Because I don't have permission to post Anne Rice's image
and I understand she has an affinity for felines,
I'll just grace my page with this handsome fellow: Moon.
There are many writers I look up to for various reasons, but my admiration of Anne Rice does not follow my traditional list of character development, plot originality, and scene arc. I do praise her writing, particularly concerning her intricate vampire mythology. However, the reason I am such a fan is because of her Social Media and public relations activity. The woman is brilliant when it comes to branding and navigating sticky situations.
If you are an author, follow Anne Rice on Facebook. There. I've even linked it here to make it easy for you. Most of her posts are commentary on movies or books, responses to reviews, a small percentage of announcements about upcoming releases, and articles she finds interesting or funny. She does have an assistant, and while they do call out when the post is from him, I suspect some material sneaks onto the page from him under her name. How could someone with so many public engagements and books in the works post so consistently online without help? I've been following her for a while, and the content has always been current.
A lot of the activities I listed above seem pretty standard. Many authors link to articles, but in Anne Rice's case, the articles are rarely about her. The majority of linked content is about things she has found that interest her or thanking a reader for bringing something to her attention. In these cases, it is clear she read her fan's recommended article and offers some input of her own. She also comments on other authors. Recently, Ms. Rice posted a lovely salute to Charlaine Harris as the True Blood series aired its last episode. I read it and thought, "Wow. This author has class."
I have heard again and again that Anne Rice does her best to personally write back fans. This amazes me when I consider the number of fans that adore her work. Anne Rice encourages reader interaction and sets a great standard for advertising to readers. Some people argue one advertisement should take place for every three personal interactions. I think the ratio should be closer to eight or higher personal interactions per one advertisement. Social media is a place to build relationships, not push a book. I find that the majority of Anne Rice's posts are on interesting and engaging topics, which is why I recommend other authors follow her.
Do you have an author you look up to on Social Media or because of the brand they present? What do you think about advertising on Social Media?
I Am Legend was a very popular movie, but did you know it started out as a book? It’s a little on the short side for a novella and was written in 1954 by Richard Matheson, one of my favorite authors. In many cases, movies run parallel to the book and take significant liberties either with characters or plot points. In this case, there are limited similarities. There are some spoilers ahead, but few apply to the book . If you have not yet seen the movie and want to, you may want to skip this post.
I mentioned the similarities are limited. Here they are:
In the movie, Robert Neville was an accomplished virologist with the U.S. Army prior to all hell breaking loose. This is extremely convenient considering he is probably the last fully human person on the planet. He has a collection of rats and lab equipment in his basement to help him find a cure. The book Robert Neville worked at a factory and was good with repair projects around the house. He was not a scientist, but he was curious and determined to discover what kind of pathogen caused him to lose so much. He found a microscope and took books from the library.
Both the book and movie spend a lot of time in the character’s head. You are shown the effect of isolation on Neville as he struggles to cope with the loss of everyone he knew. Both Robert Nevilles had a family and lost them, although the method of loss was very different.
I do not care to watch an animal getting hurt, even if it’s clearly fiction. Just ask my husband. I think I ranted about the dog in I Am Legend for two weeks after we left the theater. Now I know to avoid movies with a prominently featured canine. To watch a supposedly cherished family pet and movie Neville's only source of normalcy get infected because its owner was an idiot was tough. The book has a dog, but the poor thing was scraping by in the world on its own before Neville tried to befriend it. Spoiler: Things don’t end well for the book dog, but it isn't a consequence of Neville's neglect.
Photograph byy Pepo13 (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
Zombie or Vampire?
The book was explicitly about vampires. In Matheson’s story, the vampires were the result of a pathogen rather than some kind of magical transfer, although they did have an irrational fear of religions symbols. The disease spread like wildfire, the creatures only moved about at night, and there were variations in how the disease manifested. He killed them with stakes and exposure to sunlight. Most were animalistic, but not all. When I watched the movie, the progression of the illness that wiped out the vast majority of the planet was explained as a vaccine gone wrong, mutating into a pathogen. Had I read the book before the movie, I would have wondered if the infected were vampires when it became clear they were sensitive to UV rays. Because a pathogen was in the mix and their intelligence was severely limited, I assumed they were zombies.
I enjoyed the book. The book’s ending was intriguing and completely different than the movie. Despite Will Smith’s impressive acting, I will never watch the movie again. I don’t care to watch what happens to the dog, and Neville’s heroic end in the movie was an illogical waste.
Have you seen the movie and read the book? How did the movie measure up for you? Which version did you prefer?
Have you ever loved a television show that you shouldn’t? I’m talking about the kind of program you watch when the house is empty and you don’t mention to anyone. Except maybe your husband because he caught you shoveling ice cream straight out of the pint container while you were in the fetal position on the couch. And then he makes fun of you for crying over teenage vampire drama and makes barf faces when it’s on and he’s in the same room. Not that I have personal experience with the phenomenon.
It will surprise you to find out that I have a few secret television shows. Some of them are sappy, some are inspirational, and then there is The Vampire Diaries. It started out innocently enough. I was home sick, flipping through the Most Popular section of Netflix when an image popped up with an attractive cast and the word “vampire.” I was a little worried that I would grow bored with the high school drama. Then I was worried that I would grow bored with the brooding and the whining. Those worries died a painless death when a dreamy, strong-jawed hunk uttered the words, “Hello, brother.”
Damon Salvatore wasn’t just a pretty face. He was a vicious psychopath who would kill on a whim with a snappy one-liner. In the middle of all that high school nonsense there was an honest to God vampire and no one was safe. If Damon was in a bad mood, even the family members of the woman he was obviously crushing on weren’t off limits. Necks were snapped, hearts were ripped out, and throats were torn out accompanied by a sexy, lop-sided smile. He offset the droning whine produced by Stelena.
“Embrace your humanity!”
“No.” *sound of heart being dropped on the floor*
Spoilers Ahead! You’ll notice my love for this show was stated in the past tense. The downhill slide started when Damon hooked up with Elena. It was okay for a while because he would slip up and be vengeful. Plus the world got to watch Damon roll around half naked on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately things got worse. Much worse.
There were many events that led to my enthusiasm draining like the slow leak of a tire, but there were four factors that killed it for me.
1. The unexplained and spontaneous cure for the vampire virus. I was on the edge of my seat cheering. Damon had a free ticket to eat BOTH Stefan and Elena. You could have used this to turn it around, guys!
2. Jeremy stopped dying. It was kind of fun to watch the little bugger come back to life. And he's hot, so more camera time is better, even if it's dead camera time.
3. The loss of an interesting antagonist. I kept picturing Oprah saying “You get a doppelganger, and you get a doppelganger, and you get a doppelganger!!”
4. The loss of Petrova. She was Elena only way better.
At this point I’m ready for them to roll in the Death Star and just blow up the planet. I should have given it up a while ago, but I can’t commit to turning my back altogether. Unlike True Blood and Dexter - they were dead to me before they officially ended. The most surprising thing to me about my fixation: when I finally let it slip that I watched the show, all but one woman at work admitted to watching it and loving it.
Do you have a show you hate to love? Has it pushed you too far or are you still loving it?
I have a paranoia of violating copyright laws, so I
Buffy the Vampire'd myself.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series shouldn’t need an introduction. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I would wonder if its appeal is something that stems from growing up on the series, but Joss Whedon’s involvement makes me suspect that those of you younguns who missed its heyday would still appreciate the wit and weird that makes the show. At the very least, you can laugh at the special effects. Visual expectations have changed over the years.
Choosing a favorite character from the series is difficult. This may be due in part to the shifts that took place over the years. We go from a very long high school experience full of monsters, witty one-liners, and angsty slayer-on-vampire love to an average length college experience full of witty one-liners, monsters, and angsty man problems. Despite my sarcasm, there was enough consistency in the series to placate those of us who are resistant to change while developing character arc. The cast stays consistent although there were major tweaks to their personalities.
Buffy vacillates between ditzy pint-sized hero to confident badass. There is something about a tiny woman with super strength batting giant bad guys through the air. Her love interests consistently manifest as sensitive guys with an evil streak, and over time her intelligence and complexity are revealed. Xander is the wit machine, master of self-deprecating humor. Now that I think about it, he didn’t change much. Both Willow and Giles take on the role of brainy worriers. Willow broke out of the background with a werewolf boyfriend, a hit and miss talent for witchcraft, and, eventually, a change in sexual preferences. Giles had a somewhat regrettable stint as a cafe musician (very soulful and strange), a history in dark magic, and lots of conflict with the Watchers.
The main characters provide a likable foundation, but as the series evolved, I found myself enjoying peripheral characters more than the main cast. My fascination with Angel was likely a symptom of my age - teenage hormones and all that - but he was the bad boy trying to do right. This appeals to me. Or it did until I got bored with it. Next was Oz, Willow’s clever love interest. That interest was short lived as he went from clever and sweet to snarky. I rooted for Cordelia, and secretly loved her thin, shallow exterior and righteously bitchy commentary. She was voted off the island to spin-off land with Angel. Riley Flynn was interesting when he was a covert agent. Then he became extremely insecure and I cheered when he was sent away on a mission.
With my fascination of bad boys, it shouldn’t be surprising that the one character who consistently entertained and drew me in was a jerk. A big plus were the self-appointed nicknames. Spike is the man I loved to watch as he bumbled around Buffy crowing about his prowess as the Big Bad. His attraction to the broken and deadly Drusilla was sweet. His dysfunctional fixation with Buffy hedged on stalkerish. As someone who feels stalkers should be taken very seriously, I became a hypocrite and giggled when a Big Bad was caught sniffing Buffy’s sweater. The episode Fool for Love almost broke me, introducing Spike’s origins as a sensitive poet lacking in game and talent. His ascension from outcast to misfit tag-along to a slayer killer was loaded into a single episode character that almost backfired. Somehow the edgy exterior and strange love brought me back.
As I re-watch the episodes and work my way through season 5, my favorites will probably change. Who was your favorite character? Did your favorites change as the seasons progressed, or did you always have a preference?
The vampire is a newer creature, evolved from centuries of mythological beings that consumed human flesh and blood. Just about every civilization had their own brand of people eater. The Western European revenant is not the oldest legend, but it predates the vampire by at least half a century. The revenant is often described in the High Middle Ages as a bloated, discolored human that has returned from the dead only to hunt down their family and neighbors.
Where Did The Legend Begin?
The High Middle Ages were about six hundred years before the discovery of bacteria. The discovery of bacteria happened approximately two hundred years before bacteria was definitely linked as a causative factor in disease. Without science, people had God, superstition, and a lot of fear. Death and disease were everywhere, proliferated by the belief that bathing was evil and a lack of any semblance of sanitation. People didn’t understand what death did to a body and sometimes they didn’t realize when a body wasn’t dead.
The description of the revenant often involves bloating and discolored skin. People have theorized that the legend stems from grave robbers disturbing a decomposing body and scaring the crap out of themselves when the coffin lid springs and the body sits up. I imagine this scenario would be entertaining to observe were it not for the bloated body sitting up in its coffin. Even knowing spontaneous movement is possible, I would need a change of shorts (TMI?). These grave robbers probably needed a stiff drink and gathered at the local bar, telling the locals about their brush with a person who came back from the dead, especially since these robbers hacked at the body with their shovels and saved the village from being eaten. Did I mention bodies often leak fluids and have blood bubbling up from their mouths? It wouldn’t have been a huge stretch for these same grave robbers to tell their captivated audience that the body was drinking blood.
A story with returned bodies craving blood would spread through a sleepy village like wildfire. Just as people are worked into a frenzy, someone gets sick. The illness is so severe that they are buried a little early (I believe the polite term is “premature burying”). In a dramatic twist of events, the - buried? bury-ee? - gets better and wakes up stuck in a box and scared out of his mind.
Can you imagine clawing your way up to the surface, successfully escaping your own grave? Maybe it was a shallow grave or perhaps it was one of those tombs that had a lid that could be moved aside. After being ill enough to be mistaken for dead, it would be difficult to conquer either of those scenarios. The adrenalin that surges after realizing you’ve been stuffed into a box which is then stuffed into the ground would probably help. Once you’ve managed to claw your way out of a box and up through the earth, where do you go? Home.
In a time when people thought illness spread because of witches and demons, a relative who was mourned and buried showing up covered in dirt, stumbling around from dehydration, was not a welcome sight. Someone declared dead by a priest would have no good reason to return home. They must be up to no good! The “lucky” bastard was probably attacked with a pitch fork and beheaded before he had a shot at saying, “I got better.”
And that is how the legend began. Probably.
A group of writers I am affiliated with decided to do a Blog Hop today, and I thought it sounded like fun. A huge thank you to Tiffany Pitts for kicking it off for our group and Melissa Thayer for passing it along. I didn't really take into consideration that I had already posted a topic this morning, but I guess it helps me make up for missing my usual Monday post. Anything that keeps the words flowing is a good thing.
Where do you like to write?
My favorite place to write is on the chaise end of our sectional couch. The couch is one of my most epic impulsive purchases to date. My mother is a bad influence when it comes to shopping and I usually walk out of the store with something bigger and - I'll admit it - better than I intended on purchasing. I only meant to replace the Naugahyde monstrosity my husband had brought into the marriage. It was a comfortable couch with rips all along the top and cushions sinking into the springs. It had to go. I needed three seats and purchased a couch that could comfortably house three people stretched out after a night of binge drinking. Fortunately, that scenario hasn't been tested because I chose a color that will show any spill. Despite my color palette misstep, I am glad my mother talked me into the purchase because that chaise is where I spend many hours with my writing co-pilot, Annie
A view of my writing buddies from my spot on the couch.
Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
The most interesting part of my research is the stuff I envision setting off alerts at NSA. Body decomposition rates, military grade weapons, explosives, biological weapons, and any other dangerous substance/weapon that probably has some poor lackey at the Pentagon scratching his head and wondering if I'm a risk when bumping it up against the rest of my searches. When I'm really procrastinating, you may find unicorns, zombie garden gnomes, anything chocolate, and handsome men who may or may not look like one of my characters. My vampire would be holding a bazooka with rainbow stickers and glitter if you go by my search queries.
How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
I try to use a lot of diligence when selecting a name. It needs to be something that fits the region, time period, and family history of my character. Then I pick up a book to read for fun and inevitably find my favorite character's name plastered all over the place and have to go change it. This has happened at least four times. I have learned not to get too attached and to Google the names to minimize the risk of stepping on anyone's toes.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad?
My first book doesn't come out until October of 2014, so I'm really not sure how I will respond. I will read them though. At least at first. It's my hope that I will learn from the bad, but I won't know how I will react until it happens.
What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
This really depends on the friend. The Dog Lover's Companion to Seattle is a great one for the dog lovers out there. Friends who want to cook healthier meals but never know what to make get my favorite cookbooks. The friends who share my dark and twisty side get books by Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects is my favorite). A really good friend with a taste for vampires and naughty bits gets something by J.R. Ward.
To continue on the blog hop, check out the fabulous Eileen Maksym:
Eileen Maksym writes in a variety of genres, but her favorites are paranormal, horror, science fiction, and urban fantasy. Her first novel, Haunted, came out this past spring! She is also a submissions editor for Apex Magazine.
Eileen currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, while her husband, an astrophysicist, does a post-doc at the University of Alabama. Before moving there, her sports love was baseball (GO RED SOX!) However, since football is the lingua franca around there, she started watching the team, and now she's hooked. Roll Tide!!!
Eileen has two children: Kolbe, who is nine, and Josie, who is seven. They’re wonderful and exasperating and surprise her every day!
When Eileen is not writing, she can often be found fangirling online about her current pop culture obsessions. Right now she is a huge fan of Elementary, Sherlock and Doctor Who. She also loves to read, sing (pretty well!) and play guitar (very badly).
With Halloween and my book launch approaching (more to come later), this blog is going to change its focus. The trend? Vampires! Plus some other stuff for good measure because there really can be too much of a good thing.
In the spirit of kicking off my Vampire Fest the right way, I decided to begin with the earliest vampire movie I could get my hands on: Nosferatu.
Nosferatu was based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic Horror novel, Dracula. More accurately, there are aspects of the story that were followed very closely and there are elements pulled out of left field because the production company was unable to gain rights from Stoker’s heirs. Spoiler Alert! The main differences between the novel and movie were Van Helsing’s complete lack of involvement and the resolution. Instead of a violent confrontation, the heroine of the movie sacrifices herself to save the townspeople. By simply willingly offering her blood throughout an entire night, the vampire perishes with the rising sun. This is critical to point out because it was truly a sacrifice for the young woman. Count Orlok was a hideous monster with a deformed head, giant ears, pointy teeth, crazy eyes, and giant hands.
There is an ongoing trend in the fictional world of vampires. Some elements stay the same: the thirst for blood, eternal life, and inhuman strength. What has changed are the degrees of humanity and physical desirability. Today’s vampires are broody, gorgeous, and capable of complex emotions, particularly love. Many are even able to abstain or minimize their human consumption for the good of those around them. At times it goes too far (Sparkles? Really?), but I understand the impulse to soften the monster. It’s like finally being able to date the bad boy who really does have a sensitive side just for you.
Vampires branched out of the horror genre in film dating back to at least the 1960’s. Now it is rare to watch a film or read a book with vampires who are truly bloodthirsty and lacking all humanity. Emotional vulnerability gives us the opportunity to cheer for the bad guy and hope he can overpower his demons and not eat his girlfriend, but sometimes it gets a little boring. (For those of you who have watched The Vampire Diaries, it’s like watching Damon go from moody psychopath to pining and lovestruck. He’s still gorgeous, but lacking the edge that had me binge watching the series in the first place.)
The beautiful vampire was not at all how the legend began. Whether you look to the Norse draugr, Western European revenants, wendigo/wechuge of North America, or the vampires of Romani/Romanian/Slavic origin, the creature was a terrifying fiend who consumed the blood and/or flesh of its family and neighbors. Superstition fed into mass hysteria that led to executions and strange burial measures. Infants were murdered because they were unlucky enough to be born with a defect or a red caul. Nosferatu captures the traditional image of the vampire and reminds us of where it all began.
What do you think of today’s vampires?
Author’s Note: The decision to watch Nosferatu should be accompanied by adjusted expectations. Switching over to a black and white film with written blocks of dialogue was a challenge for the first five to ten minutes. The dramatic character makeup and exaggerated pantomimes kept me suitably entertained until it dawned on me that the movie was very advanced for 1922 technology. Shadows appeared from nowhere and Count Orlok faded in and out of scenes.
I am very pleased to have the talented Eileen Maksym as my guest blogger today. Her novella, Haunted, is a story about a group of friends in college who have a passion for researching the paranormal. While they are conducting an investigation of a haunted house, they discover that one of trio is in danger. I really enjoyed the story and was taken back to college - a time for discovering strengths and testing young love. One of the main characters is a female student with a talent for neurobiology and a stubborn streak. Eileen had me at smart and stubborn, but the paranormal aspects also rocked. You should check it out!
Hi, my name is Eileen, I write stories about the paranormal, and I have a confession.
I have never had a paranormal experience.
It's not necessarily because I don't believe in the paranormal. I have read many accounts of supernatural encounters, and I have friends who swear up and down that they have had their own run-ins with ghosts. I've seen pictures that feature glowing, vaguely human-shaped mists. I've watched videos of supposed apparitions, poltergeist activity, and possession. And I've listened to electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recordings, where human voices, purportedly of spirits, seem to coalesce out of static or other white noise. I'm sure there's a lot of fakery out there, as well as a lot of illusion born of our innate tendency to see human patterns in random data. But I'm still willing to believe that some of those unexplained mysteries are explicable by the paranormal.
And the thing is? I would love to have an honest-to-god paranormal experience! I'm in a bunch of horror-related Facebook groups, and every time someone posts a picture of a huge dilapidated mansion, or a hulking abandoned insane asylum, and asks if people would spend the night there for a million dollars, my answer is always “Sign me up!” I love going to creepy places. I adore cemeteries, and I have taken my kids on outings to the famous ones in Chicago. I've been to the catacombs in Paris. Twice. Someday I'd love to go to see the mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico, or visit Robert the Doll in Key West. I'm actually particularly interested in Robert. Supposedly the doll is inhabited by an evil spirit. Maybe, if I'm very lucky, Robert will move for me. Or talk to me.
That would be awesome.
Maybe, though, I haven't had a paranormal experience because I expect them to be big and showy. Maybe I need to think smaller. Maybe we are surrounded by ghosts all the time, everywhere, and they are all communicating with us in tiny, simple ways. For instance, anyone who has ever had a cat knows that they will sometimes stare intently at open space, or will all of a sudden go tearing down the hall as if all of their little nine lives depended on it. Maybe it's a ghost playing with them with a ghostly ball of string. Or when my toaster randomly burns my toast into the vague shape of a human face. Is there such a thing as Toaster Face Phenomenon (TFP)? How about when my car makes that weird noise that I can't for the life of me reproduce for the mechanic? Clearly a sign that my car is haunted.
I think I'll keep a closer look out for the simple hauntings in life. In the meantime, I'm taking any and all recommendations for a place where a paranormal experience is a sure thing.
Note from Camela: Maybe I should mail Eileen this doll. My dogs barked at it for two weeks. Now they just give it a wide berth.
"What kind of dog is it?" It's the question we usually get from people grinning down at our dog. It's not a rude question, and I frankly don't know how to answer it. The mix of breeds that resulted in a seventeen pound dog with rabbit soft hair on her head, ears, and sides and pig coarse hair in a boa around her neck and mohawk down her spine are a bit of a mystery. Her ears are big enough to pick up on the smallest of sounds, she is longer than she is tall, and has a jaunty tail curled over her back and to the right - just the perfect twist to act as a frame to her leash. My nephew feels she stepped off of the big screen of Ice Age - pointing to her and saying, "Scrat!" - although she is obsessed with a ball and not an acorn. She'll eat anything, is fierce despite her size, and has murderous tendencies toward squirrels. She's definitely a dog, but maybe there's a little bit of goat, lion, and a twist of squirrel for irony.
Annie stealing carrots. She isn't nearly as stealthy as she thinks.
Whatever the mix, she is a wonderful blend of playful, mischievous, determined, and love bug. She is smart enough to know that Lance is her play toy and I am her snuggle friend. Originally, she was going to be Lance's running buddy. That was squashed when it was discovered she only likes running if there is a chance of murdering a squirrel (she is always on leash, so that won't happen unless one decides to face off with her in our yard). Despite her homicidal tendencies with small and furry or feathered, she loves kids. If a child is laughing down the block, her ears flatten and she belly crawls toward the source with a wagging tail. She isn't a fan of other dogs, unless she is. We keep our distance because Annie is fickle and it's hard to know which way she will go.
She's really good at helping and loves to insert herself into every situation. Putting on shoes for instance. I bet you never imagined that tying shoelaces was easier with a dog trying to stand on your hands. Painting takes an abstract turn when the dog who insisted on sitting on your lap pounces on the canvas. Going to the bathroom is more fun with a dog trying to crash into the room or wrapping around your ankles if you forgot to shut the door. It's not creepy to hear the shower curtain rustle when you're taking a shower and look over to see two giant eyes peeking in. She has learned to curl up next to my legs while I'm working, but she is very good at letting me know when it's time to take a laptop break.
A subtle hint that it's break time
Annie came into our life when we went to a "Last Chance" adoption fair. Most of the dogs were at the end of their time at the pound, and Annie had been kept a couple extra days in the hopes someone would adopt her. To think such a sweet dog was nearly euthanized breaks my heart. Her previous owner inherited her when her original owners moved and couldn't find a house that allowed dogs. He didn't want her and kept her locked in the back yard in Eastern Washington. She was dumped at the pound because she dug too many holes. I'm surprised our little dog, who loves burrowing under blankets because she gets cold easily, made it in the harsh climate. I think all of us caught a lucky streak the day we brought her home.
Annie's first day with us in 2010 after the adoption fair
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.