VAMPIRE HEAVEN?

pearly gatesDo you think there is a heaven for vampires? Should there be? Would it be the same heaven humans go to, or a place all their own? I’ve explored this thought a LOT, simply because Gabriel Strickland, the double dead vampire in Cold in California, my urban fantasy book being released on May 15, is working his way toward heaven. Sort of. You can imagine how tough something like that would be. Poor dude sees his final demise, thinks it’s totally over, only to find himself living out purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse with a bunch of other dead supernaturals. He has a chance to earn a ticket through the Pearly Gates. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go through the pros and cons. Not everyone wanted to be a vampirePRO – Not every vampire asks to become a vampire. We’ve all read the stories and seen the movies, right? Most vampires didn’t ask for it. It’s usually a surprise sneak attack or worse yet, an offer of misunderstood immortality. Granted, the newbie adjusts quickly to the demands of his new existence. He may struggle to hold on to some of his humanity, but to become a cruel, evil creature, one must consciously choose to be so. There are vampires all over the fictional universe that think before making the wicked choices. CON – Not every vampire finds it so terrible, especially if it feeds their need for mischief. Now, naturally there are criminal and questionable humans all over the place—my Uncle Nunzio comes to mind. There is the chance that one of them reluctantly becomes vampire … and zealously likes it. Those personalities relish in the mayhem and bloody chaos they can wreak on human beings, mostly because they liked it so much when they were human. An evil human soul has no more chance at reaching heaven than an evil vampire soul, so I say. gotta eatPRO – A vampire’s gotta eat to survive. Okay, it is a conundrum, but solutions can be sought. Charlaine Harris invented True Blood for her vampires. Being Human’s vampire Aiden worked as a nurse and fed from the blood bank bags. Good vampire souls find ways not to drink too much blood and keep their human hosts, friends, and acquaintances alive and well.  Restraint is the name of the game, even though a vampire has to eat. After all, survival is more than nutrition, it’s also emotional support, a shoulder to lean on, and an occasional ride to the airport late at night. CON – A vampire doesn’t have to kill or turn his lunch into an immortal dining companion either. I sometimes think of vampires as human teenagers just after the full bloom of puberty—out of control with little desire to reign in their new found sexual and emotional tendencies. It must be like eating chocolate. When have you had enough? When should you stop? Opps, the chocolate is gone, too bad, too sad. Seriously, aren’t the vampires who at least try to take the noble road more attractive? Don’t eat so much or so fast, damnit! Bored LestatPRO – A conscience is a good thing! Louis might have bored the hell out of Lestat, but at least he tried to preserve his humanity. Now we’re getting in to the definition of a soul. Is it conscience? Is it guilt? Remorse? Acting and feeling truly contrite for something one has done? If those feelings and emotions relate to the soul, than there are many, MANY, vampires in fiction who have retained their soul. It can be done! YAY! CON – Bad vampires live a lot longer. There’s a lot of fictional proof that evil, cruel, and demonic vampires have an inbred self-survival gene. If it ever comes to their continued existence or the life of a mere human’s—slurp, choice made. Even though many famous and not-so-famous vampires have complained about the boredom of immortality, most aren’t interested in facing the alternative. loving motherPRO – Vampires were once human and cared about society. Yes, they were born, tiny, soft and sweet, loved in their mother’s arms, and taught all the rules of living within society. They understand the laws, the morals, and the reasons for toeing the line. Most people do. Granted, once turned into a bloodsucking monster, it’s a hard road keeping to those strict societal limitations, but luckily, many of our most beloved vampire heroes do their best. CON – Few vampires go to confession. The ones that don’t learn the lesson in their human life then discover that vampiric life is a free pass from all the rules, run amuck. We like those vampires too, don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t love a bad boy? The question is … do they get a chance at redemption? What are your thoughts? Does a vampire have a right to heaven or not? Even if they’re doing their best and being as good as a vampire could be?

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Cold in California

Book 1, Twice Baked Vampire Series

COMING SOON!

CiC - BwL 50% 300dpi

He’s back …

How Many Vampires Fit in an Elevator?

Funny how we writers think. Sometimes we’re overly concerned about whether it’s clear that our character took the car keys with him or buttoned her coat, and other times we feel it’s vital to make our fiction as solid as indisputable scientific fact.  Believable fiction is always the best, but there are times I think maybe we go too far.

When I’m not writing Urban Fantasy, I’m an author success coach, a book reviewer and an acquisition editor for a small publisher. Trust me, I see it all, from the car keys obsession mentioned earlier, to the mammoth scientific explanations as to why a werewolf changes during the full moon. Sometimes it’s entertaining, other times it gets a little boring, but every time I see this kind of thing I understand with my whole heart. It’s the process.

Take my Twice-Baked Vampire Series. I knew I was crossing a bazillion lines with the concept of a double-dead vampire getting a chance to earn his way into heaven. The words Redemption and Vampire are never mentioned in the same sentence and getting this concept into the realm of the believable took a lot … of editing. I, like just about every other fantasy and urban fantasy author in the planet. felt that I not only had to tell my readers how many vampires fit in an elevator … I had to convince them.

Back up and punt is a way of life when the editing part of a writers journey comes along and my best editors are the first round of vital eyes … my friends. Nope, they’re not writers or certified, diploma toting editors … they’re average readers with average readers’ eyes and thought processes. They are the prototype for the book buyers down the road. I honestly think that no qualified line editor could be as brutal as a friend (the one you spent detention with years ago) writing a note on your manuscript that says “all right already! I get it!” These readers are priceless because they help me take the temperature of the market. Real editors? Of course I and my publishers use them too, but by the time they see the book, I’ve created a world and reality that is palatable, enjoyable and hopefully pretty darn believable.

Personally, I like the supernatural details in the everyday life events. That cookie recipe your Aunt Mary has, how come they always taste slightly different, made you feel slightly giddier, looked slightly more inviting than when anyone else in the world makes them? Is it because Aunt Mary is so sweet and special and loving? Or, is it because Aunt Mary is part Fae and uses an ingredient that comes trough her fingertips and makes those cookies irresistible!  And that kid playing Little League Baseball at the park across the street. Is he really that extraordinary? Does he really have a stronger, more accurate arm than any other ten year old in the world? Does he carry himself like Chipper Jones because he loves the Atlanta Braves? Or is that little boy actually a pure bread werewolf destined to be in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame along with a few of his own kind we never knew about? My mind is always roiling with these possibilities. Are those colorful auras in the room really ghosts who came uninvited to my party? Maybe I’m just tired? Maybe they are ghosts. The dishwashers working in a professional kitchen are all seal shape-shifters. The bank teller was once a statue overseeing a mummified Egyptian king’s fortune. The elderly crossing guard at the corner of Westfield and Bower Hill is really Merlin. My sister is really … well, you get the point. When ideas twist and swirl like Dorothy’s Kansas tornado, any writer feels the responsibility to defend and explain their concepts.

But in the end it isn’t about how many vampires I think fit in an elevator or how many trolls I think it takes to change a light bulb. It’s not even about whether I think my Aunt Mary is part Fae … it’s all about what I can make you believe.

Now, believe it or not, something just tapped me on the shoulder and whispered “GET BACK TO WORK”. I’m not even going to try to explain that one.

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of The Twice Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

COLD IN CALIFORNIA

Urban Fantasy – The Character of Environment

Readers and writers know all about characters – that they require fleshing out and development, names and backgrounds, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Readers become attached to the mental image of what that character must look like and how his or her voice might sounds. But there’s more to it than that. More than the description of hair color or warts, more than the story … more than the era or genre.

 

There’s the environment. And I’m not talking about a little rain or maybe a vague description of a fictitious city here, I’m talking ENVIRONMENT on steroids!

 

Take Twilight. All that thick cloudy gloom of the Pacific Northwest combines to create a total package for Bella and her experiences. It does more than serve as a literary tool to permit vampires not to sparkle so much as to be recognized, it sets the mood. Now skip over to Charlain Harris’s Dead Until Dark (True Blood). The environment in this series is painted by poor and lower middle class Northern Louisiana. The prolific environment there is the sordid haze of southern prejudice and bigotry.

Environment tells more of the story than plot or characters! Ask any reader about a story they loved and the answer will include everything from location to weather and cultural influence, perhaps before even one character is mentioned. It’s the careful setting of the stage that makes the difference.

 

In my book, Cold in California, I was determined to make the environment a character in and of itself. Yes, California is the clothing this character wears, but the true environment is the warehouse where 60 or so dead and double-dead supernatural creatures live together. There, secretly hidden in West Hollywood, they try to find ways to behave themselves so they can take advantage of their one last chance to earn heaven. It’s about redemption in a city knee deep in anything but redemption. The warehouse needed to be a canvas for these creatures. It’s not exactly “the island of misfit toys’, it’s more like the Murphy’s Law pathway to the Pearly Gates. This environment needed to do two distinct things. First, the warehouse had to create a safe environment for dead supernaturals to be themselves, and second, it had to be real-world recognized for what it is, a holding tank for the world’s incorrigibles.

 

The space wanted to feel scrapped together with furniture left on the street for trash pick-up. It needed a system that reminded readers of the unemployment or social security office. And it had to serve every kind of race that might end up there, even Stick Man who is 12 feet tall, so he has a double-wide room where he sleeps on two beds head to head. The warehouse is bricked with history no one knows or wants to know. It has secret areas where the head honcho – like Crudo, the troll in charge – can find a few hours of peace and quiet when he wants. This warehouse makes love to it’s inmates by providing everything each one needs, high walls for one character’s vast collection of murder mystery books, dark corners for the double-dead vampires to lurk and meet and squabble within. Private places for pixie/leprechaun (uh-hem) interaction and a door that closes so that loner and soon-to-be hero, twice-baked vampire Gabriel Strickland, can sulk and bemoan his situation, at least in the beginning.

 

The warehouse keeps secrets and exposes treachery. It provides safety and yet is extremely vulnerable. It breathes with a life of its own. And it does all that without one line of dialogue or one action. Now, how’s that for a stellar character?

 

What book environments have impressed you most as you read or wrote them?

 

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series! Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

 

Supernatural Characters – What’s in a Name?

Where were we? Vampires werewolves and trolls, oh my! Here at Vampire Explored we talk about where the paranormal ideas come from and where they go. What they mean and what they don’t mean.

So … let’s play the name game.

What’s in a character name that makes it memorable? Where do these names come from? Do they mean something or are they hard to come up with? Considering the fact that most authors have their own ways of developing character names, I can only speak for myself. Hopefully this is interesting and informative, but also gives you a few laughs. I’m going to do a run through of each of my character names in COLD IN CALIFORNIA,  how they came to me and why I used them. Here goes.

GABRIEL STRICKLAND – Hero, twice-baked vampire, loner and skeptic. Gabriel’s name came from the obvious places – my life and heaven. Since the double dead vampire was given a second chance to earn a ticket through the Pearly Gates, I thought it might be nice to have the same name as the gatekeeper. It might (and I stress might) give him a leg up when the time comes. His last name came to me because I liked the hard and soft sound of it. Strickland seemed to encompass all of Gabriel’s personality traits and flaws.

CRUDO CUSHMAN – Crudo is the troll in charge of the secret West Hollywood warehouse where Gabriel must live out his purgatory. The place is crowded with dead supernaturals and Crudo cares (grudgingly) about all the inmates. He definitely wants them to earn their way into heaven, but he’s no pushover, he knows trouble when he sees it. Where did his name come from? No clue. I think he just told me as I began writing him. But think about it … a troll, five foot nothing, swarthy and gruff. What else would his name be?

PETE MALONEY – With so many dead and double-dead supernatural races coping with having to suddenly behave themselves and be good enough to make the grade, Crudo needed some help. Pete Maloney (all around nice guy and demised werewolf) came to me in a dream. He was big and  warm, kinda like everyone’s favorite Uncle Pete so that’s where his first name came from. After that I discovered that inside my head, every time I wrote his dialogue he had a slight Irish brogue. He’s goodhearted, funny, a great friend and support for Crudo. Oh, and Pete has no designs on the big responsibilities. He likes being number two. It suits him just fine.

SHIRLEY – Oh, dead pixie Shirley only goes by one name. She’s the Cher of the warehouse, hot, sexy and insatiable. She’s a gorgeous supernatural woman pretty much living in the middle of an ongoing “squirrel moment”. Self absorbed but sweet, Shirley has an impact on just about everything and everyone at the warehouse. She got her name because I loved the fact that Crudo liked to call her “Shirley Girly” … that and “Trouble”.

NATHAN COOK – How does evil look to most readers? Ugly? Demonic? Nope, startlingly beautiful. I needed a villain that took a reader’s breath away but he too needed a few little distracting flaws. What he had in looks, he certainly wouldn’t have in savvy. Nathan is a bit of an egotistical jerk, the kind of man who as a kid, never got picked for the baseball team, the one who didn’t realize he was walking around with a “kick me” sign on his back or toilet paper on his shoe. As an adult his striking good looks and dark witchcraft put him into a league of his own, so who cared about not being popular, he was powerful. So, his name had to be powerful too. It had to be a name that never politely asked for what he wanted, it demanded.

DORI GALLAGHER – I never met a Dori, much less a Dorianna and when Dori formed in my imagination, I wanted the perfect name for Gabriel to want to roll off his tongue. Dori’s not too pretty or special, in fact, I was really focused on her imperfections that would attract Gabriel. I wanted her to have a name that stood out but not so much it demanded attention. I wanted a name for this woman that told her story … and that’s something shocking you don’t learn until the very last few pages of the book.

And two more for good measure …

FEEVER CLOVELY – Feever Clovely is a dead leprechaun. In my imagining, leprechauns are conniving, grumbling, unhappy beings who are always taking a political stand of some kind. Feever is the head of the West Hollywood Warehouse Leprechaun’s Union and he’s always looking to picket something. Where did his name come from? I have no idea, it was just there the minute he arrived in my head. If you run into a leprechaun one day, maybe ask if it’s a common Lep name.

DON CARSON – Both Feever Clovely, the dead leprechaun and Don Carson, ancient Soul Eater, are small players in Cold in California, but I wanted to touch on their characters and names because both play a huge role in the second book in The Twice Baked Vampire Series, Monkey Jump.  A Soul Eater is immortal, sort of. He serves a Sin Eater. How did this particular Soul Eater get his name? Well … he reminded me of a former boss of mine. Not that the boss was a soul eater, but he was brilliant, a company man who played by the rules and seriously competitive. My Soul Eater needed a contemporary name because he’s always around, trying to do his job. A simple name like Don fit the bill. He seems to like it.

So … there ya go. Character names and where they come from. Is this what you expected?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series! Book 1, Cold in California  !

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA