Shameless Halloween Horror Self-Promotion

For those that follow this blog, you know that the Spellbound Scribes is home to authors of the paranormal genre. But I like horror. I write horror. It will always be my favorite genre.

It’s a take it or leave it kind of genre, whether it be books or movies. You either love it or hate it. People are often surprised to hear I’m a horror buff. And why wouldn’t I be? It’s one of the few genres that sticks with you well after you’ve left the story (don’t tell me you haven’t checked the behind the bathroom curtain or under the bed after reading a scary book or watching a horror flick).

Often times, horror is all about perception: what we perceive to be scary. Clowns have a bad rap (thanks to Poltergeist, Stephen King’s IT, and John Wayne Gacy) and have gone from being children’s entertainment, to just plain terrifying.

So while I have a sci-fi/parnarnormal YA series, I’ve also written several horror shorts that have been published in various anthologies. I recently published a collection of those short stories, unDead Dixie Debs, which has everything from zombies to vampires, all in the tradition of classic southern gothic horror.

And this fall, I am proud to be part of Coffin Hop 2012. There’ll be tons of writers, giveaways, and good old fashioned B-rated drive-in horror, so don’t forget to check it out! Seriously, this is one blog hop you don’t want to miss.

I’ll even have a story in the upcoming Coffin Hop anthology (will be released 2013)!! I think this is one of my best stories to date (if I do say so myself), as it’s gritty, horrific, and just plain fun….And features chupacabras, a strip joint, and a great recipe for body glitter.

Perception, right?

Yes. Because horror can also be funny, witty, and gritty.

So in the spirit of Halloween, how ‘bout a little magic with your horror? I’m still obsessed with this scene from Glee Season 3 (I just started watching it on Netflix):

Brittany S. Pierce: “When a pony does a good deed he gets a horn and he becomes a unicorn and then he poops out cotton candy until he forgets he’s magical and then his horn falls off…And black unicorns, they become zebras.”

Kurt Hummel: “That’s a horrifying story.”

Remember, it’s all about perception!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

For those of you who are writers that follow Spellbound Scribes, we are now approaching our feature on plotting!

I always envision my book like a Christmas tree. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, bear with me…you’ll still get it! My plot is like a Christmas tree without its fancy glass ornaments that make it festive and bright – everyone’s tree starts off the same, but in the end, after all its adornments, it becomes special and unique.

That’s how I view plots. It’s not to be confused with the story or it’s characters. Usually, it’s what allows the characters to make (or not make) choices. In my Travelers Series, I can sum up my plot into a nice one sentence summary: A group of individuals who form a rebellion against a evil tyrant. Yeah, I told you it was simple enough.

After that comes the lights on the tree – you can chose clear or colored lights, your choice. That’s the story. My twinkling Christmas lights are the different realities and time-travel concepts that my characters must face in order to defeat the villain in my tale (i.e. conflict). In this instance, my series is character driven, rather than plot driven, so I usually have plenty of string lights.

What about the ornaments? Those are my characters. Some are big and shiny, others small and matte. Depending on my mood, I can either coordinate ornaments (or characters) to compliment each other, or just put them up at random.

And what about the star? – or angel, or Santa Claus. Again, whatever suits you. That of course is the resolution. Sometimes I like to think of it as the icing on the cake, or the cherry on top.

But back to plotting. For me, it’s one of the easiest parts of writing a story (all I have to do is buy a tree, right?). I’m a die hard pantser (writer speak for: “I don’t do outlines”), thus allowing my characters to face their conflicts in whichever way they deem appropriate, but as far as plot goes, I control the strings. It’s about the only thing I have total control over – do I buy a Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, or an imitation tree from Target?

When Bad Guys Turn Good

Almost every story has one: a villain. Whether it’s thrillers, cozy mysteries, or even romance, there’s always a bad guy afoot. But there’s no genre that exemplifies the enemy more than paranormal. There will always be a plethora of bad guys to go around.

In my case, when dealing with alternate realities, I find myself with more villains that I can handle. What makes things even more complicated is when some characters are friends in one respective world, but an enemy in another. Talk about your split-personalities!

And often times we find villains making the grand leap from bad to good in both books, television, and film. This doesn’t weaken the character, but rather strengthens their role.

Let’s take some of my favorite “bad guy” turned “good guy” characters:

Eric Northman from The Southern Vampire Series. He’s a total jerk towards Sookie at the beginning, but towards the middle of the series, we grow to love him and he pursues a relationship with Bon Temps favorite telepathic waitress.

The Terminator. He went from trying to kill Sarah Connor and her son in the first movie in the franchise to a re-programmed killer bot, in order to ensure the destiny of John Connor in the subsequent movies.

We all saw The Avengers (if you haven’t, where have you been?) and did you know that Hawkeye was initially a villian in the Marvel comic universe? It wasn’t until he fell for the beautiful Black Widow that he decided to repent for his evil ways and join The Avengers. Even Black Widow had her moments.

And numero uno on my list: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He wins the medal for making a complete character one-eighty. He went from killing slayers for sport, despising Buffy, to being a Champion. Buffy’s relationship with Spike didn’t hurt the ratings either. Can we say, “muy caliente!”

Who’s your favorite villain gone good?

Supporting Character

I hope everyone is staying cool this July! This month, all the gals here at Spellbound Scribes will be posting character-centric posts that exists in our book world.

In the Traveler’s Series, I not only have a strong primary cast of characters, but alternate versions of these characters. It can get kind of confusing, so I’ll just let you readers discover them for yourselves.

There is one character that stays the same, regardless of which reality it is.

It all started with the idea of having my two main characters meet for the first time in a public location. Originally, I had Etta and Cooper meet at a party, but that ended up not working with the storyline. So instead of a college kegger, a coffee shop it became.

ImageAfter awhile, the coffee shop kind of became its own character in the story, with coffee itself playing a recurring role throughout the book (no doubt due to all the cappuccinos I drank while writing it). And while there’s no lack for coffee in the very real locale of Old Town Alexandria, I chose to make Battle Grounds a fictional coffee house.

In PARALLEL, Battle Grounds is the only place that remains the same in both realities. Traveling to an alternate reality can be pretty disorienting, so this is both a comfort and a constant for Etta. I have a feeling Battle Grounds will remain unaltered in the various other realities Etta travels to throughout the series.

And the logo? I came up with it when I wanted to come up with some super giveaway swag. The area of Old Town is both classic and eclectic, so I wanted something vintage and edgy, reflective of the type of scene you’d find in Old Town. There’s also another reason for the design. I totally love skulls, so I wanted to incorporate a little part of me into the logo.

Battle Grounds makes another appearance in PARADIGM (book 3), and no matter what timelines have been shifted, what reality my characters find themselves in, Battle Grounds will always remain a constant.

Who’s your favorite supporting character?

My Writing Ritual…or Lack Thereof

We’re kicking off our series on writing rituals a week early. The Spellbound Scribes has added a new member, Nadja Notariani, to our scribedome, so not only will you have a full month of reading about quirky writing habits, but an extra week to boot!

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The term ‘writing ritual’ implies there’s a method to the madness. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those writers that subscribe to the tried and true methods of writing a book. If you’re reading this post to get insights or direction on how to outline, create character profiles, or how to simply write, you can keep on moving…nothing to read here, folks! 

I don’t write to music (sorry, no nifty soundtrack in this post), nor do I have a scheduled time of the day when I write. I don’t follow a linear outline as I write; in fact, I often write scenes in random order.

So what are my writing rituals? 

Okay, so I may not listen to music, but I’m a total TV gal, so the tube must be on at all times. This generally involves watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I’m working on a new book. Because I’ve seen all seven seasons so many times, I tend not to get too distracted as I’m writing. While I do have soundtracks for my books, I don’t create them until after I’m done. 

I don’t have a trusted assistant like some mega authors do, so I have to rely on my own memory to remember certain aspects of my universe. So, more often than not, I have to go back and re-read my previous works in my series to make sure dates, names, and places are accurate. Yeah, I spend a lot of time doing this. 

Many writers have daily specific word count goals they try to meet, while others, like me, tend to go with the flow. I do, however, have a simple goal…write everyday. I have my good days and bad days, but I generally feel pretty good even if I only get a sentence or two in. If it matters, Sunday’s tend to be my best writing days. I don’t know what it is about that day, but the words just seem to flow. 

The only constant in my writing routine is my involvement in A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80). I started this writing challenge, offered four times a year, when I first started publishing my work and I have to say that it’s been a wonderful experience. The writers that are involved are a tremendous source of inspiration and support, I don’t think I could have gotten this far without them. Coincidentally, this is how I first met up with Nadja! So for those writers out there that have a life, need a little encouragement, or just want to set some simple goals for your writing, the next round begins July 2nd. 

If you can already tell by this post, I love the flexibility that comes with being a writer. I write when and where I want. Sometimes at home, other times at my favorite coffee shop. Work attire is casual, whether it be writing in my p.j.’s or showing up in flops. And as an indie writer, I set my own deadlines and run my business as I please. 

So, while I don’t follow the conventional guidelines for writing, I do follow the wisdom of Stephen King: write every day and read a lot. (Totally paraphrasing here)

 

Have Vampires Lost Their Charm?

A few weeks ago, I was writing over at my local coffee shop when the trailer for the upcoming Dark Shadows film came on (the proprietor of the coffee shop has a very nice flat screen). At that moment, two twenty-something-year olds stop ordering long enough to catch the trailer. One girl proceeded to comment to the other one, “I’m so over vampires. They’re like, everywhere.”

I felt like saying, “Uh, do you even know what Dark Shadows is?” But I kept my mouth shut. They didn’t need to be lectured on television trivia by me, although I really wanted to give them a crash course on Vampires 101.

But it got me thinking. Shouldn’t we be over vampires by now?

It goes without saying that there’s a growing trend in the vampire genre that cater to both adult and young adult audiences. We have Charlene Harris (Southern Vampire Series/True Blood) and Stephanie Meyers (Twilight), the author who brought young adults back into the reading fold, to thank.

Now, we can’t exactly credit these authors with coming up with these imaginative vampire storylines that spawned a hit television show and a five picture deal, respectively. But we can credit them for the reemergence of the genre. At least to some degree.

But our fascination with vampires is nothing new. Even before the baby boomer generation, we’ve been exposed to vampires in almost every facet of entertainment and commercial outlets over the last century. We have seen the evolution of vampires firsthand, from our preschool years well into adulthood.

Now, going back to the girls at the coffee shop, I have to imagine that as twenty-year-olds, they haven’t experienced as many vampires as, let’s say, a mid-thirty-something-year-old (ahem, me). Simply put, they haven’t been around long enough to grow tired of them yet! At most, they’ve seen/read Twilight and/or The Vampire Diaries.

Let’s take a moment and look at vampires in pop-culture over the last century:

1. Bela Lugosi (Dracula; novel: 1897; play: 1927; film: 1931)

Not counting Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is always as the top of the list. He is the image of the quintessential vampire. When you think of Dracula, you automatically think Lugosi.

2. Lily Munster/Grandpa (The Munsters; TV series 1964)

Lily Munster was way ahead of her time in terms of fashion and feminism. Not only was she the matriarch and stay-at-home-mom, but she also explored work outside the home. And let’s not get started on her father, Grandpa, who was just too cute for words. Perhaps that’s why he was married a record number of 167 times.

 3. Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows; TV series 1966; film 2012)

Because Dark Shadows ran as a daily daytime soap, it enjoyed the most episodes of any sci-fi/fantasy series during it’s five year run (more than all the Star Trek episodes combined, both original and subsequent shows) and is certainly deserving of a feature film. (Only the daytime paranormal soap Passions* has logged more episodes.)

4. Count Chocula (General Mills 1971)

Do I have to say it? He’s simply chocolicious! And after 40 years, he still graces our grocery aisles. Not only that, but he’s got his own brand of lip balm!

5. Count von Count (Sesame Street; TV series (first appearance) 1972)

I don’t think there’s a child in American who didn’t learn how to count from Count von Count. And he’s got most vampires beat by far: he can be out in daylight, he doesn’t need a coffin to sleep in, and doesn’t need to drink blood in order to survive.

6. Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview with the Vampire; novel: 1976; film: 1994)

Not since Bram Stoker’s Dracula has a book brought so much attention to the vampire mythos as Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. The Vampire Chronicles brought vampires to life (metaphorically speaking, since they are undead) in this ten book series, which spawned one blockbuster hit and two not so great film adaptations. Rumor has it, there’s talk of a reboot in the works.

7. Bunnicula (book 1979; TV cartoon 1982)

Not your fluffy children’s bedtime reading folks. A vampire bunny who sucks the juice from vegetables. What a novel idea…now why didn’t I think of that? Yes, both puns intended.

8. Elvira (Elvira’s Movie Macabre; TV series 1981)

No, not the song from Oak Ridge Boys. But rather Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who is the epitome of vampire glam. She even gives Lily Munster a run for her money. Really, we should all take our fashion cues from Elvira.

9. The Lost Boys (film 1987)

Before George Hamilton got really tan and starred in the 1979 flick, Love at First Bite (you can’t really be tan and play a vampire), decent vamp films were pretty much dormant until the late 1980‘s. Not only did we get to see Kiefer Sutherland looking all smoldering hot as the lead vampire in The Lost Boys, a classic cult favorite, but any movie with the Two Coreys is A+ in my book.

10. Angel/Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; TV series: 1997)

If you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where have you been? Joss Whedon is a genius! (I’ll wait while you put BTVS in your Netflix queue). In BTVS we had two juicy vamps to swoon over: the brooding vampire with a soul, Angel, who sometimes turned into the sadistic Angelus, and Spike, the selfish villainous vampire who later gained a soul and became a champion in his own right (*Spike’s favorite soap is Passions).

So, after taking stock of all the versions of vampires I grew up with over the years, I can’t say that I’m all that tired of the genre. And while I’m kind of over Tim Burton, I am looking forward to the premiere of Dark Shadows on May 11.

Who’s your favorite vampire?

The Paranormal Genre

As a reader, I usually classify books into simple categories: mystery, young adult, paranormal, and horror. In some cases, there’d be a crossover, but for the most part, these are the genres I generally read. If it’s a famous author, I generally just refer to the author’s name in lieu of genre. For example, if I say “I’m reading John Grisham,” it’s safe to assume I’m reading a legal thriller.

Then I decided to publish a series of YA books, which opened a whole new world of sub-genres. I’ve begun to realize there are a myriad of genres and classifications that aren’t as simple to classify: paranormal young adult, paranormal romance, paranormal romance young adult, paranormal mystery, etc. Okay, you get the idea.

It never occurred to me to consider the complexities of choosing the right genre, until it was time to classify my own books, as well as the consideration readers place when choosing a book to read.

Take my Travelers Series. Is it paranormal, sci-fi, or a mixture of both? Some readers say it isn’t paranormal because it doesn’t feature werewolves, vampires, or witches. This tells me that perhaps my books aren’t what some readers expect out of a YA paranormal. But in my mind, werewolves and vampires are supernatural, not paranormal. Is that an entirely different category? My main character possesses the power of telekinesis and astral projection. Isn’t that considered paranormal? Well, I’ve found it depends on who you ask. And sci-fi? Some may say it doesn’t meet the sci-fi standard…there aren’t any spaceships or aliens, so why classify it as such? But my series deals with the concept of alternate universes. So, for time being, I have it categorized as sci-fi and  time-travel romance as there isn’t a ‘paranormal sci-fi’ category yet.

Now, let’s look at Charlaine Harris and her Southern Vampire Series. Is it a mystery, paranormal romance, or urban fantasy? I’ve seen her books described as all of the above. You have vampires, romance (Sookie always seems to have a different beau every other book it seems), and she’s always trying to solve some sort of mystery/crime, whether it be in the supernatural vampire world, or the human one she’s a part of. As for urban fantasy, well, there are vamps, shifters, werewolves, witches, demons, etc. and while it’s not technically set in a city (I’m not sure the fictional small town of Bon Temps counts), readers are lenient when it comes to classifying it as urban fantasy.

It’s a puzzling conundrum and writers, as well as readers, should take a moment to consider how a particular book is categorized. It could hurt the writer if a reader expects something other than what’s presented. Then again, readers could be pleasantly surprised to read a book they weren’t expecting.

What do you think about genre/sub-genres? Are there books that you think are miscategorized?