A New Era

In my last post, I mentioned that Blood for Blood was the first book of my “New Era.”  I imagine that either sailed right by you or left you asking ‘what new era is this dude talking about?’  Well, here goes:

Prior to 2009, I had pretty much lost my love of writing.  I didn’t have a firm grasp on how to do plots, I spent more time rewriting than writing, and I “polished” things until they were homogenous lumps, because that’s what I thought I was “supposed” to do.

In other words, I had no story, and I had no voice.

It’s no wonder I lost my love of writing.  Fortunately, and I have no idea how it happened other than divine intervention, I stumbled across Dean Wesley Smith’s blog.  Being liberated from what writing meant, I was able to start writing again.  I did, and I found that I really enjoyed it.  I was writing, mostly longhand on paper, with very little editing (pen and paper allows for very little editing: sometimes I think word processing applications are as much hurdle as boon to writers today).  I actually created the character of Benedict during this time (Spring 2009, as I remember).

It started with a quote from Stephen Jay Gould, which I heard in a statistics class.  “Central tendency is an abstraction, variability the reality.”  I understood its meaning in relationship to the stats we were studying, but the lyricism of the quote set off the writer in me.  I imagined a figure in a “long black coat” (to quote Bob Dylan – or, if you prefer, Joan Osborne) staring down through a skylight at a scene below, ready to intervene, saying or thinking of that quote, almost philosophically, thinking how everyone he’s ever met has been, at heart, some kind of freak, “searching and yearning for acceptance, hurting others, from time to time, to ease our own pain,” remembering people (vampires and humans) he’s lost, killed, or pushed away.  Then, he jumped down into the midst of six vampires to rescue one human.

I ended up not using that scene in any of the novels, though it’s featured in a “supplemental material” novella I’m working on.  But it was my first image of Benedict, my first sure sign of who he was – part Bob Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat, part Nick Cave’s man with the Red Right Hand, part Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, part Stephen King’s Gunslinger, part Andrew Vachss’s Burke, part Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade, and part Christopher Lambert’s Russell Nash – weathered, but with the strength of youth, largely alone, deadly, unattractive but somehow magnetic, a man of his word to a dangerous degree, torn between protecting the weak and upholding his oath of vengeance.  If mortals have nightmares about vampires, then vampires have nightmares about Benedict.

I knew that writing Benedict’s story would require me to go places I had been hesitant to go before, to write, as Nietzsche said, in blood, and not worry too much about who might get offended.  I also knew I needed to get more serious about writing regularly.

Eventually, the other important characters joined the story.  Augustine Sanguinis, the vampirelord, and his half-human daughter Anastasia, arrived from a story I’d written many years earlier, called “Dawn.”  The Sanguinises were nice enough to bring a lot of worldbuilding with them (don’t worry; that’s the last ‘nice’ thing they’ve done).

It then became clear that Augustine and Benedict were brothers, and so the theme of a thousand-year war between brothers was brought in (I had tried to write a story about that several years earlier, but didn’t have strong enough characters to make it happen.  Well, now I do).

So not only did I finally have the right leading man, but I had all these elements and supporting characters I’d been wanting to write about in the past, but didn’t know how.  Everything was ready for me to get started.

The only problem was, I still didn’t know how to do plots.  Fortunately, someone on Dean Wesley Smith’s site told me about Algis Budrys, and his wonderful book Writing to the Point (which I talk about  in more detail here).  It was absolutely the perfect remedial text for a wannabe writer who can’t do plots.  I mean, BAM!  I read that short little book, and it was like Popeye eating his spinach; I immediately figured out how to plot the Benedict stories.

Of course, that didn’t mean I’d mastered the art and craft of writing.  Once Blood for Blood was done, I realized I’d inadvertently put a frankly horrible message in there, so I trunked it for several months.  Then I realized how to fix it, simply by adding a few scenes, changing a couple of scenes, and placing it as the first book in a trilogy.  The dark outcome, the nihilistic message, vanished when it became ‘the first third of the story’ instead of ‘the whole story.’

I still had, and have, a lot to learn.  The point is, I’m finally learning, creating, building, and writing … and loving it.

This is a new age, and nothing I wrote before will be brought forward, except as raw material.  The Blood Oath Trilogy (Blood for Blood, the work-in-progress Blood Guilt, and the not yet begun Blood Oath) couldn’t exist if I hadn’t carved Dawn and the unnamed two brothers stories up, and there simply is no comparison between the quality; Blood Oath was worth the sacrifice.

More than that, the new happiness I have in my writing (both the process and the product) is worth any past works, writing theories, or practices I’ve left behind, a thousand times over.

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