Indulging in Guilty Pleasures


Anita Blake rescued me from Reality TV.  Everywhere I looked, someone was living in the wilderness or eating something horrible, or BOTH!  Worse still were the cameras following celebrities to show their “exciting” lives.  One of my favorite past times suddenly made me want to pass out!

I met a new friend who read a lot during that time, and she decided I must want to read as well. I’d read all of my adult life, but never more than 2-3 books a year.  Anyhow, given the state of television, I decided to try the books she loaned me.  There were three, and it took me about 10 months to read all three of them. When I finished the third one, I wanted more.  Sure I’d read about vampires and fantasy worlds before, but never one quite like this one. The desire for more led me to the discovery of serial fiction novels.  No, I really hadn’t known much about it before.

Book Cover for Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton

As it turned out, the book was the first in a series and there were already 8 other books in the series.  I read them all in the same amount of time it had taken me to read the first three, including another one that was released while I was reading them.  I was hooked. I had to wait 9 more months for another release in the series, and I was frothing at the mouth to read more.

The series is about an Animator, one who raises the dead in the form of a zombie for ‘legal’ reasons for a business quaintly named Animator’s, Inc.  She is also a vampire hunter.  Move over Buffy!  Actually, the first book in the series, Guilty Pleasures, was copyrighted in 1993, long before the TV series came out in 1997, but the 1992 box office bomb the TV series was based on might have also helped inspire the creator of Anita’s world of mythical creatures.

Vampires are made by other vampires.  Zombies are raised from the grave by an animator or voodoo priest.  Ghouls, as far as we know, just crawl out of the grave on their own.”  Anita Blake – page 26.

Laurell K Hamilton creates a world where vampires not only exist, but they are also legal citizens in the United States.  Anita’s jurisdiction covers several states in and around St. Louis, MO.  She kills vampires only when she is issued a warrant of execution by the state in which they reside. At least, that’s what the police think.  In Guilty Pleasures, Anita faces the decision to kill or be killed, in a matter not necessarily recognized by law, for the first time, but not the last.

The story begins with Willy McCoy, a newly turned vampire and the first vampire Anita had known as a human, tries to hire her to investigate a series of vampire killings that are very disturbing to the police and, apparently, the vampire community. Unfortunately for Anita, the beautiful Jean-Claude, second only to Nikolaos, the Master of the City, has convinced the Master, that Anita is the only person who can help them solve this mystery.  Anita turns Willy down, refusing to work for the fanged creatures.  The Master is not pleased when Anita refuses. She orders Jean-Claude to lure her to his strip club, Guilty Pleasures, in order to make her an offer she can’t refuse.  If she doesn’t investigate the murders, they will kill her good friend, Catherine. This time Anita doesn’t refuse.

By this time the story had me, but it wasn’t just the story, it was the storytelling that sucked me in.  Laurell K Hamilton uses a first person narrative to develop a strong female protagonist that I really relate to.  In many ways, I feel like I would say and do the same things if I were Anita.  Anita rambles sometimes in her thoughts, but the ramblings had fears and doubts, same insecurities that I shared.

“Everyone has their weaknesses.  Some people smoke.  I collect stuffed penguins.  If you won’t tell, I won’t.”  Anita Blake – page 80.

Sometimes, her thoughts explain her emotional connection to her gun or why she works with the people she works with.  Other times she waxes philosophic:

“You can’t save everybody.  In fact, there are days when I think you can’t save anyone.  Each person has to save himself first, then you can move in and help. I have found this philosophy does not work during a gun battle or a knife fight either. Outside of that it works just fine.” Anita Blake – page 158.

But every decision she makes is thought out before she makes it, even if her thoughts aren’t exactly logical.  I doubt I would think very logically with a vampire clouding my mind either.

“You do what we want, or I will peel away your mind like layers of an onion.” Nikolaos to Anita Blake – page 69.

I found myself living through Anita’s eyes and truly becoming Anita.  Her eyes were the window to another world where I could escape whenever I needed a break from my not-so-exciting life.  When I had read all there was to read of the Anita Blake series, I found others to read, more strong protagonists to become.  Soon I was reading 2-3 books a week when I wasn’t in school.  How did that happen?  It got to a point where someone would tell me of a really interesting movie and I would think, “I wonder if it’s based on a book”.  I loved how books had more details than movies.

Eventually, a friend asked me if I would help her write a book, and because of my (respectively) newfound love, I said yes.  I helped her for several months and helped pushed her further towards a complete outline than she’d ever been.  Before we were able to finish, however, she moved to another state and lost all her writings in a fire.  The following year I met a writer and together we came up with a very unusual concept.  We worked on this story for months, and I would help with the ideas while he did the actual writing.    A large change happened in both of our lives and he dropped offline to pursue other things.  The story churned in my mind for almost a year before I was able to contact him again.

He told me that I’d had very strong ideas on how the book should be written and that I should write the book myself.  I wasn’t happy with that idea because I was no writer.  I was a reader.  Until an emotional day when suddenly words started coming to me:

“Part of me wanted to run away screaming. But where would I go? What would I do? Who would I run to? I’d once seen the gods who created me, but only once.” –Pandora

I started writing and what do you know?  I enjoyed it!  Thanks to a love for books I’d discovered almost 10 years before with Anita Blake, I’d found a new Guilty Pleasure.

 

 

What’s your story?  What started you reading, or even writing? What was your main inspiration?    Please share, I can’t wait to read your responses!!

NaNoWriMo Project – Chapter One – first draft


CHAPTER 1

 

I wandered aimlessly after I realized what  had done.  I tried to stick to the fields and wooded areas, feeding on the occasional goat or deer.  I had to try to prevent what had happened at the market in the city from ever happening again.  I didn’t know what to do or why I’d ever thirst for such a thing.

Weeks passed, maybe longer.  I contemplated thoughts of suicide, but even the deepest cuts from the thorns in the woods healed in just seconds.  Could I even die?  Was I doomed to this horrific existence forever?  That thirst was ever-present, only moderately sated by the animals I fed on. It haunted me. It taunted me.  How could I go on like this?

I was pondering these things while walking a path in the woods.  I was just beginning to see a clearing up ahead when suddenly there as that smell. And the thirst took over.

~*~

Hours later, I sat on the rocky cliff at the edge of the woods, mourning the people I had killed over the past few months, but mostly mourning my first two victims:  my beloved Epi and Reena.

“Gods help me!” I cried, “I can’t seem to control myself!  What do I do? I’m so alone!”

Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“No, my dear, you are not alone,” said the beautiful glowing figure who could only be a goddess.  The goddess who had given me the gift of weaving stood before me, beautiful as ever.  Her shining dark hair flowed down her back and her eyes sparkled with the wisdom that was her domain.

“Why are you here?” I asked, for I was certain that the gods had forsaken me after I’d released such a foul curse into the world.

Athena smiled.  ”My father set you up to fall because of his animosity towards your beloved Epi.  Now that he is dead, Zeus has allowed me to help guide you and to ease your suffering.”

“My dear, you are not alone, for I am with you, and for now my gift is control.  If you feed regularly and in small doses, nobody has to die and you will no longer suffer such insatiable thirst.  You have the ability to mesmerize the humans if they gaze into your eyes.  Do this to feed small amounts regularly and you will quickly gain control over your thirst.  And soon you’ll need to feed much less often.

“Beware, however, for you are not the only vampire now, although you are one of the two mothers of all vampires, and therefore one of the two strongest.”

“Two?” I heard myself say.  ”Who is the other mother?” I asked.

Athena faded away, but I swear I heard her whisper Reena’s name as she vanished.

~*~

I immediately fell prostrate on the ground, tears pouring down my face and shouting, “Thank you gods!”  Suddenly, not only was I not alone, but I had hope!  Maybe my future wouldn’t be so bleak after all.  The gods had NOT forsaken me!  This truly was a miracle.

And Reena!  Oh Reena!  Had she really survived?  Could she truly be alive and like me, another mother of all….what had Athena called us? Vampires, I think.  Yes, a mother of all vampires, like me.  Oh I must find her!  But first I should prepare funeral pyres for those who I those victims from the clearing in the woods.  I’d not been able to return to the market for fear I’d kill others, but that clearing should have been clear by then.

As I rose to head towards the clearing, dusk was settling and I noticed through my new eyes, which were now full of hope, something that I had failed to notice in the weeks before when I was hopeless and lost.  I noticed that even with the sky darkening, I could see more clearly. Everything had a crispness to it; a clarity and intensity that was almost overwhelming.  How I had missed it before then I couldn’t tell you.  I’m sure it was much like the sensation you must get after going many years with flawed vision, then suddenly having corrective surgery, only even the colors were brighter, deeper, richer.  I had noticed earlier that I could hear the animals in the trees around me.  I’d used that, along with my incredible speed to survive these past weeks in the wilderness.  I supposed these two things were just part of what I had become, and I was sure I’d discover more.

I was still pondering what other changes I had missed when I came close to the clearing and felt a strange sensation.  I slowed.  I heard movements and people talking, some of them weeping.  I carefully remained out of sight and used my enhanced senses to determine if there was danger, or if someone had actually survived my attack.

As I watched, I discovered some HAD survived.  And the ladies (yes, all women; why were there no men there?) who were still alive were digging. Sticks? Rocks? Whatever they could find, they were using to bury the bodies between the stones of what appeared to be some sort of ritual area.  At the time I had never seen such, but it was much like a smaller version of your Stonehenge.

Burying bodies was unheard of in that time.  Bodies were instead burned on a pyre and sent off to the next life with hope.  I must say I was fascinated!  I watched until the earth had been scattered over the last body and I watched them pray in a circle, asking the gods to release their spirits. They prayed that the bodies would consecrate the land that had been fouled by their blood.  As they finished praying, the leader spoke in a language I was unfamiliar with and I watched as the earth smoothed back into place as though the ground had never been disturbed.

I was stunned and even a bit frightened.  I started to leave but as the ladies left the consecrated ground for what appeared to be a casual meeting area, a small family of deer came into the clearing from the direction in which the ladies were heading.  Suddenly all six ladies were on the deer, feeding as I must have fed on those they had just buried.  I realized with a start that I must have fed on them too and they had become like me!  I backed a way, shaking my head in horror, and then I ran from what I had just seen.

I ran hard and with no destination in mind.  I just had to get away from that awful scene.  Athena had told me there were others like me but now I realized….I HAD CREATED THEM!  How many others were there?  Had some of them been burned on a funeral pyre, thought to be dead?  Were they all out of control and blindly killing others as I had?  Sure these ladies had only killed a few deer, but what if there had been humans around? Were there other massacres like my market incident?  Six ladies out of about 30…the percentage was astounding.  And each one would probably create more like us without even knowing, as I myself had done!  Dear gods how could you allow this? Why would you allow me and others like me to survive? I was so lost to the horror that I stumbled and fell.  It had been weeks since I’d slept, or even wanted to sleep, so I allowed oblivion to take me.