Everything listed under: vaempires

  • Halloween Treat! "Roadside Assistance" Releases Today

    Happy Halloween, everyone! Here at vaempires.com, there are no tricks, only treats.


    I am pleased to announce that "Roadside Assistance" releases today. You can order your copy here 

    ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE

    For Hannah, a long trip home seems a small price to pay for a little peace ... until her journey takes a turn for the worse. Now, injured and alone, she must test the limits of her courage, endurance, and love.


      


  • Confessions of A Vampire Wedding Planner: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Here's a guest post originally published at Sarcasm and Lemons!

     

    Confessions of A Vampire Wedding Planner

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at Sarcasm & Lemons! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Vaempires: The Evolutionary War, an ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    To date, the series has three books: Revolution, Zombie Rising, and White Christmas. However, I’m not here to talk about my books today. Instead, I want to introduce you to Rhonda, vampire wedding planner extraordinaire and author of the DIY bestsellers, Help Me, Rhonda, and The Best Laid Plans.

    [Rhonda] Hello everyone. I’m Rhonda. No last name. I gave it up for Lent one year and never picked it up again. Haha!

    Okay, with the icebreaker behind us, what say we move along?

    As Tom said, I’m a wedding planner. But I’m not just a wedding planner; I am The Vampire Wedding Planner. Like me on Facebook.

    But seriously, as most of you know, a wedding planner is a professional who assists with the design, planning, and management of a client's wedding (thank you Wikipedia). It’s not a profession a person typically aspires to; it’s a profession a person turns to—the type of person who is never satisfied and knows he/she will continually seek that “perfect” wedding, but doesn’t have the nerve to seek it on his/her own behalf, because of the stigma associated with being married multiple times.*

    As such, I’ve planned more weddings than I care to count—each one an example of individual beauty and artistry that rivals the wonders of the world by melding the essence of the subject couple with the genius of yours truly. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Instead, I want to change gears and share something that I’ve never shared with anyone before, in any form or forum: the things I detest most about my job.

    That’s right—Rhonda, The Vampire Wedding Planner, is about to dish the dirt on those undead dopes and divas!

    Rhonda’s Ten Pet Peeves:

    10. Incorporating blood into the wedding: Blood isn't a color scheme. Nor is it a state of mind. For that matter, it’s also not a theme. Blood is not the “be-all” or the “end-all.” Not even close. And while it may be thicker than water, nine out of ten vampires still prefer water for bathing, mixing with a nice scotch, or cooking their favorite pasta. And, in my experience, nothing whips a wedding crowd into a frenzy quicker than the unexpected sight of blood; not cheap hors d’oeuvres or a cash bar or even a rampaging bridezilla. Nothing.

    9. Vampire children who order Bloody Marys: It isn’t witty. It isn’t original. It isn’t adorable or cute or understandable. It’s only in their nature if they haven’t been raised with proper limits. Serving alcohol to minors also happens to be against the law in most civilized societies and, besides, have you ever witnessed a group of drunken, out-of-control vampire children? It’s Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies, with a script by Michael Bay and a soundtrack by Marilyn Manson.

    8. Destination weddings: They are a bad idea, plain and simple. Too many variables; too many things to go wrong … and I’m not talking about the “don’t drink the water” variety. The Caribbean has too much sun. The Mediterranean has too much anti-vampire history. And everywhere, absolutely everywhere, the potential for innocent casualties (aka collateral damage) is just too great for my peace of mind.

    7. Couples who think their story is unique: Believe it or not, I don’t care who turned whom or how compelling you think your story of “finding true love after centuries of solitude“ is. IMHO, two vampires with more than a few years difference in their ages have exactly one thing in common: physical attraction (commonly referred to as the lust-monkey). Strip away the beautiful veneer and all that’s left is the fact that you’re hot for each other. Congratulations for being as shallow as the humans you consider yourselves superior to.

    And here’s a news flash to vampire couples everywhere: yours is not the greatest romance of all time. Not even close. Let’s see … a tormented guy who mistreats a woman he later falls in love with … a young woman who’s ready to give up everything and everyone she’s ever known for a guy she barely knows … a guy so in love with a woman that he sneaks into her room to watch her sleep … a woman who must choose between two men who promise to protect her while continually exposing her to danger … these are the collected descriptions of every Lifetime movie ever made.

    Heck, there’s a good chance that the thing you call love is outlawed somewhere.

    I’m just sayin’ …

    6. Wedding guests: Not all of them, of course. Most wedding guests are quite pleasant, but there are some—typically those who are horny or lonely or drunken or some combination thereof—who get under my skin. If I had a dollar for every person who’s placed a sloppy kiss on my cheek only to slide down to my neck, or offered to show me how big his/her claws are, or attempted to trick me into inviting him/her to my room for a nightcap (yup, that rumor is true—they can’t come in unless invited), I’d be a blue blood. Luckily—contrary to popular belief—vampires do not get stronger as they get older. They get stranger, certainly, but not stronger; which is fortuitous since the overwhelming number of inappropriate advances are made by centuries-old relics who are more dangerous to themselves than they are to a lil’ ol’ human gal like me.

    5. Custom wedding vows: Yuck! What is it about getting married that endows so many people with delusions of grandeur? And what makes people think that being in love (or something like it) suddenly transforms them into writers?

    I’ve seen people who can’t read my brochures suddenly decide that they’re going to write their own vows. You can imagine how that turns out.

    And even for those who can write, I say leave it to the experts. You’re not growing your own flowers are making your own dress … so why screw up your vows?

    Trust me. You’ll screw them up plenty over time. Don’t give it a head start at the altar. I’ve heard enough bad vows to fill a library. In fact, it may be the subject of my next book. For now, here’s a treasure from a few days ago:

    Bride: Each day was empty. Meaningless. I never lived until the day you bit me.

    Groom: You may not be able to get blood from a stone, but I’ll always be your rock.

    Yes … they were that bad. I kid you not.

    Don’t let that be you.

    4. Parents’ dances: Yes, they are a custom in many cultures. Yes, they can be very sweet and emotionally moving. Who doesn’t like to see dad cry or mom beam with pleasure?

    No one.

    Conversely, no one wants to see dad die or mom scream in anguish … which is why I always ask a client to please eschew the parents’ dances if any of the following are true: a) you or your spouse has “mommy” issues; b) you or your spouse has “daddy” issues; c) you can’t agree whether to dance with biological parents or the vampires who turned you; or d) any of the biological parents are still human. Of course, I also throw in e) any of the potential dance partners look younger than the newlyweds. It’s not necessarily dangerous, but it’s just unnatural.

    It’s also why I don’t plan weddings in California.

    3. Maid of Honor/Best Man speeches: These things are dangerous enough in the human world, where an already-drunken best man accidentally reveals that he and the groom were once “very, very close” or the maid of honor recounts the wild college weekend that ended with the bride married to a charming hotel valet … but just imagine how interesting things get when the individuals in question have a shared history that’s centuries’ long.

    Forget “who slept with who” … it’s a straight-up cornucopia of dysfunction, with plenty of “who turned who” and “who drained who” mixed in with a bunch of “who watched who get staked and did nothing” and “who left the lid up on whose coffin.” Then there’s a bunch of “I always got stuck with the non-virgin blood” and “WTF were you doing there?” thrown in for good measure.

    Think The Jerry Springer Show on crack and you might come close.

    2. Certain bonuses, tips, or gratuities: It pleases me tremendously to know that I gave you a perfect wedding; the one you always dreamed of. It’s also my job, so I’m satisfied both personally and professionally. If you want to show your appreciation with more than words, it’s usually my turn to be grateful.

    Cash is preferred. Checks made out to “cash” are a close second. Odd marketable securities and/or precious stones will not be refused, although I don’t have the right connections to ensure I’m not getting ripped off when I cash them in. A villa in France, an exotic car, a sports franchise … there are myriad ways to reward me.

    However, I can’t stress enough how much I’m not interested in becoming a vampire. I don’t want to “join the winning team.” I don’t want to live forever. And I certainly don’t want to stick around for the sake of performing the same service for “the children of your children’s children.”

    1. Sparkly vampires: I could go on all day about this one. I won’t, of course, but I want to go on record as saying that I could. What I want to know is: when will the madness end? It’s been years, and I still have far too many couples asking me to make them sparkle.

    I’ll admit that it was kinda cute at first—cheesy, but cute. But it quickly became droll. Then it evolved into boring, before power-shifting from passé to infuriating to where it currently sits: mind-numbingly maddening. And still it continues. I want to scream, “Are we planning a wedding or a costume party?” But I hold my tongue.

    For pete’s sake (Pete, of course, is my husband, who is wayyyy beyond sick of listening to me complain about this), people, I’ve never seen a sparkly vampire. They aren’t real. They are a figment of someone’s overactive imagination, I suppose, or perhaps an underactive one … but the fact is that they don’t exist. Period.

    I have seen vampires with oily skin that glistened in sunlight. I’ve seen vampires that glowed by the light of the silvery moon. I’ve even seen vampires—typically well into the festivities, when it’s easier to confuse the kitchen and restroom doors— with sparkly things inserted in places never intended by nature … but I have never seen a vampire that sparkled naturally.

    So, there you have it; the top ten things that drive me crazy. Still, if you’re a potential client—and who isn’t?—don’t be frightened. None of the above will stop me from giving you the kick-a$$ wedding of a lifetime (or two)!

    And for those wondering how I can ever feel safe when vampires constantly surround me, remember that I have sole control over the one thing that all vampires fear:

    My bill for services rendered.

    Rhonda

    *Author’s Note: I apologize to any wedding planners offended by Rhonda’s statement. While I’m certain she believes this is the truth, and I strongly support her right to speak freely, please keep in mind that her statements represent her opinion only.


  • The Best Laid Plans: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author J. Scott Sharp.


    The Best Laid Plans

     

    Today, I’d like to speak about plans that don’t quite work out … as planned.

    Before focusing on writing, I spent fifteen years working for a global pharmaceutical company. The last dozen years were spent in training and development efforts. One of the most important concepts I learned during my professional career had to do with understanding the difference between intent and impact. It’s a critical component of leading effectively, although one needn’t be in a leadership position to benefit from understanding it.

    The basic premise is simple: when it comes to actions and behaviors, there can be a wide gap between an individual’s intent and the impact of that individual’s actions or behaviors.

    For instance: person A shares a joke with person B. While person A’s intent may be to share something humorous … the impact on person B can be quite different; he/she might be humored, but might also be offended, angered, sickened, etc.

    We see it all the time around us, whenever a public figure says something that unexpectedly creates a firestorm of controversy. Part of that person’s apology typically includes the rationale that he/she never intended anything negative.

    Of course, this concept of intent vs. impact doesn’t have to include something as noteworthy as a public faux pas. It can happen in other, less visible, yet equally unexpected ways.

     I’m dealing with the outcome of it right now.

    When I wrote the first draft of what would eventually become Væmpires: Revolution, my story was much different. Entitled Hunted: Væmpire’s End, Book 1, the tale was set more than a decade later, in a world where the væmpire revolution was long over. The victorious væmpires had eliminated humans and were systematically killing off all vampires. The protagonist, Daniel, led a ragtag team of vampires against the væmpire overlords, while searching for his long lost love, Cassie. Cassie had been captured by the antagonist, Vielyn, on the day of the uprising and had never been heard from again. Daniel’s best friends, Linq and Ray, were mentioned as having been killed many years earlier, during the early part of the war.

    The book had so much backstory that my editor urged me to begin at an earlier time. Thus, I set the second draft five years after the revolution. Daniel was again the protagonist—this time he was part of an official rebellion—and he led an assault team on an incursion into the væmpire-held capital. No surprise: he was looking for information on the whereabouts of Cassie. His team included Linq and Ray, neither of whom survived the novel’s final battle.

    In both drafts, Cassie was briefly glimpsed in a prologue in which she was taken prisoner by Vielyn.
    Now, in draft three, my intent was simple: expand the prologue a bit and clean up the rest of the novel. Unexpectedly, the prologue kept growing and growing—becoming much too long to be a prologue and eventually becoming the entire first book of the series, Væmpires: Revolution. In this book, Daniel and Cassie shared the spotlight, while Linq and Ray played supporting roles.

    I released Væmpires: Revolution and then quickly followed it with Væmpires: White Christmas, a novella prelude that offered a glimpse at life before the revolution. I spent some time supporting the releases with book tours and other promo activities, before returning to the business of writing.

    I sat down to write book two, fully intending to return to my original storyline. It would take place five years after the revolution, with a cast of previously developed, but not yet introduced characters.

    And that is where intent vs. impact occurred.

    You see; I didn’t anticipate Cassie becoming such a hit with readers. I didn’t anticipate Linq and Ray having fans, either. I had been so focused on my own intentions that I failed to consider the potential impact.

    Luckily, it wasn’t a situation that required a public apology or some other form of damage control. It did, however, require some major rethinking, reorganizing, re-planning, and otherwise general scrambling on my part.

    The good news is that Væmpires: Zombie Rising, the first step on my road to recovery, is complete and will be released in October.

    The bad news is that intent vs. impact is bound to derail me again … when I least expect it. It’s often said that forewarned is forearmed, but I’m not convinced. Either that, or I’m a slow learner.
    Nevertheless, I vow to enjoy the journey. I hope you’ll join me
    .


     

     

  • Character Interview: Cassandra Rich'rds


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Happy Tails and Tales Blog.


    Character Interview: Cassandra Rich'rds

     

    This interview takes place approximately midway between Væmpires: White Christmas and Væmpires: Revolution.

    Maghon: Hello everyone. I’m so excited to announce a very special guest for today’s interview—Princess Cassandra! That’s right; our very own fairy princess is sitting across from me and she’s agreed to answer everything and anything thrown her way during this segment.

    Cassandra: Hey! (Laughs)

    Maghon: (Also laughs) Within reason, of course. We can’t expect our future queen to divulge all the royal family’s dark secrets, can we?

    Cassandra: Not without earning the grounding of a lifetime, you can’t.

    Maghon: Well, all right, then; let’s get started. Princess Cassandra, good morning and welcome to Happy Tails and Tales. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re here.

    Cassandra: Believe me, Maghon, it’s my pleasure. And, please, call me Cassie.

    Maghon: Okay … Cassie it is. But only if you agree to call me Mags.

    Cassandra: Done.

    Maghon: I have a whole list of questions on hand, Cassie, but I’m moving off topic right away because of what you’re wearing. That jewelry is quite beautiful. Beyond beautiful, actually—more like exquisite. Red teardrop earrings and a matching pendant. They’re crystal, I assume?

    Cassandra: Yes.

    Maghon: Can you tell me about them?

    Cassandra: Well, Mags, the jewelry was a gift. The hand-crafted pieces are meant to signify two things; the first being tears, as you noted. But the shape also signifies drops of blood. I have to admit that they are so delicate and beautiful that I’m terrified to wear them. I’m afraid I’m going to lose them or that I’ll get caught out in one of Orion’s windstorms and a strong gust will blow them away. Don’t get me wrong, I carry them with me at all times because I can’t stand having them out of my sight, but I don’t get the courage to actually wear them too often. (Laughs) That’s pretty much the whole sordid story.

    Maghon: Almost, but not quite, Cassie.

    Cassandra: I beg your pardon.

    Maghon: Well, I’m honored that you chose to share that story with us, but I believe you left out one little detail.

    Cassandra: A detail?

    Maghon: Of course. You forgot to mention whom the jewelry was a gift from.

    Cassandra: Uh … well—

    Maghon: I assumed the gift was from your parents, Cassie, but I smell a secret in your hesitation. A gift from a suitor, perhaps?

    Cassandra: A suitor?

    Maghon: Yes, Cassie, a suitor. As in a person with the intention of knowing you better.

    Cassandra: (Laughs) I know what a suitor is, Mags.

    Maghon: Excellent. Then you can answer the question. Was the jewelry a gift from a suitor?

    Cassandra: Let’s just say the gift was from someone special.

    Maghon: By “someone special,” you wouldn’t happen to be referring to a certain young man from a prominent military family, would you?

    Cassandra: No comment.

    Maghon: (Laughs) A special someone who will remain nameless, then?

    Cassandra: Yes … something like that.

    Maghon: Fair enough, Cassie. For the time being. (Sighs) But now, why don’t we change topics?

    Cassandra: Sure. To what?

    Maghon: How about we move on to this summer’s momentous event: your sweet sixteen party! (Cheers)

    Cassandra: (Laughs) Okay.

    Maghon: There’s so much I could ask you, Cassie: the party details … what you’ll be wearing … who’s invited … who’ll be performing … but there’s really only one thing I want to know.

    Cassandra: What’s that?

    Maghon: We all know that a princess turning sixteen is allowed to ask for one special wish. Traditionally, the princess requests something related to the world-at-large. I want to know what you’re going to ask for. Specifically, given the current climate—in particular, the increased tension between humans, vampires, and væmpires—I want to know if your wish will be in any way related.

    Cassandra: I’m sorry, Mags, I can’t answer that right now.

    Maghon: Can’t … or won’t?

    Cassandra: I can’t. The truth is that I haven’t decided yet, so I don’t know the answer to your question.

    Maghon: I understand. But here’s a question you do know the answer to: where did you spend Christmas?

    Cassandra: What … (nervous laugh) …what do you mean?

    Maghon: C’mon Cassie. Even though every light in the house was on, everyone knows the palace was minus one royal family for the holidays. The rumor mills are running rampant with talk of secret meetings somewhere in the Americas.

    Cassandra: I can’t talk about secrets of state, Mags, so you know I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors.

    Maghon: Understood. But all I’m asking is where you spent Christmas.

    Cassandra: Why, I spent it with my family, of course.

    Maghon: (Laughs heartily). Okay, Cassie, that round goes to you. So, I’m going to be tenacious on an earlier point. The first time you wore that necklace and those earrings was at this past New Year’s party—when your family was definitely here in Orion—correct?

    Cassandra: Perhaps. Probably. I can’t really say for certain.

    Maghon: I can. I did some research and it turns out that those earrings and that necklace were never photographed, noticed, or even mentioned prior to that party … which would seem to strongly indicate that they were not just a gift, but a Christmas gift. Is it safe to say that?

    Cassandra: Yes, it would be safe to say that.

    Maghon: So … this secret meeting may or may not have taken place … but if one did, it is safe to assume that the royal guard was there, as well, is it not?

    Cassandra: If a meeting occurred, then yes it is.

    Maghon: And if the royal guard was there, it is safe to assume that the captain of the royal guard was there, as well, true?

    Cassandra: Sure.

    Maghon: And if the royal guard was there, and the captain of the royal guard was there, then it is safe to assume that the captain’s son was there, as well. Yes? After all, Daniel is second-in-command, correct?

    Cassandra: I … I guess so. What I mean is yes—to both questions.

    Maghon: So … and I’m just brainstorming here, mind you … it is possible that the special someone who presented you with that exquisite Christmas gift … was Daniel.

    Cassandra: (Nervous laugh) That’s quite a leap of logic, Mags.

    Maghon: And that’s not an answer, your highness.

    Cassandra: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you asked a question.

    Maghon: You’re right; I didn’t. So, did Daniel give you the necklace and earrings?

    Cassandra: No comment.

    Maghon: (Exasperated laugh) Cassie, everyone in the seven provinces thinks the two of you are involved. Give me something to work with.

    Cassandra: Everyone knows that our parents are best friends, Mags. Our families are understandably close. Closer than close. Daniel and I have been friends since birth. It’s never been a secret that he and I share a rare and unique relationship.

    Maghon: A relationship that now extends beyond friendship?

    Cassandra: No comment.

    Maghon: (Growls) Oh, you’re no fun! You royals never are. Too close-mouthed. But I’m not giving up. Since you won’t tell us about your relationship with Daniel, tell us something else.

    Cassandra: Like what?

    Maghon: Tell us something that no one else knows about Daniel. Something juicy.

    Cassandra: Mags! He’s right outside the door!

    Maghon: Daniel accompanied you here?

    Cassandra: He’s … guarding me.

    Maghon: He’s a member of your assigned guard team?

    Cassandra: Well, not really …

    Maghon: Not really? He’s here on guard business, correct?

    Cassandra: Yes.

    Maghon: But, he’s not part of the team?

    Cassandra: No. He’s alone. There is no team.

    Maghon: Oh my! This is absolutely delicious! And such irony! Are you telling me that Daniel is your personal bodyguard?

    Cassandra: No!

    Maghon: What a wonderful shade of crimson you’ve turned, Cassie. It quite matches your necklace and earrings—the gift that may or may not have come from the young man who’s now apparently assigned with guarding our nation’s greatest asset. (Laughs) That’s quite a bit of responsibility for someone so young, don’t you think?

    Cassandra: I assure you, Daniel is quite capable of handling any situation that arises.

    Maghon: Wow! I won’t even touch that! But seriously, from what I’ve seen of our future captain of the guard—(whispers) and who knows, perhaps even more than that—something tells me that he is, in fact, quite capable.

    Well, someone is knocking. Shall we see who it is?

    (Pause)

    Maghon: It turns out our time has been cut short as Princess Cassandra was just whisked away by her (chuckles) quite handsome young bodyguard. Daniel wouldn’t explain why, but I’m already seeing reports of a possible terrorist attack in Orion’s west side.

    That’s bad news for us, and bad news for those working so hard toward peace, but I’m so thankful that the princess was able to stop by today. And thanks to all of you for joining me!


     

     

  • Character Interview: Daniel DeStrey


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Reader Girls blog.


    Character Interview: Daniel DeStrey

     

    Today, I’m sharing an interview with Daniel DeStrey, one of the teen heroes in my Væmpires novels. (This interview takes place before Væmpires: White Christmas.)

    Laurie: Hello everyone. I’m so excited to announce a very special guest for today’s interview: Daniel DeStrey! For those of you who don’t know, Daniel is the son of Steven and Gabrielle DeStrey. Steven is captain of the royal guard and Gabrielle, of course, is a famed novelist.

    Good morning and welcome to Reader Girls Blog. I can’t tell you how happy we are that you’re here, Daniel. I’m Laurie, this is Meghan—

    Meghan: Call me Meggo. (She blushes.)

    Daniel: Okay.

    Laurie: And this is Caitlin. We’ll all take turns asking questions, if you don’t mind.

    Daniel: I don’t mind at all. In fact, it’s my pleasure. I’ve never had an interview request before.

    Laurie: Oh, stop!

    Daniel: I’m serious. Other than school-related activities, this is my first official interview.

    Laurie: That’s amazing! We’re making history today at Reader Girls. Let’s begin with an easy question then. You’re fifteen, correct?

    Daniel: Yes.

    Laurie: What is a day in your life like? Can you describe it for my audience?

    Daniel: Sure. Well, my typical day begins at dawn. I do an hour of exercise to get the blood flowing. [Laughs] Sorry. Vampire humor. It’s one of Ray’s favorite jokes. Anyway, after the exercise, I have breakfast with my parents. Then it’s off to school. After school, there’s an hour or two of training, depending on any other activities or commitments. We eat dinner. Then I spend some time with my friends, do homework, surf the ‘Nex … the usual teenage stuff.

    Laurie: My followers might argue that your life is anything but usual, Daniel. To that end, what’s it like living on the royal estate?

    Daniel: Well, Laurie, it’s all I’ve ever known, so it’s easy to take it for granted. But, then I’ll see the awe in a visitor’s eyes and it reminds me of how lucky I am. You know, there was this one time when a human family was walking through the estate. Two parents, two children—a boy and girl. They were obviously tourists—their arms were full of recording equipment and souvenirs—but their accents also gave them away as being from somewhere in South Atlantica. You should’ve seen their faces when the royal family actually came around a corner and walked right up to them! King Brant, Queen Anne, and Cassie—er, Princess Cassandra, spoke to them and took pictures and they had a nice ten minute conversation. About hallway through it, the boy, who was around my age, looked up at King Brant and said, “I always see you on the vidscreen, but I never believed you were really real.” I never forgot that.

    Meghan: Speaking of the royal family—how would you describe your relationship with them? (Bats her lashes.)

    Daniel: They are my second family, Meggo. King Brant and Queen Anne are like parents to me.

    Caitlin: So, that means Princess Cassandra is like a sister to you?

    Daniel: (Coughs … followed by a few seconds of silence) Well, Caitlin … I prefer to think of her as more of a friend than a sister.

    Laurie: Okay, let’s talk about your family, now. Should we begin with your mother or father?

    Daniel: Start with my mother. [Whispers] Otherwise, she’ll get mad at me.

    Meghan: Oh, dude, I know what you mean! [Laughs] Your mother it is. So … Gabrielle DeStrey. The childhood best friend of the queen … who ends up marrying the king’s childhood best friend, Steven DeStrey. A best-selling author. A face that is known around the world. Your mother is a celebrity in more ways than one, Daniel. How do you handle it?

    Daniel: Well, it’s much like the dynamic of living on the royal estate. I knew her as mom long before I realized she was famous, so I never really thought about it too much. Of course, my father always jokes that someone made a mistake inserting him and I into this equation. We’re a couple of blue collars surrounded by blue bloods. To me, she’s just mom. The greatest mother in the world, but still mom.

    Caitlin: Well, that leads us to your father. Steven DeStrey, captain of the royal guard. A man charged with some of the most awesome responsibilities on the planet. Yet, he never seems to let it get to him. Is that an accurate assessment?

    Daniel: It is. My father was well trained by his father before him … and I’ll say this: there is no one I’d trust with the safety and security of the royal family, and all of Tarados, than him.

    Laurie: You mention an interesting point, Daniel. Because captain of the guard is an inherited position, you’re your father’s second-in-command. There aren’t many such situations around Tarados. Do you ever feel trapped by the expectations?

    Daniel: No. Not at all. It’s a proud tradition that I’ll be honored and privileged to continue.

    Caitlin: So, being captain of the guard is what you always wanted to be when you grew up?

    Daniel: No. I’m perfectly fine being second-in-command.

    Laurie: [Laughs] Why, you’re more diplomatic than you pretend to be, Daniel.

    Daniel: Hey!

    Laurie: I think it’s time to switch gears here. After all, there are hordes of teens around the world dying to know more about you. The juicy stuff.

    Daniel: If you say so.

    Laurie: We do. So, let’s get started. Are you currently in a relationship?

    Daniel: No.

    Meghan: Ooh! So, do you have a current crush?

    Daniel: I—I can’t answer that.

    Caitlin: Can you tell us who your first crush was?

    Daniel: Uh-huh! My lips are sealed about that, too.

    Laurie: You’re not playing fair, Daniel. Millions of people want to know these things. [Laughs] Here’s an easy one. Who was your hero/heroine growing up?

    Daniel: My parents. To be honest, both of them are still my heroes.

    Meghan: I love honesty. So … what was your most embarrassing moment?

    Daniel: I think it’ll be this one, if the three of you have your way.
    [Everyone laughs]

    Laurie: Since full disclosure doesn’t seem possible, how about we finish the interview with you finishing a few statements?

    Daniel: Sounds … safe enough.

    Laurie: It is. So here goes: My definition of a great day …

    Daniel: includes spiced synth-blood and sports.

    Meghan: If I were president, I’d …

    Daniel: be human. [Laughs] Sorry. Another one of Ray’s jokes.

    Caitlin: If I were king, I would …

    Daniel: be … Cassie’s father? I guess. [Laughs]

    Meghan: My definition of a dream come true is …

    Daniel: [Laughing] No way, Meggo. Those are state secrets.

    Caitlin: If I could change one thing about my life, it would be …

    Daniel: absolutely nothing. It’s perfect just the way it is. Better than perfect, even.

    Laurie: And I think this interview is perfect just the way it is, Daniel. I know you have other commitments to attend to, so we’ll let you off the hook.

    Meghan: For now. Can I get your cell phone number?

    Laurie: [Laughs] Yes, for now. Thank you so much for joining us today, Daniel. We hope you’ll stop by again and don't pay Meggo any attention. She's just joking. (Meggo shakes her head, holds up her iPhone, mouths "Call me!")

    Daniel: The pleasure was all mine. Laurie, Meghan, Caitlin, it was great meeting you and I promise that we will do this again. Thank you for inviting me to Reader Girls Blog.


     

     

  • Reading, Writing, and (Even Some) ‘Rithmetic: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Jen McConnel.


    Reading, Writing, and (Even Some) ‘Rithmetic

     

    It should come as a surprise to no one that I’m an avid reader. After all, what author isn’t?

    I should make one thing clear, though: reading has always been truly hedonistic for me. I didn’t choose to read for knowledge (which probably explains a lot) or research (ditto) or even as part of a book-of-the-month club. I read for pleasure. Period.

    And I devoured books; one after another, literally with one eye on the words I was reading and the other on the book that was next in line.

    Try it yourself sometime; it takes practice, but it can be done.

    Now, where was I? That’s right—describing my insatiable appetite for books.

    The truth is that I want to read every single book that catches my interest. And there are a lot of ‘em. Heck, if I was in Twilight, I’d get Edward to turn me into a vampire—not because he’s dreamy and refined and oh so sparkly (although he is certainly all that … and more!), but because I’d then have the rest of forever within which to read.

    How awesome would that be?

    Don’t get me wrong. Some vampires would spend their time … I don’t know … going to high school, or serving drinks, or even saving the world, but not me. I’d have my nose in a book.

    And as for the rest of me. Well, suffice it to say that a vampire’s gotta do what a vampire’s gotta do.

    Anyway, back to reality. I once explained my love of reading to a blogger this way: I don’t leave the house without a book. I go to Disney World and read while waiting in line. I do not have a DNF pile. When I was a child I used to sneak into the hallway after bedtime to read by the nightlight. The list of things I would rather do than read is very short. Very, very short.

    I’ve always loved to read. I’d often hope for a rainy day during my summer vacations so I’d have an excuse to stay inside and read.

    I can’t even hazard a guess as to how many books I’ve read. I can tell you how many I’ve read since 1990, though, because I started keeping track: 2100+. Almost one hundred books per year … which is good, but not quite good enough.

    Avid readers know what I mean.

    Because I’m an author, many people expect me to be a critical reader. I’m not. My intent has always been to enjoy what I read, not pick it apart or compare it to some ideal.

    Don’t get me wrong. When reading, I used to be as prone as the next reader was to thinking, Damn! I can write that. Or even, I can write better than that.

    However, unlike the average reader, I did a bit of writing. And I came to realize that it isn’t as easy as it seems. There’s more to it than singular talent or desire or even skill.

    Good writers aren’t necessarily successful writers. Successful writers aren’t necessarily good writers. And there will always be a successful writer that becomes the target of critics.

    Of recent note, look at the Twilight series—which I read—or the Fifty Shades trilogy—which I didn’t. Did either author receive a Pulitzer? No (although I hear a grass roots movement to nominate the last two Fifty Shades novels for a Newbery Medal was making real headway until someone pointed out that James is a Brit) … but neither author claimed to be writing a literary novel. Instead, both authors did exactly what they set out to do: write novels that entertained a lot of people. And they sold a bunch of books while doing it. Of course, that incurred the wrath of many a critic; few of which ever authored anything beyond a scathing critique.

    Still, I have become a more critical reader since I started writing. It’s an inevitable offshoot of being critical of my own writing. Yes, I still read for pleasure, but I can’t help but pay more attention to what an author does—or doesn’t do—well. It can only help improve my own writing.

    And it hasn’t lessened my hunger for reading. In retrospect, I believe I always harbored a touch of fear around that point; that reading with a discerning eye would erode the pleasurable part of reading. That fear couldn’t be further from the truth.

    If anything, my love of reading has increased with the addition of a critical lens. There is as much pleasure to be found in appreciating an artist’s mastery of the craft as there is in devouring the finished product.

    That’s twice the pleasure, at least, for the same initial investment.


     

     

  • Hope (For National Suicide Prevention Week): A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share words about hope I once penned for author Jessica Fortunato and National Suicide Prevention Week.


    Hope

     

    "Hope is, arguably, the most underrated, yet overused, word in our language. I hope I get that job. I hope we're having pizza  for dinner. I hope he/she likes me. Everywhere one turns, phrases  involving hope are bandied around in casual conversation.

    Collectively, we sell hope short. We cheapen it with our  selfish, narcissistic application. Hope involves more than the  attainment of some momentary satisfaction or enjoyment. It is much more, even, than leverage within the elusive, everyday games that people play.

    Hope is magical stuff. Hope is powerful stuff. It  has the power to save lives, yes, but it can even save one life. It has  the power to change your world ... my world ... the world.

    Hope shouldn't be hoped for. It shouldn't be tossed around as conversational filler. It should be seeded and sown, encouraged and  fostered, and spread around and celebrated. Hope should be  provided to those who need it most. Hope should be the last thing that is neglected or abandoned or forgotten among our busy, everyday lives.

    At least, that's what I hope."


     

     

  • Hey!! Watch Where You’re Putting That Thing!: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author S.M. Boyce.


    Hey!! Watch Where You’re Putting That Thing! (Why Genre Matters)

     

    How many times have you heard that before?

    Perhaps you heard it as a harsh whisper creeping down the hallway from your parents’ bedroom after they’d gone to bed early, or as a shout echoing across a parking lot when someone jammed in too close to a rear end. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, there’s one thing that was likely:

    It wasn’t going to end well.

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be S.M. Boyce’s guest today! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: RevolutionVæmpires: White Christmas, and the upcoming Væmpires: Zombie Rising.

    Now, before you get all hot and bothered, please let me clarify. This isn’t going to be a post about adult toys and safe words and various scenarios that a human body simply wasn’t built to withstand … this is going to be a nice, clean, G-rated post about writing.

    I’m sorry to disappoint the deviants among you.

    You see, the uninitiated believe that being a writer is all about ideas and creativity and the power of the written word and following your heart and all kinds of new age-y mumbo jumbo, when the reality is that writers are faced with more rules and regulations than your average recent-college-grad-turned-submissive is.

    There are rules about word counts and sentence structure and perspective and … well, more crap than you care to know about.

    Then there are rules for each genre.

    If you just said, “Are you f*in kidding me?” and looked disgusted, then you are my hero. I bet you sparkle in the sun. I mean, truly, you’re my Rue. Only, you know, still breathing.

    Anyway, enough gushing. She was in the movie for roughly five minutes.

    Understanding genre rules is important if: 1) an author intends to write in a genre; and 2) an author intends to successfully write in a genre.

    If you’re an author and you don’t fit into #1 or #2 above, congratulations on your MFA!

    Let me share a tale of woe to illustrate my point.

    I wrote my first novel about five years ago. It was a spectacularly grandiose novel (150,000 words) about murder, betrayal, obsession, and human nature. I labeled it a mystery/legal thriller and shopped it to agents. For more than a year, it elicited feedback (on occasion). I wrote revision after revision, plugging along like a fool until someone actually took the time to point out one obvious flaw.

    I had a genre problem. It didn’t meet the genre rules for a mystery or a legal thriller. I guess I could say that I swung both ways, but, man, could that be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and all kinds of mis-somethingorothers … all of which would be bound to get me into hot water with some special interest group.

    But, seriously, realizing that I was in a genre predicament was an unpleasant realization. Not quite as unpleasant as visiting the doctor for the first time after you’ve turned forty and realizing you’re about to become closer than you ever anticipated … but unpleasant, nevertheless.

    The novel now sits in a box in my office. Who knows if I’ll ever muster the energy to do right by it?

    So, with some important lessons learned, I approached my væmpires novels from an entirely new perspective (lie #1). I researched genres until I found the one I intended to write in (lie #2), studiously learned them (lie #3), and carefully adhered to them (lie#4).

    Okay, the truth is that I wrote the first damned book in the series and then asked someone else to tell me which genre it best fit in. *shrugs* I never said I was wise.

    Luckily, Væmpires: Revolution slid very snugly into the urban fantasy genre. It’s like they were made for each other. It was like a hand in a velvet glove or a juicy hot dog in a warm bun. It just felt like … home.

    Actually, it was better than home. It was like a home-away-from-home, or your coworker’s home, or anyplace where infidelity occurs when you least expect it (but what the heck were you doing there, anyway?).

    I like the urban fantasy genre. It lets me play with the supernatural side of things without being forced to focus on romance. When it comes to romance, I want to live it, not write about it! It’s kinda like that old saying about teaching: those who can, do; those who can’t, write.

    I’ve got vampires and mutated vampires (væmpires) battling for supremacy in a post-apocalyptic world. There are kings and princesses, heroes and villains, enhanced abilities and super powers, revolutionaries and terrorists, and I even threw zombies into the mix for kicks.

    Let me bring this train to a close with a few words of caution: even meeting the genre rules doesn’t guarantee you’ll do well. I had a person refuse to finish reading my book because he/she objected to one cuss word I used.

    One. Word!

    Can you imagine?

    Moral of the story is that you’re better off picking a genre that you like and understand than you are flying blind. So take the time to figure out where your Work in Progress falls on the genre & age labels scales.

    And the next time you hear, “Hey!! Watch where you’re putting that thing!” pay attention. It might be the voice in your head.


     

     

  • Cinematic Scenes: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Nikki Jefford.


    Cinematic Scenes

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be Nikki’s guest today! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution, Væmpires: White Christmas, and the upcoming Væmpires: Zombie Rising.

    Today, I’d like to speak about cinematic scenes—specifically, my cinematic scenes.

    Well, let me back up a few steps first.

    When Nikki invited me to write for her, I had no idea what to write about—a frightening admission for a writer, but one that was nevertheless true—so I asked for her assistance. She suggested cinematic scenes and I readily agreed.

    I then Googled “cinematic scenes,” because I had no idea what she was talking about.

    Another frightening admission? Perhaps. But I’d rather disappoint you with the truth than entertain you with a lie.

    Well … that’s not exactly true, but it sure sounds good, so we’ll just move along.

    I researched the topic, going through a good portion of the 74.7 million results that Google returned (“good” being shorthand for “a good five or six”) to gain a rudimentary understanding of the topic.
    Once that was achieved, I checked out the newest Makayla Maroney memes, re-watched Will Ferrell’s Trampire video, pre-ordered The Hunger Games on Blu-ray (it includes an ultra-violet digital copy!), and realized I had allowed myself to get distracted.

    Dragging myself back to the topic, I also realized that I had forgotten most of what I’d learned about cinematic scenes … but that didn’t matter—when it comes to writing, I’m used to flying blind.

    My next order of business was a self-test. Do I write cinematic scenes?

    I think I do, but I know enough not to take my word for things, so I checked with the experts. In this case, I didn’t have to look any further than to my fellow authors. Here’s what a few of my favorites had to say about Væmpires:

    “I think it would make the coolest video game in a long time. Seriously, read it and tell me that it wouldn’t kick ass as a multiplayer -or- an individual campaign game!” S.M. Boyce, author of The Grimoire Trilogy.

    “His fast-moving, cinematic story is punctuated by vivid fight scenes.” Wynne Channing, author of What Kills Me.

    “There are no lulls in this book. You catch your breath just in time for more battles.” Christie Rich, author of The Elemental Enmity series.

    And even my gracious, talented host had this to say: “Vaempires is action packed from page one. The fight scenes are some of the most descriptive I’ve ever read.”

    With feedback like that, I have no choice but to accept the fact I write cinematic scenes.

    Furthermore, readers seem to like them.

    How awesome is that?

    To anyone who’s read my books, it probably comes as no surprise that cinematic scenes are my favorite things to write. Of course, some might argue that it appears that cinematic scenes are the only things I can write … but we’ll just label them as “haters” and block them on Twitter.

    Confession: I don’t actually have any haters, but I’m excited about the prospect of having haters one day. How else will I ever be a relevant artist?

    Anyway, back to cinematic scenes. Believe it or not, a lot of work goes into creating them. I’ve got to figure out which character has the most dramatic need, what each character’s motivation is, define the core conflict …

    Actually, I don’t give a hoot about any of that. I just want two things: action and reaction.

    I visualize each scene in my head; before I write it, as I write it, and again, after I write it. Each engagement has a rhythm and flow that gets worked and reworked until it feels right as I read it. Each move is considered and weighed, accepted or rejected, based upon an ever-changing group of factors dictated by the fight (and story) itself.

    Even the dialogue is fluid. When Cassie battles Vielyn, there’s a history between them that needs to color everything and bleed through now and again. When Daniel faces an undead army that’s incapable of speech, the lack of dialogue has to be overcome.

    There is no one, formulaic, approach that I employ.

    In a fantasy, I’d have a big gymnasium connected to my office and a team of people—gymnasts, acrobats, martial artists, dancers, athletes—at my disposal for research, roleplaying, and visualization purposes.

    In the real world, I rely upon my own imagination and a lifetime of watching action movies. So far, my characters have fought with fangs and claws, so much of their action scenes are based on hand-to-hand fighting and martial arts, which are quite prevalent in the latest generation of films. Everything from The Matrix trilogies, to the Star Wars prequels, to the glut of superhero films has served as resource material.

    The introduction of humans in subsequent stories will require cinematic scenes that employ more weapons-based exchanges. It should be fun!

    Now, there are a few things I absolutely require when I’m getting into action writing mode:
    1. A few minutes to mentally prepare
    2. Rock music
    3. Sugar.

    #1. This probably speaks for itself. When I hit the point where a fight breaks out, I get excited. The adrenalin starts pumping, my mind starts running a mile a minute, and I become a bundle of energy. It’s a bit overwhelming and counterproductive. So, the first thing I do is walk away from my desk for a minute or two. I’ll get a drink, visit the restroom, or even just stare out a window, while I calm down to the point where I can actually write again.

    #2. I can only write an action scene in two environments: complete silence or while listening to rock music. The former is reserved for times when I really can’t concentrate or I’m having difficulty nailing a particular exchange down … and is rather rare (thankfully). The latter really seems to complement my writing and really helps to keep my energy level high.

    I love all kinds of music—pop, rock, and country—from the 50’s through today, but hard rock is my music of choice and the only music that can be playing when writing action. I can’t imagine writing a scene in which Daniel beheads a væmpire while Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” is playing in the background. Give me Godsmack, The Used, or Papa Roach for the tough stuff.

    In fact, I wrote most of the final draft of Væmpires: Revolution while playing Bad City’s “Welcome To the Wasteland” on repeat. Halestorm’s “The Strange Case of …” and Vain’s “Enough Rope” provided the background music for Væmpires: Zombie Rising.

    #3. I crave sugar when I write action scenes. Peppermint Patties, orange slices, gummy bears, a five lb. bag of Domino Sugar … I don’t really discriminate when the need arises. A few weeks ago I came across some leftover Christmas candy—leftover from Christmas 2008 or so, that is—and I didn’t turn it away.

    I’m not saying it was the right thing to do … but it got the job done.

    So, there you have it, folks: some random, and rambling, thoughts on cinematic scenes. I’d like to say that I hope it was as good for you as it was for me, but that would probably be misinterpreted, which would provide fodder for the “haters.”

    Wherever they may be.

     

     

     

  • Indie Author Or Self-Pubbed Author?: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Robert Zimmermann.


    Indie Author Or Self-Pubbed Author?

     

    Whenever I have a mystery to solve, it feels like an episode of Scooby Doo … and that’s exactly what telling the difference between an indie author and a self-pubbed author is—a mystery.

    Well, if I’m going to explore a mystery, I’m going to do it the right way.

    So, c'mon gang. Let's get to the Mystery Machine!

    In many circles, the great debate about how to distinguish an “indie author” from a “self-published author” rages on. So many people believe it warrants a discussion that a Google search of the term “indie vs. self publishing” yields 2.7M results.

    I say, “Who cares?” I have no stake in the debate. I’m clearly self-published. I’m not signed to a small publishing house and I didn’t create a publishing entity for the sake of passing myself off as an indie author. I did it all myself, and, like a child riding a bike who suddenly yells, “Look ma … no hands!” for the first time, what happens next can be amazing or disastrous … or it can fall anywhere in between.

    I’m happy being self-published. I’m not going to wax philosophical about the spiritual nature of my decision. I won’t try to feed you a bunch of rhetoric about how being self-published allows me control and freedom and a whole list of other rationalizations intended to convince you that my decision was a good decision. Given all the factors I considered at the time, it was the right decision for me. Period.

    Would I have made the same decision if a publishing contact had been offered to me? Of course not.

    But I’m okay being a self-pubbed author.

    So—getting back to the debate—who does care about the distinction between indie authors and self-pubbed authors?

    Well, Google search results aside, most people on the planet do not. To the average person, the terms in question are interchangeable and the differences between them negligible. The man or woman on the street doesn’t care what you call yourself—an author is an author is an author.

    But there is one group that seems to care very much: authors.

    You see; the debate is not about what constitutes being a self-published author as much as it’s about what constitutes being an indie author—as if indie authors are part of a special club; a club that self-pubbed authors desperately seek admittance to and indie authors desperately fight ejection from.
    I wonder if people who consider themselves “indie authors” care because that label gives them a sense of superiority or literary acceptance? Conversely, does the derision that often accompanies self-publishing leave those authors with crippling feelings of inadequacy?

    It’s kind of funny, really, to sit on the sidelines of this endless debate ... since the average person doesn’t give a hoot, while the important people—the readers, bloggers, and reviewers—are going to reach their own decisions regardless of outside opinion.

    So, why debate anything?

    Hell, debates are for politicians and other people afraid of getting their hands dirty. If we really want to settle this matter, I recommend throwing everyone who wants to weigh in on the subject into a huge wrestling ring and letting them go at it in an old-fashioned WWE-style Battle Royal. This way, even if people cheat, someone will still be declared the winner.

    Not only will the winner decide what distinguishes an “indie author” from a “self-published author,” but we can also give that winner a championship belt (and perhaps even a publishing contract).

    So ... whaddya think, gang? Mystery solved?

    Heck yeah! And, I think the culprits would've gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!

    Haha!

    In all seriousness, folks: we are amidst a new golden age in publishing. E-books are the most important thing to happen in publishing since the invention of the printing press. E-publishing has opened up the market to many writers that would never have had the opportunity to get their stories out there via traditional publishing … and there’s room for everyone.

    I don’t care if you’re a traditional author, an indie author, a self-pubbed author, or some as-yet unlabeled author ... that your stories get out there matters far more than how they do. As long as we publish with honesty and integrity, we’re all part of one amazing group.

    An author is an author is an author.

    So, write on!


     

     

  • Toupée, Or Not To Pay?: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the GraveTells website.


    Toupée, Or Not To Pay?

    (Hairpieces, Head-Hopping, and How To Head Off Literary Hara-kiri)

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be part of this wonderful Indie-Pendence Week Blog Hop!

    I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution and Væmpires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new, ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    Today, however, we’re going to explore a different question.

    Toupée, or not to pay?

    That is the question … whether referring to hairpieces for the bald … or editorial services for the writer.

    Of course, while I would argue that the former is purely a matter of preference, the latter is a matter of life or death—an author’s professional life or death.

    Now, this may seem melodramatic. Extreme, even. But it’s true. The quality of an author’s work can be diminished—to the point of insignificance, even—by an inferior finished product. Horrible covers aside, few things turn a reader off quicker than typos, grammatical errors, and shoddy formatting.
    That’s why it is especially important that indie and self-pubbed authors have an editor. (For expediency’s sake, I’m going to refer to both as “indie authors” for the remainder of this piece.)
    Can you imagine a traditionally published author releasing a novel that isn’t professionally edited?

    Of course not.

    Now, I realize that there are myriad reasons why an individual might be an indie author. Perhaps he/she grew tired of the stream of rejections ... or is a control freak ... or is into instant gratification. When push comes to shove (and I mean that in the figurative sense only—I would never condone violence, even upon those who send form rejection letters), the rationale behind being an indie author doesn’t matter.

    Having an editor does.

    The good news is that finding an editor is easier than ever! Any author that doesn’t know one simply needs to ask for recommendations via trusted social media connections. I guarantee it will lead to more than satisfactory results.

    Authors, please, do not fall prey to the hubris of believing you can edit your own work.

    I don’t care if you edit the work of others. I don’t care who gave you a +K about editing on Klout. I don’t care what your related Elance scores are. Hell, I don’t care if you hold an MFA from NYU.
    Do you cut your own hair? Do men perform their own prostate exams? Do ladies … well, never mind.

    You. Don’t. Edit. Your. Own. Work.

    Get an editor. A professional editor. Not a friend, relative, or significant other.

    Why not friends, relatives, or lovers?

    Because they don’t possess the requisite skills. Because they can’t be objective ... and that means you can’t be objective.

    Granted, these people can certainly be used to assess non-technical things like overall readability, flow, and feel, or even to—in a pinch—review early manuscript drafts, but before you publish any work, hire an editor.

    It’ll be the best money you ever spend.

    Wait a minute … what’s that? What if an author can’t afford an editor?

    Hogwash!

    No, not Hogwarts—The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, created by the awesome JK Rowling—hogwash, which is slang for nonsense!

    And it is nonsense to make excuses for not having an editor. After all, doesn’t an author pour his/her blood, sweat, and tears into a story?

    Well, the time comes when money must be poured into it, as well.

    The bottom line is this: if an author doesn’t spend money on editing, readers will probably be upset to find that they spent their money on that author. And they’ll tell others about it—in scathing reviews on Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and other online communities.

    The author might as well walk down a busy street with a “kick me” sign taped to his/her back.
    Now, before I’m accused of beating a dead horse—which, I believe, ranks just ahead of sending automatic Twitter DM’s, but a distant second to responding to negative book reviews (on the Hierarchy of Unforgivable Offenses, of course)—I’m going to shift gears and talk about editing.

    Editing is a multi-faceted endeavor. And—as is the case with many professions—there are more job titles and areas of specialization than I can shake a stick at (LOL a tribute to GraveTells’ own DVK).
    Honestly, the labels are endless. Whether due to an actual need, an overblown sense of collective self-importance, or a desperate cry for validation, I don’t know. For instance, this article at about.com lists twenty-one types of editors/editing roles!

    Twenty-frakkin’-one!

    It seems like the only ones missing are WTF and EILF.

    Anyway, I’m going to delete those twenty- …

    Oh, for Pete’s sake (and the rest of the neophytes out there)!

    WTF stands for Writer’s Technical Friend and EILF stands for Editor I’d Like To Friend.

    Save that cussin’ for the erotica crowd.

    Moving along. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to delete those twenty-one labels in favor of a simpler approach. I’ve seen it in a bunch of places, but for our purposes I’m giving credit to writer and editor Lillie Ammann. Lillie grouped an author’s editing process into three areas: content editing, copyediting, and proofreading.

    Let’s take a brief look at all three.

    1. According to Lillie, content editing (including developmental editing and substantive editing) involves revising or moving entire paragraphs or sentences, adding new material to fill in gaps and deleting original material that doesn’t work, and/or re-organizing and restructuring content to improve flow and clarity.

    Here’s an example of content editing at work:

    Væmpires: Revolution includes two types of vampires. The first type, a vampire, is similar to the traditional vampire—a creature that feeds on human blood and possesses enhanced abilities. The second type, a væmpire, is a vampire that has mutated into a warm-blooded creature that feeds on cold vampire blood.

    My original notes, compiled over the past decade or so, included a semi-developed concept in which the væmpire mutation was the result of exposure to two different vaccinations or some other type of genetic manipulation.

    In May 2010— when Væmpires: Revolution was only a first draft—Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) released the first installment of her amazing “Newsflesh” trilogy, Feed. In Grant’s world, a zombie apocalypse is triggered by human exposure to a cure for the common cold and a cure for cancer.

    My editor’s comment: Obviously, your væmpire origins will no longer work, Tom. Come up with a new concept/angle.

    2. According to Wikipedia, copyediting (including line editing) is work that improves the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. The "five Cs" summarize the copy editor's job: make the copy clear, correct, concise, complete, and consistent. Typically, copyediting involves correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.

    Here’s an example of copyediting at work:

    Væmpires: Revolution draft: The figures were a study in opposites. The girl’s presence failed to register in Daniel’s infrared vision while the væmpire radiated heat like a small furnace. The creature’s hulking form dwarfed the girl’s diminutive frame. The væmpire’s heartbeat was strong and steady while the girl’s was weak and flighty, reminding Daniel of a frightened bird. She was even dressed in an ill-fitting white dress of some type while her attacker wore the form-fitting black suit Daniel had grown tired of seeing.

    My editor’s comment: Be aware that “while” is used three times as a connector in this paragraph.

    Væmpires: Revolution: The figures were a study in opposites. The girl’s presence failed to register in Daniel’s infrared vision. The væmpire radiated heat like a small furnace. The creature’s hulking form dwarfed the girl’s diminutive frame. The væmpire’s heartbeat was strong and steady, but the girl’s was weak and flighty, reminding Daniel of a frightened bird. She was even dressed in an ill-fitting white dress of some type, while her attacker wore the formfitting black suit Daniel had grown tired of seeing.

    3. Proofreading involves word-by-word and line-by-line checking of manuscript versions to verify that all corrections have been made and even to catch misspellings, grammatical errors, and other mistakes that slipped through the cracks.

    I won’t bore you to tears with an example here, as it’s a pretty straightforward concept. Instead, I’ll move on to a final appeal.

    Avoid head-hopping. Please.

    Now, head-hopping shouldn’t be confused with head-chopping (which is distasteful, certainly, but quite necessary in some genres) or bed-hopping (which is distasteful, in some circles, but really just a matter of preference … like wearing a toupée). Head-hopping—which is distasteful in its own right—typically accomplishes little beyond confusing a reader, who doesn’t realize if the head-hopping is indicative of a writer’s lack of skill or representative of a writer’s fear of commitment.

    Both of which, of course, represent forms of literary suicide.

    In essence, hiring an editor can save your life. So, hire away.

    Live long, prosper, and publish!


     

     

  • A Sheep Among Wolves?: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Fictional Candy.


    A Sheep Among Wolves?

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at Fictional Candy! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution and Væmpires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new, ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    Let me assure you that your eyes are not playing tricks on you; what you just read is correct.

    Yes, I write vampire novels.

    Yes, I am male.

    I realize that it is an unlikely combination, but why do I suddenly feel so alone?

    Perhaps it’s because I’m sitting alone in a room on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Perhaps it’s because I lack emotional depth or maturity, which drives people away. Or perhaps it’s because the vast majority of my fellow vampire authors are female.

    Despite the compelling evidence supporting the first two theories, I prefer the final one. After all, it not only absolves me of any wrongdoing, but it also places me in rather exclusive, if not enviable, company.

    I mean, heck, not many people would complain about being trapped amidst a crowd of females. After all, they’re intelligent, they’re kind, they’re emotionally available, they’re soft, and they smell nice.

    A crowd of males, I assure you, is none of the above.

    Still, puerile insinuations aside, I’d like to tell you a bit about what life as a male vampire author is like.

    Managing expectations is not easy. Not my expectations, of course (LOL)—yours. And if not yours, then the next person in line.

    You see, most people today equate vampire novels with paranormal romance … so when they open a vampire novel, they want a love story—but multiple love stories replete with a love triangle or even a love square (or two), are preferred.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess: I once toyed with writing a PNR novel. It was an ambitious love story including a vampire, a werewolf, a demon, a witch, an angel, a mermaid, and the crusty old sailor who couldn’t help but love each of them. The six fantasy characters lived in different parts of the world and were oblivious to each other’s existence, until an unfortunate sailing accident brought them together (and bound them forever). The novel, tentatively titled Any Port In A Storm, generated some early enthusiasm until an overzealous agent started referring to its dynamic as a “love heptagon, sea-style,” which he later shortened on Twitter (to make room for all the hash tags) to “luv hep C style.” Unfortunately, the story simply couldn’t stay afloat with the subsequent misinterpretations and backlash.

    A voice in my head said that any idea that couldn’t survive a storm or two wasn’t a good idea anyway. Another issued platitudes, such as, “it was meant to be.” Whatever the case, I abandoned the idea of a paranormal romance novel quicker than a captain abandoning a sinking ship.

    My book went to Davy Jones’ locker. Par for the course, the agent is now the top ad executive for a major publisher.

    But, seriously, I do my best to manage expectations so readers and reviewers understand—before reading—that Væmpires isn’t romance.

    Still, I’m my own worst enemy, because not only do I write vampire novels, but my main characters are also teens. This leads many people to believe that Væmpires is a YA novel.

    It isn’t.

    My main characters—protagonists and antagonists—are teens. The obstacles they face are decidedly adult and decidedly deadly. They are thrust into a war they didn’t choose, with the fate of the world lying in the balance.

    Again, as far as expectations … I do my best. The story is about a war. An honest-to-goodness war (although I believe that’s an oxymoron) that includes fighting and dying and all kinds of blood and guts action. The title is Væmpires: Revolution; the series is “The Evolutionary War.”

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the terms revolution and war indicate different situations than, for instance, the terms diaries and academy do.

    Now, before I lose everyone, please let me explain. Væmpires has romance in it. And people who enjoy YA can read it. It’s simply not a YA PNR novel.

    In fact, from a writing perspective, my biggest challenges were in shaping the character of Cassandra (the vampire princess) and in portraying her relationship with her boyfriend, Daniel. (Væmpires: Revolution goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Cassandra and Daniel. Sure, developing Daniel wasn’t easy, but it was nowhere near as difficult as developing Cassandra.)

    As a male, I’m already at a decided disadvantage in trying to accurately portray how a teenage vampire princess thinks and acts and feels, but I also had to contend with having been raised on a steady diet of stories filled with old school gender roles—in which females are beautiful and kind, but no that heroic, while males are the epitome of a hero—to boot. Stereotypes such as those, which are ingrained in my thought processes, provided a consistent need for me to rethink, reexamine, retool, and revise my story.

    On top of that, Cassandra and Daniel are in love. And they are in danger. In fact, they spend the majority of Væmpires: Revolution trying to alternately find or save each other. Infusing a novel about a revolution with enough romance to be credible and believable, but not overwhelming, was not easy. I relied on feedback from many people in determining whether I achieved a proper balance.
    And here’s a spoiler—there are no passionate love scenes in Væmpires. First of all, they’re teens! But, most importantly, that’s not what the story is about. Believe it or not, some readers are disappointed to discover this.

    I can’t help them there. Certainly, I can write a love scene. Any writer with the requisite desire and ability can, to one degree or other, but it’s just not right for Væmpires.

    And that leads to another thing that isn’t right for Væmpires—eye candy on the book cover. It’s perhaps the biggest hurdle I face as a male author in this female-dominated genre … but I just can’t have shirtless hunks, oozing machismo while glistening with body oil, adorning the covers of Væmpires.

    It might boost sales, but it would be quite detrimental to my self-esteem.

    And with that confession, ladies (and gentlemen), perhaps I can, at least, get credit for talking about my feelings.


     

     

  • The Name Game: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Happy Tails and Tales Blog.


    The Name Game

     

    I hate naming characters.

    Yikes! That’s probably not the best way to begin a guest blog. Forget about turning you readers off, the use of the “h” word probably shot me right to the top of a special interest group’s watch list—you know, one of those groups that protects unnamed fictional characters.

    Is it me, or does there seem to be a special interest group for everything? I mean, even sticking with just the topic of unnamed people, even I know of—and I’m quite a neophyte, I guarantee—special interest groups representing: 1) the random, unnamed cowboy who ambles across the street just before the shootout (and just after the tumbleweed) in those old western films; 2) the drunken, unnamed frat boys who criss-cross the country stirring up riots whenever a college championship is decided, and 3) people who anonymously post on websites and blogs.

    I mean, I’m all for protecting the defenseless, but c’mon …

    Still, I’d better get back on track before the protestors shut me down.

    So yes, gentle readers, the truth is that I hate naming characters. In fact, it isn’t just characters that I hate naming, it’s pretty much everything: countries, cities, streets, weapons, technology, you name it (no pun intended) … but I especially hate naming characters.

    Names are labels. Labels suck.

    I’m not trying to take a stance or make some kind of social statement. I’m not even afflicted by a crippling fear of commitment. I’m just horrible at coming up with names.

    Character names, that is.

    I couldn’t care less about names for actual people.

    I can name people all day without breaking a sweat. If you’re about to have a baby and you’re undecided about a name, drop me a line; I’ll come up with a name on the spot.

    Because who really cares about his/her name? If it’s that bad, you can change it. The easy way to do so, of course, is to adopt a cool nickname, but you can do so legally if you want.

    Artists do it all the time. So do people running from the law.

    Those two groups have more in common than either want to admit …

    Nevertheless, I believe deciding upon a character’s name might be the most difficult part of writing. So much can rely upon a name: the right one can offer insight into a character’s character (no pun intended), while helping plant an accurate visual in the mind’s eye.

    On the other hand, a bad name can become an insurmountable obstacle—and will be quite difficult to change later. While I’m certain there are authors out there who can turn a character’s desire for a name change into a scintillating sub-plot, I assure you that I am not one of them.

    Still, it might be an interesting project for NaNoWriMo in November …

    Anyhow, knowing how important a name is creates a lot of pressure. And it’s not just the first name, mind you—last names have to be selected, as well.

    Some names require hours of research and a painful decision. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not every name involves a difficult choice. Some names pop into existence as soon as a character is envisioned and it just feels right. Luckily, this happens almost half the time—otherwise, I’d probably never finish a story.

    On that note, let me share the history behind some of the names selected for Væmpires: Revolution:

    Vielyn—(first appearance Væmpires: Revolution)—everyone’s favorite new villain has a name that seems somewhat exotic and unique… yet, it is anything but. Although it is pronounced vee-ellen, it’s actually just a slight modification of the word villain. Vielyn is a bad guy, pure and simple. He’s evil, he’s black-hearted, and he’s going to get much worse as the series progresses…

    Still, even the most despicable despot deserves love (in fiction, at least), so you can expect Vielyn to find his perfect soul(less) mate in an upcoming novel.

    Her name is Zendelia. As my mother would say, “She’s a doozy.”

    Iris—(first appearance Væmpires: Revolution)—I spent weeks agonizing over this name. During that time, Iris was identified within the novel as ***. I struggled. What name could best reflect a character with the fashion sense of a punk rocker but the power to resurrect the dead?

    After much contemplation, I settled on Iris, shortened from Osiris, the Egyptian god associated with death and life after death. Moreover, Osiris is usually depicted in bright, flamboyant colors—much like dear Iris.

    Steven & Elle—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—I selected the names of Daniel’s parents as an homage to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In the Dark Tower, Roland Deschain’s parents were named Steven and Gabrielle. And while the Dark Tower is set in a future rendered archaic by the devolution of technology, Væmpires is set in a future that’s technologically evolved, yet also feels archaic. It’s all very fitting and just feels right.

    Councilman Donrel—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—Donrel is an interesting character. In some ways, he’s the firebrand of White Christmas, and although we have yet to find out what he’s up to during the revolution, his heart seems to be in the right place (which is advantageous, since he’s a warm-blooded væmpire!) and he also serves as a voice of reason—even when his view is unpopular. Because of this, I chose to name him after Tolkien’s Elrond—another person who headed a council and was willing to give voice to the unpopular truth. Donrel is an anagram of Elrond.

    Queen Anne—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—The name of Cassandra’s mother is the key to a very important reveal that’ll come much, much later in the series. I think it’s so clever (and that, ladies and gentlemen is to key to happiness: believe what you want about yourself, and don’t let anyone or anything else—even conclusive facts to the contrary—convince you otherwise) that I’m willing to offer this to the first person that figures it out:

    • An autographed first edition of every Væmpires book ever printed
    • ·A reading (at your home or local library) every time a new Væmpires book is printed
    • I’ll personally select the names for all your future children!*

    *These must be real, not fictional, children.

    And, with that, I bid you adieu. Or farewell. Or whatever label you want to stick on it.


     

     

  • Heroes and Villains: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Reviews By Molly website.


    Heroes and Villains

     

    My main characters are teens, but Væmpires isn’t a YA world. The obstacles these teens face are decidedly adult and decidedly deadly. They are thrust into a war they didn’t choose, with the fate of the world lying in the balance.

    In many ways, I care more about my characters than I do about anything else in Væmpires. The post-apocalyptic world my characters inhabit, the war they are forced to fight, the events that have passed, and even the events about to occur, pale in comparison to my connections to Cassandra, Daniel, Linq, and Ray. Even Vielyn.

    But before I delve into the hows and whys, perhaps I should begin by offering the uninitiated a brief overview of Væmpires.

    The backstory: In the future, humans trigger a nuclear winter that lasts for hundreds of years. Water levels rise. The shape of the world changes. When the world recovers, vampires emerge from the darkness. Their discovery leads to a war for supremacy … until synthetic human blood is created, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity.

    And the world changes yet again. Vampires begin morphing into væmpires, warm-blooded creatures with an insatiable hunger for cold vampire blood. There is no rhyme or reason as to who morphs—male or female, old or young, from one end of the world to another—no vampire is safe. And no human is safe, either, because these væmpires aren’t interested in coexistence. They want three things: the eradication of humanity, the enslavement of vampires, and their ascension as the dominant species on the planet.

    Væmpires: White Christmas: It’s almost Christmas. With the global holiday days away, the people of the world should be turning their attention toward celebrating peace and goodwill, but tension between humans, vampires, and væmpires is at an all-time high. Desperate for solutions, King Brant schedules a secret summit deep in North America’s Northern Forest. Along with Queen Anne, Princess Cassandra, Daniel’s family, and the human president and First Lady, the vampire leader seeks to reaffirm the ties between humans and vampires, while brainstorming ways to respond to the growing hostility among væmpires.

    Meanwhile, Daniel and Cassie’s relationship is at an all-time low. The princess is still reeling from her breakup with Vielyn, and Daniel doesn’t know what he should or shouldn’t do to help. Little does he know that the summit will be flooded with surprises—guests, allegations, accusations, proposals, and even Christmas Eve revelations—but not all of the surprises will be pleasant.

    Væmpires: Revolution: (Six months after White Christmas) It is the morning of Princess Cassandra’s sixteenth birthday. Everyone’s attention is focused on the heir to the vampire throne. World leaders, the rich and famous, and VIPs from every corner of the globe have gathered in the nation’s capital to celebrate the momentous event.

    Cassandra’s boyfriend, Daniel, is late for the party. He’s still outside the city when all hell breaks loose. What he believes is an act of terrorism proves to be a full-fledged revolution. Væmpires have launched coordinated attacks across the globe.

    The vampire and human leaders are killed. Cassandra is missing. Daniel is the acting king. Desperate to find the princess, Daniel and his friends fight their way across the besieged city. With the hopes of the free world resting on the shoulders of four vampire teenagers, væmpires unleash their secret weapons: a new breed of væmpire that is far deadlier than any ever seen before.

    What can four teens do against an enemy that can shape-shift, fly, and walk through walls?

    There you have it: the Væmpires saga in a nutshell. And if you’re anything like me, you’re already rooting for our four heroes to overcome the odds and save the day.

    I’ve always been a sucker for the hero/heroine, as well as the underdog (which is not to be confused with Underdog, the 1960’s cartoon superhero who always had to save Sweet Polly Purebred—who I loved, but wouldn’t say I was a sucker for—or Underdog, the 2007 film that I did not see because it was labeled a “sucker.”)

    When it comes to a heroic character, I don’t need perfection. He/she needn’t be a paragon of virtue. A little dirt here and there, even a bruise or three, is fine. Picture Han Solo and we’re on the same wavelength.

    However, what that character must possess—in unwavering abundance—is strength of character (no pun intended).

    You see; it isn’t enough for a character to succeed or win or persevere or overcome obstacles or otherwise save the day. He/she must also do so with grace, dignity, and integrity … otherwise it isn’t heroic.

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a major accomplishment, just not a heroic accomplishment.

    Being heroic isn’t about what a character does, as much as it is about how the character does it. It’s also not whether an individual does the right thing when the stakes are high and all eyes are on him/her or not—but whether that individual does the right thing, consistently, when no one else will ever know.

    Developing the characters in Væmpires: Revolution wasn’t easy. Heck, I never find developing any characters easy, but those characters were particularly challenging. Let’s take a look at the major characters in the novel: Cassandra, Daniel, and Vielyn.

    There were certainly some similarities in the challenge of making all three of those characters simultaneously believable as the teenagers they are and the leaders they’re forced to be. But then each character posed unique challenges.

    Cassandra was the hardest. First of all, I’m a male writing about a female character, so I’m at a decided disadvantage there—just because I think I can accurately capture how a teenage vampire princess thinks and acts and feels doesn’t mean I can. Additionally, Cassie is a heroine. Today’s YA readers are quite familiar with strong female characters in fiction, but that is (sadly) a relatively recent trend. I grew up on books with predominately male heroes, so my thought processes still lean in that direction. For instance, when Cassie was captured, I found I was trying to figure out how Daniel was going to rescue her … and then I realized that Cassie didn’t need to be rescued. She was perfectly capable of freeing herself.

    Then there were the myriad other factors to, well, factor in: the attack occurs on the day of her sweet sixteen birthday celebration; her parents are killed; she’s now the leader of her people and the world; she doesn’t know if Daniel is alive or dead; she’s taken prisoner by Vielyn.

    It’s a lot to juggle, and I’m just the writer! I struggled to walk the line between caring too much (and potentially cheating Cassie out of “her” experiences) and denying my own desire to protect her by remaining too distant (thereby inflicting too much upon her).

    Now, although Daniel loses his parents, as well, I didn’t struggle with that part of his character. My struggle was in balancing his portrayal as a cold, calculating warrior who’s also serving as the acting king, and the love struck teen that wants to push everything aside and locate his girlfriend.

    The novel is so action-packed that I had to keep reigning in the desire to allow (and the fun in allowing) Daniel to run amok, killing every væmpire in sight. It spoke to the testosterone-driven part of me that finds such stuff so appealing … but that’s not who Daniel is. He’s a teenager, who happens to be a more-than-capable fighter, thrust into a war zone.

    Which brings us to Vielyn. I shudder, not because Vielyn is bad (and he’s quite bad!), but because I enjoyed developing his character so much that it was sometimes frightening.

    In fact, it was too easy to make Vielyn bad, which wasn’t good. We all know that the best bad guys are the ones who are bad enough to fear and hate, while still giving readers reasons to wonder if the villain is all bad.

    Because, despite all the murder and mayhem, when Vielyn describes what he endured in becoming a væmpire, even I began feeling sorry for him.

    And then he’d do something evil and I’d hate him again.

    Ultimately, here’s my confession: I get pulled into the story as much as (I hope) readers do!

    My heart breaks when Cassie finds her parents. I get all misty when … well … I won’t give it away. And I cry at the end. Sometimes a lot. The Neanderthal man inside me hates it, but I won’t lie—I cried when I wrote it and I cry whenever I read it.

    Here’s another confession: what happens at the end was as much a surprise and shock to me as it is to everyone else!


     

     

  • Mythbusting: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Pearls Cast Before A McPig website.


    Mythbusting

     

    Some of the most common questions I’m asked revolve around the “kind” of vampires I write about and the amount of research I conducted before writing about them … so, I thought I’d devote this blog to those topics.

    I’ll begin with the research part, since it will be the shortest explanation.

    Any good writer will tell you that the key to writing a great novel lies in research. A writer must literally (and liberally) immerse him-or-herself in the subject—living, eating, breathing, it for an extended period of time.

    Unless, of course, the subject is underwater aquatics or the mating habits of hippopotami (but I still want one for Christmas).

    Remember, a good researcher is blessed with common sense. A bad researcher is kissed by death.
    I dove into my research for Væmpires: Revolution with gusto. I also added a bit of relish, but that’s a personal preference I might recommend, but would never insist someone try. For the next six months, I lived as a probationary vampire in a commune in upstate New York.

    Believe me, it’s not as glamorous, nor as rustic, as one might suspect. Yes, the constant gardening took some getting used to and sharing a cabin with a dozen paranormal romance cover models was a bit daunting (those guys really are suffering, I tell ya! It’s teen angst multiplied a hundredfold. I hope they find their soul mates soon.), but it wasn’t bad at all.

    To sum it up: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times (thanks, Chuck!). I never realized there was actually an art to seducing unsuspecting young ladies, but you can bet I really put my heart and soul into it.

    On the other hand, I never quite mastered the whole “let’s go back to my … cough … coffin,” line that the true masters pulled off with aplomb.

    I’m still convinced they left something out of that lesson.

    Nevertheless, the time eventually came when I had to head back to the real world. Don’t get me wrong, the urge to stay was incredible (and it had nothing to do with the smoldering looks of my cabin mates), and while I could live with the vegan diet, and I developed an affinity for the whole, “Relax, you’ve got all the time in the world … all the time in the world …” approach to things, and I absolutely loved having rock hard abs (finally … crunches be damned!), when push came to shove, I balked at the thought of being a perpetual high school student.

    The first four years were enough.

    So, I headed home with a heavy heart and a rucksack full of regrets … plus a trio of consolation prizes: a vial of “human blood” that was really organic cranberry juice with non-FDA approved food color added to it (go figure), a vampire tooth necklace that looks suspiciously like the shark tooth necklace I picked up at the Jersey shore one summer when I was fourteen, and a neat little iPhone app that keeps counting down the time until the projected end of my (once again) human lifespan.
    Say what you want; those vamps may sneak into your teenage daughter’s room in the middle of the night to “watch her sleep” or steal your grandmother’s Social Security check from the mailbox (how else are they supposed to make a living?), but they sure have a killer sense of humor.

    And software design skills. Who knew?

    Armed with an encyclopedia’s worth of information, I sat down to write Væmpires: Revolution.

    Okay … I admit it.

    I lied.

    There was no commune and no cabin of inhumanly good-looking men. I certainly never seduced any unsuspecting young ladies.

    Or gentlemen, for that matter. I’ve never seduced anyone in my life.

    I’ve never been seduced, either. Perhaps that’s why I write …

    But, anyway, please forgive my little white lie. I can’t help it. I write fiction, for chrissake. My entire life is one never ending circle of lies, deceit, secrets, drama, plot twists, cliffhangers, and the occasional deus ex machina. And that isn’t even the writing.

    So, I’ll try to focus on the facts. The fact is that I didn’t do any research on vampires. Why the heck would I? No one’s going to read my book anyway! [Interject self-effacing laughter here that actually sounds phony and perhaps a bit uncertain.]

    I did conduct research on the layout on New York City. You see, Væmpires: Revolution takes place far in the future—our future. Sometime in the late twenty-ninth or early thirtieth centuries, humans trigger WWIII. The resultant nuclear winter lasts for hundreds of years and wipes out the vast majority of the population. Water levels rise. The face of the world changes.

    When the world recovers from the Great Devastation (as it’s called), the Atlantic Ocean is gone, creating one immense continent surrounded by water. Antarctica and Australia are uninhabited. The few island groups that exist are in constant danger of being swallowed by the remaining oceans, so efforts to inhabit them are quickly abandoned. The peoples of earth spread throughout the continent and grow roots.

    The supercontinent is broken into seven provinces: four ruled by vampires and the other three by humans. The landmass that used to be covered by the Atlantic Ocean becomes the two vampire provinces of North and South Atlantica. The vampire (and world) capital of Orion is built in North Atlantica.

    Orion is a faithful replica of ancient New York City, so I needed to be fairly accurate with my descriptions and settings. Of course, I employ poetic license, but not too much. I also live an hour north of NYC, so I’m in the city numerous times a month, which helps.

    I conducted research on England’s Windsor Castle, as well.

    Since Orion is the capital, it stands to reason that vampire leaders will reside there. Humans are still led by elected officials, but monarchs lead vampires ... and monarchs need palaces and royal estates.

    From the novel:
    Constructed in memory of New York’s famous Central Park, the royal estate constituted a thousand acres in the center of Orion. The entire perimeter, two miles long by three-quarters of a mile wide, was lined by a dense forest of native trees.

    Sitting in the middle of it all was the royal palace. After the signing of the Silvestri Accords, the first vampire king had commissioned the building of a royal estate. When the time came to build a home for the royal family, the queen had suggested—some said demanded—that they make a goodwill gesture to humans. So, instead of building something new, they elected to unearth Windsor Castle from ancient icebound England, where it had been reduced to little more than a shell by the Great Devastation. The process of returning it to its former glory in a new location had taken more than a decade, easily twice as long as new construction would’ve taken, but the new leaders of the world could afford to be patient.

    You’ll have to read Væmpires: Revolution to see how my research panned out. For now, I’d like to turn my attention to my vampires.

    You see, my world has two races of vampires—vampires and væmpires.

    In writing Væmpires: Revolution, I didn’t decide to follow any particular vampire mythology or mode of thought. Certainly, my vampires have some similarities to “traditional” vampires in that they are undead creatures with enhanced abilities and senses, they require human blood for sustenance, and sunlight kills them.

    However, they differ from traditional vampires in that they were created from the radioactive fallout from WWIII, new vampires are born (not made), and they age naturally (although they are immortal). Additionally, the creation of synthetic human blood frees them from the need to feed on humans and provides protection from the sun.

    Decapitation, stopping the heart, bleeding them dry, or even causing injuries that overwhelm their healing abilities can kill them, of course. But it isn’t easy.

    They aren’t susceptible to garlic, crosses, holy water, etc. They can certainly see their reflections in the mirror—how else can they ever be humanized, if they can’t wrestle with self-doubt and self-loathing?

    On the other side of the conflict, væmpires are mutated vampires. No one knows why the mutations occur or how to stop them. Each væmpire—warm-blooded with a hunger for cold vampire blood—is a bigger, stronger, faster version of its former self, with a second thumb on each hand and an altered physical appearance, to boot.

    Væmpires can be killed. That much we know. Vampires are still trying to determine the full extent of their vulnerabilities. They’d better figure it out soon, because væmpires are winning the war right now.

    So, there you have it: the unvarnished, unmitigated, unadulterated—and perhaps, unwanted—truth about my research and my vampires.

    Please forgive my honesty, but I never realized telling the truth could be so … sterile.

    I don’t recommend it. No, sir/ma’am, not at all.


     

     

  • Write Or Wrong: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a now-defunct blog called Ttoria.


    "Write" Or Wrong

     

    I’m often asked what life as an author is like. The simple truth is that I don’t know. I’ve only been a full-time author for about a year, so I suppose I’ll have a better idea as time goes by … but for now, color me clueless.

    Alas, it’s not the only thing I’m clueless about, but there’s no need to get into that here.

    The story of how I got to Væmpires is a convoluted one. It begins in the not-too-distant past (six years ago or so), in a small town just north of New York City. Within that small town lived a man who appeared to have it all: a beautiful, loving wife, a caring family, a successful corporate career, and, of course, his health.

    Still, he wanted more.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: that the man was greedy (typical American greed, perhaps?), but that wasn’t the case. You see, the man didn’t want more as in more money or more possessions or more status … he wanted to be more.

    He wanted to write. Specifically, he wanted to complete a story that he had started years earlier as a college assignment. It had been written as a short story, but he had always believed it should be a novel. He had just never taken the time to complete it.

    Most of the time he had ignored the unfinished tale, but it never went away. Instead, it floated at the edge of his consciousness, a constant reminder of what might have been.

    One night he dug out the old story. Reading through it convinced him that the creative fire could be relit, so he vowed to complete the novel by year’s end. With the support of his wife, he devoted all his free time to the task. He wrote through nights, weekends, and holidays. He missed vacations. He forgot to eat. He never slept.

    Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but you get the picture.

    The dedication paid off. By year’s end, the novel was completed—150,000 words worth of novel. The man’s wife was overjoyed. His family and friends were pleased. His coworkers were relieved.

    But the man wasn’t finished. Why write a novel if it wasn’t going to be published? After all, how hard could it be? It always happened instantly in the movies. In fact, the very first agent he pitched requested the novel.

    And then nine months passed until rejection arrived in the form of a form letter.

    Undeterred, the man sent out hundreds of queries over the following months. Many agents declined, but a few—a very, very few—requested more. Some among those few requested changes to the novel.

    Multiple drafts and many months later, the man abandoned the novel as a lost cause and turned his attention to a new idea—a story about mutated vampires. He tried staying as committed to writing as during his earlier efforts, but he wasn’t up to the challenge. It took more than a year to complete a 45,000 word draft of the first half of the book. Determined to find out if the novel had promise, he sent it off for a critique.

    It did not go well. The man didn’t write another word for the next two years.

    The End.

    Well, not quite the end. Obviously, the story continues, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

    I had all but given up on writing by the time the next part of the story began. Sure, I kept vowing that I would complete the vampire novel, but I never did more than that.

    In December 2008, the company I worked for was acquired by a larger organization. The changes were fast and furious as the two entities restructured and merged. Most employees at my level—and everyone else in my department—did not survive the merger. Somehow, I did.

    It was a wild ride that lasted for two years. At the end of 2010, I was given a choice: accept different responsibilities within the organization or accept a severance package and seek my fortune elsewhere. Deciding that the latter was too good an opportunity to pass up, I took the package and left the organization in mid-February of last year.

    My first order of business regarding my newfound freedom was to get back to writing. Or so I said.

    Then I spent the first week “relaxing.”

    I can honestly admit that I don’t know how long that may have continued. It turns out that relaxing is quite … well, relaxing. But don’t take my word for it; try it for yourself sometime!

    Luckily, fate intervened. While relaxing, I stumbled across a contest being run by Del-Ray

    Publishing. They were accepting manuscripts in the sci-fi and horror genres—and not short stories, but novels! It was the perfect opportunity.

    But the contest deadline was three weeks away.

    You’re probably breezing through this, barely scanning it, so let me slow you down by restating this:

    To enter the contest, I had to write a novel in three weeks.

    I did some quick math, although I knew it was hopeless. A decent novel is 100,000 words, so 100,000 words divided by 21 days equals 4,762 words per day (rounding up). 4,762 words a day! Don’t get me wrong. There are people who do five, six thousand words a day, every day. I know because they flaunt it on Twitter—it’s 11 am and they tweet, “Hit 3k. time 4 gym n lunch”—but I can’t do that. I consider a total of two thousand words a good day. Three thousand is a great day. Anything beyond that is cause for celebration, so five thousand words a day, every day, for three weeks straight seems beyond the realm of possibility.

    I spent a few hours pissing and moaning about how unfair life was before my internal coach stepped in—you know, the one that challenges my manhood whenever I become too unmanly—and smacked me upside the head.

    His advice: just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    So I tried.

    Bottom line: I submitted a 79,000 word manuscript nineteen days later—not a new draft of the original piece, either … a brand new story set far earlier than the original. While it wasn’t quite the 100,000-word goal I was aiming for, it was still a new personal record of 4,158 words per day!

    I didn’t win the contest. I didn’t expect to, but it provided the motivation I so desperately needed.

    I reached out to my editor. Although he hadn’t heard from me in years, he still remembered me (or, at least, had the wherewithal to claim to remember me), and was still willing to work with me. He suggested some revisions, I worked through the summer…
    and he returned to full-time writing, so he didn’t have time to edit my work.

    Luckily, his editor was willing to work with me, so I completed a final draft of Væmpires: Revolution in early fall. The editor cleaned it up and gave it his approval in record time. All that remained was finding an agent … and getting a publisher … and waiting months, if not years, for both of those to happen.

    The final piece of the puzzle fell into place pretty quickly. On the advice of others within the industry, I eschewed conventional wisdom regarding traditional publishing and self-published Væmpires: Revolution in October.

    Followed by a sequel, Væmpires: White Christmas, in December.

    It’s too early to say whether leaving my corporate career was the right decision or not. The jury is also out as to whether self-publishing was the “write” or wrong choice. All I know is that I’m sitting here, working on book two in the Væmpires saga, enjoying my Dark Mind Book Tour, and waiting to learn what life as an author is like.

    I’ll keep you posted.


     

     

  • Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance?: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the GraveTells website.


    Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance?

     

    I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at GraveTells! Aww heck! Who am I kidding? I’m more frightened than excited. There’s pressure enough in just being invited to write for someone else’s audience, but when I’m doing so as an urban fantasy—quite possibly a dark urban fantasy—author for a site staffed (and stuffed!) by PNR junkies, there’s a very real chance I might screw this up … big time.

    Let me rephrase: I’m frakking terrified!

    You see, when I found out I was invited to be a guest blogger at GraveTells, I said, “Hell yeah.” I assumed that any blog with the word “Grave” in its name would love dark and dangerous things, like bloody battles, spilled guts, and death galore. The site even states “News & Reviews for Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Fiction” … so I wandered through the site, ultimately ending up at bios for The Team. Check out these quotes:

    DaVinciKittie: “Follow Me” and I’ll guide you on your tour of the best of paranormal romance!

    Kenra Daniels: I became addicted (to PNR), and read every title I could get my hands on. It wasn’t long before I was waiting in line on release day to buy new titles in my favorite series.

    Rachel Elizabeth: As for the types of books I read? That would be paranormal romance (I have WAY too many book boyfriends to count), urban fantasy, and young adult.

    Even The Captain, who claims to love horror/sci fi/fantasy above all else, states I love to write about strong women and sexy men, and am currently working on finishing a PNR book.

    Do you see what I see? Paranormal romance everywhere, with but the slightest nod to urban fantasy!

    Seeing that, I got nervous and started sweating. I felt like I had just wandered into the wrong place. In fact, it felt exactly the same as on the few occasions I’ve had the misfortune of wandering into a women’s restroom by mistake. For those who’ve never experienced this phenomenon, let me assure you, there are few things more terrifying to a male. I know … I know … adolescents think it would be awesome and sexy and a dream come true, but it is nothing close to that. What does happen is that thought shuts down, the body begins to panic, and internal alarms start blaring. It’s “Danger, Will Robinson!” on an epic internal level.

    (Obviously, I can’t speak to the reverse experience for a woman. All I know is that anytime a woman has wandered into a men’s room that I’ve been in, all the men stampeded toward the door, tripping over each other and bumping into walls (and stalls) in their haste to retreat, as if we were the ones in the wrong restroom.)

    However, since we’re on the subject of true confessions and awkward situations, let me share this: I sometimes felt the urge to do outrageous things as a child. On one such occasion, I chose prostitution as the subject of an oral report. It’s probably not an appropriate topic in most academic settings, but it’s certainly not in the sixth grade. Of course, I didn’t ask for permission … and, come to think of it, I never had to beg for forgiveness, either. I don’t know whether to be thankful or alarmed, although I suppose it doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that when I presented my report, many of the boys in class snickered, but most of the girls gave each other looks that said, “there’s something wrong with this kid.”

    [Returning to the present] So, I trolled through the GraveTells site, beginning to wonder if The Team might give each other similar looks upon reading Væmpires, because it has some PNR ingredients—vampires, teen main characters, and a love triangle—but, then it has some decidedly non-PNR ingredients—a post-apocalyptic world, blood-and-guts action from beginning to end, and zombies.

    Yeah, zombies.

    Anyway, I was sweating and having flashbacks and really thinking I should probably reach out to GraveTells and see if there was some kind of a mistake, because my books are definitely closer to urban fantasy than paranormal romance.

    Then paranoia set in and I began fearing that I was being set up in some nefarious, albeit unidentifiable, fashion—something akin to the blog version of being punked …

    And I realized, ladies and gentleman, that entertaining thoughts like those are when you know you have shot straight past paranormal romance or urban fantasy (or even dark urban fantasy) into pure fantasy.

    Leading me to wonder, once more, if I was in the wrong place.


     

     

  • Bullying (Books Against Bullying): A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Rebecca Hamilton's "Books Against Bullying" campaign.


    Bullying

     

    When I sat down to write this post, it didn’t take much thought at all to realize that there was probably nothing I could say about bullying that hadn’t already been said—and in far better ways. Still, that didn’t seem like a good enough reason not to say anything at all, so here I am.

    I’ve never been bullied. Oh, as with most people, I’ve been picked on, teased, or just plain messed around with at one point in time or the other. But it was never anything like the horrific, tragic stories of bullying that we seem to hear with increasing frequency these days.

    It’s easy to brush off the increased exposure of this issue as typical over-dramatization of the media or as a “flavor of the week” scenario or even as a by-product of social media’s reach … but it isn’t. For some reason, the interactions among our younger generations have taken a dark and disturbing turn.

    As if the process of growing up wasn’t hard enough to begin with …

    Now, I realize that I can lament our inhumanity to each other—whether in the schoolyards around the country or even in just about any other setting I can think of—until I’m blue in the face, and it won’t change anything. Neither will an endless barrage of rhetoric.

    What will change the situation are efforts like this campaign. Raising awareness. Shining a spotlight on the problem and refusing to turn it off until that problem has been eliminated. And feeding bullies a steady diet of effective interventions.

    I don’t prescribe to the old theory that says standing up to bullies is the best way to stop bullying. I think it’s more likely a recipe for disaster, in the form of escalated hostilities, than it is an effective problem-solving technique—especially when the person standing up to a bully (or bullies) usually does so on his/her own. This may work great on television shows, but not in reality.

    So, to anyone being bullied, I offer this suggestion:

    Tell people about the bullying. Tell anyone and everyone who will listen. I know it’s difficult, unfair even, to expect the person being victimized to also be the one who speaks out against it … but you must. Unfortunately, silence allows, and encourages, a bully to continue.

    So, don’t be silent about the situation. Tell the people you’re closest to, of course—friends, siblings, etc.—but, most importantly, tell people who have the ability and/or the authority to intervene: parents, teachers, professors, coaches, counsellors, religious leaders, community leaders, bosses, the police. Anyone who might be in a position to help.

    And don’t stop sharing just because you tell one of these people your story—even if he/she promises to intervene. Let’s face it; although many people aren’t very good at listening, listening is easy … while choosing to become involved in an uncomfortable situation can be very difficult.

    So, don’t stop sharing your story until the bullying has been stopped and you are safe. You owe it to yourself. There are people who can (and will) help you. The number grows every day. Efforts like this Books Against Bullying Campaign—which I am proud to support—will continue spreading the word and helping that number grow.

    Together, we will bring an end to bullying.

     

  • Speculating: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for The Speculative Salon blog.


    Speculating

     

    I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at The Speculative Salon! To be honest, I’m also a bit frightened. There’s pressure enough in just being invited to write for someone else’s audience, but when you’re doing so for a site run by a half-dozen accomplished authors (and those are only the ones I know about! For crying out loud … there could be dozens of ‘em … hundreds even!), that pressure gets cranked up exponentially.

    Basically, I’m left with two choices: I can challenge myself to come up with something worthy of the honor bestowed upon me (or at least put forth a valiant effort), or I can throw in the towel and mail in some half-assed piece of drivel.

    Which choice did I make?

    I’ll let you decide.

    So here goes …

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have a bunch of guest blog ideas stored away somewhere. In fact, I don’t even have one spare idea shoved under the mattress for emergencies. Every guest blog I write is developed around an idea that comes up for that specific occasion.

    There’s no rhyme or reason as to where an idea comes from … or when it comes … or even what it’s about. Believe me, I’m just happy that they come at all.

    It doesn’t mean I don’t have a system. Of course I do. Where would we be—as individuals or even as people—without systems? I shudder to think of it.

    But, seriously, my system is pretty simple (and, if you’ve read some of my earlier posts along this Blog Tour, you already know it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can go to the front of the line. This is not a progressive environment; it’s all-for-one and one-for-all, so you have to wait for the rest of us). Once I’m committed to a guest blog, I spend as much time as possible doing research on the blog itself—reading through months and months of blog posts and comments, trying to get an overall “feel” for the site. All the while, I’m letting everything sort of percolate through the gray matter (what little I have, that is), hoping and praying that something ignites that spark of inspiration I so desperately need … because we all know that inspiration can’t be forced, right?

    It’s been scientifically proven, in fact. Inspiration cannot be forced. Like e=mc2, it’s one of the few immutable laws of nature. If you don’t believe me, just try it for yourself.

    Trying to force inspiration is kinda like forcing yourself into clothes that used to fit a few years ago. You can huff and puff and twist and shout all you want, but you’re going to be unsuccessful and all you’ll get for your efforts is sweaty, uncomfortable, and breathless.

    So, if full blown inspiration doesn’t strike like a bolt of lightning, the best you can hope is to find a tiny thread of inspiration (or “thinspiration”) and gently coax it along—inching it ever so closer, little by little—until it’s finally within range and you pounce on it, wrapping your meaty paws around it and squeezing it so it can’t slither away. I’m sure there’s a hunting metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m too tired to think of one.

    Have you ever tried to rescue the string that’s lost in the waistband of a pair of sweatpants? It’s just like that, only mental. And more difficult.

    Well, to get back on track: while doing research for this blog, I’m ashamed to admit that full-blown inspiration didn’t strike. Nevertheless, I couldn’t give up. These blogs don’t write themselves, after all.

    So, I went back and forth, trolling all over The Speculative Salon site (figuratively, of course. I can’t even imagine what kind of literal mess a person could make by trolling anything) and banging my head against the wall in a semi-rhythmic pattern that was both painful and comforting.

    Go figure.

    Perhaps it was desperation. Perhaps it was a slight concussion. I’ll never know without an MRI or at least a WebMD search, but suddenly something did strike me. It might not have been inspiration, but I was in no condition to argue. The answer had been right in front of my face the entire time.

    And there’s a message in there. When all else fails, and you’re completely in the dark and lost … open your eyes before you begin abusing yourself and/or screaming incoherently. You might be surprised by what you see. At the very least, you’ll be in a better position to fight off the burly guys trying to put the straightjacket on.

    But anyway—public service announcement aside—the answer to my problem was in the blog’s title: The Speculative Salon.

    I’m not much of a salon guy … but I can damn well ‘speculate with the best of ‘em—or, at least, those in the lower percentiles. (Oh, I know the apostrophe has no business being in ‘speculate, but it looks like it belongs, doesn’t it?)

    So, let’s quit wastin’ time and ‘speculate …

    Everyone knows that the pen is mightier than the sword and all that jive … but I often wonder (wonder being an accepted synonym of speculate, of course) about the unintended effect writers have on the world around them—in particular, on their world.

    Think about it.

    Where do you suppose unused ideas actually go? What about rejected ones? Do they just quietly drift away, never to be seen again? Or do they, perhaps, skulk away, rejected and dejected, to find a dark place where they hole up, quietly stew, and slowly, ever so slowly, morph from little damaged ideas into big ill-formed concepts just waiting for an opportunity to burst from concealment and exact long-awaited revenge?

    What about the things I edit out along the way? A word here, a few lines there, here a paragraph, there a chapter, everywhere a page page—just wielding that delete button like an uncaring deity with the power of life or death at my fingertips. (The power is intoxicating and I don’t even want to think about the psychological damage I’m doing to myself.) Conversely, what happens to the things that remain—those that make it to the finished product? Does the constant culling irreparably scar them? Do they suffer from survivor guilt? Will they be forever unable to form lasting, healthy relationships? Does that make my stories nothing more than hollow entities going through the motions? How will I ever know for sure?

    Well, I’m going to stop there, because a good writer knows where to start, but a great writer always knows when to stop.

    And, honestly, I’m scaring the hell out of myself with all this ‘speculatin’.

    Do you see how the word is bracketed in apostrophes? I did that.

    I did that.

    And how cool is that?


     

     

  • The Life of A Writer: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Lisette Manning.


    The Life of A Writer

     

    When it comes to meeting new people, I’ve learned that there’s something rather strange about being an author—or rather, a strange thing often happens when people find out you’re an author.

    No, I’m not referring to people asking whether I know JK Rowling or people sharing their “great” book ideas, I’m talking about a sequence of events that can be predictable, yet odd.

    The first thing that happens is that the person immediately asks what you write about. It’s usually a question along the lines of, “Oh yeah, what do you write about?” (Not very creative, I know, but reality typically isn’t.)

    Now, that inquisitiveness isn’t the strange part. In fact, it’s pretty normal. To be expected even. I mean, if I meet someone and he/she is a musician, I’m inclined to ask what instrument(s) he/she plays or perhaps inquire as to the style of music. Or, if a person’s occupation is something that (a) doesn’t interest me at all or (b) I have no clue about, I’m likely to feign interest with a nod or other nonverbal response, while waiting for the subject to move along.

    So, the strange part is often what happens after you explain what you write about. You see, once do that, the other person is instantly placed under enormous pressure—the unstated expectation that you (the author) not only expect that person to read, but that you expect that person to read your work.

    If the stars are properly aligned, by which I mean that the person does read and is interested in your book, then all is well. If, however, both of the above conditions aren’t met … welcome to the Twilight Zone.

    This person suddenly becomes uncomfortable (like you’ve just asked for a sizeable loan, perhaps), before blurting out something along the lines of, “Yeah … (insert nervous laugh here) … I don’t read much ... books aren’t really my thing … (another laugh) … I can’t remember the last book I read.”

    I’ll never know why people feel the need to defend or explain in such a manner, but they do. Trust me, it’s uncomfortable for all parties.

    And it gets worse.

    Because then the person stands there (or sits—there’s no discrimination between poses and absolutely no correlation between standing or sitting and reading or not reading—although I believe it’s far easier to sit and read than it is to stand and read. But not reading is easily accomplished in any of a variety of … well, let’s move on) as an awkward silence grows, waiting for something—approval, validation, who knows?—that I can’t provide.

    Actually, I do know what the person wants—for me to say, “Hey, I know what you mean.”

    But I can’t say that. On one hand, there’s a part of me that finds the sentiment well, not quite insulting, but at least a bit bemusing. It’s like telling a firefighter, “Yeah … putting out fires … I’m not really into that sort of thing. I’ve got a cool lighter app on my phone, though!” or telling a doctor, “Umm … I don’t really go to doctors … I pretty much find whatever I need on the Internet.”

    On the other hand, and for obvious reasons, I can never say, “Hey, I know what you mean.” How would this look on my Twitter feed?

    LOL. Can’t remember the last book I read, but please read mine.

    However, those aren’t even the most compelling reasons. The simple fact is that I can’t relate to the sentiment that “books aren’t really my thing.” It’s like saying, “breathing isn’t really my thing” or “I’ve forgotten who I am,” because at least one (but probably both) of those would have to be true for me to stop reading.

    I don’t leave the house without a book. I go to Disney World and read while waiting in line. I do not have a DNF pile. When I was a child I used to sneak into the hallway after bedtime to read by the nightlight. The list of things I would rather do than read is very short.

    Very, very short.

    In case I’m not making myself clear:

    If there is an afterlife and it doesn’t have a library, there will be hell to pay. (I liked that so much that I just tweeted it—April 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm!) So, yeah, it’s pretty strange when people say that they don’t read. As Han Solo said, “I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything.”

    LOL.

    Yes, I do realize that that quote has absolutely nothing to do with my point, but I don’t care. If people can choose not to read, I can choose to utilize an unrelated quote in a blog.

    Besides, one can never go wrong by referencing Star Wars …

    So keep reading.

    And may the Force be with you!


     

     

  • Monsters: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Rebecca Hamilton.


    Monsters

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be writing for you today! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution and Væmpires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new, ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    Now that I’ve just blasted through my semi-standard intro, I realize I may have to stop and regroup. You see; describing myself as “excited” may be just a tiny bit untrue. Oh, excitement is present, of course, but so are trepidation, anxiety, and fear, as well.

    But mostly fear, if I’m totally honest.

    There, I said it: I’m afraid.

    It should help to admit that, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s supposed to help … right?

    I thought that making a confession of that magnitude would release me … that it would be freeing, like having a weight suddenly lifted off my chest.

    I don’t feel any better. In fact, if it’s possible, I feel worse.

    But, before I go down that road, let me just take a quick detour here so I can ask a serious question: when the heck have any of us—you, me, the fool on the hill—ever had a weight on our chests?

    I mean, seriously … when? I’m not talking about when you’ve held a small child or pet or perhaps tossed some weights around at the local gym; I’m talking about having serious weight on your chest. Do any of you bench press automobiles or heavy machinery for sport? (If so, please comment about the experience below.)

    Now, whenever I hear that phrase—like having a weight suddenly lifted off my chest—very vivid and distinct images come to mind:

    I envision a person lying on a floor—the floor is polished hardwood, with a deep, lustrous shine that looks like it must’ve taken hours to achieve, but was actually applied in minutes thanks to one of those late-night “As Seen On TV” products—and across this man’s chest is one corner of a sofa (and yes, it has to be a man, because it’s just too awkward … cruel, even … to imagine a woman propping up a sofa with her chest).

    Now, this sofa is in a house full or people, and events occur rapidly, as if in a montage (which, of course, means that the theme song is by Survivor or Frank Stallone): people come and go, some sitting on the sofa, some napping, some jumping on and off; a dog keeps trying to sleep on the left cushion but gets chased away by a woman with wild eyes (but a gorgeous head of hair); an insurance salesman sits on the edge of it—butt hanging half on and half off as if he’s afraid to commit, all the while smiling a smile that’s supposed to be charming but comes off as nauseous—and he’s got that ever-present facial shine that might be a) greasy kids stuff he never grew out of, b) sweat because he’s nervous, c) sweat because it’s hot, d) sweat because you’re hot (wink, wink) or e) some combination of a through d … all of which means one thing: he’s going to wreck the hand towels when he decides to use the lavatory; some guy who looks like your uncle (on your mother’s side) lounging around in a ripped undershirt and stained boxers, arguing with late night television infomercials while consuming cheap beer and pretzels; and, finally, someone lifts the corner of the sofa off the poor man’s chest (while the theme song slowly fades out).

    That’s the sense of relief I envision when I hear, “it’s like having a weight suddenly lifted off my chest.”

    I don’t have that sense of that relief when I admit to all of you that I’m afraid. Still, the show must go on.

    So … what is it that I am afraid of?

    Monsters, of course.

    And we all know that the worst monsters are people, right?

    Let’s take my host for instance: Rebecca Hamilton.

    Rebecca and I connected via Twitter late last year and we’ve been in steady, albeit infrequent, communication ever since. I’ve plugged her books. She’s plugged mine. So on and so forth.

    In all our interactions, I’ve always addressed her as Rebecca.

    Now, when she invited me to be a guest blogger at her site, I noticed that she blogs as Becca. Heck, even her site is beccahamiltonbooks.com.

    Of course, that’s all well and good. After all, my given name is Thomas, but most people call me Tom. But when I asked Rebecca which name she prefers, she stated that her friends call her Becca.

    However, what Rebecca (note that I say Rebecca, not Becca) failed to indicate was whether or not I was considered a friend … leaving me in quite a quandary. Did she mean to imply that I am a friend, so I should call her Becca … or was she warning me that, since only her friends can call her Becca, I’d better not dare to do something so familiar?

    It’s simply monstrous.

    LOL

    But, seriously, people aren’t the monsters I’m referring to. The monsters I’m referring to are far more dangerous, far more insidious, and far more heinous than any one person is capable of being.

    I’m talking about the monster of expectations.

    We’ve been afraid of it since we were young. Heck, we were afraid of lots of things we could label (monsters, the dark, strangers) but we were even afraid of those label-defying expectations—the expectations of parents, teachers, coaches, siblings, etc.

    And does it get easier as you get older? It must … because you’re older, wiser, stronger, (insert adjective here), after all. Right?

    Wrong!

    If anything, it gets harder.

    Because this becomes a monster of your creation—and it doesn’t live under your bed or in the closet. It isn’t even the monster that faces you in the mirror after a long night of (insert verb here). No, this monster takes up residence in your head and grows.

    Then—theoretically speaking, of course—one day, you write a vampire novel … and reviews are great … so expectations grow. And you grow afraid.

    Before you know it, you’re asked to write a guest blog. You’re a writer, so expectations are high. You must write something enjoyable … amusing … amazing … (enter adjective here). And you grow afraid.

    Like the aforementioned salesman’s sheen, the monster of expectations is also ever-present. If you’re not careful, it will take control of your life.

    So, instead, I will face my fear: I’ll admit that it exists (see the last thousand words or so, if you missed it) and I’ll write a guest blog for Rebecca (who may or may not want me to call her Becca). I’ll even write book two of the Væmpires series.

    Heck, if the pen is truly mightier than the sword, I should have no problem slaying any monster … of expectations or otherwise.

    And if not today … then someday.


     

     

  • Case Closed: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Words In Sync.


    Case Closed

     

    Many people assume, since I write vampire novels, that I’m a huge vampire fan.

    I’m not.

    This doesn’t mean I’m not a vampire fan at all; it’s simply an honest admission that I’m not a huge vampire fan. I haven’t tracked down and watched all the classic vampire films. I haven’t read all the recommended novels. I don’t even have a predilection for darkness or crimson drinks.

    Nevertheless, I do possess a respectable collection of vampire movies and novels. Most importantly, however, I possess a tremendous dose of respect, admiration, and appreciation for the vampire as a legend in fiction.

    In fact, I believe vampires are the greatest legends in fiction.

    Before anyone starts seeing red, please let me elaborate. Fictional individuals are excluded from that assessment; I’m not ranking vampires against Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, anyone associated with religion, etc. I’m also excluding legends that exist/existed, but have been fictionalized, such as pirates, ninjas, or medieval knights. Superheroes are excluded, as well, because they don’t occupy their own demographic.

    Fair enough?

    Okay, let’s back up a few steps and approach this again. How about we start by taking a look at an alphabetical Top 10 list of fictional legends?

    1. Aliens
    2. Angels
    3. Dwarves
    4. Elves
    5. Ghosts
    6. Mermaids
    7. Vampires
    8. Werewolves
    9. Witches/wizards
    10. Zombies

    All of the list’s inhabitants have enjoyed decades, if not centuries, of popularity. All have seen their popularity experience ebbs and flows. Most have evolved through multiple incarnations and re-imaginings. So, how is it that I come to believe that vampires are the greatest legends in fiction?

    You might think I approached such a decision from a logical perspective. Perhaps I took a qualitative stance, somehow gauging and interpreting each legend’s historical impact on society? Or perhaps it was quantitative; measuring which legend had amassed the most impressive body of evidence over time?

    Nope, my approach was much simpler than either of those—in fact, I might argue that my approach was so simple as to be genius, but I’ll leave that decision in your hands.

    My determination was based upon the answer to one simple question: Given the choice, which legend in fiction would you be?

    Almost every one of you would choose to be a vampire.

    Oh, there would be outliers, of course. There always will be. From the people who are out of touch with reality, to those who are out of touch with their inner child, to those who insist on choosing differently than the “majority,” you can rest assured that a control group will always return wide and varied results in any poll.

    Such is life.

    But this is my guest blog, so I can defend my results. And I shall! Let’s begin by looking at the nine losers and examining why a logical, rational person wouldn’t choose to be one.

    1. Who wants to be an alien? Heck, most of us feel alien enough in our own skins from time to time (remember those wonderful teenage years?) to ever give being an actual alien any serious consideration.


    2. Angels are predictable. Every single one is either: fallen, about to fall, hunting the fallen, or condescendingly aloof about his/her perfection (because he/she never fell, of course). Talk about boring. Where’s the divine diversity that will set an example for the secular world? And what’s up with full-time wings? Why, with them, you’d never have a reason to brave the myriad experiences of going through airport security.


    3. Dwarves. Must I even argue this? For the sake of being fair, let’s do this: anyone who has ever—once—dreamt of being a dwarf, please leave a comment about it below. [Hint: if the comment doesn’t include the appeal of being close to precious stones, I’d think twice.]


    4. Elves are a close second to vampires. I’ll admit it; they’re damned cool. In fact, if they hadn’t abandoned Middle-Earth at the end of LOTR, I’d probably choose them … but, when the going got tough, they took off! And for all their wisdom and experience, leaving the world in the hands of humans was a good decision in whose eyes?


    5. What’s the appeal of being a ghost? The ability to haunt people left behind? While that’s useful for exacting fleeting revenge on an ex-lover who wronged you, or for career voyeurs, there’s no other viable reason to choose being a ghost over … anything.


    6. How the heck did mermaids even make this list? Oh, yeah—the lingering affection for Disney’s Ariel and the awesomeness of the mermaids in the last Pirates of the Caribbean film. Still, I’d argue that, instead of being a mermaid, the majority of men are more interested in finding a mermaid, while the majority of women have no interest whatsoever in turning into something that will be forever chased by love-hungry sailors.


    8. Skipping vampires (for obvious reasons), we’ll move on to werewolves. Let’s face it; all of us would prefer having a best friend who’s a werewolf to being a werewolf. Werewolves may provide muscle, an emergency blanket, and/or fodder for a never-ending parade of “wet fur” and “walking carpet” jokes, but it’s the latter that makes being one so unappealing … that, and the whole being-a-slave-to-your-body-once-every-month dynamic. A woman can handle it, but a man wouldn’t have the mental or emotional fortitude.


    9. The only reason to be a witch/wizard is if you can be Harry or Hermione. Thanks to Rowling, nothing short of that will suffice (with deepest apologies to Ron and all the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons).


    10. Okay, it’s time to examine zombies. On second thought, let’s not. Dead, rotting corpses that are somehow reanimated? Call me a coward, but I have no desire to examine anything dead, rotting, or reanimated, much less all three. Nor do I wish to become one. It doesn’t mean zombies aren’t cool as hell (there’s an oxymoron for ya’), because they most assuredly are—that’s why Væmpires features a guest appearance by vampire zombies—it just means most people would rather be anything else, including actually dead ‘n buried, than a zombie.


    Well, there you have it: the reasons why you wouldn’t want to be any of the above. And believe me, even if you took exception to an item on the list—if you would swap dwarves for dragons or mermaids for mummies, for instance—I guarantee that the end result would be the same. [Mummies? Just think how bad feet get when they don’t breathe. Imagine your whole body?]

    Now, that doesn’t mean that vampires win by default. That type of victory may be good enough for child custody cases or reality television, but not my poll.

    Unfortunately, just like child custody cases or reality television, the judges don’t usually divulge the real reasons behind their decisions. We just have to live with those decisions, and the fact that those decisions are the final word.

    So, I say that vampires are the greatest legends in fiction. Consider yourselves lucky that I shared as much as I did.

    Case closed.

    But feel free to chime in below.

     

     

  • Hell No!: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a defunct blog named Road To Hell.


    Hell No!

     

    Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at Road To Hell! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution and Væmpires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new, ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    As I said; I’m excited … but I’m afraid that my mother won’t be. In fact, she’s going to be terribly upset to find out that I’m officially on the road to hell today.

    You see; she had such great hopes for me …

    I hate to disappoint her. I really do. As a matter of fact, although you aren’t reading this until today, it was actually written on May 14th—the day after Mother’s Day—so my regret is even more poignant.

    Nevertheless, the disappointment won’t stop my wonderful mother from reminding me that this was the very thing she warned me about for so many years.

    As if I want to go to hell.

    As if anyone in his/her right mind wants to go to hell.

    Hell just isn’t a place that appeals to people. Even strange people—lunatics, fanatics, the co-worker who keeps stealing your yogurt (your Greek yogurt, goddamit, and they’re not cheap!), or that one cousin you just can’t seem to figure out—don’t want to go to hell … and some of them deserve to!

    Hell isn’t one of those quirky places that a small portion of the population absolutely adores while the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief. It isn’t one of those second-rate vacation destinations where people end up if they’re lazy, cheap, or into ritualistic self-punishment, either. It isn’t even one of those places for destination weddings that you know will at least have tons of great food and top-shelf liquor.

    We’re talking about hell!

    No beaches, no ski slopes, no frozen drinks, and the only entertainment is endless karaoke by musicians who’ve committed suicide.

    As if that isn’t bad enough … remember: the punishment is personalized. If screaming kids with apathetic, selfish parents get under your skin, you’ll be trapped in the “child care” section of hell’s gym. If you’re a vegan, you’ll be the head chef at hell’s Waffle House. If you really can’t stand the lack of moral values in today’s world, you’ll be trapped in a room of televisions broadcasting continuous viral videos and Kardashian reruns.

    So, no one wants to go there—although some of us are headed there. Let’s be honest about it.

    Still, most of us who are headed there are on somewhat of a passive trip. We’re kind of meandering, getting there one step at a time (and I am, in no way, poking fun at those self-help groups that promote that very thing. I, personally, don’t care if a person gets to hell one slow step at a time or by leaps and bounds … provided they don’t drag me with them), although not every step is in the direction of hell.

    Because of this, you can be quite a way along the trip before you realize where you’re headed. It would be nice if there were signs along the way—not necessarily warning signs; just a sign that says “Hell 75 mi” will do—but I’m not sure they would be of much use even if there were.

    Imagine the scenario: you’re driving along, minding your own business, cruising down the road at a comfortable seven miles above the posted speed limit (because you know the police are unlikely to stop you). The only reason you’re wearing a seat belt is because the blasted sensor keeps going off, but you’re smiling (because you’re taking a picture that you’re gonna post on Facebook). Your iPod’s playing new stuff you illegally downloaded last night and you’ve got a full tank of gas (because you charged it with a credit card you have no intention of paying).

    All is good.

    Suddenly, you see a sign. “Hell 75 mi.”

    You’re pissed because you should’ve taken a picture of it to put on Pinterest, but you’ll settle for tweeting (because you’re trying to push up your Klout score, anyway).

    You send the tweet and check to see who favorites it before popping another Xanax and washing it down with a Red Bull. You only had fourteen hours of sleep last night, so you need to stay alert.

    Your mind’s on the latest The Voice controversy, so it’s understandable that the sign’s implications don’t sink in until you see the next one—“Hell 50 mi.” Realizing that it’s no joke, you squelch a burst of panic. The Xanax helps, of course. Plus, you once took a yoga class for, like, three weeks, so you’re an expert at finding your calm center.

    You want to turn the car around, but you can’t. It’s one of those roads we’ve all been on, where it’s only two lanes wide—and the lanes seem to be a bit thinner than the typical lane so you already feel kinda crowded. But there’s no shoulder and guardrails hem you in on both sides.

    You can’t see a car for miles in either direction, but you don’t dare try a three-point turn; you know that as soon as you get in the middle of the turn, when you’re most vulnerable, a semi’s gonna come from out of nowhere, hauling ass (like a bat out of hell, perhaps) and heading straight for you. So you wait for a legal turn, but the miles pass and a turn never comes.

    And now you’re getting kinda jittery—despite the Xanies and yoga—because you’re not really paying attention to the road as much as you're obsessing about turning the hell around.

    And the next sign comes. “Hell 25 mi.”

    Well, that story went off the rails a bit … plus, we all know how it ends, so let’s move on.

    If signs won’t help us, perhaps we should make public service announcements. Remember those wonderful PSAs?

    “Kids who play sports stay out of courts”—I liked that one, although it’s only partially correct. What about basketball or tennis courts?

    “Don’t be a fool, stay in school”—Those words of wisdom were courtesy of Mr. T, the guy who beat up Rocky Balboa, killed poor Mickey, and sexually harassed Adrian (all in less than thirty minutes!) … not to mention his various crimes (domestic and international) as part of the A-Team.

    Anyway …

    Where are the hell-related PSAs?

    “Ne’er-do-well’s end up in hell.”

    “Don’t kiss or tell or you’ll end up in hell.”

    “Learn how to spell or end up in h-e-l-l.”

    Okay, I admit that they’re not very good. And I don’t suppose they allow for a true separation of church and state, either … although I might argue that that separation hasn’t been proven to be very effective, anyway. Just like the members of a band after a break-up or a couple after a divorce—it’s hard to tell whether they’re better off post-separation, or not … but it’s too damned late to go back.

    Still, the intent was good.

    Wait a minute … now I’m upset with my mother.

    She always told me that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

    If that’s the case, how did I end up here?

     

     

  • Humor Me ... Please: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a defunct blog named Bornean Bookworm Reads.


    Humor Me ... Please

     

    I may be an author (although the jury is still out on that; presumably at lunch!), but I’m certainly not a fast writer. Perhaps it’s better to say I’m not a quick writer. Then again, since I’m not physically writing, the correct statement may be that I don’t type fast … but that can be interpreted as a lack of typing skill—which, although true, is not what I’m trying to say.

    Let me start over.

    Writing is hard … difficult ... laborious … whatever adjective you prefer. Of course, I can’t speak for all authors. I can only speak for this author (and sometimes I’m not even qualified to do that) when I say that nothing I write comes quickly or easily—not the idea, not the actual words that convey the idea, and not the action (typing or writing) that makes the idea exist in reality.

    I’m not just talking about writing books; I’m talking about composing an email, or adding sentiments to a greeting card, or filling out a feedback form, or putting comments on a student’s paper. Pretty much anything that requires writing.

    Even blogs. Or, I might say, especially blogs. And especially, especially guest blogs.

    You see, the blogs I post on my website pale in comparison to the guest blogs I write. Mind you, this doesn’t mean my guest blogs are anything special—I can’t be objective enough to judge that—it simply means that they beat the heck out of my regular blogs.

    Which is how it should be. When I write a guest blog, I’m not necessarily writing for my audience; in fact, most of the readers don’t even know who I am until my piece shows up on their favorite blog or website. Since they don’t know who I am, they certainly don’t know what I’m about, what my style is, or even if they like me or not.

    So, a guest blog is kind of like an audition. It’s great in that it offers a wonderful opportunity to reach a new, ready-made audience. It’s terrifying in that there is a tremendous potential for failure—and who wants that?

    I’ve tried failure. It’s overrated.

    And there are so many ways to fail. It can be spectacular or decisive or embarrassing or boring or insulting or umpteen other ways, but in the end it’s still failure. It’s one case where it really doesn’t matter how you got there, only that you did.

    I prefer success, and while many things change in this world of ours, one thing that doesn’t is this: success is more often the result of desire and effort over time, than it is of luck or chance.

    Now, before I begin sounding like a motivational speaker, let me explain why I share that. Since I realize a guest blog is an opportunity, I therefore have the requisite desire to do well. Which means I still have plenty to do on the road to success, but I’m off to a good start.

    I then spend as much time as possible doing research on the site that’s hosting my guest blog—I read through blog posts and comments, trying to get an overall “feel” for the site while everything sort of percolates through the gray matter. Ultimately, I’m praying that inspiration strikes, so I have something to write about.

    Some blogs ask for a specific topic or theme, while others leave it up to me. Believe it or not, neither situation is easier than the other. Just because I know what to write about doesn’t mean I know what to write.

    On average, a guest blog takes me three to four hours to write—not to research and come up with an idea ... to write. Remember, I don’t write fast (you know what I mean; don’t get me started on that again!).

    It’s a labor of love. I love writing. I love telling stories. I love entertaining people.

    And, when all else fails—when inspiration doesn’t strike, or when it just kind of hits me with a glancing blow but doesn’t really knock me off my feet—I resort to humor.

    Humor is a universal lubricant. It makes conversation easier. It makes relationships easier. It makes life easier.

    It can certainly make guest blogs easier.

    Now, as anyone with any common sense knows, one has to be very, very careful with humor. It’s as powerful, and as unstable, as nitroglycerin. One wrong move can trigger a catastrophe.

    I have some common sense—not a lot, as I think my parents saved money by buying the base model son—but enough to keep me safe most of the time. Except for this one time … at band camp …

    Never mind.

    So, I often resort to humor in my guest blogs. It serves as a lubricant, of course. It also covers up the fact that I sometimes (most times, if I’m being totally honest—although I’m not sure we’re at that stage, yet) have nothing of value to say. Most importantly, it helps me seem more accessible and endearing and witty (or so my editor says), because my humor is typically at my expense.

    I make fun of my fears, my failings, and my peccadillos. Heck, if I did a video blog, I’d make fun of my New York accent (that’s northern New York accent, not New York City accent—there is a difference).

    I invite you to laugh at me. Actually, I invite you to laugh with me, because I’m not only my biggest critic and cruelest taskmaster, I also moonlight as the court jester of my own mental kingdom. There’s a lot or empty space in there, so I expect the real estate developers to show up any day.

    Until then, I’m going to keep plugging—and blogging—along, fueled by liberal doses of laughter. I may not write quick, but I’ve got a quick wit.

    LOL


     

     

  • The Flash Fiction Thrillogy Part 3


     

    Welcome to The Blogger Book Fair Resort!

    Today, I'm closing out the BBF by presenting my offering in the Flash Fiction Challenge II. It's actually the third part of a Flash Fiction Thrillogy

    Part One, "What If? ... Why Not? (A Marvel Heroes / Vaempires Mashup), was presented during Shah Wharton's Minuscule Morsels of Marvel. It featured two of my favorite Marvel characters--the Invisible Woman and Spider-Man--and two of my Vaempires characters.

    Part Two, "What If? ... Whatever (A Marvel Zombies / Vaempires Mashup), was presented during Noree Cosper's Monster Menagerie. It featured Wolverine, The Hulk, and two additional Vaempires characters.

    What If? ... What Now? (A Vaempires Present / Future Mashup) by Thomas Winship

    The third time’s the charm. I had heard it often enough—that or something like it—but it wasn’t until that long summer of ’76 that I actually understood it.

    I still don’t know if that was the greatest summer of my life … or the worst.

    Still, I guess I should start … certainly not at the beginning, because that’s far too much story to tell, but somewhere before now.

    How’s this? My name is Jade. I’m a vampire. I was born into a world where being a vampire was magical.

    Daniel says this world was once like that, that there was a time, long ago, when vampires ruled Tarados. He says the world was beautiful, and peaceful, and that it will be that way again.

    Someday.

    I don’t know about the future—this future—but I believe Daniel about the past. In fact, I usually believe everything he says. It isn’t about trust, although there’s no one I trust more. It’s that …

    You see, I’m a vampire. But I have extra abilities, like some væmpires.

    I see things.

    I dream things.

    And in that summer of ’76—some seventy-plus years after the revolution on this world, after the fall of vampires and the ascension of væmpires … those despicable, vile monsters that enslave and breed and use vampires like chattel—when I was just a teenager in a world I’ll never see again, I changed things.

    Perhaps everything.

    But that’s for the future to determine. A future I’m no longer part of.

    A future I came back from.

    Now I’ve jumped too far ahead. Let me back up.

    In that summer of ’76, something that started as a tickle progressed to a desire, then an insistent urge, and finally an all-consuming desperation: the feeling that I needed to intervene in … something.

    I don’t have time to describe all the details. I’m not sure they matter, anyway. What does matter is that I could intervene. And I did.

    My first attempt was rooted in a recurring dream. It was Daniel—so young and carefree—and Princess Cassandra—so beautiful; more beautiful than any images or videos I’ve seen—together on a snowy night. A sense of impending doom was so strong that I wished for the intervention of heroes. I don’t know what happened, but the dream never returned and sometimes, on very rare, special, occasions, Daniel talks about that wondrous night when he first kissed his Princess.

    The second time, a month or so later, a disastrous vision involving Linq Mikoi and Ray Jonstrom caused me to call for intervention again. It must have worked, because they became Evolutionary War heroes of as much renown as Daniel.

    Weeks later, realizing I couldn’t trust to continued reliance on outside assistance, I bade farewell to family, friends, and my magical life, and sent myself into this past.

    I was flying blind. I arrived too late to stop the revolution. I arrived too late for a lot of things. Now, the seeds of hope are withered, nearly dead. But we have Daniel, and each other, and I must believe that the third time is the charm.

    I’ve learned there’s no such thing as what if?

    There’s only what now?



    **********

    What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

    Don't miss next year's Blogger Book Fair!

  • The Flash Fiction Thrillogy Part 2


     

    Welcome to The Blogger Book Fair Resort!

    This is my offering in Noree Cosper's "Monster Menagerie." It features Wolverine, The Hulk, and two additional Vaempires characters.

    What If? ... Whatever? (A Marvel Zombies / Vaempires Mashup) by Thomas Winship

    “Logan, don’t do this without us,” Kitty said, although both knew he would. Wolverine, as he was more commonly known, rarely followed advice.

    “I’m not waiting for reinforcements,” Wolverine barked. “In the end, I’ll have to do things the hard way. It never fails.” He powered the headset down, cutting Kitty off. “Boring conversation, anyway,” he muttered, eyeballing the horde of swarming creatures. The multi-limbed, multi-eyed entities were unpleasant to view and they emitted a vibrating, nerve-grating sound, but it was their ability to vaporize everything they touched that concerned Logan most. “Any idea what they are?” he asked his partner.

    “There isn’t enough data.”

    Wolverine bit back a caustic remark. It was always surprising to hear Banner’s voice coming from The Hulk’s mouth, but it was never wise to provoke him. Besides, Hank said the newest development indicated improvement. The deadly ocean flowed forward, stretching far and wide.

    Logan shrugged. “I guess it’s time for Plan B.”

    “I didn’t realize we had a Plan A,” The Hulk said with a baleful stare. “Or that it failed.”

    Wolverine stared back.

    The Hulk sighed, striding toward the oncoming wave. “What’s Plan B?”

    “What else?” Wolverine answered. “Fastball special.”

    The Hulk froze, before slowly turning toward Wolverine. “Logan, I’m honored.” His face was somber, but Banner’s voice betrayed a hint of humor.

    “Can it, bub,” Wolverine growled, fighting the urge to hit the brute. “I like you better when your only vocabulary is Hulk smash.”

    Banner’s laugh filled the air as The Hulk’s gargantuan hands settled around Wolverine. Logan curled up, primed and ready to explode in the kamikaze attack that never failed to redline his thrill-o-meter.

    The Hulk reared back, arm cocked—

    The ominous, nerve-grating sound disappeared. The wave of creatures did, too.

    “Huh?” The massive fist opened, dumping Wolverine to the ground in an unceremonious, undignified, and uncharacteristic heap.

    He leaped to his feet; claws extended, senses on high alert, scanning the surroundings for new threats. That was his intent, at least. Instead, he staggered to his feet, his body betraying more than responding. All he could think about was how hungry he was. Next to him, The Hulk scratched his head, peeling off strips of decaying flesh.

    They were zombies.

    Again.

    “Sunova—” he began, before his jaw unhinged, strangling his words. He snapped it together with a frustrated swipe that nearly beheaded him. They were in a grass courtyard, alone. A grand building stood before them.

    “Caaastle,” The Hulk groaned. “Eaaat.”

    “It’s Windsor Castle,” Wolverine countered, ignoring the hunger and praying his jaw remained hinged. “But this certainly ain’t jolly ol’ England.” He tested the air as they shuffled toward the castle. He smelled blood—lots of it—from somewhere behind the building. He angled toward it, almost leaving a leg behind in the process. The Hulk followed, drooling. The sounds of fighting—albeit strangely subdued—reached them as they rounded the corner. Wolverine sniffed again. Most of the blood wasn’t deliciously human. It was …

    “Vampires,” he groaned, turning toward his blundering partner. “I hate vampires.” But there was other blood, too. Something … different.

    “Preferrr Sabrrretoooth?”

    “I’d prefer something with less angst,” Wolverine barked, missing Banner’s voice. “No witches or wolves, either.”

    “Zommmbies,” The Hulk mumbled.

    “No zombies. It’s bad enough we’re infected again.”

    “Zommmbies,” the brute repeated, lifting a decaying arm to point over Wolverine’s shoulder.

    Wolverine turned with drunken grace. In the distance, a pair of teen boys—vampires, from their lack of body heat—stood side-by-side beside a prone form as a sea of shambling creatures crowded toward them. “Well, I’ll be,” Wolverine started, but The Hulk interrupted.

    “Zommmbies.”

    “Sure, bub. Zombie vampires. Who woulda thunk it?” He calculated the distance. Given their current state of disrepair, they couldn’t reach the teens in time to assist. They needed a miracle.

    “Fasssballl speciaaal,” The Hulk groaned.

    “Your arm’d fall off first,” Wolverine countered. A glance showed him that the teens were overwhelmed, but a plan formed. He reached over, severing one of The Hulk’s arms at the elbow. Snagging it before it tumbled to the ground, he waved it overhead and bellowed. “Avengers assemble!”

    The rearmost portion of the zombie horde halted, turning toward the sound en masse.

    “Come and get it,” he cried, waving furiously. Pieces of dead flesh rained down. The zombies came. Not all of them, though, and not enough. Wolverine saw the teens fall, waves of undead crashing upon them. But the cavalry arrived, in the distance—a squad of vampires, led by a stunning, black-haired woman. If the teens held on for another moment, they would be saved.

    Satisfied, Wolverine dropped the severed arm and prepared for battle. The Hulk eyed his lost appendage. He clenched his remaining fist.

    “Whaaat ifff … Hulllk smaaash?”

    Wolverine nodded. “Whatever, bub.”



    **********

    What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

    Don't miss next year's Blogger Book Fair!

  • The Flash Fiction Thrillogy Part 1


     

    Welcome to The Blogger Book Fair Resort!

    This is my offering in Shah Wharton's "Minuscule Morsels of Marvel" contest. It features two of my favorite Marvel characters--the Invisible Woman and Spider-Man--and two of my Vaempires characters.

    What If? ... Why Not? (A Marvel Heroes / Vaempires Mashup) by Thomas Winship

    Spider-Man ducked. A massive arm flailed overhead to smash the wall. Pieces of masonry pelted his head and shoulders as he buried his foot in the moloid’s gut, doubling the creature over. A thunderous uppercut followed, blasting the beast into the skyscraper across the avenue.

    His spider-sense tingled, so he leaped straight up. A bumbling pair—a modern day, Subterranean Tweedledee and Tweedledum—crashed together with bruising force. They slumped to the sidewalk.

    “Definitely an improvement,” he quipped, landing beside them. He aimed his trusty web-shooters.

    With a wet splurt, they announced they were out of fluid.

    Again.

    Sighing, Spider-Man rejoined the Invisible Woman at the foot of the Triborough Bridge. Dozens of moloids climbed up through huge cracks in the pavement.

    “Why here?” he asked. “Another Dave concert at Randall’s Island?”

    Sue shrugged.

    He cupped his hands to his mouth.

    “Avengers assemble!”

    “For the last time, cut that out,” Sue growled. “You’re giving me a headache. You know we’re alone. I’m not erecting a force field until you promise to keep quiet.”

    Spider-Man glared daggers at her. With his mask on, she’d couldn’t tell, but she took his silence as agreement.

    The field shimmered into place.

    And then they weren’t in the city anymore. Instead, they were in a dense forest.

    It was dark. And snowing.

    Spider-Man stiffened.

    “What the—”

    “Shh!” Sue whispered, pointing over his shoulder.

    He spun. Two hundred feet away, a teenage boy and girl knelt in a clearing, kissing.

    They were vampires.

    “We’re invisible,” Sue whispered, “Don’t say anything and spoil their moment.”

    Suddenly, Spider-Man’s spider-sense went berserk. He glanced around, spying the source. A dozen yards away, directly between them and the teens, a shadow stirred in a depression amid two trees.

    A man with spiky red hair climbed to his feet. He radiated bad intentions and body heat as he moved toward the young lovers.

    Spider-Man tensed, but Sue was quicker. She hissed, the man turned toward the sound, and she projected an invisible force field around the couple.

    Oblivious, the teens kissed on. The man wasted precious seconds searching for the source of the hiss. When he finally gave up, he turned back to an empty clearing. Fuming, he slunk off.

    Spider-Man turned to Sue. “I wonder—”

    She grew incorporeal.

    “What if?” she began. Then she was gone, leaving behind a hole big enough to step through. He saw New York City through it. And moloids. Lots of ‘em.

    Spider-Man shrugged, stepping forward. Why not?



    **********

    What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

    Don't miss next year's Blogger Book Fair!

  • Indie Celebration Week: What Being Indie Means To Me


    It's time for the Indie Celebration Week! Today, I want to discuss what "being indie" means to me.

    Being indie means never having to say you’re sorry. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true (plus, it’s rather cold-hearted, and I get accused of that often enough at home, thank you very much!), but, then again, neither are many of the beliefs we hold dear.

    As much as I’d like to bemoan my innocence lost, I’ll return to the topic at hand: what being an independent author means to me.

    The truth is that I can’t even think of the term “independent” without thinking of Hermey the Elf, the wanna-be dentist in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who runs away to declare his independence …

    … And the psychologist shifts in his seat, jotting something in his ever-present legal pad before asking, “So, Tom, what do you want to run away from?”

    I scoff at his question. “Nothing, doc. I’m independent. In. Dee. Pen. Dent.”

    LOL

    So, what does "being indie" mean to you?

  • In My Head: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a defunct blog named I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read.

    In My Head

     

    I love the name of this blog—I just wanna sit here and read. I couldn’t say it better if I tried. Anyone who loves reading understands the desire. Those who don’t simply find it baffling.

    While we’re on the subject of reading, I’d like to share some of my deepest fears: I’m going to die one day (big surprise, I know) … and when I do, I’ll leave behind mountains of book I never got to read. I’ll never be able to reread my favorite books. And what about the great books to come after I’m gone?

    It’s quite depressing, if I think about it too much.

    So, I try not to think about it, but—and this may come as no surprise—I spend a lot of time in my head. Enough time to drive me kinda crazy sometimes. It’s a relatively small space, and although it’s usually pretty empty, it is subject to overcrowding, since it’s my playroom, my office, my private spot, my safe place, my hurt locker, my creative corner, my wishing well, and my impenetrable vault, all rolled into one convenient package (complete with carrying case).

    So, yeah, I spend a lot of time in there. Not just when I think or read or write or daydream or listen to music or watch a movie or any of the thousand things we do in which it’s perfectly understandable to retreat inside and shut off the world around us—I have a tendency to retreat into my head in the middle of meetings, conversations, or other interactions in which it’s far less acceptable to do so.

    It’s also just as likely to happen when there isn’t enough stimulation as when there is too much. I can plead self-defense in either case, so I give myself a pass. The good thing is that many people don’t care to realize when my attention has vacated the premises. Of course, it helps that I’m a true virtuoso at non-verbal communication. I maintain eye contact. I smile, nod, raise my eyebrows, and/or look shocked in the appropriate places. I even inject the occasional “No!” or “Really” into conversations at strategic points. I’ve streamlined “fake-it-til-you-make-it” into “fake it,” period.

    Here’s the bottom line: as long as I listen—or people think I’m listening—all parties remain happy.

    And it’s hard to pull myself out of my head once I’m in there. It takes a real mental effort to drag my attention from the internal to the external world. If you’ve ever pushed a stalled car—not as part of a group, but by yourself or perhaps with one other person—you have an idea of how it feels to force my attention out of my head. And that’s on the best of days. On the worst of them (ironically, when the ideas are coming and the words are flowing) it’s like trying to push a car that stalled in mud. The ground has dried and the tires are sitting in ruts a few inches deep. You push the car, rocking it back and forth and trying to build enough momentum to propel it up over the edge … but even as you make progress, the car moving slowly and reluctantly, you can feel the darned thing fighting against you, just waiting for your attention to waver and your efforts to lag, so it can slide back to the bottom of the ruts.

    Still, I’ve never failed to come back out, so I can’t complain too much.

    Let me assure you that I’m not a jerk. It’s not that I dislike or distrust people. I’m not afraid of my fellow human beings. I don’t believe people are inherently evil. I’m very polite. I treat every person with dignity and respect. I’m just more comfortable with me. I’m a serious introvert.

    I’m also not shy. In the corporate world I’m a professional presenter. I am quite skilled at grabbing an audience’s attention, engaging it, humoring it, and filling it with whatever I need to share. Nevertheless, I am very modest and I am very private. I can easily deliver a day-long presentation to an auditorium full of strangers, but making small talk with one person—particularly, someone I don’t know well—is daunting and draining.

    Heck, even social media is tough, and that’s bereft of face-to-face interaction. Blogging, tweeting, posting, pinning—it’s like having a nameless, faceless entity following me around all day, putting silent, constant pressure on me to reach out … share … interact ... otherwise give myself up, as Johnny Cash sang, “One piece at a time.”

    Perhaps that’s why I write about vampires. If the irrational fear of something craving your lifeblood doesn’t provide inspiration for vampire fiction, then I don’t know what will.

    On the other hand, my writing is the one thing that allows people into my world—albeit little by little, word by word, and page by page. There is no rushing it and there is no unrestricted access. You will be allowed in via a carefully coordinated and controlled process—kind of like a seasoned tour guide who knows enough to only take his/her charges down certain paths and into certain areas.

    It’s for my protection as well as yours.

    Because once you’re in my head, it’s hard to get out. And if I’m creating—if the words and the ideas are flooding inside so much that they’re leaking out and pooling on the flat surfaces around me (which might seem claustrophobic, but isn’t)—you won’t want to get out. Trust me on this.

    I see that we’re back to talking about being in my head. And now it begins to feel as if I’m talking in circles, although perhaps I should say I’ve taken the conversation full circle. The former implies I’m not the master of my destiny, while the latter demonstrates that I am.

    I’ll stop there, as an internal voice warns me that I’m approaching roads that lead to madness. I’m not quite ready for that leap yet, but I’ll reference an old Far Side cartoon in bringing this to a close.

    In the cartoon, two cowboys are beside a covered wagon. One has been shot with an arrow, while the other kneels next to him. The wounded cowboy states, “Sure it hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt.”

    Sure, spending time in my head drives me kinda crazy, but it’s a good kinda crazy.

    And now I think it’s time for a little reading …

     

     

  • My Top 10 Favorite Books: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for JeanzBookReadNReview

    My Top 10 Favorite Books

     

    As you might expect, I’m a voracious reader. In fact, the only thing I dislike about writing is that it cuts into my reading time. The numbers speak for themselves­: in 2007 and 2008, while writing my first (unpublished) novel, I read 83 and 138 books, respectively. In 2009 and 2010, when I did very little writing, the numbers were 240 and 318. In 2011, while writing both vaempires books, I read 85 books; the majority of which were read in the first part of the year before I began writing in earnest.

    So, what do I read? Fiction, fiction, and more fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and mysteries, mostly). I read for pleasure, pure and simple, and fiction provides that. I’m a bit obsessive. My library is four thousand books strong and continues to grow. There are currently eighty authors of whom I buy and read everything they publish (alas, none of them has read one of my books). I have spreadsheets that help me manage it all.

    And lists. I love lists. If you checked out my blog during the end-of-year holidays, you saw lists and lists. One list I didn’t share, however, was my list of favorite novels… so I’d like to share that list—along with some related thoughts—with you:

    #1. Stephen King – It. If you’ve never read it, you should. Immediately. Don’t let the size scare you. If you were unfortunate enough to see the movie, wipe it from your memory. The book is simply amazing. I’m still waiting for a sequel, so if any of you know Mr. King…

    I’ll offer #’s 2-10 in alphabetical order by author:

    · Jack Ketchum – The Girl Next Door. The most disturbing, heart-breaking book I ever read. Not for the feint of heart.

    · Stephen King – Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. Poor Roland. Poor Susan. I wish King had written the rest of the series from this point forward. The comics are doing it now, but it’s not the same.

    · Stephen King – The Stand. It could happen.

    · Stephen King – The Talisman. More magical and innocent than the sequel, yet still dripping with malice and danger. Will we ever see a third book?

    · Phillip Margolin – Heartstone. The twists at the end are masterful and unexpected.

    · Robert McCammon – Swan Song. Post-apocalyptic perfection.

    · Peter Straub – Koko. Ghost Story gets all the acclaim, but Koko is better.

    · JRR Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings. Do I need to say anything? Well, I do have one comment: the fact that Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn are not present when Frodo departs for the Undying Lands irks me as much as Chewbacca not receiving a medal after the Battle of Yavin.

    · Timothy Zahn – Heir To the Empire. Timothy Zahn saved the Star Wars franchise. Mara Jade is the best Expanded Universe character ever (and a top SW character, period). Whoever made the decision to kill her (and whoever approved it) should be jettisoned out of the nearest airlock.

  • YYA (Why Teen Characters?): A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for a defunct blog, The Magick Pen.

     

    YYA (Why Teen Main Characters?)

     

    Hello everyone! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Vaempires: Revolution and Vaempires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?

    The series is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which humans and vampires peacefully coexist—that is, until the arrival of vaempires (mutated vampires). Driven by a thirst for cold vampire blood and a desire for world dominance, vaempires kill the world leaders and launch a revolution. In short time, the hopes of the free world rest on the shoulders of four vampire teens.

    When people hear that my main characters are teens, many assume I’m trying to hitch a ride on the Harry Potter gravy train. When they realize that my characters are teen vampires… well, the inevitable Twilight-related questions arise.

    Once I explain that I’m not really trying to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight series, the inevitable question is either “well then, why teenagers?” or “well then, why Young Adult?” (or YYA, as I’ve come to think of it).

    There is no short answer to either question… but I always feel the need to begin with a disclaimer. The Vaempires series is not intended to be a YA series, nor is it intended to be an adult series. I try to write stories that aren’t too mature for the YA audience, yet are sophisticated enough for adults.

    For instance: I would characterize Vaempires: Revolution,with its action-packed depictions of the opening salvos in the war, as more adult than YA… yet, teen readers still love it. On the other hand, Vaempires: White Christmas, with its holiday-related themes, is more YA than adult… but, my adult fans also love it.

    There’s a “newer” genre that probably captures this series—New Adult. However, the bottom line is this: I don’t care what category my books fall into, as long as people read them.

    Now, as far as having teen main characters… there are myriad reasons (some of which, I’m sure, I don’t even realize). First and foremost, though, I’ve always loved teen characters. Growing up, my favorite books always had teen stars. Among them were:

    • Franklin W. Dixon’s The Hardy Boys series
    • Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series
    • Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators series
    • Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion series
    • Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series
    • Madeline L’Engle’s Kairos series
    • C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.

    Heck, even my favorite book of all time—Stephen King’s It—features teen protagonists.

    Some who know me might say that I chose teen characters because I’m a perpetual teen. I wont argue it. Although my teen years are but a distant memory, I still love horror movies, rock music, and comic books. I sometimes miss the teen years, despite their inherent difficulties, with a passion.

    But that’s not why I chose teen stars. You see, the reason why I did is the exact same reason why King, Alexander, Rowling, and so many others have over the years—because teenagers are magical.

    You don’t have to write a story about magic, or the paranormal, or anything extraordinary to tap into this magic—although it helps—because teenagers can infuse even the most mundane, day-to-day activities with magic and wonder.

    It’s about potential and promise. It’s about possessing the abilities and capabilities of an adult, coupled with the lack of inhibitions and energy of youth.

    Adults lament the impossible. Teenagers envision—and if the situation demands it, challenge—the possible.

    If that’s not magical, if that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

    So, my main characters are teens. My books are for adults: young adults, new adults, adult adults… I don’t care which category these adults inhabit.

    As long as they read.

     

  • What Is A Vaempire?


    In retrospect, this blog has been too long in coming. For that, I apologize. I’ve lived with the term vaempire for so long, and explained it so many times, that I take the understanding of it for granted. 

    Yet, the first question I’m asked in reference to the novel isn’t “What’s the book about?” or “Where did you get the idea?” or even “How long did it take to write?” 

    No, the first question is “What is a vaempire?” 

    As one savvy Facebooker posted, “Cool idea… but you spelled vampires wrong.” 

    Well, I didn’t spell it wrong, and I didn’t forget to use spellcheck… but, I did make a mistake, nevertheless. 

    I never explained what a vaempire was. 

    So, here goes… 

    Simply put, a vaempire is a mutated vampire. 

    That’s right, a run-of-the-mill vampire suddenly experiences involuntary changes that transforms it into a vaempire. 


    The upside: a person’s strength and speed increases, making them a bigger, stronger, faster version of his- or herself. Honestly, who doesn’t want that at some point in time? 

    The downside: vaempires are warm-blooded beings driven by the need for cold vampire blood. Now, as you can imagine, being filled with the need to feed on the blood of another person is distressing in its own right… but just imagine if that person is one’s significant other, or child, or loved one. 

    The changes that make one a vaempire are not by choice. There is no rhyme or reason as to who mutates. There is no way to make it happen. There is no way to avoid it. There is no way to stop it once it starts. 

    Now, if you’re wondering why they’re called vaempires…

    It was the mutations themselves who decided upon the term væmpire, ostensibly because the e represented the something extra that made them different from vampires. Then the radical groups came, the ones that insisted the e stood for evolution, nature’s way of showing that væmpires were a step above vampires. 

    So, are vaempires to be feared? Pitied? Envied? 

    Opinions vary, as they so often do. You’ll have to judge for yourself.

  • Why I Love Horror: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for VampChix.

    Why I Love Horror

     

    Something inside of me is twisted. I know it. I’ve known it for a long time. Those closest to me do, as well. You see, I love fear—I like being scared. Being terrified is even better. Being rendered utterly speechless (or even wetting myself) because of abject horror would make my day.

    Now, I’m not referring to real-life situations, of course. Anyone who finds pleasure in the everyday chaos around us is a special kind of twisted that I can’t even relate to. But in the world of make believe entertainment, my preference is… the scarier the better.

    This means I’m consistently disappointed. I can’t remember the last movie that frightened me. The Paranormal Activity movies didn’t. The Saw franchise was gory, but not scary. The endless Hollywood remakes are endlessly frustrating. All too often, I find myself laughing out loud at the parts that are supposed to be scary—and no, it isn’t in defiance of the scene, it’s in response to it. In fact, I’ve even begun to fall prey to ludicrous thoughts at just those moments. For instance, during a climactic scene of The Thing a few weeks ago, I thought that it would be a perfect time to insert the chorus of Tavares’ “It Only Takes A Minute.”

    My family members just shake their collective heads when I share these ideas.

    But anyway, Hollywood lets me down. I won’t even bother with television beyond stating this point: television shows are not scary. Ever.

    Now, I know what the (my) problem is. The powers behind the silver screen and the television screen are not entirely to blame. They simply don’t have what it takes to rise to the occasion because of my expectations.

    My parents took me to the drive-in to see Jaws way back in the summer of 1975. I was four. It was not the worst of their parental transgressions—they never made us use seatbelts, we used whole milk in our breakfast cereal, our play time was not properly scheduled or synchronized, and we were sometimes forced to walk to sports practice, among others—but Jaws scared the living daylights out of me. For months, I was terrified. Not terrified of taking a bath or going in the ocean. Terrified of stepping out of bed or going in the closet.

    It was exhilarating.

    The only thing that stopped me from being a horror movie junkie by the age of six was that there weren’t that many movies on regular television during my waking hours. Then cable television arrived.

    1978’s Halloween holds the distinction of being the only movie I ever stopped watching because I was too scared to go on. When Michael Myers was at the bottom of the stairs and Laurie Strode had to venture past him… I couldn’t take any more and left the room. Subsequently, I was so disgusted with myself that I sat through the entire movie the very next time it was on. Alone. At night. I was eight. (And I wonder why I’m twisted.)

    There was no stopping me after that. Unfortunately, I became desensitized. I couldn’t recapture the lingering fear of Jaws or the gut-clenching terror of Halloween—with one brilliant exception. 1980’s Friday the 13th. I slept fitfully for weeks after that one.

    It was around that time that I turned to books. I’m being figurative, of course. Yes, sometimes I had to turn to reach one, but there were plenty of times when… well, you get the point.

    My early years were filled with the typical fare for young male readers—Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Joyce, and the like, by which I mean the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Black Stallion books. But in the late summer of 1980, my world was about to change.

    While at a cousin’s house for a barbeque, I stumbled across a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I don’t know why I started reading it when I should’ve been outside playing ball or swimming, but I did. I couldn’t put it down. I spent the whole day inside, eschewing food, activity, and anything else besides the book. I finished it before we went home and haven’t looked back ever since. Stephen King changed my life.

    I’m not going to wax philosophical about that, though. You came here to read about vampires, and I thank you for seven hundred words worth of patience while I meandered to the topic.

    As best as I can recall, ‘Salem’s Lot was my introduction to the world of vampires. I’m sure I must’ve watched on old movie or two along the way, but nothing that made an impression. King’s vampires weren’t old and stuffy and black and white (although, technically, they were black words on white paper), they were realistic, they seemed possible, and they were awesome.

    In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that I didn’t find them frightening as much as I found them unsettling. Frankly, they creeped me out. The thought of vampires hiding beneath floorboards or lurking in darkened spaces played tricks with my mind. The fact that vampires could multiply—and didn’t discriminate—turned those tricks into mean, dirty tricks. A ten-year-old’s imagination can run rampant with the idea of an undead horde of women and babies after his blood.

    Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that I love frightening things… but I hate creepy things. Being creeped out is so much worse than being frightened. I don’t like bugs. I don’t like reptiles. I don’t like rodents. I don’t like hordes of anything. Well, okay, hordes of screaming fans will be just fine, but anything beyond that is unacceptable.

    In the three decades since ‘Salem’s Lot, I’ve read a library’s worth of books. I don’t read for enlightenment or education, I read for pleasure. It’s a hedonistic pursuit that I’m proud of. I firmly believe that if more people read for pleasure, the world would be a better place. I’m all for a fiction-only reading experience. Who needs non-fiction? Self-help books remind us that we’re all messed up. Historical novels point out that things were always screwed up. Biographies highlight the fact that no one wants to read our life stories. Throw ‘em aside and grab a novel.

    Over the last fifteen years, I’ve gravitated toward the mystery, fantasy, and sci-fi genres more often than horror. It’s a concession to expectations, as well. Although my heart lies in horror, I grew tired of horror novels that didn’t scare me.

    A few years ago, I decided it might be fun to take things one step further and actually write a book. So I did. I wrote a mystery entitled Temporary Insanity in 2007. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be formulaic enough to garner industry attention.

    The creative process is amazing in many ways, but perhaps what’s most amazing is the way that creativity begets creativity. While writing that first novel, it wasn’t uncommon for multiple ideas to spring from my mind’s well. As each new idea came, I would stop typing, dutifully jot it into a notebook, and then return (or try to return) to the task at hand. Before long, I had captured dozens of ideas; more than I could develop in a lifetime.

    One of those ideas was a story about mutated vampires. It percolated, it festered, and eventually it fought its way past the others to the forefront of my mind. In August 2008 I typed the first words of the story. I didn’t touch it again until January. Between January and September of 2009 I added to the story an average of one day per week. Determined to complete something of substance by year’s end, I buckled down and completed a 45,000 word draft of Part I of the first book in mid-December. Satisfied, I sent it off for a critique.

    It did not go well. Let’s just leave it at that because my psyche still bears the scars. The bottom line was this: my love affair with flashbacks and asides needed to end. I didn’t write another word until February of this year. Instead, I learned how to write (or, at least, I hope I did).

    I’m proud to say that my novel, Vaempires: Revolution was released this week. My vampire tale is not for the faint of heart. It’s bloody, it’s gory, it’s everything I want a vampire novel to be… and I want my vampires to be even more awesome than the ten-year-old inside remembers. They have to be, because, in my world, vampires aren’t the predator, they are the prey.

    That doesn’t mean it’s all blood and guts and action. For even I know that we do not live on excitement alone. There’s plenty of intrigue and romance to satisfy all but the most insatiable appetites.

    Here’s the back cover excerpt:

    In the future, humans trigger a nuclear winter that lasts for hundreds of years. Water levels rise. The shape of the world changes. When the world recovers, vampires emerge from the darkness. For a millennium, humans and vampires fight for supremacy… until synthetic human blood is created, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity.

    And the world changes yet again. Vampires begin morphing into væmpires, warm-blooded creatures with an insatiable hunger for cold vampire blood. There is no rhyme or reason as to who morphs—male or female, old or young, from one end of the world to another—no vampire is safe. And no human is safe, either, because these væmpires aren’t interested in coexistence. They want three things: the eradication of humanity, the enslavement of vampires, and their ascension as the dominant species on the planet.

    It is the morning of Princess Cassandra’s sixteenth birthday. With the world’s attention focused on the heir to the vampire throne, væmpires revolt. In their initial attack, they kill the vampire and human leaders and take over the capital. As Cassandra, her boyfriend, Daniel, and the rest of the world fight for survival, væmpires unleash their secret weapons.

    The links at the bottom of this post will take you to the various sites where you can find out more. You can even read sample chapters or buy the book.

    I truly thank you for your time and I wish you happy reading! Also, I’d like to express my gratitude to Michele and everyone at VampChix for allowing me to serve as guest blogger.

    As a final note (and a final indulgence), the last book to frighten me was Stephen King’s It. Not the whole book, but the part where Eddie Corcoran is pursued by the creature. Frightening stuff. Kinda creepy, too. It is my all-time favorite book and the King of horror is my all-time favorite author.

     

  • Mobi-Dick: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Workaday Reads


    Mobi-Dick

     

    Most people are at least passingly familiar with Herman Melville's seafaring tale, Moby-Dick, but very few—a handful, perhaps—are familiar with the tale of mobi-dick.

    Nevertheless, much like the beloved classic, mobi-dick isn't a tale about the title character as much as it is a tale about one man's obsession with the title character.

    Our story starts where all good stories do: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, where a young(er) man trapped in a boring existence on a desolate planet dreams of the stars (and flirts with lawsuits, apparently).

    But seriously, the tale of mobi-dick begins in the not-too-distant past, in a small town just north of New York City. Within that small town lived a man who hungered for more.

    To the outside observer, this man had it all: a beautiful, loving wife, a caring family, a successful corporate career, and, of course, his health... but it wasn't enough. Something was missing.

    Something elusive.

    You see, there was a tale he couldn't get out of his head—a story, started years earlier as a college assignment, with roots embedded deep in his psyche like barbed fishhooks. Most of the time he ignored this tale, but it never went away. Instead, it floated just out of reach, a constant reminder of what might have been.

    One dark and stormy night, the man succumbed to the pressure and dug out the dusty old story (actually, he opened the Word document, but that type of splitting hairs has no business here, thank you very much). Reading through it rekindled the creative fire, so the man vowed to complete the novel by year’s end.

    With the support of his loving wife, he devoted all his free time to the task. He wrote through nights, weekends, and holidays. He missed vacations. He was always type, type, typing away, like an animal pacing back and forth in a cage, but it was worth it. The book began to grow and take shape. Amorphous ideas coalesced into reality. The words piled up, but the man didn’t stop as the word count grew from 80,000 to 100,000 and ultimately to 150,000 words.

    The book was done before the year was out; the labor of love that was the offspring of obsession. The man’s wife was overjoyed. His family and friends were pleased. His coworkers were relieved.

    But the man was unhappy. It wasn't enough. He longed to share his creation with the world-at-large, as any loving parent does. After all, what's the point in creating something if your genius isn't going to be celebrated?

    So the man embarked on a journey in search of publication. How hard could it be? It always happened instantly in the movies. In fact, the very first agent he pitched requested the novel.

    He floated along; satisfied that it had been so easy, as three months went by with no word from the agent.

    Then six months.

    Nine months later, he finally received word—a rejection in the form of a form letter. The elusive dream laughed from a distance.

    Undeterred, the man went on a rampage, sending out hundreds of queries over the following months. Many agents declined, but a few—a very, very few—requested more.

    At the request of one agent, the man changed the beginning of the novel. He altered the end for another. He sent 50,000 words out to sea for yet another.

    But the ultimate prize still eluded him. The elusive dream mocked him. Potential agents lost interest, left the profession, moved on to another employer. More than a year later, an editor finally shed light on the problem: the novel wasn’t formulaic enough.

    The man had never even realized there was a formula. Armed with new coordinates, the man jumped into action… but the story had changed so much that it was no longer recognizable as his.

    He was adrift, lost at sea and at the mercy of the elusive dream.

    Still, creativity begets creativity (and obsession is unrelenting). Blackened, scarred, and bleeding, the man decided to push the original novel aside and pursue a different path. In a fever, he wrote a new novel; 80,000 words in nineteen days.

    He sent it to the helpful editor.

    It was close, but not quite ready for prime time.

    Two revisions later, though, it was.

    The man’s satisfaction was short-lived, however, as reality crashed in. The landscape of the publishing industry had changed while he labored; it was changing by the day.

    The helpful editor suggested the man try sailing across the vast, mostly uncharted, waters of self-publishing.

    So he did.

    The last I saw of the man he was swimming in those turbulent waters, making split-second decisions with little to no time to consider their consequences.

    Read or write?
    Tweet or blog?
    Interview or giveaway?
    Pitch bloggers or advertise?

    In other words, still chasing that elusive mobi-dick…

    You might ask where the story ends. Is it a triumph or a tragedy?

    I guess time will tell.

    * * *

    I hope you enjoyed mobi-dick (for those unfamiliar with mobi… it is the ebook file format used by Amazon.com).

     

  • The Gift That Keeps On Giving: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for VampChix/Bite Club.

     

    The Gift That Keeps On Giving

     

    I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at VampChix & Bite Club! It’s an amazing site in its own right, but it’s also the site where I achieved two personal milestones. Back in November, just a few days after the release of Vaempires: Revolution, Michele gave me the honor of offering my first ever guest blog… now, six months later, she invited me to offer the concluding blog of my first ever Blog Tour.

    Those aren’t the only times I’ve been here, but they are the most significant. I can’t thank Michele—and all of you—enough for the continued interaction and support.

    On the subject of milestones: my younger brother turns forty today. I’ve waited eighteen long months for him to accompany me in the over-40 club, so please help me wish him a virtual “Happy Birthday.” 

    For my part, I’m still reeling from the emotional and psychological shock of turning forty. I knew it was coming, of course, so it wasn’t a matter of being intellectually unprepared—I simply hadn’t fully recovered from turning thirty a short decade earlier.

    I don’t feel forty. I mean, yeah, my body feels it—a little more each day, if I’m going to bare my soul here—but my mind doesn’t. I still like video games and comic books and playing sports. I still go to amusement parks. I still jump in puddles with my nephew.

    I’m still a child at heart. I feel it. Sometimes, I act it—although infrequently and only in private, lol. It isn’t necessarily endearing, either, but it is what it is (and other trite statements). When I speak with my contemporaries about this, many admit to feeling (and acting) the same way. However, a small percentage does not. While the responses of those people can range from baffled, to concerned, to morally outraged, it is important to note that they, in fact, comprise a very small percentage of the control group and are therefore considered outliers (or just plain ol’ liars, because there’s no way they don’t feel that way … they just won’t admit it).

    Still, there is one thing I know as true: my parents sure as heck didn’t seem to be children at heart when they were forty. Now, I realize that it was a different time and that they were from a different generation. They grew up during the Cold War—now, there’s a title for a militaristic vampire saga—they were poster children for corporal punishment, and they didn’t even have cable. Heck, when they turned forty the guy in the White House was older than their parents. 

    When I turned forty, we had globalization, Eckhart Tolle helping us toward a spiritual awakening, and reality shows in which, no matter how bad we may feel (or life may get), we can always find someone worse off than we are. We even have the Internet, and blogs, where we can bemoan turning forty or talk about the books we write. Heck, when I turned forty, the guy occupying the White House was less than ten years older than me.

    However, even more important was the fact that, when I turned forty, the world was just learning that one of the most famed presidents of all time had been a vampire hunter—and that, ladies and gentlemen, brings me to the point of this blog:

    I want to be a vampire.

    No, ha ha, I don’t want to be hunted; not by Honest Abe or anyone else. I don’t want to be a pretend vampire like some people out there, either. I don’t even want to seduce young women or slowly build an army of undead to take over the world.

    I just want to be an honest-to-goodness vampire.

    And live forever.

    The thought of living forever makes me giddy. Not in a silly schoolgirl way but in an oh-so-happy way (disclaimer: I’m not being sexist here; I’ve simply never seen a silly schoolboy who was giddy. I’ve seen silly schoolboys who were gaudy, gaga, gabby, and even grubby … but never one that I would characterize as giddy. Still, I could be wrong. Maybe I don’t know giddy when I see it. Perhaps my definition or understanding of giddy was irreparably skewed by my upbringing and/or experiences. Perhaps I had too much nature and not enough nurture. Or vice versa. Or some combination thereof that’s frowned upon somewhere. In fact, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut at all times. *sigh* Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean giddy schoolboys don’t exist or that I don’t believe schoolboys should be giddy. Of course they do! And of course they should! Perhaps it’s just safer if I say “not in a silly schoolchild way”).

    Anyway … just imagine all I could do with forever before me. I could finally read all the books in my TBR pile. I could watch everything on the DVR. I could even think of new and creative abbreviations, like BUR (being undead rules) and IAV2 (I’m a vampire, too) to tweet.

    I could finally learn how to tie a tie or make a really good bolognaise sauce or even discover the connection between meta tags and extraterrestrial life.

    The possibilities are endless.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I believe that that lure of immortality is the single-most important factor in the continuing popularity of vampires.

    It doesn’t mean the other factors are insignificant. I realize that legions of fans love the otherworldly mannerisms, the overt sexuality, and the enhanced senses and abilities (alas, not sensibilities) of our vampire creations—just not as much as the never-ending lifespan.

    And even the paranormal romance fans—who loooove the dark, brooding, bare-chested males glowering at us from shelf after shelf of the local bookstore—wouldn’t have the patience and the empathy (and, I daresay, the desire) for the aforementioned heroes if those heroes weren’t so tragically … painfully … complicatedly … immortal.

    So much of early vampire fiction revolved around a vampire’s desire to escape, and a human’s desire to avoid, such insufferable immortality. Well, I say, “To hell with that!”

    I don’t want to grow any older and I sure as heck don’t want to meet my maker. Someone please turn me into a vampire before it’s too late! I’ll choose endless hunger (or a soulless existence, or a perpetual chill) over endless sleep, any day.

    It’s my brother’s birthday, but I want immortality—the gift that keeps on giving.

    Where’s my Edward?

     

  • Vampires: Monsters Or Heartthrobs?: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Embrace the Shadows.


    Vampires: Monsters Or Heartthrobs?

     

    I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at Embrace the Shadows! To be honest, I’m also a bit nervous. It’s a great honor to be invited to speak to someone else’s audience, but along with that honor comes a tremendous amount of pressure. Everyone at Embrace the Shadows has entrusted you to my care, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to make them regret that decision. Plus, they’ve threatened me with bodily harm if I fail.

    So here goes …

    (By the way, the part about threatening me with bodily harm is untrue … or perhaps it’s the voices in my head. Nevertheless, no one at Embrace the Shadows threatened me—explicitly or implicitly—with anything. In fact, they didn’t even wish me good luck. Now that I think about it, I’ve never actually communicated with any of these people. Am I even supposed to be here? Is this all a dream? What does it all mean?)

    But, seriously, I am quite happy to be here.

    I’ve known for a few weeks that I was scheduled to write this blog. Well, not this blog—I mean, who has that kind of foresight?—but a blog for this site. So, anyway … my approach to guest blogging is fairly straightforward: first, I find out if the site has any guidelines pertaining to guest blogs; then I spend as much time as possible doing research—reading through blog posts and comments, trying to get an overall “feel” for the site while everything sort of percolates through the gray matter; and finally, I pray that inspiration strikes.

    With a system like that, crafting a guest blog can be a pretty smooth process.

    In fact, I haven’t seen the other side yet—you know, when it’s the night before the blog is due and I’m staring at a blank computer screen, wondering why the writing gods have forsaken me—which isn’t a testament to my creative prowess, by any means. Some of the credit goes to the fact that I haven’t been asked to write many guest blogs, so the law of averages (or something similar) is on my side. Much of the credit, however, goes to the blog owners and their fans. There’s always so much interaction, so much energy created, that I can’t help but find inspiration.

    I was pleasantly surprised by my experience for this blog post. Oh, I did the usual research, but a seed had been planted the second I saw the blog name. Embrace the Shadows. Who couldn’t find inspiration in that? It sent the thoughts careening in all sorts of directions. All I had to do was allow that seed time to germinate and then somehow harness those careening thoughts into something coherent.

    Embrace the shadows.

    The concept resonated with me. Of course, you can’t physically embrace shadows. I should know, as I spent the better part of one night trying—quite unsuccessfully, I assure you—to do just that. All I got for my efforts was a visit from a police officer. It seems a concerned citizen reached out on my behalf. I never embraced a shadow, but I did come within a whisker of a free night’s stay at the local precinct.

    In retrospect, I should have immediately realized that “embrace the shadows” was a metaphysical, not a physical, concept … but heck, a strip search (totally warranted, given the circumstances of my arrest, and performed in the most dignified manner possible, as stated in the waiver I signed as a condition of my release) and a few bumps and bruises are a trifle when compared to my transgressions. Besides, that’s why hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?

    Anyway, once I realized I could embrace shadows in a spiritual sense, things really started coming together. I knew what the theme of my blog was going to be. I just needed a vehicle to help with delivery.

    Enter Twitter, stage right.

    A few weeks ago, a question began circulating through the small community I’m a part of. The wording was different, but the gist of it was this: do you prefer your vampires as angelic lovethings or monstrous bloodsuckers?

    The question originated at a blog, so I dropped by and left a short comment. My wording was different, but the gist of it was this: I embrace the shadows.

    While some of you are nodding your heads and admiring my wit, others are shaking theirs and muttering (a la Bugs Bunny), “What a maroon.”

    If that reference is lost on you, watch this:


    Yet, I speak the truth. When it comes to vampires—in particular, when it comes to my vampires—I do embrace the shadows. You see, I want my vampires to be awesome and savage. I want them to be violent, virulent, and vitriolic. I want them to inspire fear, kick proverbial a$$, and take what they want.

    But the heroes in my novels are vampires. Teen vampires, to boot.

    So, what gives?

    Well, you see, I am embracing the shadows. Shadows hide things. Monsters lurk in shadows. People are afraid of walking into shadows. Yet, aren’t shadows simply projected images of something else—images that are similar to, but not quite perfect copies of, the original?

    So, my heroes are vampires and my monsters are væmpires, because væmpires used to be vampires … before something caused them to mutate into bigger, stronger, faster versions of their former selves.

    With a hunger for cold vampire blood.

    You see, shadows can also be gray areas. Not pitch dark, but certainly not light—somewhere in the middle. I want vampires to be monstrous, but a lot of people—writers and fans alike—disagree. They insist on humanizing vampires. So, if vampires are going to be human-like … then I believe vampires should experience what it’s like to be human in a world full of monsters.

    What it’s like to be prey.

    You can read the results in my novels. A word of warning: they’re not for the faint of heart. As one reviewer put it, væmpires is like “vampires meets X-Men meets The Walking Dead.”

    I can live with that.

     

  • A Vaempires' Ode To Book Bloggers


    Unless you are entrenched in the writing business, it’s almost impossible to understand how important book bloggers are. In fact, it’s far easier to overlook their importance by focusing on authors … or understate their importance by focusing on agents or publishers … or even to miscalculate their importance by focusing on them as book reviewers …

    Because the simple truth is this: bloggers are so much more than that. Bloggers are customers, fans, and reviewers, certainly ... but they are also change agents--possessing the power to reach the masses in the most positive ways. They share stories. They touch lives. They build communities. 

    That’s what makes bloggers the most important, and powerful, entity in the literary world.

    Every day, the number of bloggers grows. It’s only a matter of time before the next summer blockbuster is a film about a group of book bloggers who: a) take over the world, b) save the world, or c) save the world by taking over reality television. LOL. At the very least, I propose a National Blogger Day, whereby we can officially recognize these amazing people.

    I’d love to convey the depth and breadth of bloggers’ impact in a way that’s at once accurate, all encompassing, and poetic … but I fear the effort would fall short and fail miserably. Instead, I’ll keep it short and personal. As an author, bloggers help promote my work, obviously, but they also do so much more than that. Most importantly, however, they provide that one elusive thing that I (and all writers, I believe) crave beyond all others—not fame or fortune, but validation.

    You see, a blogger isn’t a subjective family member who’ll love anything I write. A blogger isn’t a semi-interested friend who’ll offer polite, but vague feedback. And a blogger isn’t a well-intentioned, yet starry-eyed fan that, by nature, wants to be liked, because … well, he/she is a fan. No, a blogger is an individual with no ulterior motive for reading and reviewing my book. Thus, they will love or hate my writing based upon its merits, which is what makes their feedback so honest.

    It’s also why I’ll take the review of a blogger over the review of a critic any day.

    Most bloggers don’t even make any money on the endeavor. In fact, the vast majority of them do their blogging in their free time. They are so passionate, and so committed, that they use time they could be devoting elsewhere to build their blog. And to help authors like me.

    I can never thank book bloggers enough. But what I can do is give them the credit they deserve and ask that my readers do the same.

    I identified a list of blogs in the appendix of Vaempires: Zombie Rising--each of which had been very kind to me. I now keep an updated list here. Let me say this: the people behind these blogs are simply amazing! I am blown away--time and again--by their talent, their dedication, their personalities, (yes, even their willingness to put up with me), and their followers. They've earned a special place in my heart and I will be forever grateful for their contribution and support. As with far too many things in life, they deserve much more than a simple "thank you," yet, at the end of the day that is all I can offer.

    My sincere hope is that everyone reading this will take the time to visit each blog I've identified. Read their posts. Enter their giveaways. Check out their reviews and recommendations. Tell them that Tom sent you.

    On second thought, don’t tell them. This isn’t about me; so let’s keep it that way.

    Just stop in, take a long look around, and then … comment … interact … connect … and become members of the extended families.

    Please.

  • Top 10 Doctor's Notes: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Doctor's Notes ​blog.

    The Top 10 Doctor's Notes

     

    I’m so excited to be today’s guest blogger at Doctor’s Notes! To be honest, I’m also a bit nervous. It’s wonderful to be invited to speak to someone else’s audience, but along with that feeling comes a tremendous amount of pressure. I suppose I can take two aspirin and call Shy in the morning … but that won’t help me now, will it?

    Let’s find out if I’m up to the challenge.

    For this post, I’ve decided to go with the theme of … wait for it … doctor’s notes! Before you groan in dismay, why not take a few seconds and read through the list I’ve compiled? My wit may pleasantly surprise you. Of course, it may not. For my part, I think you’ll find they’re just what the doctor ordered. LOL

    In honor of this blog’s name, and vampire fans everywhere, I scoured through the medical history of some of my væmpire characters in search of memorable doctor’s notes. No, not notes that detailed how someone suffered a bad sunburn or drank tainted blood, but notes that really meant something.

    Without further ado, I give you the Væmpires Top 10 Doctor’s Notes:

    10. Dr. Wrede is suffering from exhaustion. He cannot possibly continue working on an antidote to this “Daystar” virus until his body sufficiently recovers.

    9. Please excuse Merriss for his extended absence, dating all the way back to Freshman year. He has been diligently working to edit Kate Beckinsale into Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.

    8. Jentice failed to report to her post at the scheduled time because she was unable to move (she was frozen by “analysis paralysis” while deciding whether to TiVo The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle).

    7. I’m sorry, but Iris is banned from all contact sports until the test results prove that her abilities allow her to control, but not create, zombies.

    6. Mantel suffers from a gastrointestinal disorder brought on by acute overeating. It seems he wants to “possess the same gravitas as Lestat.” Unfortunately, he took the first Wikipedia translation—weight—at face value.

    5. Ray cannot return to school until he is no longer contagious. He developed a skin condition while trying to reveal the “secret writing” contained within the “October – January” sections of New Moon.

    4. Linq missed training yesterday due to illness. I treated him in my office and my official diagnosis is that he was suffering from a migraine headache induced by watching and re-watching the True Blood discs in search of Easter eggs.

    3. Daniel will be unable to attend this summer’s camping getaway, as he refuses to step another foot into daylight until the Vampire Academy movie is released.

    2. Please excuse Cassandra from tomorrow’s recital. She can’t possibly remember music when she’s convinced she has to help Zoey finally decide between Heath, Erik, and Stark.

    1. Vielyn has been sent to the country for an extended holiday, as he woke up with an extra thumb on each hand and an insatiable desire for vampire blood today!

     

  • Twas the Twilight Before Christmas


    I'd like to present you with a tribute to the holiday (and the completion of the Twilight saga): my reworked vision of Clement Moore’s beloved holiday classic, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” I call it "'Twas the Twilight Before Christmas."


    ‘Twas the Twilight Before Christmas

    Twas the Twilight before Christmas, and all through the land,
    Twilight fans were suffering, from unmet demands.
    They’d watched all the movies & read all the books,
    Now they wanted more, by hook or by crook.

    They should’ve been nestled all snug in their beds,
    Envisioning Edward standing by their heads.
    He’d tell them a story about the old days,
    His smoldering eyes nearly setting them ablaze.

    And just down the hall the ‘rents would be clueless,
    A vampire in the house? That’s bloody foolish.
    That shape-shifter in the yard, aw he’s just a flirt,
    Let’s hope that St. Nicholas brings him a shirt.

    But the moon on his breast shining like new-fallen snow,
    Makes one wonder if he’ll imprint with a baby you know.
    Still, our wondering eyes just can’t get enough,
    Thank goodness the DVD’s are packed with extra stuff.

    But it’s December and Breaking Dawn part the second,
    Is already old news and that's just unpleasant.
    No more weddings, or babies, or broken headboards?
    Fans are whistling and shouting and calling for more!

    "Now Bella! Now Edward! Now Jacob and Renesmee!
    Now Carlisle! Now Alice! Now the entire wolf gang!
    We need to track down that Stephenie Meyer!
    No book in four years, what is she – retired?

    She teased us with the story of lil’ ol’ Bree Tanner,
    After Midnight Sun was spoiled by someone’s bad manners.
    But we’re into her for some 100 million shares,
    And we’re starting to wonder if she no longer cares.

    We need some new stories, some newfound teen angst,
    A love scene that begins with Renesmee spanked!
    And what of Charlie, that poor old galoot?
    Always walking around armed, but he never shoots.

    Oh, we wouldn’t dream of dictating Steph’s next novel,
    But if we wait any longer we’ll be forced to grovel.
    And instead of invading cinemas and comic-cons,
    We’ll camp outside her house in pjs and long johns.

    So, next week when we hear Santa up on our roofs,
    He’d better be packing some definitive proof.
    Aren't there more Twilight stories to tell?
    Or has Edward forsaken all of us, as well?”

    Now, I understand their Twilight withdrawal,
    For am I not also a fan, after all?
    But if you’ve been a good little boy or girl,
    I believe there might be a Christmas miracle.

    There’s a new writer, God bless his soul,
    Who’s determined to ensure you receive more than coal.
    His vampire series—Vaempires—is sparkly, brand new,
    It features teen vampires, it has zombies, too.

    There’s blood-and-guts action, there’s danger galore,
    There’s paranormal romance, and so much more.
    There are teenagers in love, facing a great enemy,
    There’s not one, or two, but three stories to read.

    So, listen carefully on Christmas Eve,
    And if you’ve been good (and if you believe).
    You’ll hear him exclaim, that red-suited man,
    "Merry Christmas to all you blessed Twilight fans.”

    Now, before I’m buried beneath a nor’easter of comments, let me reiterate: I am a Twilight fan. I’ve read the books. I’ve watched the movies. I hope that my fans are (one day) as passionate and loyal about Vaempires as Ms. Meyer’s are about her creations. And, whether you are a Twilight fan, a VD fan (the TV series, not the affliction), or any type of vampire fan, I'm certain you will love the world of vaempires--after all, there’s romance, action, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror in equal measure. Why not give the gift of vaempires this year?

  • I Heart Sparkly Vampires: A Vaempires Guest Post


    Today, in honor of the release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, I want to share a guest post I penned back in September. At the time, it was for a friend's blog ... but that blog has since changed direction, so I can't leave the poor thing orphaned.

     

    I Heart Sparkly Vampires

     

    I love vampires.

    I love sparkly vampires.

    Yeah, I love sparkly vampires.

    Sparkly vampires are great. Oh, I love most vampires. Tall vampires. Short vampires. Boy vampires. Girl vampires. Cartoon vampires and movie vampires and television vampires—

    And book vampires?

    Book vampires, too. I mean, of course I love book vampires. What kind of crazy question is that? Book vampires are the kewlest kind of vampires. But I love all kinds of vampires.

    Even old vampires?

    Even old vampires. Yeah, some of ‘em are kinda crusty and some vampires—young ones, too—are plain ol’ mean. Some vampires are even scary.

    Really scary.

    But sparkly vampires are never scary. That’s why I love them the most. I mean I loooove sparkly vampires.

    I really, really, really love sparkly vampires.

    I love the way they sparkle in the sun. I love the way they look so warm even when you know that inside they’re so cold. And I love the way they—

    Oh … wait.

    That wasn’t me.

    Those weren’t my thoughts at all. (And I have to admit to feeling more than a little relieved about that.)

    This isn’t a disclaimer and it isn’t about saving face. I just realized that, instead of typing my own words, I was transcribing a discussion that was occurring behind me.

    You see, my two nieces, ages nine and eleven, just “discovered” Twilight. They’ve slept over for the past few nights and decided to fill the small hours by watching the misadventures of the Sullen … er, Cullen clan.

    Their Twilight-induced mania has grown with each installment—to the point where they won’t shut up about it.

    I’m not sure which is worse: the never-ending awe or the endless questions (of course, since I’ve written about vampires, that makes me a Twilight expert).

    Sigh.

    And now this.

    Baring my soul—literally pouring my heart out—about sparkly vampires … and the sentiments aren’t even mine.

    Blast!

    How did it happen? Is there such a thing as sentiment plagiarism? Is it some form of group psychosis? How do I make it stop?

    I feel like such a jacka$$.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sparkly vampires. I’m not even implying that sparkly vampires don’t exist or that vampires shouldn’t sparkle. Of course they do! And of course they should!

    Not my vampires, of course, but others.

    Since we’re on the subject … I can’t help but wonder if Eddie’s sparkle has been forever dulled. You can "make up" for the pursuit of profit (or even for the kids) ... but the damage is done. 

    Anyway … in closing, let me just put it this way:

    “I [insert verb] sparkly vampires.”

    I can live with that.


  • Vaempires: Zombie Rising Released!


    Vaempires: Zombie Rising is released!

    The tale of The Evolutionary War resumes in Væmpires: Zombie Rising.

    Væmpires have taken control of twelve major cities. Their leader, Vielyn, seeks the atomic weapons that will bring the rest of the world to its knees.

    Vampire forces are reeling. As Linq and Ray race to the royal estate to rendezvous with Cassandra and Daniel … the princess is captured and Daniel falls.

    With the fate of world shifting to their teenage shoulders, Linq and Ray must deal with tremendous losses while battling a most unexpected—and undeadly—new foe.

    Excerpt:

    Ray battled a bruiser whose arms sported a multitude of colorful tattoos, as Linq squared off against the sandy-haired businessman, whose neck perforations had long since healed.

    They circled each other, seeking an opening. Linq waved his claws. “Are you sure you want to test your luck again?”

    The businessman scowled. “You and your friend might’ve taken down the lot of us, but it’s nothing compared to how many of you we put down.” He spit on the ground at Linq’s feet. “Or how many more we’ll put down.”

    The væmpire’s words struck home. Images and feelings crowded at the edge of Linq’s perceptions, a tsunami of them—all of them related to the horrific events of the last twenty-four hours, all of them clamoring and vying for attention. He held them at bay, because distraction meant death, but their intrusion caused his body to relax and his claws to retract.

    Sensing an opening, the væmpire attacked, coming straight at Linq in a full-frontal assault.
    Standing his ground, Linq swept the væmpire’s claws to the side with his left hand. With his right, he clubbed the vaempire on the side of the head, a thunderous shot that drove the businessman back three steps.

    Linq moved in to follow it up with a decisive blow, his senses already searching for new threats. Claws stained black from spilling so much blood extended on impulse and flashed toward the væmpire’s neck.

    They slashed nothing but air as the sandy-haired man dropped into a forward roll.

    Linq let him roll by, and turned with a sigh. It was almost too easy. The man had obviously received no instruction in hand-to-hand fighting, or else he’d know that you never turn your back on an opponent.

    The væmpire came out of his roll and jumped to his feet. He realized his mistake—he had rolled past Linq, but was facing the wrong direction—in time to flinch as Linq’s claws separated his head from his neck.

    Crimson blood spurted as the body and head fell in opposite directions. Hot væmpire blood that smelled like rancid meat hit the sidewalk in uneven splatters, reminding Linq of a drunken man urinating in a back alley.

    Then two things happened at once: he sensed a væmpire—yet another new arrival—drop in, while Ray yelled, “Watch out!”

    Before he could react, Linq was grabbed from behind. Strong arms encircled him—hot, sweaty væmpire arms that felt like steel pincers. Linq’s own arms were pinned to his sides as his adversary squeezed him like a vise.

    The pressure was tremendous and Linq panicked, throwing his head back in an attempt to crush the væmpire’s nose. He knew it was a mistake as he did it, but his reaction was quicker than his thoughts.

    The væmpire dodged the blow, and then did the unthinkable: his head flashed forward and he sunk his fangs into Linq’s exposed neck.

    Every cell in Linq’s body erupted in unmitigated pain. Nothing in his training, nothing in his imagination—in his nightmares, perhaps, but not his imagination—nothing in his experience or education had prepared him for such pain.

    His eyes rolled back in his head and his jaw snapped shut, his fangs slicing deep into his tongue. He didn’t even notice.

    Then the væmpire drank.

    Book Trailer:


    Thomas Winship:

    Thomas Winship lives in New York. He currently serves as MBA Director for St. Thomas Aquinas College, where he also teaches courses in English Composition, Communications, and Business. Prior to this, he spent fifteen years working for a global pharmaceutical company, specializing in organizational development, talent management, and training.

    Tom writes in his spare time. His first novel, Temporary Insanity, was a 2008 finalist in a national contest but failed to garner industry attention. He published Vaempires: Revolution last October and a follow-up novella, Vaempires: White Christmas, in December. 

    Tomis an avid collector of books, comic books, music, and movies. His interests are diverse—on any given day, Tom is likely to be found watching a horror movie, attending a hard rock concert, or enjoying a Broadway show.


  • Cover Reveal: "Vaempires: Zombie Rising"


    Today, I'm pleased and excited to reveal the cover for the next piece of my vaempires saga: Vaempires: Zombie Rising


    The tale of The Evolutionary War resumes in Væmpires: Zombie Rising.

    Væmpires have taken control of twelve major cities. Their leader, Vielyn, seeks the atomic weapons that will bring the rest of the world to its knees.

    Vampire forces are reeling. As Linq and Ray race to the royal estate to rendezvous with Cassandra and Daniel … the princess is captured and Daniel falls.

    With the fate of world shifting to their teenage shoulders, Linq and Ray must deal with tremendous losses while battling a most unexpected—and undeadly—new foe.

    Thomas Winship:

    Thomas Winship lives in New York. He holds an MBA in Management from St. Thomas Aquinas College, where he serves as MBA Director and adjunct professor of courses in English Composition, Communications, and Business. He also spent fifteen years working for a global pharmaceutical company, specializing in organizational development, talent management, and training.

    Tom writes in his spare time. His first novel, a mystery/legal thriller entitled Temporary Insanity (a.k.a. Case Closed), was a 2008 finalist in a national contest but failed to garner industry attention. He published Vaempires: Revolution last October and a follow-up novella, Vaempires: White Christmas, in December. He is currently working on the next installment of the Vaempires series.

    Tomis an avid collector of books, comic books, music, and movies. His interests are diverse—on any given day, Tom is likely to be found watching a horror movie, attending a hard rock concert, or enjoying a Broadway show.

    Væmpires: Zombie Rising will be released in October 2012. However, you can view the book trailer and read the entire book during the Dark Mind Book Tours pre-release tour that begins September 10th. Details announced tomorrow!


  • Vaempires: White Christmas

    The Fan Poll for the new book cover has been tallied and the winner is: B!

    Thanks to everyone who entered and shared their thoughts.

    Vaempires: White Christmas takes place six months before the events in Vaempires: Revolution. Here's a summary:

    It’s almost Christmas. With the global holiday days away, the people of the world should be turning their attention toward celebrating peace and goodwill, but tension between humans, vampires, and væmpires is at an all-time high. Desperate for solutions, King Brant schedules a secret summit deep in North America’s Northern Forest. Along with Queen Anne, Princess Cassandra, Daniel’s family, and the human president and First Lady, the vampire leader seeks to reaffirm the ties between humans and vampires, while brainstorming ways to respond to the growing hostility among væmpires.

    Meanwhile, Daniel and Cassie’s relationship is at an all-time low. The princess is still reeling from her breakup with Vielyn, and Daniel doesn’t know what he should or shouldn’t do to help. Little does he know that the summit will be flooded with surprises—guests, allegations, accusations, proposals, and even Christmas Eve revelations—but not all of the surprises will be pleasant.

    Vaempires: White Christmas is only days away! Stay tuned for details...

  • Happy Halloween!

    It's Halloween.  On the day when many believe the world is overrun with demons and ghouls, it's only fitting that the story of vaempires is finally told.

    So, what is a vaempire?

    The answer, at first, is easy.  In simple terms, a vaempire (pronounced without the "a" as vempire) is a mutated vampire.  Whereas vampires are cold-blooded creatures with a hunger for human blood, vaempires are warm-blooded beings with an insatiable thirst for vampire blood.  They are faster and stronger than the average vampire, in addition to sporting an extra thumb on each hand (which gives them two additional claws to kill with...).

    Now, although humans aren't an essential part of a well-balanced vaempire diet, it doesn't mean that they have nothing to fear. You see, vaempires argue that humanity has overstayed its welcome and has been deselected by nature... but let's get back to discussing what a vaempire is. 

    So, a vaempire is a mutated vampire.  A super-vampire, if you will.  No one can explain why the mutations occur.  No one can predict who will mutate next.  And no one can say for certain whether this is as bad as the situation will get.  

    And this is where things become complicated. 

    Because vaempires, you see, are tired of waiting for answers or solutions.  They are tired, they are hungry, and they are - perhaps - just a little bit angry.          

    Until now, vaempires have been the silent minority; the faster, stronger, silent minority.  But as Daniel and Cassandra - as well as the majority of the world's population - are about to discover, vaempires are so much more... 

  • Welcome to Vaempires!

    Welcome to the Vaempires Blog.

    As we get closer to launching the Vaempires series, come here for news from Thomas about the books, the launch, the amazing world of Vaempires and the Evolutionary War, and the site. We're pitching towards a Halloween 2011 launch date, so wish us luck!

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