When Life Gives You Lemons, Daydream About Psychotic Vampires

I don’t know about you, but Life has been kicking my ass lately. Due to some issues with my employment over the past several months, I had to start working for a temp agency to earn some money in order to dig myself out of a huge financial hole. Back in August of last year I walked away from a job after realizing that despite all my hard work and effort, I was never going to be seen as a peer or equal by the people who literally rewrote the job description I wrote for my position so that I would no longer qualify for the job I had been doing for 4 years. So, I cobbled together what little dignity I had to spare, and left.

Then I started working for a small company that was struggling financially, which meant that I was struggling financially. I liked the work and the people, but I had to borrow money and pull money out of savings in order to scrape by. I’m behind on all my bills, and I am often crippled with worry about the future.

I was invited to present a paper about vampires at an academic conference in Romania this summer that I had to pull out of, because I couldn’t afford the trip. I’m still a little broken-hearted over the fact that I can’t go, because it was a dream come true. Well, maybe next year.

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On the bright side, I sold a short story and picked up some freelance work writing web content, and I have some amazingly supportive friends and loving family in my corner. Even if they can’t bail me out of debt, they cheer me up and remind me that life isn’t just about collecting a paycheck. Although, paychecks are obviously necessary and I can’t live without them.

This morning on my way to work, a piece of gravel flew up off the road and cracked my windshield. Now I have to figure out the how the hell I’m going to pay to have it repaired, come up with the money for my son to go to summer camp, and oh yeah, pay my rent.

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I am a 46-year-old, divorced woman of color with three college degrees and lots of valuable work experience. I go on interviews every few months in the hopes of finding a better job, but nothing seems to pan out. I spoke to a woman yesterday on the phone about a job, and she said she was worried that I was overqualified. I explained that I’m a single mom. I’m raising my child alone with no child support. I need a job to survive and I’m looking for a stable position where I get to do work I enjoy. Oddly enough, that seemed like a novel idea to her, as if there were jobs falling out of the sky and I had my pick. We’ll see if I pass the personality test she sent me as part of the interview process. That’s right. I took an online personality test today to see if my personality, not just my education and years of experience are a good match for a job I’m overqualified for. Isn’t Life a scream?

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On top of the fact that I’m in non-stop survival mode, I’ve hit my sexual peak and haven’t dated anyone in over a year because I’m not interested in meaningless hookups. To be fair, I’m not exactly in an ideal phase of my life to attract worthy partners. By worthy, I mean single, attractive, kind, interesting, educated, financially stable men with a dark sense of humor who can laugh at themselves and make me laugh, who didn’t vote for Trump, and aren’t members of the NRA. Too specific? I don’t think so. Actually, if you think you meet these qualifications, I’ll be accepting applications later this month. Just kidding. Sort of.

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Sure, I have pleasant flirtations with friends on social media, but again I haven’t been on an actual date since early last year. Psychologically, I’m not sure I’d be very good company some days, but my friends keep telling me I’m a great catch. Whatever. My plate is kind of full with raising my ASD kid, dealing with my own issues of anxiety and depression, while trying to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to pay for everything. All while trying to work full-time and build a writing career.

Writing is one of the most important and soothing activities in my life. Before I ever even considered publishing my work, I wrote because I wanted to, needed to. Most of my life, I have dealt with times of crisis by finding solace in fiction. I read, I watch films and TV, and I write. Some people might tell you I hide in fiction. Screw them. They aren’t my friends. Fiction is a balm that allows me to escape from reality, and right now, mine is a non-stop shit show.

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Some people enjoy watching sports and reality TV shows, or reading romance novels with happily-ever-afters. Unless there are monsters or other supernatural or magically gifted characters involved, I’m not interested in watching. Don’t get me wrong. I love romance, but I like the paranormal variety, where crazy women fall in love with vampires, werewolves and demons. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I absolutely love monsters. Vampires are my favorite monsters, and have been since before I was a teenager. I like complicated characters who are a bit more villain than hero who have faced such great tragedy that they go a little crazy. So, naturally, insane vampires are at the top of my list when it comes to being entertained.

One of the craziest and most entertaining vampires ever is Franklin Mott. Over the weekend, I treated myself by watching all of the True Blood episodes Franklin appears in, so I could laugh, get creeped out, and forget about my troubles for a few hours. I indulged my love of monster soap operas and reminded myself that things could be much worse. I could be tied to a toilet in a cheap motel while being held against my will by an insane vampire who thinks he’s in love with me. Wait. Actually, that sounds like a fun weekend.

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Franklin Mott is a Grade-A psycho. We’re first introduced to Franklin, played by British actor James Frain, in episode two of the third season of True Blood, “Beautifully Broken,” in which Lafayette Reynolds prevents his cousin, Tara Thornton, from committing suicide while mourning the death of her murderous boyfriend, Eggs. Tara is not only mourning the death of her boyfriend, but the fact that the happiest she ever felt in her life was when she was being psychically controlled by a maenad. She compares the experience of being head-over-heels in love with Eggs to being a zombie. That complete lack of control scares her and further challenges her belief in the existence of true love, or at the very least, her belief that she might not be worthy of receiving it.

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Tara hasn’t had a lot of luck in the romance department, and she’s beginning to wonder if the problem is her. So, the fact that the next man she attracts is an exceptionally violent vampire, does little to boost her self-image.

Franklin comes to Bon Temps to gather intelligence on Bill Compton for the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, and learn more about his human companion, Sookie Stackhouse. After finding a secret dossier on Sookie hidden in Bill’s office, and disposing of a dead body Jessica has stashed in the cellar, Franklin goes in search of a little R&R at Bon Temps’ hottest night spot, Merlotte’s.

It’s Tara’s night off, but Lafayette wants to keep an eye on her after her suicide attempt. She’s feeling pretty low, but pitches in behind the bar. When Franklin asks how she’s doing, she tells him she’s trying not to kill herself. He jokingly asks how that’s going for her. She says, “I’m still alive.” He says, “That makes one of us.” Tara then gets up and offers him a bottle of True Blood.

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Later in the episode, we see Tara sitting in the parking lot behind the bar drinking Wild Turkey straight from the bottle. Two drunk rednecks stumble out the backdoor, talking shit about Eggs in less than flattering terms, and one of them takes a piss on the spot where he was shot to death. Tara confronts them and things escalate quickly. She gets into a fist fight, but is outmatched until Franklin suddenly comes to her rescue. He helps out by holding one of the men so Tara can continue punching him, releasing some of her rage and grief. While Franklin holds the man and Tara hits him, Franklin’s fangs pop out, clearly turned on by Tara’s bloodlust.

The next time we see Tara and Franklin, they’re in bed together in a cheap motel. Tara has never had sex with a vampire and the experience is eyeball-rollingly orgasmic for both of them. In the midst of the encounter, Tara tells Franklin to bite her, but he refuses. Confused, she asks why. He tells her it’s because she asked him to, and his tone is teasing, playful.

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They continue to have sex until dawn, and Franklin seems to have taken a liking to Tara. He asks her questions about herself wanting to get to know her. Curious as to where all her rage comes from. At this point, he doesn’t even know her name. Unwilling to develop any sort of attachment, Tara gets dressed and tells him she isn’t interested in forming any kind of lasting bond with him. And you get the sense that his feelings might be a little hurt when she leaves.

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Still on assignment for the Vampire King of Mississippi, Franklin continues to follow leads to gather more intel on Bill and learn more about Sookie. He tracks down Bill’s progeny, Jessica, and lets her know that he’s the one who disposed of the body she was hiding. Then he proceeds to grill her for information. In the process of learning more about Bill and Sookie, he also learns that Tara is staying at Sookie’s while she’s off trying to find Bill. Bill was kidnapped by Russell Edgington and is being held captive in Mississippi. Against his better judgment, Eric provides Sookie with a werewolf bodyguard, Alcide Herveaux, who accompanies her to Mississippi.

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Franklin shows up at Sookie’s and Tara is shocked to see him. She refuses to let him come in until he mesmerizes her and bends her to his will. She invites him in and he asks her questions about Bill and Sookie and discovers that Sookie is in Mississippi looking for Bill. Franklin then proceeds to kidnap Tara, claiming that he loves her and wants them to be together. Apparently, whether she likes it or not. This is when we begin to see just how crazy Franklin really is. We get a glimpse of his possessive, controlling nature when he tells Tara that if she keeps smiling while talking about Jason Stackhouse, he might have to get jealous.

Franklin begins exhibiting some of the classic signs of stalker/abuser behavior. He believes that if he has feelings for Tara, she should have feelings for him. It’s okay if she doesn’t right away, because he’s going to convince her that they’re meant to be together. Even if he has to resort to violence. For instance, he bounds and gags Tara in the bathroom of the cheap motel where they had what she believed was their one-night stand. When the sun goes down, Franklin shows up with flowers that he duct tapes to Tara’s bound hands before putting her in his car.

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When she demands to know where he’s taking her, because she views his actions as kidnapping, he acts offended and tells her she’ll ruin the surprise. She’s angry, confused, and terrified. Again, we get the sense that her refusal to simply enjoy the ride hurts his feelings. He imagines a relationship developing between them that is obviously one-sided.

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At one point, Tara demands to know why he keeps her tied up if he has feelings for her, and he tells her it is for her safety. He gets upset and nearly breaks down crying, because again, his feelings are hurt by her implication that he is keeping her tied up to hurt her, not protect her. His behavior becomes more erratic and confusing the more time she spends in his company. However, Tara is a pro at dealing with abusers, and soon learns how best to manipulate Franklin to protect herself and convince him to do what she wants.

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If she shows signs of being upset, he asks who made her feel that way and threatens to kill them. He apologizes for not taking better care of her when he forgets that she needs to eat regular food. He brings her gifts and tries to make her comfortable. Then, he goes a step too far and proposes to her. She obviously can’t say no, but has no desire to become a vampire. If they are wed, he plans to change her so they can be together forever. One of the obvious drawbacks of falling in love with a vampire, or becoming a vampire’s object of desire, is that in order for any long-term love affair to occur, you have to become like them.

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He loves her so much, he wants to kill her. She doesn’t want to die. In fact, she’s horrified by the thought, which is ironic given the fact that she tried to kill herself at the beginning of the episode in which they met. But, I guess the message here is that she wants to die on her own terms. She wants her death to be her own decision. She wants to be in control of her life and death, not at the mercy of a psychotic, love-sick vampire. Beyond that, Tara also realizes that just because someone desires you, that doesn’t mean they have the right to own you. And, Franklin Mott’s version of love entails ownership.

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While watching the episode in which he offers her what amounts to an eternity of slavery to her bloodlust, it wasn’t lost on me that the setting was an old plantation house in the deep South. Tara is essentially a house slave at the mercy of her owner’s desires. Franklin is not her lover, he’s her master. She’s held against her will and forced to endure his poisonous version of affection. Of course, if you tried to explain this concept to Franklin, he’d probably be so offended that he’d black out in a murderous rage and wake up in a room surrounded by body parts.

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Despite his dangerous flaws, Franklin Mott is an interesting character. He has some of the funniest and most memorable lines in season three. His gallows humor, intelligence, biting sarcasm, and taste in mostly all black clothing make him charming and interesting. Something broke inside Franklin long before he became a vampire. There was darkness in him prior to becoming one of the undead. However, even if he wasn’t a vampire, his attraction to vulnerable women who have essentially given up on life makes him a predator.

As fictional characters go, Franklin Mott is right up my alley, but I wouldn’t want to meet someone like him in the real world.

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Fallen Angel at the Crossroads

So, I’m a little behind in my posts this week, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s been a productive week and here I am writing another blog post whether I am able to write 28 posts in a month, which is a great goal, but simply not possible for me this year. It’s OK. I’ve been writing other stuff and the real goal for me is to just keep writing every day that I can. With that said, let’s get back to February’s theme of fuckable fictional characters.

I celebrated my birthday this week and got an unexpected gift when Charlaine Harris announced that there will be a second season of Midnight, Texas. Ironically, I had written two posts about characters from the series recently, one about Manfred Bernardo and one about Fiji and Bobo. Today, I’m staying in Midnight, because there’s another character I’d like to talk about. A certain fallen angel that makes my heart beat faster and makes my mind wander to very naughty things.

Fallen Angel at the Crossroads: Joe Strong

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Joe Strong is a fallen angel who is in a same sex marriage with Chuy Strong, a Mexican American who happens to be half-demon. Talk about a mixed marriage. Although Joe and Chuy are out about their marriage, they aren’t that open about the fact that Joe is fallen and Chuy is part demon. These secrets are part of the reason they live together in Midnight, Texas where they own and operate a tattoo parlor/nail boutique. Joe’s skills as an artist earn them a comfortable living in the middle of nowhere, but his paintings are far more interesting than any body art he’s creating.

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When we first see Joe, he appears to be going for a morning run, but when he reaches the creek, he strips off his shirt and reveals a pair of magnificent white wings that are hidden beneath his otherwise human-looking exterior. Joe spreads his wings, takes off at a run, and soars into the air. It was at that moment I fell in love.

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I’m not 100% sure why, but I have a thing for fallen angels. Depending on the mythology of the fictional universe you’re writing or reading in, fallen angels aren’t automatically demons. I’m working on a novel that features a fallen angel who is a demon, but I struggled with whether or not to refer to him as one or the other. I think referring to him as a demon has more power in certain ways since he spends a lot of time in Hell and my protagonist is bound to him by an arranged marriage. When they are wed, she has to follow him to Hell. Thems the rules! Beyond my character being a demon and spending a lot of time in the company of his brother, Lucifer, the first fallen angel, he is motivated by a sense of justice and takes his job as an assassin charged with rounding up the baddest of souls very seriously.

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Joe also seems to be motivated by a desire to do the right thing in most situations. He is kind, helpful, willing to fight to keep the people he cares about safe, and the reason he is fallen is because it was his job to kill demons and when he met Chuy he fell in love. He couldn’t justify killing demons if he was in love with one. So, he left his gig in Heaven and decided to live on Earth. In Midnight.

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His choice to live in Midnight initially seems to be because he is in hiding, which is true. But as the first season of Midnight, Texas unfolds, we learn that there is a coming battle between Good and Evil, and this isn’t the first time Joe has been around to witness the carnage. Midnight Crossroads has a dark history and it attracts people with preternatural abilities. It is a magical hotspot, but unfortunately as the veil between worlds weakens, the creatures who are attracted to Midnight aren’t exactly coming to fight on the side of Good.

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Joe is hesitant to talk about the fact that he’s an angel, more hesitant to talk about the fact that Chuy is a demon, and he really doesn’t want to talk about the opening of the veil. He’s worried that if he tells the truth, his friends and neighbors in Midnight might reject them. But, he’s also worried about his Enochian brethren finding him and Chuy. When an angel decides to fall, that kind of pisses the rest of Heaven off. There’s one particular angel who is exceptionally pissed off about Joe’s decision to fall and his reasons why.

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Bowie is an older and more powerful angel who was Joe’s mentor back in the day. Together, they slew demons left, right and center the first time all Hell broke loose on the land where Midnight now sits. Despite his reservations about killing, Joe did his duty and was good at his job. So good, that Bowie bragged about her protege and took it personally when Joe fell. Bowie is kind of single-minded when it comes to killing demons and anyone she deems on the wrong side of Heaven. Ironically, she herself falls and becomes something she would have battled against in the past. She is more monstrous than Joe or Chuy, because she embodies several of the Seven Deadly sins, including Pride and Wrath. She threatens the life of innocent mortals to draw Joe out, and goes on a rampage to end Joe’s life.

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Chuy and Joe are worried that if Chuy’s demon side shows itself, it will be almost impossible to control it. Chuy has apparently been struggling with the pull of Evil coming from under Midnight, but seeing Joe’s life endangered sets him off and he releases his demon self in a fit of fear and rage. Chuy kills Bowie, but almost kills Manfred and Joe as well. Joe is able to get Chuy under control, but sends him away when he realizes the extent to which the veil is having and effect on him. When the other Midnighters see Chuy’s true face they are shocked and afraid. But once Bowie is defeated and the dust settles, they are a little more willing to accept the truth of Joe and Chuy’s real identities and still consider them friends.

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Joe wants to do the right thing and help his friends in Midnight, but his one weakness is Chuy. If your greatest weakness is lying to protect the love of your life, I can understand the motivation to keep their true identities a secret.

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Let’s be realistic here, folks. Joe is not only a fallen angel. He’s a handsome white man who is in love with a Mexican American man. Even without Chuy being a demon, there are people who would gladly hurt them just for being in love. Add the fact that they are essentially forbidden from being together because of the whole Good vs. Evil thing, and they could potentially be two of America’s most wanted for crimes against good Christian values. Whatever the hell that means. Good Christian values sounds more and more like an oxymoron to me these days. I’m not an Atheist, but I’m also not a Christian by default, which a lot of people seem to think is the case. I don’t have a problem with Jesus Christ, it’s his followers I take issue with most of the time.

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There’s a lot more happening in Midnight, Texas than just a supernatural soap opera. Charlaine Harris’ characters challenge a lot of popular mainstream views of how life in the United States should be, and the TV show kicks those characters up a notch by creating interracial relationships at a time when people who voted for Trump are basking in the pastiche of making America great again. Unfortunately, the America they’re hoping to reclaim never really existed. Same sex marriages and interracial marriages, legally recognized or not, are not new editions to the American cultural landscape. Our history is full of examples of both. Just because they don’t appear in the whitewashed version of history found in most textbooks, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. You can’t make America White Again, because it never truly was.

The Color of Love

As a writer who happens to be a woman of color, it’s important to me to see myself in books, film and art. Seeing other people of color in important roles isn’t as uncommon now as it was for me when I was growing up, but I am not just a person of color. I am ethnically mixed. My mother is white and my father was black. I was raised by my mother’s family and am more culturally white than black according to the tiny boxes people wish to place us in here in America. I am primarily attracted to men of European ancestry and have only dated and had long-term relationships with white men. I don’t think my ethnicity and dating practices make me that unique, but it has taken me nearly a lifetime to see healthy relationships between women of color and white men depicted in films, books, and on TV. In my nearly 46 years, it has been within the last roughly 10 years that it has become commonplace to see interracial couples in commercials, on TV shows, and in films that didn’t have a darker undercurrent. The specter of racism hanging over that relationship and making it nearly impossible for it to exist.

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I remember being very excited to see Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke’s sex scenes in Angel Heart when I was a teenager, but the older I get the more I realize that their relationship was fraught with many problems, the least of which being that she is murdered. Racism is prevalent in the film. And despite the fact that Harry Angel is aware of racism and segregation in his hometown of New York City, it is even more apparent that blacks and whites don’t mix when he gets to New Orleans. To be fair, the film is set in the 1950s, so Jim Crow is alive and well. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the police officer investigating the string of deaths that seem to follow Harry Angel refers to Epiphany Proudfoot as Harry’s nigger. What should surprise us is that Harry does nothing to defend Epiphany’s honor. I mean obviously he enjoyed her company if his blood-soaked orgy fantasy while screwing her is any indication. So, if he really does like her, at least sexually, and is worried about her safety, then why doesn’t he tell the detective not to call her a nigger? One reason is due to the history of interracial relationships in this country being either forbidden, kept secret or simply flat-out denied and erased from history. But, our history isn’t nearly as lily white as the textbooks would like us to believe.

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Like I said, interracial relationships are becoming more common in works of popular fiction, but who is writing them? Who is performing them? How are they being depicted? This summer I was shocked, delighted, and fascinated by the choice to change the ethnicity of two of the major characters in Charlaine Harris’ Midnight Texas series for the TV adaptation. In the novels, Fiji Cavanaugh, the local witch, is a plump little white woman who is head over heels for Bobo Winthrop, the handsome owner of Midnight Pawnshop. Their relationship is complicated in the novels, but the decision to make Fiji a woman of color on TV takes the level of complication to a much darker place. And, the choice to cast a very dark-skinned black man as Lemuel Bridger was interesting since in the novels his is one of the palest vampires alive. The rewriting of Lemuel’s backstory, making him a slave who kills his master after becoming a vampire, is almost a new American mythology of revenge. The first time I encountered this concept of a slave becoming a vampire as a form of freedom, was in The Gilda Stories, by Jewelle Gomez (1991). But as even Lemuel realizes, he traded one form of slavery for another.

The Color of Love: Bobo Winthrop and Fiji Cavanaugh

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Bobo Winthrop first appears in the Lily Bard Shakespeare series of mystery novels written by Charlaine Harris between 1996 and 2001. Lily Bard is an amatuer sleuth who gets involved in the darker aspects of the community she lives in. Lily’s past is also dark and she initially attempts to stay out of the public eye, but can’t allow bad people to get away with their evil deeds. She cleans houses for a living and is a martial arts student. Lily cleans the Winthrop house, and Bobo is also a martial arts student who sometimes works at the gym where they workout and take classes.

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Bobo is the teenage son of a wealthy well-connected family in Shakespeare, GA. His family is involved in the White Supremacist movement, which Bobo is extremely ashamed of and tries to distance himself from his family once he becomes more aware of their activities and the fact that they have actually had a hand in killing people. Most notably, the bombing of an all Black church in Shakespeare.

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When Bobo reappears in the Midnight, Texas series, he’s an adult and has been running from his family for many years. He bought the pawnshop from Lemuel and had established himself as a regular in Midnight, which means he has a dark past and is intentionally trying to keep a low profile. He’s one of the few human characters in the novels, but his past is dark enough to make him fit in, and his fiance is murdered in the first Midnight novel. Because she has lied to him about her identity and the fact that she’s already married to someone else, he slowly discovers that she was plant that brings back the truth of his past that he has tried to escape from.

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As I mentioned, in the novels, his best friend is Fiji Cavanaugh and she is a small, chubby white woman who is also a witch. Fiji fantasizes about Bobo and having a relationship, but her low self-esteem and body image issues keep her from getting as close as she’d like to the handsome man with the very dark past. And, he doesn’t exactly profess his undying love for her either. The TV show makes their relationship even more complicated by casting a woman of color as Fiji. Fiji and Bobo are still friends. Bobo’s fiance, Aubrey turns up dead and she is married to a white supremacist who was trying to get information about a legendary stash of weapons Bobo stole from his family to prevent them from killing more people. Fiji doesn’t know about Bobo’s past even though they are good friends. Of course, Fiji has some secrets of her own that cause a bit of havoc as the story develops. Bobo is attracted to Fiji and admits that the first time he saw her, he thought he was out of her league. Her kindness and friendship over the years hasn’t gone unnoticed, and when Aubrey dies, she’s the first one to offer comfort. And, when anything happens to Fiji, Bobo is usually the first to come running to her rescue or to defend her honor. And yet, they aren’t a couple.

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It takes the two of them much longer to get together in the novels, but the TV show dives right in and does a mashup of all three books in 10 episodes. Because I read the novels, I had no trouble keeping up. However, the timeline is out of whack, and there are missing characters. I’m doubtful of a second season showing this summer, because, hey, I love the show so it probably won’t get renewed…so  who knows what will happen next?

In the show, like the novels, when Fiji discovers Bobo’s connection to white supremacists and is kidnapped because of that connection, she is unable to trust him for a long time. The truth of his past and the fact that his secret put her in danger causes her to take a break from their friendship. Obviously, casting a woman of color as Fiji gives so much more weight to this revelation.

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She loves Bobo, but knowing that he was raised by white supremacists, regardless of his beliefs and actions as an adult, raises some serious trust issues and makes Fiji reconsider her feelings. It doesn’t help that Bobo is showing an interest in her that goes beyond friendship and he even tells her that he loves her.

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Bobo pleads his case, tells her that he’s ashamed of his family, but misses being able to see them. He’s completely honest with her and is worried that she’ll reject him. But, rather than badgering her and begging for forgiveness and trying to show her that he isn’t like his family, he tries to give her the space she needs to figure things out. His feelings are hurt, but he doesn’t blame her for not trusting him. He continues to worry about her and does what he can to keep her safe, let her know he loves her, and has to wait for her to welcome him back in.

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In the meantime, there’s a demon communicating with Fiji who wants to be her new boyfriend so he can have access to her high concentration of witch mojo. In the books, like the show, one of Fiji’s secrets is that she’s a virgin. In her 30s. Apparently, virgin witches over 30 are not only rare, but very powerful. And, the demon wants to get on that. The entire town is in danger, and the demon keeps encouraging people to kill themselves, because it feeds on death and the more death there is, the easier it is for him to rise out of Hell. In the third novel, Night Shift, when we find out Fiji’s secret, the male characters all volunteer to help Fiji with her…problem. Fiji is beyond embarrassed and totally freaked out that all of the men, including Joe who is in a relationship with another man, offer to take her virginity. In the novel, it has to be performed like a ritual on top of the Hellmouth, which means she has to do it in public with the lucky fella. First time jitters don’t even cover that effed up situation.

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In the TV show, Bobo offers the solution to Fiji who initially thinks he’s crazy. So, after weeks of avoiding being alone with Bobo, Fiji decides to have sex with him. Now, we already know that they care about each other and Bobo can’t imagine…or really even tolerate the thought that someone else would put their hands on Fiji. He’s a nice guy, but jealousy is kind of an issue for him beyond the desire to keep Fiji safe. At least they get to do it in private on the TV show.

The choice to make Fiji a person of color was a bold one on the part of the scriptwriters and casting director. It gives the problem of Bobo’s past more weight and addresses some of the typical concerns people have about interracial relationships. Not to mention the fact that NBC put an interracial couple on during prime time while racists are trying to make America white again after Trump’s election. AND, made white supremacists the bad guys, second only to demons. Stick that in your Evangelical Christian pipe and smoke it.

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What’s really interesting to me is the fact that Fiji never mentions race in any of their conversations. Bobo simply confesses that he was ashamed and that’s why he didn’t tell her about his family. And she says she’s upset because it was a lie of omission. He lied to her. She doesn’t say anything like, “how could you lead me on and let me fall in love with you when you were raised by racists who you’re on the run from?” His lie almost cost Fiji her life.

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But, once Bobo has deflowered her and chased the demon away…literally with his penis, all is forgiven and they become a couple. In the TV show, Manfred has more of a hand in defeating the demon, but in the novel, some much needed sex magic does the trick. Bobo’s white penis saved Fiji’s life. You read that right. Fiji’s salvation came in the form of a white man’s penis.

Let that sink in for a moment.

As a woman of color who has dated only white men, I have had the misfortune of dealing with racist relatives who make off-color jokes about my sexual proclivities because apparently black women’s vaginas are a source of fear and mystery, reminiscent of the Dark Continent itself. My exes who had never dated anyone other than white girls/women before dating me were either making huge mistakes or conquering some unknown territory according the some of the friends and family members. So, seeing Bobo and Fiji warmed my heart because I want them to be together. Despite his past, Bobo really is a good man and truly loves Fiji. And, let’s face it, they’re a hot couple. If NBC nixes a second season, my dream would be for it to get picked up by Showtime or HBO so that Fiji and Bobo get a lot more sex scenes. No, like a lot of sex scenes so they can try lots of different positions. And, that would also open up the possibility for Joe and Chuy to have a few sex scenes. Because Bobo is hot. Manfred is hot. But Joe Strong makes my mouth water.

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As hot as Bobo and Fiji are as a couple, seeing them together and knowing Bobo’s backstory caused me to remember some uncomfortable parts of my own past. Bobo isn’t going to be able to take Fiji home to meet his family. That isn’t an option. Part of me envies that fact. Meeting someone’s family for the first time is usually fraught with fear for me. Fear of past hurts, fear of further rejection, fear of actual physical violence. When I was a teenager, I called my boyfriend’s house, and his father told him that his nigger was on the phone. I was only 14. No one’s father has ever said that to me since, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking it. And, it is certainly always on my mind each time I meet the friends and family of a new partner.

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You may ask yourself, why would I continue to date white men if I harbor fears like that? And my answer to you would be, because you can’t choose who you are attracted to or who you love. Maybe the real takeaway from Midnight, Texas shouldn’t be that Bobo’s white penis saved a black woman from damnation. Maybe the takeaway is the fact that people come into our lives and regardless of our pasts, regardless of our differences, we can’t help but fall in love. I’m a cynic and the fact that Bobo’s penis saved the day isn’t something I can completely ignore. None of the penises I’ve encountered have ever been magical enough to save me from certain doom. In fact, they probably caused me more trouble than anything else. I think most women would say the same regardless of their dating preferences. But as cynical as I am, I’m also a hopeless romantic who still believes in love. And, I also firmly believe that the color of your lover shouldn’t matter as long as they love and respect you.

Dead Men Do Tell Tales

I’ve been a fan of Charlaine Harris’ characters since I picked up my first Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Until Dark. It wasn’t until I started reading some of her other series, like the Harper Connolly series, the Lily Bard Shakespeare series, and the Midnight Texas series, that I realized she likes to recycle some of her characters. Most of the characters who appear in the Southern Vampire series stay put in that world, but when you branch out into her other books, you realize that the worlds are more connected than at first glance. Charlaine Harris is masterful at not only creating worlds we can see ourselves in, but characters that feel like best friends and potential lovers. No one writes about the pain of loss, the fear of loneliness, and the desire to simply be left alone after a great tragedy as well as she does in the context of mystery and urban fantasy novels. And, when you begin delving into some of the other series, you’ll begin to recognize some of your old friends and acquaintances. For instance, in the Midnight Texas books we encounter Manfred Bernardo, who also appears in the Harper Connelly series, and Bobo Winthrop, who appears in the Lily Bard Shakespeare series, and John Quinn, who appears in the Southern Vampire series.

Shortly before NBC debuted the short-lived TV show, Midnight, Texas, I finished reading the third book in the Midnight series, Night Shift. While I absolutely adored the TV show, it took a lot of liberties with characters and plot lines, and if I hadn’t read the books beforehand, I might have found the show confusing and absurd. But, since I was familiar with the characters and had read all three novels, it was fun to watch the story unfold and see how the characters would interact with each other.

Like I said, NBC took some liberties with characters, especially with their appearances, but in the end, the changes made the show a bit more interesting. It also made some of the characters more attractive and deepened the relevance of their relationships. When I started writing this post, I considered devoting a paragraph to each character and simply writing about the ensemble of characters. Why you might ask? Well, because for the most part, each of them is perfectly fuckable. Then I stopped to think about and realized there are two characters in particular that I had the hots for all summer, and two couples. So, rather than just write one post and shoot my load all at once, I’m going to write four posts about the same show and delve a little deeper into each character/couple.

Dead Men Do Tell Tales: Manfred Bernardo

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For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll be focusing mainly on the TV show based on the Midnight books, but I will point out differences between the show and the novels from time to time, like the fact that I wouldn’t look twice at Manfred if he looked the way Charlaine described him in the novels. Actually, that’s not an entirely fair assessment. I would look twice at Manfred in the novels, because his appearance is striking due to his multiple facial piercings, tattoos, and essentially albino complexion. However, the actor (Francois Arnaud) portraying Manfred in the TV show turns heads for other reasons.

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Manfred is an interesting guy. In the Pilot episode, we learn that he earns his living as a psychic, with a website, wealthy clients, and fancy hotel room meetings. As a psychic, he communicates with the dead and tries to make peace for their loved ones, but Manfred is no charlatan, he can really talk to the dead, which actually makes him a medium. In fact, spirits like to hitch a ride inside Manfred and use his body to communicate with the living. In the opening scene, Manfred’s body gets hijacked by his client’s deceased husband who goes into a jealous rage after her learns his wife is now dating his friend and business partner. Manfred manages to take control of his body and prevents the disgruntled ghost from stabbing his wife with a shard of a mirror he shattered.

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Soon after, Manfred gets a phone call and we get some sketchy details about money he owes to someone who is chasing after him. Agitated by the phone call, the next scene we see is of Manfred traveling through the desert in an old beat up RV and meet the ghost of his grandmother, Xylda, who is bound to the vehicle. Manfred inherited his abilities from Xylda, and comes from a long line of fortune tellers, psychics, and seers. He’s on his way to Midnight, Texas to settle down and most likely, hide out for a while at his grandmother’s recommendation.

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He meets up with his landlord, Bobo Winthrop, who owns Midnight’s pawn shop and moves into his new home. It doesn’t take long for the unsettled spirits of Midnight to introduce themselves to Manfred and seek his help to communicate with the living. The day after he moves into town, the water-soaked, bloated body of Bobo’s missing fiance, Aubrey, is discovered in the creek bed near the picnic area where Midnighter’s are having a BBQ.

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It also doesn’t take long for Manfred to develop an interest in a local young woman, Cree. Cree likes Manfred, too, but she has to sneak around to see him due to the fact that her father is obsessively over protective. Despite her dad’s efforts to cock block Manfred, Cree and Manfred develop a romantic relationship. Even though Cree’s family secrets almost cost her and Manfred their lives, they aren’t the most interesting couple in Midnight.

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The longer Manfred stays in Midnight, the more we learn about his past and the fact that Destiny may have brought him to the strange little town where unusual people make their homes, including a vampire, a witch, an angel, and a weretiger for starters. Manfred’s talents come in handy as more of the darkness buried beneath Midnight comes to the surface.

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Something is waking up under Midnight, whatever it is it is increasing the spiritual activity in town, making Manfred’s house uninhabitable for the medium for cannot keep the ghosts at bay. Not only are the spiritual inhabitants restless, but the dark energy in the town begins to attract other dark forces and the secrets each Midnighter keeps hidden become harder to hide. Fortunately, weirdness is the glue that keeps folks in Midnight together. In fact, Manfred’s weird talents quickly make him a welcome addition to the strange little town. And, his insights help to solve Aubrey’s murder and clear Bobo as a murder suspect.

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Manfred wins the trust of the other residents of Midnight and proves himself to be an invaluable weapon in the fight against evil.

The Magic of Doggy Style

If you haven’t read the Jane True Urban Fantasy series, you should. I picked up a used copy of Tempest Rising (2009) at a thrift store back in September and read it cover to cover in two days. I have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and I’ve made a point of reading at least one work of fiction by the faculty who teach and mentor in the program. I finally got around to reading Nicole Peeler’s series about Jane True, a twenty-something small town girl who is essentially treated like an outcast due to the fact that she has a dark past. Most of the people in her small town of Rockabill, Maine aren’t very nice to Jane, because they believe that she’s nuts and responsible for the death of her best friend and lover, Jason. Jane blames herself, too. Working at a bookstore and caring for her sick father, who is still pining after his wife who left him when Jane was still very young, Jane doesn’t have much of a social life. Her favorite pastime is swimming in a hidden cove despite the strong currents that seem to recharge her and make her happy. Jane’s mundane life quickly gets turned upside down when she becomes aware of a large magical community after accidentally discovering a dead body. Jane gets pulled into this magical world and learns that she is actually a part of it, and her mother was a magical creature who came from the sea.

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In the first two novels, Jane is romantically entangled with a vampire-like creature, a Ryu Baobhan Sith, but she soon realizes that while Ryu is super sexy and a great lover, his idea of love and hers don’t mesh. He cares about her, but he’s invested in the relationship for somewhat selfish reasons. As a half human half Selkie, she will live a much longer life, and her blood is more satisfying than human blood. He tries to persuade her into leaving her friends and family in Rockabill to live with him in Boston, and she realizes that she doesn’t love him enough to do that.

But, I’m not here to talk about Ryu regardless of how sexy he might be. I’m here to talk about a much sexier magical dude and shapeshifting hottie, Anyan Barghest.

The Magic of Doggie Style: Anyan Barghest

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First and foremost, if you don’t know what a barghest is, don’t feel silly. I had to look it up too. But, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica online, a barghest comes to us from Northern English folklore, particularly from Yorkshire, and is “a monstrous, goblin dog, with huge teeth and claws, that appears only at night.” If you saw one, you were doomed to die soon, but if you only caught a glimpse, you’d live on for a few months.

Anyan Barghest is a shapeshifter who spends most of his time in dog form in the first novel. In fact, Jane doesn’t know he can turn into a man until much later in the story and is shocked given the fact that he makes a habit of sleeping next to her and hanging around when she’s naked or changing her clothes before or after a swim. Of course, once she sees what he looks like in his human form she’s embarrassed, but able to forgive him due to the fact that he’s not only smoking hot, but he also makes a regular habit of saving her life and is an excellent mentor.

Anyan and Ryu have history, they are rivals and butt heads a lot when it comes to the best way to go about doing things. Ryu is all about protocol and becoming romantically involved with women during investigations. Anyan disapproves of Ryu’s relationship with Jane, because the Baobhan Sith has a reputation for using women for sex and blood. Which, he’s technically doing with Jane.

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When Jane nearly dies at the hands of some magical bad guys, Anyan rescues Jane in human form while completely naked, which makes Jane’s libido sit up and notice. He’s a big man, physically fit, strong but on the slender side, with lots of dark messy coarse hair, and a long nose that twitches a lot like a dog catching a scent. The Barghest is a powerful magical being, he’s an amazing leader, and he cares more about people than politics. He’s kind of a legend in the magical world Jane finds herself in, and most people either respect, fear, or hate him. But, as the books go on, we learn that Anyan has many friends in the magical community and people love him. Including Jane, who wrestles with her feelings for him.

Why does she wrestle with her feelings? Well, a lot is happening in Jane’s life. She had a major fling with Ryu, the  called it quits when he gave her an ultimatum about living with him. She knows she can’t have a relationship with him, but misses him. She’s trying to learn more and strengthen her magic. There are several magical bad guys who want to see her dead. She learns the truth about her mom and why she left when Jane was young. Anyan is much older than Jane due to his magical status, and he’s also older in terms of his experience. He’s a mentor and friend, and even though he makes her heart beat faster, she has a lot of self doubt where the Barghest is concerned.

With each book, Jane gets a little stronger and she spends more and more time with Anyan. He saves her, she saves him. He teaches her to strengthen her magical defenses. She fantasizes about all the things she’d like to do with him naked. She discovers that his human alter ego is a famous artist and sculptor. In fact, she’s fond of his work, including the metal headboard he designed for his bed that has an intricate design of lovers in different poses from the Kamasutra. Could this guy be any hotter?

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Yes, yes he can. He also rides a motorcycle, has a restaurant quality kitchen, smells of cardamom, and when he finally kisses Jane, he establishes his dominance by pulling her hair. Sweet baby Jesus! But you know what’s hotter than that? Nicole Peeler’s ability to extend the feeling of denied release for roughly four books. That’s right, Anyan and Jane have the hots for each other or at least the sparks of the hots by the end of the second book (if memory serves me correctly), and they experience coitius interruptus over and over and over and over until I was literally shouting, “Oh my god, just fuck him already!”

They get interrupted so often, that it actually gives Jane time to figure out what she wants from their relationship. She doesn’t want to make the same mistakes she made with Ryu. Even though Anyan wants her as badly as she wants him, he agrees to put off having sex for a bit longer so that he can really practice the art of seducing her. Which, if you ask me, the time leading up to two people getting it on is often hotter than the first time they finally do the nasty.

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At any rate, I’m at the beginning of book 5, Tempest’s Fury (2012), and Anyan has just promised to make Jane beg him to have sex by the time he’s done seducing her. But not in a douchebag way like if Ryu said it. So, at this point, they still haven’t consummated their relationship, whatever it might be. So, at the end of book 4, Eye of the Tempest (2011), when they were just about to get it on, I mean he literally had the tip in, I was super excited.

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But once again, they were interrupted and I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” LITERALLY the tip. And then, nada. I would have given anything to see the look of frustration on Anyan’s face right at that moment.

But now, I’m looking forward to Anyan’s efforts to seduce Jane, because he had my attention the first time he showed up naked to save her. I mean, if he hasn’t broken out his A-game yet, my loins are seriously in danger of bursting into flames.

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So yeah, while I’m typically into hot, sensual vampires like Ryu, I’m totally Team Anyan.

The Safe Word is Chicks Dig Scars

You may have noticed, while browsing through my blog posts that I have a thing for vampires. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, writing, watching, and thinking about vampires. Hell, they even show up in my dreams sometimes. If I’m lucky, the alarm clock doesn’t interrupt the really good parts of the dreams.

A few days ago I wrote about Jean-Claude, Vampire Master of the City of St. Louis, who appears in the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. Jean-Claude is one of my favorite vampires of all time, and he has quite a bit of competition given the fact that I’ve been obsessed with vampires since I was 12. When I first read the Anita Blake novels, I only had eyes for Jean-Claude and Richard Zeeman. Werewolves are hot, too, but but with each book, I like Richard less and less. He’s a self-centered, self-loathing, mentally unstable, jealous asshole who refuses to accept his own reality. By clinging onto his fantasy world, he repeatedly puts the people who rely on him in danger. And, despite the fact that he is a super hot piece of ass, his sexual proclivities make me uncomfortable and lead me to believe that the few times he’s been accused of rape may not be that far-fetched. Sure, vampires are predators as well, but for the most part, they acknowledge their shortcomings and try not to lie about them too much.

I just finished the fifteenth novel in the series, The Harlequin, and after reading this book and the one before it, Danse Macabre, I’ve come to the conclusion that Asher is also one of my favorite vampires. To be fair, Asher is dangerous. He is a monster. He, like Jean-Claude, is part of Belle Morte’s bloodline and therefore his “talents” and powers are connected to love and sex. In fact, Asher’s bite causes people to experience the most intense orgasm of their lives, which makes him a very dangerous bedfellow.

The Safe Word is Chicks Dig Scars: Asher

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Asher’s backstory is interesting. When we are first introduced to him in Burnt Offerings, he has come to St. Louis with a group of vampires who wish to depose Jean-Claude. Asher is seeking revenge, because he blames Jean-Claude for the death of a woman they both loved, Asher’s human servant, Julianna. Julianna was burned at the stake as a witch and Asher was badly scarred because members of the Church attempted to exorcise his “demons” by pouring holy water over his face and body repeatedly. Holy water has the same effect on vampires as acid does on human skin. His striking beauty was forever marred by the scars he bears on the right side of his face and body. He blames Jean-Claude because he was too late in coming to save Asher and Julianna. Jean-Claude blames himself and can never get over the guilt he feels for losing two people he loved. When he finally rescued Asher, he was too ugly to return to Belle Morte’s court without some serious convincing on Jean-Claude’s part. Although Asher and Jean-Claude had escaped before, they needed a place to go so Asher could heal. So, Jean-Claude traded his own freedom for 100 years in order for Asher to have a place to stay.

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Belle Morte treated Asher terribly during this time and refused to take him to her bed. She forced him to watch other vampires having sex with herself, with Jean-Claude, and never allowed him the satisfaction of release. Although Jean-Claude saved his life, Asher never forgave him for what happened to him and Julianna. But, that hasn’t stopped Jean-Claude from loving him.

Because of her close ties to Jean-Claude, Anita has access to her memories of Asher before his accident and has caught glimpses of the intimacy shared between Asher, Jean-Claude and Julianna. Afraid that Anita with think badly of him, Jean-Claude limits her access to his memories of the love and sex shared between himself and Asher. But these memories create a sense of love and longing within Anita toward Asher, and when he sees the way she looks at him, it raises his hopes that he can find the love he once had. Because of Jean-Claude’s memories, Anita sees beyond the scars and slowly falls in love with Asher. Asher has a really difficult time believing that anyone would want him because he is so scarred.

Despite the strong feelings Jean-Claude has for Asher, he avoids having a sexual relationship with him. Again, this is because he worries that Anita will reject him if he succumbs to his desires for other men. Even when Anita accepts Asher into their bed, there are rules about who touches who. The first night Asher is allowed in bed with Jean-Claude and Anita, it is only because of the need to feed the ardeur. Jason and Nathaniel are on either side of Anita, touching her to feed the ardeur, and Jean-Claude is feeding on Jason while Asher feeds on Nathaniel. Because there’s no actual intercourse, and despite the fact that everyone reaches orgasm, Anita discounts the experience as not being ACTUAL sex.

Take a moment to think about that. Anita is in bed with two smoking hot shapeshifters who are essentially naked, and bringing her to orgasm through digital manipulation. They’re both being fed on by vampires who bring about orgasm through their touch and bites, and drinking blood is akin to sex for most vampires. Everybody is getting off, but because no one is literally fucking her, it’s feeding, not sex. I’m pretty sure whatever was happening in that bed sounded, felt, and smelled like sex. But hey, what the hell do I know?

At any rate, the next time Asher ends up in bed with Jean-Claude and Anita, it’s because they are protecting Asher from being sent back to Belle Morte. Without that relationship, he isn’t romantically involved with any else, so his connection to the vampire kiss is tentative at best. Without belonging to someone, as someone’s lover, and the fact that his strength as a master vampire isn’t enough for him to be especially useful to Jean-Claude, he is at risk of being reclaimed by his maker. Although Anita and Jean-Claude has genuine feelings of love and lust for Asher, his own self-doubt and fear of rejection keeps him from believing that they really want him. It takes a lot of convincing for him to accept their invitation into bed, because he fears that once they have proven to Belle Morte that he is in a romantic relationship with them, they will no longer have a need to show him true affection.

When they finally coax him into bed, it is one of the hottest sex scenes in all of the novels. Anita is between the two vampires, riding Jean-Claude, and begging Asher to also penetrate her. His initial thought is anal, but Jean-Claude stops him for fear of hurting Anita. That’s one of the things she doesn’t do in bed, and her judgement is compromised by the ardeur. But she keeps telling him to penetrate her. So, he bites her, and rubs himself off against her ass. When his bite causes her to orgasm in tandem with the ardeur that she is sharing with Jean-Claude, all three of them climax over and over until both vampires die at dawn. Again, because Asher was not having intercourse with Anita, she still doesn’t count that as sex. Which confuses Asher and amuses Jean-Claude. They refer to Anita’s perspective as a very American view of sex.

There’s another memorable sex scene between Anita and Asher in Danse Macabre, in which Anita is feeding the ardeur and allows Asher to bite her so that they can have sex. Up to that point, he hadn’t fed, and without feeding, vampires can’t perform. No blood flow, no erection. Once again, Asher’s bite is orgasmic. Once he drinks enough blood to perform, he stops feeding. But Anita wants more. She asks him to bite her again, and because he is under the influence of the ardeur, he agrees. They fuck and he feeds and they fuck some more, until he nearly kills her. She wakes up in the hospital suffering from blood loss. Asher is so horrified by his own behavior that he simply assumes that she won’t want to touch him again. But she reassures him that she loves him even more.

Yeah, I know. That’s pretty fucked up. I mean, vampire sex is hot and all, but she essentially said it was okay that he almost killed her. Fucking him was so good that it was worth dying for. After that incident, however, Jean-Claude forbade them from being alone again. If they were going to keep having sex, they would need supervision. I don’t know about you, but if the sex is so dangerous that you need a chaperone, you might want to think twice about having sex with that person again.

Maybe. Of course, when your options for chaperones include Jean-Claude, Micah, Nathaniel, Jason, Damian, Requiem, Haven…well, you get the idea. Richard’s right out, because the only man he even considered sharing Anita with was Jean-Claude. And, while that sex scene ended up being extremely hot, they had to deal with a lot of Richard’s hang-ups before anyone could relax enough to enjoy the sex.

All kidding aside, the scene in which Asher nearly fucks Anita to death is only half as disturbing as the sex scene between Anita and Richard in The Harlequin, in which she sustains internal damage while having sex with Richard in the throes of the ardeur. We are told repeatedly that Richard is well-endowed. And, he’s a werewolf. So, he typically has to be very careful when he’s having sex with women who aren’t shapeshifters. He’s been accused of being a bit rough on more than one occasion. Anita tends to like rough sex, and her other lover, Micah also has a rather large penis. He tries to be careful, but he has injured her before as well.

In The Harlequin, Richard not only gets upset because Micah’s cock is as big as his, but that Micah has hurt Anita during intercourse. So, how does he deal with this? By hurting her worse than Micah ever would have allowed to happen. And, he enjoys hurting her. And, what’s worse is that Anita doesn’t stop him and then tries to comfort him when he feels bad about hurting her on purpose. She’s more worried about his feelings than her possible injuries. She allows herself to be the victim of sexual violence at the hands of a man who claims to love her, and then feels bad when his feelings are hurt. What the fuck? I’m not sure if Laurell K. Hamilton used these two acts of sexual violence as cautionary tales about why it isn’t safe to fuck monsters, or if she wanted us to think that sexual violence is hot. The fact that Anita allows these types of encounters to keep happening makes me think that we’re supposed to accept this behavior as par for the course when you decide to fuck monsters.

Rough sex is one thing, but writing female characters who nearly died because of it is irresponsible. Accepting pain as a natural outcome of intercourse is fucking insane. I’ll be the first to admit that monsters can be sexy, but only when what they do doesn’t endanger the lives of the people they claim to love. Especially when they fantasize about sexual violence the way Richard does. To have him behave like a monster is one thing, but to make us as readers feel bad for him is another. Up until the point that Anita green-lighted Asher to keep feeding from her, he asked her repeatedly if that’s what she really wanted and tried to talk her out of it before he would consent. Richard admitted that he wanted to try to hurt her, because it got him off. Asher is not a sexual sadist. Richard is. And yet, she tried to make him feel better about himself in order to keep the peace. I keep wondering if she’s shared this tidbit with Jean-Claude, because something tells me that of he knew how Richard treated Anita, he wouldn’t allow Richard to come near her again. At this point, that’s only speculation on my part.

Sexual violence is not sexy. Just because you write about monsters doesn’t mean the sex has to be absurdly violent. A vampire bite is one thing, but your female characters shouldn’t experience organ damage from overtly rough sex with a sexual sadist even if he is a werewolf.

At the end of The Harlequin, Anita is still worried about her relationship with Nathaniel and meeting his needs to be sexually dominated. Jean-Claude suggests that Asher teach Anita about BDSM so that she can satisfy Nathaniel’s unmet needs. I’m not gonna lie. The minute I was done reading The Harlequin, I requested Blood Noir from the library, with the hopes that Asher will not only instruct Anita in how to dominate Nathaniel, but he’ll actually demonstrate using Nathaniel as a prop. If I’m really lucky, Jean-Claude will “chaperone.”

Love, Sex and Beautiful Death

I read a lot of Paranormal Romance…or Urban Fantasy…or Vampire Romance…or Vampire Erotica… or essentially, any fiction that features vampires and other supernatural creatures engaged in sexual relationships that are complicated by the threat of violence from external or internal forces. Conflict, sex, and the threat of death makes for interesting fiction. Well, as long as the characters aren’t too annoying. As is the case with a lot of contemporary popular fiction featuring vampires, werewolves, witches, and other dark characters, eventually someone is going to get laid. At least, if I’m reading the book they had better get laid or I’m going to quickly lose interest. The exception to this would be a series that features characters who are constantly building toward a promised release. They don’t have sex right away, but man when they do, and you know they will, it is going to be HOT.

Jean-Claude, Vampire Master of the City of St. Louis

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In the first few novels in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series, that is exactly what we get as readers. The tantalizing promise of sex, without release. Anita has taken a personal vow of celibacy and is waiting to meet Mr. Right before she has sex with anyone. She goes on dates, but never seems to like or trust anyone enough to make them a permanent fixture in her life. To be fair, her life is complicated. She raises zombies for a living and is also a licensed vampire hunter. She works with the police to solve paranormal crimes and she hunts monsters. Initially, even though she has the ability to raise the dead, she considers herself human and anyone with fangs or who occasionally turns furry, she considers a monster. Simple right?

Well, as is the case with most things in life, nothing is ever that cut and dry. In Hamilton’s first novel, Guilty Pleasures, we meet a vampire who could give Anne Rice’s vampires a run for their money. Jean-Claude is a master vampire, but he serves under a more powerful vampire who is the Master of the City of St. Louis. Jean-Claude was born in France, he is tall, slim, but muscular and has a feminine appearance due to his long black curls and angelic pale face. While he is a bit androgynous, Anita makes it clear that you would never mistake him for anything other than male. His preference for black and white clothing in fabrics like silk, velvet, lace and leather tend to the more dramatic and are reminiscent of 17th century fashions, including black leather boots that reach his thighs and shirts with frilly lace collars and cuffs. Jean-Claude’s most noticeable attributes are his beauty, his charm, his biting wit, his seductive voice that enables him to enthrall humans, a laugh that caresses your skin and puts naughty ideas into your head, and an uncanny knack for diplomacy and leadership. His maker, Belle Morte, that’s right, the beautiful death, is a very powerful vampire and has the power to control humans, lycanthropes, and vampires with her sexuality, and each vampire in her bloodline has some skill associated with love and sex. Her power is like a drug and many have become addicted to her power, which is called the ardeur.

Like Gallowglass de Clermont, there is no actor to reference, because there has been no TV or film adaptation of the novels at this point. But, there is a comic book series based on the books and lots of fan art floating around out there to give you a sense of Jean-Claude’s good looks. And, like me people have their own opinions about who should be cast as extremely sensual vampire.

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Anita’s skill set allows her to sense the relative age of most vampires, something she does through feeling the amount of power they have. She can usually guess the age of a vampire within a hundred years give or take. However, she underestimates Jean-Claude’s age by roughly 200 years when they first meet. Although she has made a career of hunting vampires, she has not been privy to their secrets because she does not have access to their world beyond hunting and killing them. Her knowledge is limited to literal textbooks and what she has been able to observe in the field.

As she gets to know Jean-Claude and the other vampires in the kiss (a group or clan of vampires) he belongs to, Anita starts to realize she knows a lot less about vampires than she thought. Jean-Claude seems to be hellbent on getting into Anita’s panties in the first novel and is puzzled, but excited by the challenge when he realizes that she isn’t driven by her libido. He claims that it has been centuries since anyone has turned down his offer for sex. Given that his super vamp powers stem from his ability to seduce people with his voice and touch, and he is apparently well-versed in the art of giving pleasure, he relies on his powers of persuasion from the neck up to convince Anita that she can trust him. She continually refuses his invitations to dinner even after he saves her life.

But…he saves her life by binding her to him through the use of vampire magic. So, he saves and enslaves her at the same time. And, in turn, because of their close connection she ends up saving him and kills the vampire who stands in the way of him obtaining more power. In fact, she keeps saving until she realizes she’s doing because she has feelings for him. They are friends and allies, and the more she gets to know him the more she realizes her feelings for him are of a sexual nature. Well, no shit, Sherlock. I mean aside from the fact that his accent alone is enough to peel panties, his vampire powers are based in seduction, he dresses like a model on the cover of a romance novel and has a body made for sin. He has a black belt in flirting and the ability to make Anita believe that it’s her idea to have sex the first time they finally do. He allows her to come to him and questions her decision even though it is the one thing he wants most from her. Well, that and genuine love and affection. He’s smart, funny, powerful, handsome, could write an encyclopedia on fucking from memory, and has sincere emotional attachment to the vampires and shapeshifters he rules.

Despite some of his manipulative habits and almost serial killer level need for keeping secrets, he’s still one of the best choices for boyfriends among the many lovers Anita acquires over the course of the novels. He does trick her into to becoming his human servant. And, he threatens to kill her boyfriend, a werewolf, Richard Zeeman, if she refuses to date both of them at the same time. Up until the point when she finally gives herself to Jean-Claude body and soul, she dates both of them, has sex with neither of them, and Jean-Claude’s angle is that he believes eventually she will choose one of them. One of them will appear to be too mostrous and in that moment she will choose the other. Richard wants to marry Anita and initially she wants the same happily ever after. But, as Richard gains power within his pack, she freaks out when she seems the darker side of his werewolf self. Her rejection of him only serves to make Richard hate himself even more.

At any rate, as readers, we wait a long time for Anita to drop her guard and her panties. There are a few scenes when you think she’s going to have sex with Richard, but they either get interrupted, don’t have time, or allow fear to talk them out of it. There is a lot of kissing and touching and elevated heart rates, but we barely even get foreplay until Anita sees Richard let his beast loose and runs into the arms of Jean-Claude. She literally feels safer in the arms of a vampire. So safe, that she fucks him in the bathtub and despite her moral high horse, she does it without any admission of love for Jean-Claude. Technically, she used him for sex. She was feeling so terrible about her feelings for Richard that she ran to Jean-Claude and used him for sex. And thereby punishing Richard for being too much of a monster.

Yes, Jean-Claude is a vampire. He feeds on blood and in his case, sexual pleasure. He feeds on the sexual release of his partners like an incubus, but he can also feed off people’s arousal at a distance. Since he owns and operates a strip club featuring male lycanthropes and vampires, there’s a lot of sexual energy to go around. In fact, as Anita’s powers and needs evolve, most of her additional lovers, with the exception of Richard, Micah and Asher, come from the line-up of strippers at Guilty Pleasures: Jason, Nathaniel, Requiem, Damian, London, and Byron. I’m probably forgetting someone, but it’s kind of hard to keep track of all that man candy.

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Jean-Claude is attracted to men and women, but Anita is his only lover throughout the first fourteen novels. Anita and Jean-Claude have sex with other people in their bed, including Asher, Richard, Micah and Nathaniel, and even Jason. However, everyone is having sex with Anita. There is blood-sharing that takes place between the vampires and the male lycanthropes, but there is only hetero sex happening between Anita and all of her lovers even if more than one of them is in the bed. However, Jean-Claude and Asher were lovers in the past and they are still in love. They avoid having sex together, because Jean-Claude is worried that if Anita is uncomfortable with him having sex with men she will no longer accept him into her bed. He doesn’t even feed off other women, so he has essentially made himself celibate except for Anita when he is in fact an incubus. His willingness to play by her rules based on a very limited scope of sexuality actually weakens his power as Master of the City. There are men willing to have sex with Jean-Claude and he continually refuses even though he may be attracted to them. Asher is the least happy about this situation and continually complains about it. Asher will definitely get his own blog post this month if not this week.

Meanwhile, because of the metaphysical fuckery associated with becoming Jean-Claude’s human servant and becoming part of a triumvirate with Richard as Jean-Claude’s animal to call, Anita develops the ardeur and must have multiple lovers to feed like a succubus and even has two live-in boyfriends. That doesn’t exactly seem fair does it? Especially since Richard is still counted among her harem and he goes on dates and has sex with lots of other women. What the fuck, you might ask. Everyone else who has sex with Anita, with the exception of Jason, Richard, and Asher, remain faithful to her. So, she has these really weird relationships with everyone where she continually questions her feelings, their feelings, and pretends to be clueless about alternative sexual needs.

For example, one of her boyfriends, a wereleopard and stripper, who was also a former child prostitute and porn star, has a taste for BDSM. He’s submissive and enjoys being dominated. In fact, he enjoys feeling pain. Anita claims to love him, but can’t seem to get her head around the fact that he’d like her to dominate him more sexually. He even tells her they can start out slow and simply try binding him while they have the regular sex they would normally have, which by the way isn’t always vanilla. She’s uncomfortable with the idea, so keeps avoiding his requests. Then he suggests going to someone else for domination without sexual intercourse. Again, she doesn’t know what to say, because she’s jealous and worried about sharing him with someone else. Again, what the fuck? I’m going to stop talking about Nathaniel right there, because I’m pretty sure he’s going to come up in another blog post. Because, I’ve thought about Nathaniel a lot, and I have several solutions to alleviate the problem of him not getting what he needs from his relationship with Anita.

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There are a total of 32 books in this series. Apparently, in book 23, Dead Ice, Anita and Jean-Claude plan their wedding. I can only assume that Richard is dead at this point, because I can’t imagine him standing by to allow that to happen. He’s tried killing Jean-Claude for less. I’m on book 15 right now, The Harlequin, and I had a moment of clarity while reading a scene in which Anita and Richard are bickering over some bullshit jealousy issue, as usual, and rather than sitting back and letting them fight with each other, Jean-Claude whips out his power and makes them both come to heel.

Jean-Claude called the fight. He called it with a push of power that staggered both of us. I nearly fell, and Richard looked ashen. We both turned and looked at the vampire. HIs eyes were glittering blue pools, like the night sky was on fire.

“Enough of this.” His voice whispered through the room like and echo of bats, bouncing off the curtains.

I knew he was our master, but I’d never felt him do anything like this to us. Never felt him simply throw his power into us and stop us in our tracks. I hadn’t known he had it in him.

We watched him come toward us like small birds that wanted to fly from the snake, but couldn’t make ourselves move. (205)

There’s nothing sexual happening in that scene. But I couldn’t remember ever being as turned on by Jean-Claude in that moment as I had been during all of his sex scenes. Jean-Claude has a lot of sex scenes. Some of which are super-fucking hot. Power is sexy. Vampire power, when used strategically by the right vampire, is heart-palpitating, knee-quivering, and panty-peeling sexy.

More often than not, Jean-Claude will defer to Anita. He allows her to be in control of situations, unless he knows better or is worried that emotions will cloud her judgement. His fear of upsetting her practically castrates him, and there are many instances when he has to lie or simply omit information so that he can effectively run his businesses and manage his territory.

The scene above was one of the first times he simply told both Anita and Richard to shut up and do what he said. He reminded them that he actually is more powerful than they give him credit for, and it freaked them both out. They shut the fuck up. For a little while anyway. As powerful as Anita and Richard are, Jean-Claude is still their master.

Several vampires who sought freedom from the ardeur and Belle Morte’s cruel and perverse behaviors, have chosen to live with Jean-Claude and accepted him as their master. Jean-Claude is no joke. With each newly acquired vampire and each new acquired metaphysical power he becomes more and more powerful. But, despite all that power he is still a formidable foe, a shrewd businessman, a clever diplomat, a reliable ally, a loyal friend, a kind master, and a generous lover. Without a doubt, Jean-Claude is one of my favorite vampires of all time and he is unquestionably fuckable.

Not All Heroes Get the Girl

It’s hard to believe, but today is February 1. My birthday is a mere 13 days away. Yes, that’s right, I was a Valentine’s Day baby. Like most people, I don’t really enjoy having my birthday on a holiday. I especially don’t like having my birthday on a holiday devoted to consumer-driven socially acceptable and cliched acts of affection. Since I am typically single on my birthday, I like it even less.

A few years ago I challenged myself to write a blog post a day during the month of February. Out of 29 days (it was a leap year), I wrote 21 blog posts. Not bad, huh? And, do you know what I wrote about? Fictional characters. You see, I’m a writer and as a writer, my first love was reading. Or, more specifically, narrative. I love stories. All kinds of stories. But my favorite stories are character-driven stories about people — real or fictional — that I can relate to or care about on a very deep level. Characters who make me wish I lived their lives, characters I wish were my lovers, characters so filled with pain that I want to help ease their struggles with love and friendship.

For an entire month, I wrote about characters that had had a profound effect on me in terms of how interesting and complex their lives were either on or off the page, in books, comic books, TV shows, and films. Characters who were written or performed so well that they seemed real enough to touch, hold, and um…well…fuck. You see, the characters I chose to write about during the month of February were fictional characters that made me feel especially amorous. Fuckable fictional characters.

I am going to attempt to do that again this month. There are only 28 days in February, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to come up with 28 characters to write about. I will do my best, but I may need your help to complete enough posts to make this a worthwhile endeavor. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know what I’m talking about. As before, I encourage you to present me with challenges and make recommendations for characters I have overlooked or you think deserve the attention. If you haven’t read my blog before, welcome. I hope you enjoy the ride. You should be aware, that given the title of my blog, Girl Meets Monster, I tend to like dark characters and monsters, including vampires, werewolves, and a few serial killers. But, not all of my favorite characters are traditional monsters. Some of them are simply tragic characters with complicated back stories that make them far too interesting not to love.

A few years ago I read Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, and became enraptured by one character in the series who has haunted me since I first met him in the novels. Originally, I planned on including him in the first series of Fuckable Fictional Character posts, but for some reason he didn’t make it into the mix that time. Maybe it was because I didn’t have a physical representation to share with you. Or maybe, it was because I wasn’t entirely sure what to say about him. Well, recently, I started listening to the audio books and have discovered that I am still very fond of him.

Casting has begun for a TV series based on the books that is currently being filmed, but since this character doesn’t show up until the second novel, this character has yet to be cast. Obviously, I’m not talking about Matthew Clairmont, the romantic lead. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t chase Matthew out of bed for eating crackers, but I’m more interested in a different vampire in this series of novels. I’m not saying that Matthew isn’t fuckable, because let’s face it, he is. However, some of the qualities that make Matthew the romantic love interest in this modern vampire romance, can easily be viewed as flaws in real-world relationships. Vampires do not make ideal mates if you have any sense of independence and this is especially true if you are not a vampire yourself. All vampires have their flaws, but some are more dangerous than others and despite Matthew’s good qualities, he is not what I consider an appropriate mate for a modern woman with a shred of self-preservation and a desire for autonomy.

The vampire who stole my heart in this series is Gallowglass de Clermont. While he isn’t the main love interest of Diana Bishop, he still plays an important role in her life, a role that forces him to put his own desires and needs on hold out of a sense of duty and loyalty, and spend centuries trapped in a situation that will only end in unrequited love. How can you NOT love a character like that?

Not All Heroes Get the Girl: Gallowglass de Clermont

Before I begin delving into why this character is indeed fuckable, I have a few ideas of my own about appropriate casting. So far, the casting that has been down for the All Souls TV show has left me a bit unsatisfied. The actor they’ve chosen to play Matthew isn’t…well, in my humble opinion he isn’t exactly fuckable. His build is too slight. There isn’t anything frightening about him. He just isn’t dark enough to be believable as Matthew. If I’m not satisfied with the casting choice for Matthew, you can imagine my worry where Gallowglass is concerned.

A few weeks ago, I was joking with a friend of mine about the fact that I had two perfectly good candidates to play Gallowglass and an equally good idea about how to decide which of them would get the role. Gallowglass is described in the novels as a blonde giant, standing at roughly 6’6” with extremely muscular arms and broad shoulders. He comes from Viking stock, part Norse and part Gaelic by way of Ireland, with a love of the sea and sailing, and hand-to-hand combat as his favorite sport. In the past he wore actual armor, but in the modern age he’s developed a fondness for biker gear — black, faded concert T-shirts, black jeans, leather jackets, a wild mop of wind-blown hair, and tattoos. What’s not to like, right? My top two picks? Jason Momoa and Chris Hemsworth. Duh!

I know, it’s a tough call. But there can be only one. And, I think the best way to decide which actor will play Gallowglass is to have them compete against each other in a traditional Greco-Roman wrestling match. Not only would they be able to battle it out to see which of them is more powerful, but the rest of us get to watch them wrestle each other. Naked. I think this should be a pay-per-view event where people can vote for the winner, and the money raised could be split between the charities of their choice. It’s totally a win-win situation for everyone on planet Earth. The winner gets to play Gallowglass in season two and three of the Bad Wolf production, money will be raised for charity, and we get to watch two stunningly beautiful men test their strength against each other while wrestling naked for our viewing pleasure. Great idea, right?

WARNING: SPOILERS, SWEETIE

Anyway, let’s get into the meat of why Gallowglass is such a fuckable fictional character. Well, to begin with, he’s a great big hunk of a man who appears to be no older than 30, but since he’s a vampire with Viking heritage he’s been around a lot longer. Given the fact that he’s Matthew’s nephew and Matthew is close to 1500 years old, Gallowglass is at least old enough to still harbor resentment toward the French king over the fact that his father, Hugh de Clermont, was killed with the last of the Templars. Gallowglass fought at Hugh’s side during the crusades, and his primary occupation is mercenary for the de Clermont family and the Knights of Lazarus. Since his vampire father is dead, his loyalty lies with Matthew as opposed to the head of the de Clermont family, Baldwin Montclair. But, to be more precise, Gallowglass’ loyalties lie where he can keep Diana Bishop safe.

We first meet Gallowglass in the second novel, Shadow of Night, when Diana and Matthew travel back through time to Elizabethan England, in 1590. Gallowglass is sent to find Matthew at the behest of the de Clermont family Sire, Philippe de Clermont. When Gallowglass arrives at the Old Lodge on the outskirts of London, he is shocked to discover that Diana is not only Matthew’s mate, but also a witch.

In their world, a covenant was formed to keep vampires, witches and daemons segregated and to minimize their discovery by humans. Witches and vampires do not mix, and they certainly aren’t supposed to fall in love and join up as mated pairs. When vampires choose a mate, they mate for life. Vampires are predatory and tend to stalk their potential mates like prey. Jealousy and a fear of losing the person they love drives them to develop unhealthy attachment issues that make them textbook control freaks and overly protective of their love interest. Let’s recap. Vampires are monsters who exhibit unstable behaviors in romantic relationships and in some cases would rather kill their own mate than allow someone else to come near them. Matthew Clairmont not only practices traditionally dangerous vampire courtship habits, but he also suffers from a rare psychological disorder called blood rage, which makes him even more dangerous. He is not an appropriate love interest, and yet he is our romantic hero.

While Gallowglass is prized for his brawn and willingness to kill enemies of the de Clermont family either in battle or more discretely as needed, we soon learn that he has a solid grasp of human behavior, a keen eye for detail, and an intuition that makes him an excellent judge of character. Family and friendship are important to Gallowglass, so he forms close bonds with the people he has sworn to protect. And, he is willing to risk his own life to keep his loved ones safe. He can be scary when it is necessary, but he is also incredibly kind, often placing the needs of others before his own needs. He has a great sense of humor and tries not to take himself or other people too seriously. Because he spent a large chunk of his life living like a warrior, he doesn’t need a lot of creature comforts and prefers a spartan lifestyle and tends to be nomadic rather than putting down roots anywhere for too long. He enjoys traveling alone and going on adventures. In the modern age, his favorite form of travel is by motorcycle, but he can still sail a ship and fly an airplane.

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Just in case you aren’t convinced that Jason Momoa looks good on a motorcycle, here’s further evidence to prove my point.

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Diana often describes him as being too large for his surroundings, and made to feel uncomfortable by delicate things and social niceties, even though he was often the one telling her the appropriate etiquette and expected behavior when at court in Elizabethan England, like when to remain quiet and when to curtsy. And, whenever he sensed danger or discomfort for Diana, his instinct would be to pick her up and carry her to safety or comfort, which he almost never did because he knew it would upset her. He understood that she needed to feel independent and control her own surroundings.

We get to know Gallowglass more intimately in the third novel, The Book of Life, because he spends more time in the company of Diana without Matthew. It is in this novel, through Diana’s observation of Gallowglass that we learn that not only was he given the job of watching over her from childhood through adulthood so that she could eventually meet Matthew, but also that he has fallen in love with her. And, through his own admission, his feelings for her began when he met her in the past, which means he has been carrying a torch her for more than 400 years.

Because Matthew and Diana alter time by traveling back to 1590 and through the discovery of their time travel, Philippe de Clermont makes sure that they will be safe in the future before they meet and when they return to the present as a couple. Gallowglass was given the job of literally stalking Diana from the time she was born until when she and Matthew meet in the first novel. As a vampire, his instincts to mate with her would be strong given the length of time he spent watching over her and keeping her safe. He ignores his own instincts to mate with her, because he has been keeping her safe for someone else. Matthew. And he has done this nearly impossible task without either Matthew or Diana being aware of it. That is, until Diana realizes that Gallowglas was the one watching her throughout her life, and all the pieces fall into place when he allows her to see his tattoos that tell her story, including a tattoo of a siren with Diana’s face and her firedrake, Cora.

Here’s another vote for Chris Hemsworth in case you think I’m favoring Jason Momoa a bit too much.

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I want to be fair about the selection process.

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When I first read The Book of Life, I couldn’t help thinking that Gallowglass was a much better choice as a husband. He sacrificed his own happiness to ensure that two people he cares about can be together, ignoring his own instincts and desires to become mated with the woman he loves. In fact, Gallowglass has no other lovers that are mentioned in the book. He has lived a mostly solitary and possibly celibate life so that two other people could meet and seal their fates.

Diana feels guilt and pity toward Gallowglass when she realizes how he feels about her and she fiercely believes he is worthy of love. Just not hers. There are moments when I was reading the novel that I hoped something terrible would happen to Matthew so Gallowglass would have a chance at finding the love he deserved, but I realized that wouldn’t be fair to him, because he would always be second best. No matter how amazing he is, no matter how much he loved Diana, he would always live in Matthew’s shadow. Gallowglass is doomed to the realm of unrequited love, and when Matthew becomes aware of his nephew’s feelings for Diana, rather than remaining in the company of his family, Gallowglass leaves and continues his solitary existence. His role as Diana’s protector is no longer necessary in the present with Matthew there to take on that role full time. His instinct to protect her is no longer viewed as an asset, but rather as a threat to Matthew’s dominance.

Matthew is interesting, complex, emotionally unstable, attractive, sexy, violent and scary, so he makes a great vampire. He even has an accent that fluctuates between British and his native French. And despite the fact that he’s typically everything I’m looking for in a monster lover, I’m still on Team Gallowglass. Gallowglass is kind, funny, loyal, ruggedly handsome, strong, loving, protective, gentle, and always seeking adventure. And most importantly, selfless. Not all monsters are monstrous.

And sadly, not all heroes get the girl. I’d like to think that eventually Gallowglass will meet someone deserving of the love he has to offer who will return that love threefold and shower him with the affection he has been denied. At the very least, I’d like for someone to climb on top of him and ride him until his knees buckle and he screams uncle.

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Fifty Shades of Self-Awareness: Why It’s Good to Read Bad Fiction

Recently, I did something I swore I would never do. I picked up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Actually, I picked up the audiobook from my local library and listened to it in my car on my way to work and back and while running errands. It took me roughly two weeks to listen to the entire audiobook, during which time I laughed out loud, screamed “shut the fuck up” at the narrator, and said, “no duh” when something so unbelievably obvious was brought to my attention. This novel, much like the series of novels that inspired it (the Twilight Saga), is not a well-written work of fiction. In fact, it’s abysmal. So, why read/listen to it at all?

You Have to Read If You’re Going to Write

As a writer, I feel that it’s my duty to become better at my craft. Most good writers will tell you that to become a better writer, you need to read. A lot. I would argue that you should not only be reading the best of the best, but also the worst of the worst. This is especially true if you write popular or genre fiction. Genre fiction, when written well, can enlighten us, make us think about difficult subjects, and reimagine the world we live in. It is the fiction of the masses, so genre fiction is in high demand, and there is so much of it out there that I wouldn’t even begin to know how you would read all of it in a lifetime. Lots of people believe that it is easy to just sit down and crank out a romance, horror, or science fiction novel. If you are one of those people who think writing a novel-length work of fiction is easy, go ahead. Do it. But, your first attempt probably won’t be the masterpiece you’ve envisioned in your mind.

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Image by Freddie Marriage via Unsplash

While there’s a lot of good genre fiction out there, there is perhaps more that isn’t so good. And yet, people read it. I read it. Happily.

As a consumer of genre fiction who has a great love and appreciation for literary fiction and the classics, I am not ashamed to say that I will read, listen to, and or watch just about anything with vampires in the narrative. I have been obsessed with vampires since I was twelve, and I’ve never lost interest. Vampires are scary, dangerous, mysterious, and sexy as hell. Anne Rice’s novels were my gateway drugs. Thanks to her Vampire Chronicles, I have consumed a lot of vampire fiction, which enhanced my interest in classic horror films, Victorian horror novels, and inspired my own writing (both academic and fiction).

Over the years, I’ve expanded my obsession to include werewolves and demons, and I’m especially fond of Lucifer. I like to read, and attempt to write, about romanticized monsters. Monsters, in my opinion, make excellent leading men and love interests. But, I’m also aware that in some ways this is an unhealthy perspective on romantic relationships. But let’s not kid ourselves, unhealthy romantic relationships make fiction interesting and marketable.

The Danger of Romanticizing Monsters

Fifty Shades of Grey is not going to end up on a canonized list of great works of fiction (at least, I hope not), but it sold a hell of a lot of copies, became a series of novels, and has a film franchise. And, much to my chagrin, like the Twilight Saga, I feel a compulsion to listen to the rest of the audiobooks. When I read Twilight several years ago, I absolutely hated the protagonist, Bella Swan. I hated her because of her self-doubt, her lack of self-preservation, her inability to let go of the boy/man she loves who is LITERALLY a monster, and the fact that regardless of the danger ahead of her, she clings to this romantic fantasy that has no real basis in reality.

The risk you take with falling in love with a vampire is that death is always on the table. Whether you are “accidentally” murdered in a passionate moment when the lines between sexual arousal and hunger are blurred, or you accept the inevitability that in order to get your happily ever after with a vampire, you’re going to have to become one. Of course, other consequences include nightmarish, life-threatening pregnancies, and inexplicable acts of self-sacrifice.

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‘Bella Swan’ [Source: Summit Entertainment]

So, yeah. I hated Bella Swan. Not just for her lack of self-esteem and willingness to die for love. I hated her because I could see myself in her. Guess what? I hate Anastasia Steele, too. There are plenty of reasons for me to hate her. She’s a ridiculous twenty-something virgin who is completely clueless about sex, and has never masturbated in her entire twenty-one years on Earth. Despite her high GPA, she seems to have almost no grasp of human behavior and psychological motivations. Her internal dialog and incessant over-analyzing of EVERY. SINGLE. SITUATION. made me insane. But you know what really pisses me off? The fact that, like Anastasia, I am often riddled with self-doubt and second guess myself to the point of insanity, and I have also been manipulated by interesting men who turned out to be monsters.

There’s something sinister in the fact that a book I am content to mock from beginning to end, a work of fiction that is so poorly written that it’s laughable, and has the power to send me into fits of rage, can still entice me to keep reading. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey are not the only novels that have made me hate-read them to the end. In fact, some of the most popular works of genre fiction I’ve read in the past several years have had a similar effect on me. And, surprise, surprise, they had vampires in the narratives, too. I know, Fifty Shades doesn’t have any vampires, but for the sake of argument (and this blog post), let’s just agree that Christian Grey is based on Edward Cullen, and he would make an excellent vampire if given the opportunity.

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‘Christian Grey’ [Source: Focus Features]

Some other works of fiction that made me curse the narrator (and author) are the A Discovery of Witches Trilogy and Laurel K. Hamilton’s later Anita Blake novels. I’m not going to delve into either of those series in this post, because I have too much to say about them beyond their usefulness as examples of how not to write good fiction. However, I will say that the normalization of controlling and abusive relationships in romantic fiction has the potential to influence generations of female readers who won’t be happy unless they find a partner willing to threaten them with violence under the pretense of keeping them “safe.”

Don’t get me wrong. Vampires are hot. Vampire sex is even hotter. While reading (or watching) any work of fiction in which a vampire is shaping up to be the romantic love interest, I practically shout at the reluctant female protagonist, “fuck him already.” But, again, the consequence of engaging in a relationship with a vampire is death, and if not death, at the very least, exposure to a world often defined by violence and extreme power struggles.

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‘Elijah Mikaelson’ [Source: The CW]

I know. It makes for exciting fiction, but at what cost? Yes, you can readily find strong female protagonists with compelling character arcs in the pages of paranormal romances, but in most cases, vampire cock is their Kryptonite. I have no problem reading about fictional characters engaging in Olympian feats of sexual congress with vampires. In fact, when it comes to genre fiction, that’s my jam. What does aggravate me is the incessant internal dialogue about why it’s wrong to do it. And, if it is so wrong, why do they end up doing it anyway? I get it. Conflict, internal or otherwise, carries a story. However, denying your attraction to a smoking hot vampire, or questioning every compliment and expression of interest he sends your way, gets annoying after a while.

This is especially true of Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey. She not only has conflicting internal dialogue, but an entire chorus of inner voices that never shut up. I’m not that in touch with my own inner goddess, but I know she’s down with vampire cock. And cake. And bourbon.

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Image by Michael Mroczek via Unsplash

Even Bad Fiction Can Teach You Something

All kidding aside, this absurd work of fiction made me think about my own writing. I paid close attention to dialog, character development, and a lack of plot that didn’t involve the protagonist having sex with her monster while battling her (and his) inner demons. Beyond the useful exercise of recognizing what bad writing looks (and sounds) like, Fifty Shades of Grey also made me think about how I view myself, how I behave in romantic relationships, and what I want from my future sexual relationships. Here are some random thoughts that occurred to me while listening to Anastasia Steele prattle on about how hard it is to be the object of desire for a smoking hot billionaire with emotional issues due to childhood trauma.

Giving up control is hot. I consider myself an independent woman. I don’t have a partner and I’m a single parent, so I make a lot of decisions all day every day. And, I’m exhausted. I’m tired of having to make all the choices. I’m tired of being in control all the time. I fantasize about someone else taking the reins for a while. I wouldn’t describe myself as a submissive, but in the bedroom, I would prefer to be guided, encouraged, and yes, controlled. Like Anastasia, I have hard limits. I have had only minimal experience with BDSM, but for the most part I have enjoyed what I’ve experienced. Being told what to do, being bound, and wearing a blindfold have all enhanced my sexual arousal. I’m even down with occasional spanking, but I don’t like the idea of punishment. I’d like to explore BDSM more with a rational adult who doesn’t push me too far when I set my limits. But, outside the bedroom, don’t tell me what to do unless I’m asking for your advice. Feel free to step up, take charge, and pitch in, but don’t assume that you’re the boss of me.

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‘Anastasia Steele’ [Source: Focus Features]

Even though Anastasia finds herself sexually aroused when Christian uses bondage and spanks her as part of their sex play, she still doubts her own feelings. If you got off and nobody received permanent physical damage, go with your gut and accept the fact that those things turn you on.

Trust is not something I give freely. For me to feel comfortable letting my guard down, I need to trust people. That isn’t an easy thing for me to do. I’ve been hurt too many times by friends and lovers to simply allow people to get close to me. It takes time for me to open up, which is one of the reasons I don’t engage in one-night stands. It takes time to build trust between people, and if I don’t trust you, we aren’t having sex. However, if we do get to know each other and have a falling out over a trust issue, make up sex isn’t necessarily off the table.

Throughout the novel, Anastasia keeps saying she can’t trust Christian because she doesn’t know what he’s thinking or feeling. Yet, he constantly reassures her, spells out exactly what he wants and what he likes about her, and demands she communicate her own feelings better so that he can trust her as well. Trust is a two-way street. You can’t demand it from someone without giving them reason to trust you in return.

Attractiveness comes from within. I don’t believe in love at first sight. No matter how good looking that person might be. Have I ever been physically attracted to a stranger? Of course. Do I make a habit of hopping into bed with everyone I find attractive? Or for that matter, anyone who finds me attractive? No. If I get to know you and find your character, mind, and soul attractive, your physical self will magically transform before my eyes and you will suddenly be the most attractive person on Earth. This is true for real people as well as fictional characters. Even smoking hot vampires need to have redeeming qualities to rev my engine. Speaking of vampires, take a minute to think about Eric Northman in the first season of True Blood.

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‘Eric Northman’ [Source: HBO]

You can have more than a minute if you need it. I’ll wait.

He is without a doubt, a handsome man. I found him easy on the eyes at first glance, but the rumblings in my nether regions didn’t begin until he showed his true personality. Yes, he’s a monster. But he’s a monster who feels love, jealousy, and will risk his own life for the people he cares about. Sometimes he even risks his life for strangers. His kindness, sense of humor, intellect, and the fact that he can be a domineering control freak, are the qualities that make him most attractive in my opinion. Alexander Skarsgård is a very attractive man, but be honest, is he hotter as the complicated, Viking vampire in True Blood, or as the mentally challenged male model in Zoolander?

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‘Meekus’ [Source: Paramount Pictures]

Anastasia goes on endlessly about how attractive Christian Grey is. In fact, it seems that in her opinion, this is one of his best qualities. Oh, and his money. Is Christian Grey a domineering control freak who only wants to be in sub/Dom relationships? Initially, yes. Does he grow as a character and attempt to be more than that due to his feelings for Anastasia? Yes. In fact, each time we get a glimpse of his pain and the reasons for his behavior, and his willingness to change, he becomes slightly more attractive. Would I get pissed and tell him off if he spoke to me the way he speaks to Ana? Absolutely. I’m an adult. I decide what to eat, when to sleep, what to wear, and every other aspect of my personal upkeep. Would I enjoy having someone making sure I was taking care of myself and encouraging me to be a better version of me? Hell yeah! And, if that person wanted to give me expensive gifts, I wouldn’t say no. Of course, I’m a single, divorced woman who is raising her child alone. If I could spend my weekends with an attractive wealthy man who found me desirable, I wouldn’t question it every single second that I was with him. But…Christian Grey is an incredibly high-maintenance boyfriend with too many rules. And, I’m sorry, but he’s written as having the sexual prowess of a vampire. That just doesn’t happen in Nature.

There Is No Shame In Enjoying Bad Fiction

Despite its flaws (such as its super-fucking-annoying narrator), Fifty Shades of Grey does have some redeeming qualities. Authorial intent aside, this narrative provides some really great examples of 1) how not to write dialog between adults engaged in a serious BDSM relationship, 2) why you shouldn’t have your characters repeat the same inane words and phrases until your reader wants to stab them in the face, 3) why you shouldn’t adapt what I can only assume was shitty fan fiction inspired by terrible popular fiction into an even worse example of erotica, and 4) even in the worst fiction, you can find life lessons that illuminate aspects of your personal experiences.

Would I recommend that you read Fifty Shades of Grey? Yes, but I would recommend it in the same spirit that I would recommend watching a film like Blue Sunshine. It’s entertaining because it’s so unbelievably terrible.

Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil

The other day, while looking through some of my folders of old writing and abandoned projects, I stumbled across an essay I wrote back in May 2015 for my Readings in the Genre: Contemporary Mysteries course at Seton Hill University as part of my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program. Of late, I’ve used this blog as a way of kick starting myself into writing on a more regular basis; something I struggle with on an almost pathological level. My friends will tell you that I’m writing all the time. This year, since February I have written a total of 27 blog posts about fictional characters I find sexually appealing, and since around May, I’ve written over 120 haiku poems. I’ve drafted chapters in a novel I’m writing, and I’ve written a few short pieces of fiction here and there. So yeah, I guess I have been writing. But, I don’t feel like I’m writing enough.

And, although I had a short story published in an anthology back in November 2014, I haven’t been able to sell my first novel, Invisible Chains, acquire an agent, or get any other bites on the poetry I’ve been submitting. I currently have poetry out to three publishers and I’ll be submitting three short stories within the next month to different publishers. I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 in the hopes of completing that second novel I mentioned, A Marriage Made in Hell. I WILL finish the first draft of Marriage by November 30, come Hell of high water.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading some of my writing that doesn’t involve lewd comments about my favorite fictions characters, read on…

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Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In his famous study on human behavior, Beyond Good and Evil, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche warns us to take care to not be influenced by the intrinsic and often seductive nature of darkness when confronting our demons. He proposes, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” (Section 146). Sage advice, but is it possible to confront Evil and not be somehow changed by it? Can you keep company with monsters without becoming like them? This is the dilemma faced by both Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Each character must face her demons. Tempted as they may be, each character still manages to avoid becoming Evil.

Evil can be a very subjective concept. Each of us defines it a little differently based on our own personal experiences, but we can usually agree on the difference between “right” and “wrong.” The mystery genre uses this dichotomy as one of its central themes or plot points, and while an amateur sleuth or police inspector may be driven to solve a crime in order to uphold the law, at the heart of most mysteries is the desire for Good to win out over Evil. “Crime fiction in general, and detective fiction in particular, is about confronting and taming the monstrous. It is a literature of containment, a narrative that ‘makes safe’” (Plain 3). The battle between Good and Evil has been fought in fiction since before written communication. In the oral tradition, people told tales of epic battles between men and monsters – Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh. With the advent of writing, the popularity of monster tales never waned – The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Inferno. Monsters have always been with us. They are creatures of myth and legend, and they often stand in as metaphors for the less palatable human behaviors and emotions. Judith Halberstam suggests in her book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters that even though our desire for stories about monsters and villains never seems to fade, the appearance of those monsters evolves to meet cultural needs. She says, “The body that scares and appalls changes over time, as do the individual characteristics that add up to monstrosity, as do the preferred interpretations of monstrosity” (8). Monsters change as our society changes, and the monsters of our current fiction, which is especially true in the mystery genre, tend to be humans more so than the beasts of Homer and Dante’s creations.

Like Sookie and Lisbeth, we sometimes find ourselves in less than ideal situations and come face to face with monsters. For some of us, the monsters we must face are people we thought we could trust who later betray us, or worse, cause physical as well as psychological damage in the form of abuse, rape, and ultimately murder. In her essay, “Vivid Villains,” Sandra Scoppettone tells us that “the nature of the villain, and how absorbing a character he or she is, will affect the flavor of the whole rest of the story” (86). The nature of the villain should definitely determine the nature of the protagonist. Whether we’re talking about a serial killer, someone seeking revenge, or jilted lover who commits a crime of passion, as we gain a better understanding of human psychology, we also understand that we are the monsters represented in the fiction we read. Darkness lurks within all of us, but for most people, it will continue to lie dormant until some violent act or traumatic experience awakens the beast within. The real challenge then for any protagonist facing such a worthy opponent, as Nietzsche warns, is to avoid becoming a monster. Sookie and Lisbeth are sexualized others who both fall victim to violence at the hands of human monsters.

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“Forty-six percent of women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man” (Larsson 139). In his novel The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson wishes to make it very clear to his reader that violence against women is a cultural reality in Sweden, and to most Swedish women, much like his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, the threat of violence, sexual or otherwise, is an expectation if not an inevitability. Lisbeth is a ward of the state and becomes the victim of rape at the hands of a man assigned to her case. She is an adult, but due to her designation based on a history of aberrant behavior as a youth, she is treated like a child, mentally deficient, and then taken advantage of due to her abuser’s belief that she is somehow stupid. While Lisbeth has experienced quite a bit of emotional and psychological trauma, some of which is not revealed to us, she is far from stupid, and definitely not mentally ill. In fact, she is uncannily smart and more than capable of looking out for herself, except at the hands of the sadistic monster Advokat Nils Bjurman. Over the course of several meetings, Bjurman makes it very clear to Salander that she is at his mercy if she would like access to her bank accounts. Each encounter with Bjurman becomes more and more inappropriate until he forces Salander to perform oral sex on him in his office. Larsson reinforces his point about the violent nature of Swedish society by making Salander another statistic. “In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status” (249). Later, when Salander seeks revenge for this assault, Bjurman restrains and rapes her at his apartment. It is this second act of violence that pushes her to her limits and flips a switch that begins her own transformation. She falls prey to the desire to do monstrous things herself. “Bjurman felt cold terror piercing his chest and lost his composure. He tugged at his handcuffs…He could do nothing to resist when Salander bent over and placed the anal plug between his buttocks” (282). Salander reverses the tables on Bjurman. She assaults and humiliates him much like he did to her. She attempts to restore balance through an act of revenge, pushing her closer to the edge of the abyss. Lisbeth unleashes her darkness to reclaim her power and walks a fine line that could easily transform her into a monster worse than Bjurman. She threatens Bjurman with blackmail and bodily harm to prevent him from hurting her again—an act of self-preservation. By marking him, she hopes to save other women from becoming his victims. Justice is served.

On the surface, Sookie Stackhouse and Lisbeth Salander couldn’t be more different as protagonists go, but when you take a closer look at these two strong female characters, you’ll begin to notice some commonalities. First, they are both amateur sleuths with unique abilities that allow them to have access to information others aren’t privy to in the narrative. Salander’s abilities are half-heartedly explained through the eyes of Salander’s lover, Mikael Blomkvist, who assumes that the young hacker has a form of Asperger’s. Since Sookie’s world has paranormal elements, she has the benefit of being able to hear other people’s thoughts. Calling this ability a benefit is debatable, as Sookie herself sees it as a handicap.

Second, both women often find themselves at the mercy of men who threaten them with violence. Or, at the very least, objectify them sexually. Although they come from very different cultural backgrounds, they both have “zero social status” (249) in the economy of sexuality and gender equality. In Dead Until Dark, a serial killer targets young women who seek out vampires as sexual partners. Sookie not only shares this in common with the victims, but she also fits the profile with her high school education and minimum wage job.

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Monsters exist in Sookie’s world – vampires, weres, and shifters – all of which can be quite dangerous. In fact, her boyfriend is a vampire. Despite the fact that there is trend in fiction romanticizing relationships between vampires and humans, vampires are still monsters. Even if they don’t kill you outright, there is always the chance that things might get out of hand, and a moment of passion may end with the human’s funeral. Even if the vampire poses no direct threat to his partner, the secret lives of vampires seem to be violent by nature – ancient enemies, unresolved love affairs, power struggles with other supernatural beings. All of this adds up to danger for any human who meddles in the affairs of monsters, much less falls in love with them.

Sookie could literally become a monster if she continues to drink vampire blood. Bill Compton gives Sookie his blood several times to speed up the healing process. But when Sookie is recovering in the hospital after her encounter with the serial killer, she refuses to accept Bill’s blood for fear of losing her human qualities. “‘I’ll heal you,’ he offered. ‘Let me give you some blood.’ I remembered the way my hair had lightened, remembered that I was almost twice as strong as I’d ever been. I shook my head” (Harris 310). Sookie resists the urge to become monstrous by refusing to act like one. Sookie reclaims her power by maintaining her humanness.

Sookie and Lisbeth are victims of violent crimes. Both women fight back to protect themselves. They are survivors and each play an important role in vanquishing the monster, or at the very least, identifying the villain. They both realize there are too many villains in the world to fight. Even though they have temporarily restored the balance in their worlds, they know the fight between Good and Evil will continue. Not only externally, but internally as well. Each time you gaze into the abyss, the abyss changes you. So, to answer my earlier question, is it possible to associate with monsters and not become Evil? Yes, but only if you remain vigilant to protect your humanity, and in Salander’s case, the humanity of others.

Works Cited

Halberstam, Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. Print.

Harris, Charlaine. Dead Until Dark. New York: Ace Books, 2009. Print

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Vintage Books Edition, 1989. Print.

Plain, Gill. Twentieth Century Crime Fiction: Gender, Sexuality and the Body. New York: Routledge, 2014. Kindle.

Scoppetone, Sandra. “Vivid Villains.” Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America. Ed. Sue Grafton. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2002. 86-90. Print.

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