Cars and Vampires

I used to be all about a Mustang Mach 1 or or a 71 Cuda or a new Corvette Z06. All aggression and sexual thrust. A shark, leaping out of the water, with gnashing teeth, ready to ram 3000 pounds of death into anything unfortunate enough to get in its way.

Now the car I want and deserve to drive is a black 1963 Lincoln Continental. The kind of car that would would slip along in the dark, undetected but deceptively powerful, like a nuclear submarine. Smelling like oiled leather and good rye whiskey and carefully measured conversation. Perhaps the lingering aroma of conservatively applied perfume and feminine excitement encased in a black, leather lined steel coffin, sailing through space.

I will have it one day.


In one of my stories (The Death Game) I explore a bit into the idea of cars and the way people use them to define their place in life. How they work as personal symbols or totems. The story takes place in the ’70s, and one character (there are only two, really, and they’re both immortal) was around to witness the rise of the automobile in America. She drives a white 1965 Cadillac Eldorado with a red interior.


I chose that car because it suits her aesthetic. Even though the story takes place in the ’70s, her style and awareness of culture petered out somewhere in the late ’50s, early ’60s. I wanted her to appear somewhat out of sync with the rest of the world. The character appears in a number of my stories, and at this point, she’s taken on a young apprentice. A 16 year old girl, who has only recently been made immortal (it’s a vampire story) and the story is about the two of them living together in a suburb outside of Flagstaff Arizona, and using increasingly elaborate forms of suicide as a way to entertain themselves. The story is called The Death Game, because that’s what they call what they’re doing. It follows five “deaths” and through each one, we watch as their relationship deteriorates.

The reason I bring it up is because one of the deaths (the second to last) features Caroline (the woman with the white 65 Cadillac) driving a stolen 1971 Barracuda at full speed into a rock wall. Though I didn’t think about it specifically when I wrote it, I realize in retrospect that the character was smashing her young protege’s freedom and youth, symbolically. Even the year works out, because the two of them got together in late 1971.

There’s a bit in the story about how the invention of the automobile opened the world up for vampires. It’s weird, because I’ve never really been a car guy. I don’t know anything about how they work or which cars have which engines and which ones are better. I just know what I like stylistically and I’m interested in how they relate to culture in America.

Anyway, I thought I’d share that segment:

Caroline pressed the pedal to the floor and the Barracuda lunged forward like a charging bull. It had been years since she’d been behind the wheel of a car with the kind of balls that Cuda had. It hurt her heart to think that she was about to destroy it. The Cadillac was a powerful car, but it was also a boat and it was designed for comfort, not pure unchecked aggression. The Barracuda was an automobile built to intimidate and show off. A machine for strutting roosters and overcompensating men who needed a mechanical dick to rev-up at anyone within earshot. This one in particular, with its yellow and black paint job like some kind of giant wasp, was just as ostentatious and mean looking as any car she’d ever seen. Caroline didn’t care about any of that. She just loved to drive fast.

It was a love she’d come by gradually and organically. Caroline was around to watch the automobile spring up into existence and stood back in amazement as the country shifted and rebuilt itself to accommodate the contraptions. She’d seen the railroads transform America from a scattered collection of outposts in the wilderness into a mechanical web of money, traveling back and forth across the country. Towns grew out of the ground around railroad tracks like vegetation on the banks of a river. That was a fascinating thing to watch happen. It was the automobile that excited her though. Cars brought all of that freedom and power to the individual.

For a vampire, a car was a doorway to a new life. Both as a vampire and as a person, she loved and respected cars. It gave them the ability to move freely in the world. Little towns and massive cities could suddenly exist anywhere a car could get to. Each one of those towns would have a number of hotels full of travelers and transient people who could be fed off of or disappear entirely without much fuss. Caroline watched all of this happen over the course of twenty years or so.

The fact that she could keep driving that Cuda west until she hit the ocean if she wanted to filled her with a sense of pride and glee. That is until she remembered that she wasn’t allowed farther west than Las Vegas. She dismissed this unpleasant thought and imagined heading east instead, tearing up Route 66 all the way up to Chicago and then over to Pennsylvania, where she was from. Caroline hadn’t been back to Pennsylvania since she first left in 1866. She wondered if there was anything left she would recognize. She guessed there probably was. America is nostalgic to a fault, and surely some of the landmarks in Pittsburgh had survived the last hundred years or so.



For me, writing is kind of like digging for dinosaur bones inside my brain. I know the stories are in there, and sometimes I’ll spend days or weeks digging holes in the dirt and finding nothing. Or, more often, finding garbage that I think might be something but isn’t. Sometimes I’ll dig around a big something that might be a dinosaur, and I’ll keep chipping away at the edges and maybe it’s something and maybe it’s nothing.

Sometimes I know exactly where the dinosaur is, and I know roughly what kind of dinosaur it is and what it’s supposed to look like, but it’s in an awkward place, and requires months (or even years) of careful, delicate digging to get it out. Even then, I have to clean it off and put it together and stand it up and try and make sense of it. Then, hopefully, I end up with a nice, solid dinosaur skeleton, looking fierce. Or I end up with a big pile of mismatched bones that I don’t know what to do with.

Or, there’s times like right now, where I stick my shovel in the dirt and right away a big, grinning T-Rex skull is looking up at me like “Hey dude, let’s do this shit” and I barely have to do anything at all. I just keep sweeping away dirt and this almost perfectly formed, totally bad ass dinosaur is just sitting under the surface, waiting for me to find him. He was there the whole time, and I’d dug little holes all around him and never knew he was there.

I’m still digging and I’m not even entirely sure what this thing looks like or how much of it is intact, but it’s definitely big and it’s definitely cool. I’m excited.


Jack 4.2 Excerpt

I’m still in first draft mode, but it’s going awesome and I wanted to share a bit of it. We’re in 1944, roughly five years after Jack 4.1. and three years before Bette 4.0

“What do you want, Caroline?” Jack asked, still attempting to watch the movie. He’d seen it half a dozen times already, and knew every shot and every set up, but he enjoyed it more with each viewing.

“Who is Bernie Zuckerman?” she asked, still watching the screen and taking long drags from her Chesterfield. Jack froze. He knew this would happen eventually but he’d hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. He still had work to do. He was just getting started.

“Who?” Jack responded, knowing full well that he was caught and that she already knew the answer, but he had to try.

“Every couple of weeks two or three checks are deposited into your bank account. They’re from a company called Peppermint Bay Productions and are signed by Bernie Zuckerman. I’ve looked into Peppermint Bay Productions and I can’t quite figure out what exactly it is they do. Care to elaborate?”

She was looking at him now, the light from the screen dancing across her eyes.

“Would you two please shut the hell up?” a voice hissed at them. Jack and Caroline both looked at who’d spoken. It was the man from two rows up, turned around in his seat and glaring at them. Caroline looked back at Jack, a wildness in her eyes that excited him. She crushed her cigarette out in the armrest ashtray.

“One moment please,” Caroline said to Jack, as she stood and walked along the row of seats, down to the row where the couple were sitting, and then directly up to them. He watched as she bent forward and whispered, first in the man’s ear, and then the woman’s. Jack desperately wanted to know what she was saying. She stood up straight again.

“Do we understand each other?” Caroline asked, her hands on her hips, standing in front of the couple. They both nodded emphatically. She walked back around and reclaimed her seat next to Jack.

“What did you — ”

“Shhh.” Caroline interrupted him. After almost a minute of awkward silence, the couple gathered their coats and hats and shuffled out of the theater. Caroline shook her head and lit another Chesterfield. That woman smoked more than anyone he’d ever met.

“There was a time not that long ago, right here in California, when I could have hung that cocksucker from the rafters by his guts and danced under his raining blood while his little girlfriend cried in the corner,” she shrugged. “C’est la vie.”

Jack laughed.

“Parlez-vous français?” he asked.

“No. Who the fuck is Bernie Zuckerman?”


Header source


Stuff I researched While Writing

I actually have three or four writing projects going at once, but for the sake of this post, I’m focusing on my next story What Danny Did.

Industrial Sized Garbage Bags – 40 gallons. Probably not for what you’re thinking.

Sheeple – Just that it means what I thought it meant. It does.

The Birdcage Theater – Dollar theater in Sacramento that we used to go to back in the day. The theater in my story is in Southern California, but I wanted to keep the name. Mostly I just remember seeing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas there, though I know I saw a ton of movies at that theater. I couldn’t remember for sure what it was called so I asked my mom. It was torn down ten years or so ago. Last I remember, there’s a Barns and Nobel there now. I wonder how long that will last. Apparently The Bird Cage was also the name of a showcase theater in Tombstone back in the 1800s. As well as that Robin Williams movie.

Movies that came out in 1997 – Yep. Found some.

Jack Ketchum books – Needed a horror paperback for this kid to be reading, and I wanted it to be something particularly dark and nihilistic, so I went with Jack Ketchum.

Okay, I lied earlier, I’m going to start researching for Jack 4.2 now. 

What kind of camera Weegee used – 4×5 Speed Graphic camera, standard press camera. Apparently he didn’t even adjust the settings and knew very little about how photography actually worked. He just fell into being a genius photographer.

What kind of film a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera used – still haven’t really figure that one out yet. Think I’m going to just whistle past the whole process tbh.

Leather Jackets – Mostly used by aviators and soldiers in WWII and WWII. Really came into fashion in the 50s. 

Stockholm Syndrome – 1970s. I knew that actually. I thought maybe there was some other name for it beforehand. 

The price of cameras in the 1940s – $25 could get you a halfway decent Kodak camera

Developing film for consumers in the 1940s – Take it to the drug store and drop it off!

Fuck that Speed Graphic camera Weegee used. That thing seems like a pain in the ass. What camera did Kubrick use for his photojournalism career? – a few, but I’m going with the Rolleflex Automatic.
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(That’s not the Rolleflex Automatic, but it’s a cool picture of Kubrick from his photojournalism days) 

What’s that magnifier thing that photographers look through when they’re looking at little thumbnails on a proof sheet? – dome loupe. Cool

Movies about Jack the Ripper from the ‘40s – The Lodger works

Wait. No. Pandora’s Box, from 1929

Hair Spray – 1948. Nope

Dracula – Book was released in 1897, the movie in 1931

When people started using the word “movie” to describe a film - 1910s



Took a break from What Danny Did to try and see what I could do with a new Jack story and the pages have been flying out. It’s actually surprising me a little because I wasn’t even completely sure what I was going to do with Jack next, but I certainly know now.

It’s weird how these things kind of sort themselves out. I was really floundering on what I should be working on. I was writing on What Danny Did but wasn’t sure what exactly I was doing with it, then I was considering going back to the next Charlie story or even starting a new, non-Bloodletting story. I knew I wanted to work on Jack soon, but I didn’t even know where to start. So I opened up the document, and started with the same image the other two Jack stories started with, a woman hanging from the ceiling, and then it was off to the races.

I also made a cover for the story, once I figured out what it was actually about. It’s a pretty different style from the other covers, but I like it. It’s perhaps a little too busy for an ebook cover, but I think it gets the job done and is striking and interesting. I’m sure I’ll mess with it and change things here and there before I’m done.




Delta Washington vs The Zombies

I’ve been bummed about a thing for the last couple of years. I had a story that I’ve been developing for a long time. I wrote maybe 75% of the screenplay, and it’s called Delta Washington vs The Zombies. The very first seed of the story was “What if there was a zombie apocalypse in a Pam Grier movie” because I thought that that would be a really fun movie to watch. It would take place in the 70s and have a lot of the old Blaxploitation tropes. It was going to be horror/comedy hybrid. But then Black Dynamite came along and did the Blaxploitation tribute far better than I ever could have hoped to, or had the right to. I realized, ultimately, that as a white guy I had no business trying to insinuate myself into that arena.

So instead, I changed directions and wrote (most of) the screenplay as a straight forward zombie horror movie, with heavy comic book influences. There was a “villain” who was very much a comic book villain, and I kept the lead character, Delta Washington, as the kind of character that Pam Grier might have played in a more straight forward, Hollywood movie. Smart, attractive, flawed, politically aware and with an arch that forced her to step up and be a badass, as most zombie movie heroes do. I like that story. I like my approach to the genre in that story, and I really, really loved that character. Delta Washington was a fucking great character.

Then The Walking Dead came along, and Michonne shows up and is a super badass black woman totally dominating all zombies. She had a signature weapon, like Delta (though Delta’s wasn’t a sword exactly) and a no-bullshit attitude. I figured that since TWD had pretty much done the tough, black woman fighting zombies thing, that my story was now irrelevant. So I just stopped developing it entirely.

But then I was thinking about it last night, and I realize how incredibly stupid that is. And frankly, kind of racist when I didn’t even realize it. Why can’t there be more than one badass black woman fighting zombies? It’s not like there’s one spot in all of zombie pop-culture for a black woman to occupy. She’s different from Michonne. She has a different history, a different way of dealing with characters, and a different role in the broader story. Besides, how many generic fucking white guys have starred in zombie movies? It’s a stupid reason not to write a story. If anything, the fact that there’s only really one badass black chick fighting zombies in pop culture (unless you count Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later, which I do actually) is all the more reason to write MORE diverse characters. I wrote that character because I felt like there was a distinct lack of that kind of representation, so what, I’m going to just throw the whole thing out because there’s ONE other character out there that happens to also be brown? That’s idiotic.

So I will write Delta Washington vs The Zombies. Maybe not next, but eventually. It’s on deck. Maybe I’ll let zombies cool off a bit first, since I already dove into vampires in the middle of a massive backlash. But it’s in the pipeline.

I’ve recognized that the characters in Bloodletting are overwhelmingly white and I’m actually taking that into consideration as I’m move forward. There are more characters coming down the line, and I’m planning on adding some color to the stream. The lack of ethnic diversity so far has frankly been out of my own experience. I’m not a particularly social person and for the last 15 years I’ve lived in a place where I’m surrounded almost entirely by white people. Most of my own experience has been decidedly vanilla, racially, and I’m working on broadening my vision a little. Also, because I’m writing about vampires, my brain goes to pale skin as the aesthetic. But I recognize that as a content creator, it’s important to take that opportunity to bring more diversity into my work, and I’m going to make an effort to do more of that as I go forward.