WIP Lines” tour. My friend Sonya Craig tagged me to follow her post from last week. Sonya is one of the foundations of my Twitter crew, a funny, talented, and creative lady who writes Old School Science Fiction with a spunky and snarky heroine. She’s also an amazing artist and you should definitely check her out.

Sonya Craig's take on yours truly.
Sonya Craig’s take on yours truly.

So, what is this WIP tour? Well, it’s a chance for me to tell you about what I’m working on at the moment and share some lines–the first line or two of each of the first three chapters, to be precise–to get all you fans excited, so that you, in turn, can haunt my Twitter feed and encourage me to keep going. Or possibly make scathing comments about how I don’t write fast enough, but I’d prefer the former.

I happen to have a special treat for all you readers: I’m working on not just ONE WIP, but TWO!!! So I’m going to tell you a bit about each of them.

The first thing I’m working on these days is a trio of novellas about everyone’s favorite Scottish shaman, Timber MacDuff. Depending on whether or not you’ve read any of the Caitlin Ross novels–and depending on which ones you’ve read–you may know our estimable Scot was rather a problem child in his youth, who started running away from home at the age of twelve and left for good at fourteen. For the next three and a half years, he lived on the streets, until the man who would become his teacher dragged him 0ut of squalor by the ear and knocked some sense into him.

Timber as a character has always fascinated me. I find that writing primarily in the first person, as I do, the stories become as much or more about the people the POV character interacts with and how she feels about them as they are about Caitlin herself. So, in a way, we come to know Timber very well. And yet, he retains a certain mystery. I’m not one of those authors who sits down and writes a huge back story for every character; I let the back story reveal itself as needed. And although I knew Timber had had a difficult time as a young man, I never knew quite why someone with a loving family like his would go the way he did. I wanted to explore this in more detail, so in May of 2013 I started writing.  I’ve been working on this project in fits and starts since then, and am currently about halfway through the third novella, tentatively titled “Eyes Full of Stars.” Early versions of the first two novellas, “How He Left” and “Into the Void” are available under the Timber MacDuff sidebar of this blog, in case you’re interested. The three stories explore the circumstances that caused Timber to leave home in the first place, a series of events that shaped the person he would be for the next few years, and, finally, Mitch’s rescue and Timber’s decision to embrace the shamanic path.

The Lines

How He Left

“For the Lord’s sake, Timber! Will ye not at least get a haircut?”

He scowls up at his mother from beneath the lock of hair that always seems to be falling into his eyes. It annoys him, but he’s never going to let her know it.

“I dinna believe Jesus Christ gives a damn about the length of my hair,” he says, watching her cross from stove to sink.

Into the Void

He stares in the mirror and thinks about how he’s aged.

It’s not in his face so much. He’s thinner, so his face is thinner, too. But that’s only made his features finer. His cheekbones stand out like blades. A pimp in the Tenderloin broke his nose last month. He caught the bastard threatening one of the girls he knows and called him on it, which was stupid because the bugger was armed and could have done him worse damage if he’d cared to.

Eyes Full of Stars

Summer in LA: Hot and dry, with a dust-filled wind whipping around the corners of buildings and ripping crumpled newspapers from overflowing trash bins, sending them skittering down the streets like artificial tumbleweeds. A smell on the air of gasoline and baked asphalt mixes with the brown fug of exhaust and smog. Somewhere to the west, the ocean rolls in ceaseless breakers up to beaches where sun-warmed girls in bikinis flirt with the waves and bleached studs play volleyball, showing off for the girls.

My first Fan Art: Timber as seen by Sonya Craig
My first Fan Art: Timber as seen by Sonya Craig

The other thing I’m working on is the seventh book in the Caitlin Ross series, Death and the Lady. It’s October, eight months after the events of Demon Lover. Timber is still trying to cope with the trauma of having been imprisoned and raped, Caitlin is tearing her hair out over Timber’s reluctance to confide in her, and both of them are dealing with the realities of being first-time parents. When a wealthy acquaintance approaches Caitlin about putting a band together to play at her autumn wedding, Caitlin doesn’t feel she can refuse. And it turns out to be a good thing she and Timber are there, because when a friend collapses on the dance floor, Timber’s able to bring him back from the dead. What neither of them know, though, is that saving their friend is the beginning of a series of events that will reunite many of the supporting characters from previous volumes in a rush to solve a series of bizarre crimes before the energy of the Samhain season fuels a vendetta with Caitlin as its target.

I’m not very far into this one. In fact, when Sonya asked me to participate in this blog tour, I hadn’t yet written chapter three! But I got it done, I’m into chapter four now, and so, for your enjoyment, here are some introductory lines.

Death and the Lady

Chapter One

It began at a wedding.

It began with a death.

Autumn exploded through the Gordarosa valley in a burst of crimson and gold. The Harvest Festival at the end of September made way for an October of brilliant, warm days and crisp nights. The summer’s hay and corn had all been gathered in, signaling the season of yellow pumpkins and trees bent under the weight of apples and pears. All around town, anxious gardeners plucked tomatoes bursting with juice and crossed their fingers against the first frost, praying for the green globes yet on the vine to ripen before it arrived.

Chapter Two

Timber roused enough when we got home to heave himself into the house and stumble upstairs, where he fell full length across the bed and passed out again without removing his boots. After the long day and its spectacular end, I felt like joining him. My energy had plummeted as soon as our house had come in sight, leaving me shaking in every limb, with black spots in the corners of my eyes.

Chapter Three

I hadn’t seen Zee—nobody used his legal name, Josef Zdrojkowski, for obvious reasons—in seven or eight years. A wanderer who never stayed in one town longer than it took for him to figure it out, he’d left Boulder a few months before Timber and I had. We wrote, but rarely; keeping track of him was too hard for regular correspondence. Now and again a postcard reached us from some far-flung region of the North or South American continent, and once he’d sent a package from a village in Peru. But he’d never visited.

So there you have it: My two works in progress. Are you excited yet?

Next up on the WIP Lines Blog Tour is Angelina Williamson. A bleeding liberal and expert at using power tools moderately well, Angelina writes a variety of things including YA Dystopia. In addition to her Better Than Bullets personal blog, she keeps an urban homesteading blog at Stitch and Boots, and sells neat stuff in her Etsy store, for which I unfortunately don’t have a link at hand. She’s an amazing gardener who knows what herb will save you in case of a Zombie Apocalypse, and if she were a man, her balls would be skinned peaches. Just sayin’. Next week she’ll be sharing her WIP Lines with you, so be sure to check her out!

This blog composed to Poliça Radio on Pandora.

Cover Reveal: Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport

About a year ago, I had the privilege of reading the manuscript of a brilliant and beautiful re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, by a wonderful new author, Jennie Davenport. Today I get to share the cover of that book, which will be released November 25th of this year. Congratulations, Jennie! And may this be only the first step in a long and prosperous career!

Hemlock Veils: Coming Nov. 25
Hemlock Veils: Coming Nov. 25

 

When Elizabeth Ashton escapes her damaging city life and finds herself in the remote town of Hemlock Veils, Oregon, she is smitten by its quaint mystery; but the surrounding forest holds an enchantment she didn’t think existed, and worse, a most terrifying monster. The town claims it vicious and evil, but Elizabeth suspects something is amiss. Even with its enormous, hairy frame, gruesome claws, and knifelike teeth, the monster’s eyes speak to her: wolf-like and ringed with gold, yet holding an awareness that can only be human. That’s when Elizabeth knows she is the only one who can see the struggling soul trapped inside, the soul to which she is moved.

Secretly, Elizabeth befriends the beast at night, discovering there’s more to his story and that the rising of the sun transforms him into a human more complex than his beastly self. Elizabeth eventually learns that his curse is unlike any other and that a single murderous act is all that stands between him and his freedom. Though love is not enough to break his curse, it may be the only means by which the unimaginable can be done: sacrifice a beauty for the beast.

jennie davenport ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Though Jennie Davenport was raised throughout the Midwest, she now lives in the little desert mining town of Bagdad, Arizona, where six guys beg for her constant attention: a husband, three young, blond sons, a German shepherd with a name much mightier than his disposition (Zeus), and a black cat named Mouse. When she isn’t trying to run her home with as little casualties as possible, Jennie loves snuggling with her family, laughing with her friends, delving into brilliant entertainment of any vein, and playing outside. Despite the way being a writer is in her blood, and the wheels of her writerly mind are constantly turning, Jennie likes to think that in another life, she would have been a Broadway star. Or an American Idol finalist.

Jennie lives for the fall, and not just because of her adoration for the NFL (Go Broncos!). In her perfect world, she would have the springs, summers, and falls of Colorado, and the winters of Arizona—someplace where the climate and weather would allow her to go on a trail run all year round. But even though she prefers the pines and mountains, she is a devoted fan of all nature, from sandy beaches to woodsy cabins, and all are her greatest inspiration. She believes nature is one of the best healing remedies, with a magic all its own.
Jennie’s passion for writing is the way she survives, and is as vital to her sanity as oxygen, caffeine, food, and music. Even before she began writing it, well-told, original, and character-driven romance was always her weak spot. Add the paranormal or magical realism element and she may never make it back to reality.

Find Jennie Davenport on the Internet!

http://jenniedavenportauthor.blogspot.com/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8137290.Jennie_Davenport
https://twitter.com/may_davenport
http://facebook.com/jenniemaydavenport

 

 

Ain’t No Fire in This Hole: Deconstructing True Blood Season 7, Episode 3

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! If you have not yet seen True Blood Season 7, Episode 3 and you don’t want to know, STOP HERE!

 

Today I was supposed to post my installment of the “10 Things You Don’t Know About Me” Blog Tour. In fact, I did start writing that post yesterday. And then I watched last night’s True Blood, and all bets were off.

I came late to the whole Sookie Stackhouse experience, books and TV show both. In truth, vampire fiction is a big yawn to me, and a lot of the standard tropes of the genre give me hives. I can’t even get through a lot of it. But last year, I developed a huge crush on Joe Manganiello, who plays the Were, Alcide. I resisted as long as I could, but in the end I gave in to my fangirl instincts and got the DVDs of the first five seasons of True Blood out of the library. I also read the entire book series last summer, because I write Paranormal fiction and I figured I should.

This is my disclaimer: I only ever watched True Blood for Alcide. I enjoy some of the other characters and the occasional witty bit of dialog. But Sookie is at best annoying and at worst downright moronic. Love interest #1, Bill, is a drag. And I have never, never understood the fan obsession with Eric. So you might understand my distress at the rumours I started hearing around the first of April, of Alcide’s impending death. Well, it happened last night (in episode 3 of season 7, “Fire in the Hole”). I knew in advance of watching, because I live in Mountain Time Zone, and after about eight o’clock here there it was impossible to be on the Internet without being spoiled. What with the speculation and the plain fact that Mr. Manganiello has been everywhere EXCEPT  on the True Blood set this year, it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. So I’m not actually TOO upset that the writers decided to kill off my main reason for watching. The main source of my irritation is the way in which it was done, the rationalizations given for it, and the unmistakable truth that episode–the whole season so far, really–was just badly written. Boring, even.

So. Deconstructing “Fire in the Hole.”

We start off in a Los Angeles ashram, where a previously-unheard-of yoga teacher is conducting a class. After some New Age Speak with focus shifting back and forth between the teacher and various students, we get the big reveal: Here’s Sara Newlin, her hair darker than we’ve seen it, evidently having turned her back on her Christian faith, but with the same ardent Seeker’s smile on her face as ever! Well, that’s okay. Jason let her go at the end of last season. She was a loose end that needed tying up, and I can accept the writers wanting to do something about that.

Cut to main titles, THEN:

Pam confronts Eric in some manor on the Rhône, a place where, according to Pam “he’d never go.” I wondered about that when it first came up, but I figured it had something to do with Eric’s pre-vampiric past and let it go. Turns out Eric–who was revealed in episode 2 as having contracted Hep V–had a love affair with a French vintner’s daughter back in 1986, and, according to Pam, he’s punishing himself for what went down with that. Now we’re treated to a LONG flashback about Eric and Sylvie. As the two of them make sweet love in the vineyard, up pops Nan Flanagan. You remember Nan, the spokes-vamp for the Authority? She has an issue with Eric and Pam being in France without having notified the local sheriff, and living openly as vamps when the secrecy laws are still in effect. Fine. Then there’s some garbled nonsense about an alliance between the Authority and the Japanese Corporation that has begun to manufacture True Blood, and WHAT? I totally did not understand this whole purported conflict, and this is when I started to have major issues with the writing in this episode.

Despite earlier assertions that the writers planned to scale back, they still have a distressing tendency to invent unnecessary new characters instead of letting the stories revolve around the perfectly good characters they already have. In season 6 they took it to extremes with the wacky kids of the Supernatural Rights movement (or whatever they were called), a subplot that brought us the forgettable Nicole, a woman who managed to get discernibly pregnant about five minutes after sleeping with Sam. Oh, and Violet. I’ll have more to say about her later. In season seven, the writers continued the trend with Vince, who apparently ran against Sam for Mayor of Bon Temps, and who is now fulfilling the clichéd Angry Redneck Agitator role. Because there aren’t enough problems in Bon Temps without stirring up the already frightened townspeople. Good one.

Now we get Sylvie, who, to all appearances, was the actual true love of Eric’s life. I suppose it’s not impossible that he had a lot of lovers over the course of 1000 years, but it seems unlikely, given the apparent depth of their attachment, that we would never have heard of her before this. Why do we need to hear about her now, and in a subplot that took up about a quarter of the screen time of the episode? I’m guessing that they may go somewhere with the subplot. But it mostly seems, as my husband put it, “They had to invent Sylvie because no one else was fucking in this episode.” Knowing HBO, I can actually hear that being said at a plotting conference.

Nan leaves Eric and Pam with an ultimatum: Straighten up and fly right or the evil Corporation WILL GET YOU (Again, WHY? Is Eric the only straying vampire on their radar?) Pam suggests that she and Eric get the hell out of Dodge. He refuses because Sylvie wants to finish University. Because that makes so much sense for Eric to say.

Cut to: Alcide has finished the shower he started last week. You remember, when Sookie, like the complete idiot she is, left him without any explanation to go off and hatch a moronic scheme with Bill. So, Alcide finishes his shower, discovers Sookie had flown the coop, and tracks her to Bill’s house. Not finding her there either, he shifts to wolf shape and runs off to hunt her.

Alcides buttt
We do, however, get some nice footage of the ass the gods spoke of.

 

MEANWHILE: Bill and Sookie are driving somewhere to put Sookie’s moronic plan into motion. Sookie wonders if Alcide will be able to track her. He assures her he took care of all their scent traces. Yeah, that worked. Bill also tells Sookie that he can no longer sense her because he was totally drained when he gave the Lilith blood to the imprisoned vamps last season, so the “Vampire Bill you knew no longer exists.” This declaration caused me to give my computer the finger. Bill goes on to say that he’ll always remember and pay for the abuse he put Sookie through. Sookie says, “Good,” and then sucks some more Bill juice, declaring “I have a boyfriend!” So don’t get any ideas, Bill.

NEXT we see Adilynn and Wade sharing a tender moment in a jail cell. Just as they start to kiss, Jessica appears, along with a justifiably pissed-off Andy. Adilynn explains about the mob of angry townspeople, and the four of them take off to get reinforcements.

SAM and the Reverend are having a heavy discussion about matters of faith in the church. When Sam asks what good it does to have faith, the Reverend asks him what good it does NOT to have it, and adds, “Death is a dark and blinding motherfucker, whether you see if coming or not.” This is actually a great line, and the Reverend is one of the newer characters I like. But I half-expected a giant, pointing finger labeled FORESHADOWING to descend from the ceiling at that moment. At that moment, a tripping Lettie Mae bursts into the church, along with a remarkably ineffective Willa. Girl, you’re a vampire. Couldn’t you have restrained the crazy woman, or glamoured her, or something? Anyway, the Rev asks everyone to leave. Sam and his vamp escort head off, only to be met by the aforementioned crowd of angry villagers townspeople. After the requisite gloating, during which rival Vince announces that he’s the mayor now, someone splatters Sam’s escort on the pavement. Sam turns into an owl and flies away.

Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.
Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.

BACK AT JASON’S PLACE, Jason tells Violet he wants to have kids, because “a man is nothing without a family.” Because Andy said the exact same thing last episode, and Jason has never had an original thought. Violet launches into an angry tirade about how “in her day” men were goddam MEN, and warriors trampled the dismembered bodies of their fallen enemies without feeling. Because, in case you missed it, REAL MEN DON’T HAVE FEELINGS. This was another moment when I flipped the bird at the screen. I freaking hate Violet. Not quite as much as I hate Sookie, but she’s a close second. I hated her when she showed up last season, because WHY? Then it turned out that she was denying sex to Jason because she wanted him to prove his macho by raping her on the hood of a car, an action she evidently found a turn on. And now this Real Men (TM) bullshit. Honestly, this little speech pissed me off more than about anything in the episode. I guess Violet’s been around 600-odd years and the entire Women’s Rights movement completely bypassed her. Someone stake that bitch, please. Fortunately, before the argument takes off, Andy and Company show up. They leave the kids at Jason’s place, and the two law officers and the two vamps run to rescue Sookie, whom the believe to be in danger from the angry mob. Because we MUST RESCUE SOOKIE. It’s the Law!

TIME to check in with Lafayette! He’s dancing around and shit, when James shows up, trying to score some weed because Jessica doesn’t know he’s alive. Or undead. Or whatever. Anyway, it makes sense that she doesn’t, because they haven’t has a scene together since he changed bodies, so maybe she doesn’t recognize him anymore. Lafayette only has pills, which he kindly takes so that James can get off by drinking his blood. The two of them trip off into Happy Land, but when Lafayette assumes James is coming on to him, James declares that he’s with Jessica. Because that’s believable.

They're really cute together. Pity.
They’re really cute together. Pity.

AFTER a brief check-in with the Hep V-infected Vamps at Fangtasia (remember them?), during which they decide to go hunting and take Holly along for munchies, it’s back to Bill and Sookie. They’re filling the time waiting for the infected vamps, whom Sookie hopes to lure with her glittery fairy blood, with reminiscence. For Bill, this includes a long and COMPLETELY POINTLESS flashback about getting photographs of his family takes before he goes off to The War. Because it totally made sense to waste our time on that.

ANDY and company find Sam’s abandoned truck, as well as the angry villagers. There’s a confrontation. Maxine shoots at Jessica, and Violet rips Maxine’s heart out, which was admittedly gratifying. I guess Violet’s good for something. The mob scatters, and the good guys continue to search for Sookie.

INSERT over-long, pointless scene of the Rev tossing Willa out on her ear because Lettie Mae is a drug addict.

NOW, without warning, we’re back in 1986, where a group of Japanese businessmen force Eric to choose between Sylvie and Pam for no apparent reason. Eric, also for no apparent reason, chooses Pam, and Sylvie is unceremoniously killed. To which my husband said, “They invented her for nudity value, so they had to invent a reason to get rid of her. Thus the Japanese assassins without apparent purpose.” EXCEPT! Pam manages to get Eric to rise from his bed of pain with the mention of one name: Sara Newlin. Finding out she’s alive is just the tonic he needs. The two of them leave to hunt down Sara and give her what for. Meanwhile, Sara and her guru are finishing up some spiritual practice when the SAME Japanese assassins arrive. With Sara conveniently hiding in the wine cellar, they kill the guru and proceed to search the ashram. Guess they aren’t too chuffed about the Hep V thing.

Just leave me here to die, please.
Just leave me here to die, please.

AND NOW the climactic scene: The Hep V Vamps back in Bon Temps FINALLY locate Sookie. Before they can make off with her, however, Alcide and Sam, in animal form, attack. At the same moment, Andy and company show up to splatter the Vamps all over the scenery. Alcide morphs back into human form, makes sure Sookie is okay, and starts to read Bil the riot act for not being able to protect the girl. Before he can get going, one of the stray angry townspeople shoots Alcide through the head.

THE END

I can understand killing Alcide, I really can. But the justifications for doing it in the way they did at the moment they did don’t fly with me. It may be, from a story point of view, that “the fairy has to end up with the vampire.” I can play that either way. As a writer, I can see the appeal to wrapping everything up into a neat package. However, as a writer, I also kn0w that no story HAS to do anything. My personal preference would have been to have Sookie grow a brain and backbone and discover she can be an independent person. Since I recently saw a tweet from Anna Paquin stating that “part of Sookie’s character is that she doesn’t learn from her mistakes,” I doubt this is ever going to happen.

As far as Alcide being an outsider and thus the character the series can do without: You know, that didn’t have to be. The WRITERS MADE THAT. They made it by separating the vampire and were storylines so far in season 6, and they continued it by asking the audience to swallow the absurd notion that Alcide is still an outsider after living with Sookie for six months that we never saw. Now, I never bought the whole Sookie/Alcide romance in the first place. It didn’t sell in the books, and it didn’t sell in the show. It seemed to me as if Alcide fell for Sookie for no other reason than that every male character has to fall for Sookie at some point. If I try really hard, I can believe that he might have become infatuated with her because he was on the rebound from Debbie–whom Sookie killed. Great basis for love, that. But Alcide was no dummy. I think it would have been far more realistic for him to become disenchanted with Sookie on closer inspection, and for him to leave her. But, you know, that would have taken an effort.

But it’s the final justification that sticks in my craw the most. Alcide had to die because if Sookie dumped the good guy everyone would hate her. I MEAN, REALLY? Because we’re totally going to love her now that her stupidity and refusal to communicate honestly GOT HIM KILLED! Granted, I run in a particular circle of fans–Alcide Fans, that is. But from what I saw last night, it looked to me as if this brilliant move might have lost True Blood two-thirds of its viewers. At the very least, I would have liked to see Alcide continue a couple more episodes and go down in a blaze of glory. The random shot in the dark from an irate hick wasn’t dramatic. It was lame, lame, lame.

You know, I did get one thing out of this poor excuse for an episode. I never understood the brou-ha-ha over the end of the book series, or why people were so upset that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Mostly because I’ve never shipped Eric. So the rants I read about it didn’t make any sense to me. When I read the books, I thought the way Harris ended the series made perfect sense.

Now I understand where those people were coming from.

I expected all along that Alcide wouldn’t make it through all ten episodes. And I fully intended to keep watching after his death, because I don’t like leaving things and I like knowing what happens. But after last night’s travesty, I have no desire to continue. I might pick up the series at some later date if I have nothing to do. But I won’t be waiting for it to air every Sunday night.

#NOTTrueToTheEnd

 

DEMON LOVER COVER REVEAL!

Demon Lover, the sixth book in the Caitlin Ross Series, will be released ONE MONTH FROM TODAY, August 2nd (which, incidentally, is hero Timber MacDuff’s birthday. But I digress).

Demon Lover takes place four months after the close of book five, The Cruel Mother, and finds Caitlin and Timber back home in Gordarosa, with Caitlin’s baby due any day. In late January, all either of them wants to do is stick close to home, put the finishing touches on the nursery, and enjoy their last, child-free moments together. You know, like normal people. Of course, they aren’t normal.

As a young man, Timber had quite a reputation with the ladies. Caitlin knew this, but she never expected one of his old flames to track him down. She gets a shock when she finds out the new dance teacher in town knew Timber intimately while he was a graduate student researching his thesis. Despite the fact that Timber and Caitlin have been married nearly ten years, she wants to pick up where she and the estimable Scot left off, and gets mighty pissed when he turns her down. What follows is a story of magic, murder, and the redemptive power of true love.

And now, the cover:

demonlovercover2

Why is this woman standing in the middle of a lake holding a watermelon? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Demon Lover is available for pre-order as an eBook from Smashwords and in print from Amazon. You can also enter a giveaway at Goodreads. Don’t forget to check my Independent Author Network page for the rest of the series!

 

 

COVER REVEAL: THE UNQUIET GRAVE!

As you may or may not know, I’ve been contemplating new covers for all my Caitlin Ross books for some time. The covers I have are nice enough. Some of them I truly like. But, as still life, they lack the kind of pull I’d like to see for my books.

Well, events conspired to throw me together with a WONDERFUL artist, WolfenM. She’s a Pagan Geek who loves comics and everything Nerdy, and she “gets” the Caitlin Ross Universe. I am thrilled to reveal her first cover, The Unquiet Grave.

 

The Unquiet Grave Cover by WolfenM
The Unquiet Grave Cover by WolfenM

 

The new cover will be appearing on all versions within the next week or so. You can buy The Unquiet Grave on AMAZON, where purchase of a print edition includes a free Kindle download, or on SMASHWORDS, which has downloads in all e reader formats.

Stay connected with The Shadow Sanctuary for more of Wolfen’s covers, and visit her at deviantArt: http://wolfenm.deviantart.com/

The Writing Process Blog Tour!

Welcome to your next stop on the writing process blog tour! Sonya Craig invited me to be your host this week. Sonya is the author of the Outbound Science Fiction series. Her novels include OUTBOUND, EVOLVE, WATER DEATH and PAWN. The fifth book, ICED is coming soon. Space has never been more unpredictable than when Taiga Chavez and her fellow underdogs square off against the unhinged, totalitarian bullies of the universe.

And thanks, of course, to J. Miles Wagner, author, blogger, and book reviewer for starting us off.

So, me.

Who am I and why do I write what I do?

Hi! I’m Katherine Lampe, author of the Caitlin Ross series of Paranormal Adventures. Caitlin’s a witch in a small town in rural Colorado where she manages the difficulties that arise between the town’s supernatural and mundane residents. You can find the first five books in the series HERE. Book Six, Demon Lover, is slated for release 2 August 2014.

I didn’t set out to write Paranormal. In fact, I didn’t know it existed as a genre until someone else described my books as Paranormal. I knew about the Sookie Stackhouse books and the Anita Blake series and others of the ilk, sure. I’d even read some. But my brain just lumped those into a corner of the mystery genre and left them there. Besides, those books all involved vampires and werewolves, and mine don’t. It never occurred to me that the adventures of witches and shamans and spirit helpers and gods would fall into the Paranormal category. To me, those things are normal. More about this later.

Anyway, what I’ve always wanted to write is Epic Fantasy: the kind of “sweeping tapestry” of a novel that features momentous events and a huge cast of characters. I’ve wanted to write Epic Fantasy ever since I first read The Lord of the Rings (of course) in eighth grade (in the choir loft, behind my hymnal, during the sermon). And, except for an extremely derivative, 300-page, heroine-on-quest tale I churned out that summer, I’ve never been able to pull it off. I don’t have the kind of mind that’s interested in those huge plots. I like stories about people, and my books have always been character-driven rather than plot-driven. And the standard conflicts of Epic Fantasy don’t appeal to me, either. For years I tried to mesh my interests with Epic Fantasy and it just didn’t work.

Then I spent a year reading every Cozy in the local library. Without my intending it to, my mind took note of the similarities, of the formulas. I saw those simple plots—people solving problems in the context of their interpersonal relationships—as something I could do. So, armed with a fictional small town, some actual local history, and a few character names that began as an in-joke, I set out to write a Cozy.

I hit a problem almost at once. As my starting point, I had chosen a local building with a nasty history. Common wisdom was this building was haunted. In fact, I knew people who had actually seen the ghost. Great. My idea was to have my female amateur sleuth solve a decades-old murder and remove the baleful influence from the local bar.

Except. Except my female sleuth had other ideas. So did her husband. In fact, my whole fictional small town had other ideas. The case turned out not to be as simple as I had hoped it would be, and to solve it, or even begin to understand it, I needed magic. So, okay. I could do that. I wanted to write Fantasy, after all. I’d write a Fantasy Cozy. I decided to make my female amateur sleuth a Witch. Well, that also turned out not to be as simple as I had hoped, because I needed a good reason that this Witch didn’t just wave her hand and make the ghost and all the problems associated with it disappear. I didn’t want to go into that overused Fantasy trope about powerful people never using their powers because CONSEQUENCES or because having power necessarily implies you’ll abuse it. I needed something different. Something particular and personal to the protagonist, not some lame dogma.

It took me five years to solve the problem and explain the magic of my world to myself to my satisfaction. The end result was the first Caitlin Ross Adventure, The Unquiet Grave.

 

How does my work differ from other works in the Paranormal genre?

The most important way the Caitlin Ross Adventures differ from other Paranormal books is that they come from a Pagan world view. I’m a practicing polytheistic Pagan and have been for over twenty years, and I wanted my work to reflect my values and my ideas about the way the world works. I have read tomes and tomes of Fantasy and Speculative Fiction, and since I realized what genre I worked in, I’ve read tomes and tomes of Paranormal, too. One hundred percent of the Paranormal fiction I’ve read has come from authors working within a Judeo-Christian world view. Some of the Fantasy and Spec Fic I’ve read incorporates elements of Paganism, notably the works of Charles De Lint and Neil Gaiman. Gael Baudino, Diana Paxson, and Mercedes Lackey write Fantasy from a Pagan perspective. But there isn’t any Paranormal that does what I do, at least not any that I’ve found.

Why is this important? Well, when you come from a Judeo-Christian world view, you take certain things for granted. Demons have certain characteristics; it’s a given. Magic is limited by ethical and moral questions that just aren’t a part of Paganism. There’s generally a clear demarcation between right and wrong, and a clear line between good and evil. Now, this provides a handy template, both for the author and for the reader. Because the United States (and other parts of the world) is largely populated by those who, if not practicing Christians, have at least been raised in a Christian context, authors can plug in standard conflicts and situations without having to explain them in detail, and count on the readers understanding what’s going on.

Most Modern Paganism doesn’t operate the same way. My brand of Paganism definitely doesn’t operate the same way. In fact, a lot of the standard operating system looks nonsensical. This poses me a problem, because I have to find ways to convey a Pagan world view to a non-Pagan reader that they’ll be able to understand and relate to. But it also makes my work unique, because my characters constantly are challenged to make personal, situational moral choices, and the outcomes can be other than what you might expect. Since demons aren’t necessarily evil, a character might form a relationship with the local demon instead of automatically banishing it to the nether realms. Since there’s not a moral code that places human beings above other entities on the Earth, a character might, say, decide that the best way to deal with a human foe is to kill him. Or not. It depends. You never know. My characters tend to be a practical lot, and they don’t do a lot of moral agonizing.

There are other differences in my work. The two protagonists are married, for example. I didn’t write about their first meeting until book four, when readers were beginning to demand the story. So, even though the books are grounded in their relationship, there isn’t the same kind of dance going on that you see in books where the protagonists are trying on different love affairs at the same time as slaying monsters. Some people will miss this. Many find it refreshing. Also, I just don’t deal with the main tropes of Paranormal fiction. I have no doubt that vampires and shapeshifters et al exist in the Caitlin Ross world, but we haven’t seen any. And the angels, demons, and gods of the world are far different than those in other worlds.

 

What is your writing process?

In a stunning twist, I generally start with the title. The one conceit of the series is that I take all the book titles from songs in the traditional Irish and Scottish repertoire. (I was the leader of a Celtic band, and I produced and hosted a Celtic Music public radio show for fifteen years.) Sometimes I’ll hear a song title and think, “Ooh, that would make a great book title!” I have a whole list of these titles. A few of the titles came later, but probably 75% of my books start from taking a title and wondering how it would apply to a book.

With or without title, I spend a LOT of time doing what Neil Gaiman termed “composting.” I think about where I left the characters in the last book and where I want them to go. I think about where they are in their lives and their relationships. I write self-contained stories that include elements of series-wide arcs, so I think about those. Sometimes I decide on specific events. For example, after I completed the second book, I realized that Timber had rescued Caitlin a couple of times, so I decided I needed Caitlin to rescue Timber next. I generally have a beginning and an end planned before I start. The middle is flexible.

Once I’ve composted what seems like long enough, I just sit down and start writing. I don’t do a detailed outline. At most, I make a bullet list of major events and, sometimes, make some notes about ideas so I don’t forget brilliant stuff I’ve come up with before I get to that part. I write the book from beginning to end. Writing is the most linear thing I do. I’ve tried jumping around and writing pieces as they hit me, but most of the time that doesn’t work (although I did write Timber and Caitlin’s first sexual encounter about two years before I wrote the rest of the book in which it appears).

I do the first edit as I go in that every day I look at what I wrote the day before and adjust it as necessary, but I try my best to run through the first draft without major stops. This doesn’t always work. Two-thirds of the way through A Maid in Bedlam I realized I needed to add a character. I didn’t feel like I could go on to the end as if the character had always been there, so I went back to chapter three and inserted him, which involved a lot of name-dropping, a couple scene rewrites, and a whole different chapter seven. I do try to write every day, but I don’t force myself if it isn’t there that day.

After I get through the first draft, I do a pass to eliminate words that I know I overuse (that, just, really, etc.). Then I let the draft sit for a couple weeks and do a third pass to eliminate unnecessary dialog tags and make the whole cleaner. Actually, I might do the second and third drafts concurrently with the first, if I get stuck and I have a couple chapters stacked up in my second and third draft folders. When I’m satisfied with the third draft, I send it out to beta readers, and then do a fourth draft incorporating their suggestions (or not). And then I’m pretty much done.

 

What are you working on now?

I finished the third draft of book six a couple weeks ago and I’m waiting on beta feedback. I know pretty much where book seven is going, and I’ve written a few paragraphs of the first chapter. But I promised myself a major break after book six. I got my characters past a major event in their lives—which took me almost three years—and my brain needs a rest. Right now I’m working on promotion and building my following. I also enlisted a cover artist, so over the next few months we’ll be seeing new covers for books one through five. I plan to get back to book seven after the release of book six in August 2014. If my brain lets me rest that long!

And that’s it for me! Your next stops on the writing process blog tour will be the week of May 12th, with these authors as your hosts:

Jennie Davenport, an author of modern fairy tales and the paranormal, is a wife and mother of three boys. She is represented by Beth Campbell of BookEnds, LLC and her first novel, HEMLOCK VEILS, comes out this fall from Swoon Romance, with its sequel arriving in April 2015! Jennie is a lover of words, to-do lists, nature, music, and anything that moves her. She is addicted to caffeine and hates crafts, and her ideal getaway would be one-on-one time with any form of nature (but a hotel would do). Follow Jennie on Twitter: @may_davenport and Facebook: http://facebook.com/jenniemaydavenport

Madeline Dyer is a fantasy and science fiction writer, whose fiction has been traditionally published by a number of presses. Her most popular short stories, ‘The Power Of Blood’, ‘The Photograph’ and ‘Stolen Memories’, appear online, in magazines, and in paperback and ebook anthologies in aid of charity. Having had seventeen short stories published, Madeline has been working on a number of novels in the last few years. Her upcoming book, ‘Untamed’, a YA dystopian novel, is currently under review with several publishers, one of which has already offered Madeline a contract.

Melissa A. Petreshock is the author of Fire of Blood and Dragons, NEW from Swoon Romance.