Saturday, November 10, 2007

A little Saturday night ramble

I'm way ahead of schedule on NaNoWriMo and have finished the books I planned to review this week so my mind has been flitting around like a butterfly and keeps landing on the same subject: vampires. I know. It's pretty much a given that vampires are in now and will be out later and will come around and be popular again in a year or two -- or do they ever really go out of style? I blame my ruminations on Ray Bradbury and reading his short stories (I got a new book: One More For the Road), which always send my mind following thoughts of all kinds, and we're back to vampires again.

Part of this is also due to the new prime time vampire show, Moonlight. The two stars aren't even American, but they do great American accents (Sophia Myles is British and Alex O'Loughlin is Australian) and they are very nice to watch. Sophia isn't a stick insect and Alex is delectable.

The show also has *gasp* an American playing Josef Kostantin who is a very young (25) vampire over 400 years old who is the dark force in the show, except that he does have morals and rules and is very adamant about keeping a low profile -- or as low a profile as a multi-billionaire vampire who loves fast cars and beautiful women can have. He is also Mick St. John's friend and employer on occasion (Alex O'Loughlin). There is also the lovely and bloody-minded Coraline (Mick's ex-wife who was killed in a fire -- Alex killed her for kidnapping and trying to turn Beth (Sophia Myles) when she was a child) who is a dyed-in-the-wool evil vamp, in all senses of the word. The actress playing Coraline is also American, and until last night was seen only in flashback. Okay, back to the subject that has been on my mind -- vampires.

It occurred to me when Josef asked Mick when he was going to stop hating himself and wanting to be human again that there is definitely something wrong in the ocean city (LA) and everywhere you look where there are vampires. They are either demons with souls who dream of being human after a centuries-long run and hate who they are or romantic demons doomed without the love of a human woman to rescue them from hell and despair. What's up with that? There's also the whole afraid of crucifixes but not other religious symbols, but that's a whole other subject for another time. Considering humans are writing about vampires, I guess there is no other way to see them except as fiends, demons and evil with a hidden potential for good as long as they loathe who and what they are.

I get the whole killing and feeding on humans angle and how that can be disturbing, but in a very real sense isn't that what humans do to animals? Okay, most humans are not comfortable with the idea of being nothing more than an animal to feed another species, but I'm sure elands and zebras don't particularly care for being chased, killed and eaten by lions and hyenas and jackals either. It's all a matter of perspective (where have I heard that phrase before...?).

Despite seeing vampires as more of a religious construct designed to bring people fleeing back to church (in the Xian sense) to save them from damnation, and the idea that a soul can be lost, sold or bartered, vampires are just another species, another step on the food chain, predators who prey on humans to keep the population down -- and to give lonely women a visceral thrill. Vampires are a symbol of wish fulfillment, a chance to live beyond the short years granted us by nature (and degradation of the genetic code) and be more in the world than we as human with our blunted senses can be. Vampires are beyond the usual constraints of work, responsibility, duty and the humdrum everyday life. They are rebels that don't have to apologize for being different, except if a vampire longs to be human again, taste a steak and eat French fries, and get off a perpetual liquid diet (that alone is enough to make a vampire want to be human -- or at least bite something someone), to sink their teeth into something solid that just happens to be a human. Of course, rats, puppies and kittens are also on the menu when times are tough or food is scarce.

Vampires are another evolutionary step in Nature's whimsical --and possibly darker -- plan. After all, Nature created the platypus. Like so much of history that historians and archaeologists and scientists will remake in their own image, vampires are cursed, not with the loss of a soul or providing housing for a demon, but with humanity's idea of them as fiends and romantic figures that but for the want of love and a soul would be better, would be human. And yet we long for their powers to see more clearly, feel more deeply, experience the world more fully and be above and outside human laws, to be able to ignore Death's touch (unless there's a stake, fire or loss of head involved) and to remain ever young drinking from Countess Bathory's bloody Fountain of Youth while sneering at Time. It's no wonder we paint vampires in such clashing colors since we cannot reconcile our own feelings of love and hate.

Are vampires Nature's agents preying on humans to keep our numbers in check? Are we any better than the government being paid to decimate and eradicate the only check on over population, like the planned hunt of gray wolves in the northern Rockies? Do we need, and would we accept, vampires as another species instead of cursed agents of evil? Or do we need to see ourselves in a more honest and realistic light?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It keeps getting better

I periodically check email when I'm downloading jobs to type. It's a habit. It's a way of passing the time that is too short to do anything other than go to the bathroom, and I don't have to go that often. So, tonight, I checked my email again and found another contract.

The story I sweated bullets over, the one I had a hard time putting down on virtual paper, the story that just wouldn't come out has been accepted by Cup of Comfort for their Alzheimer's anthology due out in October 2008. I didn't have to wait months to hear about that one, but I did push the deadline a bit.

When the story was finally written I had a good feeling about it and it made me cry. That's always a good sign. Looks like my mojo is working. That makes nine books coming out next year and it makes the sweat and the bullets and the worry that I didn't have anything positive to say about Alzheimer's worth the effort. Into every life a little rain... It's a good thing I love the rain.

If there is anything I could say to writers struggling with a story or a book or wondering whether what they have written is worth sending out, it is this: Keep writing and submitting your work because it is worth it. It's not always easy getting a story just right and sometimes it feels like it just won't come. That's when you need to apply butt to seat and just write. It may not be good and it may turn out to be the best thing you've ever written. You won't know until you forget all the critics, naysayers, jealousy and doubt and just write.

That is all. Disperse.

Oh, the webs, the broken webs

I have a little time since I have to download another copy of MS Word onto the loaner laptop since the original expired several months ago. I have to have the files in order to do the labels for the ham club newsletter that I'm picking up at noon today, stamping, disking, labeling, and mailing shortly thereafter. I don't like the loaner laptop and I want my own back, but the fan died and the CD player had to be replaced because it was defective and I found it extremely difficult getting any work done since I had to shut the computer down every 15-20 minutes to keep it from overheating and shutting down on its own. Made getting the newsletter out last weekend difficult at best. I don't mind not being able to download my shows this week because it gives me more time to write, but having to use Works instead of MS Word to work on my new novel is the pits. They're not really compatible. The keyboard on the loaner is nice, but some of the keys aren't where I'm used to them and that slows me down, turns my AK-47 typing into more of a stuttering Winchester repeater. Oh, well, into every life a little rain...

The trial file is humongous and is taking forever to download, but at least it will make it possible for me to finish the job and get back into the swing of things. That's one thing to be considered at least and I am so looking forward to getting back to cruising speed. Oh, for an easy day for a change.

I'll take a little time off to help put together a big Thanksgiving party I'm helping to host here in our little corner of Old Colorado City. Several of the people who were here last year requested my presence and my cheesecake. It's going to be busy since a couple of very old friends are flying and driving here to spend the holiday with me. We've been friends forever and I miss seeing them as regularly as we once did since I moved away from Ohio, but to think they're coming all the way here to spend Thanksgiving just goes to prove that a good friend is always there when you need them and when you don't. Another old friend, Tyra Ray, called, having tracked me down through the Internet and my writing to say she wished I could come back there for Thanksgiving and spend the day the way we used to do. We had a pot luck every year and my sweet potato pecan pie with brandied cream was requested year after year. Sometimes I had to split my holiday into three days just to spend time with friends and family, but spending the day with Tyra, her family, and all our friends from work and play was the highlight of the season. Sometimes I miss those days, but not so much this year or last since we started our own tradition here. I've decided to try something completely different this year. Instead of a plain or key lime cheesecake, both of which are big hits with everyone, I've decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap cookie crust. I'm still working on the recipe, but if it turns out as good as the key lime cheesecake (that was an experiment, too) it should be another winner.

I also ordered some bakeware since I finally got the IRS to come off the money (some of it anyway) they have owed me for the past three years and it will be here in time for the holidays. Maybe I can make some individual cheesecakes in ramekins and add a nice souffle to the pot luck dinner we're having. I miss being able to make the kinds of foods and desserts I love and to have enough of the right utensils to do it right. I didn't have enough room in the car when I went back to Ohio earlier this year or I would have brought my kitchen stuff. Books, old journals, and clothes were a little more important and I wasn't about to give up the sewing machine either.

Yesterday I received a "letter" from my mother and a whole mess of old pictures of me. I had forgotten about some of them but there I was sitting and standing and playing in a group of friends, most of whom are still close friends, smiling and laughing and having a really good time. I've made good friends since I moved to Colorado, but with work and writing I tend to spend most of my time alone -- that is until they come banging on the door and dragging me out of it shortly thereafter. It's no wonder I turn the ringer off on the phone when I'm working or writing because I'd never get anything done. And I only put the door chime in the outlet when I know for sure someone is coming, partly because it goes off when any nearby door bell rings and partly because I need to be able to focus on work and writing. I have a huge stack of books to review and a pile of manuscripts to edit, writers who know or have heard about me through other writers whose books I've edited. There just aren't enough hours in the day sometimes.

One thing I do know is that although I love being around people, especially creative people of all kinds, I prefer a small group of close friends. Popularity is pretty cold sometimes and it's hard to weed out the friends from the hangers-on and sycophants. Traveling as much as I have during my lifetime, I have made a lot of friends and most of them are still around. People come and go and even the worst of them have something to offer even if it's only a cautionary tale. I find that as I get older close friends and family are pulling closer as if they miss the way things used to be. It's as though all the things that seemed important aren't quite so important any more and lasting friendships, the ones that have survived decades and trials by fire and ice, are the one thing that remains true. I've never been the kind of person who has a friend and trashes them at every opportunity to anyone who will listen and then turn around and go back to the trashed friend like a dog going back to its vomit just to repeat the process over and over. I don't hide my feelings from my friends and they don't hide them from me. We've learned that passive-aggressive is not the way to go and that the air is sweetest when it is free of the scent of lies, innuendos, and BS. The "he said, she said" game gets really old really fast and it never ends well. It's always best to go directly to the source. Games are a waste of time and energy and provide nothing more than a breeding ground for future problems.

It's hard sometimes for people to be honest with each other but like one friend said: A white lie is just an excuse to get away with being dishonest.

That is all. Disperse.