July 26, 2016

Where Stories Come From: LES VAMPS

(Revised 03/09/2024)http://

It's only recently that I realized that I've written Where Stories Come From posts for my other previously released stories....but never wrote one for Les Vamps (which is currently unavailable for download...although I might consider making it a perk for my Patreon subscribers). It's ironic because it was this publication that kicked off my "new" writing career. And it all started with a contest.

About three-ish years ago, artist Mark Wheatley (whose work on First Comics' Mars had impressed me) sponsored a contest on Facebook: write a story inspired by a particular piece of art (which became the cover of Les Vamps). If I remember correctly (and I'm not sure if I do), the main prize was publication.

Around this time, I was also working with someone who ran a web development organization for particular nonprofits. (I won't name him outright, because he stiffed me on work). This particular individual had outsourced his web development to India, meaning that he was spending late nights conversing with his team about client work.

That got me thinking, "Gee, telecommuting has made it easy to be a vampire. You can stay up late, not have to do anything during the day, and maintain a slightly healthy lifestyle."

(Yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds now...which is why, after an abortive attempt to make the vampire the lead, I made the thrall the main character of the story)

At the same time, I was going through some slight adjustments to living in Chicago...I missed several things about St. Louis. But what struck me was the idea that St. Louis, in many ways, is a backwards city: its focus on high school as a social determinant; the fact that people "stayed" rather than "lived" in the city...and it also made for a more realistic city for my story to take place.

So after a very haphazard, first-word-best-word draft, I submitted the story. (I cribbed the title from this relatively little-known song by The Only Ones, better known for Another Girl Another Planet. Yes, there's a shout-out to the former within the story). When a friend of mine was named as judge, I was concerned, but I found out later he chose to recuse himself from judging my story. After a period of waiting, I received a good news/bad news e-mail.

Bad news: I didn't win the contest. Good news: they liked my story enough to consider publishing it.

So in preparation, I rewrote the story (because that first draft, upon review, was awful), and then submitted it for several months of editing, pruning, and revising...

And the editing was good. Many authors will advise with great pride (and often, great smugness) that writers should "kill their darlings" in the revision process. Get rid of those moments of brilliance and tell the story.

Thanks to this particular editor, I adopted a different philosophy - writers should get rid of anything that doesn't make the story work. Many parts of that first draft were awkward, and embarrassed me....but getting rid of those and refining them gave me a stronger sense of how stories "work". I felt better because every time I chipped away an awkward phrase or streamlined a paragraph, my story became much sharper, much clearer, and much more alive. Focusing on character rather than the awkward moments of "building atmosphere".

So much so that when I read one of the first reviews of Les Vamps, I was flattered by the fact that I had written a story in the "lesbian vampire" genre. I never realized that there was a genre called "lesbian vampire", and had I known, I would have worked harder to make it an atypical "lesbian vampire" story.

(And of course, as a result, this post will trend high on Google for both Les Vamps and lesbian vampires)

Writing has been a significant part of my adult life - from columns for the Loyola Phoenix to various professional reports (including a policy white paper for Metropolis St. Louis) - so Out There in the Night from Les Vamps is a huge milestone. The first time that I saw my name in print.

And that is an incredibly big deal.

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