The virus infects stories, too.

I was reading a scholarly article about the use of addiction/ drug abuse as metaphor for the vampire films of the 1980s. As someone who came of age in that decade, it was understandable to turn the usual sex-addicted vampire of the (seemingly) sexually repressed 1950-60s, into the addict, blood field of the 1980s. In the Western world, at least, vampires tend to be the avatar for whatever suburban America fears the most – or what they’re supposed to fear the most. This is also the rise of the “Satanic panic” and “Stranger Danger” – two hammers that came crashing down on the “free-range” parenting of much of the 1970s.

Seriously, it was a strange and confusing time to be a kid.

While I don’t have all of Wound plotted out (usually an episode or three in advance) I often think about the underlying theme of the story – why has this plague resulted in a vampiric evolution of humanity? The methods of transmission are from the usual zombie/vampire tropes – the bite – but the variety of infection plays to a different idea. My original thought was a straight-up zombie story, but then Paul showed up, and he demanded something more. Something about him had to change, but more and more I have to think about what he’s losing, not just what he gains.

I’ve rounded the mid-point of Season 2 and am starting to develop where we’ll end at episode #50. What revelation comes to our small group? What questions will be answered? I’m not sure, at least right now. But this idea of disease as evolution is interesting to me – I think I’ll follow it a bit further.

On a completely unrelated note: should we call 2022 – Plague Year 2? I wonder.

Carol/Mrs. Collins: Tank

WOUND: The Characters

To be fair, sweetie, it’s just easier to tell you what happened.

Mrs. Collins

Carol Collins left a lovely 2000-square-foot home, with an inground pool and delicate landscaping, a sunny but secluded deck and three full-time household assistants when the bomb-dropped in Chicago. She’d waited a day, for her husband to return from his business trip. She wasn’t sure he would. She wasn’t sure he wanted to. She knew he had a layover in O’Hare, but didn’t know when or what day. Carol Collins took little interest in Robert Collins. She took only his name and his bank account. In return, she bore him two beautiful boys and allowed him his small pleasures elsewhere.

When Bob turned up, ragged and smelling of charcoal and blood, Carol made up her mind and smiled. She’d already packed her boys’ things and some money. In her Coach purse was the single gun in the house and both boxes of ammunition. She had no idea how to load the thing, or unlock the safety device, but Carol was still in the performance stage of her escape. Deep down she assumed her husband would take care of everything.

He’d tried. Oh boy, how he tried. By the time Carol made it to the top of the staircase she understood that Robert Collins had changed. Saying little besides “Carol” and “boys” and “ghaaarrrgrr,” he chased her up the wide staircase into the upstairs hallway. Her boys stood at the end, outside of their room, right where she told them to wait. Her sweet boys, Jake and Blake, the little rhyming scheme that she picked the moment she new they were two and that annoyed Bob every time she called to them.

Her boys. Not Bob’s boys. Not now, as if they ever were.

The hallway ran long in the big house and she had time to catch Jake’s eye – he’s always been the stronger one, emotionally – and yell, “Get me your bat.” With no hesitation, the nine-year-old ducked into the bedroom he shared with his brother. He returned with an aluminum baseball bat, the word EASTON emblazoned on the side. He tossed it forward and, to her own amazement, Carol Collins caught it.

She spun, bringing the bat around with her momentum and connected with Bob’s head. Her luck held as he stumbled in his pursuit and she was able to swing again, adapting her backhand for the metal bat and landing it solidly under his chin. Blood flung out of his mouth and his crushed jaw hung open. The initial hit knocked skin off his temple and soaked his Armani dress shirt – that was a birthday present, Mrs. Collins thought.

Bob took a knee and instead of raising his hands to his injured head, like a human, he lunged forward, like something else, grabbing at her legs as she shielded her boys. She swung again and again, missing here and there, but connecting more often until what remained above the collar of her husband’s shirt was nothing more than a lump of grizzle and matted hair.

It was quite the messy divorce, Mrs. Collins would later say.

At no point did she tell her boys to run and hide. If she had to do this, they had to watch. Carol understood the world had changed, and they were going to change with it. They brought their most important belonging downstairs and showered in the small bathroom off the kitchen. They ate in silence and packed as much food as they could. Carol had the boys check for anything else – on the first floor – that they would need while she siphoned gas from Bob’s SUV into her van and two spare cannisters she found in the garage. The lingering tast of fuel in her mouth felt like a choice.

As the distant sounds of sirens tore through Pittsburgh, Carol, Jake and Blake left quietly in the dead of night and headed south. Her brother was just over the border in Kentucky. Perhaps he could take them in for a bit. Perhaps he could help her with this gun. There was a lot of things she needed to learn in this new world and there was no way she was going to let it take her boys.

You can read more about Carol in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.

Beverly Avery: Manager

Bev Avery

WOUND: The Characters

When we first meet Bev she’s decided how to deal with the fact that her husband is slowly turning into a vampire, or a zombie, they’re not clear on what’s following them yet. The first vamps are ragged, rotting things, but Paul is clearly not decaying in the back of Bev’s Jeep. Quite the opposite.

She’s the manager of the group, if not the leader. A good manager shifts the power and responsibility around to allow people’s talent to shine. When medical attention is needed, Bev defers to Armond and Darlene, the two nurturers of the group. Scouting belongs to Marla. Philosophizing about their situation, when appropriate, fell into Paul’s qualified lap. And Bev leaves most of the killing to Carol and her boys.

Bev Avery, former accountant, horse-back riding enthusiast, crossword puzzler, and one-time state champion swimmer, facilitates. She makes the decisions when no one else wants to. She decides what comes next and then lets people act. She’s slight, only about five foot three, but strong, with wide swimmer shoulders and, what her brother used to call, “good wheels.” She could have been a champion sprinter, if she’d ever get out of the pool.

Now, fuck-hundred miles into the ass of Wyoming and Bev has left the water behind.

You can read more about Bev in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.

All in for Prep-tober…sort of

I have tried and failed at Nanowrimo for years and that’s fine. So this year, I’m not setting myself up for failure by going all in at the beginning, swept away by the frenetic pace of thousands of people eager to get their words down. Instead, I’m planning out a steady and less chaotic schedule of writing, focusing on two different projects. Letting the excitement and camaraderie be the lo-fi playlist that motivates me, I’m hoping that I can approach Nanowrimo this year in a more leisurely and (mentally) healthier space.

Also, I’m kinda gonna do it in October.

See I’ve got other pen names (just as non-productive as this one) and there is one novel that I want to churn out in November, but it’s not for Betty. Betty has to work on her Kindle Vella serial, WOUND: Thirst, and the haunted clock anthology, Striking Thirteen, that she’s been tinkering with like an old watchmaker. So this October the serial gets revised (re-vamped – AHAHAHAHA) and the anthology gets drafted.

The timing is terrible since the anthology won’t be out until next year at the earliest. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

As for my boys, Baron and Sykes, and The Shape of Us, I’m outlining their first mystery and will probably work on that in November, but not on the Nanowrimo clock. I hope to have that ready to go before Christmas. I have two bonus stories that I’ll be giving away – how they met and their first Christmas. Just thinking about them makes me smile. So much fluff!

Anyway, recalibration complete. I’ve created a new schedule that hopefully adjusts to my life and takes my idiosyncrasies into account. My main goal is never to write another “I’m abandoning this project” post again.

NOTE: I’ll be updating my Patreon soon and while I have no patrons right now (totally cool), if it’s something you might be interested in, what kind of things do you look for as patron-exclusives? Just curious.

Summer of Horror Reread

It’s been years since I’ve read some of my favorite horror books. Time to do it again.

Edit: I think this will be more of a “Year of Horror Reread” to be honest. When I started this, I wanted to revisit some favorites from my younger years but I found myself reading new books instead and I could’t bring myself to go backwards. I’ll keep trying.

I think the part of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic that I read were the bits underlined by a friend, passed to me under the desk in class. I have no memory of the scenes themselves or my reaction to them, I just remember the secrecy and the sense of taboo. I should probably be grateful that I don’t remember any of the details. My delicate sensibility wouldn’t be able to take it.

I remember more about my horror reading in the 80s and 90s. I can picture the wall of horror in Waldenbooks, all black covers with raised lettering. Some had clowns, or knives, or ragged hands reaching out from the dark. My favorites were in the style of those V.C. Andrews books, the cut-out showing the happy family and when you flip to the inner cover – oh no, it is actually a house of TERROR!!!! Boy, I loved just walking around and flipping the covers.

While I can only recreate this experience in pieces at used book stores (my own copies have all been lost in multiple moves from coast to coast), I can recreate the experience of reading these stories, coming back to them after two decades and seeing them with different eyes (older, yes, but hopefully smarter). I’m curious how they hold up, how problematic they will seem. I want to re-evaluate the stories that influenced me from a writer perspective.

I want to see if the thrill comes back.

This summer, I’m going to start with the 1980s, as some of my favorites live here. I’m thinking about re-reading one and reading a book I should have read at the time. I reserve the right to add more. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

Oh, and I will try to be as regular as possible, but I’ll be writing a lot this summer.