Secret Lives and Private Stories

There was a room full of books in the back of the Elder’s farmhouse. The adults would be gathered and I’d be back looking at the pictures. I couldn’t read well so I looked at the pictures and imagined what the words might be.

The volumes, old even then, held years of uncommon history, adventures, tales of people who lived lives that seemed far more exciting than mine. But I knew, that one day I’d be living the life of one of those people in the books – those books I could barely read.

During one of my girlhood book searches I found a large Bible. There were a lot of words in fancy lettering. What I remember was the pictures. There was a picture of a group of naked men building something. I made out the word Noah and knew that was a man who built the ark and gathered up animals. The story made no sense to me to begin with and now seeing a bunch of naked men doing construction work made even less sense. Wasn’t it uncomfortable to be sawing and hauling lumber completely naked? They didn’t even have shoes. I asked my brother Valentine about it. I think he was 6 or 7 at the time (about a year older than me.) He told me that it was hot in the Holy Lands. It was hot so they took off their clothes and built a giant boat. It still made no sense. It made no sense that books were filled with pictures of naked people no matter what they were doing. Nobody went around naked where I lived. In fact they wore too many clothes in the world of our childhood.

Years later I did read the books in the Elder’s farmhouse (and many more) and marveled at their content. In the dark of the rooms on hot summer nights I’d read for hours on end, escaping into a world of another century.

In town I’d go to the book shop and buy popular fiction, cheap novels that would take me to places of romance and lovely girls in swishing dresses who held tight to their virtue, least they be ruined forever by a handsome man with a dark and evil heart. Then on occasion I’d find something more frightening than losing one’s virtue. I’d read tales of disasters, prisons, insane asylums and Gothic horrors and mysterious strangers. I thrived on that. It was nothing like the books of today, but those stories influenced the stories we now read (and write.)

Stories weren’t limited to books. I’d always find a corner in a room full of adults who’d talk into the night about everything they’d ever done and who they’d done it with. And if they weren’t telling their own stories they were talking about somebody else. I’d listen, quiet as death, imagining I was unseen by the grownups.

When my brothers and I were small my mother would read books to us using voices and accents for characters, then a slow steady voice for the narration. On alternating days my father would tell us wild tales he’d make up on the spot and keep us laughing. Each story also came with a song. We were surrounded by stories and worlds other than our own.

There came a time when I could read more complex books (around age 11.) In an elaborately embroidered canvas bag (my own stitching) I’d carry a well worn and repaired copy of Jane Eyre. I’d imagine myself in her place. The story in my mind would change as I read the story on the pages over and over. I’d tell the brooding Edward Rochester that I didn’t care if he had a crazy wife. I’d save him from the fire. I’d turn him into a Vampire and we’d roam the hillsides forever and lay under the moonlight in fields of fragrant flowers. Or I’d leave him alone and make my way to America with my new found wealth and marry a rich man in New Orleans. I’d burn down my old school. There were 1,000 different versions of the story in my head, but I’d always go back to the original version. To this day I’ll still find myself in Jane’s shoes as I walk the dog in the meadows and oak woods near my home. The gentle winds through the trees transport me to another time, in a huge skirt with hair I’ve unleashed from my constricting bun flowing down my back.

As you can see it doesn’t take much to get my imagination fired up or much to entertain me.

I’d do the same with many other books over the years. Everyone in my family and all of my friends devoured books. I have to admit that when Dracula came out we all had to get copies. We read and shared what we read. Books circled around and around.

As learned to read I began to write. Not well at first, but in earnest. I’d write innocent silly stories typical for most kids. I’d write poetry and draw pictures to go with it. I’d write plays and find others to perform with me.

From there I discovered real romance and love letters. Everyone wrote letters then. It was a daily activity as well as an art form.

Over the years plays were produced, poems were written and mixed in were sketch books filled with illustrations of yet unwritten stories. Then I stopped.

I was just struggling to find myself, or at least find some sort of direction. A lot of us go through that. The thing I remember that stands out in a weird sort of way was how men I met would almost become angry at me for not being creative. More it was that i isn’t being creative for them. Then again, few of them added any value to my life. Not back then.

My writing then was one of my secret lives. My stories were private. It was the person inside of me that I didn’t share.

I always read. I never stopped creating stories and keeping notes on paper and in my head.

After I became a mother those memories of childhood came back, along with memories that spanned several centuries.

Then I started to write again. It started out as a story for a friend… and ongoing tale… just for fun. Now it is my heart and soul.

We all need something that fills our hearts and soul. It doesn’t have to be writing or art. I’m the only one in my family who is creative that way. One of my brothers is musical. The rest have other passions.

I think back to what I used to write. Then I look at the writing of the children in my life (now teens.) I marvel at the sophistication and complexities of the stories they write. I’m amazed how mature their words are compared to what I was doing at their age. I hope I’ve been an influence. Or maybe they’re just more mature souls than I was at their age. I’m so proud of them.

I continue to write because I’ve found a measure of success that feeds my ego. Yes, I’ll admit it. Mostly I write because I have stories to tell and face it…. I do this because it is fun. Yes, FUN. Really really really fun.  And it is mine. Of course I want, and try to entertain you too.

We all need to find something that we sense is our own, even if it starts with a book with words you can’t read and pictures you can’t understand. Your brain will make it all come together and it will work. Eventually it will all work.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This post was first published here in March 2014

A need you dare not admit.

A need you dare not admit. Poetry on a Vampire Mom blog? Why? I’ll tell you.

People won’t admit they read poetry and are moved by it…but late at night they go on the Internet and search it out. It is like pornography. I’m dead serious (no pun intended). It is a need that most people will not dare admit to.

It isn’t a good time for me to expound upon the history of poetry or what caused the American population (among others) claim not to like poets. But I would like to remind everyone, especially those of us who can remember the past several centuries that there was a time that poets were the Rock Stars of our culture.

Sometimes I pull out my old volumes of favorites and read in the quiet of the night or on a rain soaked day. In turn, I also look for the new. I marvel at the many voices I see with poetry on the Internet.

Part of me believes technology with recorded music, radio, TV etc maybe brought an end to the poet as a popular icon. But in turn the Internet, yes the Internet has brought poetry back to life.

I see in the online communities poets being read, not ignored. I don’t read those words online “I don’t like poetry.” I see people who NEVER would read a poem, forwarding poetry to their friends and loved ones.

Poetry is a gift to the soul. Poetry is for everyone. Everyone needs poetry, like a vampire needs blood, like a hawk needs to fly, like a fish needs to swim. I know that wasn’t very poetic but you get the point – I hope.

Your assignment today is to READ, SAVOR and SHARE poetry with someone you love.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 2 (with sharks!)

We all need an escape these days. This is from my friend Allison – read her work. Follow her blog. You’ll thank me for it later.

Words words words

Genre – Action/Adventure, Setting – A Moat, Object – Bacon

This was a really difficult weekend for me, and I’m honestly pleased I just managed to finish something and submit it. I thought I’d post it here instead of pretending it doesn’t exist because it ended up being sort of fun and I might want to revise eventually. There are a zillion things I’d do in revision since I ended up submitting a thrown-together draft. One of them is to bring the big fight at the end back to the moat to make sure I’m complying with the setting requirement. Also, I’m not sure yadda-yadda-yaddaing through a battle is really the way to go, though Action/Adventure is definitely not my genre.

Storming The Gates

“You don’t think there are really alligators, do you?” asked Mark. Lena thought about pointing out that ice was forming at the edges, and alligators didn’t…

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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.