Monday, August 23, 2010

Vampires in Alaska! Dark All the Time, So...

I can't give reams of advice on writing, or share inspirational advice on how my muse and creative genius overflow with ideas and I'm a walking miracle. No. But, I can tell the truth. First and foremost, I'm a reader. I've been reading this genre before it even had a name (urban fantasy), when I used to have to dig through the sci-fi/fantasy racks to find kick-butt heroines and take the right-hand turn into the romance isle when the book mavens told me "There's this really great one you'll love, but for some reason it's over here next to..."

I could care less where the book was shelved, but if the jacket cover (a.k.a. wrongly called back-cover blurb) didn't grab me or sounded too romancey, then the book stayed wherever it was shelved. All my reading did me a world of good. It gave me a in depth education of what some authors adapted from folklore (burn in sunlight, aversion to garlic and holy objects) for their vampires and what some authors made up (sparkle in the sunlight, vamps who feed only on animals, instant Big O with their bite).

It's been hugely entertaining for over fifteen years for me. The flip side is it has also made me a bit of a critic/cynic. I had an idea ping-ponging around in my head for years. I was waiting for it to appear from another author. Why didn't anyone (who wrote that their vamps were impervious/indifferent to the cold) base a story where there was no pesky sunshine problem? North Pole, Russia, Alaska, the far reaches of Greenland and Canada all came to me... ultimately, the perfect spot screamed out as Alaska.

Dark only half the year posed a problem - a vampire couldn't live there in the summertime. So what would bring a vampire there? The population in the darkest places of our world isn't prolific and the inhabitants would stay indoors most of the season, which would equal a problem with how a vampire would feed. How about a vacation spot? A place they could stay indoors, with lots of humans, and venture out when they wanted.

Why would vamps vacation there? It would have to be because they got something there they couldn't get at home. How about a chance to be themselves? Assuming their world was hidden from ours they would have to walk a careful line between hiding their true nature and blending in with society. I never understood the tales that had a creepy gothic castle with vamps running around, orgies of blood with missing young people, or a rash of drained bodies in any urban setting. Hello? Wouldn't the police notice this?

I love the dark stories with a sharp edge of sex in them. They scare and entice all at once. They take you to the edge of your seat and arouse the most important sexual organ in your body at the same time -- your brain. But I wanted some sense of believability (read Greg's old post on that one, he explained it very well).

I loved the idea of Fantasy Island. A far-away location a troubled soul journeyed to and came away, hopefully, a better person. The all-powerful, sexy Mr. Roarke with his funny sidekick, Tattoo. Just Brilliant. I'm surprised there hasn't been a successful remake done.

What if my vamps came to a place like that? What if the whole place revolved around their fantasies coming true? With such a decadent, sexual creature, how could I not have an erotic overtone in the book? Or lets' be more honest - why would I want to write a book that did not have an explicitly erotic theme?

I easily could have made my book one sexual romp after another. I didn't realize I had a talent for writing a sex scene until I sat down to write my first one. Chapter four in Vampire Vacation was a pivotal point in my writing. I had a vague idea I'd throw a dead body into the carefully constructed world of the all-powerful innkeeper and see how she'd react. But what would be the point if there wasn't some hot sex too - after all, isn't vacation designed for hot sex?

We have some friends who only have great sex when they are away on vacation. Something about how she can't really let go of the pressure of the family, house...whatever... unless she is not there.  Ummm...okay... I feel for her, but damn that's funny. Oh - and her husband makes sure they go on frequent, expensive, trips with lavish hotel accommodations every other month or so. Poor guy. Good thing she moved away and doesn't read my blog or she'd be pissed at me.

Fantasy - it fuels many people in many ways. Incorporating that into a world of my making with ever-changing guests to spice it up seemed like a perfect idea. That first sex scene I wrote exploded off the page and went on for over a thousand words. When you consider the sex in most mainstream books happens off the page, I knew my book was crossing major boundaries. Mystery, action, suspense, fantasy and explicit sex? Where would it go on the shelf? I read erotica as well and it did not have enough sex to qualify (yes, I swear I'm telling the truth, four or five sex scenes out of 90,000-words does not make a book erotica, it makes it erotic).

Knowing nothing about writing, having never taken a class or a workshop, and with only my own tastes to follow - I did what other experienced writers preach to newbies-- I wrote the book I wanted to read. I wrote what was inside me exactly the way I wanted it. Hot sweaty sex and all.

The topic today made me stop and think about how my idea came to me. Which came first the chicken or the egg? In my case, clearly I thought up the setting and let my imagination flow from there. To be inspired by a place, even a place solely in my mind, allowed me the freedom to tell a tale I hadn't even been aware was brewing inside me waiting to be told.

My most sincere hope is that readers will enjoy what I have created as much as I do.


  1. This is a interesting thought about where a Vamp would go on vacation. If he wanted to follow the sun, go to Alaska for part of the year. No it's not following the sun, its running from it. With you I read vamp stories long before they became what they are today. It was a hard search and a lot of digging to find a good one. Over all one of the most erotic and originals is Bram Stokers..An oldie but a goodie.

  2. What's "Fantasy Island"? Kidding!! I'm 41, I know damn well what that show was. It had some scary moments, too. Probably not now, of course, but when I was that age it could be creepy.
    Thanks for posting. I love to hear stories about how books were birthed.

  3. I simply love your idea of writing a book that YOU want to read. How could you possibly go wrong? You can't: it will turn out to be real and not contrived. Your fiction will resonate with honesty. I'm enjoying your excerpts, and I will have to read the complete novels. Keep up your great work.

  4. I'm glad you decided not to wait for someone to come up with vampires in Alaska, because then I wouldn't have gotten the chance to read your great book.

  5. Yes! The scary parts were the best, weren't they? It was like you saw this dark side to the gallantly dressed, white-suited host.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Lee! I thought the idea sounded fun when I dreamed it up. Now, whether or not it will sell... time will tell.

  7. Thanks, Robert! Here's to hoping they get picked up and I'm not hawking them on my own... but then again, even if you get a deal nowadays you have to sell the books yourself. Strange times in the industry and authors have to do way more than just write a good book to get it to sell.

  8. Howdy, Helena! Thanks for commenting. So thrilled you enjoyed the book. I may wind up self-pubbing and begging readers like you to review it on Amazon so it will get some exposure when the time comes. I can't believe that authors have accepted this slow moving dinosaur the publishing world has become. No wonder why ebooks and self-pubbing authors are striking out on their own - they're finally saying "Enough is enough!"

    Who in the hell thought it was a good idea to write a book and receive 7% of the cover price as payment? I'll get off my high horse now. It's just that as a business woman I could clearly see last year that this industry was effed up!

  9. CJ,
    My daughter didn't take a teaching job in Barrow, Alaska. We couldn't find it on the map. She told me to look 200 miles NORTH of the Arctic Circle. My friend from there said, "Lots of dark days, men with guns, lots of guns. Dry town but they make it in their bathtubs." Well, in her younger more rebellious years, she'd have said, "Hey sounds pretty cool." But that's a little far for mommie to come do a bail out. She said no. And still hasn't found a teaching job. Anybody got any leads for a killer teacher and volleyball coach - in Oregon? Preferably Portland?

    Your title is really catchy and says things about your book I know I'll find. Now that I know you, CJ, I know it will be a fun read. I know, I owe you a read, and I'm getting closer....And I will post a review.

    But you hit something. Vampires? In Alaska? Now I've heard of wolf shapeshifter books in Alaska. But Vampires? I guess the cold wouldn't affect them as humans. Who knows, maybe they'd seem warm compared to the icebergs?

    Putting characters in some unusual plot is, IMHO, what it's all about, what makes a compelling read. Today, we don't have Fantasy Island (well now, it would be some erotica series, right?). The island theme is wonderful, just like the Alaskan Wilderness: remote, isolated, can't call next door for sugar and eggs.

    Now, can you say Corinthian Leather fast 10 times?

  10. Beautiful post, C.J.

    You and I are alike when it comes to locations for our vampires. I put mine in northern Finland, just within the Arctic Circle, for the same reasons you put yours in Alaska. I love it when my readers say "Finland? Wow, that's different".

    However, for me it's always, always the characters that hit me first. Then I start to think about where they live and where the story should take place. Usually this is pretty easy for me because the main character actualytells me where they live. Haha.

    The plot always comes to me last. Sure, I get hit with an idea, but it's usually fuzzy and I have to build it up and iron out the details via outlining.

  11. I originally put my book in Barrow! Until I saw pictures and realized the topography wasn't going to work. Then someone told me about a comic book that was turned into a movie - 30 Days of Night - about vampires in Barrow... so I was glad I switched it!

    And no, I can't say Corinthian Leather ten times fast, but I can picture Ricardo doing it and it sounds lovely.

  12. Yeah, and he was a pretty hunky Kahn. Great pecs and abs. What a gentleman. He's one I wouldn't mind crank calling me in the middle of the night. I love accents.