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

What Happened to My Fangs?

Fangs? Well of course I don’t really have fangs. When I say that, I really mean my creativity, my mojo, my playfulness or my keyboard time. What happened to it? Life happened to it, and in an effort to regain control of my writing time and flow, I decided to play a little game with myself. WARNING: Don’t be trying this stuff at home, kiddos, unless of course you need to blast through a creative wall or are willing to cause havoc with the family who lives under the same roof and expects your undivided attention.

I currently have three books in the works (and another non-fiction, but for that I’m cool, no inspiration needed). All three fictions are steeped in the supernatural, one involves a fallen angel, one incorporates Native American mysticism, and the third is Book #3 of The Twice-Baked Vampire Series. All three have finish deadlines before the end of the year … and all three have hit a wall. I refuse to use the words writer’s block, but sometimes, even when your head is overflowing with ideas and images, you gotta admit that the well is a little dry and the pieces just aren’t fitting together. At times like this there’s only one path I can take.

Let’s take a journey through the vortex, the rabbit hole and maybe even a few nightmares. After all, those are the only ways I know how to grab my creative crown back from oblivion. Here goes.

WHAT YOU REMEMBER

The first place I always start when I’m like this is inside my own real life memories. I explore the things I’ve seen and experienced that made no sense. Was that a ghost I saw last winter, pacing outside the window on my front porch? Did I really feel someone breathe on me or touch my hand the night I was alone? Once while participating in a Native American Peace Ceremony and camping in the high desert, I watched the full moon turn the big boulders into monster opals. And once while sitting in my back yard I saw what I could swear was a UFO, zigging and zagging it’s way across the sky. Then there was the time I sat in traffic on the 405, that notorious Los Angeles freeway that seems to never move, and I felt the world spin into a vortex. It felt like a scene from The Matrix!

Okay, right about now you’re starting to think I’m a little off my rocker, but I honestly believe that if you tour through your own memories, you too will find a plethora of unexplained experiences just sitting there, ready to be explored. That’s exactly what I do, I examine these experiences and jot down every possible explanation for them, practical and supernatural, physiological and emotional. Inevitably the thought process leads me like a puppy dog right back to my creative mind and spawns all kinds of plot solutions where I’d originally seen none. I for one am convinced the paranormal is all around, sometimes we just have to acknowledge it … and in return, it will help us expand our creative boundaries.

WHAT YOU READ

Another thing I tend to do when my Fangs are lost, is read. I read contemporary authors and not so contemporary authors. Sometimes I focus on the genre I’m writing and sometimes I look toward historic or science fiction for my reading pleasure. I re-read old favorites and watch for the newest ideas out there. No matter what I read, it triggers something in my head. Sometimes a wisp of a concept that is completely unrelated to the book in my hand, generates a power surge for the book in my head. Needless to say, lots of those books get set aside so that I can write.

If I read that a Victorian character stumbles down the steps and is left in a coma the doctors can’t treat, in my mind that extrapolates into the tumble of a gnome from a latter while trying to escape, or the dangerous, damaging fall from grace by an angel, or the loss of important memories by the devil himself. It all starts to gel! I want a bumper sticker that says “Got Writer’s Block? Read!”

WHAT TERRIFIES YOU

Sometimes I go back to my childhood, or even to last week when I noticed the biggest praying mantis I ever saw walking along my arm. Thinking about what really terrifies me brings home the need for emotion and depth in my work. It pretty much helps me hook into the characters with a fresh point of view. If the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz terrify me, what would terrify a vampire? A savvy business woman? A young witch or an errant angel suddenly blocked out of heaven? What would show their vulnerability? Their not-so-good side? Oh, this little trick definitely helps me flesh out characters and create situations I wouldn’t have thought about before! This one most certainly gives me back my sharp, pointy writer fangs!

WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE

Laugh. Some people laugh when their nervous or afraid, some laugh all the time, some laugh so seldom, the sound of it startles us. I like to take a few minutes to look around me. Look at smiles, listen to laughter, taste the energy of teenager girls giggling, men laughing at the football game, your best friend chuckling on the phone. All the shades and shadows of laughter can add great depth to a character, as well as great humor. I tend to look for comic relief when I write. I often create a character specifically for that purpose, but if I’ve done it really well, Mr. Comic Relief becomes an important part of the story … and a fond friend of mine.

Fangs restored and the family’s reluctant acceptance that I am writing and not to be disturbed, nothing ends the dreaded writer’s block better than a little journey down the rabbit whole. The questions create a thousand other questions that blessedly lead to a million creative solutions.

Now, I have to go write! See you all later!

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

COLD IN CALIFORNIA

 

Ah, Those Wonderful Vampiric Characters that Bite!

Today I thought I’d explore Vampiric Characters … those fabulous supernatural characters who bite into your imagination. They could be vampires, werewolves, members of the Fae, leprechauns, ghosts or even ancient legends that you simply can’t ignore. As lovers of Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy or anything about the supernatural world, we all get hooked. We pick up a book and instantly fall in love with Louie from Interview with a Vampire, the beautiful story of The Lovely Bones, or Sookie Stackhouse and her amazing relationships with vampires Bill and Eric, werewolf Alcide and shape-shifter Sam. As readers we buy into it all, no matter how crazy or far fetched it sounds to our logical, real life minds.

But as writers, something more happens. As writers we become sponges, sifting through the concepts and squeezing out something unique to our own mind’s eye. As writers we strive to push the envelope and create something utterly different and exciting.

As I see it, there are three ways to break through the wall of standard fantasy and push through to create those characters that hook in and refuse to let a reader go.

LOOK AT IT DIFFERENTLY– If most of the urban fantasy we read takes place in New York City, imagine how that story would unfold in Omaha, or Amsterdam or Miami. The colors of the story change and we discover that the location becomes a character of its own. What fun to imagine an adventure taking place in the desert instead of on a mountain top, or in a 1970’s commune instead of a contemporary big city. The same characters we create in our mind act and react differently in a completely different environment. Oh, what fun!

BREAK THE RULES – Just because a concept regarding supernatural characters is generally accepted does NOT mean we have to follow it. Who says vampire always have to feed off humans, what if they would rather feed off your pets? Who says leprechauns have to be short or hiding the pot of gold? Maybe they’re really very tall and are painfully allergic to gold. Who says angels have wings? The devil has horns? The werewolf must shift and kill? It’s all fiction and way more fun to create a fiction no one else ever thought about!

PUMP UP THE CHARACTERS– Vampires have certain abilities, but what if we give them more, or take away the abilities their associates have? Tearing away the stereotypical traits we’ve come to accept can give us writers room to blast a whole new reality for our characters. What if a vampire was made from a Nephalim? What if a shape shifter could only shift into inanimate objects? What if a fairy could only survive as a plant during the daylight hours and a giant in the dark? What if? What if? What if?

Authors have been asking “what if” and stretching our imaginations this way for a long time! Biting into us with unique characters, twisted mixes of human personalities, supernatural qualities and amazing entertainment! What if? The only “what if” I’m glad we don’t have to deal with, as readers or writers, is “What if the imagination stopped flowing?” because THAT would definitely be a dark fantasy of epic proportions! Viva la Creativity!

What vampiric characters have bitten into you lately?

 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, smCOLD IN CALIFORNIA