Thursday, August 18, 2011

Breaking News: Reporter notices recent vampire trend that has existed for decades

There's a news article out on the web today discussing 1) a man in Texas who claims to be a vampire and attacked a woman in her home, and 2) how the attack may be related to the vampire obsession in today's culture.

Before commenting on the article I want to be very clear about one thing. There is a news article but there isn't any news.

Let us begin by examining the by-line: “Texas “vampire” arrest sparks discussion on pop culture.” No. No, it hasn't. To spark something is to begin it, and this arrest hasn't begun a darn thing related to pop culture. Discussions about the relationship of monster myths to culture and society have been going on for centuries. Not news.

A few paragraphs in, the author of the article states that vampires have been a focal point of literature since Stoker's Dracula. Wow. Way to completely overlook and discount the pre-Stoker vampire novels and novellas that stirred public interest in the monster myth and inspired Stoker.

In the very next sentence the author proclaims that young people (whoever they are) have become increasingly obsessed with vampires as a result of Twilight and True Blood. Does the author's definition of young people include Twilight reading soccer moms and forty-something men who watch True Blood for the sex scenes? Or did the author pointedly ignore real demographics so she could use the phrase 'young people' in a desperate attempt to degrade today's youth and strike a chord with alarmist parent groups? Hmm.

So what examples does the author give us humble readers of this recent born vampire obsession? She interviews Anne Rice, who she acknowledges began writing novels about vampires in the 1970s (Pre-Twilight), and she includes crime related examples of: an attack made by a vampire obsessed youth in 1996 (Pre-Twilight), a San Francisco man who slashed peoples throats in 1998 (Pre-Twilight), and a blood-lusting UK serial killer back in 1949 (Pre-Twilight). Not one example to support her timely hypothesis.

Reading further, the

Forget it. I'm done. Continuing to dissect the article would accomplish nothing. On the surface it seems to be about the undead, but in reality it's just one more example of why I don't subscribe to newspapers or news services.  Like I said in the beginning: no news. Nothing new.

I'm going to get another cup of coffee, go outside, and watch the clouds drift by. I suggest you do the same. Should you feel a great need to incorporate a vampirish element into the experience, you can do the following: make the coffee an iced coffee, stick a straw into the cup, and suck.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yeah, a Limerick

There once was a lawyer named Wells
whose bosses would put her through hell.
Then she moved to the farm;
now with stakes she is armed,
and her story she's trying to sell.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I'm opening this review differently than usual, by explaining why I almost didn't read the book. It helps a lot in explaining why I'm glad I did read it.

I love classic monsters. Yes, myths like monsters evolve over time. It's possible to track changes in culture and causes of social unrest by studying the evolution of monster myths. I get that. But when I pick up a book I want to escape from, not immerse myself deeper in, the world around me. Exploring humanity through the story is fine, but please leave out individual angst and social commentary. Give me classic monsters.

Zombie myths have evolved less in recent years than others monsters, especially vampires. The cause of the zombie virus and the speed of the zombies are the two main areas where authors debate and strive to forge new ground. They're also the two details I care about least as a reader. Authors can take gross liberties in those areas and I don't care. I'll read on. As long as zombies are zombies, I'm happy.

A while ago, someone handed me a copy of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. The giver described the book as a great zombie romance, like a zombie version of Twilight. It was an ill chosen phrase to use when speaking to a devotee of classic monsters. I tossed the book aside. Eventually I did pick it up and opened the cover (after brushing off a layer of dust), and began to read. I'm a bibliophile, and I'll give just about any book a chance, a chapter at a time. I'm glad I gave Warm Bodies a chance. It's a great book, one that stands on its own. It doesn't need to be compared to another franchise.

Once I started reading Warm Bodies I couldn't put it down. The zombies are everything I could ask for, and not just at the bone-chomping throat ripping level. The author uses the monster in a classic way, to explore the truths of what it is to have and lose humanity.

The book shines in three ways:

1) Story: R is a zombie, not too far decayed, with the usual zombie need to feed. But R stands out from his fellow zombies, as a protaginist should. He's unusually logacious, uttering phrases that border on whole sentences. He also has within him a spark, resembling humanity, but better defined as a personality. Whatever wiped out the individualism of the others hasn't gotten to R yet. In fact, his personality is getting stronger.

R chomps into the brain of a victim one day, Perry, and is flooded with the boy's memories. Pariculary strong are the memories of the Perry's girlfriend, Julie. R realizes that Julie is in the room. Compelled by undefinable feelings, R saves Julie from being eaten.

The growing romance between R and Julie is believable because of its timing. R gradually comes back to life as love grows. Its hard to say sometimes if the love drives the life, or vice versa. What is clear is R is special, and his unique qualities make the romance possible.

Perry, though dead for most of the book, is a fascinating character. He's like a ghost living inside R. Think about it for a minute – a ghost of the living survives in the mind of a zombie. Like traditional ghosts, Perry can't pass on to an afterlife until he resolves the issues he left behind. He does that through R, letting go of life even as R returns to it.

2) World building: The author doesn't just toss zombies onto the pages. There's a zombie culture, and he gradually pulls the reader into it. Through R's interactions with the other zombies we learn how zombies fall in love....if you can call it that...close enough...and how they marry and are assigned children. There's even a scene at a zombie school, where zombie children learn how to hunt. Done improperly, the world building would seem cartoonish. Marion executes it beautifully. He knows just how much humanity remains in each member of the undead society, and tells the reader in clear, crisp terms.

There are different kinds of undead: zombies like R, and Boneys. Don't take your eyes off the Boneys. Watching them you'll learn that there's more than one way to die. Some of the living may already be dead inside...and if that's true, are they really alive?

3) Writing style: Marion's style, more than anything else, kept me reading through the early pages. He knows when to throw in a tongue-in-cheek twist that makes you grin and keeps you reading.

If you've read any of my other book reviews you know I always have some kind of critique to make, and this review is not an exception. WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD. SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT THE SPOILER. Marion's excellent use of symbolism falls short right at the end. There's a point past the middle of the book where R sees Julie's home. He notices a yellow wall. All the other walls in the room feature artwork or photographs, but the yellow wall is blank. It's Julie's hope wall, open for future possibilities. So yellow equals hope. Got it? Good. Later on, R and Julie kiss. He comes back to life and her eyes turn yellow. Therefore, Julie and R's love represents hope for all humankind. I get it...every cheesy bit of it. Sigh. Forgive me. I suffer from literary lactose intolerance. So while I was able to swallow the changing eye color bit, it left me with some indigestion. The timing of the event in relation to the story made matters worse. Julie's eyes change color near the end of the book. When the author should be wrapping things up, he introduces new issues. As I read the remaining pages I kept wondering exactly why Julie's eye color changed. What did it mean in terms of the zombie disease? What implications did it have for other possible changes in Julie? Would anyone else's eyes change color? It was cheesy, poorly timed...and completely unnecessary. There are other places in the wrap-up portion where the author could have emphasized the color yellow, like when R's undead female companion notices the sun and takes her first breath. A let down in an otherwise enjoyable story.

Overall, a great book. This one should appeal to fans of modern tales and lovers of the classics (like me). Who knows, in a few years people may be saying, “You must read book _______! It's like a _______ version of Warm Bodies!”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Man in US Dies from Vampire Bat Bite

We have a report of a human death caused by vampire bat.

You want the good news or the bad news? Okay, I'll give you both.

Good news: the actual biting did not occur in the US. The man was bitten in Mexico then died after he came to the US. This is very good news for our readers in the Midwest; not as great for those of us living in Texas.

I wonder if the vampire bat attack isn't an indirect result of the heat and drought throughout our area. Venomous snakes are more aggressive than usual. It makes sense that bats would be more aggressive too. Be thankful if you live in a part of the country that's been getting rain this summer.

Bad news: the strain of rabies the vampire bat carried had a very short incubation period, compared to normal strains.

One question remains: how did the bat bite the man's foot? Rather, why did it bite him on the foot and not somewhere else?

For the full article go here.

- M. M. Wells

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Undead Flamingos

The post title says it all.

- M. M. Wells

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wrapping Up No Fracking Way

Some notes on the recently concluded story “No Fracking Way”:

The character of Joe Capri, a.k.a. 10-key, is based on a good friend and law school classmate. For the record, he does in fact own a pinstripe three-piece suit of pure fabulousness. And he is a genius. When he was younger he had a marked ability to find trouble or, no trouble forthcoming, invent it. The latter could be seen by some as a character flaw, one worthy of lecture, but he never gets a lecture from me. Every time I open my mouth to scold, I suddenly remember doing something equally stupid when I was his age, and quickly clam up. He is the closest thing I have on this planet to a little brother. I can't think of a better partner for a case. Except Naomi O'Conners. Someday Naomi and I will write another origin story, and you'll get to see what happens when all three of us work together.

And now, some comments on characters and the writing process. We begin with Bradley Obsert. Brilliant and good-looking, he's every woman's dream...unless that woman is our heroine. There was SUPPOSED to be a love triangle, a Bradley-Maryanne-Matt love triangle. But no, the heroine wasn't interested!

If the story had occurred earlier in the master story line, I could have made the love triangle work. At this stage of the game the heroine's character is so well developed that as the writer, the wisest thing I could do was let her be herself.

That's not to say I accepted defeat gracefully. I tried one more time to make the love triangle happen, at Belinda's funeral. Not only did the heroine not go for it, she put Bradley in his place and then quit her job with Dietrick, Egbert & Drake. The latter was supposed to happen, but not for a couple more stories.

Oh, if you replace the ampersand in the name of the firm with the word 'and' then read the acronym, you get DEAD. The first initials of all the associate attorneys at the law firm, minus Maryanne, spell BLOOD. Belinda was killed, and replaced with Bradley. Needed the B.

The heroine's actions at the funeral precipitated the showdown at the fracking field. The original plan was for her to be on a date with wanna-be vampire Bradley, and for the vampires of the law firm to attack. The big showdown would happen later. However, it's not a problem that the showdown with DEAD happened earlier than originally planned. There's a lot of meat in the master storyline. Thanks to our heroine, we'll be getting to it sooner.

Two things came out of this experience. First, we got a new arch-villain in Bradley Obsert. I was so taken by the back story between Obsert and Joe Capri that I called the REAL Joe and asked for ideas on the back-story. He told me a few tidbits so intriguing, I decided to make the Obsert-Capri back-story the next piece I write for this blog. September / October, I hope.

The second thing gained from writing the story was an increased sense of freedom. I learned what happens when I trust developed characters. The lesson has already found application. I'm working on the first UBA novel. I began with a plan and set ideas about the characters. Three-quarters of the way in, I've thrown preconception to the wind. The characters are people, and I won't force them into molds. As a result, the book has already improved beyond the original plan. It's not a classic horror / paranormal as originally planned. It's a paranormal mystery / thriller. I like it.

That's it for this story wrap-up. Naomi will be posting her new story soon, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 1, 2011

On Zombie Apocalypse

Hey, kids, Naomi here. I'm back for a bit while Maryanne tries to finish up some non-blog related business. But as I'm also in the middle of some professional obligations, all you get for right now is some poetry. Starting mid-next week, you can expect another story. It'll be... rather off the beaten track. Prepare yourselves. In the meantime, enjoy some literary leavings:

On Zombie Apocalypse
I woke and wandered through the western waste
With little memory of the time before.
My job, my loans, my future all erased
By shotgun, moans of "braaaaaaains", and blood and gore.
My zombie-killing partner has my back
With sawed-off parking meter and a gun:
So side by side we fend off each attack.
When we use up the gas, we'll have to run.
We used to both be lawyers, i recall:
Opposing counsel, loathed each others' guts,
But we have had to swallow all that gall.
Now golf clubs are for harder things than putts.
If i survive, avoiding zombie torts,
I swear, i'm never going back to court!