Bones of Ice – an Excerpt from The Medium

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Let’s start in a strange place, shall we? Let’s start at

The End

Sometimes, he still dreams about the girl.

He is always blind in the dreams, must be blind, because there is no way it could be too dark for him to see. He is blind, but he can hear everything, feel everything, and reality dissolves.

She gasps when his hand closes over her mouth, and he can feel that tiny suction, then the wriggling and flopping as he holds her tightly from behind, muffling her screams with his flesh. He whispers desperate consolation in her ear until the feeble spell of his voice finally takes hold, and she relaxes into his arms, shivering with the sobs that cannot quite escape.

He tapes her arms and legs, wraps her in his jacket, and sits with her through the night. Her breath freezes on the air, and he can almost hear the chime of those ice-crystal clouds. His skin freezes and cracks. He would bleed, but he has no blood left, and the cold makes him tired, as if he were a reptile. He could almost sleep.

Sebastian is in the dream, too. He plucks the telephone away and lashes out with a burning fist. Broken teeth, jaw, ribs. One punch, one kick, no more.

“Too late,” he says. “I’m already back. Running to a teenager for help? Really, Hugo? You’re such a goddamn baby.”

His hands are hot, and they can be soothing when they want to be. They stroke away the bruises, and he layers his voice with Power, whispering away the pain.

“I’m Leonard. I’m n-not Hugo, I’m Leonard. Leonard…”

“Shhh, don’t worry about it. You want the kid, that’s okay. You can have her. My gift.” His hot hands move south, gentle still. “Don’t cry, okay? I hate you when you cry.”

She is waiting when they get there.

She gasps when his hand closes over her mouth, and he can feel that tiny suction, then the wriggling and flopping as he holds her tightly from behind, muffling her screams with his flesh. His mouth is swollen and full of tears, and his voice is so much weaker than Sebastian’s. He cannot take away her fear, only make her stop twisting to give his poor ribs a rest.

He sits with her through the night and listens to her hurting, but caring is impossible by then. Sebastian is in his head, squeezing his heart so tight he can barely feel, stroking his mind into silence. His throat burns with thirst. His veins ache, empty and hollow and screaming with lust, but he can’t care. He leaves without speaking to her, even though she begs, even though her faith is shattering into sunbursts on the dusty floor.

He sits in the car and presses himself close against the blasting heater. He is blind, but he seems to see tawny brown eyes, slightly tilted, smiling, fringed with dark, sooty lashes. He could drown in those eyes, has drowned in them before, just like so many others. Limpid pools full of the drowned, full of bodies. The back of his mind is full of struggling, the clinking of chains. Sebastian is bleeding her. The blood is the life, and so much more. Teeth penetrate. Essence is shared. Eventually, she stops fighting.

Tomorrow, he thinks. I’ll do it tomorrow. He won’t bleed her if she’s mine.

But he doesn’t really care.

When he pushes her down the stairs, she has Kate’s voice. “Lyonya,” she cries, but that never happened, and Kate was a thousand years ago, and she hurt him more than he could ever have hurt her.

When he runs, the girl is probably dead. Sebastian’s voice is gone, and his skull echoes emptily.

Sometimes, he still dreams about the girl, but when he wakes, the world is white, and his bones are ice, and his name has bled away with the last of his strength. They call it permafrost for a reason, you know, and his hands are bound up in dirt that does not sing and cannot heal. The ghosts here are pale and ancient. They speak in tongues he does not know.

And freedom is bitter.

 © 2013 MR Graham

Playing with gender roles

It really annoys me when fiction beats you over the head with a moral. Even if the moral was the entire reason the author wrote the story, I have never met a reader who came out of a novel going “Wow, have I ever seen the error of my ways!” No, people read for entertainment. Some are entertained by westerns and spy thrillers; some are entertained by ethnographies and theoretical astrophysics. As far as I am aware, no one past their Winnie the Pooh years is entertained by a heaping helping of righteousness. (And even Pooh had compelling characters and gripping plot twists to mitigate the conscience-poking. Spoilers: Tigger is the Masked Offender!)

Thus, it’s tricky for me to come out and say that I strongly oppose the societally-constructed gender stereotypes present in my corner of the world, and that I try to represent that opposition in my writing. I’m hesitant to make that statement, because I don’t want readers to go into my books seeking soapbox proclamations or male-bashing. In fact, I’d like readers to be completely unaware of it while reading, in exactly the same way readers are able to skim over conformity, because it strikes them as natural.

I’m not going to list off the characters I’ve tried to do this with – mostly because, while I’ve tried, I’m as much a product of my culture as anyone, and I probably failed in as many ways as I succeeded. I’m working on it. Changing the world is a step-at-a-time process, and I am a part of the world that needs changing.

the medium bevel title vampire liminal liminality lost knowledge paranormal supernatural fantasy

Let me just plug this here, real quick.

Instead, I’m going to mention Lenny and Kim, because they’re my most recent iterations. (The image links to the Goodreads page, where there’s a nice little book blurb. It doesn’t talk about Kim, but as she’s become a sort of oblique protagonist, I’ll be adding a few lines for her. She’s the one of the wizards mentioned.)

It doesn’t spoil much to say that I cast Lenny as both protagonist and victim. Those two links can summarized thus: a) 10% of rape and sexual assault victims are male; and b) men are three times more likely to be murdered than women and more than three times more likely to be victims of aggravated assault than women.

Fiction hides those statistics. In fiction, in film, in popular media, men do a considerable amount of asskicking, but they never have the crap beaten out of them for no reason, they are never objectified and demeaned, they are never violated, and there is never any kind of emotional scarring left behind by the injuries they do suffer.

Hiding the male victim from the public eye erases him from the public consciousness. When a real man is injured, violated, or damaged, he is ignored, because men cannot be victims. This is damaging to both sexes, because the implication is that victim is a woman’s role. The female is victimized, and the male victim is left to suffer in silence.

Kim was comparatively easier. When fighting sexist stereotypes, a lot more attention is paid to the ‘strong’  female, so I had a lot of examples to work with. The problem is that the ‘strong’ female is usually portrayed as possessing typically male characteristics, while being stripped of typically female characteristics. I won’t go into too much detail about why that is problematic; suffice to say that making women behave ‘like men’ in order to be considered strong does nothing to remove the stigma from typically feminine characteristics. Therefore, I cast Kim as a protector as well as a caregiver. Yes, caregiver is a typically female role. No, that does not make it inherently inferior, and I do not believe Kim is a weaker character for it.

But here’s the point of all this. 

I chose to work from both ends of the problem, the oppression of women and the repression of men, simultaneously. Both ends of it are issues I feel strongly about. Still, they’re not the point of the story. They’re incidental to the story, embedded in it – or at least I hope so. Like religion, feminism (or humanism, if you prefer, though I don’t align with the anti-fideist connotation) is something better demonstrated than preached. Preaching annoys people and puts them off of your cause. Just like I don’t go waving a crucifix in people’s faces, I don’t want to be perceived as waving gender issues in people’s faces, either.

When The Medium comes out (hopefully in October), I would appreciate feedback on this issue. I know I have some reader/author/follower buddies who feel as strongly about gender restriction as I do, and since you’ll all be leaving me reviews anyway (hint hint, nudge nudge), I’d like a few words on my success at portraying these characters, who have been very hard for me to write, and my success at not preaching.

In the mean time, I’d also appreciate it if anyone could point me at some good fiction that allows for male victimhood – preferably without portraying it as pathetic or unmanly.

Showing off the art!

Kim Reed, by Adelaide Halsey (Because we have established that MR Graham can't draw)

Kim Reed, by Adelaide Halsey (Because we have established that MR Graham can’t draw)

I’ve been collecting snazzy character art via DeviantART, where I hang out as QuiEstInLiteris. It’s amazing how many wonderfully talented people there are over there.

This is Kim Reed, one of the supporting characters of The MediumAt least, she started off as a supporting character, but at this point, I’d call her a co-protagonist. (There will be a page up for her soon, under the Dramatis Personae  tab.) I’ve mentioned her before on The Other Blog, but I wasn’t very specific. Kim is a Texan, native San Antonian, and a wizardlet. I want her to be a strong female character, but I know by now that the audience has a lot more to say about that than the author can, so all I can do is hope I pull it off.

Here’s her introduction:

Kim didn’t mind bodies as much as some people might. That cellar was horrible, and it stank, and it vibed her freaky in all the wrong ways, but it wasn’t horrible because there were dead people in it. It was horrible because something horrible had happened there, and it had stained the place in ways that bleach couldn’t fix. Fire would clean it out better than anything else.
She slid her improvised telephone back into her pocket and zipped a flame out of her little plastic lighter. Bones wouldn’t catch, and cement wouldn’t catch, but she could give the flame a little boost, and the whole place would go up like her family’s last Thanksgiving. It was only a shame Sebastian Duran wouldn’t have the front-row seat he deserved. But if he had been anywhere nearby, this wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly.
She blew carefully onto the flame, coaxing it brighter with a trickle of magic. Once the basement was going, she could go back up and light the building. All the buildings, just in case. She estimated ten minutes before the nearest fire station could get word, and another five for them to get there. Fifteen minutes would be more than enough time to destroy the structure of the place, maybe wipe the walls clean of some of the bad juju they had collected. There had to be ghosts in a place like that.
She blew on the flame again, and it fanned out yellow onto the heap of corpses. There wouldn’t be enough left to match dental records, but everyone down there looked like they had been gone long enough to have been pronounced dead, anyway. It twinged her conscience to take that closure from those families, but it was more important to keep that pile from getting any bigger. The flame caught, dancing along a broken femur with a cheerful crackle as it slowly grew brighter than her flashlight.
And something hit her from behind, knocking her knees out from under her. She stumbled and hit her hip on the stairs. She could feel spindly, brittle fingers close on the fabric of her blue jeans, and she brought her flashlight down hard on them. They crunched like corn chips and pulled away with a papery hiss, and Kim scrambled up to try to get a look at her attacker.
She had taken it for the freshest of the corpses, halfway to mummification, but now that she looked closer, there was a weird suppleness to the withered flesh. It wasn’t rotting, either, just drying up like a raisin. Pruny, wrinkled skin clung close to its bones and stretched tight over a highly visible skull. Its eyes were dull and stained dark red from pupil to lid, and its lips were drawn back from white, slightly crooked teeth. The canines, top and bottom, were long and sharp.
The jaws parted as Kim watched, and the body tightened as though to lunge, but it toppled forward instead and lay still for a moment before gathering the strength to drag itself cross the remaining distance. It was fascinating to watch, and painful at the same time. Kim stepped back, up the steps and out of reach. The thing pulled itself to the foot of the stairs, put out its broken hand, and then stiffened. Its eyes rolled back, and it fell to its side with a scratchy exhalation.
Not taking her eyes off of the thing, Kim took her compact back out and shoved a spark of power into the glass.
“Hey,” she said. “It’s me again.”
“Kim?” said the voice from the other end. “Whatchoo got?”
“I found something. I think it might be a vampire. Been down here a long time. Should I try to get it out of here or just let it burn?”
“How bad is it?”
“Looks like a mummy. Can’t tell the sex. Tried to get me, but can’t seem to move real well. My guess is Duran was keeping it for a pet or something, then forgot it was down here.”
There was a moment of silence on the other end. Then, “Let it burn. Put it out of its misery. Just knock it out first, or something. Be the kind thing to do.”
“’Kay. I’ll see you in a few.”
She hefted her flashlight and stepped down to the lowest stair.
One flat, red eye rolled up to look at her. There was no intelligence there, but it took in her stance, and there was a flash of recognition, the same way a beaten dog recognizes a broom. The eye shut so it couldn’t see the blow coming, and the crispy face turned down, pressing into the grimy floor.
“Oh, honey,” Kim whispered.
The fire flickered along an empty rib cage and leaped to the mummy’s tattered khakis. It whimpered.
“Oh, honey,” she said again. She cinched up her necklace, bringing the little cluster of religious medals up closer to her throat, shoved her flashlight into the waistband of her pants, and shook out her milagro bracelets. Then she slapped out the fire that was creeping up the mummy’s leg, threw its arm over her shoulders, and dragged it up the stairs.

Giving away two copies of The Wailing via Goodreads!

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

My birthday is approaching (not especially quickly, but I like to plan ahead), so in grand old Shire tradition, I’ve decided to give away some books.

You can enter via Goodreads for paperback copies of the first Book of Lost Knowledge, The Wailing.

As indicated in the widget, winners will be selected via random algorithm by Goodreads on May 31.

Best of luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Wailing by M.R. Graham

The Wailing

by M.R. Graham

Giveaway ends May 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The Mora: A Book of Lost Knowledge

the mora temp purple bevelThings are still coming along. Apparently, pre-posting the next installment of a series on Goodreads is standard practice, so I went ahead and put up a page for Liminality: Book 2, though I’m guessing it’ll take more than a year for it to be ready to go out. For whatever reason, it apparently takes days for them to update their search data, so it doesn’t yet show up as part of the series, unfortunately.

I’m reluctant to go any further than the first two books, though, because while I know where this is all going, I have no idea how many books it’ll take or how the material will have to be divided. The current guess is between four and five books, but the final titles of each will depend on how far that particular volume makes it.

Book 2, however, is a done deal. (Even if it’s nowhere near done.)

The Mora (Liminality: Book 2)

Jadwiga Dobrowska is a mora, a creature whose spirit goes wandering at night, putting her in peril every time she sleeps. And yet, with her spirit in danger, her family threatened by ancient rivalries, and her country in political turmoil, it is one angry, drunk man who kills her.

She is fourteen when she is beaten and thrown down the well to drown.

Strange though her life has always been, Jadwiga could never have expected to wake again in a bizarre mirror world, chained body and soul to a terrifyingly powerful being that calls itself Twarz Cienia, the Shadow’s Face. Now, with no choice but to obey the Twarz, she must contend with forces outside her understanding, fighting in a war that will never end.

And still she can’t be sure that her freedom was a fair price for her life.

There is a page for this one, too, under The Books > Liminality > The Mora (Coming 2014).

The Medium: A Book of Lost Knowledge

the medium tempThings are coming along. At this point, I can (conservatively), predict that the next Book of Lost Knowledge will be appearing in print 31 October 2013. I hate sticking to dates, though, and if it’s ready sooner, it will be out sooner.

It also has a title, a subseries title, a provisional cover (although I do sort of like the stark simplicity), and a Goodreads page.

So, without further ado, I present The Medium (Liminality: Book 1).

Lenny was good at teaching physics. He was good at fixing cars, making friends, keeping his head down, and not attracting attention. He was good at being a medium, helping spirits pass beyond the Veil – but as a vampire, he was always a bit of a joke.

All it takes is a drink in a hotel bar, a stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time, to run him afoul of Sebastian Duran, a lunatic who controls other people’s minds better than he can control his own. Torn away from everything he knows, trapped and starved and under constant mental assault, poor Lenny is forced to confront his own potential for monstrosity.

Wizards, cowboys, knights, and friends may not be enough to save his mind from destruction.

Consequently, the page formerly titled The Sparrow’s Fall has been renamed and updated with the blurb and provisional cover. It has also been relocated under the Liminality page, for ease of navigation.

Good grief, I’m getting excited!

Thirst – an excerpt

From The Medium

It’s not like an addiction. In some ways it is, but it’s only an analogy, and the analogy breaks down under close scrutiny. When an addiction forms, you start out doing the thing, whatever it is, the stimulus, because it makes you feel something you want to feel again. It feels good, so you do it again. You do it until you get used to it, and then you can’t stand feeling normal any more. Normality hurts. It’s called withdrawal. Some people manage to quit. Someone close to them begs, or they get sick, or the loved one gets sick, and they have to come down again. It hurts, and they push through, and they quit. Some never do quit, and it kills them.

leonard hugo vampire thirst addictionIt’s not like an addiction. Imagine trying to quit air. What happens? You hold your breath. Maybe you’re really determined, and you find some way to plug up your nose and your mouth, so that no matter how much it hurts, you can’t take another breath. Your lungs start to ache, and then they start to burn. Your head pounds. Your eyes water. You lose control of your diaphragm, and it tries to take a breath whether you want it to or not. Your lips and your fingertips begin to tingle, and you panic. There’s nothing for it; you can’t help panicking. At that point, you’re not really yourself, any more. You’re a vacuum pump, trying to restock the oxygen before the machine gives out. Nothing matters except air. You forget how to speak, and then you forget how to see, and then you forget how to live. Darkness. End.

It’s not like that, either. I don’t get the darkness. I don’t get the end. I get stuck at the panic point, when everything condenses and distills into one thought, that need. I forget. I forget myself, and I forget how to pretend. Apparently, it looks a lot like rabies. It’s desperation. It’s fear. Animals don’t really need names, so I forget that, too.

©2013 MR Graham

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Cross-posted from Qui Est In Literis

It seems I’ve been tagged again! My dear Peter Dawes has invited me to participate in this fun bit of self-promotion for writers. Dawes’ own work in progress, a  detour off his Vampire Flynn series (highly recommended), centers around a seer called Julian, and sounds pretty badass.

On second thoughts, don’t click that link, or else I fear mine may pale in comparison. Or at least, click it after reading mine. Yeep.

 

What is your working title of your book?
At present, I’m calling it The Sparrow’s Fall, but I’ve almost settled on the final title – tricky, since it has to fit in with titles for a number of other books in its subseries. The subseries title is currently The Books of Lost Knowledge: Books of the Veil, but it will ultimately be shorter and less repetitive.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to go somewhere different with the vampire genre. TSF is not about vampires falling in love with humans, vampires seducing humans, vampires going through an existential crisis, vampires killing things or being political or having their own civil rights movement. TSF is about a weak and flawed individual struggling to find the strength to cope with his own outrageously bad fortune. The fact that people assume he should be strong and ruthless only makes that harder.
Of course, I haven’t read everything in the genre, so I don’t know whether something like this has been done before, but I know it hasn’t been done in the big time, so I think I’ve effectively escaped being compared to Twilight or True Blood or the Vampire Diaries. I just wanted to shift away from the idea of vampires being inextricably tied to dangerous sex.

What genre does your book fall under?
Paranormal or urban fantasy, though it does contain elements of horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, hell. It’s hard to find a good match for some of them, though I’ve had others in mind for years.

Lenny, my protagonist, absolutely must be Pawel Szajda. (Lenny is also known as Hugo, for anyone who has read In the Shadow of the Mountains.) Though I have to admit, that choice might have been influenced by the fact that the first time I saw him was in Venom, and he was being torn limb from limb by a Cajun voodoo snake zombie. Torture! I was reintroduced to his work via my Andrzej Wajda kick a few years back, and loved him to pieces in Tatarak.

Sebastian, the villain, is a little bit trickier, but I can see him as Miguel Angel Silvestre. (Also shows up in Shadow of the Mountains.)

I hadn’t put much thought into casting Kim, but if someone pinned me down and demanded to know right now, I’d say Jewel Staite. I’m really only familiar with her work in her capacity as bouncy Firefly mechanic, but I can easily see her as a bouncy research assistant wizardlette.

Zebedee and Deaf Coyote would have to be Mackenzie Crook and Patrick Stewart, respectively. Crook because it’s awesome when Englishmen play surly cowboys, and Stewart because you have to have a sense of humor to play some guy pretending to be a Native American shaman. Also because Patrick Stewart in a long wig.

Daniel is almost impossible. In my head, he is kind of a mashup of Jeremy Brett, Jack Davenport, Liam Neeson, and Richard Armitage, doing Billy Connolly’s voice. If it ever did come to filming this, I’d probably drive a casting director to the brink of homicide.

(Also, I’m not real clear on the laws governing the use of publicity photos for the purpose of slingshoting folks back to an IMDB page, so I hope just linking back works okay. If someone knows how this stuff works, do let me know so I can leave them up or take them down as needed.)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A shy physics teacher is tormented into insanity by a sadistic vampire with abnormal hypnotic abilities.
(Book one of several, thank heavens, or that would be one sucky plotline.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. While there’s still quite a market for vampire fiction, the fad is old news, and agents seem more interested in finding whatever comes next.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Still working on it. I’d say I’m about a fourth of the way through, but I hope to have it done within the next month. Onward, Sancho Panza!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m not sure I would. Poor Lenny isn’t the usual sort of hero.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
All of this was actually supposed to be backstory, with some of it going on in the margins of other plots. Full blame for the actual writing of it goes to my friend Maddie, who has alternately used Lenny as a teddy bear and punching bag in the roleplays we’ve conducted.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Squishy vampire who sees ghosts? Bouncy wizardlette? Immortal cowboy? Fake shaman?
… Psychological torture?
Or is all this just driving people away?

I’m afraid I haven’t been in the blogging scene long enough to know five more blogging novelists.

Thus, I will chuck it at:

Renee Melton
Jodi Lamm
The Aforementioned Maddie

A comment on chronology

I have made note once or twice that these books do not have to be read in any particular order, because they’re mostly tied together by the fact that they take place in the same ‘verse, instead of being tied together by sequential events. That’s no longer quite as accurate as it once was. The Sparrow’s Fall is coming along, but it’s also coming along rather long, and I’m pretty sure it will have to be split into two volumes. At least two. And Mora in the Mists may be its own story, but both it and Sparrow’s Fall lead into Threshold, which is completely dependent on the events of the other two.

(And if this makes no sense at all, feel free to ignore it, or check out the list to get a feel for what the plan will ultimately be.)

Of course the whole story is still dependent on reading all the books, but it’s starting to look like the Books of the Veil, at least, will have to be read in a pretty specific order.

The Books of Blood are grouped together because they’re all origin stories, but each can stand on its own.

The Wailing and In the Shadow of the Mountains can be taken in whatever order, because they’re both singles. Both contribute to Daniel’s story, and ItSotM gives a short introduction to Hugo, Sebastian, and Aaron, who will all be appearing again. (The Wailing isn’t actually a single, but the other novelettes that will eventually join it also don’t depend on being read in order.) 

So actually, I suppose, they can be read in any order, with the exception of the Books of the Veil, which should go something like:
The Sparrow’s Fall (1&2 or however many)
The Mora in the Mists (which doesn’t connect directly to Sparrow’s Fall and so can be read before or after, so long as it’s before Threshold)
Threshold (which ties the other two together and finishes them off)

Good grief.

Anyway, the “in any order” thing no longer stands for the entire series, because the entire series is composed of multiple stories with interweaving threads, but some of those threads have a definite sequence. Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey.

Things Other than Vampires, Failpires, and an Introduction to Lenny – Doublepost!

Copied straight from qui est in literis, because it was expedient.

 

Daniel was my first attempt at a vampire character, and I readily admit that he was really appalling when he first started out. Bear in mind that this was high school, and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the vampire-who-hates-being-a-vampire concept wasn’t exactly original. Fortunately, he’s gotten over much of his angst and settled nicely into moral ambiguity, where he can safely go on occasional binges of vigilante justice and use his nature as a convenient excuse for over-the-top brutality. No one really takes him seriously when he mopes about being a monster, because, well, y’know, he did just rip that guy’s rib cage out.

In my mind, though, he needed a foil – someone who isn’t human and is pretty much okay with that, except for a few inconvenient practical considerations.

There was a darn lot of research involved in this. I spent hours and days poring over the Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, looking for something hugely badass and with the potential for either malevolence or beneficence (This character, of course, would be a good guy, because I like good guys and because I was already hip-deep in the moral ambiguity thing and wanted a change. I would tackle a bad guy later.) I scrolled through thousands of pages of internet. I dove into the library and didn’t come back out except for more caffeine. I even considered making something up, but ultimately decided that was a bad idea.

Of course, after a couple of weeks of this, I realized two things:

1) Badass would not serve my purposes. I started on this quest for the purpose of building a foil for Daniel, someone that plays off all of his key characteristics by being pretty much exactly the opposite. Daniel may be a cantankerous boffinpire, but he can also be pretty terrifying if he feels like it, and while he would object strenuously to the word “badass,” it does happen to describe him pretty well. (That is to say, in my head. Others may draw what conclusions they will.) Anyway, the point is that since Daniel got the brains and the brawn and a handful of cool supernatural advantages, the new guy’s strength had to come from inside. He had to be the one with heart. Arguably the worst superpower ever, if that kid from Captain Planet is any indication – the one who always ended up the hostage or the bait in the trap. But since I wasn’t going for badass anymore, I figured I may as well pull a total one-eighty and go for hostage instead.

2) Once I got past my fixation on power and buttkicking ability, I realized I already had exactly the character I wanted sitting quietly in the depths of my backstory, waiting for me to turn his heart-wrenching death scene into an unlikely escape so he could do interesting things.

Lenny started out as a random victim used to highlight just how bad one of my villains can be, and over the course of long role-playing, became my own personal Woobie. I ran him through the Mary Sue Litmus Test recently, and while he doesn’t have much going for him in the way of powers or romance or fun skills, his score skyrocketed when I got to the bad-stuff-happening section. The de-suifiers brought him back down, but still. Of course, I can’t speak for how everyone else will respond to him, but writing the poor guy occasionally makes me cringe, and sometimes I have to write terrible fluff (which will never see the light of day) to recover.

bashful_by_justleftofcenter13-d34dw92

A sweet Lenny by JustLeftofCenter13

The problem was that turning Lenny into my new quasi-hero negated those weeks of research on fun creatures. He’s a vampire, too.

Only he’s not just a vampire.

And that sounds like an introduction to a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? I’m aware of that, and I hate having to say it that way, because if there’s one paranormal fiction deathtrap I can’t stand, it’s the convoluted genetics that goes into a wolf-vampire-faerie-hobbit-oompaloompa-goddess-dragon-angel-phoenix-dolphin-capybara-archaeopteryx-Madonna hybrid. It burns.

I hope I’ve avoided that. I really do.

The thing is, Lenny is a vampire medium. He’s not the offspring of some forbidden love, or anything. He just happens to have a dual nature, and unfortunately, the two sides of that nature don’t work together very well. A medium is, by definition, both alive and dead, a bridge between this world and the next; he cannot influence the processes of life, which means he can’t take one intentionally. A vampire is, by definition, somewhere between alive and dead but not really either, and exists pretty much to suck the life out of everything it touches. Medium turns vampire, and suddenly, nothing works quite right any more.

Lenny is a failpire. Where Daniel hates himself and angsts endlessly about being a killing machine, Lenny just wishes he could be cool and scary like the vampires on late-night television, even though he knows he’d never use it. Being a vampire, he doesn’t get a whole lot of points for his mad physics skills or awesome knitting, and especially not for his ability to make friends. He can’t kill. He isn’t anywhere near as strong as the others his age. He can hypnotize people, but only about as effectively as a really boring infomercial. He can’t shapeshift or control weather or read minds, or any of that fun stuff. His worst sin of all, though, is being perfectly willing to sit quietly and be good, teach physics, love people, and act normal. He likes who he is.

Clearly, this cannot be allowed to continue. Read an excerpt of my current project, the story in which I destroy him: (Working Title) The Sparrow’s Fall

And don’t worry; he eventually learns how to put up a fight. That’ll have to wait for the next book, though.