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

 

 

 

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

A story I’ve told before. I will tell it again tonight.

1880

He’d been found in the ocean, wearing a formal jacket with tails and clinging to the top of a grand piano. Underneath the man was a large gray wolfhound.

The captain of the ship that had picked him up said that he didn’t seem to remember much, or maybe did not want to remember. The dog, named Delilah, wouldn’t leave the side of her master.

At first they thought it was a ship wreck but it ended up being a complicated and strange mystery. The ship, a 200 ton brigantine had left Port of Talcahuano, in Chile three months before the mysterious man had been found in the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. Not a soul was on the ship, except the Captain who’d been found with a gun in his hand and what looked like a fatal self-inflicted bullet wound in his head. The life boats were still on the ship, as well as a cargo of wine and explosives, and the personal belongings of the few passengers and crew.

A break in an unusually strong and violent series of storms allowed them to dock and drop the man on the piano lid and his wolfhound off at the home of the lighthouse keeper’s family.

The lighthouse keeper checked in on the man who was sleeping in his guest room, dog curled by the bed. He could tell the stranger was wealthy by the quality of his clothing, the expensive watch and ring, and the formal refined way he’d spoken. His locked trunk had been recovered from the abandoned ship and now was at the foot of the bed.

The stranger said his name was Maxwell. He told them to call him Max. The first night there he’d drawn exquisite pictures for the light keeper’s wife of palm trees, and of beautiful women in fashionable dresses, and native women of South America with unusual hats and full colorful skirts. Over brandy he told them that he was 31 years old, born in 1849 when his pregnant mother had come out with his father for the California Gold Rush. Now he resided in San Francisco.

“What is your occupation? “The lighthouse keeper’s daughter Jayne asked the stranger,  fully well expecting him to say he was involved in a rich family business, or lived off of the wealth of his forebears.

He looked at her with hazel eyes, that she would have sworn were dark brown earlier that evening. “I am in law enforcement of a sorts, like detective, or a marshal. I seek out those who are particularly evil. I had apprehended a ruthless and violent fiend in South America and was on my way home. Unfortunately on the ship…” he paused and glanced up for a second, then back at the family of the lighthouse keeper. “On the ship I found myself taken by surprise and overwhelmed. It is a story I will tell you later, but now I must sleep, or I’ll end up under the table here.”

So he retired for the night. That was two days ago. He still slept as quiet and cold as death, but not dead. The dog lay by the foot of the bed thumping her tail whenever anyone came near.

A storm raged outside. The weather didn’t allow anyone to go get a doctor. His wife assured him that the man called Max just needed to rest. It made sense considering the man had been clinging to a piano lid and floating in the freezing ocean for days before he was picked up.

Despite the storm Lighthouse Keeper’s wife climbed up a ladder to fix a shutter that was almost ready to fly away with the wind. As she reached the window the ladder fell and she crashed to the ground below. All went black except the feeling of being carried inside.

Max put her down in a large chair by the fire and took her broken arm in his icy hands. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. She could feel his hands heat up and warm her wrist. The pain turned to numbness. She opened her eyes and could see a look of pain on his face, then he smiled and kissed her forehead.

“You’re arm is still broken, but the bones have started to mend enough for you not to need a splint.”

“You? You healed me,” she said.

“Yes. It is a gift. Keep the knowledge to yourself or people will think we are both insane.” He then touched a forming bruise on her forehead, making that pain, along with the bruise go away as well.

During the night the storm broke up. Sunshine came out between the clouds. Jayne convinced Max to walk down to the docks to pick up some fish for the night’s dinner.

She held his arm as they strolled along the road.

“Your glasses are so dark. I noticed your eyes turned from hazel to brown when we went outside,” said Jayne.

“My eyes are sensitive to the sun. I have three younger brothers, and a younger sister. Two of them have eyes that do the same as mine, that is change color,” he said, then changed the subject. “Do you like living here Jayne.”

“I love my family. I love the ocean. I don’t being in a small town with nothing but fish and lumber. I’d like to see more of the world before I’m expected to find a husband.”

“Do you want to be married Jayne?”

“Maybe,” said Jayne, “I can move to Utah and take two husbands. Women can vote in Utah and Wyoming. Why not here?”

“Because men are ignorant and barbaric my dear Jayne. They’re afraid that if you vote you’ll be smarter and more just than they are. The don’t want to give up their power to someone who might do a better job. By the way, men of a certain faith may have more than one wife but I do not believe a woman is allowed two husbands in Utah. You would have to go to Tibet for that.”

Jayne laughed. “To be truthful, even one husband would be too many for me right now. I don’t need anyone to own me right now.” She tugged on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“How am I different? I’m just like any other man.”

“You healed my mother’s arm. You survived almost a week in the icy ocean’s water hanging onto a piano top with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dog. Your eyes change color. Your skin feels like ice. You are unbelievably attractive. I am stating a fact about your looks. But I only want your friendship. Even with the oddness I like you. I feel as if we have been friends for a long long time. Where are you really from Maxwell? Who are your people?”

He smiled and took off his glasses. His eyes were hazel again. “Where I come from men and women are equal. We live quietly. We live honestly among each other. What I am about to tell you will sound strange, but we live on the edge between life and death. We walk in the world of sunlight, but also walk in the land of the shadows and do not fear death or God.”

“I would like to go there with you. I would earn my way. I could be a lady detective.”

“It is not easy to live in my world Jayne.”

“No world is easy Max,” she said then smiled and pulled the comb out of her hair letting it blow in the wind. “Do you have a sweetheart at home?”

Max hesitated then spoke. “There is a woman I have a strong connection with, but I will never love her.”

“Is she married?”

“No. It isn’t like that. We met when I was at the University. So was she, which is odd unto itself. She knows my thoughts. She knows my desires. But she is not the one. What about you Jayne?”

“I was engaged to a man who knew neither my thoughts or desires, and had no intention on learning either. He thought I belonged to him body and soul, not in the way of love, but as property to be owned and controlled. He was jealous to the point of rage if I would speak with another man. He was even jealous of the boys I teach at the school and demanded I quit my teaching job. I would rather die than live a life where someone else controlled my body, my thoughts, my job, and my every whim. That is why I am no longer engaged to him.” Then laughed and ran to the end of the pier and let the wind blow through her hair and laughed some more.

Max marveled at the way she was so free thinking and full of life. He saw so much death and sorrow in his line of work that now with Jayne he felt renewed. She was sunshine in his dark world of shadows and night.

Hours later in the quiet of the night, the wind died own, and the moon hung in a thin crescent in the sky. Max walked along the beach with his dog Delilah. The taste of fresh blood and wine was in his mouth and the cold comfort of the night had settled into his soul. Delilah ran ahead, then the dog started to bark. Ahead of him Max saw a bloody figure crumpled on the rocks. His heart sank. It was Jayne.

Max picked her up and carried her home. He knew what had happened. She’d gone out to look at the stars and was attacked by a man she’d jilted. She’d spoken briefly about it when they’d walked earlier in the day. She had turned away the advances of a hot headed man who wanted her as his own. In the afternoon the man had walked past them, giving Jayne a look like a mad dog when he saw her holding Max’s arm.

He put her on her bed as her parents and brothers gathered around. As still as death, and as cold as the sea, they watched life drained out of her.

Jayne’s mother put her hand on Max’s arm. “Can you heal her, like you healed me?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do she will never be the same, not like she was before. She won’t be crippled or lose herself, she will be… she will be like me.”

“Save her, then find the man who did this to her,” said the Lighthouse Keeper.

“You do not know what you ask,” said Max.

“You put a spark back in her eyes I have not seen in ages. Please save her if you can.”

“Let me be alone with her and she will not die.”

In the morning a man’s body washed up on the beach. It looked as if dogs had torn out his throat. His face was a mask of fear.

Two weeks later Jayne kissed her family good-by and went with Max on the next ship to San Francisco.

2017

Max stood in his living room with a glass of wine in his hand as he looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. He couldn’t imagine getting tired of it. He glanced over to see Jayne, wearing a short black dress and looking gorgeous as always, coming towards him. He kissed her cool cheek. She smiled with just a touch of fang showing.

“Are you staying with Pierce tonight?” Max asked.

“Of course I am. I take it Mehitabel is staying here,” said Jayne.

Max glanced at a small pretty woman across the room. He suddenly thought of what he’d told Jayne about her so many years ago on the walk to the docks. Odd that when he was out in the ocean, clinging onto a piano top of all things, he had thought of Mehitabel. He might ask but he was never sure what she would say. No, he wouldn’t ask, he’d just wait to see what would happen, but he was sure she’d stay.

“I’m sure she’ll stay,” he told Jayne.

They talked for a while longer, about work, about friends, and about how the sunset sparkled on the ocean. Max wasn’t always one for words, but he knew that Jayne knew that they’d always be friends. Maybe even before they had ever met.

Then Jayne laughed. “I still can’t believe you were clinging to a piano lid.”

And Max had to laugh along.

~ End

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Beauty

“I only picked a rose. Just one rose, and now I must be his,” said Papa as he packed his bags.

“Wait, why, what? The beast we hear of in the forest wants you? For a flower? What a douche. Why were you there picking flowers?” Beauty was flustered by her Papa’s story.

“I wanted a flower for your sister Joy. It is her birthday and she has been so depressed since her baby was born,” said Papa.

Poor Joy had tried to be happy but she was tired and sad. Her husband was caring and tried to give her the joy she was named after.

Joy stood in the doorway, her baby in her arms. “It is my fault dear Papa. I will take your place.”

Beauty looked at her sister. Joy should have been named Beauty. She glowed with goodness and love. She was also beautiful beyond measure.

“No, it is my price to pay,” said Papa.

“Nonsense, I will go,” said Beauty.

“No, you will die. There is nobody in the castle of the Beast except the beast,” said Joy.

“Dear sister, do not worry about me. I’m already dead. Seriously, nobody around here likes me anyway. They all think I’m weird,” said Beauty.

“You are not weird,” said Papa.

Beauty laughed and hugged her Papa and her sister. She kissed the sweet baby, packed her bags, and left for the castle in the great forest.

In the middle of the night, Beauty, a pretty young woman with dark blonde hair, and big brown eyes arrived at the castle in the woods. She knocked on the door.

Nobody answered.

“Oh come on. Let me in. I came for my Papa. What do you want with an old man anyway. He just picked a rose for his daughter with postpartum depression. One rose. One freaking rose. You have thousands of roses in the garden here. What’s your problem?” Yelled Beauty.

The great door was opened by an unseen hand. Beauty entered. The place was beautiful but empty.

“Hello?”

She looked around and saw cameras in the corners of the room. Shit. I should have known this would be weird, she thought.

“I know you’re there. I see the cameras. You might as well come out. I will find you.”

Walking down the hallway she noticed that the eyes in the pictures followed her. The furniture shifted as if it was alive.

Then she heard a noice. A low growl. She tried the door in front of her. It was locked. Out of her hair she pulled a bobby pin and picked the lock.

Inside was a beast, a man who looked like the cross between a wolf and a lion, sitting in front of a bank of screens.

“You’re the Beast? What are you? A Werewolf or something?”

The Beast who was wearing a black AC/DC Tee shirt spoke. “I am not a Werewolf.”

“OK. So tell me. What are you?”

“Why are you here. I expected your Papa, or your sister Joy.”

“Joy is married and has two children. How do you know about Joy?”

“Joy is the most beautiful woman in the land. Everyone knows of Joy.”

“Whatever. I’m Beauty, the sister nobody ever sees. You know, Beast, or whatever your name is, this is really messed up. What are you? Some sort of weird geek who can’t get a girl. Do you have everyone because you’re different?”

Beast looked sad. “I am different. People fear me.”

“Welcome to the club Beast,” said Beauty.

“I am a prisoner of my own stupidity and selfishness.”

“Tell me about it.”

The beast held out his hand. “Let’s dance. There is a closet full of beautiful dresses. Go change.”

“I’m not going to be part of your weird fantasy. How’d you get here. You didn’t start out as a wolf man did you?”

“I was selfish. I was mean. I was everything a man should not be?”

“A politician.” said Beauty.

The Beast smiled, showing great white teeth. “No, not a politician. Anyway, to make a long story short, I was enchanted by a woman, a witch, I’d been dating. I’d been vain. I’d cheated on her. I lied to her in more than one way. She turned me into this.”

“I understand how bitter you are. Seriously, I went through something like that but then I accepted the fact that I was different. Just because you were a douch doesn’t mean you can’t change. It sounds to me like you have changed, at least a bit.”

“I have. Could you ever love me?”

“Seriously dude, I’m a Vampire. That’s why I left. I was glad to leave. I love my family and all but I don’t belong there. But I’m not sure I belong here either. The castle is nice and all but you know, this isn’t the Bachelor. I’m not waiting around for a rose from a guy I hardly know.”

“I get it. I’m sorry I was such a jerk. Tell your dad and sister that I’m sorry.”

And suddenly the room filled with magical sparks that didn’t burn and colored smoke, and when it cleared a good looking young man stood before Beauty.

“Wow, Beast. You’re hot. My only advice would be to stay cool. Be good. Keep your karma good.”

Beauty was suddenly hungry and sank her fangs into his arm. When she was done she kissed him, packed her bags, and left.

After a few minutes, she pulled over her car to the side of the road to send a text. “Papa. I’m ok. Don’t worry about the Beast. I’m taking off. Maybe to the beach. I’ll call you soon. xoxo.”

She didn’t know where the road leading out of the other side of the forest would lead, but she knew it couldn’t be as weird as where she had come from.

~ end

Tangled Tales

 

Thank you for reading this tangled tale. These stories are written on Sunday mornings while I drink my coffee, listen to the birds and my old calico cat purring. I never know what I will write about. Sometimes the stories I write are brilliant, sometimes not so much. If you write I encourage you to write every Sunday. It is sort of like going to church – a place where you can find your own inner whatever and find what is good, or funny, or just yours. I’m also listening to NPR. There is a great interview of Jack White talking about The Raconteurs. It has nothing to do with this story but it made me happy.

So read stories, write stories, listen to music, hug someone you love.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

Stories We Shall Never Tell

In the dark

We ran through the streets

Slick with rain

Back alleys

Darkened windows

Broken glass

Rats

The smell of decay

And death.

Then into grand mansions

We’d fly

Cloaks off

The rustle of silk

A white tie

A flash of fang

The smell of wine

Cigars

And blood.

We were young

Carefree

With stories

We shall never

Tell

Our own

Children.

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Going Through With It

Tangled Tales

Pierce licked his finger then ran it across the cut on his friend’s arm. It was a nasty six inch cut.

“So, Max, what exactly happened? I thought you were going to the archives.”

“I was. I did. My car was surrounded by Vampire Hunters. It was stupid of me to go out unarmed, but every other Vampire does. You know Pierce, we should have to deal with this off the job.”

“What happened?”

“They pulled out their knives and crosses, as if a cross is going to stop me. I had my keys out and pressed the horn button. I thought that would chase them off but they kept coming. There were six of them. Six.”

“You’ve been in worse situations,” said Pierce.

“Sure, but they were good. I’d never seen them before but they’d done this before. One of them cut me. As soon as my blood hit the ground the wind kicked up and there was a loud screeching sound. And there she was, damn Pierce, a Demon. She spread her wings and spit poison. They, the Vampire Hunters ran. Cowards.”

“What is it with you and Demons?”

“What do you mean me and Demons?”

“They like you.”

“I don’t know. She smiled at me with a weird light in those yellow eyes and told me that I owed her. I told her that I didn’t owe her shit. Her eyes went black and she flew away. Holy shit it was weird. It’s the leather wings that creep me out.”

“To say the least,” said Pierce. “All the girls like you Max.”

“Not funny Pierce.”

“Did you get the documents?”

“They’re in my bag.”

Pierce put gauze over Max’s wound, then he covered it with his hand.

“You don’t have to do that,” said Max.

“Sure I do,” said Pierce. He closed his eyes then winced a little. After a few minutes he removed his hand and unwrapped the gauze. Max’s wound had closed and was now just a dark pink line on his arm. “It wasn’t that bad. Good as new. No stitches needed.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. So what did you bring back?”

“It was nothing really.”

“Something for the Jones investigation?”

“No. I was looking up wedding vows.”

Pierce smiled. “So you’re going through with it.”

“Yes, as scary as that sounds.”

“It would scare me,” said Pierce, then he laughed, and Max joined in.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Books of the Dead

“What is this place?” I asked my brother’s friend Florence. He’d taken me to an old building she owned in the downtown area.

“My library, sort of,” she said with a delighted smile. She was a thin woman with a black bob, pale skin, and bright blue eyes lined in black.  “The oldest is from the 1760’s, but most are from the 19th and 20th Centuries. I have a fair amount from the 21st Century too. I got my first one in 1819. Two hundred years ago.

“Are they manuscripts? First editions?” I asked.

I collect books that have never been read or published. Take that back, I’m not sure if anyone has read them or not. I doubt it. Some of them are quite brilliant. Fantastically brilliant. Oh my goodness I am in complete awe of some of these writers.

Even the ones that aren’t finished are pretty interesting. We’re trying to piece them together and fill in the blanks. It is a puzzle. Quite the mystery on some.

The manuscripts come from the estates of people who have passed away. Their families don’t know what to do with the stuff. Or I find them in piles of papers, usually mixed with photos and other personal office ephemera. I’ve even found manuscripts at flea markets, and left in abandoned buildings.

Someone put their heart and soul into these. It would be a shame to see these stories gone forever.

I suppose some were meant to be published. I believe some people just wrote because they had to. Sort of personal therapy. You know how that is.

I’ve got a group of college students and a few others working on reading and editing. Maybe, eventually we’ll get some of them published, you know, out in the world.

Take a look around. Feel free to take a few home to read, if you promise to bring them back.”

I walked around the stacks, surprised not to see any ghosts.

“Florence, this is amazing,” said my brother.

“Thanks. You know how it is being a Vampire. One needs a hobby. I feel it is my job to be the keeper of memories that aren’t mine. Dreams that aren’t ready to die. That too,” she said.

“Thank you Florence,” I said.

She smiled and kissed my cheek with her cold lips. “You’re welcome. I’ll let you know when I start publishing some of them. You’ll have to leave good reviews.”

For the rest of the day we looked through the manuscripts and talked quietly about books, and writers, and stories of our own.

Once a story is told it will always have a life of it’s own – even if nobody ever reads it.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman