Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy

I’ve talked previously about the inspirations for my vampire novel series, The Matriarch Vampires. The central West Virginia locations, Glenville State College, and the character nods. After shelving the original first drafts of the book two decades earlier, why did I feel it was time to dust them off and finally finish the story?

One of those reasons was certainly Jonathan Weiss.

neworleansjacksonsquarenight2010My wife and I enjoy walking through old cemeteries and taking local ghost tours. There are many haunted places around the U.S., often in old cities like Birmingham, Alabama, Savannah, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida. Back in 2010, we traveled to New Orleans and took such a tour, and our guide to the city at night was none other than Jonathan. He looked the way I imagine a time traveler might, combining a classic appearance with a modern sensibility, a person whom has long since reconciled the old and new ways with a natural ease, elegance, and an eagerness to share his experience.

Not having given much serious thought about fiction writing for twenty odd years, Mr. Weiss captured my attention and filled my imagination with stories and embellishments as we toured the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, recounting local legends with intriguing details and playing to the crowd… and yes, much was said about vampires. He and other occupants felt like a necessary part of the city, a piece of its soul that would be lost forever if abruptly cut out.

Yet, as I understand it, that’s exactly what some are trying to do.
Continue reading “Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy”

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The Shepherd Wolf

Every full moon, the wolf would appear to devour another sheep — it was the way of things.

Always at night and always hungry, the wolf would appear to chase the herd until one could run no longer. When it fell behind, the wolf took the weakest sheep into its powerful jaws and disappeared into the night.

While most of the sheep looked away, one did not. It watched, saw how frightened the other sheep were, and offered comfort to others.

But the wolf noticed the sheep that watched, and on the night when the moon became darkest, it came and took it away.

“Why do you watch?” the wolf asked, not yet having devoured the sheep.

“To understand,” it replied. “There must be a secret that can save us all.”

The wolf laughed. “I will reveal my secret, for it cannot save anyone.” With that, the wolf became a sheep.

“You’re one of us,” the sheep gasped.

“One need not be seen as a wolf all of the time, but it is ever what I am inside. You see such things and that is dangerous to me, but you will watch no longer.”

The wolf bit the sheep, and the sheep fell into a deep slumber.

When the sheep awoke, the wolf was gone, and so the sheep wandered back to the herd. No one in the herd had ever survived such an attack, and a few accused the sheep of bargaining with the wolf, for how else could it survive? The sheep denied the accusation but could not speak the whole truth, for it understood it would be shunned.

wolfchallengeOn the next full moon, the wolf returned. When the herd scattered, the spared sheep did not run.

“Join the hunt,” the wolf commanded, and the sheep became a wolf as well.

The fear from the herd was palpable upon seeing two wolves, and the sheep smelled delicious to the predators, but the new wolf turned and faced the old wolf down.

“Why fight me when there are sheep for the taking?” the old wolf asked.

The new wolf answered, “Because I remember being one of the sheep, and I will watch no longer.”

And it became the way of things.

Copyright © 2016 Kevin A. Ranson. All Rights Reserved.

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It felt like a parable kind of day today.

You can buy an art print of the image here.

The Matriarch, Harry Potter, and Native Appropriations

There’s been a bit of flack surrounding the previews on JK Rowling’s Pottermore website regarding “magical” North American history, specifically in the way it includes Native American culture. If you weren’t aware, this is all advertisement for the new Harry Potter film entitled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arriving in theaters November 2016; the Pottermore website has published four installments of the abbreviated “History of Magic in North America.” While there are many issues pointed out by various news outlets, this is the one that hurts the most and that I’m most familiar with.

The Problem With Magic Folk

“So what?” people post online. “It’s fiction. She can make up whatever she wants.” None of this is real, so who does it hurt? The actual people, for one thing. Native Americans are real people with a real culture; they haven’t died out or ceased to exist. It’s not just one culture, either; there are currently 562 federally recognized Indian Nations (source: ncai.org), and their uniqueness is hanging on in spite of centuries spent actively destroying it. No, not just the English colonists; the French and Spanish both had equal hands in it.

LoneRangerJohnnyeppTontoIn Hollywood, there has long existed a trope of “the helpful Indian who appears from nowhere,” so clearly they must be magical. Think Peter Pan and The Lone Ranger; help is needed, the indigenous mystics appear, do their thing, then conveniently disappear. It’s a plot device: deus ex shamana. Like faeries, trolls, and goblins, the truth can be lost to legend. Using Britain’s own fables as an example, there were reportedly a dozen Robin Hoods who all became one man, and King Arthur’s stories can be traced to several individuals who were embellishment through oral tradition.

Native Americans do exist and want to keep their cultures and traditions alive. Learn about it all you like and tell others, but embellishing the facts — changing them — and attributing details to all tribes as a whole dilutes its uniqueness. Like a game of telephone, the truth is being lost because the details are wrong.

Continue reading “The Matriarch, Harry Potter, and Native Appropriations”

The Vampire’s Privilege

Why vampires?

As an author with vampire series, it’s a question I hear often.

The short answer is because people still like them…and so do I.

JanissPredatorModeSquareAvatarSmallTo my mind, it is perfectly understandable why people continue to identify with vampires. It isn’t about becoming a reanimated corpse or the need for blood; it’s the promise of eternal life after death and finding empowerment in a curse — turning a negative into a positive. Yes, there’s sex and blood and rock n’ roll, but the part that makes it so relatable — even desirable — is the empowerment.

To quote Tyler Durden from Fight Club: “All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you wanna look, I f**k like you wanna f**k, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.” Like Tyler, the laws of men and death no longer apply to the vampire; the undead dictate their own rules and they follow their own code. Both cursed and blessed to watch the world die around them while they endure, vampires are elevated demigods who remember once being merely human.

The promise of being insulated from the ravages of time, to become a spectator rather than a mere participant in the human condition, is the vampire’s privilege.

Any questions?

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A Writer Writes… Except When They Don’t

An interesting article was pointed my way by J.H. Moncrieff entitled “Writers, We Need to Stop Saying This.” It makes a case for the once-defining advice that “a writer writes.” That’s true in context — you aren’t a writer if you’ve never written — but it can also be a source of frustration for the writer who HAS already written. The reason is obvious:

Writer’s block is a real thing.

Sometimes it’s pressure to perform or succeed, to break in or break out, or to duplicate a previous success. Sometimes it’s intruding external life events or a complete lack of inspiration. But when you’re told a writer writes and you’re not writing, those self-worth doubts begin to creep in — a self-fulfilling prophecy.

BookhouseAs any career writer will tell you, there is a degree of luck involved to being discovered and becoming popular or recommended, but a body of existing work is the best way to not only become successful but to be ready for it. But I offer a counterpoint for the writer who has already written:

A writer THINKS about writing even when they’re not.

When it’s time to write, I write. When it isn’t and I’m not writing, I think about writing…a lot. I take notes. I imagine scenes and let them play out over and over. I entertain myself with ideas. I wait until I’m so ready to write because I haven’t been writing that I can’t wait to write.

Then — and only then — I write.

It’s a form of self-encouragement, anticipating the impending work of the wordsmith. When inspiration is lacking and real life keeps you from escaping into imaginary worlds, screaming at a blank page isn’t therapeutic for everyone, and neither is beating yourself up about it.

One trick I use is writing to an ending — meaning I know my ending before I get there. This keeps me excited to reach that ending and drives my first draft, but I’ve learned that a weak story and a bad ending can also gum up the machinery, and sometimes you have to walk away. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I know when to stop because I know when I’m done. It also doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind over the ending. Good realistic characters can surprise you; let them, but also remember what makes a story work: a beginning, a middle, and an ending that fit together.

Stories need to make sense because, far too often, real life doesn’t.

There’s a fun little 1992 flick with Tom Selleck called Mr. Baseball about an American pro ball player traded to a Japanese team. The new coach recognizes that his player is disenchanted with the sport, seeing that Tom anticipates the worst possible results… and gets them. The coach takes him off the team to make the player hit golf balls with a bat at a driving range (while others are using actual clubs) and to hit other things. After a while, the angry and frustrated Tom finally screams, “I’m sick of this crap! I want to hit a baseball!” After making the player repeat those words until the lesson is learned, the coach replies, “NOW you’re ready.”

Are you ready?

Vampire Books for Blood: Buy a Book, Feed a Vampire #VampBooks4Blood

Buy a book, feed a starving vampire. No, wait…is that right? Spread the word!
http://www.wtfbooks.net/Vampire_Books_for_Blood.html

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#VampBooks4Blood

First Reviews for The Matriarch: Changeling

2015ChangelingA few early reviews are coming in…and the responses are positive!

I’m so glad that I found out about this series a few years ago. The third book of his series does answer a lot of questions, and I’m excited that there will be a fourth book. Do yourself a favor, and get into this story as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. The author makes it easy to read and to care for Janiss right away.

And also…

This is a great series for fans of vampires and mystery…the one thing that stays consistent (are) the vampires themselves. They are modern, sleek and still extremely deadly without being parodies of themselves…Despite being unable to age, (Janiss) has grown up quite a bit and has adapted to her role in the series. She’s quickly becoming a favorite vampire character to me. The new vampire in the book, Nancy, piqued my interest and the way she acts; her past and her sometimes questionable intentions kept me reading as fast as I could.

Get the new book for yourself today!

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