On being believed in

July 23, 2011

Not a lot to report that’s not overly personal or boring (“Yes, but this is a BLOG,” you may sigh in annoyance), but I found this piece by someone else who was once kind of, in a way, repped by the same agent who repped me, sold my first book, then vanished (still unearthed).

Nothing is as powerful as people believing in other people.

By the way, occasionally I have gotten the kind of help and belief described here, but not a whole ton of it. Still, any is good, and if you’ve got any help, assistance, or belief to spare, I could really use some.

My condolences to the families of all the people who lost their lives in the last 24 hours. Too many, and I particularly liked some of them.

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Fiend

June 25, 2011

FIEND - a novel by Jemiah Jefferson

May 2011

Fiend

This is my favorite of all four vampire books. The story of Orfeo Ricari from his childhood in early 19th century Italy to his tumultuous journey to Paris, and his blood-soaked rebirth as a vampire in the hands of the lovers Maria and Georgina, it’s funny and tragic and terribly sexy. Unforgettable characters – Father Christopher, Ricari’s confessor and friend; Liesl and her fashionable jazz-age Berlin pals; Arthur Chicot and the vampires of Montmartre; Maria Elena, Orfeo’s sister, and his very first love. An imaginary memoir of a 200-year-old bisexual artist. A revelation of many truths that affect the entire Vampire Quartet of books.

During the writing of this book, I saw a long-term relationship finally collapse and burn out to nothing but scars and ashes; I sustained an ankle injury that would weaken me for the rest of my life; I endured months of painful and unpleasant treatment for uveitis, which caused me to continue working on the draft in 24-point gray text on a black background, because any bright background on a computer was impossible to focus on; I listened to Mozart’s Requiem Mass and the early works of the Cocteau Twins until I could practically sing them from memory. It was a hard twelve months, but every day I returned to the mind of Orfeo, and told his story in his own words, inspired by the works of Thomas DeQuincey, Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Christopher Isherwood, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As I wrote, I mentally translated all of the text into French (Orfeo’s primary language), and then back again; if you have much Français, try backtranslating it; there are several language jokes hidden in the text. Also, if you’re astute, look for pop song references, particularly from the lyrics of Morrissey, Peter Murphy, and David Sylvian, from whose song “Orpheus” Orfeo took his name. (If only I had been more knowledgable at the time of writing, the works of Scott Walker would have made it in there, too, but one of the reasons I love Scott Walker is that I don’t even have to steal from him; he was a part of me long before I was aware of his music.)

The first ten pages of this book can be read through the handy-dandy Amazon link.

I thought of this yesterday when I wore a relatively low-cut T-shirt to work.

I am brilliant, beautiful, and strong. I contain an infinity of feminine power. Whatever I need to do, I can, and I will.

(And then I proceeded to drink too much cold-process coffee and have an hours-long anxiety attack. Oh well; best laid plans, etc.)

This evening I will have new photos taken. I have supreme faith in my photographer, Serena Davidson, to reflect my essence and realize an ideal Me. She’d better; these snaps are expensive! But experience has told me that they are worth every dime, and besides, she’s immensely fun to work with. I will be sharing this with Brittney Corrigan, who (as well as being a fellow Reed College alumn, is also an escapee of Aurora, Colorado!) actually needs author photos for her new release. I’m just … either fanning the flames of my ego, or getting a head start on author photos for the next book. Take it as you will. 🙂

Promise that the next blog entry will be about the character, Daniel Blum.

head, clearing of

June 1, 2011

I have yet to open the ginormous box that I know contains my author’s copies. It’s as though once I slice open that tape, I’ve taken a step that I cannot take back, and I have to acknowledge the thing-ness of what I’ve done. Also, I know that once I lay eyes on the books, I will start wanting to come up with a great book event – a launch party, as it were – but I really don’t have time this month (as it is now June) and I definitely don’t have the money. Perhaps, though, in July, I can have a local event. BUT! BUT! of course there’s BUT! What about having a non-local event? I only have so many copies – ten of each, I was told. If I can’t afford to have a party in town, I damn well can’t afford it out of town.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

I am hoping/planning on a major surgery for later this year. It is fraught with emotional complications, even though it shouldn’t be. I am afraid of the expense more than anything else. I am the most risk-averse person I have ever met. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Completed the Torchwood watching project. And yet I need more. Please send fanfic recommendations – rated NC-17, if at all possible. What’s Torchwood without twisted smut, I ask you?

No writing at all has been accomplished in weeks. I’ve been sick, then I had a nightmarish period, and now… I’m just weary. The incessant rain has finally worn me down and I can’t fight back anymore. I just want to drink cocktails and sleep. And there’s so much to be done – revising My LGB of the Apocalypse (does that title make sense? … oy vey), completing a draft of Plums… well, OK, that’s not that much. But still. I’m having a hard time making my thoughts coherent right now… which is why I’m taking a quick blog break, so that, ideally, I can write some marketing copy. For the actual job. Towards which I really ought to change my attitude. I’m just so tired. I don’t want to do anything.

But I do have an idea about how to publish Plums. It’s a pretty great idea. I just need to finish writing it before I can work towards the release of it. Which means I need to walk away from Captain Jack Harkness (my dear Jack; my dear Ianto – such a dark, horrible love story between two hopelessly fucked up people) for a little while, and get back to the machinations of Michael, Jim, and Jesse. Which means I need to get my inspirations back in line. It’s not like I don’t have them in the house – all four volumes, in fact, though I think I only really need to review the first one. 😉

Send Hendricks’ Gin and orgasms in large quantity. I will pay for expedited shipping. Thank you.

All about Orfeo

May 29, 2011

As a companion piece to the blog I wrote for the Dorchester Publishing website about Lovely, by popular demand (well, two people on Facebook) I will take a similar approach to another immensely popular character from the vampire novels. I’d like to write about pretty much every character – even the minor characters often have detailed backstories – in the future, but one at a time, and all things in their time.

Orfeo Ricari is definitely one of my favorite characters. He might have been the first one I thought of – though more likely he came to mind simultaneously with his nemesis/lover/frenemy Daniel Blum, knitting himself together out of the loose threads of watching Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash interact on stage during the live segments of the Bauhaus concert film, Archive. I knew some things about the history of Bauhaus, and of the simultaneously admiring and resentful relationship between Murphy and Ash (which was much more Murphy vs. everybody else, and really, barely even that), but by God, those two skinny English boys sure looked hot together. Whether they were actually hooking up or not (signs, sadly, point to “not”), their stage interactions evoked unspeakable sexual congress and warfare with a side order of punk-rock fun. Sure, they totally stole these panty-wetting moves from David Bowie and Mick Ronson, but even so, with Peter and Daniel, it was as likely that somebody was going to end up dead when they got off; and David J’s carefully neutral avoidance of the whole dance suggested that it wouldnt be the first time that had happened, and he was damned if he was going to be next.

So, despite a joke I like to make, Voice of the Blood isn’t really Bauhaus fanfic – I didn’t know enough about the actual band to write anything about them, nor was I interested in writing about them specifically, as two guys in a band from Northampton. The characters they inspired got me obsessing and scribbling.

Thus: Orfeo Ricari. His name’s a grab bag: Orfeo from the David Sylvian song “Orpheus”, still a favorite, and a great showcase for Sylvian’s gorgeous, sexy-gothic-stolen-from-Bowie baritone; the song itself based on the Cocteau film, I’m sure; and Ricari because I thought it was an Italian name. It’s not; it’s Spanish. (I make shit up, and I often get it wrong if it actually exists. Novels are handsome lies.) Whatever the source of the name, Orfeo is Italian, through and through, full stop. I don’t know why, exactly; he just is. And rather than be the (at the time) stereotypical southern Italian/Sicilian of looks, dark hair and skin and eyes, Orfeo looks more Continental, possessed of a naturally pale, strawberries-in-snow complexion, pure gray eyes, and the hair color described on boxes of Miss Clairol dye as “Dark Ash Blonde”.

His history is recounted in Fiend, my favorite of the four books, possibly because it really is just one person’s story, but also that of several prominent others: Daniel Blum, George, Maria, Liesl, and even Orfeo’s sister Maria Elena, the woman of whom Ariane would so strongly remind him. Orfeo was born in 1798 in Campania, youngest of seven of whom five survived; Orfeo the only surviving son. He was what you might not want to term a “sissy”, but you wouldn’t be wrong if you did. He wasn’t like the girls, but he definitely wasn’t like the boys, either. He liked painting and poetry and philosophy; he was a spoiled, belittled, coddled princelet, as bored by his advantages and as subconsciously thrill-seeking as his later encounters, Daniel Blum and Ariane Dempsey.

Orfeo came to mind both fully-formed and malleable by my own experiences and learning. I easily envisoned the adult, vampire Orfeo in Paris; in the streets of the same Berlin imagined in Cabaret; daydreaming in the back of a taxi in post-war London; elegantly gesturing for the check in one of the swanky cocktail bars I longed to infiltrate in 1990s San Francisco (in particular, Tosca, which is the bar with red booths and waitstaff in black satin where he and Ariane spend a lot of time). Orfeo would always look the same; would always dress the same, would always get away with it. Creamy satin or linen shirt, worn baggy on his wire-thin frame (not quite pirate-poofy, but close); slim-fit trousers; shined brogues or oxfords, sometimes with spats; sometimes a snug waistcoat to display his 26-inch waist; a classic camel trenchcoat. He’s tiny, five feet four, one hundred pounds, and looks like he’s stepped out of a dagguerotype or a classic-Hollywood headshot. Generally calm, melancholy, and fatalistic, but with a vicious temper, and a tendency to, in anger, say and do the most hurtful things he can imagine. He inspires love rather than friendship; he’s hard to live with, moody and introspective, but fun to go out with, when his generous nature can kick into high gear.

He looks like a porcelain elf doll, but he’s as tough as nails; he’s a fighter and a survivor. His Catholic faith sustains and absolves him, even as his faith is shaken and even abandoned; it always returns.

So does he.

the creator/fan schism

May 19, 2011

I’m kind of right in the middle of it…

For the last 10 years or so, my life has been a struggle to reconcile the two major parts of my personality – that which longs to create, and that which longs to enjoy and obsess over that which others have created. In other words, I am both a creator and a fan. Oddly enough, the two make for uneasy bedfellows, at least in my life. Every day brings the decision – “Shall I write? Or shall I read some of these books I’ve got piled up, or watch some of these movies I own or have on loan, or listen to music with my full mind, or…”

I have no particular solution to this problem.

Current viewing crack:
Torchwood. I’m in the middle of series 2. It’s become incredibly brilliant and hard-hitting. Too much love.
Game of Thrones. I was a supporter/curious as soon as this series was announced, and caught up with all the episodes within two weeks. So far, I am pro- pretty much all the ladies, except for that whiny, pretty bitchface Stark daughter. I do believe that eventually she’ll come into her own – hopefully with the help of some hot lady-on-lady sex scenes.
Doctor Who, current series (season 6 by our US reckoning). Good stuff. Frequently wet-yourself scary.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m going to probably have to cut this short; it’s from the library, and it’s due back in 2 days. Love it, but ultimately inessential; as brilliant as Jeremy Brett is, I’m a Cumberbatch loyalist through and through. It’s called imprinting.
Glee. Because I’m one of those people.

Current reading crack:
Sherlock fan fiction. Don’t judge me; the writing is brilliant.
Torchwood fan fiction. OK, you can judge me for that. Itches must be scratched.
Echo, a comics series by Terry Moore. I have been a fan of Moore’s for a long time, but I can still forget how brilliant he is as a writer, artist, and character designer. This series is blowing me away – great characters across the board, and some of them are women. Amazing, right?
Chew, a comics series by John Laymon and Rob Guillory. I was curious; I bought Volume 1; that was all it took. Demented and fun.
Various other single-issues of this and that – Superman, Hellboy and BPRD, Scarlet, the Ring of the Niebelung miniseries from P.Craig Russell (exquisite!!). I’ve got a thick stack of American Splendor comics I liberated from work, too, but I haven’t started on them.

This is too much to do already, let alone the actual work of editing and writing that should be happening now. I get to it when I can, but I’ve been a bit sick and a lot tired lately, and all I can do is slump on the couch and watch TV shows on DVD. I’ll get back on the horse, but sometimes, my creative juice just runs dry, and I have to prime the pump with other people’s creations. It makes me just as happy, generally speaking. And I guess therein lies the problem – I don’t know any other writers who are also just big slobbering fans of stuff. I know other writers with enthusiasms, and obsessions, certainly, but they aren’t the type to want to seriously consider buying a Cumberbitches T-shirt, getting Deep Space 9 themed tattoos, or running out of money by the end of the month because they bought comic books. Maybe they’re out there, and I just haven’t met them yet.

All about Lovely

May 17, 2011

(This is crossposted from the Dorchester Publishing page. And there will be more of these musings to come.)

One of the most common questions that any writer gets is “Where do you get your ideas?” In many cases, I can truthfully answer that the ideas were shaped by my own life experiences – not that I’ve know many vampires, but I have known some people who came close, even if they weren’t truly undead, super-powered blood drinkers. In one particular case, however, a character occurred to me as if out of nowhere, and demanded that I depict him.

After I graduated from college in 1994, I moved from Portland to San Francisco to try and find some kind of gainful employment better than working the swing shift at a convenience store. I got a job with reassuring swiftness at a company that no longer exists (oddly enough, most of the places I’ve ever worked no longer exist), handling data entry and library database research. It was a decent place to work, and after a terrible spring and an even worse, underemployed, desperate, rootless summer, I felt as though I might be able to make it in the world somehow.

At that point I wasn’t writing. Part of the unpleasantness of the spring came from the humiliation suffered as I tried to defend a novel that I’d presented as my senior thesis; my overblown, overheated style made for an easy target, and my relative ignorance of what a novel was, and its place in a literary canon, even at the point where I was ready to receive a degree in English, earned me some well-deserved sharp blows from my professors. The message that I received, loud and clear, was that my writing wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t know what I was talking about (which was more or less true). All I really had to offer were stories, and characters, and conflict, and mood; if this was not enough, I had no business calling myself a novelist.

I’d moved to San Francisco hoping that the city’s rich literary heritage might seep into me. I hoped that being in the same environment that spawned such greats as Shirley Jackson, Armistead Maupin, and Lemony Snicket might have a beneficial effect on me. Walking the endless stretch of Market Street, drinking in bars in the Castro, loitering outside the shops at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, and being kicked out of the first place I lived within two weeks of moving in had to have some kind of educational value, didn’t it?

When I was eighteen, I wrote a seventy-page draft of a vampire novel that I felt had some potential, but it certainly wasn’t there yet. I’d been thinking it over occasionally ever since, wondering if there was any way to make it better, to make it really work as a narrative and not just a collection of vignettes and one-liners between two vampires, old lovers, come to the point of their relationship when most of their interactions are fights and quarrels. I hadn’t actually worked any more on the novel since its second draft, written out longhand in a spiral notebook, but the two central characters refused to leave my mind, and increasingly, I saw a third character, a woman and a shared lover, as a bridge between them. And yet, that wasn’t enough, either; I needed more than a standard love triangle. These characters would require more than a bedroom farce. Even Noel Coward’s Design for Living has more than three characters.

One early afternoon, I was at work, and on the phone. I had a red pen and a lined spiral notebook (or maybe it was a pad of Post-Its?…) so that I could take notes and mark up the printouts of the documents I had been tasked to find. The margins of that notebook had been used for many a phone doodle; I tended towards geometric designs, hands, and anime-style eyes. When I was little, I considered becoming a visual artist, and drew constantly, but at a certain point, I hit a wall of skill and expression that I just couldn’t scale, and my family lacked the money to invest in supplies to take further art classes. Spiral notebooks and ballpoint pens, however, were cheap, and as I had always narrated a story to myself with every drawing I created, I determined to just write the stories alone. On that work day, on the phone, I sketched the outline of a face, the curve of a neck flaring out to narrow shoulders and an arched collarbone. Almost as if out of nowhere, the eyes appeared – big, dark, soft, haunted eyes. No eyebrows. That was important.

The phone call ended, and I continued the drawing, adding a small, full, shy mouth; a slender, bare male torso, some vague drapery around the hips, and a couple of protruding, mouse-like ears. For hair, I dashed a couple of vertical lines sprouting from the center of the forehead, and stippled the sides of the head, suggesting a sort of fleecy stubble. I paused for a moment and considered the drawing. Despite the sadness of the eyes, this creature seemed to have a wonderful, wicked sense of humor. And he’d be a teenage runaway, from Oklahoma. A mutant freak in his native environment, he’d have to run away to find a place to call home; and perhaps it wouldn’t be a place; it’d be a person. An eternal person. A vampire. Of course.

I wrote, beside the figure, Lovely.

Then I gave him some tattoos. And pierced nipples. This was 1994, after all. He was beautiful; he was tragic in origin; he was fearless, sexual, sentimental, earthy and ethereal at once. He reminded me of the characters from Francesca Lia Bloch’s Weetzie Bat novels, which meant that he wouldn’t end up in San Francisco; it would have to be Los Angeles, the L.A. of punk clubs, bougainvillea, Oki Dog, Hollywood glamorous sleaze. He pulled the story along with him. He sprung from my head fully formed, and the novel where he would live shaped itself around him.

With shaking hands, I tore the drawing out of the notebook and put it in whatever book happened to be in my purse at the time, and got back to work. During the tumultuous months afterward, I would look at the drawing again from time to time, further details about this new fictitious person expanding in my mind. I found my original notebook draft of the vampire novel, and re-read it. Shortly after acquiring a bare-bones PC, I opened a new document and began writing a scene between Daniel, the more forceful of the two vampire characters, and Lovely, as told by the teenage runaway himself to an unseen narrator. As Lovely told his story, the unseen narrator, the intermediary, also began to take shape in my mind; her loves, desires, and frustrations.

Keep in mind that, as far as I was concerned, I’d given up on writing. This was just fun, like an expansion of “rolling up” characters for a role-playing game. I began to do that, too; in the occasional sessions of Vampire: the Masquerade I had with my only friends in the whole Bay Area, I created Ariane as a player character. Quickly, though, I realized that she wasn’t an RPG character; I needed more control and more detail than would ever be useful around the gaming table. Still, playing her brought her voice to my mind, and I wrote more scenes between her and Lovely, with other characters in her life, with her own story. Throughout all of this, Lovely remained strongly at the forefront of my mind; I wanted to write something worthy of him.

Lovely, seventeen years old and as childish and silly as a puppy, became the mortal companion of the vampire Daniel Blum. As ward, as lover, as good-natured heir to the immortal power of vampirism, Lovely bears many similarities to some young men I have known (and loved, and been vexed by), and yet he is as individual as anyone I’ve ever met. His realism and spontaneity helped the novel Voice of the Blood come into being. I don’t feel that I crafted him; he just showed up and told me how things were going to go.

I still have the drawing. See?

"Lovely" drawn by Jemiah Jefferson

The drawing - not on lined paper at all!

chaos reigns

March 31, 2011

I’ve been saying that a lot recently. (I really should watch ANTICHRIST so I can actually place that quote into context.)

For an update on what’s been on my mind, I encourage you to read this:
http://www.stacydittrich.com/blog/2011/03/guess-what-dorchester-its-on/

And what does that mean for me?

To be honest, I have no idea. The Vampire Quartet (so-named) is still on track for re-release. I cannot get my rights back. I have no money to get the law involved.

So… act in conscience. Buy or do not. And in the future – I will continue writing, and sharing my work, through self-publishing if necessary, and I hope that my readers will continue to be interested.

In the meantime, I has a sad.

Watching The Pied Piper, a fluffy 1973 lark with Donovan acting in it. I don’t have much hope that this movie will actually be much good (It’s a “Goodtimes Enterprises Film” – oy vey) though it does have John Hurt and Donald Pleasance in… wait, that’s no guarantee of anything. Diana Dors as “Frau Poppendick”? Good lord, what have I gotten myself into?

Well, I count Donovan as one of my muses (along with such notables as John Taylor, Peter Murphy, Montgomery Clift, Alex Colby, and that cute little skank Jeremy from high school) and have been inspired by him to write much material. I am now in the process of revising the novel-sized chunk of said material, originally written when I was 19 and a college sophomore and had a single room. I’ve been off the Donovan crack pipe for quite some time now – one bad LSD trip will do that to you – actually, no, it was because Nick Cave took over and blotted out the sun – and I lost all my original Donovan vinyl – but I want to recall that sweet mania that drove me to write that novel in the first place.

To that end I will re-educate myself about the sound of his voice, for that was the conduit that the holy madness was first transmitted to me. I had barely ever seen a photograph of him until years after I had obsessively collected all his records and spent my first summer home from college being soothed by the songs, nostalgic for soft Portland rain and not the violence of Denver sunshine. Donovan is one of those fellows whose voice is substantially more beautiful than his face – though, I could be mistaken. I’ve never seen Donovan in a movie before.

Hell, I watched The Magic Christian just because Ringo Starr was in it, and I don’t even fancy Ringo.

Wish me luck. Frau Poppendick. I swear.

new mind detritus

February 13, 2011

I will blog more often.

Recent distractions/lifesavers:
• Sherlock, and all things Benedict Cumberbatch.
• Small Craft on a Milk Sea, the new Brian Eno release. It’s excellent.
• The second half of the fourth season of Doctor Who.
• Frankenstein, the new production in the West End, directed by Danny Boyle, music by Underworld, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, trading roles every night. They will be broadcasting it to theaters in the US shortly; I will be at the Portland screenings at least twice – more details on this in the near future.
• A weekly cooking experiment. So far I’ve succeeded at coconut dal, coq au vin, and a brined pork loin roast. I’m pretty good at this.

Current projects:
Plums (massive sexy three-way gay male love story) – working towards a complete first draft
The Legend of a Lucy Willow (a tough/tender YA-ish romance set in the world of British pop music in 1967) – reading through the first draft, which was written in 1992
FirstWorld (cyberpunk/cyber-real story, as serialized at Underland Press website) – revised and improved, it’s being looked at by a professional at the moment
• a piece of Sherlock fan fiction, which shall not be named here; when it’s done, I may say so here, but you will have to find it yourself. It’s the kind of thing that could get me in trouble. 😉

Oh yeah, and Dark Horse, where I’ll be tomorrow. I am working on a lot of projects there right now, some of which I’m not allowed to talk about yet. More details to come as things get worked out and I have time.

Coming soon: Emerald City Comic Con.

I have been caffeine-free today. My headache tells me so.