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New Story in Development

Okay, so after some false starts and dead-end ideas, I’m almost 100% decided what the next story will be.

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I’ve had a series of scenes in my head that I’ve wanted to work into the series, but never really had a place for. I’ve figured out a pretty solid way to make use of them and it comes in the format of this story, What Danny Did. It will be a stand alone novella, like The Death Game, and it will be structured in a similar way. To be honesty, I haven’t been 100% happy with the Danny books so far. Not because I think they aren’t written well or because I don’t like her story or character, I just feel like the beginning of her story is a fairly disturbing, sad experience, and a lot of it is her being confused and upset about all the terrible things that are happening. That’s one of the downsides of this serialized format. It’s not that it’s a bad story, it’s just that when I chop it up, the first couple are kind of depressing and stressful.

I recognize it’s probably not a great idea to talk shit about my stories, and honestly, I’m not even really complaining. My frustration isn’t that the stories aren’t good, it’s that I’m anxious to get to the part I’m more excited for. The beginning part has to be told, because it’s important, but I’m more enthusiastic about other parts of her story. Which is why this What Danny Did story is going to be fun.

There’s tons of good stuff in the first two Danny stories, and they’re some pretty important story elements in there. I recommend them as much as any of other stories. Perhaps maybe not as a starting point though.

First, before I can start, I have to finish my reread and editing. I’m doing a big once over on the whole series so far, fixing some grammar mistakes and implementing some proofreading. I’m tweaking a few lines here and there, just because I can. It’s something I’ve needed to do for a while, and something I’ve intended on doing ever since I went back to Amazon exclusive. I’m almost done with that. Then I start writing again.

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10 Books

So I saw a thing on Twitter where someone posted a photo of 10 books that influenced them. Here are mine.

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Not pictured: The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson (because, for some reason, I can’t find any of my HST books. I must have a box or two of books in a closet) and The World According to Garp (which I also can’t find… damned random book boxes)

10 is not enough books. I make no apologies for the fact that most of the books that influenced me I read before I was 12.

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New covers

Since I’ve decided to take the “A Vampire Story” out of the title, I needed to remake the covers. Luckily, I still had the photoshop files for all but one of them. I had to rebuilt Devon from scratch, but it wasn’t too hard.

Even though I really liked the comic book style template I had set up for the covers before, I can see how it might have been confusing for all of the volumes to be called “Bloodletting” so I put the emphasis on the character name. It works well for some, and not as well for others. One benefit is that with a bigger, shorter main title, they seem to read a little better as ebook covers. One of the main goals in designing an ebook cover is making it readable as a small thumbnail picture. My old covers weren’t great for that, so hopefully this will make a difference.

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Influences

Just for fun, here’s a short list of movies/books/TV shows that have had a direct influence on Bloodletting:

Blade Runner
Mulholland Drive
Jacob’s Ladder
The Stand (the novel)
The Shining (mostly the novel, but also the Kubrick movie)
Time After Time
Boogie Nights
Near Dark
A Clockwork Orange
Alien
The World According to Garp
Audition
The Breakfast Club (seriously)
High Tension
Various HP Lovecraft works
Lost (the TV show)
Mad Men (TV show)
Mother Night (novel)
The Hunger (the movie)

The V Word

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Something that bothers me about zombie stories and movies is when they refuse to call the reanimated corpses zombies. The Walking Dead being the most obvious example, calling them “walkers” or “biters” or “geeks” or anything but zombies. They approach the story as though the concept of zombies in pop culture never existed and there’s nothing they can reference as an example of what it is they’re dealing with. Which I understand, from a storytelling standpoint, why they do that. Especially with zombies. These are typically disaster stories and one of the key elements of a disaster story is not knowing the hell is going on. Plus, if they’re offering a scientific foundation for why the zombies exist, then it would be an amazing coincidence if some virus comes along that brings dead people back to life and makes them behave exactly the same way as a fictional monster, with the same rules and tropes. I get it, that’s a big leap.

At the same time, it still bothers me a bit. It just strikes me as kind of arrogant and pretentious. As though they think they’re somehow above the genre. Too good to call their reanimated corpses zombies, even though that’s clearly what they are. And it’s not like the writers aren’t calling them zombies outside of the story, or acting like they’re anything but zombies. It’s just that in their world, they don’t call them zombies. And that bothers me.

The reason I bring it up is because when I first wrote this story, there was no stigma around vampires. People weren’t completely and utterly sick of them. There was no Twilight or Sookie Stackhouse or ten million knock-offs. I wrote the story because I had these characters and because nobody was telling the kind of vampire stories I liked. So it never occurred to me to call them anything but vampires. I wrote a vampire story, because I like vampires. When they’re done well, vampires are a lot of fun. I like the sexual subtext and the allure of immortality and the power dynamics. I think all of that creates a lot of opportunities for interesting character choices.

My vampires exist in a world where vampires exist pop culture, just like they do in real life. They’re self aware and they exist along side the pop culture interpretation of what a vampire is. The way I see it, just enough information about them has popped up here and there to create the vampire myth as it is in the real world, and the “real” vampires tolerate it and continue doing what they’re doing out of sight. So it never occurred to me to not call them vampires. I have them call themselves vampires because it would bother me to not call them that. They are vampires, so they call themselves vampires. Sure, they exist outside of the public’s idea of what a vampire is, and yes, they’ve been around longer than the mythology. They have their own ancient names for what they are, but those names are obsolete by the time my story takes place. They’ve adopted the word and use it because it’s not that far off from what they are.

I bring all of this up because when I wrote this story, it didn’t occur to me that one day “vampire” would be a dirty word in popular fiction. We’ve hit a saturation point where people are rejecting vampire stories sight unseen. They see the word “vampire” and they immediately move on without consideration. I’m not even complaining about that. I don’t blame them. I don’t read vampire stories either. The vast majority of vampire stories, in movies, TV or literature, are completely uninteresting to me.

To be fair, I’ve also actively avoided vampire stories/movies for the last year that I’ve been writing the Bloodletting series, because I don’t want to be influenced by anything happening now. Most of the influences I’ve channeled into Bloodletting have come from non-vampire stories, and that’s by design.

My point is that I’m concerned that I’m turning a huge portion of my potential audience away by putting the word “vampire” right in the title of the story. I called it “Bloodletting: A Vampire Movie” as a play on the Concrete Blonde song “Bloodletting: The Vampire Song” which I thought was cute back in the 90s when I first started writing the screenplay. It stuck and I’ve kept it and carried it over to the books, changing it to “a vampire story.” I’m already strongly considering going back and changing the title, taking out the “A Vampire Story” from the covers and title pages. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to do that. I’ve also taken the word “vampire” out of some of the descriptions on Amazon. I don’t want to be dishonest about what the story is, but I also feel like if people can get past that first hurdle, they’ll be entertained enough to get over the fact that it’s a vampire story. Also, because these are novellas and short stories, some of them barely have vampires in them at all. The first two Charlie stories have almost no vampire interaction at all. It’s mostly a story about a teenage girl running away from home, her relationship with her mother and dealing with pregnancy and depression. Those first two Charlie stories are basically dramas. There’s vampire stuff going on in the background, and by the time you get to the third Charlie story, you can see where there was more vampire stuff going on than you might have known. But yeah, those stories could be sold as non-vampire stories. Bette 4.0 is more of a noir crime story than it is a vampire story. There’s are vampire elements to it, but it’s not the focus at all.

I’m just wondering now if I haven’t made a mistake in calling them vampires at all. Maybe I should have come up with some other goofy thing for them to call themselves. I mean, they clearly are vampires, but at this point, I’ve made enough changes that I could probably have gotten away with calling them something else and letting be a little more vague.

For example, there was a movie called Under the Skin that I watched not too long ago. It was about an alien (played by Scarlett Johansson) picking up hitchhikers and processing them as food for other aliens. It was, essentially, a vampire movie. A lot of the rules and key elements were different, but the tone was very much vampire. It hit a lot of the same notes. Lately I’ve been adding a bit of an HP Lovecraft style cosmic horror element and, exploring just how different the older vampires are from living people. It wouldn’t be that crazy to not call them vampires. Between vampirey things I’ve taken away and the things I’ve added that aren’t typically found in vampires, it’s not so crazy that I could call them something other than vampires.

Though, again, clearly that’s what they are. They’re drinking blood, they’re immortal and they can’t go in the sun. They’re vampires.

Either way, it’s too late now. I would have to go back and rewrite a ton of shit to accommodate that change. It wouldn’t just be cleaning up the odd grammar mistake or reworking a line or two (which I do from time to time with the older stuff) but fully retelling the story in parts, which I don’t want to do. Besides, I like calling them vampires. If I changed it, it would be because of a marketing decision, and that totally uncool. I’d hate it.

So I’m stuck with the fact that I’m writing vampire stories in an environment that’s quite hostile toward vampire stories. I just have to figure out a way to prove to people that these vampire stories are not only good, but totally different from other vampire stories. Right now, I’m just focusing on getting to the end of the story, then I’ll start my next series and, hopefully, maybe, if people like it, they’ll go back and check out Bloodletting.

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Victoria 2.2 live on amazon!

The new story is up and ready to go!

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Product Details

Bloodletting: Book 2.2 – Victoria
London’s East End in the 1880s isn’t an easy place to live, and life is especially difficult for Victoria and Mary-Ellen, two prostitutes trying to stay alive. That becomes more challenging after Mary-Ellen stumbles onto Jack the Ripper. 

This volume in the Bloodletting series introduces us to some new characters, gives insight into Victoria’s traumatic past and takes us into an entirely new setting and time period. 

Author’s note: This is one volume in the Bloodletting series. It’s meant to both stand alone as well as function as a piece of a larger story. For more information please visit http://bloodlettingbook.com

Also, here are the links for Devon 2.0 and the actual Victoria 2.1, which are on a 5 day free promotion right now!

Product Details

Book 2.0 of the Bloodletting series. Devon is a male prostitute, looking for a nice, peaceful night dancing at the club. He never expected to run into a monster. 

This book serves as an external look at the grizzly world of Bloodletting and the vampires who occupy it. 

This is one volume in the Bloodletting series. It’s meant to both stand alone as well as function as a piece of a larger story. For more information please visit http://bloodlettingbook.com

Bloodletting: Book 2.0 – Devon

Product Details

 In Book 2.1 we get to know Victoria, the older vampire of the group. Originally from Victorian London, Vickie is struggling to cope with the rapidly changing vampire world. As the chaos of a night hunting gone wrong unfolds, she reflects on where she’s been and where they’re going. It’s a reflective story that explores the social politics of the vampires in The Bloodletting series. 

Author’s note: This is one volume in the Bloodletting series. It’s meant to both stand alone as well as function as a piece of a larger story. For more information please visit http://bloodlettingbook.com

Bloodletting: Book 2.1 – Victoria

Victoria 2.2

The newest story, Victoria 2.2 is uploaded to Amazon and currently processing. It will be available for purchase by tomorrow morning! In conjunction with the release, I’m putting the first two Victoria stories (Victoria 2.1 and Devon 2.0) on a 5 day free promotion, also starting tomorrow!

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Victoria 2.2 pretty much done

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Alright, I’m done with Victoria 2.2. For now. I wanted to give it one more pass, because I’m sure it’s riddled with grammar and spelling problems. I’m also sure that there’s plenty of stuff I’d like to change and probably will before I publish, but I’ve been looking at this story for far too long, and I need a break from it.

So I’ve sent it off to a couple of very generous beta readers who have offered to take a look at it and do some editing for me. Then I’ll give it my own last pass and put it online.

For now, I just need a break from that story. I’m going to take the next week or so and go through clean up some flaws in the previously published stories. I’ve been sitting on some outside editing for a while (thanks David!) that I need to put into action now that I’m finally done writing Victoria 2.2. So that’s what I’m going to do next. Since I’ve culled all of my distribution down to just Amazon, it will be fairly easy to edit and re-upload everything and know that it’s all covered.

This story has definitely been the most challenging so far, not only because it’s in such a drastically different setting, but because it brings a lot of new elements into the series, and that’s intimidating as hell. New characters, new ideas, new insight into old characters. This one is a pivotal volume in the series, and as I was writing it, I could feel the weight of that responsibility. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, or that I was afraid of writing it… just that I wanted it to make sure it was accomplishing the things I needed it to accomplish, and it took a while for me to get it where I needed it to be. As frustrating as this long wait has been for me, I’m glad to have had it, because it took that long to figure out exactly how to approach some of these issues.

Now that it’s done, I’m looking forward to moving on. I haven’t decided 100% what I’m going to write next. I’ve got a Charlie/Caroline story in the bank that’s mostly done. I’m strongly considering writing Jack 4.2 next, because I’ve got some interesting ideas on where to go with him, and because I’ve just got the one full on Jack story so far. Numbers wise, he’s due.

I’ve also got another non-Bloodletting story that I need to rewrite for new short story collection that’s looking for submissions. The collection is horror stories based on songs, and I’ve got one that I wrote years ago that I think would suit that theme well.

So that’s where I’m at. Hopefully, Victoria 2.2 will be ready to go in a week or so, depending on how long this last edit takes. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Word Count

I just did the math and the collected word-count of the Bloodletting series so far (including 2 unpublished volumes) is 209.5k.

For the sake of scale, Stephen King’s The Shining is 160k.  Carrie is 60K. Pet Sematary is 145k. The Stand: Complete and Uncut edition is 473.2k.

Now, The Stand is possibly the longest novel I’ve ever read. The hardcover clocks in at… lemme go look… 1153 pages. That’s a lot of book.

So I’m not quite to the halfway point of The Stand, but not I’m not far off. That’s pretty crazy.

Obviously I know that quantity doesn’t equal quality. Any ape banging on a keyboard can churn out a thousand pages of bullshit. The Twilight series comes in at just under 600k total. That said, it’s encouraging to see that there’s there’s a lot of material behind me. I like being able to say that I’ve written the equivalent of at least a couple average length novels.

I think I’m about just over halfway done with the story total. It depends on how far I want to take the ending, and whether I want to get into the backstories of a couple of characters I haven’t really explored yet. I haven’t decided yet.

Amazon Unlimited and Making some distribution changes

So I’m limiting my distribution to The Kindle. The main reason being that Amazon has the Kindle Direct Publishing program, which has some perks and benefits, but requires you to be exclusive with Amazon. I’ve spent the last six months or so on a bunch of different platforms, and honestly, Amazon is the only one I see any real results from.

Now they’ve got this Amazon Unlimited thing, which is kind of like Netflix, but for ebooks. Authors can opt into the program, and I can’t really see a downside to it. Especially for me. My understanding is that in that program, an author gets credit for that book having been read once the person who downloads it browses through the first 10%. Since my stories are all relatively short, and there’s a bunch of them, the math seems to be in my favor.

Another reason to get onboard with the Unlimited program is that I believe my main obstacle in reaching an audience is the stigma of vampire stories. I mean, I get it, the market’s saturated and it’s very hard to convince people to read a new vampire series. What I need to do is convince people that I’ve got something different to offer (which I do) and the way to do that is to get as many eyes on it as possible. So even if I don’t make much money from the Unlimited program, just getting those new readers (who may then recommend it to someone else, or leave a review) is worth it.

So yeah, tonight I’m taking Bloodletting down from all distributors other than Amazon. Honestly, that’s a bit of a relief anyway. It was a little stressful having all of these different platforms to keep track of. If everything is in Amazon, then I know that whatever version is online is the one everyone has.

I’ll give it a shot and see how it does. It’s really all going to depend on how well Amazon Unlimited performs. It could be a massive flop, and we’re back to square one. But whatever. If that happens, then I haven’t really lost anything.

Stuff I researched while writing

How people eat pomegranate. (never had it myself. These Russian dudes have a pretty good video explaining pomegranates)

Wiltshire, England (It’s where Stonehenge is! I ended up not using any of the information I learned)

Great Western Railway (also related to the scrapped Stonehenge scene. IRRELEVANT!)

Stonehenge (see above)

Treacle (I knew what it was, but I needed to know if it was what someone in Victorian England would think of instead of syrup. It was!)

The fall of the British Empire (Hitler! Well, also Japan and The U.S. and just the natural order of the world)

The Napoleonic Wars (mostly I was interested in the idea of how a vampire would establish their identity. I mean, a vampire could only really stay in one place for maybe, what, thirty years? Before people start asking “hey… how come you don’t get older?” So I thought that if a vampire lived in Europe, they would travel between countries during wars. As countries are torn down and rebuilt, they too could reestablish themselves in the chaos. At least for a while. I thought that for a good four or five hundred years, a vampire in Europe could hop between Germany and Eastern Europe and France and Britain as various sides rose and fell from power. So yeah. In this instance, I went with a France/England transition)

Roman Bath Houses (lots and lots of reading about these places. They seem like they were probably pretty gross)
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Body hair in ancient Rome (High class Romans liked their junk smooth and hairless. High five! Apparently a popular means of body hair removal was to have slaves pluck their hair out with tweezers. Less fun!)

What Latin sounds like when spoken in conversation (Sounds kind of like French. Kind of like Spanish. Kind of like Italian. Go figure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_IPqniaZR0)

The floors of Herod’s palace (I didn’t know if this was information that would be available, but it couldn’t hurt to look. BAM! Though I was looking for where Herod Antipas lived, and this is the palace of Herod the Great, his father. I’m going to assume Herod Antipas lived in the the same palace after his father’s death. Regardless, even if it’s not, I think it’s safe to guess it had similar floors at least)

What is a silver charger? (just a big serving dish. Good for putting heads on)

Salome (Lots and lots about Salome. Not that I haven’t done a million hours of research about her already, but there’s always more to learn)
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