Michaeline: Review: From the Moderne Vampyre Genre

Accounting ledger in French which is also the cover of the book; title in Dynatape

*The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant* by Drew Hayes. (Image via Amazon US.)

I’m not a huge fan of vampire stories, but it turns out I really like the ones where Everyman (or Everywoman), the unspectacular and messed-up mortal, gets turned into a vampire. There’s just something about that juxtaposition of cool immortality with lingering mortal uncertainty that really interests me.

I loved the first few MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series with Betsy, Queen of the Vampires – in the first book, Undead and Unwed, a former Bridget Jones-type gets thrust into the Vampire lifestyle after an accident. And What We Do in the Shadows is a sweet movie about vampire “sharehouse” in Wellington, New Zealand. (I’m referring to the 2014 film; I didn’t know about the 2019 TV series until now. See? Blogging has some great side benefits!)

Now there’s another vampire world I can add to my list: I just read The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes and had a lot of fun!

All three of these vampire universes share characters who are very much aware of the vampire tropes, and how they (as vampires) turn tradition on its head. They don’t want to be evil bloodsuckers, and their main focus in life isn’t their next meal, but trying to “live” an undead life with a degree of comfort – and they want to be better people.

Fred is particularly aware in many ways that he’s part of the Vampire Story. He thought he’d turn into a suave and effortlessly cool vampire after waking up under a dumpster drained of his blood, but Continue reading

Michaeline: Thinking About Safe, Inclusive Spaces

Hands from various backgrounds putting together a jigsaw heart

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been thinking about making safe, inclusive spaces for everyone. I’m still in the theoretical stage, and I’m not sure if it’s even possible (or desirable) to have a space that’s 100 percent comfortable. A good discussion group does need some friction and I believe a little awkwardness is a good thing. But it’s not good when some people feel awkward or unseen repeatedly, while other people feel very comfortable most of the time. There’s got to be a balance, and there’s got to be a moderate road where everyone feels safe and like there can be a friendly resolution to arguments and discussions. Like we could all get pizza* afterwards, despite our differences in outlook and opinion.

First, what is the problem? Racism has been a huge topic in Romancelandia over the past few weeks with the blow-up in the RWA stemming from systemic racism and (I think) money struggles. But it’s not just about race – as romance writers, we’re very aware of the prejudice against and for gender as well. There’s sexuality (LGBT, polyamory, asexual) inclusion or exclusion. There are body issues, such as able-ism and weight-ists. And then there’s a wide range of issues involving the way the brain works, such as depression, bi-polarism, autism and even simpler things such as extroversion and introversion.

One of the things I came to realize over the past few weeks is that most of us want to be known as nice, and “good” girls or boys or people. We want to swim along in society, helping out others, or at least not hurting people, and not getting hurt. “You’re X-ist!” can be a real slam to one’s self-image – maybe not equal to the first slam of “You’re Other!” that the accuser may have originally felt, but still hurtful.

But saying, “this book is a fucking racist mess” is NOT the same as saying “you are a fucking racist mess.”

I know, I know. Book babies feel like children, and casting shade on one’s books can be very hurtful. But, it’s important to both frame things as “this action is X-ist” and also take the criticism as a critique about an action or behavior, and not as a personal judgement on one’s humanity.

Now, of course, if a pattern starts to manifest of X-ist actions and behaviors, people will probably be thinking, “Oh, Mx. X is an X-ist.” And they might be right. So, maybe the first step is Continue reading

Michaeline: New Year Visions for 2020

Girl reading a newspaper with glasses sliding down her nose, and a skeptical, intense look on her face

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Twenty twenty. I’m not sure about other countries (I know its different in Japan), but in America, perfect vision is 20/20. There’s also a famous news program of the same name that was a vehicle for the famous interviewer, Barbara Walters. The show used to be about investigative reporting and in-depth features – a role taken over by the new breed of comedian newspeople.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have perfect vision for the year 2020? According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics website, though, only 35 percent of people have 20/20 vision without corrective measures. Figuratively speaking, how many people have metaphorically good vision? I would guess it’s a lot less than 30 percent, especially among writers.

I think we’ll stumble and fall in the dark and in our own ignorance quite a bit in 2020. But I also think we can find things to help us see better – we can light a candle, or find something that sharpens our focus.

And I think having less than perfect vision can help us sharpen our other senses – let us be more in the moment, checking the direction of the wind in our faces, and the smell of the surroundings.

It feels very naïve to be optimistic about 2020, but I can’t help it at New Year’s time. There’s such a fresh slate when the calendar turns. Why is that? It’s not a naturally occurring distinction. It’s completely arbitrary, and decided by us. Some of us will feel the same refreshing feeling of newness on January 25th, or during the moment of the Spring Equinox, or September 18th. Maybe the new year is a set of rose colored glasses that blurs reality – or maybe it’s a good tool to sharpen our vision for the future. I guess we’ll know by the next new year how it all turns out.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a very happy 2020.

Michaeline: Christmastide

Three angels, one playing flute, another a lyre and a third a triangle

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first thing you should know about Grandma Hildy is that she loved a bargain. Since she retired, her summer hobby has been thrifting and garage-saling, and her winter hobby has been be-dazzling and a-jazzling up her treasures with rhinestones, feathers, yarn and anything else that suits her fancy. So, I guess in all, that’s about five things you should know about Grandma Hildy.

The first thing you should know about my cousin Skylar is that he can play anything with strings. And that he’s got weird ideas about the “soul” of an instrument. He’s got a collection of seven guitars, five ukuleles, three mandolins and one cello that he plucks rather than use the bow, and they’ve all got names, and he plays them every day without fail. Needless to say, he’s not the person to ask to come catsit for you – way too busy to come to your place, and if one of the cats peed on an instrument, well, you’d never hear the end of it (that is, after he started speaking to you again). (It was two years before he spoke directly to me again.)

Anyway, last Christmas Grandma Hildy outdid herself for Skylar. She picked up a really nice ukulele at an auction, and then proceeded to gild it. She’d also found an outlet that was getting rid of its “fill-the-bag” polished rock cart, so she had about 25 pounds of rose quartz, amethyst, turquoise and tiger’s eye – and more. So, when she felt that gilding the ukulele wasn’t enough, she hot-glued a bunch of her polished rocks to it. Continue reading

Michaeline: Farewell to the Old, Long Live the New

Ballroom scene with many colorful lights and dancing

The Northern Santa Ana Social Club and Chocolate Kingdom held their annual election in the old Toyota showroom on Pine and Douglas. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth gave us our sixth annual Christmas Story Challenge yesterday, and what a fun set of words! Please feel free to leave your own story and comments here or there. And now, a little slice of life in a magical alternative universe.

Vanessa banged the gavel on the podium. “This Christmas meeting of the Northern Santa Ana Social Club and Chocolate Kingdom will now come to order.” She shot an evil glance at me, as if *I* was the only one responsible for the late start. Fred, Zoe and Ignatia snickered and made rude gestures at me, and I flipped them the bird behind my recording notebook, so Vanessa wouldn’t catch me. We four were the Truffle Knights – the officers of the Chocolate Kingdom – and meant to support our Queen, Vanessa, during her term, which thankfully would end tonight after the annual election of new officers.

I glanced over at Trixie, resplendent in her dark green cloak, to see if she was watching. She had been, and I could feel the red creeping in my cheeks, but she Continue reading

Michaeline: Word of the Year!

Father Time with a butler snuffing out 1889's candle, and lighting 1890's candle.

Reflecting on words of the past year, looking forward to the new words to come in 2020. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Merriam-Webster (THE go-to official dictionary for many US publications) has declared that their 2019 Word of the Year is (drumroll, please) THEY.

I can’t help but think that M-W is absolutely right. Oh, sure, “they” has been around for a very long time. In fact, “they” has been used as a gender-neutral pronoun to correspond with “everyone” and “someone” for more than 600 years, M-W said on their website. It’s only recently that “they” has been used for nonbinary people.

I’ve seen “they” used in stories (both news and fiction), but in June, I heard it on my TV for the first time while viewing the BBC/Amazon Prime mini-series, Good Omens. (I talked about it in August here on the blog.)

The character was Pollution, and in the book, I remember Continue reading

Michaeline: Could This Be the Age of the Novella?

Seven short years ago, I worried a lot because I write short – my NaNos are almost never more than 40,000 words, which makes a decent novella (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines a novella up for the Nebula Award as 17,500 to 39,999 words). But I hadn’t read many romance novellas, or even seen them promoted.

This year, they seem to be leaping up to be noticed. Romance author Stacey Shannon tweeted that she loves writing novellas in reply to former Carina Press executive editor Angela James’ tweet about loving to edit novellas.

Book Riot has a 2019 post recommending 28 romance novellas. If you look carefully at the covers, you’ll see a lot of them lack a publisher’s mark – I know at least some of these are self-published, while others have found homes with traditional publishers. Notice all the big names here, including some of my favorites like Courtney Milan and Jackie Lau. Continue reading