Dracula: Left or Right? And Where Twilight Went Wrong

Beyond Every Mirror

Last week, a friend called me with a great idea for a TV show she wants to pitch to Netflix. She was contacting me because, a) She is a huge fan of my fiction, so she wishes to have me co-write with the scriptwriter for the show, and b) Because of my knowledge of horses (around which the show will revolve). All this aside, we got talking about my books, vampire books in general and then about why she loves my books (other than reviews, we authors rarely hear why people love, or even hate, our books). Of course Anne Rice came into the conversation. My books have been compared to Anne Rice’s, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. But the fact is, I am not Anne Rice (I wish I had her fame and money though); I am my own writer with my own style.

In any event, the reason Anne Rice came to play in our conversation was not to compare my books to hers (a first), but to make a point. My friend started with reference to Dracula. “Dracula was the start,” she said. “He’s the pinnacle of vampire fiction.” The culmination of all things vampire. Several vampire genres made their way into the conversation, including, of course, Twilight. “Twilight is what vampire fiction shouldn’t be!” She went on to explain that she, like most vampire fans (particularly adults), like vampires who stay on the basic Dracula path, taking their own road but remaining either to the left or right of it.

Twilight, for example, is nowhere near it! It has its own road and I have found that vampire lovers either love it or hate it. Since it’s geared towards young adults, who usually haven’t had a ton of exposure to vampire fiction of all kinds through many years, they can accept sparkling blood drinkers who don’t bleed when you cut off an appendage.

Anne Rice, on the other hand, parallels Dracula in many ways, as Dracula is one heck of a horrifying romance. Many consider the relationship between Louis, Lestat and Claudia a sort of difunctional sexual family, even though Anne Rice’s vampires can’t have sex in a traditional way. Then, of course, there’s the blood exchange. That’s where Twilight falls short; These are vampires… where’s the blood? (said in the same vein as the “Where’s the beef?” lady (Clara Peller) of 1984)

My friend made it clear that most vampire stories fall short of Dracula in too many ways, but mine are on the other parallel of Dracula, along the same (once again) vein as Anne Rice, yet quite different. “They are both unique but don’t stray too far from the original vampire stories.”

I thought it might be fun to make a chart comparing our vampires and the basic “Dracula” rules… Just the vampires mentioned here. I know many many vampire authors exist out there, but I can’t compare them all, so I will stick to Ms. Rice, Dracula and, yes, Twilight, to my vampires (I know, I am not famous yet, but It’s my Blog and I’ll say what I want to..” (think “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore, 1963). I also, believe it or not, read little vampire fiction. I have trouble liking most of the characters. I have read True Blood, Dracula, Dracula-like books, Vampire Chronicles, and Christine Feehan. I used to read older vampire fiction, such as by romance authors Karen E. Taylor and Maggie Shayne (and others).

Check out the chart below:

Fate of the True Vampires

 


CHART

DRACULA VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

 

TWILIGHT

 

FATE OF THE TRUE VAMPIRES

 

Drinks Human Blood YES             YES          YES
Turns into animals/mist, whatever…  NO             NO           NO

(Today, it seems, shifters have their own genres and vampires don’t fit that category any longer)

Killed by sun (No) YES No, they only sparkle!! (NOTE: How can something that drinks blood to exist be made of… what are they made of… alloy??) Most.

(rare exceptions can walk in sun)

(In the original “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, 1897, Dracula could go out in daylight.
It wasn’t until the movie “Nosferatu” (1922) that vampires were depicted as being killed by sunlight)

Can Fly (as a bat or other winged animal only) YES
( as themselves, but only certain powerful ones have this ability)
NO           NO
Can’t see self in mirror They CAN see selves in mirrors They can see selves Can see selves in mirrors

(so, apparently the mirror reflection thing is gone from most vampire fiction today)

Repelled by crosses/crucifixes Nope. As Louis says, “I’m quite fond of looking at crucifixes” NO NO.

Originals were considered Gods and existed long before Christianity

Tragic romance plot      Some believe IWTV was romantic (and tragic). Other “romance” can be found in other books in series. No tragic…anything! Multiple romances throughout the series. Some tragic.
Evil, scary vampires Some could be considered “evil” None (not even the bad guys are scary) Some might call Yin evil

 


WRITERS: Write a better novel in 5 steps

I like to read self-published authors. However, and unfortunately, I find that at least 85% of what I read doesn’t hold my attention for more than a paragraph, maybe two. Most people will read the very beginning of your book (some will try through a page or more, others may stop at the first sentence). If there’s nothing there to capture them, they stop. Just TELLING a story is not enough. And telling is what I am finding all too often in self-published books. The problem I have also found is that, because self-published books are so dominant on places like Amazon, and it’s so easy to toss a book up there no matter what its content, readers are beginning to look at faster plots and writing. They’re forgetting what good prose really looks like, or think it’s “too flowery.” I am not saying you need to write “purple prose,” but if you truly want something memorable that readers will get so drawn into, they will forget the world around them and be sad when the story ends, then keep these tips in mind.
  1. Start your novel with true HOOK. For example, someone walking down the street is only interesting if they are being followed and the writing SHOWS how your characters feels, what they think, sights, smells, etc. around them. Make us FEEL how they feel. Get us into their head.
  2. SHOW don’t tell. This is almost a cliche today, yet it holds true more today than ever. In my 30+ years writing, publishing and reading, I have never read more crap than what is out there today. The characters are just going along, doing things, thinking a few things, talking, but there’s NO sense of urgency, nothing to draw me into the story. I read the first few paragraphs to get a sense of the author’s writing style and if something catches my attention, I keep reading. 90% of the books (particularly self-published) that I read do not make me read any further.
  3. Have a VOICE. Each character should have their own distinct voice and personality. Don’t forget character quirks. We all have them.
  4. Write your first draft any way you want. Edit on your next drafts, making each edit like building a person from the skeleton up. And don’t stop building until you have a WHOLE person. Don’t leave your character without skin.
  5. Be UNIQUE. It’s ok if you want to write the new Twilight, but don’t copy Stephenie Meyer. That’s been done. Find a new angle, unique characters and a different story. Make it YOURS.
Make sure to give yourself TIME in between drafts. Let the book “cool” so you can go at it with fresh eyes. I have made the mistake of putting a book out too soon, so I get it, I really do. But, it’s vital to be patient.

How Your Cat Will Sell Your Writing

Right now, you are calling me crazy! RIGHT? A CAT… a feline…selling your books, stories, and all else you may put on paper (or keyboard).

You can use your cat to advertise your books!

See the photo to the left? This is my cat, Lucy and she is what I call my “spokescat” for my novels. I have also written and had published, several books on the care of cats, so it’s natural for me to “use” my cats in this way.

Why cats? Well, everyone loves cute kitties on the internet. Cat pictures and videos are extremely popular and draw people’s attention. So, you too can draw attention not only to your cute cat (the cuter your cat the better. Kittens are ideal), but to your book(s) at the same time. Here’s a few tips:

  1. A good camera or cell phone. As a photographer as well as a writer, I can get some pretty nice pictures of my cat (I almost always use Lucy, though I have 9 cats. Lucy is the ham) with my professional camera, but you don’t have to be a professional photographer. You can use your Smartphone. The better the camera on your cell phone, the better the picture. The LG G5 has a nice camera with manual settings. If you know how to use manual settings, this is a great choice so you can adjust the brightness, coloration, etc.
  2. Find the best location.  I like to take photos either in front of a window where there’s a nice artistic reflection, a mirror for the same reason, or somewhere with a nice, uncluttered background. The most important thing to remember is background!! You want your subjects (cat and book) to stand out. Don’t place your scene somewhere that will distract from your subject.
  3.  Marketing. Keep in mind, the purpose for all of this is marketing! It’s great to have fun, but in the long haul you want to be sure whomever is looking at your photo will find your BOOK attractive (it’s great for the cat to be attractive, but it’s the BOOK you are selling).
  4.  Art. Yes, this is a way to advertise, but you want people to stop and pay attention to your photo! Try to make it as artistic as possible.

    If you have a camera or even a phone that allows “depth of field” you can create some cool ads.

Take look at this photo. This book has been on the top seller list on Amazon, and has also won an award. Though I used my professional camera to make it appear more artistic, I also threw in the logos of its winnings. In this photo the cat is focussed and the book (which was behind her) is blurred, yet you can still clearly see the title. “Depth of field,” in the absolute plainest sense, means that whatever is closest to you is clear and farthest away is blurred. It gives an almost 3D effect and gives your photo more professionalism.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful. I will have more coming up. I like to use my photography along with my writing to advertise my book.

Just remember, the cat you use matters as well. If you have only one cat, you haven’t much of a choice. But, if like me, you have a house full, use the cutest and/or the most responsive and easy to work with cat.

 

NOTE:  This is IMPORTANT. NEVER force your cat to do anything he/she doesn’t want to do. If your cat seems agitated, give up. Soometimes the use of treats can help. Make the sessions short. And ALWAYS be patient with your kitty!!

www.christinechurch.net

Author:

Sands of Time, Fate of the True Vampires, Book One
The Early Scrolls, Book Two

Beyond Every Mirror, Book One
Anachronistic Dimensions Trilogy


Self-Publishing the Hard Way!

After 30 years as a writer, I decided to self-publish! Of course, all self-publishing sites make it seem so easy, and give the impression you’ll be a rich and famous author with all the cards in your deck in no time at all. I am laughing only because this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Oh sure, you can go to one of those companies that does it ALL for you, spend a few thousand and, Voila! you have your book, but I am poor and on disability. I had NO money at all to spend on publishing. In my quest to be a self-published novelist, I made a LOT of mistakes (including thinking it would cost nothing to get my book published). Hopefully, you won’t make the same boo boos.

Sands of Text SE

  1. Thinking I “knew it all.” No one knows it all. But, having spent so many years in traditional publishing, I was sure self-publishing would be a breeze and I would know what I was doing. Wrong! In the beginning, I didn’t even know where to go, much less what to do once I got there. Who to choose to publish your masterpiece is up to you. I eventually was led to Amazon Createspace (because I was accustomed to paperback publishing). And that led me to Kindle Direct.
  2. Formatting for self-publishing. In traditional publishing, it’s all the same; you format every manuscript you write in the same manner. All agents and editors expect your manuscript formatted in this way, whether you are printing or sending a digital copy. All of a sudden I found myself having to take my manuscripts and turn them into formatted books. This is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Back in the day when many of my manuscripts were written (but not published), it was necessary to place two spaces after every period, every sentence needed to be double spaced, using a 12 pt font of a common nature (like Times New Roman). I used Createspace’s template creator, removed the formatting, then had to copy, paste and reformat all over again. And of course I wanted it to look pretty, and professional, so I grabbed some traditionally published books by big names and learned. Again, much harder than one would imagine. E-books…fo’ge’abou’it! I could not for the longest time figure out how I was supposed to format an e-book, so I scraped up what cash I could and paid to have it done. I am finally learning, and now doing it myself, but still going about learning.
  3. Covers. This is an area where I was told over and over and over, through articles, other writers, designers and courses, get a professional! The thing is, I was creating e-book covers for authors since e-books first came out.  Thus, I have always created my own covers. Yet, still I made mistakes in this area. Fortunately, I belong to a Facebook group full of professional designers. Though some were rather cruel on some of my first mistakes, most were quite helpful, and I paid attention. Another learning curve! Now, I create covers for indie authors on tight budgets, because I know what it’s like to be poor.
  4. Editors. Editors are extremely expensive! I did this myself as well, and when people read my books, they are amazed at the lack of grammatical mistakes. Don’t be… editing is an ability with which I was born! I was always an A+ student in English. As for editing for content, beta readers love to get free advanced copies of books from authors they read. They give me feedback, catch possible plot holes and keep me on track. My feedback, reviews and track records tell me that I am pretty darn good at doing this myself, but could still use a tad bit of “an editor’s eye.” I agree. But, once again, no money=no expensive editor.
  5. Marketing! This is the BIG one!!  This is the area where I did everything wrong! I am still struggling with marketing. Of course, I thought I would get my book up on Amazon, tell a few people on social media, and Voila! Instant fame. Ummm… no! I maxed ALL of my credit cards and got nowhere. I planned to take ALL sales from my books and use it to market, all the while building my list of books. That’s not happening either. See, it’s a catch 22… if you have no money for marketing, then you can’t market. If you don’t market, you sell no books, and around and around it goes. And when LIFE interferes and suddenly you find ALL your royalties (as few as they are) need to go to an external source, rather than back into marketing, well…. Quite a dilemma occurs. So far, the only answer I have come up with is to WRITE more books, publish more and do what you can for marketing! Which, for me, is not much (even though I am on a time limit to make a LOT more money from my books before I can afford to use the excess royalties for marketing). Yeah, it’s complicated!  Ok, pay attention, because I have spent FAR more money than I have to learn this:  Book Tours are a GREAT way to get started. If you want to grab a fast audience, get yourself going on a cyber book tour with a giveaway, guest posts and GREAT descriptions of your books! The problem with tours and other such marketing ploys is they are only temporary. But, they can give you something with which to start! From there, however, you will need to learn to market SMART. This, I am still learning and will be for another post later on. HINT: Learn Facebook marketing!

Those are my 5 biggest mistakes and learns. I will elaborate more as I continue with my own lessons. If I make a faux pas, I will try to explain how you can avoid the same.

Oh…. and make sure you have a cat!! Cats are terrific muse-enhancers. Trust me! The BEST writers have cats.


Cat in the Book and the Birth of a Novel

If your cats are as much family to you as my cats are to me, and you’re writing a book, even a fiction novel, you can put your cats into your book as characters. Anne Rice put her dog Mojo in several of her vampire books as her character Lestat’s companion. George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) even wrote his turtles into one of his books. It’s not strange, nor is it corny. So, if you’re thinking about adding your favorite feline into a novel, go right ahead. I actually placed several of my cats, a dog who passed on and my horse into my latest novel, Beyond Every Mirror.

When I wrote the story (which began as a short story) in 1980 (yes, 1980)… I was a young teen in school. I sat in the back of the class and wrote many short stories. This one in particular, however, remained within my heart and was very special. It never left me, so 16 years later, I turned it into a novel. In the novel version, I wrote in my cat Sammy, my favorite cat at the time. I love all my cats, but sometimes one cat in particular holds a bit of a special place just above the others. For me this was my Sammy.

Sammy

Sammy was the first of my own cats to put into a novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also placed my Doberman at the time, Dillinger. I loved horses, so I added a horse, though back then I did not own a horse yet, so I made one up. I took one of my favorite breeds, an Andalusian (black rather than the typical white), and named him Camelot.

Unfortunately, the first few drafts of my novel went nowhere and the book ended up in a drawer (so to speak). I had pitched the novel at conferences I attended in the 1990’s and early 2000’s but the cross-genre (fantasy-romance) did not yet exist, and no one was willing to put their money on a newbie author in a genre that was not there.

Finally, after quite a few years, not only did the genre finally come into the marketplace, but it was growing by leaps and bounds. It was time to “dust off” Beyond Every Mirror and do a re-write, then try again. I attended a writer’s conference and spoke with an agent and an editor, who both showed quite a bit of interest in the book. But I wanted to re-work it first. It was so old and outdated and I needed to bring up to the times.

Enter Phase Three of this book’s life. I pretty much rewrote the entire book! My writing skills had grown massively during this time and I knew what I wanted to do to change the book around. By this time, both Sammy and Dillinger had long passed on, and I wanted to put my present kitties into the book, the last Doberman I had (who was extraordinarily unique) and of course, my horse!

I placed many cats, not just one, into the book. Sammy was still there, of course, but my kitten Lucy and several of my other precious felines made their way into the pages of this novel. Though I still kept Camelot in the book, I knew by this time that keeping one horse is almost an impossibility (and to a herd animal, cruel in some ways), so I gave Camelot an elder horse friend… My elder Paint, Kobeejo!

Kobeejo

My registered Paint horse, Kobeejo, was added to the book, as a companion to an imaginary horse that made it into the first drafts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is finally complete, all animals accounted for, and I am doing a once-more read-over, then printing a B&W draft to send to friends, media and others in order to get blurbs and opinions before I send the manuscript off to the agent and editor who had asked for it originally. You can sometimes find adventures of the animals within the main character’s blog, Dane’s Dark Myst.

So, don’t be afraid to “write what you know” and add your pets to your books. It may help keep them immortalized.

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Read the Blog: Dane’s Dark Myst

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The Whole Truth

House Cat

House Cat Revised Edition

Whenever anyone asks me how I got my first book (House Cat) published, and I relay to them the story, they are amazed. The truth of the matter is, it took me years of rejections, sending out, getting the same replies, trying different things, rewriting and more before I was miraculously accepted…

I am not telling you this to try and discourage you, but I have to be honest. If your heart is not in it and you don’t plan to persevere, chances are you won’t get very far. And the market is harder today than it was in 1997 when my first book was accepted.

Let me tell you what happened. I had written a book on the care of cats…indoor cats to be exact, and I was sending it out to agents and editors. I knew nothing about publishing a book and the proposal I was mailing out was lame to say the least; skimpy, with little information except a half a page about the book, some marketing ideas, my bio (which at the time was sparse) and a chapter by chapter outline. Back then there was really no such thing as e-mail queries. It was all done through “snail mail.”

I had a few nibbles, one in the form of an agent who said if I made a few of her suggested changes she would “see” if she could find someone who might be interested. Apparently she mentioned it briefly when she was having lunch with an editor about another project. There was no enthusiasm there, so she sent me a letter saying “thanks but no thanks,” as well as the usual response of “There are already too many cat care books on the market.” (But mine was different, I thought for the umpteenth time, it was about the care of INDOOR cats, which at the time was very rare). She had been one of the last on my list that accepted such a book, so I put the manuscript away… for a time.

Several years later, I was speaking to a friend and asked her if her editor might like my book. She said it would be ok to use her name in sending it to her editor. And so off it went. Months went by and I heard nothing, so I contacted my friend. “She moved to another publishing house,” my friend told me. Nice, I thought, just leave and never bother responding.

I contacted the editor via e-mail at her new house and she told me she had to pass on my book. “There are too many cat care books on the market,” I was told. Ugh! So, I asked her if she thought the editor that had taken her old position might be interested. Her reply was a pretty definite no. Thus, I decided not to query this new editor.

The very next day I received a snail mail letter in the mail. It was in a familiar #10 envelope… a self addressed stamped envelope as is typical to send to an editor for a reply to your query. I opened it up, curious, as I didn’t remember having anything out there at the time. You could have knocked me over with a feather! It was from the new editor that I had decided not to query. She had found my proposal in the previous editor’s rejection pile and thought the market most definitely needed a book on indoor cats (out of 200 rejections, she chose two books to accept, mine and a pen pal of mine at the time, who wrote a book on stray cats).

A year later that book was published in hard cover, was a best seller in Great Britain and led me to many more books and publishing projects. And to top it off, the old editor came back in a different position to the publishing house and I got to meet her when I went down there to have lunch with “my” editor! She admitted she was wrong to reject my book.

So, the moral to the story is, you never know! Don’t take rejection personally. Just because one or even ten editors and agents say no to your project doesn’t mean it’s not good. It means either they don’t see the market potential (which is what happened in my case), they are swamped and your manuscript simply doesn’t spark enough enthusiasm for them to take it on, or they simply have a different taste.

Remember, editors and agents are people too. As you won’t like every novel you read, even if it’s good writing, neither will they.


The Whole Truth

Whenever anyone asks me how I got my first book published, and I relay to them the story, they are amazed. The truth of the matter is, it took me years of rejections, sending out, getting the same replies, trying different things, rewriting and more before I was miraculously accepted…

 I am not telling you this to try and discourage you, but I have to be honest. If your heart is not in it and you don’t plan to persevere, chances are you won’t get very far (unless you are one of the lucky few who seem to “make it” overnight). And the market is harder today than it was in 1997 when my first book was accepted.  Let me tell you what happened.

I had written a book on the care of cats…indoor cats to be exact, and I was sending it out to agents and editors. I knew nothing about publishing a book and the proposal I was mailing out was lame to say the least; skimpy, with little
information except a half a page about the book, some marketing ideas, my bio (which at the time was sparse) and a chapter by chapter outline. Back then there was really no such thing as e-mail queries. It was all done through “snail mail.”

I had a few nibbles, one in the form of an agent who said if I made a few of her suggested changes she would “see” if she could find someone who might be interested. Apparently she mentioned it briefly when she was having lunch with an editor about another project. There
was no enthusiasm there, so she sent me a letter saying “thanks but no thanks,” as well as the usual response of; “There are already too many cat care books on the market.” (But mine was different, I thought for the umpteenth time, it was about the care of INDOOR cats, which at the time was very rare). She had been one of the last on my list that accepted such a book, so I put the manuscript away… for a time.

Several years later, I was speaking to a friend and asked her if her editor might like my book. She said it would be ok to use her name in sending it to her editor. And so off it went. Months went by and I heard nothing, so I contacted my friend. “She moved to another publishing
house,” my friend told me. Nice, I thought, just leave and never bother responding.

I contacted the editor via e-mail at her new House and she told me she had to pass on my book. “There are too many cat care books on the market,” I was told. Ugh! So, I asked her if she thought the editor that had taken her old position might be interested. Her reply was a pretty definite no. Thus, I decided not to query this new editor.

The very next day I received a snail mail letter in the mail. It was in a familiar #10 envelope… a self addressed stamped envelope as is typical to send to an editor for a reply to your query. I opened it up, curious, as I didn’t remember having anything out there at the
time. You could have knocked me over with a feather! It was from the new editor that I had decided not to query. She had found my proposal in the previous editor’s rejection pile and thought the market most definitely needed a book on indoor cats (out of 200 rejections in that slush pile, she chose two books to accept; mine and a pen pal of mine at the time, who wrote a book on stray cats).


A year later that book was published in hard cover, was a best seller in Great Britain and led me to many more books and publishing projects. And to top it off, the old editor came back, for a different position, to the publishing house.  I met her when I went down to NYC to have lunch with “my” editor! She admitted she was wrong to reject my book.

So, the moral to the story is, you never know! Don’t take rejection personally. Just because one or even ten editors and agents say no to your project doesn’t mean it’s not good. It means either they don’t see the market potential (which is what happened in my case), they are
swamped and your manuscript simply doesn’t spark enough enthusiasm for them to take it on, or they simply have a different taste.

Remember, editors and agents are people too. As you won’t like every novel you read, even if it’s good writing, neither will they.