Vampires Today: Smartphones

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One of the inspirations behind the trilogy that I’m working on, The End of Eternity, was this question: how would vampires exist in secret with smartphones being in nearly everyone’s hands? It is hard for anything to be secret these days since someone could easily film anything shocking, funny or controversial by whipping out their smartphones (be it an iPhone, Android…) and start filming.

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Image by Waldemar Merger via Flickr via Creative Commons

So let’s say you are someone who is aware that vampires might be real. You think so because you work in a city morgue, you are a crime scene investigator, or you’ve had personal experience with someone dying under mysterious circumstances, or you’ve seen enough evidence online to convince you. So you start to look for vampires, trying to find proof that they exist so you can share it with the world, thus exposing these hidden creatures of the night.

You are suspicious of some people because other hunters have pointed them out as possible vampires on social media sites or blogs or vampire hunter forums. You’ve seen their photos and now you see them in real life. They do look unusually pale, like they are very ill. So you follow them and see where they are headed. You are very careful not to be noticed, since you’ve heard the legends that these creatures have very strong senses.

And then it happens. Your possible vampire has found its prey. It has attacked the victim on a quiet, dark street with no one around (and assuming, no surveillance video cameras…more about that later) – except you. As the vampire stabs its fangs into the victim’s neck, you creep closer and start filming. There you go – all the proof in the world that vampires do exist and are killing people to feed on for their nourishment.

Sounds logical to some degree. Hopefully you get away in time or else the vampire would get you!

I think such a scenario is possible, and it makes me wonder how would vampires maintain their secrecy during these times of great technological advances? They could try to “come out” of the coffin as they did on True Blood, but that won’t be as easy as the TV series or the Sookie Stackhouse books portrayed it, in my opinion.

That was a question I had as I started this series, and it comes to light, so to speak, more so as I write the second book “Between Light and Dark”. Technology is working against vampires, so how would they cope? Their once great powers – heightened senses, mind reading and clearing, moving at super-fast speed, etc. – are now up against human technology which just keeps evolving. For the first time, it seems, humans are no longer at vampires’ mercy. Now it seems, the vampires and the humans are on equal level.

I would think the older the vampire is – as in, centuries or even millennia old – the more they struggle to cope. They had spent so many years confident in their powers that it is hard to believe that their prey is starting to outdo them. They might even be a bit clueless about the latest technology since they live separately from humans. They might even be in denial.

So, I explore this issue in “Between Light and Dark” as Claire copes with her new existence as a vampire. The title says it all – will Claire side with the vampires trying to cope with modern technology, or will she side with the human world she so longs for?

These blog entries would be like a series. I’ll be writing up about modern technology and how it inspired me to write about vampires. What kind of world would it be for them? Would they survive? How would they cope?

You’ll see…

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Who is Your Audience?

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Whenever an author sits down and works on their WIP, there are many important aspects that go into the project. From knowing the beginning, middle and end, to character development, and an idea of what the theme might be, it is imperative to have a few things in mind when working on a book (or script, or play…).

One of these other must-haves is…who is your audience?

Meaning, who are you writing for?

book reading book open

Image via Flickr via Creative Commons. Photo by Sam Greenhalgh.

You’re not really writing for yourself when you work on a book. It may feel like it, especially since writing a book is a one-person project – at least, until an editor gets involved. But yes, being an author is a solo project. So that is why it may feel like you are writing the book for you. After all, it was you who came up with the story idea. It was you who found the perfect names for your characters. It was you who can foresee how this story would end. Sounds like you are your own audience, right?

Nope!

Whether you know it or not, you are writing for other people. And these people are the ones you’d like to read your book. You can’t say that your book is for everyone because it is not. Yes, anyone could read it, but not everyone is going to like it. You want readers to like your book, and not for the sake of your ego. When someone reads a book, they are on a journey created by you, the author. So, who do you want to go on the journey with you?

That is when you become aware that you have to have a target audience in mind when you set out to write a book. Is your book for men or women? Young or old? Those are the basics.

Then you have to consider what your book is about and its theme. That’s when you begin to narrow it down to who your audience is. Writing a dark thriller? Your audience are people who can stomach it. Writing a sexy romance? Your audience are women who enjoy such stories. Writing a sci-fi/fantasy? Your audience are probably are what some call “nerds” who consider “The Lord of the Rings” their favorite trilogy and movies.

Then comes your theme, what makes it unique and what stands out about it. Take my first book for example. A young woman tries to cope with her vampire boyfriend forcing her to become a vampire, or else. So, that means my target audience is mostly young and female, those who like vampire stories and prefer evil vampires over the softer ones, and may enjoy a thriller-type of story. There you go. That was my audience.

Now, that is not to say other people who are not on that list would not want to read your book. I’ve had male readers, those who aren’t really into thriller-type stories, or one that does not have a happy ending. Anyone can read your book, but not all will like it – although there is always room for surprises!

Come to think of it, learning and understanding who your audience is, is the first step towards marketing your book. And all authors – whether indie or traditional – must be aware of the marketing aspect of their books. Since selling book is a business, you have to know who your audience is as you write your book.

And you cannot create your audience or force it. It comes naturally at times, as naturally as you writing your story. Meaning, as natural as it was for your own story to form in your mind and then on paper or Scrivener, your audience will be as organic. There’s no controlling aspect to it. You cannot control who your audience is. All you can do is write what you feel is in your instincts, and your audience will take shape along with it.

Those are my two cents 🙂

Are Vampires Passe?

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We all remember the vampire craze was not too long ago. With “Twilight” being all the rave, vampires were surely in style. Vampire books, movies and TV shows – particularly HBO’s True Blood – were very popular, and there was a wonder when the bubble would burst.

Eventually, the bubble did burst, or rather, the craze died down. It’s been several years since the last Twilight installment, “Breaking Dawn Part 2” was released in movie theaters, and since then, vampires have been off the radar in popular culture.

Or are they?

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Image via Pixabay via Creative Commons

While there are no mainstream vampire movies and TV shows out right now, and vampire books are not as popular as they used to be, there still is an audience for vampire lovers. That is my belief. I believe that there would always be readers of vampire books because some people simply adore the genre. For example, I just did a blog book tour specifically meant for paranormal book readers. That includes vampires. Even though these blood-suckers are not the trend at the moment, there are still those willing to read vampire stories.

That being said, though, it will be tougher for vampire books to sell these days. That is because they are not in style right now. That is discouraging, especially since I am almost done with the sequel to my vampire book.  I dread the fact that when I self-publish the sequel, it will not sell very well mainly because vampires might just be passe.

But are the passe for ever? Of course not. Trends come and do, and pop culture goes around in circles. Right now, vampires may not be as popular as they used to be, but eventually they will make a comeback and be popular, though to some degree. After all, there is talk of making Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles into a TV series. Now, if that happens, vampire will have a surge in popularity. Anne Rice is synonymous with vampires and just hearing her name again with these creatures will create high ratings for the TV series. I predict it may not be as popular as the Twilight series, but there will be an excitement for them.

I remember when I was in junior high, there was a strong popularity towards vampires. That was when Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire came out as a movie, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was also released into a movie with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder. Vampire books were popular at this time, particularly “The Last Vampire” by Christopher Pike, which served as an inspiration for me. There was a craze then, but that also died down, so to speak. And then came the Twilight books and movies, and we all know what happened next.

Trends come and go, but there will always be people doing their own thing. Vampires may not be as popular as they once were, but there are still people reading vampire books, watching the movies, and re-runs of the TV shows. Some people love these creatures of the night all on their own, and don’t need a trend to follow them. That gives me hope, and makes me realize vampires will always have a following, no matter what.

 

Why Do I Write?

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Happy (belated) New Year everyone! Sorry I’ve been off the radar lately. I was overwhelmed with end-of-the-semester work last month, plus I had flu-like symptoms. Then came the holidays and all the craziness that comes with it.

But here I am, and I have a little update for you regarding my WIP, the sequel to “The Dark Proposal”, “Between Light and Dark”: I have about two or three more chapters left in my draft! Isn’t that exciting?! There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears with this book, so I am thrilled to have gotten so far with it.  Pictofigo_Frustration

However, there have been times when I wondered why I was writing this story and putting so much effort into it. That led to me asking myself, ‘why do I write?’

Seriously, why do I tear myself apart over something like this?

Now, the first simple answer is, because I can’t not write.

Honestly, that is what drives me to some degree. I am constantly filled with story ideas and have been since I was a little girl. The slightest moment in life, song, TV show, movie, scene in a book, etc., can set off excitement in my brain as I think about a story idea I’ve had in my head since God knows when. Or it could give birth to a whole new story idea. And if I don’t write them down, I might actually burst. It actually feels that way.

OK, so that’s half the reason. That’s like the creative, spiritual-ish reason. But what is the more logical reason?

The logical reason would because I have something to say. When I wrote “The Dark Proposal”, I had something to say about abusive relationships and evil vampires. When I first set out to write “The Cats” (which I’ve set aside), I intended to address bullying. There are some things that need to be said and some things that need to be explored. That is the logical, more down-to-earth reason why I write.

And I plan to do a lot of writing this year. Once I finish “Between Light and Dark”, I am going to take a break from “The End of Eternity” trilogy, and go back to “The Cats”. I also intend to jump on the screenplay bandwagon, and work on a love story idea that has been nagging me for a while. And then I have other ideas for novels and screenplays.

So many ideas, so little time it seems.

But it is still January, and I have plenty of time to get these three writing projects off the ground. I fully plan to make writing stories my career someday. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that, though it would quadruple the amount of blood, sweat and tears that I am currently experiencing. Writing a story is hard work, and there’s no easy formula to it. Sometimes I feel like I’m crazy for wanting to do all this.

But I also know that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

In other words, I didn’t choose to write – writing chose me. Frankly speaking, but it certainly feels like that.

So, getting back to my first reason – I can’t not write – no matter how often I want to give up, I know there’s no else in the world I’d rather do.

So be it.

“The Dark Proposal” – on tour at Bewitching Book Tours

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Hey everyone!

This week, “The Dark Proposal” is out on tour at Bewitching Book Tours! This is an opportunity to get the word out about my book, as well as stir up excitement for “Between Light and Dark”.

Special thanks to Roxanne Rhoads for arranging this tour 🙂

Here’s a look at the schedule. Please stop by to show your support!

January 15 JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder (Interview)
January 15 Fang-tastic Books (Interview)
January 16 I Smell Sheep (Guest Blog)
January 16 Paranormalists
January 17 Roxanne’s Realm (Guest Blog)
January 17 Share My Destiny
 
January 18 Urban Fantasy Investigations (Guest Blog)
January 18 Lisa’s Loves Books of Course
January 18 Supernatural Central (Interview)
January 19 SImply Kelina
January 19 Lisa’s World of Books
January 22 Lisa-Queen of Random
January 22 Rabid Readers Book Blog

The Theme Song to The Dark Proposal’s Sequel

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I love creating playlists to all my story ideas; my iPod is full of such playlists. In the past, I have discussed what songs would play if “The Dark Proposal” had a soundtrack, and the song that inspired its sequel.

By the way, the title of the long-awaited sequel is “Between Light and Dark” 🙂

Anyway, I recently got into the music of BlutEngel – a German goth band that sings a lot about vampires, darkness and other goth topics. One of their most recent songs, “Welcome to Your New Life”, really seems to capture what Claire faces in “Between Light and Dark” as she is now a vampire, and is struggling to adjust as one.

Now, there doesn’t seem to be an official music video of the song, but I did find this on Daily Motion. I really like this song, especially as the music intensely builds and builds, and the singers tell about the new life – one that Claire now has.

Enjoy!

Being a Vampire Would Probably Suck

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Before I begin, I want to give a huge thank you to The Indie Book Butler for featuring The Dark Proposal on its website and social media, as well as interviewing me for its site. Thanks Paul!!!

OK, here goes…

Vampires seem to be the envy of many humans. They get to be immortal, have superpowers, be beautiful and sexy, and have access to endless wealth and glamour. Being a vampire sounds fun, although it some cases you miss out on the sunlight.

But what if being a vampire is not what it is cracked up to be?

A couple of years ago, I came across an article on how death makes life more meaningful. Without it, life is pointless. In other words, immortality brings on aimlessness, boredom and humility. After all, if you were to live forever, what would you live for? Most people hope to achieve certain things before they die, and spend their lives working on their legacy. If you were always going to be around, then what’s the point of leaving behind a legacy? Instead of being concerning about how you’d be remembered, probably all that will concern you would be your reputation. And that will depend on the politics and social norms of the vampire world.

Photo by
Rikard Elofsson
via Flickr

I found this PDF from the Journal of Philosophy of Life, which most likely discusses the article I found two years ago. In it, the belief that death gives meaning to life are discussed. Although it is pointed out that many people spend their lives running away from death and live like they’ll always be around, the idea that death haunts us into making our lives purposeful is seriously pondered. Such suggestions as death being a motivator for us to do something with our lives, or to do good towards others, or to be less bored with living in itself, are talked about here. Give it a read, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, finding and reading that article two years ago motivated me to work on the sequel to The Dark Proposal. Because it got me thinking on what would it be like if you were immortal. I had always thought if I were to be immortal, I would have endless fun and live a hedonistic, laidback life. I would have nothing to fear because death will never come to me.

Now, I portray my vampires living that way. They’re very hedonistic and don’t have much goals except for defending their kind, becoming as rich as possible, drinking blood every night, having sex in so many styles, and so on. Yes, some have jobs or live artsy lives, but that is seemingly to pass the time, to blend in with humans, and to make money legitimately. But they have no goals to work their way up the workplace ladder or anything. If any of my vampires had such goals, it would be to work their way up the hierarchy to become Defenders of the Blood (more about that another time).

But that’s about it, though. When it comes to love and relationships, there is no “till death do us part” because death just isn’t thought of for vampires, even though it is a possibility. Therefore, there probably wouldn’t be a lot of relationship goals, so to speak, since these beings have eternity. There is also no children to bear and raise, so nix that idea. And since there’s no pregnancy or threats of STIs, then there’s hedonistic sex galore in this world!

With that in mind, it sounds like a vampire would be coasting along in life, doing a few things here and there just to pass the time and to secure the existence of vampires. Their world is completely separate from humans, and they don’t think much of the humans they are feeding on. Humans are the source of consumption; no need to get involved in their world unless it benefits the vampire’s.

So, with all this mind, what would be the meaning of life for a vampire? What would be the point? Endless fun may get boring after a while, especially with nothing being taboo. Defending the existence of vampires may prove worthy, but then comes the question of what is the point of being a vampire? The way I wrote my vampires, it is to escape death and be godlike. Basically, vampires live in fear of death and being weak. That is what motivated the Five Brothers to bring forth vampirism, though they didn’t realize what they were getting themselves into; they just thought they were going to be blessed by their ancient tribal gods to be just like them. Instead, they were cursed with not being in the daylight for many centuries, and to spend eternity warding, and fighting, off humans. All for what?

Furthermore, it also must be lonely to be a vampire. Being surrounded by the same group of people for centuries must get irritating, though I could also imagine, it would be heartwarming since you’d have a long history with all these beings. As Daniel told Claire, they are a tribe.

So, living in harmony, side by side, for centuries, living in complete hedonism and on guard to defend their kind. And once it is safe to venture into the sunlight more and more, a vampire would discover humans are evolving in a way to fight them off more and more. Technology and knowledge keeps developing, and soon, a vampire finds they are unable to fight off humans, and the true death awaits.

That’s basically the crux of my vampire trilogy. I cannot imagine life being a charm for a vampire. It could be on the surface, and on a shallow scale. But deep down, at its core, a vampire’s life has little meaning.

In that way, the vampire is cursed. Cursed to live a life without life.

 

Writing Tip: It is OK to Change Course

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Hey,

Sorry I’ve been off the radar for about a month. I was super busy with teaching and freelancing, and of course, writing. Despite my crazy schedule, I still find the time to write, even if it simple editing or a paragraph or two. I am determined to finish my second book, and am enjoying the process while I’m at it.

Photo by Craig Chew-Moulding on Flickr via Creative Commons

That is not to say there hasn’t been bumps in the road. No, I’m not talking about this one and that one. I’m talking about the struggle to write at times. Working on this project has not been a free-flowing experience, nor has it been easy and fun. There has been doubts and overanalyzing over which scene should go next, or whether a scene works at all, or should this argument happen or not, and so on. Writing is both an art and a science, I believe. The artistic part comes when the muse does all the work and there’s stream of consciousness while writing. The scientific comes when you step back and wonder whether everything is working out just fine.

Recently, I was having problems with some scenes and even entire chapters. I felt what I had written was boring and dull, and the story was not going where I wanted it to go. As you might recall, I created a spreadsheet to outline my WIP. I had outlined the entire book with a spreadsheet, and I was trying to stick to it as loyally as I could.

But this weekend, I realized it is OK to not stick to the course, and to go off course with the outline. Once I did, I had a grand time writing – putting in 1800 words in a couple of hours, and thoroughly excited about where my story is headed. I still hope to get back on course, in terms of my spreadsheet, but I think what I’ve written has spiced things up, so to speak (no, I’m not talking about a sex scene at this point).

So, here’s my latest writing tip: it is OK to change the course. Sometimes the muse knows just what she is doing.

 

Does Social Media Help Sell Books?

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If you’re a newcomer author, you probably have heard that you need to establish a social media presence in order to sell your books. It may seem daunting if you are unfamiliar with how social media works when it comes to selling something, but it can be easily be learned. It also can be easily learned that some of what you hear about selling books via social media may not be true.

Image by Blogtrepreneur via Flickr

During the five years since I released my first book, I’ve learned a lot about how social media works, in terms of business. So, in this post, I am going to give my thoughts and opinions on the whole social media thing. Remember, this is based on my experience.

First things first: no, you are not going to sell books via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the others.

You might have heard people tell you to provide links to your books on these social media platforms, and constantly provide these links, in order to have success as an author. But that is not how it works. In my experience, very few people are going to click on a link on Twitter or Google+, and go to Amazon or Smashwords, let alone actually buy your book. Those social media posts may come across as spam for a lot of people.

In my opinion, the best time to ever provide links to your book(s) on social media is when you have a sale, a big promo going on, or something seasonal may attract people to that link. For example, it’s October, and my books is about vampires. Since it is the month of all things dark and spooky, I will tweet a few times a link to my book on Amazon or Goodreads. It may not work; it may come across as spam. But it doesn’t hurt. I just will only do it a handful of times.

In the meantime, I better do something else with my social media presence. I need to add more content to my feeds in order to draw attention to my authorship. And that is what social media is all about: drawing attention to something. Whether it is a person, a business, a promotion, whichever – social media announces, “I am here!” And that helps get word out about your books.

Remember, selling books is a business. Writing is a craft, an art. Selling the work is a business, and social media is a big part of how businesses sell their products.

It is a way to interact with followers that could lead to sales. It is also a way to meet other people in the same field. I’ve met quite a few other authors through social media. Eventually, word gets out about your book(s) and people may just pick them up and read them.

But no, social media does not sell books. Don’t count on it, don’t rely on it.

You are probably wondering if blogging – which is form of social media – sells books. Well, I’ve had a few sales that way, but not a lot. But that is not why I blog; I do not blog to sell books. I blog to get the word out about myself as an author. I blog because it is my way of talking to people. I blog to start conversations with other authors. I blog because it is fun.

That being said, I am going to start a new way of reaching people: starting next week, I am going to vlog – meaning video blog. I am going to set up a YouTube channel where I would be doing the same thing I do here, only I’ll be speaking rather than typing/writing. No, I won’t stop blogging altogether. I like this blog, and I want to keep it going. I’ll just be finding a new way to reach people as I continue on as an author. That will happen sometime around next week.

In the meantime, I will continue using social media to get the word about myself and my book(s). And you do the same. Fill your channels with content related to you and your work. Let others get to know you. That may help – just help! – sell your work.

 

Scenes of Brutality: What Are We Thinking?

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Before I get started, I know I mentioned that I would be writing my weekly posts on Mondays. However, it looks like Tuesdays work better for my schedule. So for now on, expect posts from me on Tuesdays.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

So, I am currently watching the Starz series Outlander on Amazon. For those who do not know, it is about a 1940s Englishwoman, Claire Beauchamp, who is transported back two hundreds in 18th century Scotland. Since this is the 1740s, there’s a lot of brutality going on, especially with a captain of the English army in Scotland, “Black Jack” Randall, who tortures the Scottish people left and right. There’s even a scene where Claire’s husband, Jamie Fraser, is tortured and then raped by Randall.

Now, I didn’t read the books that this series is based on, but I understand that the show is closely based on the books written by Diana Gabaldon. If so, it makes me wonder why she would put in a scene where a man graphically rapes another man. Yes, there are a lot of male-on-female rapes, floggings and beatings in Outlander, but it is easy to brush them off as that was the time period back then. But that scene has been haunting me. I guess it is because I’m one of those who has grown attached to Claire and Jamie, and couldn’t tolerate Jamie being tortured that way. Yes, Claire was raped or almost raped herself, but the show didn’t graphically display that as much as Jamie.

It also haunts me because last week, I was working on my WIP, which picks up where Claire McCormick and Daniel Poncher are in the trilogy. I was writing feverishly and in a stream-of-consciousness way. As a result, I ended up writing a part where Daniel graphically rapes Claire. Yeah, I did that. I went there.

Now, there are other scenes when Daniel does that, but it is not as brutal and more of a coerced sex way. But when I wrote that part, I was so bothered and disturbed that I had done that, and I ended up deleting it. Watching that scene on Outlander helped me do so.

Which has me thinking about why we writers write such graphic scenes, and just what the hell are we thinking? When I wrote that scene in my WIP, I was rattled and wondered if I have a sadistic side of me somewhere deep in my sub-conscious. I have to admit part of me felt truly satisfied with that scene, and was disappointed when I deleted it. I am now considering adding it back in.

Is there something wrong with me? Do I love torturing my characters? Am I sadistic somehow?

Heck, it makes you wonder if someone like George R. R. Martin, the author of the books that would inspire the HBO series, Game of Thrones, is sadistic. I mean, all of his characters go through hell, and some get brutally raped or brutally murdered. It is enough to leave readers and viewers shaken.

So, what are we writers thinking? Are we cruel? Or just going along with the muses in our heads?

I think the bottom line is whether these brutal scenes are worth it for the entire story. If it does not add something to the whole story, however violent it is, then it is pointless – and even sadistic. Perhaps what should be more disturbing is how violent human nature is, and we writers are just representing and expressing that in our work. If human nature were not so cruel and barbaric itself, then maybe we would not write such things.

But what of the satisfaction that comes with writing those parts? I think the reason why part of me was satisfied with the now-deleted scene where Daniel rapes Claire is because it flowed so well, from one action to another and another. The part before Daniel attacks Claire had me excited because there was so much emotion and action going on. But once I wrote the rape part, I was like, ‘what have I done?”

Is it worth having in the story? I don’t know yet, I’m still debating. But one thing I’ve been learning while watching Outlander, and even other shows, is that writers aren’t really sadists. Human nature is, and so are our muses. We’re just writing what works for the story and the characters, and what is streaming out of our consciousness.

But it is also vital for us to wonder whether all the violence is gratuitous and even worth portraying at all.