V-Squad in the Media

In time for Halloween, UVA Today, an in-house publication from the University of Virginia News office, will publish an article about me and my vampire novel, V-Squad, on Friday, October 28. Although the novel doesn’t fall into the horror genre per se, its denouement does take place on Halloween, so in that sense the timing is appropriate. I’ll send a link to the actual article when it’s released.

Accompanying the article will be a one-minute soundbite from UVA Today’s interview with me on WTJU, the University’s radio station, on Wednesday at 11:55 a.m. (EDT) and again on Friday at 3:55 p.m. (EDT). You can access the station’s broadcast through your computer. Quite apart from my mini-blurb, WTJU is very much worth a listen. They play a lot of great music and have interesting discussion programs.

UPDATE: Okay, the article has been published. You can find it here.

My Hometown

A few days ago two young women who grew up Kinder, the small town in southwestern Louisiana where I also was born and spent my childhood, decided to create a Facebook page dedicated to former and current citizens’ memories of the place.  As of this writing, more than eight hundred have joined the group and contributed well over two thousand posts, not counting associated comments.  The numbers reflect how beloved Kinder is to those who at one time or another in their lives, called it home. 

Many of the stories which people have told are laugh-out-loud funny.  Some are poignant, others moving or sad.  For those of us who knew that place in a particular time, the experience has been akin to attending a family reunion.  Through our reminiscences we have brought back from the dead parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends.  We have conjured a Kinder that itself has been irrevocably changed by the passage of time.  By the disappearance of the American railroad as a major form of transportation and by the Interstate highway system that in part replaced it.  Speaking only for myself, participation in the Facebook group has been like jumping into a time machine and returning to a town and an era that our younger citizens sadly can scarcely imagine.

For many years I have thought about writing a novel about Kinder as it was in the 1950s and 1960s when I knew it best.  In those days, not all of the roads were paved, few people had air-conditioning, the older folks still spoke French, and kids could roam all over town on their bicycles without fear.  Saturday afternoon double-features at the local movie theater were 15¢ for children under twelve, and teenagers sat in the back rows so they could make out.  The whole town turned out for high school sporting events, football in particular.   No novel, no movie or TV show has ever depicted life in small-town Louisiana as it actually was, and is.

But that’s a book that in all likelihood I’ll never write.   To Kill a Mockingbird initiated the Southern childhood nostalgia literary sub-genre in 1960, and when I read the book soon thereafter at the age of twelve, it already reminded me of Kinder despite the fact that the story took place some thirty years earlier and in a culture that bore only a remote similarity to my hometown.  Over the years other writers have contributed their own memoirs to the genre, in many cases enriching it, though no one has done it better or to greater universal acclaim.   It’s a quirk of mine, I suppose, but in my own writing I try to avoid treading into the territory of a master at the craft and in this particular case believe that I would find myself under a very large shadow indeed.

No matter.  I have my memories and am privileged to share them with some of the very best, salt-of-the-earth people you could ever find anywhere.  Not only is that enough, it’s everything.

UPDATE:  Based on anecdotal evidence, groups like Kinder’s have proliferated across Facebook over the past few weeks.  My old prep school (class of `67), The Academy of the Sacred Heart at Grand Coteau, Louisiana, now has two Facebook groups dedicated to alumnae reminiscences.  I must say, though, that personally the Kinder group remains the most fun, engaging, and emotionally moving.  And yes, it’s still going strong.

Bulwer-Lytton Contest 2011

For fans of really bad writing:  Every year since 1982, the faculty of the Department of English at San Jose State University in California have sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, you might recall, was the author of the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, which gave the world the famous (or infamous) opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

Anyway, the contest challenges writers to come up with a deliberately inept opening sentence of a phony novel in the style of Paul Clifford. The best, i.e. most effective, piece of bad writing earns immortality on the BLFC’s web site. Here are the “winners” and runners-up for 2011.

So, What Is It?

Every once in a while, I rouse myself to expand my options from the indie scene that I currently inhabit by a return to traditional publishing, so I send off another couple of query letters to literary agents on behalf of V-Squad. So far, no takers. Most haven’t responded at all (something I have no problem with, since I’m aware that that is standard policy when an agent just isn’t interested; I’m also aware of the current turmoil in the publishing industry), but one or two have praised the writing while still declining my queries. I suspect that their hesitance is due to the book’s hard-to-classify nature, a condition that perhaps makes it all the more difficult to pitch to the traditional houses.

It’s easier to talk about what it isn’t than what it is. It isn’t Steampunk. It isn’t Horror. It isn’t Romance. It isn’t High Fantasy, or Sci-Fi. It’s not a Graphic Novel (though it would make a good one). It’s not, strictly speaking, Historical Fiction, since I have taken some liberties with real history, especially in the flashback scenes that go to the heart of the protagonist’s motivations. I suppose that you could make a case for Action-Adventure except that it contains passages of quiet character development that you don’t usually find in that genre. It has elements of Literary Fiction, given that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface, but purists no doubt would dispute that, too.

It just is what it is. Hard to define though it may be, readers apparently like it, and that is gratifying indeed.

Now Available: V-SQUAD!

I’m very happy to announce the arrival of my new e-novel, V-Squad, to digital bookstores where it is now on sale for the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBook for the iPod/iPhone and iPad, and at Smashwords.com.

A vampire novel set in World War II, V-Squad is more character-driven than a roller-coaster action adventure.  And although a real departure from traditional horror fiction, it has little in common with the Sookie Stackhouse books and even less with Twilight‘s fey vampires.  At the same time, it is evocative of both literary and film genres that readers will find familiar.  I like to think of it as Dracula-meets-The Dirty Dozen-meets-Ivanhoe — co-starring ninjas.

For a more detailed description, go here, and here for an excerpt.  You can also download the first thirty pages for free on the Smashwords site.

At the Gate

Canon Powershot S013 ISO 100 1/160-f/8.0

Springtime in Virginia is absolutely gorgeous, with a profusion of nature’s vibrant colors and fresh scents.  There’s still very little evidence of it right now, but we’re getting close.  I give it another couple of weeks.

The Dreaded Blank Page

So, you’re a writer.  See if this sounds familiar.

You stare at it and stare at it, and it seems that it stares back, that blasted cursor winking at you, daring you to write something — a word, a phrase.  Anything.

It’s at that point that you remember that you haven’t fed the cat in an hour or so, so you trudge into the kitchen and sprinkle a few bits of dry food into his bowl.  Maybe he could use some water, too, even though he hasn’t touched what you put down for him just a little while ago.  Then it’s back to the computer.

But before you get back to what you’re supposed to be doing — you know, working on your novel — maybe you should check your email.  You tell yourself that you’ll return to your “real” writing directly after that.

— Nothing, at least nothing important.  Just some spam and an item from the news feed you subscribe to.

Okay, let’s see what the specials are today on Amazon.com.

— You read reviews of the new movies followed by your favorites, the ones you’ve seen a hundred times, then check out the new BluRay releases  and read about those, too.  Next, the books, old and new.  You wonder if they still sell Tuscan Milk™ on the “Food” page, or that weird tank thing they sold a few years ago in the now-defunct “Everything Else” category, and before you know it you’re reading reviews of O-rings under “Industrial and Scientific.”  At that point you come to your senses and realize that you’ve gone down a virtual rabbit hole into distraction and avoidance.

So it’s back to the blinking cursor and the empty white page.  Nothing has changed, but of course you knew that would be the case.

Maybe there’s something on TV. . .

It’s the writer’s version of stage fright, that performance anxiety that sets in whenever you are confronted with the empty page, figuratively speaking.  And even though you know that for what it is, and you realize that the only way to overcome it is to simply sit down and force yourself to put something, anything, on the page (again, FS), you can think of a dozen other things you’d rather do instead.  A run to the supermarket; mow the lawn; wash the car; housework (okay, maybe not housework).  Still, you know darn well that the only thing that’s worse than confronting that miserable, taunting cursor is the feeling of guilt and wasted time that you’ll have if you don’t write something today.

So you do what you should have done hours ago.  You pour yourself another cup of coffee, sit down again in your high-backed chair, and start to write.  In no time at all you forget about everything else, and before you know it, it’s dark outside and you realize that you’re hungry.

%d bloggers like this: