(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
This is my first time participating in a story chain. The hardest part was reducing my entry down to exactly 250 words. With such a small cap on words, it makes me appreciate the value of each one.
250-Word Story Chain, or, The Blog-O-Phone
Sort of a mini version of the story chain we did some time ago, each blogger will add 250 words (or less) to an an ongoing holiday story. Please post a proposed story idea when you sign up!
This time your entry must be short fiction; there is a hard cap of 250 words for each entry.
Please check out the first part of the story HERE. Links to all parts of the story chain are at the bottom of the post.
The bucket, ricocheting off of a lower branch, sprayed both trespassers and snow with a barrage of liquid red bullets. Standing at the base of the tree with two hands gripping the axe and red dye cloaking his outfit, Cal mimic the crazed Santa from the Weird Al Christmas parody of Black Gold. He was a pleasant man to the children who came by the factory to purchase toys, but he had no tolerance for adults interfering with his favorite holiday.
“Alan might have money enough to buy your granddaddy’s farm, yet I’m the one claiming this tree, woman. Ain’t nobody standing between me and a perfect Christmas,” Cal Ostafinski said.
“Are you going to chop it down with me in it?” Claire asked.
“If needs be,” Cal retorted and prepped his body for another swing of the axe.
Alan held up his hands, aiming his right hand at Cal and the left one at Claire. “No one needs to get hurt. I’m sure we can work out a more civil solution.”
Outnumbered, Claire knew she had to either secede or bluff. “There’s a bigger tree up the hill that would be better for you, Cal. If you promise to leave this one alone, I’ll show it to you.”
Alan breathed a sigh of relief a moment too soon. Beth cleared her throat loudly, reminding them that she had no intention of returning home empty-handed either.
Participants and posts:
orion_mk3 - http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (part #1)
Ralph Pines - http://ralfast.wordpress.com (part #2)
ishtar’sgate - http://chickenscratchbc.blogspot.ca (part #3)
Angyl78 - http://jelyzabeth.wordpress.com (part #4)
MsLaylaCakes - http://www.taraquan.com (part #5)
pyrosama - http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
BBBurke - http://www.awritersprogression.com/ (link to post)
meowzbark - http://www.lizzylessard.com/ (link to post)
Unlike last week, I had quite a few excerpts to pick from that I liked. I’m feeling very optimistic about the future of this story. Feel free to add me as a writing buddy if you’re also participating this year.
Here’s this week’s excerpt for the Nano Excerpt Blog Chain 2013.
I lift the nine millimeter from my waist. It’s bulky in my small hands, yet zeroes in on the woman without hesitation. “Stay back,” I tell her.
I walk backwards towards the hallway. Sliding my feet backwards instead of walking, I strike something with the back of my sandal. It’s wet and sticky. An arm. Charlene’s arm.
It latches around my foot. I scream.
I kick her away with my other foot.
“That bitch ain’t dead yet?” The woman says, throwing her hands up in disgust. “She’s like one of those fucking relighting birthday candles.”
She examines the knife in her hand with a frown. “I need a serrated edge.”
As the woman heads back into the kitchen, I kneel down. The blood on the ground sticks to my legs like syrup. I cup her arm to my chest. Her fingers are freezing. I check her wrist for a pulse; I’m half-convinced that I imagined her grabbing me. Her heartbeat pulses against my fingers like a drum.
“Charlene, it’s me, Renee. I’m going to get you out of here. I’ll get you away from her.”
Footsteps echo from behind, I whip around with the gun in hand.
The woman is annoyed rather than scared. “If you’re not going to shoot, fuck off. I have a job to finish.”
“You’re not going to kill her.”
“I’m going to try my damnest.”
She grabs my gun around the barrel. I pull the trigger, but it’s stuck. Oh, God. It won’t go off. She yanks it out of my hand and slaps the gun across my face. My head strikes the wall. Too disoriented to break my fall, I hit my face against the marble floor. The pool of blood trickles into my mouth and up my nose.
“You left the safety on, stupid.”Read More
Today marks the beginning of week two for NaNoWriMo. It was extremely difficult for me to stay on track due to my hectic work schedule. In fact, I gained a 2000 word lead and wasted it on an extra couple hours of sleep the next night. I wish that I had time to write more. My problem has not been a lack of direction for the novel in progress, but a lack of time to write. I have just two hours a night to hit the 1,667 word goal. Why does Nano have to be in November of all months?
I’m looking forward to the weekend and some well-needed time to write. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll find some times to sleep. Feel free to add me as a writing buddy if you’re also participating this year.
Anyway, here’s this week’s excerpt for the Nano Excerpt Blog Chain 2013.
Background: The main character is in someone else’s body experiencing someone else’s memories. She’s torn between finding out exactly who or what she was before and living the life she has as this other person.
A reddish sky greets me as I enter my bedroom. Though not the most favorable view of the house, since the windows catches half the mountainside in its vision, the view showed dozens of my neighbors’ homes arranged in a stepping stone down the hill. Beyond that, there is desert and sky. The towel wrap around my body feels like a shell. I want to shed it and fly out my window.
I’m not scared of falling.
I’m scared that I’m grounded for eternity. I rub my shoulders and imagine feathers sprouting. I crave the wings of an angel.
With palms on the glass, I stand at the glass while the sun peeks over the horizon. A buzzing in my left ear increases in volume until I’m deaf to the world around me. Memories leak into my consciousness without pattern.
An elephant walks around in a circle, tracking up a whirlwind of dust as a little girl tugs on a man’s shirt. She wants to go for a ride. She asks the man because her mother has said no. As usual, the man caves to the wishes of her mother. The girl can’t help but feel hate blossom as the other children are plopped on the back of this giant gray creature.
On foot on the scooter, another on the ground. The girl waits beneath a stop sign. Across the street from her is a playground. Metal bars and plastic slides. Vanilla sand cushions the landing of the children playing. The girl lays her scooter on the ground and then she dips her hand into her purple backpack and pulls out a plastic bag of green grapes. She bites a grape in half. Her eyes never leave the playground.
“S-stop,” I slur. I squeeze my hands against my head. An hammer pounds against my face. Tears leak out. I collapse into a fetal position. The rising sun has become my enemy. It enhances the ache in my head until I’m blinded from pain.
A numbness passes through my fingertips and travels down my veins until my arms are no longer felt. Nausea slices my insides. I vomit. My hands are moving me. I’m crawling. Limbs reacting to a power not my own. As sight begins to fail, I focus on the other senses. The roughness of carpet against my knees. The smell of dust and the slight breeze tickling hairs into my face. The heaviness of my breath.
I succumb to a shallow sleep. I wake with a pen in hand. It’s still in motion, yet the strikes against the paper are losing purpose.Read More
10 Reasons I love NaNoWriMo
1. You can ask anything on the boards and people will give a serious response. Where else can I ask ‘what does a severed hand look like 30 minutes after death’?
2. You don’t feel alone while writing. It’s the only time of the year where thousands of writers are at the same exact stage of a story as you.
3. After reading excerpt from other writer’s stories, it becomes clear that you are not the worst writer in the world. There is hope.
4. You can submit a sample of your story to other writers without being judge on grammar or spelling. Usually, I get the red pen of death or worse, a ‘don’t bother writing until you learn how to write’, which makes no sense if you think about it.
5. If you write yourself in a corner, there’s a board dedicated to solving plot problems. People are very creative with possibilities too.
6. Your spouse forgives you for staying up until 5am, because he knows there’s a word count deadline to make.
7. You have a “get away from in-laws” excuse every Thanksgiving. Sorry, grandma. I have another 10,000 words to write.
8. Depressed about writing? Think everything you do sucks? There’s a board for people like you! Wallow in self-doubt and pity with hundreds of other unpublished writers.
9. Excited about some miniscule accomplishment? There’s a board for people like you! Prepare to have half a dozen people congratulate you on writing 5 words for every doughnut you eat.
10. You have the opportunity to meet other recluse writers in your area. Now you can have friends outside of the internet!
And just because I can, here’s an excerpt from my Nano 2013.
I know the intensity of this scene needs work. Ah well, I’ll tackle that in December. This is the sequel to the book I’ve been editing on and off for the past year.
For clarification, the main character is driving an ATV through the one of the dormant volcanic hills in northern Arizona. She’s searching for Hundred Dollar Hill, where dozens of people can be found trying to scale this extremely steep hill on all types of off-road vehicles.Read More