A few weeks ago I was invited to be a guest blogger for Michele Hauf's VampChix website. In conjunction with the blog, we ran a contest giving away three free books. It was so much fun that I decided to reprint the blog post (thanks Michele!) and run another contest!
Note: The original VampChix post can be read here:
Something inside of me is twisted. I know it. I’ve known it for a long time. Those closest to me do, as well. You see, I love fear—I like being scared. Being terrified is even better. Being rendered utterly speechless (or even wetting myself) because of abject horror would make my day.
Now, I’m not referring to real-life situations, of course. Anyone who finds pleasure in the everyday chaos around us is a special kind of twisted that I can’t even relate to. But in the world of make believe entertainment, my preference is… the scarier the better.
This means I’m consistently disappointed. I can’t remember the last movie that frightened me. The Paranormal Activity movies didn’t. The Saw franchise was gory, but not scary. The endless Hollywood remakes are endlessly frustrating. All too often, I find myself laughing out loud at the parts that are supposed to be scary—and no, it isn’t in defiance of the scene, it’s in response to it. In fact, I’ve even begun to fall prey to ludicrous thoughts at just those moments. For instance, during a climactic scene of The Thing a few weeks ago, I thought that it would be a perfect time to insert the chorus of Tavares’ “It Only Takes A Minute.”
My family members just shake their collective heads when I share these ideas.
But anyway, Hollywood lets me down. I won’t even bother with television beyond stating this point: television shows are not scary. Ever.
Now, I know what the (my) problem is. The powers behind the silver screen and the television screen are not entirely to blame. They simply don’t have what it takes to rise to the occasion because of my expectations.
My parents took me to the drive-in to see Jaws way back in the summer of 1975. I was four. It was not the worst of their parental transgressions—they never made us use seatbelts, we used whole milk in our breakfast cereal, our play time was not properly scheduled or synchronized, and we were sometimes forced to walk to sports practice, among others—but Jaws scared the living daylights out of me. For months, I was terrified. Not terrified of taking a bath or going in the ocean. Terrified of stepping out of bed or going in the closet.
It was exhilarating.
The only thing that stopped me from being a horror movie junkie by the age of six was that there weren’t that many movies on regular television during my waking hours. Then cable television arrived.
1978’s Halloween holds the distinction of being the only movie I ever stopped watching because I was too scared to go on. When Michael Myers was at the bottom of the stairs and Laurie Strode had to venture past him… I couldn’t take any more and left the room.
Subsequently, I was so disgusted with myself that I sat through the entire movie the very next time it was on. Alone. At night. I was eight. (And I wonder why I’m twisted.)
There was no stopping me after that. Unfortunately, I became desensitized. I couldn’t recapture the lingering fear of Jaws or the gut-clenching terror of Halloween—with one brilliant exception. 1980’s Friday the 13th. I slept fitfully for weeks after that one.
It was around that time that I turned to books. I’m being figurative, of course. Yes, sometimes I had to turn to reach one, but there were plenty of times when… well, you get the point.
My early years were filled with the typical fare for young male readers—Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Joyce, and the like, by which I mean the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Black Stallion books. But in the late summer of 1980, my world was about to change.
While at a cousin’s house for a barbeque, I stumbled across a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I don’t know why I started reading it when I should’ve been outside playing ball or swimming, but I did. I couldn’t put it down. I spent the whole day inside, eschewing food, activity, and anything else besides the book. I finished it before we went home and haven’t looked back ever since. Stephen King changed my life.
I’m not going to wax philosophical about that, though. You came here to read about vampires, and I thank you for seven hundred words worth of patience while I meandered to the topic.
As best as I can recall, ‘Salem’s Lot was my introduction to the world of vampires. I’m sure I must’ve watched on old movie or two along the way, but nothing that made an impression. King’s vampires weren’t old and stuffy and black and white (although, technically, they were black words on white paper), they were realistic, they seemed possible, and they were awesome.
In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that I didn’t find them frightening as much as I found them unsettling. Frankly, they creeped me out. The thought of vampires hiding beneath floorboards or lurking in darkened spaces played tricks with my mind. The fact that vampires could multiply—and didn’t discriminate—turned those tricks into mean, dirty tricks. A ten-year-old’s imagination can run rampant with the idea of an undead horde of women and babies after his blood.
Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that I love frightening things… but I hate creepy things. Being creeped out is so much worse than being frightened. I don’t like bugs. I don’t like reptiles. I don’t like rodents. I don’t like hordes of anything. Well, okay, hordes of screaming fans will be just fine, but anything beyond that is unacceptable.
In the three decades since ‘Salem’s Lot, I’ve read a library’s worth of books. I don’t read for enlightenment or education, I read for pleasure. It’s a hedonistic pursuit that I’m proud of. I firmly believe that if more people read for pleasure, the world would be a better place. I’m all for a fiction-only reading experience. Who needs non-fiction? Self-help books remind us that we’re all messed up. Historical novels point out that things were always screwed up. Biographies highlight the fact that no one wants to read our life stories. Throw ‘em aside and grab a novel.
Over the last fifteen years, I’ve gravitated toward the mystery, fantasy, and sci-fi genres more often than horror. It’s a concession to expectations, as well. Although my heart lies in horror, I grew tired of horror novels that didn’t scare me.
A few years ago, I decided it might be fun to take things one step further and actually write a book. So I did. I wrote a mystery entitled Temporary Insanity in 2007. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be formulaic enough to garner industry attention.
The creative process is amazing in many ways, but perhaps what’s most amazing is the way that creativity begets creativity. While writing that first novel, it wasn’t uncommon for multiple ideas to spring from my mind’s well. As each new idea came, I would stop typing, dutifully jot it into a notebook, and then return (or try to return) to the task at hand. Before long, I had captured dozens of ideas; more than I could develop in a lifetime.
One of those ideas was a story about mutated vampires. It percolated, it festered, and eventually it fought its way past the others to the forefront of my mind. In August 2008 I typed the first words of the story. I didn’t touch it again until January. Between January and September of 2009 I added to the story an average of one day per week. Determined to complete something of substance by year’s end, I buckled down and completed a 45,000 word draft of Part I of the first book in mid-December. Satisfied, I sent it off for a critique.
It did not go well. Let’s just leave it at that because my psyche still bears the scars. The bottom line was this: my love affair with flashbacks and asides needed to end. I didn’t write another word until February of this year. Instead, I learned how to write (or, at least, I hope I did).
I’m proud to say that my novel, Vaempires: Revolution was recently released. My vampire tale is not for the faint of heart. It’s bloody, it’s gory, it’s everything I want a vampire novel to be… and I want my vampires to be even more awesome than the ten-year-old inside remembers. They have to be, because, in my world, vampires aren’t the predator, they are the prey.
That doesn’t mean it’s all blood and guts and action. For even I know that we do not live on excitement alone. There’s plenty of intrigue and romance to satisfy all but the most insatiable appetites.
Here’s the back cover excerpt:
In the future, humans trigger a nuclear winter that lasts for hundreds of years. Water levels rise. The shape of the world changes. When the world recovers, vampires emerge from the darkness. For a millennium, humans and vampires fight for supremacy… until synthetic human blood is created, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity.
And the world changes yet again. Vampires begin morphing into væmpires, warm-blooded creatures with an insatiable hunger for cold vampire blood. There is no rhyme or reason as to who morphs—male or female, old or young, from one end of the world to another—no vampire is safe. And no human is safe, either, because these væmpires aren’t interested in coexistence. They want three things: the eradication of humanity, the enslavement of vampires, and their ascension as the dominant species on the planet.
It is the morning of Princess Cassandra’s sixteenth birthday. With the world’s attention focused on the heir to the vampire throne, væmpires revolt. In their initial attack, they kill the vampire and human leaders and take over the capital. As Cassandra, her boyfriend, Daniel, and the rest of the world fight for survival, væmpires unleash their secret weapons.
As a final note (and a final indulgence), the last book to frighten me was Stephen King’s It. Not the whole book, but the part where Eddie Corcoran is pursued by the creature. Frightening stuff. Kinda creepy, too. It is my all-time favorite book and the King of horror is my all-time favorite author.
Now… how about you? Do you prefer to be frightened or creeped out? Why? And what does it take to make you feel one way or the other?
Post your response here as a comment. One awesome response will win a copy of Vaempires: Revolution. The winner will be selected on Tuesday, 11/22.