This Week in Vampire Cinema

It was a crazy week, y’all. The first week back to school for students, with lots and lots to do. Understandably, I think, I didn’t watch as many movies this week as I probably should have. I was just too tired most nights to focus on a movie. But, I still managed to watch three!

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)
    • Directed by Brian Clemens, starring Horst Janson as Kronos and Wanda Ventham as the vampire Lady Durward.
  • Martin (1977)
    • Directed by George A. Romero, starring John Amplas as the titular vampire(?).
  • Dracula (1979)
    • Directed by John Badham, starring Frank Langella as Dracula and Kate Nelligan as Lucy Seward.Weird Weird World — Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974) w/Caroline...

Man, the 70s were just bad for film huh? Like, the woman was around so she could bang the uncharismatic lead, be abused by him, and then be bait for the vampires. Also, she was apparently ALWAYS cold because those nips were pert. Cool. coolcoolcoolcool. That said, the vampire was cool. I appreciated the twist ending even though I saw it coming. I also liked the scene where they got to test out various vampire killing theories on the newly turned doctor. That was grim and filmed well. OH! And the hero’s sidekick is a highly educated man with a hunchback, whom the lead avenges after he gets bullied. It was a weird film. I think there’s actually some good bones here and that this story could be ripe for a remake.

Movies and Chill — junkfoodcinemas: Martin (1977) dir. George A....

Well, another 70s movie where women are raped and murdered with their boobs out. I am REAL sick of that. But, the music in this is wonderful. I’ll say that Romero made Martin likable, or at least intriguing even though he’s introduced to us as a murderer. Don’t love the whole “simple-minded” aspect, basically saying he’s autistic or otherwise neuro-divergent, which is…. not a great look. I did dig the whole black and white memory flashback thing, though. Also, according to the films, people in the 70s had no sense of self-preservation. Answering the door for a stranger? Not once. Also, man. Those telephones are tricky bitches. It is rather graphic with the whole stabbing people and drinking their blood. I think I prefer fanged vampires to serial killer ones. I really liked this quote, “People always go away to forget where they were.” There’s abandonment issues there that don’t really get fleshed out in the film. Okay, what the hell was that ending??? This movie wasn’t the worst of the 70s so far, but then that ending just swooped in and ruined it.

18 Dracula 1979 gifs& edits ideas | dracula, johnny depp, vampire stories

The first thing out of my mouth was, “wow, I like the music” and guess what??? We got music from John Williams y’all! Ok… I was worried about this “Sexy” Dracula at first, but uhhhh I get it. And he could get it. That deep v shirt and the turning scene with the fire and the blood? Oh yeah. I’m here for it. And Vampire Mina was legitimately scary. And Laurence Olivier acted his ass off. I don’t know if this movie just had more of a budget or what, but it is REMARKABLY better than the other 70s movies I’ve seen so far. The ending was all right, and I liked that it suggests that Dracula survives after all, but I feel terrible for Lucy to be left behind to marry such a bore as Jonathan. Another movie where I find Dracula much more compelling and endearing than the others. I did really like Lucy too, though. I appreciated that she wasn’t some waif who fainted all the time, and that Dracula fell for her because of her strength. Also, while this film is described as erotic, it is by no means obscene or over-sexualized. There is no nudity, or really even explicitly sex. It’s all implied, and yet the film is quite sexy. The turning/sex scene can be best described as sensual. I loved it. I think this is my new favorite Dracula movie. There’s so much I could talk about — the cinematography, the color scheme throughout, the fact that we never once see Dracula’s fangs, my obsession with tragic romances… That’s really it. This is the first Dracula iteration that is truly a Romantic film. Both in the literary and genre sense. It’s a love story, but a genuinely spooky horror movie as well. There were some amazing shots (Dracula climbing down the wall to Mina’s room surrounded by his cape and mist, Dracula and Lucy talking over dinner, framed by candelabra, Vampiric Mina emerging pale and terrible from the dark, etc.,) and honestly I just really loved this movie. I want to buy it and watch it whenever I want. I already watched it twice in as many days! I need to stop myself there or I’ll just keep going and going. Suffice it to say I loved Dracula (1979) and highly recommend it. It’s entirely underrated and I can’t believe I had never heard of, let alone seen it before!

And that’s The Week in Vampire Cinema. I won’t lie, I was getting a bit burned out, and then Frank Langella’s Dracula gave me hope again. I can soldier on, with only a handful more movies from the 70s left. Then the 80s promise for a bit more action and fun… I hope.

Until next time,

BZ

This Week in Vampire Cinema

Another week, another list of vampire films to discuss. Also, happy Labor Day to all! It was a lovely long weekend, highlighted by a dear friend’s wedding (which is why I’m posting late — the wedding was yesterday).

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Ganja & Hess (1973)
    • Directed by Bill Gunn, starring Duane Jones and Marlene Clark as the vampires.
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1973)
    • Directed by Dan Curtis, starring Jack Palance as Dracula.
  • Andy Warhol’s Dracula aka Blood for Dracula (1974)
    • Directed by Paul Morrissey, starring Udo Kier as Dracula.
  • The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula aka The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
    • Directed by Roy Ward Barker and Chang Cheh, starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and David Chiang as Hsi Ching.

      CINEMASPAM — “You know I want you to live forever?” “[chuckles]...

I read somewhere that Ganja & Hess was a response to the boom in Blaxploitation films in the 70s. It was a visually gorgeous movie, but it was also very surreal. This movie was a trip. Lots of imagery, symbolism, and audio that carried the bulk of the narrative. A very pretty movie, but I was confused for a lot of it. There are a lot of themes (religion, sex, drugs, desire/hunger, love, etc.,) but I’m not positive what the film was trying to say about any of them. I did like that Christianity was directly tied to vampirism with the “blood of christ” — I thought that was an interesting twist on what we usually see. A visually interesting, but narratively confusing film. I’m hoping that the Spike Lee remake (2014) will shed some more light on this film.

Gothic Horror — Dracula (1974 d. Dan Curtis)

This adaptation of Dracula is probably my second favorite incarnation, behind Bela Lugosi’s iteration. I thought Jack Palance was a dynamic and spooky Dracula. The film was pretty enough, had some interesting shots (worm’s eye-view of hammering the stake into Lucy’s chest, for instance), had a nice soundtrack, and actually managed to scare me a few times. I think this was the scariest movie we’ve watched so far, with a few jump scares and eerie cuts that made for a very unsettling viewing experience. I liked it a lot and feel like it is the more overlooked interpretation.

Blood For Dracula GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Worst movie ever. Incestuous, basically (really bad) porn, a character said he wanted to “rape the hell” out of a 14 year old. I stopped watching it then. The Dracula character was an early take of Edward Cullen, pale, sharp-lined face, emo as fuck. He whined and complained for the entire 45 minutes we managed to watch. Also, the whole film hinges on Dracula finding a “virgin” wife because he requires the blood of a virgin to survive. That’s the first instance of that specific trope that we’ve seen and I hate it. This movie is hot trash and I recommend you avoid it at basically all costs. EDIT: Just looked up the full synopsis… the guy who wanted to rape the 14 year old, does in fact end up raping the 14 year old, which apparently “saves” her from Dracula because she is no longer a virgin. He then defeats Dracula and becomes the de facto owner of the estate and is BASICALLY the hero of the film. The child-rapist is the HERO OF THE FILM. It’s fucked up and atrocious and I’m ANGRY. Fuck this movie and everyone involved.Asia, Exploitation, Giallo, Horror — The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

What a goofy, fun movie. I really appreciated that it is a continuation of the Van Helsing character from the Dracula films with Peter Cushing. I think it’s a really interesting twist on the Dracula legacy. Plus, I do like a good Kung Fu movie. The vampires were creepy, very distorted and sort of decomposing, and they “hopped” which is apparently actual Chinese vampire lore known as the Jiangshi. Still plagued by the 70s’ obsession with boobies, though. Otherwise a fun, if not that great film. Made all the better by being right after the super shitty Blood for Dracula.

So, yeah. That’s what we watched. I don’t know if you’re keeping track or doing the math, but… We’ve fallen a BIT behind. As of this writing, we have 47 films to watch in 55 days. It sounds doable, but the reality is we’re already feeling burned out on vampire flicks. I blame the 70s because those films have been mostly awful. The best one so far was the Kung Fu movie! I’m hoping that the 80s will cleanse the palate a bit.

Fingers crossed…

BZ

This Week in Vampire Cinema

This week we watched four more vampire movies on our mission to watch 63 vampire films by Halloween. At this rate… we won’t finish in time. And I’m writing this post and listening to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver instead of watching another vampire film. It’s going to be a long couple of months.

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Brides of Dracula (1960)
    • Directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
  • The Vampire Lovers (1970)
    • Directed by Roy Ward Baker, starring Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla Karstein and Madeline Smith as Emma Morton.
  • Count Dracula (1970)
    • Directed Jesus Franco, starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Herbert Lom as Van Helsing.
  • Blacula (1972)
    • Directed by William Crain, starring William Marshall as Mamuwalde (aka Blacula) and Vonetta McGee as Luva/Tina.

dracula brides

Somehow I love Cushing’s Van Helsing even more. Overall the film wasn’t actually all that good. The brides aren’t really all that relevant to the story, the vampire dies because he’s “trapped” between two shapes of the cross, and Van Helsing reverses turning into a vampire by cauterizing the bites and THEN pouring holy water on the wound. 1.) Dope. That was a tense and wild scene that came directly after a buckwild fight sequence. The reveal that Helsing was bitten was also very well done and I was shouting at the tv. 2.) I don’t know what the rules of vampire procreation are, but I’m pretty sure dumping holy water over wounds you JUST SEALED via a very hot and painful process wouldn’t undo it. Overall, my suspension of disbelief faltered a few times in this film and I’m already getting sick of the “fair maiden in a horror film can’t do a single goddamn thing she’s told” trope. But, I’m pretty sure I could watch endless Cushing as Van Helsing films, so I ain’t that mad about it.

vampire lovers

I have a lot of feelings about this one. All of them bad. 1.) If you’re going to add a character that isn’t in the original source material (Carmilla by Le Fanu in this case) you should probably explain why the fuck he’s there. The “Man in Black” just looms around watching Carmilla wreak havoc, laughs menacingly at the end and is never once explained. 2.) I could do with about 85% fewer titties in this movie. I get that it’s supposed to be this taboo lesbian romance, but this was so PAINFULLY male gaze that it was egregious. Also, they swapped the names of the protagonist and her best friend for no apparent reason and replaced the very dynamic Dr. Hesselius with the not-remotely interesting Baron Hartog. The sole bright spot of this film is, of course, Peter Cushing, who should have been in much more of the film. It’s just strange because while I found Carmilla to be erotic and spicier than expected, it still didn’t feel as overtly sexualized as this film. Welcome to the 70s I guess?

count dracula

Holy crow this movie is bad. How do you have Christopher Lee on screen and I’m falling asleep? at 8 o’clock at night? It might be the most faithful adaption, but there’s a reason. It’s BORING. And even worse, the shots were bad. Lots of zooming in and out on people’s faces, camera panning were the cameraman was obviously on foot so everything was shaky and awkward. I liked the bit where Dracula got younger as he fed, but that was literally the only interesting part of this film. I literally fell asleep and missed the ending. I will not be rewatching it.

blacula

First, I just want to point-out that apparently all directors and cameramen forgot how to make movies in the 70s. Shaky handheld follow-shots galore! I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie. It’s an early 70s Blaxploitation film so derogatory language abounds, but it wasn’t as stereotypical as I expected. I think I’m a bit removed from it because it’s old and i’m not the intended audience. I’m not a film student, or a history student, but I do know that Blaxploitation films were (and still are) problematic. That said, it was better than Count Dracula. There were a lot of plot holes and lore inconsistencies, but it was entertaining. While the craft of the film wasn’t anything spectacular, it’s worth noting that this is the first time (in our list) that the vampire is cast as a sympathetic creature. Mamuwalde was turned into a literal monster, but he did love his wife and that love carried over to her reincarnation(?), Tina. He cared for and seemingly respected her. It was unclear who I should be rooting for throughout the film, even with all the murder. Overall an interesting and inventive twist on the vampire myths we’ve seen so far.

And that’s the week. The 60s had some weak representation, and the 70s aren’t doing much better so far. I know the 80s pick up (looking at you The Lost Boys), but we have a few more movies to watch from the “‘Me’ Decade” first.  Let’s hope they’re better than what we’ve seen so far.

BZ

This Week in Vampire Cinema

This week we watched four vampire movies, continuing on our challenge to watch 63 vampire movies in chronological order by Halloween. If you’re reading this and scratching your head, please read this post where I introduce this recurring blog post series. 

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Mark of the Vampire (1935)
    • Directed by Tod Browning, starring Bela Lugosi as the “Vampire” and Lionel Barrymore as Doctor Zelen.
  • Return of the Vampire (1943)
    • Directed by Lew Landers, starring Bela Lugosi as Armand Tesla, the vampire, and Frieda Inescort as Lady Jane Ainsley
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
    • Directed by Charles Barton, starring Abbott and Costello (obvs), Lon Cheney as the Wolfman, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster, and Bela Lugosi as Dracula
  • Horror of Dracula (1958)
    • Directed by Terence Fisher, starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing

mark of the vampire

This movie did not go over well in our house. Part of that was the movie’s fault. It was cheesy and basically just the plot of Dracula all over again with a haphazard murder mystery thrown in and a twist ending. A twist ending that Amazon put in the film description. So, that also had something to do with our lack of enthusiasm for the film. Also, Bela Lugosi was barely on screen and had very few lines. Nothing about this felt very intriguing or original. Maybe because I knew going in that these “Vampires” weren’t going to be all that interesting. Thanks a lot Amazon. Overall is was underwhelming and failed to lean into the few strengths it did have. Wah-wah.

return of the vampire

There’s so much to like about this movie. Soundtrack? Baller. Cinematography? Pretty great (shots of the hand opening the casket, Lugosi’s shadow turning to mist, and the use of the collar to obscure the vampire’s face were appreciated). The protagonist is a boss bitch lady scientist. We get introduced to the Wolf Man. There’s just enough humor to ease some of the spookiness and the grim images of the war. Also, dug the metaphor of the Vampire = Nazi Germany. A gripping horror film as thinly veiled war time propaganda that still manages to entertain 80 years later. Very appreciated after the flop that was Mark of the Vampire.

abbot-costello-meet-frankenstein-animated-gif

I don’t think I’d ever seen Abbott and Costello in anything other than Scooby-Doo. I didn’t know what to expect. Slapstick, sure. I guess maybe something similar to The Three Stooges, which I’m not a fan of, so this was a pleasant surprise.The dialogue was good. Bela Lugosi and Lon Cheney were delightful. That easy charm of Dracula is again the most riveting thing about him. You get a sense of otherness, a haughtiness almost, but he’s also mesmerizing and dangerous. It’s such a wonderful combination. And he really played Dracula seriously, all the monster actors did, which made the juxtaposition of Abbott and Costello truly hilarious. I laughed much more than anticipated. I didn’t expect comedy from 1948 to hold up, but it really, really did. We’ll probably revisit this one on Halloween.

horror of dracula

I never knew Peter Cushing could be so charming! I was really rooting for Van Helsing, which isn’t often the case. Christopher Lee’s Dracula is also lovely. I found him initially charming and personally would have liked to see more time of him before he became the villain of the film. But I think the point of this movie wasn’t to like Dracula, but to be afraid of him again. After the 30s and 40s there’d been so many monster movies that I think they’d lost their edge. This iteration of Dracula was much scarier than what came before. There are also a lot of firsts in this movie. We see Dracula in color for the first time. We see fangs for the first time since Nosferatu, and these ones are more predatory, set on the canines instead fo the front two teeth. We also see Dracula bloody for the first time, see physical changes in him when he’s experiencing blood lust. And we see a sensuality to Dracula for the first time. His smelling Mina’s hair, brushing his nose down her cheek to her neck before taking a bite was damn near spicy. Some downsides are the sexist tropes surrounding the women, and the weird virginal overtones of Dracula’s taking of Lucy. It felt oddly sexualized and she came across as far too young. Otherwise a very engaging leap forward for the vampire mythos. I’m looking forward to seeing Cushing and Lee again.

And that’s what we watched this week. A largely good group of films, but I’m getting a little nervous for what’s to come. I am not great with visual horror, and I know the more modern the films get, the more gruesome they’ll be. While Horror of Dracula wasn’t remotely scary for me, it was considerably bloodier. It’s only going to get worse. Guess I’d better brace for impact.

 

BZ

In Which There are Goals

It’s been so long since I had any sort of goal other than “please God, let me write SOMETHING” that I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. Both nervous and excited. Goals. Huh. Wasn’t sure I’d see those again.

August To Do’s:

  • Finish reading Black Sun
  • Finish listening to The Only Good Indians
  • Continue various research
  • Record the next episode of Top Shelf Librarians

I’d say I am on track to meet all my goals for August. I’m already working on all of them, so I don’t see why the next two weeks should be any different. Feeling good!

September To Do’s:

  • Submit Fellowship Application to Oregon Literary Arts
  • Complete Tavi revision #3
  • Continue various research
  • Record next episode of Top Shelf Librarians
  • Read Salem’s Lot and Dracula

A bit more happening in September, but it’s still mostly reading. Sure, there’s more revision on the horizon, but when isn’t there? Sprinkle in some writing for the fellowship application and it’s a busy but doable month.

I feel like these are less goals and more like priorities. It’s reminders to keep doing what I’m doing and to feel good about the work again. That makes me very happy.

I think the real reason I’m here, at this hour (almost 10pm as of this writing) is that I’m nervous about returning to work tomorrow. There’s so much uncertainty around schools right now and I don’t think I can handle more rollercoaster. If we’re going to be online again, just say so my dudes so I can fall back into that routine. It wasn’t fun or comfortable, but at least I’ve already been there and done that. I can go back to it with (slightly) fresher eyes and improve upon the work I did. But if we’re going to force in-person full time school in the middle of another corona surge…

That’s just sounds like a bad time.

So I’m anxious. Uncertain. Not as excited as I hoped to be. There’s a lot of things happening this year that give me a sense of dread instead of hope. So I’m here, talking about writing instead of prepping my lunch and going to bed. Because if I don’t go to bed then the morning won’t come, right?

I’m pretty sure that’s how time works.

Or not. Damnit Jim, I’m a writer, not a Time Lord!

BZ

Vampire Media Galore

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m researching all things Vampire for my next Nanowrimo project. Part of that research included compiling a list of 65 vampire movies (2 of which I simply cannot find anywhere) and watching them all by Halloween. 

Again, I am no stranger to vampire media, but I was surprised to see just how many vampire movies I have not seen. Or even heard of! The list is sure to offer a lot of interpretations of the vampire myth and, as we’re watching them in order of release date, I’m very excited to see the evolution of the Cinematic Vampire over the last century. 

We’ve watched three films already this weekend and thought I ought to share my thoughts on each, just as I’m sharing my thoughts on vampire fiction. 

This Week in Vampire Cinema:

  • Nosferatu (1922)
    • Directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as Graf Orlok (the vampire).
  • Dracula (1931)
    • Directed by Tod Browning, starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing.
  • Vampyr (1932)
    • Directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer, starring Julian West and Henriette Gérard as Marguerite Chopin (the vampire).

nosferatu

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a silent movie before, at least not a feature length one. I didn’t really know what to expect from an hour and half long silent film, but Nosferatu was surprisingly good? It felt like watching a Victorian novel, complete with a long intro, lots of travel, and clunky dialogue. The imagery still holds up and Max Schreck’s Graf Orlok is still creepy. I kept imagining this being the first movie I ever saw and how absolutely terrifying that would have been. However, Trev and I did voices for all the characters and basically MST3K’d it, so it didn’t hit as well as it probably could have, even late at night in the dark. A good start to the research, nevertheless.

dracula

Next we watched the OG, penultimate Dracula. Confession: I’d never seen it! I also haven’t read the book yet, but that changes very very soon. I now understand why this iteration of the Dracula tale is so everlasting. Lugosi is utterly magnetic. Lemme just say, if I were a young lady in society, and he wanted to chat me up, he could definitely get it. I’d be dead, but I’d probably have a good time dying. Anyway, Lugosi is perfect — I have no notes. Everyone else was just sort of meh in comparison. I really loved the images in this as well, particularly that of how Dracula comported himself. His movements and his facility of manners made him incredibly engaging on screen. He commanded attention in every shot, the monster among us as opposed to one lurking in the shadows. It’s a stark contrast from Nosferatu. I do feel that the plot suffered from unclear jumps in time, underdeveloped and somewhat unbelievable supporting characters, and a very weak ending. We were supposed to care about saving Mina, but Dracula was by far the more endearing character to me. That his death should happen off camera is a true shame.

vampyr

I had zero expectations going into Vampyr. Prior to building this list, I had never heard of it. I was mostly pleasantly surprised. It should be noted that the original film has been lost (I believe in a fire?) and what we watched had been pieced together from some other versions? I still found it to be visually stunning. The symbolism and use of shadows kept me engaged and wondering the whole time. Nothing was very clear, but it’s a very surreal sort of work so I wasn’t mad about it. Also, the camera-work and the creativity of shots was very very good. Oh! And the glass window coffin shots were SPECTACULAR. There was a motif of the main character and glass windows established early in the film, so having that come back around in such a way, and shot the way it was, was brilliant. The evil vampire terrorizing the fair maiden was an old woman this time, which I found very intriguing. It’s our first instance of a female villain so far, and the use of an old woman attacking a young lady made for some interesting questions about time, aging, and death. However, as a vampire I found her somewhat underwhelming. I didn’t feel that she was a physical threat so much as an existential one. I would also say this was the creepiest of the films so far. The score was perfect and the general atmosphere was unsettling. I liked it very much, even if I struggled to make sense of it. 

And that’s what we watched this week. I think I’m going to do a “This Week in Vampire Cinema” post each Sunday, generally reviewing the movies we watch throughout the week. It’ll be a nice way to compile my thoughts and to share with the Blogosphere.

I head back to work on Tuesday, so I’m uncertain what my posting schedule (HA!) will look like going forward, but I’ll be around. For once, I have too much to work on not to write about it.

Until then Bloggos,

 

BZ

In Which I’m a Vampire Hunter?

As I may have mentioned, my planned NaNoWriMo project this year is a Pioneer Oregon Weird Western. There’s going to be lots of strange things in this book (a talking horse chief among them), but a big part of it is going to be vampires.

Now, I LOVE vampires. I was a goth kid in high school and a rabid Anne Rice fan. I am no stranger to vampire literature and film. But, if I’m going to write this story well the first time around, I need to know what the eff I’m talking about. I’m reading Pioneer nonfiction and historical documents as research so I figured I ought to research vampires as well.

All right, I’ll admit it: I just want an excuse to read and watch as much vampire content as I can between now and Halloween. Guilty as charged. I have a list of 67 films to watch and have started reading short stories in between all my other reading. I’ve been posting mini reviews on my personal Facebook page and thought you all might be interested in reading them.

First up in Vampire Research Reading™ were Fragment of a Novel (1816) by Lord Byron and The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori.

The first was Byron’s product from the friendly writing competition between Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Polidori, and Mary Shelley. You know, the one where she came up with the idea for Frankenstein?

The second was inspired by Byron’s above fragment, and is generally believed to be Polidori talking mad shit about Byron who he’d recently had a falling out with.

Both are painfully Victorian. I thought Byron’s was actually more intriguing but he didn’t finish it soooo no points for him.

Polidori’s story features hapless women, pillars of virtue all, falling prey to a literal monster while the main character does nothing because he… Took an oath? That drives him crazy maybe? Or he just mopes in his room for a year to avoid being faced with the literal monster stalking the nobility. Jury’s out on that one.

Anyway, like three young women die and so does the main character. Bland AF vampire wins by faking his own death and tricking the gutless main character.

4/10 to both. Not enough spooky.

bright day GIF

Then I read Varney the Vampire (1845)(excerpt) by James Malcolm Rymer and The Mysterious Stranger (1860), which was originally published in German by an anonymous author. It was later translated and pubbed in the UK in 1860. Hope that anon got paid, but knowing Britain, probably not.

Varney is… Not great. More fun than my prior readings, more in line with what I expect when I think of vampire stories. A terrifying figure steals into a room to drink the blood of a fair maiden, etc., Etc., But the writing is… Bad. It was originally published in serials and the best way to make money off serials is to keep.

Fucking.

Writing.

Forever.

So it’s pretty wordy and unpleasant.

5/10. Seein’ some progress but still not digging it.

The Mysterious Stranger suffers from the same issue that plagues most Victorian works — it takes it’s sweet ass time developing the moody atmosphere and explaining in excruciatingly flowery language the appearance, dress, and disposition of everyone on stage.

Once it actually gets where it’s going (terrifying figure steals into a room to drink the blood of a fair maiden) it was actually rather enjoyable. A lot more action on the page and we see the introduction of both a vampire killing ritual and the use of mist as a vampiric mode of transportation.

Themes weren’t very palatable, however. Brash maiden longs for an adventuresome life free from the monotony of an arranged marriage to a boring noble fop, falls victim to a vampire’s eerie charm, subsequently almost dies. After following the direction of some guy she sorta knows, she takes the steps (unknowingly) to destroy the vampire. She then realized how brash and ungrateful she’s been all along, has a change of heart, and marries the boring noble fop after all.

Gag.

5.5/10. More fun, laying the groundwork for some cool shit. Still mostly boring.

Vampire Diaries GIFs | Tenor

As part of my research I also watched a few documentaries about Vampires.

  • Secrets of the Dead: Vampire Legend – Season 15, Episode 1
  • Monsters Among Us: Vampires: From Folklore to Literature parts I + II – Season 1, Episodes 1-2

I found these on the Kanopy app through my public library and enjoyed them very much. The first one was pretty cool because it approached the vampire myth from an anthropological viewpoint, so it almost felt like an episode of Cold Case Files. The second one, while I enjoyed it, was much more lecture-y and felt like something I’d watch in a Horror Lit & Film class. Might not be as interesting for general consumption, but I liked it.

Expect these sorts of mad-dash little reviews to be a recurring thing this fall while I consume ALL THE VAMPIRE STUFF! Hopefully you enjoy it.

BZ

On Doubt

This morning started with an article from The Writer Magazine in my inbox. Now, I don’t normally read the newsletter-ish sorts of emails that spam my inbox, but this headline caught my pre-coffee brain. Why are Writers so Prone to Self-Doubt?

It made me immediately ask, “Am I prone to self-doubt?” Which is hilarious because I am so anxiety-riddled on a daily basis I can hardly make appointments for basic things and am a constant over-thinker. Of course I’m prone to self-doubt! I’m so prone to it I don’t even recognize it any more!

Anyway, it’s a lengthy article that looks at the various sources of anxiety and doubt for us Writer Types and it got me thinking about what my writerly doubts are and how I’ve coped with them. And since it’s early, and my brain is chugging away at something meaty, I thought I’d share. 

The Big One: Rejection

One thing that the non-writers in my life seem to struggle with is when I tell them I’ve had a story rejected. Usually we’re mid-conversation (or dinner or movie or or or…) and I stop engaging to look at my phone. I’ve received an email from that market that’s had my story for months, and of course the subject line is just “RE: SUBMISSION”. 

Now, I know the odds. Trust me, I’ve received enough rejections (and a few acceptances) at this point to know I am almost certainly looking at a rejection. But there’s that tiny part of me, the Writer who never gives in, that bubbles up in my chest and says, “What if…?”

So I hold my breath (I always do, I can’t help it) and open the email. And — oh look — a rejection. Exhale, screen off, return to the conversation (or dinner or movie or or or…). Of course now I realize how incredibly rude I’ve just been and say, “sorry, just got a rejection.”

Their face does that little crumply frown of concern. “Oh no! I’m so sorry!”

I wave them off. “It’s fine, I just need to remember to send it out again when I get home.” And that just confuses them. And that confused me for a long time. I mean, yes, rejection sucks but it is part of the process if you want your work published. There’s no avoiding it. So, early on, I just sort of braced for impact and gritted my teeth. Ate some ice cream while I spent 15-20 minutes looking for the next market, and then sent it off again.

Now I don’t even bother with the ice cream. 

But for folks unaccustomed to rejection, this is one of their biggest fears. Sharing something they worked hard on, put their soul into and are proud of, only to be told it isn’t good enough. I mean, looking at it like that, it does sound miserable. But… it just doesn’t feel like that anymore. Part of it is the practice, right? You submit, get rejected, submit again and that builds armor. There’s a whole ding-dang blog about it! (Aeryn Rudel’s Rejectomancy is a super neat site that likens rejection to a class in D&D and how you level up and gain armor, etc. Check it out!)

The other part is realizing what I do and don’t have control over. Now, part of being an incredibly Anxious™ person is a desperate need to feel in control of most things. Relinquishing said control is… difficult. But, with publishing there’s no control to be relinquished. I never had any to start with. The only thing I can control is the writing and where I choose to send it. So, to “ease” my anxiety over the whole process, the story must be as good as I can possibly make it and I need to research and carefully choose what markets I submit to. That’s it. That’s all I can do.

It’s all any of us can do. And that’s why I don’t mind rejections. They aren’t personal, they are an inseparable part of the process. 

So, What About My Writing do I Doubt?

Oh man. Well, for awhile, during the pandemic, I actually started to doubt my idea generation. That’s never been an issue for me in the past, but my brain was so creatively empty for so long that I started to wonder if I was tapped out. I now know that I’m fine and have plenty of ideas — my creative brain just decided to take a sabbatical. 

I doubt my ability to write really powerful, literary Speculative Fiction. I’m thinking N.K. Jemisin, Seanan McGuire, and Sam J. Miller here. They are freaking powerhouses writing story after story, novel after novel that just consistently blow my mind. I doubt my ability to blow anyone’s mind, either with plot or craft. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying! I am. Like I said in my post last week, I keep reaching and trying new things because 1. it’s fun, and 2. it’s going to help me grow as a writer. 

Kevin Hearne said it best on his short-lived podcast Ask the Bards, “Write more, write different, write better.”

But, my biggest doubt, or maybe my biggest fear is that I’m too transparent in my work. I don’t realize it while I’m writing, but when I go back to revise so many little things from my life are staring back up at me. To me they are SO. PAINFULLY. OBVIOUS. Anyone who knows me at all is going to read that and see all of me in those lines. Even the parts I don’t typically share. Maybe especially those parts.

We call that vulnerability and I hate it. Anxiety Brain, remember? I can’t control how others perceive me through my writing. Writing is a two-way street, an art experiment that is only complete when read by an audience. I can do my damndest to be clear with my themes and subjects and characters, but ultimately the final interpretation happens within the reader. 

And that I cannot control. 

I try. Oh, do I ever try. I am very selective about who gets to read my drafts. Seeing the work before it’s “finished” is probably the biggest declaration of trust I can ever make. Trust and that I value your opinion. It’s me opening a door into my consciousness and saying, “come on in! Sorry about the mess.”

But even this flex of control is just a balm. Because once a story is published, it is out of my hands. I can’t control who does or doesn’t read it, how they react to it. If they like it. Or how it might change their perception of me. Writer Brittany and World Brittany are two very different people. 

At least, I think they are.

One is meant for public consumption, the face I present at work, in my community, even to my friends to some extent. Writer Brittany is… well she’s real weird, all right? She thinks about death a lot, and about love too. She imagines tentacled, spectral moose monsters attacking subway trains and thinks it’s funny. And she seems kind of obsessed with characters whose decisions lead to isolation and loneliness, because they won’t open up to the people who care about them. 

There’s that vulnerability again. I still hate it. But if it’s there on the page then, yes, people will read it. They’ll see it. But most importantly, they’ll feel it. And they’ll know that, in some ways, the story was real.

That’s called authenticity, and in fiction it is everything. 

The conclusion then is that our doubts and/or fears are probably pointing to areas in our work that we need to embrace. That we should emphasize and focus on. Because what makes us uncomfortable makes us grow, right?

I don’t know, man. Take from that what you will. I have a novel to edit. 

 

BZ

Podcast Update!

The Library Pros are back on schedule with a new episode out today!

As usual, things get pretty buckwild, but it’s even better than usual because we recorded live, in-person! So buckle up and give it a listen!

Thanks for listening, we hope you enjoy the show!

 

BZ

The Library Pros are reunited, drunk and in-person! Get ready for a buckwild episode in which Brittany and Matt make a bet, we doubt Heather’s definition of “cautious”, Laurel recounts several occasions in which she almost died, and Brittany recommends you stop listening to our podcast. Twice. We discuss several riveting topics, such as The 5 People You F*ck in Heaven, The Jeff Bezos Network, The Half-Price Books Scam, and we suggest you spend a little money on Amazon. But don’t worry, it’s not like Dildo Rocket Ship Money. Also, there’s no peen in this one. You’re welcome.

My Process™

Here’s a detailed bullet-point list of my process, for those interested. Because, c’mon, you know you are. Just a little. Please remember that this is not prescriptive. My whole previous post was about how very unique each writer’s process is. I’m sharing mine because people seem to love hearing about writing processes, and because it’s kinda fun to talk about every now and again.

Ahem. On to the list.

  1. Get a weird idea for a story. Usually a line of dialogue or an image in my brain.
    1. For instance, the upcoming Pioneer Oregon Weird Western was born from my brain showing me a woman in a leather rain slicker on a horse in the middle of the Santiam Canyon getting drenched and looking rather unhappy about it.
  2. Ignore it for awhile.
    1. Stories need time to percolate. The longer I can ignore the siren call the better prepared I’ll be when I actually sit down to write the thing. It’s cooking and it needs to be left to its own devices for a bit.
  3. When the time to draft is getting close, start doing any necessary research.
    1. Usually about a month or two before I sit down to write a book, I’ll dive into pretty serious research.
    2. Short stories don’t typically require much research, so I can skip this step for most of them.
  4. Make a playlist.
    1. This may seem silly, but this is a very important step for me. Every story, big or small, gets a playlist. I spend a few days searching for songs from all kinds of genres. Songs are usually not only lyrically related, but tonally as well. They sound like the story. I don’t know how better to describe it, but there’s a vibe, okay?
    2. This step helps me cement the tone/atmosphere of the story. But it also becomes a sort of psychological conditioning. I listen to the playlist whenever I work on the story. It becomes the soundtrack and hearing it helps me settle down to the work that much quicker. This is an absolutely vital step in the process for me. It’s my version of prewriting.
  5. Write.
    1. This is the Wild West of the process. Every story is different. Some write themselves in a handful of sessions while others are arduous and painfully slow.
    2. Stories take the time they take. Some short stories take a week to write, dumping out over the course of a few days. Others take months with only a few writing sessions here and there. Novels tend to be a much steadier process for me, with dedicated (some would say obsessive) work over a span of six-ish consecutive months.
  6. Ignore it again.
    1.  When I reach “The End” I save it and close the document. I get away from it for as long as I can. For short stories a month is usually long enough. For novels… well, they live in my head longer so they require a lot longer to gtfo.
    2. I haven’t perfected the timeframe between the rough draft and edits for a novel. I’ve only done it a few times and each one was different. This current one had a lot of mental health issues to contend with. I was laid off the summer I finished it. Then I started a new, very stressful job. Then there was that whole global pandemic, and then a LOT of political and social unrest.
      1. My novels might not take place in the real world (very often) but I am a person living in the world and I am not immune to its effects. All of this plays into the process too.
  7. Revision, Round I
    1. Ugh. This round is all about reading the book. I print out the entire manuscript and read it in one sitting if I can. I take notes if anything good or bad stands out to me. I dread this moment of reading the book for the first time, but so far I’ve always been pleasantly surprised.
    2. So, I’ve got notes. I make goals based on those notes, and then I go back through the book and meet all those goals. This is typically big picture stuff. Scenes that don’t work, holes in the plot, restructuring scenes, etc.
    3. Try not to line edit, but inevitably do. Put all on-paper changes into the computer.
  8. Revision, Round II
    1. Read it again. Print it out and take notes again. Note if any of the previous revision’s changes don’t work as planned.
    2. Make goals based on this read-through’s notes. These goals are still fairly big picture, but they’re getting smaller. More specific.
    3. Try not to line edit, but inevitably do. Put all on-paper changes into the computer.
  9. Revision, Round III
    1. Read it again. Print it out and take notes again. Note if any of the previous revision’s changes don’t work as planned.
    2. Now, at this point, it should be pretty solid. If there aren’t any major notes, this is the point when I’ll give it to some trusted readers for feedback. Probably some sensitivity readers too.
    3. Try not to fiddle while I wait for feedback. Fail. Make changes in the computer too.
  10. Revision, Round IV
    1. Gather feedback and decide what I agree with and what I don’t. This can be tricky because stories are subjective. I live by this quote from Neil Gaiman: “When someone tells you something is wrong with your story, they’re almost always right. When someone tells you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.”
    2. Make changes.
  11. Revision, Round V
    1. Yep, still reading. Print it out. But this time, it’s less about notes. By now I’ve made all the big things work. I’ve done all the tough stuff and tweaked scenes and pacing and filled plot holes and added emotion where it’s needed. Now, it’s the fun stuff!
    2. LINE EDITS BABEYY. Now, knowing me, I’ve been doing some line editing all the way through because I can’t help myself. But this is where I get to wield my red pen like it’s a scalpel and just shave the book into something… glorious. Powerful.
    3. I love this step of the process. Can you tell?
  12. Submit
    1. So, I come off the line edit step of the process and jump feet first into the Submission step. I send it out and let that editing high carry me into the abyss of publishing.
    2. Start the whole process over on the next project. It makes the next step a bit easier to bear.
  13. Wait.
    1. Publishing is SLOW. Very, very slow. So, we wait. Often for months. The doubt trickles back pretty damn quick and I start to think I am an idiot for doing this and why would anyone ever want to read what I wrote?
    2. Ignore the doubt monster and keep working on the next thing.
  14. Rejection.
    1. Look. This is part of the process. The more you submit, the more you’re rejected, the less it matters. Rejections don’t hurt anymore. They are simply part of the process.
  15. Submit again.
    1. Keep throwing that story spaghetti at editors’ walls until something sticks!
  16. Acceptance?
    1. This is never guaranteed. As a writer, I have absolutely ZERO control over which stories get published and which don’t. But, with persistence, I have a decent hit rate.
    2. If I do get an acceptance, I celebrate. I reward myself with dinner or a drink. No matter how small the magazine, a publication is worth celebrating.
    3. Tell EVERYONE. Scream about it into the void of the internet. That’s the whole point of publishing, right? For people to read what you wrote? To share it with the world? Why wouldn’t you promote your work? PROMOTE YOUR WORK!
  17. Start again.
    1. I am always in the process. It looks a little different for each story, but I’m still always in it. Even when I think I’m not. And you know what? I find that oddly comforting.

BZ