Meeting her vampire husband: Excerpt from my book The Lighthouse

An excerpt from my book “The Lighthouse”:

Randall met me at the door that evening with a smile, a vigorous (though chilly) handshake and a boisterous,

“Hello, hello, friend Josh! Welcome to our mini-mansion. Do you want a drink?”

“Do you have Mountain Dew?” I asked.

“Yes, we do. Candida says she can’t survive without it or chocolate. I understand her addiction, since I have my own.” He grinned with his eyebrows drawn together.

An image flashed through my mind of Randall pouring blood from a vial–or maybe from his own veins–into a can of pop. “Could I–have that in a glass–a clear glass, please?”

Randall frowned for a moment in confusion, but then he said, “All right, whatever you wish.”

“I’ll get it for you,” Candida said. She bounded off down the hallway to the kitchen. At least she was still bouncy and vibrant, which I had always loved about her.

Randall offered me the loveseat. He sat in a wicker chair adjacent to it. I hoped he didn’t notice as I swept my gaze over the seat before sitting down. Nope, no blood or–um–emissions from him and Candida–um–christening the house’s furniture. Another image flashed through my mind: Candida naked in his arms. I got a wincing headache.

“So–um–who are you?” I asked.

“Mr. Candida, Randall Ankh.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Ankh? The Egyptian symbol for life?”

“Yes. Unusual name, isn’t it? My parents changed their last name to it. They held great stock in symbolism and loved to study ancient Egypt. This idol of Set came from them.”

He put his hand on a small stone statue of a two-legged, muscular being with a dog-like face, long ears and a loincloth. Candida allowing an idol in her house was odd enough, but wasn’t Set supposed to be evil, killing his own brother Osiris?

Candida bounced back into the room with a tall glass of Mountain Dew, nearly splashing it on me as she handed it to me.

“And what is your last name?” Randall asked.

I flinched. I meant my question to be more probing, a way to get him to confess, “Yes, I am a vampire, and my last name is ironic considering the death and destruction I bring.” But he turned it right around on me before it had a chance to work. Not that I knew how it could work, anyway.

“Hilfe. It’s German for ‘help.’ You know, in case you hear anybody say, ‘Hilf mich,’ that’s what they mean: ‘Help me.’”

He did not seem to notice my subtle barb. “Any friend of Candida’s is a friend of mine, and she tells me you’re one of her best. I had to let you into our house because she would not stop talking about you. Perhaps I should be jealous.” His eye flashed red, then went back to steel gray. “When you get a treasure like Candida, you don’t want to let her go.”

Didn’t I know it.

I scratched my eyebrow, probably a nervous tic. I found Randall more disconcerting the more amiable he seemed.

“Oh, you haven’t even touched your drink,” Candida chirped from beside the wicker chair.

The doorbell rang. I jumped. Some of my drink splashed. Candida called out “hello” when Randall trotted to the door and opened it. A few “heys” showed it was an old friend of Randall’s. This friend walked in, another pale-faced young man, though black. His clothes were dark blue, well-cut and expensive. I’m not much of a judge of male looks, but he seemed to be in the same category as Denzel Washington or Billy Dee Williams. That meant he caused lust in any woman of any race. That meant I was the ugly one in this house.

“Josh, Candida, this is Vincent,” Randall said. “Shall I get you a drink?” he asked Vincent.

“Oh, yes, the usual,” Vincent said. “I’ve had nothing to drink all evening.”

Randall trotted off.

“Are you a friend of Randall’s?” Vincent asked.

“No, Candida’s,” I said.

“How long have you known her?”

“Since spring.”

“I’ve only just met her, myself. So this is she, the beautiful Candida.” He nodded at her in a way so smooth and chivalric it made me jealous.

Candida flushed and grinned back at him boldly. My likelihood of catching her eye was getting worse all the time.

Randall returned with a wineglass full of a sanguine liquid. Wine, yes, it must be red wine. Yet when Vincent drank it, it made bloody stains on the side of the glass. No, no, it’s wine, it’s got to be wine. My head felt light. I turned my gaze to the Mountain Dew, hoping to get the image out of my head. I had to get the phantom, iron taste of blood out of my mouth. I took a sip. I couldn’t stop myself; I imagined the liquid going down my throat was not Dew, but blood. I gagged. My head spun. Candida leaped to my side.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I gazed at her without speaking. Through fuzzy vision I turned to Vincent and then Randall, who sat there with his eyebrows drawn together in what looked like concern. He was so pale, so–

I had to get out of there. “I’m sorry, Candida; I’m not feeling well. I have to go home.”

“Don’t be silly. We can take care of you here.” She stroked my hair. All my nerve endings begged me to stay and let her keep doing that, but I could not do it.

“No, really, I’d much rather be in my own room.”

I jumped up, grabbed my coat and ran out of the house, never minding how dizzy I was. Candida soon ran after me, throwing on her coat and carrying my glass of pop.

“You forgot this,” she said. “I’ll walk you back to campus and make sure you get to your room all right.”

I hugged her. How I wanted to stay nestled in her softness. “It’s sweet of you, but I can’t let you walk back by yourself in the dark. This is the city, after all.”

She smiled, kissed my cheek, handed me the glass and turned back.

As I walked, I drew in deep breaths of the chill air, blowing them out and watching the vapor. Back in my room, the glass sat untouched on top of the little box of a refrigerator in my room. My roommate was all too happy to take it off my hands, and I was all too happy to let him. I cleaned and returned the glass in the morning.

Though I loved Dew, it was many months before I could drink it again, especially from a glass.

–From “Candida” in my book The Lighthouse, e-book available for $3 at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/nerissa

 

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Research, Wagner, and Plot beginning to come together

I had some issues with the plot in the middle of the book, but I am finally coming up with ways to smooth it all out so it works.

I’ve also been watching Wagner’s Ring Cycle on Youtube, because Hitler said you need to know Wagner to understand the Nazis.  And this is a psychological novel, not the usual WWII kill-all-Nazis theme.  I want to get into people’s heads and understand their motivations.

The Ring Cycle is engrossing and beautiful, and the inspiration for Lord of the Rings.

I have to do some more reading, but I suspect Hitler was referring to the golden boy saving the world from the greedy ones.  And you know, in the olden days, even respectable people thought Jewish people were greedy as a race.  I read the book Svengali, and it’s full of stereotypes denigrating Jews.  The author was English, not German.  Svengali was a Jew.  Just read Chaucer and you’ll find hatred of Jews, with no shame or apology.  Hemingway’s prejudice is on display in The Sun Also Rises.  You can also see anti-Jewish sentiment in The Great Gatsby.  And McTeague, the inspiration for the classic silent film Greed, has the stereotypically greedy Jew.

Nowadays the very thought of these stereotypes of Jews is repulsive, reminding us of what led to the Holocaust.  But the Nazis would have thought they (especially the golden-haired ones) were the good guys and the Jews (and everybody else on their fecal roster, probably including everyone who won WWI) were the bad guys.  So in their own minds, they’d be the hero Siegfried, and the Jewish people would be the greedy dragon Fafner and the dwarves, especially Alberich and Hagen.

The more I research, the more intrigued I get, and the more involved I get in the heads of the characters of my story.

 

 

 

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Research first or write first?

This was originally posted on my personal blog on December 10, 2016.

I’ve occasionally come across this question online: Should you write your novel and then research (and have to go through and rip up parts of it and do them over), or research first and then write?

I can see the logic in researching first and then writing.  But there’s a little problem with that: Me itching to get the story down and dang the plausibility of it!  I can go back later and fix things.

That is, in fact, how my rewrite of Unwilling Time-Traveler has been going.  I write and research at the same time, then find something in the research that makes me go back and rip up everything, then write again, then stop to research for a while, then stop the research for a while to write again….

The thing is, until I get the story down, and know how I want it to go, how do I know what all I need to research, where to focus my efforts?

And the other thing is that the Muse is there, alive and yelling at me to get to it.  If I ignore her, she might leave me, leave my mind a dry and barren land, with no ideas to turn all those research facts into an entertaining story.

I’ll make up my mind to stop the writing and just research, research, research for a while, because I have story difficulties that can only be resolved by knowing historical facts.  But then after doing some research, I start to feel like a ripe grape, ready to burst with all those creative juices and ideas.

I suppose this is a good thing: If, after more than a year, you’re still itching to write your story, it must at least be readable when it’s done, I hope?  😀

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