Monday, January 11, 2010

Sex, Lies and Vampires

This week, the Wicked team will be writing about genres - what we read, what we write and why.  Yes, the title of my post is a cheesy rip-off of the movie title, Sex, Lies and Videotape. And if you're under thirty, you may have no idea what movie I'm talking about.

I've been an avid reader for over three decades. The first book that really spoke to me will always be Jack London's The Call of the Wild. I was 12 years old and the story came alive for me -- as if a movie of the dog and his plight were playing in my head.  London's classic novel marks the first moment I can recall when reading really changed for me. It became an escape -- a suspension of reality.

By the end of that same year, I was reading Tolkien and had fallen in love with all things Fantasy. I devoured all the popular authors available in the genre I could find.  I borrowed books from friends - I made new older friends who were obsessed with Role Playing Games (RPG). I thought of taking the plunge and trying these new games, but I was so young and the reports in the news of this new "fad" sounded like an addiction to drugs. RPG's were such a time-consuming rage that parents were scared.

I avoided it until college, which was when the craze started dying down.  I gave it a go when a very experienced, close-knit group of dedicated gamers let me into their private circle.  I only had the pleasure of playing with them a handful of times but I was amazed.  It was like living a book.  The game masters (GMs) were incredibly gifted and I was sure someone should be taking notes on all the action as we played to put it into a book series because it was one hell of a fun ride.

My love of Fantasy also extended to Romance.  How else was a young woman supposed to figure out what really happens when the lights go off?  Obviously, older and wiser now as I approach forty, I can see that those stories were essentially fantasies too, but I really loved them at the time.  They helped explore the angst and trust issues all young people have in new relationships and I ate them up.

After Romance I moved to Mystery and Thrillers.  I'm leaving out a brief stint in high school with a love affair of Stephen King. His books don't fall under any one genre, but at the time - the mid '80s - I read about twelve to fifteen of his books.  I only stopped reading him when I had trouble sleeping and his characters invaded my dreams to haunt me.  He's just that damn good.

Past dark and light Mysteries, forensic science and lawyer-inspired books, I discovered vampires. Vampires led me to werewolves and other supernatural beasties and it was like coming full circle. These were the modern day fantasy novels that appealed to me the most and I was hooked.

In the most recent ten years, I've read a ton of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Suspense, Paranormal Mystery, Paranormal Romance and even some amazing stuff that might be called Paranormal Erotica (Emma Holly rocks!).  I've loved it all and it was my sincere hope that I could produce something similar to the works I've loved with Vampire Vacation.  It's a first-person story done in a present-tense style that reminds me so much of the feeling of immediacy I found in role playing games.

Have I succeeded and will readers enjoy my take on Urban Fantasy? Only time will tell.

What do you read and why?  I'd love to see if there are any fellow gamers out there!


  1. Hey C.J. I love your post this week, mostly because it forced me to stop and think of the first book I read that had a profound influence on my reading. To my surprise, I had the same experience with Old Yeller, another book about a dog. To go one step further, I think we spend the rest of our lives seeking out books that provide that same feeling or experience, at least I have. Unfortunately my list is short, with The Shack being one of the more recent additions.

    Both my sons are gamers, only they're on their computers, over the Internet, playing with people across the world. I like how you said, "It was like living a book." They tell me that all the time when I bitch they need to read fiction. RPGs are one thing I could never get into, so you provided some great insight into their love of 'em.

  2. Thanks Wendy! I wasn't sure how much I could write about the genre I choose to write in and why because I don't have much writing experience yet (and I'm still unsure of my genre!)

    I thought talking about what I like to read and how my tastes have changed over the years was a good place to start. Looking forward to your post on Friday.

  3. The first book I remember being wrapped up in was The Catcher in the Rye... Loved it. I remember The Call of the Wild, and My Side of the Mountain - can't remember which one had the kid living in the carved out tree but my would that have been a fun adventure!
    I too love Stephen King, what a wild ride he takes you on in his stories. I'd love to know where he gets some of his ideas, they are really out there.
    I just recently got into the vampire genre with the Twilight series, then the True Blood series on HBO tempted me to read the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, which are fun books. CJ's on the other hand is more grown-up which I love since I'm not a teenager anymore.

  4. I guess what catches us all is a love of reading (something we must fix with the education system). The first book to catch my attention was "Johnny Tremaine." Then, I found Robert Heinlein, which led to the Medford public libraries.

    It's nice to see how reading can develop and advance personalities.

    Great stuff. I was expecting that you got into horror early and stuck with it. But, you certainly have expanded your awareness.

  5. What an interesting question.. my first book that caught my attention .. I would have to say Curious George.. I mean how can you not like a monkey in constant trouble for being himself? ;) I'd say next was Clifford the Big Red Dog. I even had a stuffed version of him that I named Andy. Oh the things he saw.. but I digress.

    As an older reader ;) ha - I would say the first fantasy/fiction book I remember is The Sword of Shannara. I LOVED this book and series. I sat my father down and explained the whole story to him. What a wonderful man, he sat there and listened to me prattle on for hours. After that - I'd follow it up with M.Y.T.H. adventures and Piers Anthony books... devoured them. David Eddings - The Belgariad. Melanie Rawn - Dragon Prince. Just to name a few.

    As one of the 'inner circle' of gamers - let me just say - you have to belong to a great group of folks. First of all our GMs were/are MASTER story tellers. That's what they do - the build the world and let you play in it! The worlds are rich with details and characters and situations that challenge your deductive reasoning and your analytical thinking and make you laugh and ask you to fall into the story for just a little while. And just sometimes.. the story is powerful enough to move you to tears... To this day, it's been over 20 years since I started gaming - I can remember 90% of those stories as if I had read them. (Shout out to my GMs - thank you for the stories!!)

    Am I a writer? Maybe. Closet - and while I certainly can dig into the whole underbelly of wicked writing - I think I may start myself with children books .. Shh.. don't tell anyone - I'm not quite ready to emerge from the binding... :)

  6. Thanks for stopping by, my old gaming buddy! And thanks for not pointing out all the numerous novice things I did while learning (I've blocked most of it out, but I'm sure there were many. ;-) Terry Brooks is a master storyteller I think I've read almost everything he's written.

    So proud of you about the book! I've got a friend you may want to exchange emails with privately - she's on the same road you're on and she's a freelance writer to boot. I'll hook you up, you never know what could come of it.

  7. Considering I've got kids in the public school system you're observation really strikes home for me. I read somewhere that one theory on the growing trend in young adult books comes from the premise that a parent tight on cash won't spend the money on themselves to buy a book, but if their book-avoiding teenager takes an interest in reading they'd buy the book in a heart beat.

    It seems the one genre I've been light on lately is Horror and much to the dismay of my book club and some friends - I'm not a huge literary reader. Some of it is great and I've loved a lot of the classics I read in college, but most of the modern ones don't pull me in.

    Thanks Greg - oh, and a friendly reminder, I think you're up tomorrow!

  8. Thanks Michelle! Personally, I bet Mr.King's dreams are spoooooky.