WRITE. I made a thing. I made an art thing.

WRITE

11 x 14 Mixed Media on Canvas

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
with a little bit of help from Marla Todd and inspiration from Milton 510 Bowen and my friends at WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants)

Coming soon to a wall near me and a blog post near you. This is part of my “Jane Eyre” series. Mixed medium art during the pandemic inspired by the classics.

Retelling Lore and Updating Mythologies

This morning I found a dead bat in my house. It was a teeny tiny little thing – a little brown myotis. At first I thought it was a leaf. I was sad to see this tiny nocturnal creature  on the floor of one of the bedrooms, with it’s wings close to it’s body, all alone.

Mind you, it wasn’t a Vampire. It was just a bat. A precious and tiny little beneficial flying mammal that eats bugs. It made me sad to see it dead and alone.

This made me think of common lore, that is of Vampires and bats. Most of us prefer the night but we aren’t shape shifters. Mind you, we can make you think we are but that is your own fault.

Lore is spread through stories once told around the fire at night, and now told in movies, books, and television. Stories and mythologies evolve as our world and culture evolves. What is popular becomes belief. What is unpopular becomes forgotten.

I took the dog for a walk and started to think of the reworking of lore and mythologies, especially in weird times like now. Even the stories of atomic creatures such as Godzilla and giant insects come out of the advent of atomic bombs. Mothman first appeared in West Virginia folklore, in the Point Pleasant area from November 12, 1966, to December 15, 1967. In fact some people claim to still see him from time to time. So much of Space Alien lore and a boom in Science Fiction, also takes place in the 1950’s – 60’s, at the time of the space race,  though it goes back to as long as people have been looking up at the stars.

A writing friend of mine asked about rewriting mythologies. I say DO IT. I love it when authors take old stories and rewrite them.

One of my favorite things to do it to take a modern look at old characters. In my story Sam Judge I rewrote the story of Samson and Delilah in a post apocalyptic setting. Holy shit, I wrote it a few months before our current Covid-19 pandemic started. It was for the new WPaD Anthology Goin’ Extinct Too! Apocalypse A-Go-Go. 

Sam Judge was a retelling of the biblical story from the point of view of Lilah. Once you get rid of all of the sexist bull shit it just becomes a story of a guy with a lot of power and a powerful family, and a woman trying to do her job.

I wonder about a lot of old stories. Take David and Goliath. David was a guy who threw a rock at the big bully Goliath who was a GIANT. David became the King because that is how people picked leaders back then. My take is that David was about average height or maybe on the shorter end of average  like 5″6′. I’m going by what is average today, not five thousand years ago. Goliath was tall but not a giant. Maybe about 6’11” or even 7′ like a basket ball player. Goliath could have been the same height of Goliath who was obviously the epitome of the school yard bully. David kicked Goliath’s ass. It could have been with rocks. It could have been with words. The point of this story is that David’s crew had to spin the story to make it look more spectacular. They had to make David look bigger than life so they made Goliath into a 15″6′ giant and made David into just a regular guy which he wasn’t. The spin doctors were going for the lowest common denominators with their mostly agrarian and illiterate constituents. See where I’m going with this.

Another favorite story of mine and of my readers is Ode to a Greek God. I take the god Hermes and update the readers on what he is doing now in his home in San Francisco.  His son Pan is settled down. Hermes is evaluating his life and still getting into trouble with women. It is a new world where mortal humans tend to be a little more savy and demanding. I might even continue that story one day or update the new mythology.

For centuries people have been fascinated by the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stories. Was Arthur even real? What about the Holy Grail. There are stories within stories within stories. Everyone from John Steinbeck to Stephen Spielberg had their own wonderful takes on the lore of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Of course Monty Python did it better than anyone.

I also had my own take on the story of Arthur, Merlin and the Camelot Crew with my Druce and Morcant stories. In Off To See The Wizard the two friends started with a trip to meet Merlin. I’m still writing their stories. By the way Druce is a Warlock, and Morcant is a Selkie. That makes for even more lore.

And speaking of Selikes please read the wonderful new story by emerging author Adelia Hoff called The Fisherman. She did a beautiful job taking the predatory and mean nature out of an old tale.

Be it Bible stories, Greek Gods, Vampires, Selkies, Mermaids, Wizards, Ghosts, old legends, or what ever lore you’re writing just remember that it is your story to tell. YOUR STORY.

Someone started the lore and mythologies we currently retell over and over and over. Why not start your own.

And if you just want to read you have plenty of material. I’ll make a list in my next book blog post.

In the meantime keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Keep your imagination running. Wear a mask. Talk with your kids. Check in on those who might need extra help. Stay safe.

And tell me what your favorite stories of myths, lore, or retellings of old tales are. I’d love to hear.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Hooks

coffee

Coffee with Vampires and Ghosts

On TV whenever a hot girl sees a guy she likes she will run up to him, do a flying jump and wrap her legs around him as she plants him with a huge sloppy kiss.

NOBODY does that in real life. There would be a trip to the emergency room after he falls and cracks his skull on the pavement, and she falls with him and breaks her arm when it twists behind his back.

I just had to say that.

This morning after a long walk with my dog I fixed coffee and a second cup for Nigel. Being a Ghost, Nigel never drinks the coffee, he just puts his hands around the cup and takes in the aroma.

This morning we were not discussing stupid reality TV programs. We talked about creativity.

“Why don’t you finish anything?” Nigel asked with a sneer, as he shook a lock of dark hair off of his forehead.

“I finish blog posts and short stories,” I said.

“Novels?”

“I’ve finished a couple.”

“You never edited them or had them edited? What the Hell Juliette?”

I made more coffee and ignored his completely true comment.

“I’m writing today,” I said. “I’m working on a novel. I’m going to get a real editor to edit it.”

“What’s the hook? In one sentence,” said Nigel.

“A story that proves that Empty Nesters had lives before they had kids, and deadly secrets the’ll never tell.”

“I’d read that,” said Nigel. “Now give me the hook for another one.”

“Would you rather have a trophy wife on your arm or a raptor?”

“Oh, I like that. Go on.”

“Sometimes you have to die to find a love life.”

“OK. That hits home. Another.”

“After the fourth apocalypse in three years he decided to do something about it, and he didn’t really care what anyone else thought.”

“That one needs some work.”

“After the fourth apocalypse in three years he decided to do something about it, even if he was just a cat.”

“There you go. Is it about a cat?”

“It could be. I haven’t done much with that one yet,” I said. Wasn’t that the truth.

“Tell me another.”

“Get your gun, and get in the motorhome, said Grammy, “We’re going to hunt some Vampires.”

Nigel laughed out loud. “That was unexpected. Another.”

“I’m done for the day,” I told him. I need to write.

Yes, I do need to write before all of the ideas and inspiration drains out of my left ear and onto the floor. I need to write before I notice the floor needs to be mopped. I need to write before the dog needs more food, or the cats lie to me again and tell me they need more food. I need to write before another person drunk dials me, or I get distracted yet again by Ghosts or anyone or anything else.

I have to finish those stories and send those hooks out and catch some readers. My goal is to tell those tales and maybe entertain someone along the way.

And as always…

  • Talk to your kids
  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Check in on the elderly folks and others in your life you might need extra help.
  • Kiss a Vampire.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Cat-Writing-1

 

 

 

 

 

Questions to ask as a writer in 2020: What about everything that is going on now? Will it change my story?

1918 nurses with dog and masks
1918 Nurses and their dog wearing masks.

These are strange times, as if you didn’t already know.

I’m working on a project. It is fiction. I have questions. My story/book/novel takes place in contemporary America, in California, with somewhat regular people. This isn’t an epic fantasy. I have questions and I can’t just make up the answers.

Writing Questions as of July 6, 2020:

How long will we be wearing masks?

How long will seniors be in danger?

Will there be relaspes of Covid-19? What will happen if that happens?

What about other diseases?

Who will win the election in November and what fall out will there be from that? No matter what happens it will be weird.

Will Melania Trump divorce her husband and go after my main character? She isn’t his type, but he is awfully attractive so she just might have to stalk him. Damn, that would make a weird story. You know I just put this one in for shits and grins.

Will we ever be able to go to live baseball games again?

Will people still be social distancing in 2025?

Will this become (heaven forbid I use this term) the new normal?

Will any of my character be survivors, or carriers, or know someone who have been sick from Covid-19 or died from it?

Should any of this matter?

What about younger characters who are in high school, college, or trade schools? What about kids wanting to join the military? What will happen when everyone starts going back to school?

Will working at home become more of the rule rather than the exception?

What else is going to happen? Aliens? Giant atomic reptiles? Natural disasters we can’t handle because our government is so fucked up? More strange illnesses? Doomsday cults gone amuck? Talking dogs? Big Foot comes out of the woods to help out? The possibilities are endless.

What about fire season? With prison lock downs are there going to be enough crews to work the fires? How will this impact my character’s lives, not to mention mine?

How will this impact relationships? I’m talking about marriages, parents and children, romantic partners, friends, relatives, siblings, work relationships, friends with benefits, and everyone else.

What about divorced parents who have children together, even if those children are grown? In my story they’re grown.

Did this impact your character’s jobs/careers?

What about the crazy election and politics? Did any of that impact your characters? Did it drive anyone apart?

How about diversity? Are you changing anything in your writing to reflect that? My own kids have a diverse group of friends of all colors, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations. They are who they are. Do I need to mention details? One character is gender fluid but so are people I know in real life. How does one write about diversity without being overly contrived or stupid. I’ve done it on my blog, right here, in the past. It worked. Maybe I’m over thinking this.

When I used to work in advertising someone, usually a marketing director, always wanted to have a black male, a racially ambiguous lighter skinned brown (who could pass for white if he had to) male person, and an Asian female (because you could get a minority and a female for a two in one deal) in the ad. It was so trite. It was so false and just pissed me off.

Did your characters participate in demonstrations?

What are their political views? Have those views changed? How are they talking to their children about it? Do they agree with their kids, or can they even talk to them about it without yelling?

I am still sure I can and will call out racists, sexist assholes, anti-vaxxers, religious fanatics, those who don’t believe in science, flat Earthers, and people who like the books 50 Shades of Gray, The Twilight Series, and Bridges of Madison County. OK maybe not the readers. At least they read.

What about the environment? Again, what about the environment? WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

Will J.K. Rolling ever shut up about trans people?

Will there still be cat memes?

What about music?

Netflix? You know.

Did your character stop smoking and get into shape, or did they gain the Covid 19?

What or who did they miss most? What were they glad to get back to the most? What or who were they glad NOT to be around during the stay-at-home orders?

Does everyone adopt more shelter animals? I’m at overload at my house but maybe my characters adopt a few dogs, cats, or other critters during the shut downs.

These questions go on and on.

From my own experience I know as a writer that some stories become outdated pretty quickly. When my kids were tiny I started writing an epic techno/fantasy/romance/adventure that is over 200,000 words. The point of telling you this is that I need to go back and change a few things in it, because things have changed over the past twenty years. Attitudes have changed, and even though the story is fantasy and in a place that isn’t really our Earth, some things still apply. The entire Southern Hemisphere of their planet is a toxic wasteland due to environment disasters. There are social issues dealing with people who are different. There are assholes and bigots. There is drug use. But anyway, it is still a damn fine story and after a few more years maybe I’ll edit it and throw it out to the wolves.

But I’m rambling…

As writers we must constantly be thinking about how our world changes. That is the beauty of blogging, that is you write constantly in smaller bites so everything is always fresh.

So, I have nothing else to say on this right now. I just need to get back to my book. Oh, and don’t forget that Camp NaNoWriMo 2020 is happening right now if you want to join in. Here is the link to get there: https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-camp-nanowrimo

Damn I feel bad for all of the kids who have to miss summer camp this year.

I’ll yack at you more later and bug Vlad for a new Vampire Diary post.

  • Wear your mask
  • Be nice
  • Wash your hands
  • Read blogs
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables
  • Love your cats
  • Do some stretching
  • Don’t be a dick
  • Turn up the radio in your car and sing really loud
  • Stay safe
  • Kiss a Vampire (that is still relatively safe and always fun)

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

family and cat with masks 1918
1918. Family with masks – even the cat.

Reading and Writing: A Good Story

Let’s talk about reading and writing.

My sister-in-law Verity recently threw a stack of books into the recycle bin. That is a habit she got from me. If a book is too stupid/bad/boring/offensive to finish then why risk someone else wasting their time on it? Just throw it out.

Her reason for the latest toss out was, “I hate it when favorite male authors get old and decide to write sexist drivel about older men with hot young things, or two guys in competition over the same hot young thing. What is up with these authors? They used to write the best books.”

We talked some more and decided that this is not the rule. Most male of our favorite authors we read are on their mark. They still write witty characters, and if anything else their female characters have become more realistic, believable, and entertaining.

Another thing we decided gets a book into the recycle bin is when authors (usually female) start writing about either weak female characters who are always victims, or characters who are so snarky towards the poor smitten male characters that we’re shaking our heads and thinking what the hell is wrong with these people?

Books, like real life, should be populated with a variety of characters. With so many variations and personalities why depend on cliches?

I see that a lot, cliches, in online writing groups. Those who want to be writers ask questions about such things. They often don’t realize that they just need to write in their own voice, or the voice of their characters. They struggle with trying to describe something on paper, when all they really need to do is open their mouths, say the words out loud as if telling a friend, then write THAT down.

The same goes for writing dialogue. Be natural. Be real. Listen to how people talk to each other in real life. An author should be like an actor and get into the character, and even become the character they are writing about.

I had to admit to Verity that I am not the best at editing, but sometimes I can tell a good story. I’ve also read thousands of books over the years. I love a good story. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my favorite authors (both indie and mainstream) who can write a good story.

What I love about bloggers is that they tell good stories. Bloggers write like they talk, and boy do they talk. Blogs are usually so spontaneous. It makes me happy, even when the subject matter is deep and depressing. I’m happy because it is fluid, entertaining, and as if I’m right there with the blogger. It is that intimate voice that I love so much. There is also the interaction with the readers that is so rewarding as well.

My advice to people who’d like to dip their big toes into writing and see how it feels is to blog first. Why? It is good practice. You can write whatever you want. It is totally yours. You can try things out. You don’t have to worry about rejection. Blogging has a built in community – believe me, you’ll find it, or it will find you.

Verity went through a bag of books I brought her and found something new to read. I gave her recommendations for books to download too. She’ll find something she likes. There are so many good books. As much as we all complain about everything it is nice to know that we live in a world with so many wonderful story tellers.

And speaking of wonderful story tellers… I can’t go without saying something about the new anthology from WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) Goin’ Extinct Too! Apocalypse A-Go-Go. Nineteen authors share their stories, essays, poetry, and visions of a sometimes grim, and sometimes hopeful future. You decide, and if you like it leave a nice review.

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What are your pet peeves about books, story lines, and characters?

What do you like the best about your favorite books or types of books?

What makes you dump a book into the recycle bin?

What makes you keep a book and want to read it again?

Any other thoughts on the subject?

Did your cat do anything cute today?

Let me know. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Social Distance. Read a book. Stay safe.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

reading

 

 

 

The Lives I Never Lived (aka Ophelia, Drowned aka A Preoccupation With Tragedy)

The Lives I Never Lived (aka Ophelia, Drowned aka A Preoccupation With Tragedy)

~ Adelia Hoff

 

I mean this:

When you see me again, it will be in the desert through the low-res camera of a errant traveler, hunched over the remains of an unidentifiable piece of roadkill, looking like a ghost. I will be tranquilized by a Park Ranger who mistakes me for a too-brave cougar and when they check my dental records they will find a dead man’s.

 

__

You were like something out of a fever dream-

An angel in sapphire and silver

That night, as you walked towards me, arm outstretched

I remember wanting nothing more

Then to let you utterly consume my immortal soul

 

__

Life-drunk on a siren’s song,

Scrabbling at sun-baked soil

The sky is falling and the numbers, six-seven-eight meters, count up to go down.

Distortion of mirage and heat of sun bring revelation of acceptance, promise of knowledge,

Look around.

What would you save?

What could you save?

 

__

Some nights I cannot sleep.

One time I heard a screaming outside. It could have been a coyote.

Every so often I remember the parable of the scorpion and the frog, and I wonder: am I the scorpion? I am not naturally high strung, but I am self serving and strong willed. Do I hurt people with that I cannot control? Do I really care if I do?

The coyote, if it was that, yelled twice during the night.

There is a gentleness that seizes you at dawn. The uncanny can be a comfort, strange as it may sound. That which has not been explained yet could be anything.

Does the coyote care who it hurts?

Was it ever really a coyote, or just a phantom of the self?

Do I really care?

 

 

__

The elk bellows,

“Oh king, oh captain, oh lover of mine, where are you?”

The forest whispers back,

“They are not here. Search as you will, but only echoes will come to you.”

 

__

The Reflection

 

I found you pale and afraid –

selenic and blind.

Should I have left you there?

I cannot say.

I am a selfish creature.

Then again,

so were you.

 

__

Sometimes it feels like driving for too long and listing to the same song on repeat for hours and when you finally get out you have to remind yourself how to be a human again

And sometimes it feels like getting pulled under by a wave with the immediate reconciliation that if you must go at least your body will be claimed by the ocean and that’s okay because you didn’t really care for the thing anyways

And sometimes it’s on the precipice of desert rain when you smell dust and creosote and the animals are quiet because the water here is no lifegiver

And sometimes it’s mania and the realization that there is no higher power or meaning and that means nothing can stop you from becoming something cosmic and holy and irreverently profane and powerful but you can’t bring yourself to carve away the undue flesh binding you to this condemnation

But most of the time it is simply the knowledge that something isn’t right and no one else can tell but you can and it could and would drive you mad if you payed it any more heed but that’s okay because you’ve gotten used to ignoring things and are pretty good at it at this point

So the numbness continues and the panic continues and you scream let me out let me out please please please I don’t belong here I’m not meant for this I can’t go on like this anymore but you have to keep going because the rest of the world won’t stop just because it’s too much and you can’t handle it

And maybe just maybe it’s not you that’s the problem

Personhood isn’t for everyone

 

__

I do not love you.

Yes, I care-

But love?

 

Never.

 

I adore the kitten, with its triangle tail and toddling steps.

I admire the wind, strong and unyielding.

I devote myself to knowledge, the true currency of power.

 

But I do not love.

 

 

__

This world is cruel

and unforgiving

to all soft things

So is it really so surprising

that being good

and gentle

and kind

Is inevitable replaced with jagged edges

(protect me, the thing inside cries)

(please, please don’t let me get hurt again)

(i might just break this time)

 

__

[you’re floating somewhere below the suface of the ocean. there’s nothing around you in any direction, and you’re not entirely sure how you got here.]

[you’re out camping in the mountains. night is coming. it’s probably the most content you’ve been in a while.]

[there’s a low fog over the city as you look off a tenth story balcony. you can feel a storm brewing in the distance, but for now you can’t tear away from the feeling of being above it all.]

[you’ve been traveling for days now. whose turn was it to drive? haven’t you seen this road before?]

[there’s whispering in your head. rationally, this should be a cause for alarm. you’ve come to the realization that you’d only be alarmed if it stopped.]

 

darkness outside

About the Author:

Adelia Hoff is a student studying the freshly dead. When asked about her personal life her only comment was, “I’m just visiting,” whatever that means.

 

From Juliette:

Thank you so much Adelia for sharing your words. It is an honor. Truly it is. You know I’m going to be asking for more in the future.

xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman