November 30, 2011

Undead at Dark

First let me say, YIPPEE! I survived my first NYU editing class!

My term project was to purchase a "book" based on a proposal that one of my classmates wrote. I chose a parody of Dead Until Dark: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel, by Charlaine Harris, which was turned into HBO's True Blood. After all, who could turn down this synopsis?

"Meet Stoogie Stackhouse. His life is as normal as it can be when you’re a telepathic waiter. Yeah, he already knows you want fries with that burger, even though you just ordered a salad. But Stoogie’s small-town life in Shriekport, Louisiana is enlivened when Vampire Jill comes to town. Even more intriguing to Stoogie are the young men found murdered in the wake of Jill’s arrival.

Fangs clash when it appears Jill is the only one around with a hankering for TruBlood. Can Stoogie solve the murders with his telepathic waiter skills and stake off Jill’s mostly-dead Southern charm? The drama swells like blood from a paper cut when Stoogie suspects he may be the next target.

Join Stoogie for this rollicking chomp through Shriekport and meet dead(ly) vamps, she-beasts, and minimum-wage workers." (Original synopsis by Kristine Swartz, revised by NK.)

Throughout the term, I had to create different parts of the project, culminating in a final presentation - a pitch at an editorial board meeting. My professor (an Executive Editor at St. Martin's press) and his assistant were grading our pitches as we sat in the conference room of the Flatiron Building, which by the way is one of the coolest buildings in NYC. (See? It's the triangle shaped one on the left.)

Flatiron at Night
Here's the pitch:

"Blood-drained bodies are piling up faster than greasy plates, and Stoogie Stackhouse, telepathic waiter, must solve the slayings before the townsfolk serve his vampire girlfriend a wooden stake."

(I'd never written a pitch before, and I went through several versions, many of which sucked worse than a hungry vamp at a half-empty blood bank. A big thanks to Kelly Stone Gamble for her help with this!)

I titled the parody, Undead at Dark. As part of my project, I wrote a chapter excerpt to include (mostly for laughs). So, here it is:

I knew she was a vampire the second she walked into the bar.

She wasn’t sparkly, but she did give off a little glow. Probably the fluorescents bouncing off her bloodless skin. Besides the fact that she was pale and perfect, her fangs showed when she smiled. Just a little. Not enough that anyone who wasn’t looking would notice. But I’m always looking. After all, she was a hottie, and I’d been dying to meet a vampire.

People say I’m crazy.

I’m not crazy. I’m telepathic, which is different than crazy. Mostly. I’m also a waiter at Samantha Merlotte’s Bar. Which is like, a total waste of my talent, right? I mean — if vampires can come out and blame a virus for thousands of years of murder, you’d think a little telepathic ability shouldn’t be so bad.

But it is.

Especially in small-town Shriekport, Louisiana. Which is also why this vamp-chick walking into the bar was so exciting. Nothing ever happens in Shriekport.

Unless you count the time I “overheard” the pastor of the church think about the hooker he had buried in his backyard.

I never said being telepathic was a gift.

The vampire sat down in my booth. My muscles flexed, almost involuntarily, at the sight of her. I checked my sandy blonde hair in a high ball glass, winked at my reflection, and sauntered over. Yeah. I saunter. What of it? I know I’m a stud. Girls think it all the time. Even if they don’t say it I know. I have ways, remember?

You’ve thought it too. Don’t fib.

I felt a grin creep over my lips right before I said, “Welcome to Merlotte’s. What can I get ya, honey?”

The vampire blinked at me, asked in a tone just above a whisper, “Do you have any TruBlood?”

I knew Sam had ordered some last month, but since no vamps had ever come into the bar, it expired a few days ago. She’d poured it down the drain. “Sorry, we’re fresh out.” I wondered if saying fresh was a bad idea. Was she eyeing my neck?

She licked her fang — the left one — and said, “I’ll have a Cabernet, I guess.” Her voice was like wine on the tongue. Or maybe that was a little drop of her blood?

I put her order in. Sam caught me staring over at the vampire’s booth. I think she figured it out, too. Sam’s pretty perceptive. Plus she has this incredible sense of smell. Do vampires give off a scent?

Sam poured the Cabernet for my vampire, and one for herself. She usually only did that when she was interested in someone and trying to hide it. I looked back at my vampire, shifting in the booth, then turned to Sam. “I saw her first,” I said, and grabbed the wine glass.

Placing it directly on the table in front of the vampire, I said, “I’m Stoogie Stackhouse. I get off at eleven.”

The vampire smiled at me, her pointed teeth growing. “Jill,” she said, nodding in my direction.

Score. This was definitely going to be a good night.

-Overall, I had fun in the class and a great time working on the final project. Can't wait to see what next term holds!

November 15, 2011

It's the End of the World

Well. It's the end of a world. Emily's world. Which is to say, I've completed a first draft of my novel. I'm doing a little dance over here that you can't see, but I promise it's entertaining.

I need to write that again. A novel. An entire book fell out of my brain. (Not literally of course because that would be gross and painful.)

There's something unbelievable and intoxicating about being a writer. Something that both rips my soul out of time and place, and tethers me to reality in the same moment. It allows me to dream in peace. Something that no other part of my life has yet to offer.

Ask me two years ago where I thought I'd be right now I would have said: Working on my PhD in Biological Anthropology. (I've not abandoned this dream, I've simply shelved it for further consideration.) Five years ago, I probably would have said: Working for a small company in marketing and design. A decade before today, the answer likely would have been: Married, with a little house in upstate New York, hoping to own my own graphic design company.

I've worked in graphic design (and owned my own company). I've worked for a company in marketing. I've lived in upstate New York. I even interviewed at some PhD programs. But something felt off, missing, wrong.

The last five or so years, life has thrown me a few curve balls. Actually, life threw the whole damn bat at my head. And I did something I hadn't done in years. I picked up a pen and wrote about it.

I've always been an idealist. A dreamer. But somewhere along the line, more than ten years ago, I listened to those around me when they said: A degree in English isn't practical. You need a more rational plan.

I should have ignored them all.

I've been a writer since I could hold a pencil, and the decade or so that I spent writing less and less because "practical" got in the way nearly decapitated my spirit.

I am a writer. I write.

When life threw that aluminum bat in my direction, I remembered this fact. Over the past few years, I've filled three journals, several notebooks, and countless digital files with stories, frustrations, hopes. I had a lot to catch up on.

And I'll never stop again. Which is why I can say that this month I completed the first draft of the novel I've spent the last eleven months writing in my MFA program. It may be the end of Emily's world, but for me, it's just the beginning. While I don't consider this project finished, it is an accomplishment I plan to celebrate. With drinks. Whiskey — in honor of Emily's favorite drink. Who's joining me?

Here's a little whiskey music from the Dropkick Murphys:

And who could have a shot without The Doors?

Throwing in another classic: