Vampires and the Sensual Awakening

I’m no longer sure there is an appeal to vampires that’s any different from the appeal of pirates or cowboys/girls or folks in uniform or witches and warlocks.

One reader says it’s the heightened senses conveyed in stories about vampires, another says it’s the bad boy allure, another says it’s the protective strength, and still more call it the aspect of danger or the tortured soul or the gift of eternity.

Couldn’t most of these be applied to any antihero? Someone who is set apart whether by job or by general essence. There is something different about them. A challenge to the norm. We have to step out of ourselves and what we know, take a chance, risk.

I don’t think the desire to take a risk is the same as liking the “bad boy” or “bad girl.” Look how many have fallen in love with the good vampires of Twilight. But they do offer something different.

So, if the appeal of antiheroes is fairly universal, then why does one reader choose vampires and another pirates? I wonder if it reverts back to our first awakenings of sensuality or first taste of adventure.

My older sister had me watch Christopher Lee when I was fairly young. I saw something I’d never seen before. I saw a man bending over a woman who leaned her head back willingly, opening her neck to his lips. I saw something in their eyes that I’d never seen in kid-TV. Sensuality. Heightened pleasure. It looked a little dangerous but irresistible. A bit like sex.

For someone else, it might have been the cowboy sweeping the wild-haired woman up onto his horse. Or maybe that look on the pirate’s face when he saw the reward of his travels: adventure. Our first taste of something new that set the adrenaline pumping and imprinted in our memory.

Stories imprint in our memory. Reading is sometimes about learning and sometimes about adventure, often both. Our peculiar passions are part of our growth.

Just as vampires have grown into our culture, the thing of the night, night’s potential. They will always be here, just as the antiheroes will always appeal, in whatever dress they wear.

Something different, something to take us out of ourselves, a step away from safety, with the promise of adventure, the promise of good or wicked pleasure.

Patricia is author of the vampire novel Beside the Darker Shore.

Five-Star Review of Beside the Darker Shore

Five-Star Review of Beside the Darker Shore

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Tell Me a Story; Now Tell Me Again

I wanted to write a story about a vampire guitarist. A friend scoffed: “If I had a nickel for every story about vampire guitarists…” Despite this quick dismissal of whatever need or passion was driving me to the sensuality of the vampire and the sensuality of music, I had to examine the idea that the story has already been written.

We often hear that every story has been written: the same love stories told again and again, the epic heroes on their quests, the rags to riches fantasies, the tragic hero’s fall.  We know of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, the idea that basic patterns of the hero’s journey appear throughout literature, throughout time.

So what’s the point of writing if we’re allowed only to write something never done before, and yet everything has been done before? How do we define new? A werewolf guitarist? A vampire drummer? I’m deliberately trivializing because I can’t imagine dismissing anyone’s story idea without knowing what compels the writer to write it and how the writing of it might bring something new to life, or something old to life again.

Why is it that so many writers, at some time or another, want to retell myths, fairy tales, and legends? Or want to extend characters and story lines from the ancient myths or even from their favorite books? Why when we read a novel we love, or view a painting that provokes us, or hear a song that stirs us, do we want to extend the experience?

A good story lives beyond the final word. A good story transcends cultures and generations. It must be that, however we’ve changed in society, something remains the same at the root. Are the myths retold because in them we recognize the basic human traits that pervade culture and time, and in recognizing that, there is comfort? What we are we have already been. Names change. Quests change. Gender changes. Nationality changes. The journey to a foreign land becomes the journey into the psyche. The battle with the giants becomes the battle with oppressive bigotry.

Are we justified in our fear of great power if we witness that same fear and the struggle to overcome in the ancient stories, still being told? What in stories of gods coming down from heaven to mold our fates can be found in tales of youth fighting society’s expectations or the questing soul coming to peace with the path life has drawn? One tale resonates in different ways for each person, each generation, each culture, depending on circumstances of place and time. A single story can be retold, reinterpreted, reimagined, relived a thousand times.

While we fight for individuality, for the way to say something fresh, I think we should be careful in defining what fresh means. If the goal is to say something new, the result often feels more like a gimmick, the piece contrived and conniving. Maybe it’s not saying something new that matters but reliving what’s old and what resonates in that universal way that makes us part of our history and our present and assures us a future as human beings.

Stories don’t die unless we forget them.

What if we do forget? What will that make us?

——-

“Eight writers modernize ancient mythologies in Distorted,  proving that not every story has been told” (or at least not told in quite this way). Available in November from Transmundane Press.  “Tantalizingly bloody tales featuring human pitted against beast and gods, with the true majesty and horrors of the afterlife, with love and death and desire…”

Blog writer Patricia J. Esposito is author of Beside the Darker Shore and has contributed to Distorted  the short story “Where the Arrow Flies,” a retelling of the Apollo and Daphne myth, in which thwarted love seeks its failed cure.

How Genre Influences the Story

The real event:

She walks with her sister down the apartment complex sidewalk. In the green, four guys bat a volleyball around. They look; she looks. She talks quickly to her sister about their visit. Rapid talk. And while  her mouth says things like “She looks healthy, happy.” Her mind says, “Hotness. Don’t look. Don’t look.” Their shirts are rolled up to their chests. Brown skin darkened already by summer sun. One’s got the Bruno Mars hair (why, guys, why?) but cute nonetheless. Eyes flicker. Talking, walking faster. Past them now. Nearing the parking lot. At the first row of cars, she stops to give her sister a hug and kiss. The four, at a distance now, stand still in a line. Goodbyes, and she and her sister head to their row of cars. She gets in, sighs with relief. Phew, hot. And the volleyball comes winging, then bouncing over, through the lot, to roll in the car space next to hers. Bruno Mars comes jogging over to retrieve it, bending, standing outside her window. She rummages through her purse till he moves on. She drives away.

How genre might determine a story’s unfolding:

Fantasy: As he bends for the ball, the string around his neck slips out of his shirt. A flash of turquoise. I gasp and look away. It’s a polinar. There’s nothing I can do but stare ahead as he tucks it back into hiding.

Western: He twirls the ball on one finger, and swaggers over. Sun glints off his buckle. He nods without a smile and moves on, taking the empty sidewalk into shadow.

Erotica: He picks up the ball but makes no move back to his friends. Standing, shirt rolled up his chest, he flips the ball hand to hand. His dark eyes stare. I unroll my window.

Mystery: It was a ploy. Obviously. The ball had to be kicked to reach this far. But they couldn’t know what was in my trunk. David said he’d put it there before sunrise.

Literary: I looked away as he bent for the ball. His shoulders were too broad to call him kid anymore, but still, who wasn’t susceptible to the mockery of peers? He deserved space to collect himself. In this complex, eyes pried through slitted window shades, and mean grins slammed the doors. He walked head up.

Romance: He snatched up the ball and sheepishly smiled. What had he done to his hair? I thought, and couldn’t help but smile back. I could see him moussing it up, laughing at himself in the mirror. But that memory was two years old already.

How much does genre choice influence our stories? I know some people write a specific genre regularly. It’s what they read; it’s what they write. I jump all over the place. And I don’t think we’re necessarily aware all the time what genre we’re aiming for. I think we might just be inclined more toward one than another. And it could be our mood, or an unconscious need that dictates what works best. Just thinking ..

Show, Don’t Tell: Another Look

Good writing isn’t as easy as following a list of ten rules. All writers have heard the importance of learning the technique “show, don’t tell.” But in too many blog tips and how-to lists, I think the concept has become oversimplified to a quick-and-easy fix, as if changing an adverb to an action fulfills the quest for reader involvement.

I recently came across a writing handbook that suggested showing rather than telling a story and gave a short example:
Telling: “No, I won’t go,” Ron said angrily

Showing: “No, I won’t go.” Ron slammed down the phone.

Within the context of a story, this might work. As readers, we might have been feeling Ron’s anger building for three paragraphs and the phone slamming is exactly what we would do too. But as an example of learning to show and not tell, I think it fails. And I see lessons like this too often. If the reader isn’t feeling the same anger, the action of slamming the phone will be as ineffective as “Ron said, angrily.” So what?

“Show, don’t tell” isn’t simply replacing a stated emotion with a physical action (Jillian felt sad/Jillian wiped a tear). It’s the writer becoming so involved in the story that he or she stops telling it. The story begins happening around the writer; the story’s world reflects the feelings and governs the actions. The reader is then involved in that world because the writer is involved.

I came across a passage from Elizabeth Chadwick’s novel The Summer Queen. I would present this as a superb example of an author showing us the story as the character lives it rather than telling us what the author thinks the character feels about the story. By its close, I feel my breath tight, suffocating on the news.

William broke the seal, read what was written, and turned to Alienor. “Madam, perhaps you should sit down,” he said, gesturing to a carved bench near the wall.

      She stared at him. Dear God, Louis was dead, she thought. She did as he suggested. Roses overhung the seat, heavy and red, their perfume filling each breath she took.

      A frown clouded William’s smooth brow. “Madam,” he said gently, “I grieve to tell you that Raymond, Prince of Antioch, has been killed in battle against the Saracens.”

      Alienor continued to stare at him. The smell of the roses intensified and the air grew so thick that she could barely breathe, and what air she did inhale was drenched with the syrupy sweet scent of flowers on the edge of corruption.

      “Madam?”

       She felt his hand on her shoulder, but it was a flimsy anchor.

–Elizabeth Chadwick, The Summer Queen http://www.amazon.com/The-Summer-Queen-Eleanor-Aquitaine/dp/1402294069

I would suggest delving deeper into “show, don’t tell” by reading good, respected writers who have proven their skills over time. I would look at passages in which you, as a reader, have felt the emotions deeply, have experienced a setting and become lost in it.

To show and not tell isn’t as simple as phrase replacement. When I’m editing my work, I sometimes come across pages in which the story feels distant to me. I’m not involved. Nowhere in them do I necessarily find a pointless dialogue tag or have a narrator say, “Samuel felt confused.” Yet, something is missing. Despite steering clear of what appears to be “telling,” the story isn’t immediate; it’s not “showing” the world in an authentic, immediate way that makes me feel without thinking and know without being told.

Think back to when you were a kid playing pretend. Your parents call you for dinner and you suddenly realize that you have been gone from this world, lost in something else as true. Think of those day or night fantasies, those moments when we imagine a scenario and forget we’re driving or become startled as someone speaks. I think writing requires that same state of being lost to one world and alive in another. When we pretend, we don’t tell. We are doing. And in a good story, that doing is shown to a reader.

So, to those quick-and-easy writing tips, I would add just a little more: Don’t simply slam down the phone. Be there to know the phone and the table it’s on, to know the clipped, tense language that surrounds you, to know if the air is thin or heavy, to know the history of the relationship happening over the phone. Be in that place and time with that character so that what happens is inevitable.

Show the reader what you saw when you were there, so that they can be there too, without instruction, without clear guidance, but inevitably as they follow your character, as they read the next words.

——-

Patricia J. Esposito is author of the novel Beside the Darker Shore

Reviews of Beside the Darker Shore:

GLBT Bookshelf

Two Lips Review

Goodreads/Thomas Olbert

Train Company: Live Hot Fun

I’d love to define Train Company with a neat label that encompasses their sound, but it’s impossible. Blues rock, yes they are that. Indie rock, that too. Jazzy nightclub seduction, yes. Gritty rock, progressive rock, they are these too. They are a rhythm even non-dancers can’t resist, a contagious joy, with sex appeal that ranges from raw lust to sweet love. They might be who you want to see if you’re “lookin’ for some change.”
 
I had the lucky pleasure of seeing them live in a small, local venue recently. If I loved their studio sound on Remains of an Effort, my love doubled on seeing them live. This band meshes. Young and energetic and in it for love, they play like seasoned veterans having loads of fun. I was astounded. I was snared.
 
Train Company is a band that understands layers and the power of subtle nuance. They know just when to hold back and when to pull out all stops and crash together. They are five guys feeding off each other’s mood and direction in the intricate building of a song.
 
Keyboardist Sam Wyatt taps tempos and crescendos from elegant to joyfully wild, as saxophonist Mark Alletag blows svelte seduction or a playful bounce; bassist Mike DeWitt tantalizes with rhythms that fix in our stomachs, as drummer Rob Lejman controls us with his steady beating or, with expert elation, rolls everything out. The band builds tension as they hold the song together, and singer/guitarist John Zozzaro buoyed on it all, responds to what he feels, tickling up a melody, luring us around corners, seducing us with a bluesy lust, or pounding a dynamic rhythm that lifts us off our feet.
 
The music drives forward, until suddenly all those separate sounds coalesce. The instruments quicken, each raising the other, and suddenly a wash of sound envelops the room. Zozzaro wails with a voice of silken seduction, rich and smooth, and guttural when need be. You’ve no choice but to relinquish, to give in to the ecstasy of release.
 
In this tiny venue, Train Company played all my favorites (do I have any that aren’t favorites?), and I don’t even know how many times the band hit transcendence. Always in “City Down by the Shoreline,” which is a fine example of their building mesh of sound, and the live version of “Other Side” caused universes to whirl and crash together. In the bluesy, beautiful “Change,” from their EP, guitars and lyrics built to climactic release, as Zozzaro sang, “Doesn’t matter anyway, ’cause we’re going whether or not …” and the audience relinquished to his own beautiful succumbing to the life he depicts.
 
A magnetic performer, Zozzaro’s vocals sometimes bubble up inside us, making the audience smile. “Bannister” had the room dancing—the sweetest sexy song I’ve heard in a long time—while “Step to Me” brings out the low and dirty, a band at work together to create raw, sensuous need.
 
I hadn’t realized how hot and sexy Train Company’s music is because it’s also filled with light, boisterous living. I don’t dance, but hearing them live, my body couldn’t resist their rhythmic undulations. “Still Can Feel the Heat” and “Myself in Two” blended assertion and nonchalance with intriguing appeal. “Leavin’” felt like the aftermath of a final night of sex and the thrill of new adventure. “October” was a beautiful testament to the band’s fearless experimentation and talent. They play with the history of rock in their genes, yet know how to make it new.
 
When Train Company plays, you see their songs taking over, how their stances alter, pulling them higher, as if the music is coming up through the floor, transporting them. Witnessing that kind of art is the greatest pleasure: immersion, surrender, and release.
 
At one point in that tiny venue, I looked around at the audience. I saw people smiling, dancing, and jumping to the energy, and one woman in a long, loose dress swayed sensuously, her hands resting on her front thighs getting lost in the sensuality of Train Company’s sound. Playful, hard, and happy; seductive, sensual, and heated. There were times I couldn’t contain my smile and other times when the sensuality had me wanting to sway like her, biting my lip instead.
 

Was it the intimate setting? I don’t know, but it was getting hot in there. 

You can hear Remains of an Effort on the Train Company website. 

Upcoming shows include

SUN 16 FEBRUARY
Kiss The Sky Batavia, IL, US
with Beco
 

FRI 21 FEBRUARY
Radio Radio Indianapolis, IN, US
with Jon Strahl Band and Jeremy Vogt Band
 

SAT 22 MARCH
Metro Chicago, IL, US
with Zaramela
 

MON 24 MARCH
FooBAR Nashville, TN, US
with Year of October
 

TUE 25 MARCH
Bottletree Cafe Birmingham, AL, US
 

WED 26 MARCH
Awendaw Green Awendaw, SC, US
F

THU 27 MARCH
The Millroom Asheville, NC, US
 

FRI 28 MARCH
Tidballs Bowling Green, KY, US
with Fat Box
 

SAT 29 MARCH
Mousetrap Indianapolis, IN, US
with bleedingkeys

Five-Star Review for Vampire Novel

Tom Olbert gives a five-star-review to the vampire novel Beside the Darker Shore.

 

“Esposito has a vivid and delicious power of imagery reminiscent of Ray Bradbury; every dewdrop sliding off every blade of grass and the crackle of every autumn leaf resonates in a narrative that flows like sweet, dark wine. The story takes us from the streets, harbor-side parks and alleyways of Boston to the villas and forests of Spain in a tale of political ambition, moral conflict, love and insatiable animal passion.”

 

“Complex and unpredictable, this one will keep you guessing, like an on-going nightmare landscape of sultry silver moonlight. Go buy this one.”

 

Read the full review on Goodreads!

 

 

 

 

[Author’s note: The review is so beautifully written, and I’ve found the author has many of his own works out. You might like to check those out too! I know I’m going to.]

Watching the World Fall in Love—with Train Company

Eavesdropping can sometimes lead to beautiful things. I was in a Starbucks, and the boisterous baristas were talking about a band, a local band I’d never heard of. I like music; I like to support local artists. I thought I’d go home and check out this band called Train Company. Odd name. I expected something maybe fun, a young group feeling their way into music, what we expect at a local level. I got something entirely different. 

Their website offered the entire album for play. I played it. I played it again. I bought it and played it every day for the next eight months. Call me obsessed: I fell in love. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t listen to them.

I’d love to define Train Company with a neat label that encompasses their sound, but it’s impossible. Blues rock, yes they are that. Indie rock, that too. Jazzy nightclub seduction, yes. Hard, anthemic rock, progressive rock, they have these too. They are a rhythm even non-dancers can’t resist, a contagious joy, with sex appeal that ranges from raw lust to sweet love. This band brings you life.

I had the lucky pleasure to see them live in a small, local venue, The Office in Batavia, IL. If I loved their studio sound, my love doubled on seeing them live. This band meshes. Young and energetic and in it for love, they play together like seasoned veterans. I was astounded. 

Train Company is a band that understands layers, the power of subtle nuance. They know just when to hold back and when to pull out all stops and crash together. They are five guys feeding off each other’s mood and direction, building intricately as keyboardist Sam Wyatt taps tempos and crescendos from elegant to joyfully wild, as saxophonist Mark Alletag blows svelte seduction or a playful bounce, as bassist Mike DeWitt tantalizes with rhythms that fix in our stomachs, as drummer Rob Lejman controls us with a steady beating or with expert elation rolls everything out. The band builds tension as they hold the song together, and singer/guitarist John Zozzaro buoyed on it all, responds to what he feels, tickling up a melody, luring us around corners, or pounding a dynamic rhythm.

The music drives forward, until suddenly all those separate sounds coalesce. The instruments quicken, each raising the other, and suddenly a wash of sound envelops the room. Zozzaro wails with a voice of silken seduction, rich and smooth, and guttural when need be. You’ve no choice but to relinquish, to give in to the ecstasy of release.

In this tiny venue, Train Company played all my favorites (do I have any that aren’t favorites?), and I don’t even know how many times the band hit transcendence. Always in “City Down by the Shoreline,” which is a fine example of their building mesh of sound, and the live version of “Other Side” caused the universe to crash and whirl together. In the bluesy, beautiful “Change,” guitars and lyrics built to climactic release, as Zozzaro sang, “Doesn’t matter anyway, ‘cause we’re going whether or not …” and the audience relinquished to his own beautiful succumbing to the life he depicts. A magnetic performer, Zozzaro’s songs sometimes bubble up inside us, making the audience smile. “Bannister” had the room dancing, the sweetest sexy song I’ve heard in a long time, while “Step to Me” brought out the low and dirty, a band at work together to create raw, sensuous need.

I hadn’t realized how hot and sexy Train Company’s music is because it’s also filled with light, boisterous living. I don’t dance, but hearing them live, my body couldn’t resist their rhythmic undulations. “Still Can Feel the Heat” and “Myself in Two” blended assertion and nonchalance with intriguing appeal. “Leavin’” felt like the aftermath of a final night of sex and the thrill of new adventure. “October” was a beautiful testament to the band’s fearless experimentation and talent. They play with the history of rock in their genes, yet know how to make it new.

They are a band that makes songs come alive. You see the sound taking them, how as they play along with each other, their stances alter, pulling them higher, as if the music is coming up through the floor, taking over, transporting them. Witnessing that kind of art is the greatest pleasure: immersion, surrender, and release.

At one point in that tiny venue, I looked around at the audience. I saw people smiling, dancing, or jumping to the energy, and one woman in a long, loose dress who swayed sensuously, her hands resting on her front thighs getting lost in the sensuality of Train Company’s sound. Playful, hard, and happy; seductive, sensual, and heated. There were times I couldn’t contain my smile and other times when the sensuality had me wanting to sway like her, biting my lip instead. Was it the intimate setting? I don’t know, but it was getting hot in there.

You can get a taste of them here