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

 

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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

Love with the Perfect Supernatural

It happens. All the time. Some unwitting human falls head over heels for a supernatural creature. A Vampire who makes them buzz with sexual desire. A Fae  bad boy who charges their batteries. A Werewolf who completely understands them. Humans are extremely susceptible to supernatural beings. Even Trolls have a sweet side, even though they tend to smell a little like burned dirty socks. Supernatural sexuality is dynamic, diverse and nothing like a human expects. Look around you. How many of your friends do you think are involved with or married to a Leprechaun, Gnome, Pixie or Shape-Shifter. My guess is that lots of people fall for these beings. They lust for them, fight with them, break-up with them and never, EVER recover from the experience.

Let’s play a little SUPERNATURAL DATING GAME. Which of these creatures do you think you’ve already had dinner and a movie or more with?

VAMPIRE – He or she works the night shift, prefers Bloody Marys or beer with tomato juice over vodka-anything. They tend to be pale and avoid the beach at all costs, wears sunglasses all the time and talk quietly. They are volatile in nature, argue at the drop of the hat and have a criminal record hidden somewhere in their past they never talk about. In bed, well the experiences are off the chart. Your Vampire lover wants sex all the time, especially in the middle of the day with thick curtains drawn and a glass of cranberry juice on the nearby dresser. They have no opinion on your day-to-day life, and expect you to drop everything when they call. (Hey, I just described both of my ex-husbands!) They are selfish but protective of their possessions (including and especially you) to the extreme. When their full attention is on you, they make you feel like the best thing walking on two legs.

PIXIE – Well these guys and gals take the cake for sexual dynamos. Surpassing the Vampire by a mile, Pixies simply can’t get enough and they don’t particularly care who it’s from. Loyalty and fidelity are not part of the Pixie lexicon. They’re stunning to look at, have not a single working brain cell in their head and avoid conversation at all costs. You’ll never notice though, because a Pixie can distract you with a sensual look, a teasing touch and a few magical sighs that drop you right onto your back, ready, willing and able. Pleasure is the name of the Pixie game, and if they can get a few laughs along the way, it makes their lives even better. Go ahead, date a Pixie but don’t be looking for anything with promise. One day, maybe in the middle of the best sexual climax you’ve ever had, they’ll simply disappear … off on the next adventure. You will have a few grains of Pixie dust on the carpet to sweep up, though.

WEREWOLVE – Ah, the damaged, troubled, doe-eyed lore of the Werewolf is irresistible to humans.  Even if you’re the kind of person who seeks out relationships with self-empowered, self-sustaining, emotionally-stable partners, one whiff of a Werewolf will change all that. These creatures are deeply broken by their lot in life. Beautiful, strong and powerful, they are emotionally shattered, constantly worried … the kind who over-insure themselves to protect their mates. A Werewolf is definitely the marrying kind. Children may not be in the cards because they’re so afraid of passing on their terrible curse, but you can’t find a better wife or husband. Loyal as a Labrador and partial to quiet nights at home, what you’ll have with your Werewolf is plenty of peaceful evenings, snuggled on the couch with a beer and a good movie partner. Once a month your Werewolf will disappear for a few days. At first you won’t notice, then you’ll get jealous because he or she is unwilling to explain where they’ve been or who they were with. Then you’ll cry and walk away. It’s just how it is. But you’ll always fondly remember the sweet lover who brought you the newspaper every morning.

TROLL – Trolls are the hoarders of the supernatural world and they bring it right into your world the minute you hook up with one. A Troll loves to collect things – stamps, old film posters, Civil War memorabilia, tea pots, thimbles, you name it. As soon as the two of you shack up together, the first thing your Troll does is build shelving and buy curio display cabinets. At first it won’t bother you one bit, after all, a hoarder also collects skills that come in very handy in the bedroom. But soon enough, you will find yourself picking pathways between boxes of stuff waiting for new shelves to live on. Before you know it, there’s no room for you! Then … you discover that your Troll has been collecting something else while you weren’t looking. Trolls are another supernatural race with no regard for fidelity. Trolls collect divorces.

SHAPE-SHIFTER – You already know this guy or gal. You’ve already come across them at work, at the country club, and in your dating life. These are the ones who can change on a dime. One day they have brown hair, the next, flaming red locks. One day they work as a financial analysis and the next, they decide to become housepainters. One minute they’re happy and laughing and the next, out-of-control pissed off. They know things they shouldn’t know, like what the whale on the Discovery Channel program is thinking, or what you talked about in your women’s support group. They recall things more clearly than any human and for a while, you think your lover is just insightful or has a photographic memory.  It’s nice at first, but soon all the always-being-right stuff rags on your nerves. The uncertainty of never knowing what your lover will look like or say or do in the next minute will drive you batty. Unfortunately, when you throw this one out on their ear and adopt the stray kitten that appears at your door a few moments later, the one thing you will miss most is that Shape-Shifters ability to know what you love most between the sheets – all those things that made you squeal with delight. Ah well, for now you have you new kitty friend to talk to. That should be enough to get your life back to normal.

GNOME – Ever met someone who is happy all the time? A not-so-pretty and rather short person who makes you smile and laugh and feel better about yourself? Those, my friends are Gnomes. Wiki’s Mythical Creatures and Beasts Directory says that Gnomes are tiny creatures, but I can tell you that over time, they’ve grown. Some area as tall as five foot five! Short women and men have no issues with partners that height, so the intermingling of these two races is on the rise. Gnomes never make you cry, they never argue and they always see the bright side of everything. Some people like that. Personally, I’d toss a Gnome across the living room is he told me “life is a bowl of cherries”. Gnomes are great gardeners. In fact, most find fantastic careers as landscape and garden designers. It’s not just the green thumb, it’s the instinct for soil, root and bloom that make them so good at it. Real Gnomes never have silly plaster garden gnomes in their yard. It’s a reminder of so many generations of being too short to have sexual relations with the pretty women whose skirts they’d been looking up. Even a silly Gnome knows where heaven is.

LEPRECHAUN – These dudes are more pleasant and luckier than they should be. Never taller than five feet ten, the Leprechaun is the lover who talks about counting cards in Vegas during dinner, develops a system for knowing when his numbers will hit the lottery while having sex with you, and decides which horse to bet on at the track while showering with you. You don’t mind one bit and do you know why? Because this guy ALWAYS wins! Life with a rich Leprechaun can wash away a plethora of evils. You’ll live in a fabulous mansion, wear designer cloths, travel the world every year and, when your Leprechaun lover isn’t thinking about winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, enjoy fabulous sex with an Irish accent! How bad can that be?

FAE – The Fae like multiple relationships and multiple marriage partners and they’re right up front about it. This is the lover who asks for a ménage a trios on the first date. This is the one who loves swapping partners in a group setting. The more the merrier! The Fae are stunning, strikingly gorgeous and completely irresistible. Needless to say, most humans go with the flow wearing a goofy starry-eyed look and bigger than possible smile plastered across their faces. The Fae have an agenda, but no human understands it or can survive a relationship long enough to figure it out. The circus of sexual tension becomes crazy and it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex too long. More than one human involved with a Fae has awakened, years older, exhausted and in need of medical attention. The best thing to do when a Fae crosses your path and asks “Do you wanna?” is to run the other way, but of course, we don’t. The biggest issue with Fae/human relationship is that even though the Fae has been up front and honest about their desires, we still foolishly think we can someday have him to our self. Sad but true.

Okay, now we’ve explored relationships with supernatural creatures. Seriously, would you date any of these guys?

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