Remembering Anne Rice

I think everyone who got exposed to Anne Rice’s writing at a formative age was changed by it. When I was growing up in the early nineties and the movie Interview with the Vampire came out, it was incredible. It was the same year that The Crow came out, and let’s just say the goth world was never the same. Everyone in the grunge, goth, and horror circles came together to gush over the film. Despite a very rocky history, it’s considered a classic today. It also served as my introduction to the Vampire Chronicles series.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a fan of all of her work, but as I read book after book of her luscious prose with gorgeous vampires questioning the religious and philosophical meaning of life, I was in awe. Her writing is simply brilliant. I believe it would be difficult to find a vampire author today who hasn’t been impacted by her work.

Louis’ philosophy and struggles in Interview with the Vampire, Lestat’s love story to glam rock in The Vampire Lestat, Armand’s remorse and detachment in The Vampire Armand, and the incredible, colorful world she created throughout it all blew me away. Even though later stories had some ridiculous moments (an unexplained talking scarecrow asks “What’s the meaning of life?” in Pandora), there was always something poignant and questioning in her novels. Her characters always searched for something bigger than themselves, something to give them purpose–even if it did make them more gullible for manipulators along thew way.

Through her work I discovered my love of writing, something I never seriously considered until then. I also found an incredible group of online friends who I joined in a trip to New Orleans back in the early 2000s. It was a testament to our love of her books that we dressed up and walked down Bourbon Street on Halloween and went on vampire tours. We’re still friends today, still connected by her books.

Her writing spoke to people, mostly those who didn’t have a voice. During the AIDS epidemic, Anne’s books brought a celebration of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. Why should vampires care about gender norms? French aristocrat Gabrielle has an entire scene in The Vampire Lestat where she embarrasses her son Lestat by cutting off all her hair and dressing in men’s trousers as soon as she is turned into a vampire. Heck, Lestat spends most of Interview with the Vampire pining over Louis, and in The Vampire Lestat he is openly sharing a flat with his good actor friend Nicholas. It was a stark contrast to the landscape of the 80s and 90s, where the government turned its back on the LGBT community.

Her books brought a revitalization to the gothic culture. The vampire goth was born. She fed into the culture by hosting annual Halloween Vampire Balls each October and dressing in gorgeous and elaborate mourning dresses.

She made such an impact on New Orleans that you can’t mention the culture of the city now without mentioning Anne Rice. From vampire tours to vampire bars, t-shirts with her face on them, and even mannequins of Louis hidden in shop corners. I’ll be the first to admit she made some ridiculous and outrageous decisions sometimes, her impact, talent, and imagination can’t be understated.

Rest well, Anne. Thank you for sharing your incredible world with us, and for creating so many timeless, beloved characters.

The Terror of Glaciers

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

So I realized that this is slowly becoming a series on my blog because I really like finding horror in everyday places, and sometimes not-so-everyday ones. I’ve tackled creepy corridors and the dread of the ocean, and I think now that this makes three entries I figured it needed a name. So this is now called the Everyday Fear series, where I tackle this topic and take requests for more areas to explore. Whether it’s something simple like an architecture design or a part of the natural world, I enjoy getting to research and explore the creepy factor!

For this next entry in the Everyday Fear series, I had a fantastic recommendation last week from Priscilla Bettis. (She recently had a horror short story picked up! You should totally go give her blog some love!) She recommended I tackle a location that she herself found frightening, the inside of a glacier.

Now if you’re new to my blog, you may not be familiar with this, but I am a huge wildlife and nature buff. I love watching nature documentaries so my brain is jam packed full of weird little tidbits about nature and unique places around the world.

First, a little bit first about glaciers. They are huge slabs of ice that are partially visible but are mostly submerged underwater. They are also constantly shifting and moving, so you can often hear the movements of the glacier while inside of it. When a glacier calves it can be enormous and incredibly destructive. Here is a short video called “Chasing Ice”, the largest glacier calving ever caught on film.

Chasing Ice: The largest glacier calving ever recorded.

I’ve never been inside of a glacier, but I have been inside of a cave before in a visit to Tennessee’s The Lost Sea. There’s always that fear in the back of your mind that the cavern will cave in. There’s always that fear of how much weight is hanging over your head, and what could cause it to collapse. Being in a glacier where you’re hearing the ice moving and buckling the entire time you’re inside of it, knowing that something as simple as a temperature change could cause it crashing down on you, can be absolutely terrifying.

Now, after everything I’ve said, would you believe that there are glacier climbers as well? They have to be very careful about which glaciers they climb since choosing one that is close to melting or one that is calving would be super dangerous. It’s risky because science can’t completely guarantee that the glacier won’t collapse.

Dani Arnold climbs out of a glacier

What places would you like me to tackle next in this series? Have you been somewhere and felt a little voice in the back of your mind whisper those little words: “What if…”? Share them below and I might include it next!

The Dread and Fear of the Ocean

While on a trip down to Florida years ago, we had the benefit of staying in a hotel right on the ocean. The sand dunes ended only a foot away from the wall of the hotel. It was beautiful, but there was also a sense of urgency to it. In a few years it was likely the ocean waters would rise enough to flood the bottom floor of the building. At night a lightening storm blew in from the ocean, and we turned out the lights to our hotel room and sat staring out with the window open to our balcony.

Photo by Nicolas Jossi on Unsplash

The ocean was completely black and it was too dark to even see the sand or the waves crashing in the distance. All we could see was emptiness. In the intense blackness the roar of the ocean was like a train that wouldn’t stop. Not even flashes of lightening would illuminate the water below or hint at the thrashing waves. In that moment, it was easy to imagine how terrifying it would be to see a dinosaur emerge from the sea to snatch its prey. It was easy to imagine how a ship would get misdirected and crash against unseen rocks. It was easy to see how dangerous it would be out on the ocean in that storm.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of respect and adoration the ocean gives. It is both beautiful but at the same time dangerous.

In a separate post I made about creepy corridors, I briefly talk about how vulnerable it can feel to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean. At night when I slept listening to the motor of the ship humming in its belly, I wondered what I would do if the engine stopped, or if I would hear the squeal of metal, or if the alert sounded in the middle of the night. Needless to say it took some time to sleep the first couple of nights. During the day the ocean provided a beautiful picturesque paradise and I absolutely adored being able to watch the ship break through the waves. At night however it could be alarming to look out during a storm and see only empty ocean in every direction. (The stargazing, however, was incredible.)

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I loved going to the beach, going on cruises, and appreciating the ocean (back when I could), but it’s good to have a healthy respect for it too. Movies and pictures don’t quite grasp the chilling emptiness that comes from looking out at a black, stormy ocean and realizing that anything could be out there.

Or maybe that’s just my love of monsters talking…

Do you have any creepy stories about the ocean that you’ve experienced? Do you know of any other places you want me to tackle in my horror analyses? Let me know below!

Speaking of monsters, I recently wrote a horror short story with mermaids and pirates titled “The Mermaid’s Kiss”. Expect to see more about it soon. Make sure you subscribe to my mailing list to get all the latest updates about my writing including a sort-of-secret project I’m working on.

Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

There’s been a sense of dissonance with my author groups that I’m part of lately. So many of my friends used to be pushing toward that next book, that next project, the next book festival, and getting excited about what was coming next. Now though so many of them are despondent when they look at their author career, and it really isn’t surprising why.

Some of us have been in quarantine for over three months even while others are able to go freely where they want. Many authors I’ve spoken with are in the same boat, either due to their own health issues or for loves ones. Then the protests began and the excessive use of force from police departments kept me glued to live feeds every evening near curfew to see what would happen, to keep an eye out for people on the ground. I had friends get involved in protests who had to run away from tear gas and rubber bullets. Still the violence hasn’t stopped. Just the other day a police officer killed a black man for falling asleep in his car here in Atlanta. There’s a constant sense of outrage and desperation right now that’s impossible to miss.

It’s difficult to write when your heart is bleeding for the world around you. It’s difficult to put aside your fears and worries when you see all the people risking their lives daily to be heard.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Stephen King called writing telepathy. After describing a scene, he writes the following in his book, On Writing.

This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.

I think back to this concept regularly when I’m struggling with my writing. Creating a scene or a character for readers to identify and care for is an act of telepathy, and if an author has a hard time expressing the image they have in their head, or worse yet, if they have a hard time even picturing the scene they want to convey, then static comes across the line. Readers pick up on that static, whether they realize it or not. They feel the loss of focus or a character doing something that doesn’t make sense. They feel that discontinuity.

When the world feels like it’s on fire, authors can have a hard time channeling their minds into words. It’s understandable that there’s static. It’s understandable to get frustrated because it’s too hard to focus and the words won’t come out. It’s okay to feel like the characters aren’t behaving properly. It’s impossible to extract writing from the time and place that it was written. As creators of worlds, people, and locations, authors need to be aware of the static that gets in the way and allow it to exist. Sometimes the static is there for a reason.

Somehow over the past couple of months I found the mindset to write a book, Chosen, the last book in the Stolen series. I finished writing it a month into quarantine and finished editing it after the police violence at protests began dying down last week. I focused my outrage and pain into my novel, into my characters, and into scenes which ended up being eerily similar to the scenes I read about online. I had characters house protagonists despite risking their lives to do it. I had enemies hide behind their military troops. I had powerful characters admit that they were in too much pain to carry on in battle.

Basically I allowed the real world to infiltrate my book world in a way that expanded the world. I allowed some crossover, but only if it made sense. I channeled the emotions I felt from hearing these stories and from watching these horrors. Sometimes I realized the crossover was happening as I wrote the book, but other times I didn’t realize it until I was editing.

I know that the writing process is very different for everyone, and that we all have different ways of coping with the stress going on in the world, but I hope that hearing how I have come to terms with it helped. Chosen was meant to be written during this time and it is truly reflected in the storyline.

My advice is to listen to that static and see if it can push you in the right direction. See if it’s trying to encourage a change of direction or a change in a character. I hope you find a way to continue your craft despite the difficulties we are dealing with now and on the long road ahead.

Being an Author in Quarantine [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Lately it’s been difficult for me to focus on writing sometimes. I had my short story, “La Femme en Rouge” released in Masks on March 31st, and my novel, Broken, was released on April 7th. My mind has felt like it’s been in a million places lately trying to keep up with all of my deadlines, needs, and coping with the “current situation”, as it’s been politely referred to in work meetings I’ve attended.

I recently read Morbid Smile’s article on Bujo and the Art of Staying Sane Through Quarantine, and I thought about how much having a bullet journal has helped me during this perilous and unprecedented time. I wanted to share a few other things that have helped me since I know other authors are struggling with this right now.

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a monthly hop hosted by authors with helpful information for authors. This can be anything from writing advice to publishing recommendations or even to hosting author booths at conventions. Take a look at some of my previous posts, and make sure you also check out the other author posts this month! I’m always amazed at the breadth of knowledge and the amount of tools and information I didn’t know before.

BuJo

Morbid Smile was absolutely right on the benefit of keeping a bullet journal. Usually I would only lists tasks that I’m trying to get done, like work on edits that have a deadline or writing a blog post, but lately I’ve been adding items to that list like working remotely for my day job, or doing the dishes, or cooking. Even if I don’t get as much done in my writing world as I want, I still feel accomplished because I have done things that need to be done.

Although my event schedule for the year has now been mostly scrapped, I also have trackers for books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and words I’ve written. Sure, I won’t get to be a vendor at a number of conventions I was hoping for this year, but I can see what new movies I’ve watched.

Virtual Author Events

You’re not the only author who is dealing with isolation right now, and therefore there is a ton of free material out there to help authors. From free writer conventions you can attend–Smashwords is holding a free Author Day as a virtual convention, for example.

Also this month Camp NaNoWriMo has started up! This is a wonderful way to get thrown into a cabin with other authors and you can all help encourage each other to reach your goals. Also you can set your own wordcount goals, so if you’re aiming for 50k or just 10k, this is a great way to motivate yourself.

I’ve seen authors streaming their word sprints live on places like Youtube, so you can participate along with other people and feel like you’re at your local cafe. I’ve seen authors reading from their own work to help provide options for all the parents teaching from home. The possibilities are really only limited to your imagination and creativity. We’re authors–we can do that.

Reading

Speaking of books, I’ve gotten so much reading done while I’ve been isolated. We just hit day 30 here in our household, and I find myself binge reading more than I used to. I simply have more time and a less pressing social calendar with folks outside of the home. This is great during those quiet times either late in the evening or early in the morning when most people are still asleep. Diving into some good books has tremendously helped my mood especially when I’ve felt really down or frustrated. Many publishing houses, including mine, are having sales on ebooks to help readers deal with the struggle of isolation right now, and I personally really appreciate it!

Talking with Fellow Authors/Artists

Pull up Zoom and open a chat group with a few author friends you know. Schedule a happy hour with them. Bring your current work in progress and read a few paragraphs aloud, or just talk out a snag in your manuscript. Just because you’re not in a physical space together doesn’t mean your meetings have to end.

Our first virtual meeting with our local Horror Writers Association group is this weekend, and we’re doing it over Zoom. It’s great cause now I don’t have to drive an hour to make it to the meeting, and I get to pet my cats while we talk about books. It’s a win-win situation, especially for my cats!

I hope all these ideas have inspired you on ways to help deal with being an author during this time. And if you don’t feel like writing or socializing or even reading, and just want to binge another series on Netflix right now, that’s fine too! There’s no pressure to be productive during this time because we’re dealing with a pandemic that is affecting the entire world. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to just exist at times. Zone out, look at the trees, pet a cat. Sometimes that’s the best way to help ourselves.

We don’t have to define ourselves by our productivity. Let that sink in sometimes, authors!