Category Archives: VBT
This post was originally featured at Dominique Goodall’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
I do not believe in Writer’s Block. Not really.
Maybe I should say, its not that I do not believe in it, just that I refuse to let it grab hold of my pen and prevent me from doing what I love. Sometimes, I admit it, I get bogged down in details and feel like I might be “blocked”. When that gross, constipated-brain feeling gets me down, I close my WIP (or whatever I am working on) and take a little break.
If a short break does not get the juices flowing again (ew… I’m really regretting that constipation comparison above right now), I turn to Free Writing. One of my favorite things to do is to sort through my Portraits folder, choose an interesting face, and just let the ink fly. Sometimes, however, even that will not loosen the bowels of my brain and I have to dig deeper.
That is why I have about a hundred thousand (this is a slight exaggeration) text files in my possession with anywhere from a single line to a few pages of work that never really went anywhere. I love the random and chaotic. I love to shake things up and just plop out strange ideas.
It never fails to get me unclogged and writing again.
This exercise is the Maximum Strength Ex-Lax of the mind.
But seriously, I definitely recommend trying it the next time you are burned out on editing or feeling as if you have Writer’s Block. Try this:
Completely free of the obligation to continue beyond the starting sentence, just start writing out a bunch of ‘first lines’. Do as many as it takes for your mental wall to crumble and you feel like returning to your project.
Usually, when I have done it in the past, I was not concerned with it being just one sentence and I freely inserted dialogue as well. The version of this exercise I found on (this website) is great. His directions are:
Free of the obligation to complete a poem or story, simply write out a bunch of first lines that are catchy and non-sensical. Aim for ten to twenty[Philip Dacey]. See examples from past students. A million butterflies rose up from South America.
Anyway – whether you adhere to the 1 sentence limit or just go wild with micro-scenes, dialogue, whatever, I guarantee you will have tremendous fun (and likely, a hearty brainbowel movement!) with this exercise. To prove it, I’ve scribbled a bunch of my own sample starts below. Who knows? Maybe one day one of these will feature in one of my novels. Chaos for the win!
* * * * * * * * *
- Hoakes turned to me and belched; the malodorous cloud was so thick, so nasty, so vile, it was all but tangible.
- “Hello, my name is Jimmy Mac-Johnson from Mississip and I’m calling to get my horoscope read.”
- The ice-sheathed grass gleamed sharp and hard and crystalline, like a thousand shattered Rolling Rock bottles in the sunlight.
- “I never was much for offal,” she said loftily, “Though my Mee-maw made me eat rabbit eyes so that I could see better in the dark.”
- Bacon-flavored edible panties? I couldn’t decide to be flattered that he bought me something sexy, disgusted that he thought bacon-anything was sexy, or worried by the notion that somehow he associated me and my ladybits with fried pig parts.
- Sue me. Sue McDonald’s! Sue the bitch in Apartment 3A and her yappy little dog! Sue the President! Sue the world! Sue God!
- He was named by his mother after a week-long acid binge.
- Stealthily, Bandit stretched his neck as far as he could, took the cookie delicately in his teeth and then stole away into the night with his prize.
- Why do they call them foothills, Daddy?
- In Santiago, in the smallest basement cell of the largest, poorest orphanage in the city, a tiny spark changed the world.
- Autumn came late in Winter.
- Sundered shield, severed sword; ask ye not why they are broken, but why they must exist at all.
- She licked the spoon slowly, meeting his gaze with a startling directness. The seductive look was somehow all the sexier when she lifted a pink and orange, kitten-bedecked coffee mug to her lips.
- Sputtering to a stop, its inertia utterly gone, Earth hung impotently in space – its inhabitants long dead – until it was torn apart by the invisible pressures of the universe.
- I always liked to write death scenes for people who wronged me, annoyed me, or pissed me off.
- Naked, save for brightly lacquered nails and a tiny golden cross around her neck, she threw her thong at me; the other was held at the ready.
That was weird. But fun. Right? Right…?!
Now go forth, yon brilliant minds! Go forth into the unknown and write your own random starting lines. And who knows – maybe one of them will end up being tweaked and twisted into your next brilliant story!
Love & Rainbows,
P.S. Leave a random starting line in the comments, I totally want to read them!
This post was originally featured at Debra Jayne East’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
When I first started writing stories I went to the library and checked out Baby Name Books. I was eleven or so and the librarians gave me strange looks when I came back for different ones and to renew the ones I liked best. Eventually, I found some at yard sales (and much later, bought them from Amazon) so I could have my own copies on the shelf next to my poison-guide, police procedural walk-throughs, and various other reference books.
At the time, I liked to give distinctly ‘appropriate’ names for characters. I named the clumsy friend of my main character, Claudia, which means lame. She was a clod and thus the name worked. The haunted beauty with the mysterically green eyes? I named her Jade. Also, I liked mythical and biblical or literary names. Someone meant to evoke thoughts of the ever-faithful wife might be named Penelope (Jack, take note!) or if I wanted to conjure up images of a guy who would face unsurmountable odds and win – David. Things like that. Those names have their uses and places. But really, when I was using them, they were totally…lacking in subtlty.
These days, whether its creating names in some fantasy realm – Sarios, Damaiar, Lourdan, and Safyr – or in my modern day fantasy novel, “Incandescence”, I really do not go looking for names. At least not for the main characters. They generally just organically appear on the page as I write. Hannah and Michael Brighton. Granmama Adina. Alexander. Summit. Shalisa. Evander. Jonas. Gideon.
Other names, I am not ashamed to admit, come to mind as homages to folks who exist in my real world. Hopefully they will be honored, not vexed, to find that characters such as Isaac, Professor McCormick, Jeremy, Zebulon, Rote, Nguyet, Emily and so on were named after them.
For important characters – names just seem to happen. For secondary, tertiary, one-offs, and other back ground types, I rely on… whatever is around. Phone books are great for surnames and placenames. Business cards, advertisements, tv, the interwebs… Anything goes. If it suits the situation and setting, it stays. If not – I just keep looking.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I do not have a real strong “process” for naming my characters, not anymore. If a character doesn’t name herself, or come pre-equipped with a name, I have to go in search of it. Which is why my first drafts are often littered with OLDGUYNAMEHERE and ANGRYKIDNAMEHERE… and when it comes time to fill-in the blanks, well… I’ll let you know. I’m still working on “Incandescence” and there several INSERTNAMEHEREs to fix.
How do you name your characters? Does inspiration flash while you’re making up outlines? Do the names come first and the characters come later?
And while we’re on the naming kick – how do you come up with your titles? Because WOW – I have trouble with titles. If you ever happen upon the WIP page of my website, you will notice that every single title is a Working Title. Because I have no idea how to name books, I simply refer to them all by a characters name (for example: Rudabet), a theme, a phrase that relates to the plot (ex: The Light of Lun), or even acronyms (ex: PASaRN).
So – I’m going to change my question. How do you come up with solid titles for your poems, novels, shorts, papers, series, et cetera?! Because that is what this writer needs to know. *grin*
Love & Rainbows,
This post was originally featured at Scott Seldon’s Blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
People always ask a writer where he gets his ideas and inspiration from. Neil Gaiman says, “I make them up. Out of my head” *. Stephen King’s answer is longer, but boils down to the same thing, “I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.” *. One of my favorite answers is from Lemony Snicket (whose NaNoWriMo PepTalk was one of the best ever). He said, “From eavesdropping and from reading other books. Writers are, pretty much thieves, stealing ideas from other people who didn’t have the foresight to write them down, and then from the people who did have the foresight to write them down.” *.
Were you to ask me, I would probably say something similar. Where do you get your ideas, Penelope Price? Where?! From the world, from what I see or watch or read, from thin air. I get flashes of inspiration from random sensory input all the time. Most of them won’t go anywhere, but they pop up all the time and its just a matter of capturing that ephemeral spark in a jar so I can mull it over at length. Well then how do you capture the spark, Penelope Price? How?!
Funny you should ask.
I text myself. When an idea pops into my head, even if I have a notebook and pen close to hand (which I always do – always), I usually reach for my cellphone and get my thumbs to typing as fast as they can… which is not very fast and is usually filled with typos. Still – that little 160 character SMS gets sent to my email account where I automatically file it away under a specific tag and without much work on my part, its recorded for posterity.
That’s how I recorded the spark that started “Incandescence” and “Inferno”.
It was October 3rd, 2011, a Monday, and I was at work. NaNoWriMo – one of my favorite yearly events – was looming and I did not yet have an idea. I remember being worried that I would not have a plot ready to go and would fail miserably… again. Out of nine years doing NaNo, I had only “won” three times. Well, thanks to those fateful text messages – I am now four for ten.
I had been talking to a co-worker, telling him that I wrote fantasy novels. The kind with magic and wars and intrigue and romance and armored warriors and- He interrupted me to ask if I wrote about elves and dwarves. “No, not usually”, I said pleasantly, though I was annoyed that yet another person seemed to think there were only two kinds of fantasy – Tolkien or Harry Potter.
“Well maybe you should,” he said. “Or wait, write about elves and dwarves walking around in the modern day.”
And I experienced one of those ephemeral sparks I mentioned earlier. I immediately tuned him out and started to texting myself. I think it took four or five texts to get the ‘idea’ out, but there it was – beautiful. Modern day mageborn siblings, the last of their kind so far as they know, struggling for survival against the end of the world.
To thank my co-worker, I named a character after him. And then murdered it. It was epic.
So yes, like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket and a whole host of other writers, I would say that my ideas and inspiration come from everywhere and nowhere, from the world at large. My job is just to snatch the good ones and develop them. To do that – I text myself. Its as simple as that.
If someone asked you, dear friend, where do you get your ideas? What would be your response? How do you capture them? Do you have a muse who feeds you delicious tidbits of plot and character, or do you sit down and think until something awesome comes out? Or something else entirely? Comment below and let us know!
Love & Rainbows,
This post was originally featured at BookBabe as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
Its a question every writer (okay, maybe just those who have ever participated in NaNoWriMo) must face at some point.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Which is to say, do you write by the seat of your pants (a ‘pantser’) or do you write with meticulously constructed notes and plot points (a ‘plotter’)?
This would make a great poll – in fact, I’m posting one on my Facebook page today to coincide with this post? I wonder which is more common amongst my fellow writers and whether or not there are others like me.
Because I go both ways.
During the best, most organic moments of writing — I am a pantser. I fly by the seat of my bloomers! I clamp on my chunky magenta headphones, crank up the playlist, and let my fingers do the work. It has been that way since I started writing books twenty years ago. Perhaps that is why I enjoy sprinting/word wars so much during NaNo; sprints are a license to just let loose and allow whatever comes out to just be.
Yet I write a lot of fantasy, and with fantasy worlds comes world-building, history-writing, research-gathering. And I have been told that I do world-building to excess. I don’t believe that – you never know when some small nugget of information may end up being crucial to a plot! Plus, its fun. For me at least. I adore creating timelines, maps, intricate relationships between Ancestral Houses or religious institutions, webs of intrigue stretching across time and space. I have reams of pages filled with brief character sketches, key exports from certain regions, weather patterns, historical changes in geography/topography/political boundaries, lists, maps, details about the style of dress, notes from books or websites about various topics that may come up in the plot, real world mythology and legends… I could go on, but I think that gets the point across.
I am a meticulous planner. To the point that, yes, sometimes I bog myself down in detail. But I like to err on the side of caution and have too much information than to end up stuck on some niggling detail in the midst of a hot and heavy writing session.
But I have a shameful secret to share. Despite all my world-building, all the information I’ve put together for various projects — several of those, my dearest and most beloved projects, remain unfinished and incomplete. Probably because despite all the planning, I wrote them as a pantser and tripped myself up in the actual plot.
Which is why, when I began my current WIP, “Incandescence” and its sequel, “Inferno”, I made a conscious decision to go against my usual modus operandi and outline the plot BEFORE I started writing. I spent a couple days before last November scribbling out first a general ‘this happens, then this, and then this, then the end’ before fleshing it out into scenes and chapters. This process has been super stream-lined thanks to Scrivener, which I purchased after winning NaNo last November.
In the future, I am going to continue to work on my process. I think I work best with a good combination of both plotting and pantsing. Of course, the beta readers’ verdicts are still out, so…
Anyway, my answer to the question above is muddled. I guess I would have to say that I swing both ways, and I’m comfortable that way. What about you, friends? Are you pantsers, plotters, or both? Would you consider yourself something else entirely?
Comment below and then check out my poll on Facebook to vote and see how other people are answering!
Love & Rainbows,
This post was originally featured at Just Natalie as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
In every book, some edits must occur. Some words must be struck from the page with prejudice. They must be smited righteously to tighten the prose and make that novel sing! *ahem* Sorry, I get carried away when I’m in the throes of editing — as I am today — and I just can’t help myself.
Anyway – its true. Snips happen. A word here, a paragraph there. Streamlining and refining.
In editing “Incandescence” I found that while sprinting during NaNoWriMo is excellent for word count and just getting the story out, sometimes it makes for redundancy. And redundancy is death to taut prose.
Mostly, fixing those repetitive bits just required little snips. Switching around so dialogue so characters don’t mention the same story twice or the like. I did not have to eighty-six anything major, and certainly nothing I loved.
But there was one large scene that had to be deleted and of course it was one I really enjoyed writing and wished I could have kept in. It was a very PG romance scene — not erotic, not exactly sexual — between one of the main characters (15 year-old Hannah) and a young man who has been pining for her since the moment they met (18-year-old Luke).
You see, Luke is a good guy with a bit of a possessive streak and a slight blind spot to how dire their circumstances are as survivors of ‘the end of the world’. He falls hard for the, admittedly, sort of weird, but spunky and funny (and magic!) redheaded teen. Patience is a virtue he possesses in great quantity, and even when he’s initially rebuffed romantically, Luke pursues her friendship.
And he wins it. They become close despite having grown-up in two very different environments and being a few years apart in age. But Luke is not alone in his affections for Hannah. The antagonist, Alexander, also wants Hannah, though his motivations are vastly different and somewhat nefarious.
The deleted scene, a tender first kiss and a little bit of background exposition, between Luke and Hannah just doesn’t belong. It did not make sense for the plucky magess who has been mentally tortmented for months and whose physical changes are making her withdraw from all the people around her, to suddenly being having a romantic exchange with her best friend.
So the kiss hit the cutting room floor and the hint of potential romance with it. By the end of “Incandescence”, it was obvious that there just wasn’t a place for that sort of scene in the book. Too many other things were happening in the race to the climactic scene and smooching just has to wait.
Ah! But there is hope for the burgeoning relationship in the sequel. If poor, traumatized Hannah can get herself together, there is a really great guy waiting to wrap her in his arms and love her through it. And if she can’t, well, time will tell if Luke’s the kind to pine away or move on. Options may be limited at the end of the world, but there are still other fish in the seas.
I hear great-great-granmama Torovaldi is single. *wink*
Love & Rainbows,
This post was originally featured at Jennifer Stark’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
From a very young age, I was a reader. From a slightly less young age, I was also a writer. Granted, my first ‘books’ were mostly terrible 4- to 6-year-old attempts at illustrations to semi-nonsensical strings of words. Still, I like to imagine that those early “masterpieces” were the beginning stages of a wonderous disease that would color every year of my life.
Did I just call writing a disease?
Yes. Yes, I did.
In a way, it has been.
Symptoms include: a Vitamin D deficiency, oily hair, bad breath, deteriorating eyesight, chipped fingernails, and a somewhat lacking social life. I am mostly kidding. But there certainly was a time in my tweens, when I was deep in the throes of my first ‘real’ novel (which, as it turns out is only novella length, but I was proud) in which I spent a whole week of summer vacation in the basement with our super-special Tandy 2000, typing furiously. I didn’t shower, I didn’t see the sun, I didn’t speak to a soul aside from my parents and sister. But I finished the piece.
I always thought that that week, more than any other inclinations or passions, meant that I was officially bitten by the writing bug. I had the sickness. And I was getting down with it. *insert out-dated music reference here*
Today, almost exactly twenty years later, I shower regularly, brush my teeth, and take better care of both my fingernails AND my social life, however, I am still sick with this disease. I’m afraid I’ve got a terminal case.
Maybe I should get out in the sunshine more…
Anyway. That first novel was, admittedly, pretty awful. A girl named Whitney was kidnapped. She had to escape somehow. I think she tried and failed twice, but her determination not to break gave a second captured girl a surge of confidence and together they managed to flee. The details elude me, but I still have the whole thing filed away in storage. The ending was chock full o’ cheese and smarm. If I recall correctly, the kidnappers were caught and tried and put away forever and Whitney and her fellow-escapee became best friends. Then Whitney’s parents adopted her. I don’t know why or how.
After that, I was hooked. I didn’t stop writing for anything. I wrote three other novels (too short by technical definitions) including my first foray into the realm of fantasy, a faux-historical romance-adventure, and countless poems. In addition to the paperbacks I always carried around – to sneak a few more pages of reading in between lessons, at lunch or on the bus – I now lugged around notebooks and special writing pens. I spent more and more time at the computer and was often found there at 3 a.m. when I should have been sleeping because some great idea had woken me and HAD to be recorded. To this day, I have dozens of ideas, outlines, character sketches, and semi-fleshed-out worlds just waiting to be rediscovered and written about.
Throughout my High School and collegiate years, I continued to amass snippets and tidbits and ideas for novels. I wrote a trilogy of young adult fantasy novels about four girls with magical bloodlines trying to save the world. Begun, but never finished, was a novel that I have always referred to as my magnum opus and that I hope one day to be wise enough to complete. Delving into the world of roleplay, I took a tangental path and began writing elaborate backgrounds and companion stories for my characters. This spun into a whole other web of potential novels and introduced me to my life partner, fiancé and soulmate, Jack.
Somehow, despite struggling to find time and balance in my life, I always come back to words, to writing. It is as necessary to me as breathing. I am not sure my heart could pump if there were no characters brewing in my head, no words waiting in my fingertips ready to be scribbled into life.
I suppose, writing has not been so much a disease as an antidote, a cure.
The magical pill that keeps me sane and whole and creatively fulfilled.
Its no weight-loss wonderdrug, but it suits me fine.
How about you? When did the writing bug bite you? Or do you prefer to read? Did the passion for books and words start when you were a kid or later in life? I’d love to hear your ‘origins’ stories below!
Love & Rainbows,
This post was originally featured at The Writing Network as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
School’s over. Summer’s started.
Her toes dip in to the deliciously cool water. The bottle-colored ripples turn her bright magenta toenails a murky color but she had wanted them painted blue anyway, so it did not bother her much. Mom told her that a lady chooses neutral, muted tones and sheer shades. French-tips and healthy, buffed, naked nails are best. They had argued about it for five whole minutes at the nail salon before Mom relented and allowed her to have her pedicure done in eye-popping pink.
Who wants to be a lady anyway?
She drew her knees up to her chest, teetering on the edge of the boulder, and lay her arms upon them. Her pedicure was a little chipped, but it looked a million times better than her fingernails. They were chipped and broken and chewed down to the quick. Climbing rocks and trees, two of her most favorite things, was not condusive to maintaining a pretty manicure. Mom told her that a lady’s hands spoke volumes about her character. Well-kept hands imply a tidy, ordered mind and a conscienious soul.
I wonder what mine say… nothing good, I guess.
July was going to be hot this year, but hopefully not as muggy as June had been. She pushed a loose, scaggly lock of ashy blonde hair out of her face and sighed. Her hair probably looked a mess too. Mom told her that she should brush it at least twenty-five strokes in the morning and before bedtime to keep it glossy and healthy. A lady takes good care of her hair, it shows that she is proud and confident, though you must be vigilant to not become vain or arrogant.
Betcha no one would think I was vain or arrogant if they saw my hair today.
Though she had chosen a spot in the shade to wait, the world kept turning and the sunlight shifted. She could feel her cheeks growing hotter and redder with every minute. Soon she would be the same color as a tomato, only with hair, and in a day or two, she’d be peeling. Mom told her that a lady is mindful of her skin and always wears sunscreen to protect it. Sunburns can lead to splotchy sun damage and premature wrinkles.
And cancer. You never told me that, but I know its true.
She could hear her father calling from the back porch and she tried to tune him out. Maybe they would leave without her and she could just stay here by the creek with her dirty feet and her ruined manicure and her tangled hair. She would stay right here by the water until she was covered in bug bites and mud, until she was stinky from not bathing and so hopelessly filthy that Mom would have a conniption fit.
She would have to come home and toss me in the tub and scrub me until my skin hurts and tell me all over again about how a lady is supposed to be.
Instead, when her oldest brother came stomping down to the creek to get her, she did not argue and let him lead her back up to the house. Her father ran her a second bath and her middle brother hung her dress on the door. She scrubbed her skin until it was so pink it nearly glowed and her toes were wrinkly from the water. She doused cotton balls in acetone and wiped the polish from her toes and nails. She brushed her hair until it shone and hung straight and shiny down her back. The dress was new and sort of itchy, but she dutifully donned it and looked at herself in the mirror.
I guess I look a proper lady. Sort of.
Her father looked sad when she came down the stairs, but it was hard to tell why. All three of her big brothers were impatient and the youngest scowled as he asked her what in the world had taken her so long. Dad told him to be quiet, because as Mom always said, a lady may keep you waiting, but the wait is always worth it.
“You look lovely, princess, your Mom would be so proud,” her Dad told her as he escorted her to the big black car parked in the drive.
Love & Rainbows,
[Note: Image reproduced from a writing prompt at CreativityPortal.com.]
This post was originally featured at Writers Write Daily as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
I’m a voracious reader. I love to explore new genres and time periods I have never read pieces from which is probably why my collection of books runs such a strange gamut. Some of my most recent purchases (or borrows) have been: “Captivate & Control” by Raymond Frazee, “Cedar Woman” by Debra Shively Welch, “A Dance with Dragons” by GRRM, “The Kobold Wizard’s [censored] of Enlightenment +2″ by Carlton Mellick III, and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Historical fiction has always been a favorite of mine – whether it was frothy, romantic novels by Rosalind Laker, time-line twisting adventures like “1632″ by Eric Flint, or alternate realities following what if questions such as: what if the Nazis had won WW2? Maybe that’s why my modern day fantasy novel features a big “What If” of it’s own… What if Mages were real in our frantic post-Y2K world?
The novel I am currently reading is the aforementioned “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith. the man responsible for the hilarious and action-packed and surprisingly awesome “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. “AL:VH” has been made into a big budget Hollywood film produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov. With a pedigree like that, I imagine it will be a fairly fun romp. The motion picture adapation is probably the only reason Jack’s brother picked up the book, but he loved it and passed it on to us.
My quick prediction for the adaption? To be successful, the movie will have to pack a lot more punch than the novel does.
Me? I enjoyed it because I adore alternate reality fiction; because its a welcome tweak to the nose of history buffs who insist that things could only have happened this way because the book cleverly finds ways to subvert these assumptions; because the idea of gangly ‘Honest Abe’ trotting around the western reaches of the United States killing vampires is freaking awesome; and because it really is a unique take on the way overdone vampire fad of the aughts. Still, I would not necessarily say it was ‘action-packed’ in the same way a film by the director behind “Wanted” should be. There is a lot (a LOT) of exposition and very little direct dialogue. Although that breaks several cardinal rules of modern fiction, I liked the fact that the author was not suckered into fitting his vision into the tight box that today’s prose is supposed to fit inside. Instead, he put out a book filled with fictional journal entries, recollections, memories and suppositions, which is peppered with historical fact and just enough photoshopped evidence to make you pause and wonder.
One of my favorite lines, thus far, is when Abe’s little Angel Boy, Eddy dies at the age of three years, ten months, and eighteen days. Henry comes round to console (and tempt) him and makes Abe a beautiful, terrible offer – to bring Eddie back to ‘unlife’ as a vampire. Abraham recalls the heart-wrenching choice:
… However, he saw to it that I received the note before the service. In it were his further condolences…and a reminder that there was another way.
A way to see my boy again.
He would be small forever. An angelic murderer. I could not bear the thought of keeping him locked away in the dark. Of teaching him to kill so that he might live. I could not condemn my son to hell.
This was not the first, nor the last, time Henry would pop into Abe’s (fictional) life and try to use his grief against him, seducing him into soliciting eternal unlife for his deceased loved ones. I think Abe’s vehement denial in this case struck me so strongly because of my personal ‘fed-up-ness’ with the vampire fad of the past decade. Glittery vampires, romantically tortured vampires, good-guys-who-just-happen-to-drink-blood vampires. Boo-hiss. I like my vampires old school. Evil and monstrous. Maybe they have a shred of humanity that regrets what they must do, but still, they are evil because they choose self-preservation over ending themselves (and the violence/killing/sorrow/et cetera that ensues). Abraham Lincoln sees what vampires truly are and what must be done*.
There is a lovely sequence between Abe and his friend Edgar Allen Poe in which Poe romanticizes the unlife in a way that Lincoln cannot wrap his head around. Poe is a gloomy, dark fellow with a penchant for the twisted and depressing, but he is the only other living person Abe knows who is also aware of the existence of vampires. They bond over the subject, with Abe’s abhorrence and Poe’s reverence somehow meeting in the middle.
It ends thusly:
“I begin to suspect,” said Abe, “That you would like to be one of them.”
Poe laughed at the suggestion. “Is not our existence long & miserable enough?” he asked, laughing. “Who in God’s name would seek to prolong it?”
I have not yet finished the novel, but I am more than two-thirds of the way through it and though I do not want this post to sound like a review, I can say that I am enjoying the journey and would certainly read another novel by the author. I would also recommend the book without hesitation to most folk I know. In fact, without knowing a thing about YOU, reader, I will recommend that you check out “AL: VH” and let me know (Facebook, Twitter, Website) what you thought of it.
This novel is certainly out of my typical genre and out of my writing wheelhouse, but it does touch upon most of my favorite things. I’m not sure that I would say it helped my writing technically, because Seth Grahame-Smith breaks all the new conventional rules for how a novel should be paced, white-space, dialogue tags, exposition, blah blah blah – things that I truly take to heart when editing my own work. However, I would say it did open my mind to alternative perspectives and after reading it, I’ve got two new ‘ideas’ floating around my mental inbox, waiting to be fleshed out or tweaked into an existing project. That’s a blessing, and a curse!
What I’d like to know, friends, is have you read anything in this ‘twisted history’ genre? If not – why not? If so, would you recommend the book? Do you like considering the ‘what ifs’ and possibilities of alternate reality? What’s your biggest ‘what if’ moment? For instance, what if the Nazis had won WW2? What if Sarah Palin was elected president? What if no one had ever invented sliced bread, or the telephone, or the iPad?
Love & Rainbows,
*= Note from PP: Oh! Irony. Having now finished the book, a spoiler alert… even Honest Abe isn’t perfect!
This post was originally featured at Just Natalie as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
Music is just about as necessary to my process as you know, words, ideas, and uh… breathing. It is very rare that I choose silence when I’m writing. However, the best mojo comes when I am able to turn on a playlist, hit shuffle, and tune out all the lyrics and drums and screaming dinosaur rockers and just hit THE ZONE.
When I was a tween, writing my first novel, I had a cassette tape of Bryan Adams’ “So Far, So Good” a greatest hits compilation. I could hit play on that album and start typing. Then I’d blink and the whole side would be over and I’d have vomited a few thousand more words onto the page. Hours might have passed and I was none the wiser, so wrapped up in THE ZONE was I.
I literally wore that tape out. One night, right in the middle of a climactic fight sequence, the ribbon snapped and I cried. I cried like my grandmother had died all over again. I was afraid I would never be able to write again. Well, I have written many thousands of words since I was twelve, but I am sad to say I have never quite reached that level of instant ZONE-ness. Even after I finally got a disc man and a copy of “So Far, So Good” on CD.
When I think of a song that seems to fit my WIP, Incandescence, the first thing that came to mind was “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones for the antagonist, Alexander. Then “Mommy, Can I Go Out & Kill Tonight” by the Misfits for his cousin-slash-cohort, Isaac. But those don’t really apply to the story as a whole…
So I turned to Jack and asked, “Jack, what song would you say describes my book?”
He quirked a brow, opened a browser to Youtube.com and played this:
(link to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVmB3lRjCmc)
And I laughed. I guess I talk too much about how the setting is – the near future, as the world we know crumbles.
C’est la vie. That isn’t part of my standard writing soundtrack, but it sure works for me.
So – have you read anything lately that brings to mind a specific song or genre? What and why? C’mon – tell me all about it!
Love & Rainbows,