The Nouvelle Vampire


Eric with fangs

So my last Spellbound Scribes post listed some great m/m vampire books. That post came about because I’d been researching the subgenre (sub-subgenre?) so I could add to it. And now I am. I’m co-writing an m/m vampire story with my friend Irene Preston, and hallelujah! It’s honestly the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

The co-writing thing is like having an extended (very extended) (like 75,000 word extended) conversation, not counting the evening Facebook chats to work out plot points. As a result of all of that discussion, I recently had sort of an a-ha moment.

I really owe Charlaine Harris BIG for how I think vampires should behave.

Eric giphy

Which is actually kind of a problem. I took the time to explore what had already been written so that I wouldn’t outright duplicate anything, though I’ll admit that one of the reasons I went four years between vampire projects was my fear that I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything unique.

And despite my best intentions, I keep making pronouncements, like, OUR vampire should be THUS & SO, and Irene will be all, “um, why?” Then I pause long enough to realize my reasoning has more to do with Eric Northman than with any truly creative thinking on my part.

The whole game in romance is to take something that’s been done a bazillion times before and make it the same, but different. For this project, I started with a vampire who’d been a monk before he’d been turned. Fresh premise, right? Except maybe not so fresh if everything I layer on top (fabulous wealth, orgasmic bite) is lifted thoughtlessly from somewhere else.

Eric n Sookie

Last March I took a class from Kerri-Leigh Grady on Strategies for Writing Fresh, offered through SavvyAuthors.com. If she ever offers the class again, you should totally sign up. In the class, the first thing Kerri-Leigh had us do was pick out some of our favorite familiar story elements, arguing that our readers needed something to relate to before we blew their minds with our ingenuity.

(She then had us do a bunch of really fun exercises twisting familiar tropes, which have already gained me one finished project – and I may yet write that Heathcliffe as a biker in contemporary L.A. thing, too.)

So maybe my first step was okay. I mean, a “vampire story” has certain expected, familiar components. My attempt at ingenuity – a vampire who started life as a monk – is likely something readers can connect with. It may be that my vampire should retain those Eric Northman elements, too. (Especially the orgasmic bite thing, because who wouldn’t benefit from that?)

Except the thing Irene’s questions made me realize is that my vampire only gets to keep the parts of the vampire myth that make sense for his character. Monks aren’t notoriously wealthy, so maybe that’s not an element we end up keeping. Developing the vampire character has become a process of picking and choosing which pieces of the trope work for HIM.

Perhaps – and this is my real a-ha moment, which I may have actually had while writing this post – just maybe coming up with a truly fresh premise isn’t about the thunderbolt that sends you scurrying to your laptop. Maybe it’s more about making a couple of tweaks to something familiar, then informing them with real, live (or undead), characters.

If you’ve got a process for tweaking a standard trope or character type, leave me a comment. Would love to learn from you!

Eric n Jason

Ten Good Vampire Books

Vampires are done. Over. Dead.

Amirite?

‘Eh, probably. But if you like a good vampire story, you like a good vampire story.  And recently I’ve stumbled over a couple good vampire stories and well, SpellboundScribes IS the name of the blog. If I can’t talk about vampires here, where can I?

Now the twist is, I’ve been reading mostly m/m romance, so the vampire stories I’m talking about all feature gay characters. I have a pretty good handle on the vampire genre in general but I’m only just starting to explore it as an m/m sub-subgenre. I don’t know if there are m/m equivalents of Ann Rice or Octavia Butler or Barbra Hambly (people who were writing vampire stories before they were cool), but part of my motivation for this post was to discover what’s out there.

So here, in no particular order, are some suggestions for well-regarded m/m vampire stories. I asked for help with this post on the M/M Book Recommendations Facebook page, so I haven’t read all of these, but the research alone cost me money. I also found a Best Gay Vampires list on Goodreads…cuz when in doubt, go to Goodreads…

Cronins Key1. Cronin’s Key by NR Walker – This is a contemporary take on the fated love trope, and while the sample didn’t contain too many surprises for me, it’s got a ton of 5-star ratings on Amazon and it gets a lot of play on the M/M Book Recs page. AND it’s on sale for $0.99 right now because the sequel just came out.

Deep Desire

2. Deep Desire by ZA Maxfield – This one looks intriguing as hell. I almost talked myself into a one-click a couple months ago, and have moved the sample up to the top of my TBR list. I like the premise – centuries-old vampire and art historian searching for the same document and maybe (or not) falling in love – but some of the reviews have some pretty harsh things to say about the relationship, highlighting manipulation and dub-con. This is a revised edition of a book that was previously published as “Notturno”.

tinder chronicles

3. The Tinder Chronicles by Alexa Land – Tinder seems like it would be a good vacation read. Built on the same basic premise as Lou Harper’s Sanguine books – vampire hunter falls in love with a vampire – it’s filed under ‘erotica’ and promises good sexy fun. It also has solid reviews (4+ stars on The ‘Zon) and is $2.99 for a 3-volume set.

natural instincts

4. Natural Instincts by SJ Frost – This one looks like sort of a mash-up of the vampire-hunter-falls-for-a-vampire and the fated-love tropes. I haven’t read it – don’t know if I will – but it was recommended a couple of times by people who commented on my M/M Book Recs query and it’s #7 on the Goodreads list.

spirit sanguine

5. Spirit Sanguine by Lou Harper – I’m a bit of a Lou Harper fan, and thoroughly enjoyed this book.  (I also liked the sequel, Temper Sanguine.)  I mean, how can you NOT love a vegetarian, half-Chinese, vampire named Harvey? His boyfriend Gabe is a vampire hunter – therefore instant conflict – and the path these two take to get together is a lot of fun.

Merrick

6. Merrick by Claire Cray – My only complaint about Merrick is that it was too short! The premise isn’t a huge departure – young man is sent to apprentice with a mysterious older gentleman who turns out to be a vampire – but the voice is gorgeous and the period details pretty much nail the turn of the (19th) century atmosphere. The sequel is called William, and while I haven’t read it yet, I will…someday…

stripped with the vampire

7. Stripped with the Vampire by Jax Garren – Stripped is more urban fantasy than romance, and the world is fairly complicated, with lots of layers among the paranormal characters (read: lots of opportunity for conflict). Vince and Charlie make a cute couple, though, and the supporting characters are well-drawn. It reminded me of the early books by Kim Harrison or Patricia Briggs, but, you know, with a gay couple at the center.

Blind Mans Wolf

8. Blind Man’s Wolf by Amelia Faulkner – I read this in one sitting, when I should have been napping before a night shift. The whole idea of a blind vampire intrigued me, and I thought the author did an excellent job creating a believable blind character. Also, the story was hella entertaining. She’s still got it priced at $0.99, but you better one-click in case that goes away.

cake

9. Cake (Blood Nation #1) by Derikica Snake – I haven’t read much yaoi/slash m/m – about the closest I’ve come is With Wings by Z Allora. This is a big story with lots of fantasy and sexy bits, and it has enthusiastic reviews on Amazon. I only downloaded the sample because the $9.99 price was a little bit much for a one-click, but if I love it, well, the heart wants what it wants…

payback

10. Payback by Jordan Castillo Price – Now I did one-click this baby, because I love Jordan Castillo Price and I LOVE the cover art. This is book one in her Channeling Morpheus series, and another of her vampire stories, Hemovore, got quite a few mentions on my M/M Book recs query. Just to be thorough, Payback is #6 on the Goodreads list, and Hemovore is #9. Haven’t read either of them yet, but I will.

Thirst

BONUS – Thirst by Lisa Worrall – I’d meant to stop at 10, but when I looked over the list I’d hadn’t mentioned yet, this one DEMANDED a spot in the post. This one has mystery and sexytimes and Los Angeles (read: Liv’s personal catnips) and I’m totally going to add it to my TBR pile!

From Afar

BONUS(x2) – From Afar by Ava Marsh – This one gets a shout-out because it was mentioned by Amy Jo Cousins and she is the best with book recommendations. Also, it’s only the second historical m/m vampire story I’ve found and historical m/m is an even bigger weakness for me than mysteries set in L.A. (see above).

Now see? You’ve helped me identify some of the must-reads in the world of m/m vampire fic. I hope you found something you can one-click on – I know I sure did! And because I don’t mean to leave anyone out, here are a few more that were recommended by readers on the M/M Book Recs page or on the Goodreads list:

Angel of Darkness by Tyler May (QUICK UPDATE – I just one-clicked this one because it’s marked down to $0.99!)

Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

The V Unit by Max Vos

Cowboys and Vampires by Hank Edwards

Immortality is the Suck by AM Riley

Alliance in Blood by Ariel Tachna

Dance in the Dark by Megan Derr

The Beast Without by Christian Baines

Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle by Amy Fecteau (Currently a FREE download!)

Happy reading!
Liv

Genre Crossover

I would like to do an informal poll this week. It’s regarding genre crossing. I’ve come across a few authors who can write both paranormal/urban fantasy and contemporary quite well. But recently, I found an author who can not only write both well, she’s managed to fully develop two series, one a contemporary and one an urban fantasy, in the same world. The characters from both series intermingle, are even related to each other in some cases. This, to me, is quite impressive.

At first I chose not to read the new series, the urban fantasy, because I was so unsure of how it would work. Now, I’m glad I did and can’t wait to read more. It takes talent to be able to meld both fantasy and contemporary into the same world and make it believable for the reader. As an author who loves to write both, I think seeing this in reality is a major win.

So my informal poll…what are your thoughts on crossing genres in the same world? Would you read the books or would you shy away from one or the other?

By the way…if you want to check out the series I’m talking about…the author is Candace Blevins. I will tell you, her contemporary series is very heavy in BDSM and the books are intense. The paranormal series isn’t quite as intense, but still very hot!

Crafting The Crafty

Villains. 

We love to hate them, and sometimes we hate to love them.

Either way, whether as readers or writers, we forge a connection to the villains in our novels.  From way back, I discerned that I embrace a certain affection for the villainous, the crafty, the bad-guy, if you will, in many a story and movie.  It perplexed me, and downright troubled my poor parents, I imagine.

It’s no well-kept secret that I harbored a preference for Ramses in the Ten Commandments, his declarations of, ‘So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done,’ raising the goose-flesh on my bony arms as I ridiculed the silly Nefretiri for chasing after Moses, who didn’t want her anyway!  Likewise, in the novel and the subsequent movie, The Last Of The Mohicans, Magua fascinated me with his devilish war paint, brutal depiction, and harsh countenance.  And who could not love Doc Holiday, a known drunkard and gunslinger, who taunted those he deemed inferior to himself, holding loose morals but possessing a wit and charm sufficient to curl your toes?  Dare we have this discussion (at a paranormal site, no less!) without mentioning Bram Stoker’s Dracula?  One can not help but be beguiled – even knowing what he is, what he inflicts on his victims.

Now, let me say that there are villains wholly unlikable, utterly irredeemable.  We don’t have to think long to conjure the likes of serial killers and war criminals – which are in a category completely outside the one I speak of.  Those…well, we’ll leave that for another discussion.

So, what is it that creates the villains that I, and many like me, dare to adore?  I’ve pondered the question myself, and have come to an interesting conclusion.  It’s their redeeming factor.  Can we find a redeeming quality that sparks in us the want for them to mend their ways, to turn away from their vile behavior, to succumb to love, faith, or mercy?

The event or emotion that motivates our villain is often the very thing that draws us near; likewise, the lack of these leaves a void, impressing a sense of unrepentant evil.  A man bent on revenge after losing his lover, wife or child in brutal fashion…a woman manipulating men in power to gain her own in a culture that oppresses those of her gender…a lover enraged at a betrayal committing a crime of passion…  Within these, we can forge a connection and empathize, we can share in their sorrow, or cry out with them for an avenging.  Even if we balk at and protest their actions.  Even if we wish them to change course and walk a different path.

Crafting a villain is a careful, thoughtful endeavor if we wish our audience to love to hate them – or hate to love them.  Ha!  In The Third Fate, I decided to craft a variety of villains.  In the character Gwendolyn, I wanted the audience to ‘love to hate her’.  She’s downright malevolent!  Wielding her sexuality much as a gladiator would a sword, she cuts down any in her path, hacking mercilessly at the egos of many.  She harbors no loyalty, no love.  In short, she is completely self-serving, and makes no apologies for it.  In contrast, the three child-like Fates, are likewise bent of self-gratification.  But their innocence tips the scales, sliding them into the category of ‘we hate to love them’ – even though we do.

What traits endear a villain to you?

~ Nadja

For The Love Of Characters

Characters.  A word with multi-faceted meaning if ever there was…

My, but he’s a character!

This is my favorite application of the word.  It says so much, yet leaves a great deal to the imagination.  Ha!  In writing, authors strive to capture the essence of that sentiment, morphing a set of typed characters (Ah!  There’s that word again) into a personality that draws you, excites and amuses, puzzles, leads you forward within the story, attaching you seamlessly to their emotions and deepest desires. Becoming more than two-dimensional names printed on a white background, our favorite and best-loved characters capture our hearts and minds – are as real to our mind’s eye as a friend, an enemy, or a lover.  Well, that’s the goal, anyway.

One fun way to reveal a character’s character (Okay…I’m taking it a bit far with my use of the word, but I cannot help myself.  Really. *snorts with delight at own perceived wit*  Apologies extended.) is through dialogue.  I’ll share a back and forth exchange between sister-like characters in my latest novel, a paranormal romance titled The Third Fate.

Being one of four sisters (and having four brothers) I love including sibling relationships in my novels.  The dynamics between siblings allow for quirky interaction – siblings say to you what no one else would dare! (At least mine do…)

Paige Kinnell, speaking on the phone to her twin cousins after a mysterious, dream-like adventure of the night before….

‘What is it, Brooke?’

The cheery voice on the other end ignored her rude beginning.  ‘You have something to tell us?’ her cousin, Brooke, teased wickedly.

‘What would I have to tell?’ Paige questioned, having no idea what her cousin was about.

‘Don’t you dare play the shy little virgin this morning, Paige Kinnell!  We want details, woman!’

Brooke’s voice carried overly well through the line, and Paige held the phone away from her ear, protecting her eardrum.  ‘What in all of Hades are you about, calling me in the morning asking me silly questions?  Details?  Of what?’

Brooke screamed in exasperation.  ‘Of that beautiful man you went on about last night on the phone!  You know, the one with the black hair?  The icy blue eyes?  The body built to make a saint sin?  That’s who!’

Oddly, Paige did not remember that; however, she did remember the man.  The man from her dream.

Oh Bother!  How can I explain this?

‘I must have been dreaming or something.  Sorry, but there’s really nothing to tell, girls.’

‘Paige, honey…if those are your dreams, I need to know what you were drinking before you went to sleep!’  Brooke laughed, relating the conversation to Lara, who guffawed in the background.

Paige smiled, her first of the morning.  They made her crazy, but she couldn’t imagine life without them.  ‘All right, you two.  I’ve got to get ready for work.  Call me later.  Maybe I’ll get out of there on time for once.’

‘You should come out with us tonight,’ Brooke invited.  ‘We’re going to Jinty McGinty’s…It’ll be fun.’

‘I don’t know,’ Paige hesitated.  ‘You know I don’t drink much, and sitting around while everyone else does is not all that fun.’

‘Oh, come on!  It’s been an age since you let your hair down.  All work and no play make Paige a dull girl.  You’re too timid, Paige.  How are you ever going to land a man if you…’

Someone or something interrupted Brooke’s sage-like lecture, saving Paige the trouble of begging off the line.

‘Sorry, Paige!  Gotta run!  I’ll call you at seven sharp.  And for the love of Henry wear something more risqué than a turtleneck.’

The line went dead, and Paige heaved a sigh of relief, muttering as she readied for work.  ‘What’s the matter with my turtleneck sweaters, anyway?’

The Third Fate © Nadja Notariani, 2011

 ~ Nadja