wrong impressions

[this post was originally published here at MMG on December 18, 2010]

Even after five years, it seems like some people are still confused by my vampires. So, I think it’s high time for a(nother) explanatory blog post. (See also, my bibliography page) For the record, the questions here pertain to Midnight.

I’m going to start with these questions:

  • What is the core of this story?
  • Who is the antagonist in this story?
  • What does Sami have to lose?
  • What does Sami have to learn?
  • The core of this story is Sami losing herself only to find herself and where she belongs. Learn, laugh, live – and remember that Darkness Doesn’t Have To Mean Evil.
  • Samantha Clark is her own antagonist. I know a lot of readers expect for some villain to rise out of the shadows. In this story, that isn’t necessary. As cliché as it is, Sami is her own worst enemy. She’s been abused and told she is neither wanted nor loved over the course of her lifetime. She comes into the story lost, depressed, and with little will and no direction. She believes her ultimate goal is to regain the life she had made for herself and had had ripped away from her in Richmond. If she can get back to Richmond, she can rebuild what she’s lost.Over the course of the story, Sami falls further into the darkness and comes close to losing sight of everything she ever was and ever had. She drowns herself in alcohol and marijuana to hide from the pain that awaits her in reality. That rope with the knot in it that she clung so tightly to? she feels she slipped off of the rope and lost sight of the knot months before, if not a year before, she ever came to Harlan County. How to get it back within sight and reach, she doesn’t know.
  • Sami has to learn that some things she thought were real aren’t and some things she thought weren’t real are. She had to learn that she does have a home, that she does belong, and that there are people in the world who do love her. Within the darkness, she must find herself and the source of her own personal power. Also there, she must come to terms with the life she ran away from and face her new beginnings.

Now this group of questions:

  • I like how “human” your vampires are. But I’d lik them to seem more dangerous.
  • Where’s the danger in these vampires?
  • Where’s their power?
  • Where’s their rage and conflict?
  • These questions make me scream, “You’re missing the point! at the top of my lungs until my voice cracks. But, like Sami, most people expect classical, Bram Stoker-like vampires. Mine just aren’t like that. And no matter how much people complain, my vampires never will be like that, either.Being human with human issues is the point. As I’ve stated before, my stories are more about ‘humans having a vampire problem’ than anything else. My point from the onset of the idea of Midnight was that my vampires had to be as human as possible. In my Harlan County, more danger lies in not awakening to the vampire within than lies in the actual becoming.

    From my own notes:

    In those who aren’t given the change to ‘become’, awakening may manifest in actual physical or psychological illness or even debilitation untraceable by the best of medical professionals to any one specific source. These people become empty due to their ‘illness’ without knowing or understanding as to how to fill those voids. Their bodies rebel, then, shutting down vital functions seemingly at random, filling the hollows with cancer, depression, or other maladies. These people sometimes turn to self-harm or even suicide.

  • As for their ‘power’, it isn’t the same as the run-of-the-mill, overused supernatural tropes. This is in part where the ‘paranormal‘ – not the same as supernatural – comes in.My vampires have their metaphysical skills tested during the earliest stages of their awakening. If they’re found not to be adept, not to have any Pagan leanings or magical skills, they are introduced to someone outside of the Anethdraeg (House of the Dragon) clan who will help them – unless they are found by the others first. If they’re found to be adept, then they are given some training, helped through the awakening process, and are adopted into the Family.

    Their power comes from their own metaphysical prowess, from what lies within their own chemistry, through their relationship(s) with their god(s), and from genetics. Some have more, some have less. Except for the Elder. He has his own basket of idiosyncrasies. As a whole Family, this balances out when they all have need to work together.

  • What rage and conflict they do have, if any, is what they bring with them over the process of being turned and through the course of the change. Anything they’re hard-convinced of, any vices they have, any deeply-held beliefs, they bring those with them into their ‘vampirehood’ (ha! I just made up that word!). And there’s what Stephen Young calls the ‘infamous vampire guilt’. Many vampires spend too much time wallowing in the regret of things they’ve done or left undone. Both Steve and his friend Michael Devon are infamous for their ‘brooding’. As for the rage? Well, some have that, but it more boils down to ‘genetic temper’ than vampireness.

Next, these questions:

  • Where are the compact discs, the Internet, and cellular telephones?
  • Why can’t Michael call a cab for those who are too inebriated to drive after a party?

These questions make me laugh until I ache.

  • On the very first page of the story, it says in clear letters and language: 1985 – September. Ergo people:CDs arrived in 1982, yes, but in the Kentucky mountains in 1985, we were still fairly clueless about CDs; we still had our LPs and .45rpms, didn’t have the hundreds of dollars required for a CD player, and were convinced vinyl would live for eternity.

    Cell phones. The first 1G (yes, 1G, we’ve come that far!) network in America came online in Chicago in 1983, and cell phones were gigantic and weighed ten pounds. I’m not certain when cell phones made it to Kentucky, but I bought my first cordless telephone in 1989 – they’ve been around since 1968 but became popular / more common in the mid to late 80s.

    The Internet. ARPANET came around in 1962. E-mail was born the same year as I was. Public access to either wouldn’t come until much later. While I took programming languages classes all through high school, I didn’t really know what a ‘net was until 1987 in college when I had my introduction to the VAX. Back then, it took webmail ten to fifteen minutes to go from my terminal to the one beside me; so while we waited, we would talk or do actual homework! We had our EKU-BBS, but even that took time. NSF released its sponsorship of the Internet in May 1995, four years after Al Gore ‘created’ the Internet.

  • This brings us to Michael calling a cab.I’ve also been asked about passenger rail service. First of all, passenger rail service died in Kentucky in the early 1960s – and it’s not the kind of rail service you’re probably thinking of, anyway. If we want to ride Amtrak, we have to go to Cincinnati, Louisville, Maysville – or gods forbid, Atlanta, Charlotte, or St Louis. So trains are straight out. The trains we’ve had in Kentucky for over forty years now are of the freight and coal variety. And there is no such thing as ‘light rail’ here.

    When I first saw the question about Michael calling a cab, I stared at it a few minutes, then I laughed. Out loud. You might even say I guffawed. Because only people who live in major metropolitan areas and / or who don’t understand how back of beyond rural eastern Kentucky is ask questions like this.

    Harlan downtown has a cab service, but if I remember correctly, it doesn’t do much service outside of Harlan, Baxter, Rosspoint, Loyall, Browning Acres, and all points in between. I don’t know their rates and can’t find them online (no surprise there), so I’m using Lexington rates as an example. Anybody who’s read Midnight knows Hensley Store is twenty-five miles from Loyall. Lexington cab fares start at $2.50, then it’s twenty-five cents every tenth of a mile thereafter. If the math was done right, that’s a $65 ride. I don’t know anybody in the real Harlan County who could ever consider such a ride, never mind not knowing anyone down there with that kind of available cash. The county is populated with people on welfare or Social Security (or some combination of both), and the majority who have jobs outside the coal mines work for minimum wage. $65 for a cab? Infeasible – even in my Harlan County. (See, I like to keep things as realistic as possible, and that’s not a crime. Yet.)

Now with that silly out of the way:

  • Is it possible to start the story with Sami meeting Michael at the party?

Absolutely not. That’s one thing I refuse to change. The story starts with Sami crashing into Loyall after a panicked three hour drive which started with her running away from her abusive boyfriend. This gives the reader Sami’s mind state along with other information that would be lost or too ridiculous to put in as asides or memories. I won’t cheapen my story or lessen Sami’s pain and experiences this way.

  • Why can’t there be more interaction between Michael, Steve, and Jeremy?

First of all, the story is set completely within Sami’s point of view. It’s called ‘limited narrator’. The reader perceives the story through Sami, and she’s unable to tell the reader anything she doesn’t know outside her own experience. If those three men have contact with each other and Sami isn’t there, then it’s impossible for her to relay those meetings to the reader – especially when she doesn’t have a clue they exist. The concept is very simple, and I have trouble grasping why it’s difficult for some readers to understand. I learned how to use this in seventh grade Language Arts class. If the narrator doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t know. “Limited omniscient allows the narrator to relate the thoughts and feelings of only one character”.* If Sami isn’t in the same room with Michael, Steve, or Jeremy, then she doesn’t know what they’re doing or what’s being said – or even if or when all three are together or not together. Therefore, it’s inconceivable that she could communicate that information to the reader.

  • Why is Shelly in the book?

Jeremy Bradford can’t spend all of his time at school, in band practice, or with Michael, can he? When he isn’t in scene with Sami, he doesn’t always run home to his mother or to The Market to Steve. Shelly is important to Jeremy, which is why he introduces Sami to her. The reader doesn’t see Shelly in the sequel, but she is mentioned and plays a critical part to Jeremy’s future. Between Midnight and the sequel, Shelly and Sami develop a strong, sisterly friendship.

The better question to ask might be, “Why is Angela in the story?” No, really. Why is Angela in the story? We meet her on the first page, and her name is mentioned in the narrative a whopping nineteen times. The reader never sees her outside of The Market – except that first night when she brings Sami’s car to Steve’s.

Shelly’s name is mentioned fifty-five times, and Sami has quite a bit of interaction with her as they build their friendship. Shelly is important to the story.

Angela is just a clerk in a corner convenience store. Someone has to mind the place when Steve can’t be there, right?

I think that wraps up this session. If anyone has any questions, please post them in the comments. I’ll compile them and create another post later.

* Basic English Revisited: A Student Handbook, 1985.

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cover reveal: midnight by mari adkins

Midnight Cover - Billy Tackett

This is the cover for our upcoming novel MIDNIGHT by Mari Adkins. The artwork and design was created by Billy Tackett. The book is due to be published May 27th.

A romantic supernatural fantasy, Mari Adkins’s Midnight introduces us to Sami as she first enters Harlan County, Kentucky and begins a journey that will change her life.

Samantha Clark has always known she was different. Brought up in a loveless household, she can almost forgive herself for turning to an abusive boyfriend to help give her the roots and love she desperately needs. But that solution turns violent, and Sami is on the run, turning to a college friend who offers her a new hope at ‘family’.

Set in Harlan, Kentucky in 1985, Midnight is the inward journey of Sami’s self-loathing, self-reflection, and eventual self-acceptance. Through the love of her friends and the mysterious Michael, Sami not only heals from the scars given earlier in life, she finds her personal strength.

[[this post originated on the Apex Blog]]

press release: annihilation

annihilation

“Wonderfully creepy.” — Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)

“Thoroughly suspenseful.”— Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

“VanderMeer unfolds a tale as satisfying as it is richly imagined.”
— Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

ANNIHILATION
Book 1 of the Southern Reach trilogy
A novel by Jeff VanderMeer
published by FSG Originals
February 4, 2014
$13.00 | ISBN: 978-0-374-10409-2

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and multiple year’s-best anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife. Scott Rudin Productions and Paramount Pictures have optioned the Southern Reach trilogy.

Tour Dates for Annihilation
Feb. 3 – Elliott Bay in Seattle, WA
Feb. 4 – Powell’s Books in Portland, OR
Feb. 8 – Writers with Drinks hosted by Charlie Jane Anders in San Francisco, CA
Feb. 11 – City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, CA
Feb. 26 – McNally Jackson with editor Sean McDonald in New York, NY
Feb. 27 – WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY
April 12-13 – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
April 24-27 – Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock, AK

Additional events for the Southern Reach trilogy TBA in Tallahassee, FL / Miami, FL / South Carolina / Asheville, NC / San Diego, CA / Atlanta, GA / Austin, TX, and other cities in the United States & Canada.

For media and event queries, please contact Alyson Sinclair, publicist, at aly@alysonsinclairpr.com or 612.201.3867. Visit www.southernreachtrilogy.com for more information.

2013 month of letters in review

Last February I participated in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Month of Letters challenge. I made some wonderful friends and collected some great ephemera. I saved all that in my smashbook but never posted pictures here (I realized a bit earlier today!). Since we’re on the verge of a new Month of Letters challenge, I thought I’d post up my results from last year. In all three, I tried to find and block out addresses – I hope I found them all!

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This is the full double-page spread.

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This is the right-facing page. That fantastic frog comes out of the envelope and is a stand-up. The Hello card is from Mary Kowal.

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This is the left-facing page. I love all the colors!

2014 gratitude jar

The idea is that you write down things you’re grateful for, things that make you happy, memorable events, throughout the year, put them in the jar. The on New Year’s Eve, you dump out the jar and read all the good things. And start a new jar the following day.

This is my jar. I used a Lipton Tea jar and glued on the banner, the image of the jar in the back, the quote at the bottom, and the photograph of the gorgeous key. The rest are from a pack of stickers I got. I didn’t think I could go wrong with a yellow cat wearing purple glasses, right?

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introducing trudi, my dayplanner

Yesterday, on my way out to the laundry room to get the Wednesday wash done, I dropped my dayplanner into my bag and stopped to get the mail. Didn’t think anything about it as I’ve been trying to get into the habit of taking my planner with me everywhere, and though it was early, I thought I’d see if the mail had already run.

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Why I thought I might need my planner in the laundry room, I had no idea. Like I said, I’m trying to make taking it everywhere a habit. So far, so good.

After I got the clothes in to wash, I sorted through the mail – sales papers, but I always go through them in case other mail got stuck in there somehow. I can’t say how many times we’ve almost lost/recycled/thrown away something important (tax returns, mail from Preston’s parents, lightweight letters, etc) because it’s been jammed in with the sales papers. And low and behold there were the Container Store planner stickers I’d ordered two weeks ago.

I spent the next half hour arranging stickers and taking pictures.

Love my divider pages! I ordered them from an Etsy shop, and the designer cut them down to fit my compact planner! The Hello Kitty stickers came from an eBay shop. I printed and cut down the menu sheet – and sheets that can’t be seen: “about this week” and an adorable “to do” sheet. There’s also a “right now” sheet I printed and cut down. (I really need to get a paper cutter!) The page sticking out the pocket in the back is from where I was going to get my yearly mammogram – they shut it down to consolidate it with the Markey Cancer Center on campus.

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This picture is blurry; sometimes I just can’t get steady pictures with the camera on my phone. These are probably my two most-used tabs. The labels are from the stickers from the Container Store, and the divider tabs are from my Etsy purchase. For Projects, I created a “client sheet” for the editing and book reviews I do, so I can better keep up with what I’m doing for whom and when, payments and so forth (I don’t get paid for reviews; just editing). That section is a bit thin right now, but I’m taking November off for NaNoWriMo. Schedule is where my daily planning sheets start. For the rest of this year, I have the standard wo2pp that comes with an FC planner. (I have my pack of do2pp starting ready to go when I need it; I already have January in my planner.

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Here she is from the top. The black piece is the top page lifter; I have one in the front and in the back. They didn’t come with the planner, so I ordered them separate before I ever thought about getting custom dividers. I may not need page lifters with the dividers, but this way I know my dividers won’t get damaged. Right?

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I got the Blooms monthly divider pack from FC for the color, and they’re great. The borders are a little bit more pink than I care to have in my life, but I keep telling myself they’re “more pale lilac”. I stuck my monthly and daily Etsy stickers over the FC tabs. Again for the color. And they’re easier for me to find and to read. I really like having the daily stickers! Those will come in so handy at the start of the new year when I get to start working with my actual daily pages. The Santa is from a card I got from my sister last Christmas. (When you journal, you save bits and pieces of everything. I’m up to two boxes and five folders of ephemera from nothing this time last year!)

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She’s a bit fat, but I have another planner due to ship next Monday. It’s still a compact, and the same model (this one had a defect with the closure), but maybe by the time it comes in, I can figure out what I really need in here and what I don’t. What helps is that this model (DayOne) can also be used as a wallet, so I won’t have to carry a separate wallet around!

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Why did I name her Trudi? After noticing on the Planner Addicts group on Facebook that the other ladies name their planners, I boiled it down to a choice between Trudi and Priscilla. I’m not entirely sure why those two names came to me, but that’s what did. I asked PA for advice and got some really great suggestions, including Molly – which I’d have totally gone with, but right now she’s a character in my YA project, and I don’t want to get them conflated somehow. I thought I might go with Priscilla, but every time I picked her up, I called her Trudi. So here we are.

Why a physical dayplanner? I realized with my ADHD I needed something physical outside of my Outlook calendar, especially these days since I don’t leave Outlook on 24/7, so I’m not able to get my reminder pings (and I don’t carry a smartphone). With the ADHD (I have the distractive/inattentive type), I’m more visual, so need visual cues and reminders. Otherwise I’d forget my own name some days. I started by using a Moleskine daily planner in January and liked it a whole bunch. Over the course of the year, I saw all these beautiful, creative planners and wanted to be able to do more with my planner – including organizing it to suit me instead of how a book binder put it together for me.

I got to thinking about ring binders. I’d used one from 1997 to some time in the early 2000s. A tiny thing, and I don’t think Mead makes it any more. Fat Little Dayplanner. I still have the binder! I did some digging around and some research and thought about the planners anyone can buy at Wal-Mart but wasn’t sure that was the route I wanted to go. Then someone at either PA or JJ posted a link to an FC DayOne on sale for $9.95. I waffled for some time but decided I couldn’t go wrong with FC and especially not at that price, so I had some spare money and bought it and waited for it to arrive.

It arrived, and I went nuts customizing and organizing it. Buying dividers, stickers, tabs, post-its, and gods know what all else. A pouch to carry said stickers, post-its, and pens in, of course, but I’ve already almost outgrown it and have barely had it a month!

But I’m set on starting 2014 organized and ready to hit the floor running, as they say. With my head on, my shoulders back, and knowing what needs to be done and when and where I have to go and why. And so forth. That makes a huge difference in my life. I realized before I knew about the ADHD that I need a structured schedule. Daily. Even if all I have down for a given day is a list of household chores. (Speaking of which, I never ran the dishwasher last night. Oy! See?) The daily pages I got are divided up into an appointment block running from 8am to 9pm, which is perfect. There’s also a task list and a daily tracker (for whatever I need to daily track). The second page is more like a diary page.

When I get my January calendar all set up and start setting up those daily pages, I’ll take more pictures. With hope, it won’t take me two months to post again!

Now you know where I’ve been the last while! I’ve been eyebrow deep in dayplanning and organizing! Also, I’ve been doing a bit of writing again, but mostly on that front I’ve been doing the NaNoWriMo-Plano for next month. Which includes getting what manuscript I already have written (I write longhand) typed up into Word, so I don’t have to worry about that next month and get on with the actual writing again!