(This post is much longer than my normal ones. It’s an honest view of how one author unknowingly helped me through the darkest times in my life. With one of my parents no longer alive to read this and the other much deserving of my honesty [although I still love her dearly], I decided that I could finally live with the consequences of this post reaching the hands of people I know. This post is minimally edited, since it’s difficult to objectively critique something so personal, so please forgive any grammar mistakes.) – yes, there are some spoilers for her old books
Anne Rice will always be my author idol…
Discovery — Interview with a Vampire series
A long time ago, I read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.
Back then, my book purchases could be no more than 10 cents a books. My father haggled sales like a man with only two quarters to his name. We purchased our dining room table for ten dollars. It was an orange monstrosity(looked like it came straight out of Hardees) that he painted blue and for the next ten years spent countless hours yelling at the kids for peeling off the thick blue paint with their fingernails. Our bikes were bought for a couple dollars each. I can’t remember how much he paid for that 1970s yellow canoe that my best friend and I spent hours paddling across the shoreline of the bay during the summer, but it was surely less than its value.
I came upon her book by accident. It was a well-loved book with a crinkled cover that someone decided to throw into the yard sale pile. My parents didn’t care what kind of books I salvaged from the yard sales, only that I got them for a decent price aka nearly free. When I showed my dad this book by Anne Rice along with a handful of other books that were more age appropriate for a ten-year-old, I don’t think he understood how graphic the words were within its pages. Anne Rice didn’t write about vampires. She wrote about tormented souls, who felt cursed by their own existence.
I discovered Anne Rice’s vampire series at a perfect time in my life. My parents fought terribly. I grew up beneath the strict Catholic moral code and felt smothered by it. I felt like no one understood the internal battle raging inside me…until I read her books. Although the books were paranormal, the connection I felt was on a spiritual level. I felt like Louis, when my religion felt false around me. I felt like Lestat, searching endlessly to discover what my purpose was in life. I felt like Claudia, having to parent my parents sometimes (especially though the alcoholism)…when I was still too young on the outside for the world to listen to my voice.
Exploration – under the pen name Anne Rampling
A bitter divorce left me with a non-existent relationship with my dad and a turbulent one with my mother.
My mother always had a love for writing, but the stories she shared with me were uplifting and fake. It wasn’t until I tried to mimic the dark emotions that Anne Rice whispered to me, that I felt an outlet for my own. While other girls wasted their teenage years on silly crushes and frivolous get-togethers, I stayed inside my house with only my books and writing to let me explore the world around me. It was only though books that I felt safe enough to act my age and let the harden defenses fall.
Only while reading did I not have to worry about whether the ‘adult’ of the house would remember to bring me home dinner. That the five dollars I stole from my mom’s wallet wouldn’t be missed – while I ate the bag of potato chips and downed the two-liter of Pepsi that the stolen five dollars purchased. That I wouldn’t have to spent another chilly night sleeping in the car because my mom kicked me out of the house for hiding her car keys or alcohol. That I could ignore the piles of garbage and filth inside the house so thick that my sister and I had to create pathways from one room to another. That I could forget wearing second hand clothes stained by iron-infested water, because my mom was too embarrassed to have a plumber fix our water.
The only time that I felt a connection with my mother was on our trips to the bookstore. She’d let me slip into the horror section. My first choice was always Anne Rice. My problems seemed trivial compared to the boy with the beautiful voice whose balls were chopped off so he’d never hit puberty (Cry to Heaven). Or the island where people went voluntarily to be sex slaves (Exit to Eden). Or the forbidden romance between man and girl (Belinda). The stories were so dark and forbidden in themselves that I never felt tempted to make anything less than a logical decision when it came to my life. After all, my life could have been much worse.
So, I explored the marshy backyards instead of hanging out with friends that would ask too many questions about my life. I said goodbye to romance when I left the school bus. Except for my neighbor/best friend, no one knew what I came home to every night. No one knew that school was the only highlight of my life and if I missed the bus, I’d sneak into my mother’s car (not announce my presence until after she left the driveway) and plead with her to take me to school. No one knew of the times that my best friend and I used to knock on our drunken neighbor’s door and ask a 40-year-old single man to drive us to school when everyone else said no.
When my high school days finally came to an end and I resorted to rooming with an asshole co-worker because I had spent the past week living out of my car, there were still more books to look forward to. I finally read The Witching Hour, which spoke of a legacy of witches haunted by a ghost and restricted by the rules of their inheritance. The heir had a bittersweet end, when she was able to keep her lover but lost her child.
My own sex life was carefully monitored. I purposely waited until after my eighteenth birthday to end my virginity, since I wanted neither parent of mine to ever have influence over any child of mine. The only foolproof way to ensure this was abstinence. After I turned 18 and knew that I would have 100% control, I was willing to have sex using condoms or birth control. I also felt like I was corrupt. I thought that it wasn’t possible for me to ever have a child and NOT continue the cycle of abuse (which in my case was at least never physical). So, I made sure as best I could to practice the safest sex possible. If pregnancy happened, I was fully prepared to either adopt or abort. In my own way, I mourned the fact that I thought I’d grow old without ever having a family of my own. But, I just couldn’t risk the chance of sentencing a child to the same misery I experienced.
Betrayal — Christ The Lord series
When Anne Rice lost her husband and subsequently wrote Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, I felt betrayed. That imaginary kinship I had with her over the years was shattered. There was a void between us now. It was the same with my best friend, whose teenage pregnancy I couldn’t handle and I left her instead of helping her with diapers and baby daddy drama.
I never once outright said that I didn’t believe in God. I always did, but I felt like He was never on my side. I only felt the judgmental rules and saw His hypocritical followers. I knew that I wanted Heaven, but I wasn’t willing to follow blindly. I’d rather sacrifice my own morality than condemn someone else’s. And it hurt that after years of having Anne Rice be an ex-Catholic with me, she decided to sort out her spiritual side with a handful of books about Jesus.
I stopped buying her books, yet I could never fill the void she left in my book obsessed self. The horror shelves had sadly disappeared from bookstores. I dove into high fantasy instead, but it wasn’t the same. The villains were bad and the heroes were good. From my own life, I had trouble relating. I knew many people who did bad things to me, yet weren’t evil people. I only knew of one or two people that acted like Saints regardless of the occasion. The heroes in the books were nothing like them.
I eventually drifted away from books. I ventured into video games, always playing the bad side. It reminded me of the times I played Barbies with my little sister. I always played the bad guy, since she wanted to be the good one. But although we called it “good” vs “evil”, in my mind, the bad guys weren’t that bad at all. They craved power and let their emotions overshadow logic. They made mistakes and my sister’s good Barbies always won. Though, I felt like I won because I got her to play with Barbies far past the “cool” age to play them.
Playing the bad guys in video games, it always felt liberating. I didn’t have a moral code restricting my decisions. I could be bad or not and the game didn’t care. People expected the worst and were often surprised when I did the decent thing instead. It was nice to feel that appreciation when the rest of my life had still not recovered from my teenage years.
And it didn’t for several years. Not until I decided on a whim to get away from every negative person in my life. I hopped on a plane and visited a guy I knew only by his online screen name. I fell in love with freedom and with him.
Reunited — The Wolf Gift series
Anne Rice didn’t re-enter my life until she came out with The Wolf Gift in 2012. It was her grand return into the paranormal. I was hesitant. So hesitant that I didn’t buy the book – I borrowed it from the library. In this book, I fell in love with her writing all over again and yet her main character, Ruben, was someone I didn’t recognize. He felt calm, comfortable in his own skin. It wasn’t the hyper-active, bad-boy Lestat that I remembered. I nearly gave up on her again.
But then, I looked at my own life.
I finally had a family of my own. I didn’t have to worry about where I’d find my next meal or worry that if I pissed off my housemate that I’d end up back in the street. Although I have pissed off my husband (especially during PMS), we’re both on the lease…so technically neither one can kick the other out. Thanks to my younger sister, who raised two kids on her own for several years (until she met an awesome guy), I no longer felt like I was cursed to become a bad parent and decided to have a child of my own.
Though The Wolf Gift wasn’t as compelling to read as some of her other work, it felt like Anne Rice had finally made peace with herself. She’s religious yet an activist for gay rights. She’s managed to find a perfect balance between what religion tells us we should do and what our heart tells us to do.
And though, I will probably never again receive Communion…I think that I too have found peace. I believe, but not at the expense of others. If that means that I won’t get that magic ticket into Heaven, then that’s okay. At least I made the Earth a slightly better place.
Last month I was finally given the opportunity to meet Anne Rice. After a two and a half hour wait in line, unfortunately, whatever brilliant speech I had planned to tell her came out in some nonsense babble instead. I wish I could have told her how much she helped me get through the most difficult times in my life. I wish that I could tell her that even though I might not like her new books all that much, I still have the upmost respect for her and her writing. She’s taught me that I can write about anything. She’s taught me to bend the boundaries of what to expect in a genre. She’s taught me that it’s okay to rebel and take chances (like what she did when she decided to write religious books instead of paranormal/horror). And she’s taught me that the most important thing is to discover what will make me at peace with my life.
For that, she will always be my author idol.Read More
When I come across a book like Blood Relations that promises an enticing mix between paranormal, horror, and the male perspective; it is quite difficult to refrain from reviewing (though it’s the only way to clear that otherwise endlessly expanding review list). But, after being teased by the Amazon preview, I have a feeling either book or author may make another appearance on here in 2014.
Family by choice
Fiction and our private lives
by Caroline Frechette
The other day, someone asked me if I was an orphan. I was a little taken aback. I lost my father a little over ten years ago, but I’m not an orphan, I replied. The person proceeded to ask me whether I’d run away from home, or if my family was horrible.
Those are odd questions to ask of someone, point-blank, like that, and yet, I have to admit I know where they come from. In my stories, not just Blood Relations, the first volume of the Family by Choice series, my latest release, but in all my stories, the protagonists almost never have a relationship with their parents. Their parents are either gone, or dead, or abusive, or neglectful, and more often than not, when there is a parent in the picture, the characters end up cutting off that relationship for good.
I didn’t run away from home. And my parents were not abusive or neglectful or bad parents in any way. They were loving, tender people who were always there for us, whether it was to give us a ride out of a bad situation, or lend us a non-judgemental ear when we were in trouble. They supported us, drove us to accomplish everything we wanted. We were loved, and we knew it. In short, they were the best parents anyone could ever have.
So why write consistently about absent relationships with parents, if I didn’t go through that? The answer is both simple and complicated. The short version is, when you write fiction, you try to tackle your inner pain, your unresolved conflicts; it’s what gives true emotional depth to your stories. I don’t really have unresolved conflicts and emotional pain when it comes to my parents, so I don’t feel the need to explore the parent/child relationship from the child’s point of view.
Why then do some of my characters have painful memories when it comes to their parents? For the same reason as above, actually. The exploration of pain and all that. My parents really did their best, and I have no issues with them, but I do have pain and unresolved issues from my childhood. I think everyone does. So I give my characters baggage. It’s not the same as mine; it doesn’t have to be. And, like I said in a previous post, sometimes putting another angle on your issues can act like a safe distance, a protective glass beyond which you can safely observe, and give yourself the opportunity to heal without re-living the trauma.
Because the point to giving your characters your pain is to help yourself heal from it. And, in doing so, you’re helping your readers heal from their own pain. Pain is a universal human experience. It doesn’t need to be the exact same experience for us to relate and heal.
Blood Relations by Caroline Frechette
Published: October 12th, 2013
Life has not been easy for Alex Winters since he used his pyrokinetic powers to take control of the Russian district. Violence and betrayal have become a way of life, but he’s somehow managed to keep the gangsters in line. At barely sixteen, he thinks he’s seen it all. He hasn’t. Things spiral out of control when the latest double cross takes a turn for the supernatural. The new group muscling in on his territory turns out to be a brutal gang of vampires. Can Alex defeat an enemy even more powerful than himself? Can he keep his people safe and his boss happy? Can Alex survive in a world that just keeps getting more dangerous?
Caroline Fréchette is originally from Montreal, but has been living in the Ottawa/Gatineau region for the past 9 years. She is a sequential artist and author. She has published several short stories, both sequential and traditional, as well as two graphic novels, all on the French Canadian and European markets. She was the editor and director for the French Canadian literary magazine Histoires à boire debout, and works at the Ottawa Public Library. She has been teaching creative writing since 2005, and manages the popular writing page and blog Ice Cream for Zombies.
Douglas R. Brown
Genre: Paranormal, Horror
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing
Published: January 26th, 2012
Werewolves are real. And they make excellent pets.
Owning one of the legendary creatures is the latest fad. The WereHouse insists their werepets are loyal, docile, and 100% safe, but what happens when these gentle giants turn on their masters?
While on a routine EMS call, paramedic Christine Alt is attacked by a rogue werepet. She escapes with her life, but the encounter leaves her with more than just scars. As her body begins to change, she discovers the WereHouse is hiding a terrible secret, and they will stop at nothing to keep her from exposing them.
Tamed is a werewolf tale with a twist from the author of the The Light of Epertase trilogy.
TAMED is the first werewolf book to give me faith in the genre. The only books up to now I have read about werewolves and enjoyed, I have liked despite being about werewolves. TAMED has put the horror back into the werewolf. Being bitten by one of these creatures is a fate worse than death, as our heroine discovers.
What sold me on the book is that these powerful, supernatural creatures are reduced to pets. I can almost hear PETA whispering in the author’s ear as he writes this book. SEE, ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE TOO! I’m lead to the conclusion that the author is not a fan of people owning exotic, wild animals and treating them like a common housepet. After watching way too many episodes of FATAL ATTRACTION, I’m beginning to agree that wild animals can never truly be tamed.
As in most horror books, the characters tend to be disposable and stagnant. Although many of the characters are fleshed out by the end of the story, there isn’t much character development from the beginning of the story to the end. Because of how the story is told and the focus is more on what is happening that who is involved, this lack of development doesn’t inhibit the reader from enjoying the story. I think my favorite character ended up being Billy. His personality shines, despite what happens to him and Christine.
Even though it is obvious from both lore and the opening chapter that werewolves are people, the author still manages to make the revelation as shocking and revolting as if we never knew. TAMED is a book for those who are looking for the something other than a paranormal romance between Fido and Jane. If you like your stories raw, unstripped, and shocking, then check this one out at your local Book WereHouse.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)Read More
Today, I’d like to give a shout out to one of my favorite indie authors with his newest book release. You can check out my review of his JENNY POX series or read up on his awesome GUEST POST about time travel. Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for organizing this blitz. I do plan on eventually reading THE UNSEEN, as it looks amazing!
The Unseen by J. L. Bryan
Genre: Dark Fiction/horror
Publisher: Self published
Published: October 31, 2013
Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.
When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.
The Unseen by J.L. Bryan has a special release price of 99 cents through Halloween. See his website for details and links.
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories.
He is the author of The Paranormals series (starting with Jenny Pox), The Songs of Magic series, Nomad, and other books. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his son John, and some dogs and cats.
I’m a little late getting this one up. I thought I had it scheduled for Saturday, but it apparently was scheduled for tomorrow.
Darkness Watching by Emma L. Adams
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Expected Date of Publication: September 30th 2013
Cover designed and published by Curiosity Quills Press
Cover reveal organized by Xpresso Book Tours
Seventeen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. She thinks she’s losing her mind, but the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits– and the darkness is staring back.
Desperate to escape the demons, Ash accepts a place at a university in the small town of Blackstone, in the middle of nowhere – little knowing that it isn’t coincidence that led her there but the pull of the Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.
All-night parties, new friendships and a life without rules or limits are all part of the package of student life – but demons still stalk Ash, and their interest in her has attracted the attention of every sorcerer in the area. Ash is soon caught between her new life and a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld, who could offer the answers she’s looking for. The demons want something from her, and someone is determined to kill her before she can find out what it is.
In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be..
I think the cover is busy as is. Pretty, but busy. Eliminate the purple cat eyes and it looks great. Seriously, it would look incredible without that one purple piece. The purple and the eyes up top end up creating dual focal points on the image and you want only one.
I’m a huge fan of the frosty covers. I like the blend of the frost and the white font. It’s very readable and meshes well with the rest of the cover.
You know what’s even more incredible? The cover model actually looks cold! Plus, I love her expression. She looks like she just discovered Harry Potter is real and she’s not quite sure if that’s a good or bad thing. (It would be cool since that means that there are wizards and bad because that means that WE really are muggles. :( )