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Our long national nightmare is over! Errr, well, maybe it’s just started… well, maybe just for this one dude.

My first non-genre novel, self-published, designed and laid out by yours truly, with an amazing front cover image from artist Ben Bittner, is at last available for sale in a couple of different places.

I like CreateSpace.

Check it out:

Mixtape for the Apocalypse – a novel by Jemiah Jefferson

Mixtape FC

front cover

a short fiction: “Poison”

September 25, 2011

To reward all my patient fans who have been begging for more stories set in the universe where my vampires preen and emo and thrill-kill, I present a story that was written shortly after Voice of the Blood. Comment away!
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“Poison”
After tonight never again… I swear to any god you like that I won’t do this shit any more. Look at this — my hand is shaking like an alcoholic granddad, spilling my hard-fought perfect coffee mixture onto the saucer. Five sugars, three miniature white plastic trash cans of half&half. (So what? I need my cheap energy; it’s served me well in my line of work so far. Ask any cop, G.I., or IRA terrorist.) Good Lord this night is bleak, seen through the shimmery cheap windows of the Carrow’s (like Denny’s only more pathetic with its intimations of quality and family dining atmosphere). Trucks keep on passing by, or worse, stopping here. Other poor degenerate fucks like me.

“What’s brought on this fugue, this funk, my dapper young gentleman?” you may ask. By all appearances all is well — there’s just a tall skinny chap in black jeans and artfully rumpled white shirt, over there alone in that greenish booth, having some coffee and pie. But you see I’ve come to a crisis; you might say a turning point in my career. Not mid-life; the life expectancy of guys in my line of work is about four years younger than I am. I’ve outlasted and outlived most of the excitable, upwardly-moral young turks who think they can do what I’ve done.

I’ve seen legions of them die horrible deaths ripped into pieces like a Tyson chicken, jerking headless upon the ground, or simply bleeding to death from poetic wounds in their tender, porous necks. I was lucky and they weren’t. That part of it makes me sick. It used to motivate me — I’d say, This one’s for Little Lester, this one’s for Jason, Ricky, Alistair. But no matter how much blood I shed, it doesn’t bring back those young faces, those delicate hands too new to be gnarled. It doesn’t make me feel any better.

Before ten o’clock this evening, I killed children of the night. I didn’t even do it for a living, like some action-filled Fox Television horror/drama. I didn’t get paid, except for reclaiming the red-sodden dollars from the pockets of my shrivelling victims. I just did it out of some skewed moral purpose, I think; now I don’t remember. It all seems so abstract. And my concretes are all so hideous like I’ve had toomany bad mushrooms. For example, this is absolutely some of the worst pie I’ve ever encountered in all my travels.

In my thirty years I’ve killed sixty-three vampires. I’ve also killed fourteen human beings, mostly because I couldn’t help it or they were ready to croak anyway. In Minnesota I shot a thirteen-year-old girl through the forehead; she was being held up as a body shield by a particularly wily old bloodsucker from South Africa and I knew from past experience with him that he’d break her neck rather than let me get through. I watched his startled expression as I shot him through the eye and then struck off his head with a single blow of my cleaver. Took three days for me to scrub the blood from under my fingernails — that shit’s like chocolate pudding, it stains.

I would do this to myself while I’m eating. This apple pie redefines “nauseating” especially with the remarkably bad decision to have it a la mode. I don’t find it the least bit fashionable to have excrable vanilla leatherette crawling all over my pie. And I’m not even particularly romantically attached to the pie. Why the hell did I get apple when I really wanted cherry?

After tonight never again.

I don’t know what got to me about tonight particularly. It was an average attack; a suburban duplex, early evening when the vamps are awake but still rather groggy from the day’s heat. Two young women and an older man, sprawled on the coolness of a waterbed. Strangely they weren’t expecting me; many’s the time I show up ready to kick butt to find the butt-kickees gone, leaving me a note saying There’s milk and cookies by the fireplace. Love, Satan. I was alone tonight. The first girl went without a whimper; she didn’t feel a thing as her spinal column split. The second girl fought half-heartedly, broken up over the other; the two looked as alike as sisters, dressed in sleazy baby tees and stained panties.

The guy was the one who got me though. He jumped on my back as I was taking care of the second sister and I felt his claws try to rake through my jacket. It tore, which is why I’m not wearing it now, but didn’t pierce me. I kicked him off me and began double-fisting him — stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver. I can’t describe what he looked like when I finally lost my breath and fell backward, hyperventilating; I don’t want to describe it, I don’t want to think about it. It’s a sight nobody sane should ever experience.

And what makes me think I’m sane? I spent twelve years chopping living breathing holy creatures into Alpo. I skewered fair-skinned children with the casual aplomb of a Mussolini hollowing out a cigar with a pencil. I used to tell myself, They had a choice. Nobody forced that sizzling admixture of virus and ectoplasm down their throat and forced them to swallow… But this is all no different from the fact that no one forced me to take up the stake and the butcher-knife and hunt them down. They were seduced by the same romance, the chance to become part of something bigger, something noble, something beautiful. They were going to become angels. I was going to become a crusader, a knight in shining leather bomber jacket. We shared the insatiable desire for blood.

There’s a theory that the illustrious Dr. Van Helsing was actually a vampire.

The waitress refills my squat china cup, going back on her way, fat ass undulating in her brown dress. I watch the ass as it goes upon its way; almost a separate entity from the automaton of a server. When I turn back you are sitting across from me in the booth, hands folded neatly, smiling at me.

You’re a cute little killer, I have to admit; cascades of dark-red curly hair, freckles, poky boobs greeting me from under an innocent white T-shirt. I pretend that nothing’s happened, and begin doctoring my coffee. Three trash cans, five packets of blow. Your eyes examine me while I do this, then glance at me again.

So you’re giving it up, you say.

“I’m tired,” I say out loud. It’s not very loud.

Can I have a bite of your pie?

I slide the plate across the table with my fingertips. You bite and chew the strange substance, the golden goo sticking to your teeth, cinnamon and nutmeg catching between your fangs and your human teeth. By your expression, you regret the pie as much as I.

Should’ve gone for the cherry.

That gets a smile out of me. “So what do you want?” I ask conversationally, watching your lead-colored claws tapping out a purling rhythm on the yellow formica.

I’m glad, you say.

I shake my head. I wish I could say I was glad, but I don’t. I don’t feel anything at all.

I’ve never sat with a vampire like I’m sitting here with you, just talking quietly. Vampires have spoken to me before; they drill their hate directly into my brain, calling me every kind of bastard, every kind of pig-fucking murderer. They hate me because they can talk to me, but they can’t manipulate me into doing anything. Ricky — that South African vampire made Ricky chop off his own hand with the meat cleaver. He tried to do the same to me and I just stared at him.

The vampire had smiled at me.

The waitress brings another cup and asks you if you want coffee. You look up at her and say in the softest, sweetest voice, “No, thanks.” Then you look at me again. “It’s not ‘them’ anymore, Raymond,” you say. “It’s no longer ‘us against them’. The fight’s over.”

“And I lose,” I say.

“No, nobody loses,” you say. “You only lose when you’re fighting.” You touch a small ragged hole in my shirt. “Hm?”

“Acid.”

“That’s mean.”

“It works,” I say. “Can’t come back if you’re reduced to a pile of your constituent elements.”

You quietly laugh.

I feel better somewhere in my soul. Both of us ignore the pie, and you watch me thirstily drinking the coffee mixture, syrupy at the bottom, swirly on top. You smile at me again. Why don’t you come over to my place, you say to me. And I close my eyes and can’t think of anything I want more. I’ve always been with you. You knew it all along; that’s why you laugh, you smile; you knew all along.

We get up out of the booth. I drop four bucks on the table — the waitress doesn’t deserve more, I’m afraid. You loop your arm in mine and we desert the Carrow’s, head off down the road together.

You show me the night-dark city, and all the reasons why.

====

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.

regarding Daniel Blum

June 20, 2011

This is the third in my series of blog posts about the characters of the Vampire Quartet novels. Much delayed, I’m afraid, because how do you approach a subject like one of the most popular (in fact, if reader feedback can be believed, THE most popular) characters in the whole series — and such a complex, fascinating fellow as Daniel Blum?

Well, I still don’t know. But (to quote George Harrison) I’ll have a bash.

Daniel Blum first appears in the first novel, Voice of the Blood, in conversation; his legend is built up long before he actually becomes a reality. The way Orfeo Ricari describes him, Daniel is almost like the Boogeyman — supernaturally terrifying, infinitely corrupt, vicious, cruel, nasty. He is a monster that scares other monsters. Of course, this intrigues our narrator, the polymorphously perverse and infinitely curious Ariane, and she has never been one to take someone else’s word for it. When she finally does meet Daniel in the flesh, it becomes clear that everything Ricari told her was true. It’s just not all that’s true.

Daniel’s got a little bit of everything. Absolutely, he’s a menace to society, he breaks hearts for fun, he’s a ruthless killer, he eats kittens (well, not really, but he would if he felt like it); at the same time, he is a hopeless romantic, a sensitive artist, a generous lover, a wellspring of jokes, and a thoughtful and caring father figure to the scores of lost and lonely people drawn to his scintillating façade. Born in 1900, son of a tailor and a schoolteacher, he rejected his stifling bourgeois upbringing, deciding to be a modern artist and provocateur rather than a nice Jewish cobbler. Gifted with extreme intelligence and unshakeable confidence in himself, he never tried to hide his predilections for wearing gorgeous and outlandish clothes, everything from womens’ silk blouses and evening gowns to military jackets and Cossack hats. He draws; he paints; he collages; he sings; he makes sculpture; he plays piano; he takes photographs; he puts on orgies and art happenings. When he discovers a vampire in his midst, he decides he wants to be that, too.

Daniel Blum loves who he wants to, and leaves when he’s ready. He’s far more interested in excitement and fireworks than he is in making the world a better place. He knows only one way to love — through obsession and cruelty, as well as support and tenderness. The 20th Century was his playground, and when that ended . . . well, a light went out of the world, did it not?

Daniel is an essential character in all four books, primarily Voice of the Blood, Fiend, and Wounds, which is his own individual character study; however, his presence colors everything in A Drop of Scarlet, and indeed, his actions make the story of what happens in that novel necessary.

The character was inspired by a variety of sources: the musician Daniel Ash (who seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after the final Bauhaus reunion; where you at, man???), my dear friend Alex (and his alter-ego Minerva Steel), Sally Bowles… many many charismatic, sociopathic bastards I’ve known through the years. All those blokes (and a couple of girls) who thrilled me because they just didn’t give a damn, but for a few brief moments, I could kid myself that they made an exception in my case.

Daniel does make an exception — in the book Wounds — but you have to read it to really understand why. 😉
≠ ≠ ≠ ≠
In other news, I wrote all weekend, and finished a chapter of my first draft of my current novel-in-progress. I also had few drinks with some friends of mine, and watched the movie Black Swan, which I loved. I also made enchiladas and then foolishly ate too much chocolate gelato. I slept a lot and made cold-brew coffee. Petted the cat. Listened to old mix CDs and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. I did very little else. It was not restful; writing, especially when one has been away from it for a long time (which I have; over a month since I wrote any fiction, and almost six months since I worked on the WIP), is really difficult, complete with physical, mental, and emotional challenges. I fought and won, though. Yay me. Now I have to get used to fighting this fight every day, or as close to it as I can get. Time’s a-wasting.

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.

Fan fiction.

A very loaded phrase, isn’t it? Often used as shorthand for “bad wish-fulfillment writing by subliterate teenage girls” by those without respect or understanding for the form. It is indeed a form, and not a genre; fanfiction (or “fanfic”, or “fic” for short-short) comes in all genres, hundreds of approaches, millions of thoughts. Much maligned as plagiarism, outright theft, the result of a lack of imagination/creativity/originality/a writer’s own ideas. There is often a sexist bias present in this disparagement, but I’m not interested in getting into that here (I’d love to go to grad school and study it officially, though; anybody got a spare $90K they’d be willing to donate?…); I’m much more interested in how ideas take root, grow, and sometimes bloom into something that surprises even the creator.

Fan fiction provides a space for exploring taboos (and certainly, that’s where a lot of my own interest lies, both as a reader and writer). Taboos of ownership and permission (“Am I allowed to write my own stories in this pre-existing, copyrighted-up-the-wazoo ‘reality’?”); taboos of sexuality and gender (a fun challenge is to think up the most unlikely or outré “pairing” and then look on the internet to see if it exists – and I have never once been disappointed); even taboos of respecting the “reality” of the source material, or even of reality in general as we understand it.

I write fanfic. I have done since I was twelve or so. Indeed, that is really how I got started writing in the first place. I wrote it as an adolescent and I have never stopped, and I have no intention of ever stopping. I consider some of it amongst the very best writing I have ever done, and it makes me sad that most of it will go unread – not because it’s fanfic (one of my favorite authors, Steven Brust, wrote a brilliant fanfic Firefly novel, posted it for free on this website, and hasn’t gotten into any trouble as far as I know) but because for most people, if they’re not interested in the subject matter, they won’t read it. (Why aren’t more people as interested in reading about gay sex as I am? Am I peculiar in some way? 😉 … ah, so be it.)

However, if there’s any interest in reading it, I’m more than happy to share it. And hell, thanks to the vagaries of copyright, it’s all free; I don’t make any money from it. The funny thing is, fanfic is still some of my very favorite writing to do; I only write about characters who can take up residence in my head, so that I don’t have to make much of an effort to depict their “voices” on the page (true for fanfic AND original fic, for that matter). It’s really all the same to me; it’s just whether or not I get paid, have to hustle and pimp it, play by someone else’s rules, negotiate commerce and expectation instead of negotiating a pre-existing fictive space and doing the pleasurable research of (usually) watching an episode of TV with an eye for freeze-frame minutiae (“Where is the couch in position to the chest of drawers, the sideboard, and the mantelpiece? And IS THERE A RUG?! And what kind of rug is it? Does it look comfy?”). When I’m writing original fiction, I’ve got all this detail already in my mind; I just transcribe it. It’s really not any less work to write fanfic; not really. And as much as I’d love to get paid for all the writing I do, when it comes to fic, I just want to, as I say, “Rock worlds.”

I’d like to get paid as a writer so that I could devote myself entire to the craft, instead of worrying about what I’m going to pack for lunch and if the upcoming staff meeting promises to be stressful; but really, I’m here to Rock Worlds. I want to entertain the hell out of you. I want you to see a reflection of yourself in me, and I want a knowing laugh, a tear, and a feeling of not-displeasurable tightness in your trouser area. I want you to have fun in my world, as I’ve had fun in the worlds of leGuin, Brite, Gaiman, Speed McNeil, Whedon, Baker (Nicholson and James Robert), Parker, Conan Doyle (and Moffat and Gatiss), Straczynski, Watterson, Thompson (Jim and Hunter and Jill, too), and you too, Mr. Brust. I write to reflect my love out to the world, and if you inspire me in just the right way, I will pick up the loose thread and start knitting my own sweater.

And I encourage you to do the same with my works. Please, please, please, write fanfic (and create fan art!) based on my works. It’s the greatest compliment I could ever receive (that, and a nice fat check, but first things first).

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!