Excerpt: Chapter 3, Her Dear and Loving Husband

James Wentworth arrived on the campus of Salem State College a half an hour after dark. He parked his black Ford Explorer in the parking lot off Loring Avenue near the Central Campus and walked past the Admissions Office and the bookstore, stepping out of the way of a student speeding toward the bike path. After he walked into the library he paused by the door to watch the young people studying at the tables, searching the stacks, hunching over the computers, so raw and fresh they still had that new-car smell. They had so much ahead of them, James mused. The world was exciting to them, adventures waiting to be had, dreams to be discovered, loves to be found and lost and lost and found. The students in the library were naïve, yes, but that would be tempered by experience and learning. Some of them thought they already knew everything they would ever need to know, but James had compassion for them. We think we know it all, but we never do, no matter how long we live.

Class that night was lively. These students had opinions and they liked discussing and debating, which kept the energy high. There is no worse class than when there were thirty silent students who wanted nothing more than to listen to the professor speak for fifty minutes and leave. That night’s class was an independent study seminar where the students chose which work of literature they would focus on. Usually, James found, the young people were predictable in their choices—Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Thoreau—but that term the students were more creative. One was studying Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray about the cursed man who never ages, a story James thought of often. He was amused by the choice, and curious.

“Why The Picture of Dorian Gray?” he asked.

“Staying young forever?” Kendall said. “How cool is that? I mean, don’t you want your hair to stay blond, Professor? You want to turn old and gray?”

James shook his head. “On the outside Dorian stayed young-looking and fresh-seeming, but on the inside he became decrepit in ways no one would guess. His physical body didn’t age, but the catch was, as the years passed, he grew more depraved and detached from human decency.” James looked at Kendall, a Junior about twenty years of age, her sandy-brown hair slung back in a ponytail, wearing a blue and orange Salem State College t-shirt with the Viking logo. Her expression hadn’t changed.

“Dorian looked young, Professor Wentworth. Isn’t that all that matters?”

“A youthful appearance is certainly valued in our society, but don’t you think there could be problems always looking the same while you grew in knowledge and experience?”

“But looking young forever would keep me out of the plastic surgeon’s office.”

“Fair enough,” James said.

“I mean, my sister is twenty-five, and she’s already getting Botox.”

James sighed as he surveyed the classroom, admiring the bright, fresh faces, and he wondered how many others were convinced they looked old when they were oh so very young. He scanned the list in his hand and his eyes grew wide. He pressed his wire-rimmed eyeglasses against his nose as he looked at Trisha, sitting front and center, a bright student, one of his hardest workers, and he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at her choice. He wouldn’t have guessed it of her.

“Why did you choose Bram Stoker’s Dracula?” he asked.

“Because I love that genre,” Trisha said. “I love the idea that there are supernatural beings so extraordinary out there walking unnoticed among us. Since we’re not looking for them we don’t see them, and when we do see them it might be too late.”

“Do you believe in vampires?” he asked.

“Of course not. That’s silly.”

“Yes,” he said. “That is very silly.”

“Besides, even if there were really vampires no one would believe it. It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“You’re right. Let’s hope we never have to find out.”

Levon Jackson, another bright student, an ice hockey player touted as a potential NHL draft, patted Trisha’s shoulder and shouted a loud “Amen!”

James sat on the edge of the instructor’s desk at the front of the room. Levon was one of his favorites that term, in two of his classes, and the young man so rarely shared without raising his hand. Though James insisted from the first day that students didn’t need to raise their hands, this was college, not kindergarten, Levon was always respectful, polite, waiting for James’ attention before he spoke.

“Amen to what, Levon?” James asked.

“Amen to let’s hope we never have to find out. Who wants to learn there’s some nasty old vamp lurking around somewhere?”

“There’s nothing to find out,” said Jeremy, who had aspirations of doctoral school at Harvard. “Who wants to waste time on make-believe?”

“Vampires could be real,” Kendall said. As other students laughed and hissed, she turned her scrunched face to the class. “Why not? Stranger things have happened.”

“How can something be dead and alive at the same time?” Jeremy asked.

“I’m not saying it’s true,” Kendall said. “I’m just saying it’s possible.”

Levon slapped his large hands over his ears, his palms flat against his head. “I don’t want to hear any more about vampires!” James couldn’t tell if he was joking.

Jeremy smirked. “You must cover your ears a lot, Levon. Everyone everywhere is talking about vampires. Vampire movies. Vampire television shows. Vampire books.” Jeremy’s fingers went to his temples and he shook his head from side to side. “I am so damn sick of vampires.”

 

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James Wentworth, and What Does it Mean to be a Vampire?

Her Dear & Loving HusbandIn my Loving Husband Trilogy, James Wentworth is a vampire. But what does it mean to be a vampire?

On the surface, it’s an unnecessary question since with the popularity of vampire stories everyone seems to have their own ideas of the undead. Yet it’s a question writers of vampire fiction must contend with, and it’s one question I had never considered before sitting down to write the trilogy.

I had never given much thought to vampires. I was never into the paranormal genre, the main reason being I’m not a fan of horror. I’m not a fan of violence, real or pretend, and since vampires have traditionally represented violence, I didn’t care to know them. But then I was introduced to the vampire genre in a less gore-filled way, and the more I read about them the more I realized that there is  no one way to describe a vampire. The question of ‘What is a vampire?’ is answered differently according to what authors want or need from their preternatural characters. What a grand revelation as I embarked on my own paranormal stories.

I realized I had a decision to make. Would I go the more traditional route and keep my vamplings asleep during the day, unable to go out in the sun, or would I take the more modern route of sunbeams and sparkles? In the beginning, I had no idea. I hopped on the computer (God bless the Internet) and searched vampire folklore to see how the undead have been traditionally defined. I was fascinated by what I found. Turns out that vampire legends have abounded for as long as there have been people to tell them, long before vampire stories were ever published. Who knew? There are vampire legends from all over the world, and while there are cultural differences, there were more than a few commonalities, and this is what I focused on—the commonalities.

So what is a vampire to me? How did I craft James’s vampire nature?

I tended to stay along more traditional lines. One similarity between almost all vampire legends is that they’re nocturnal creatures. James is as well, sleeping during the day and living at night. He drinks blood. Now, how he choses to drink blood differs from other vampires, but let’s say that he does drink human blood. Their human bodies die as they are transformed (by the bite of another vampire) into a preternatural, immortal being. Again, pretty traditional. As to garlic and silver, well, I don’t know what to say about that. It’s true that traditionally (especially in the Slavic cultures) those are considered supreme weapons against the undead, but it seems to me that if you can live forever a little plant bulb or metal won’t harm you much. But that’s just me. Geoffrey, James’s “maker” (as they would say on True Blood), tends to agree. And since, as a vampire, James lives forever, he loves forever, which is the focus of the trilogy—how he has never forgotten his one true love and the joy he feels when he’s finally reunited with her. On the surface, the Loving Husband Trilogy is a vampire story, complete with witches and werewolves, but it’s really a love story that spans the ages.

Part of the fun of writing in the paranormal genre is the ability to create your fantasy creatures however you want. If you want your vampire sitting on the sofa in broad daylight eating pizza (as Aidan did in the BBC series Being Human), then do it. There is no right way to create a vampire. As long as authors believe that the world they’re describing is true, then readers will follow. What is a vampire? The fun part is, we all get to decide for ourselves.

What Do Superman and a Vampire Have in Common?

Photo Credit: fansided.com

Photo Credit: fansided.com

Probably more than you think…

When I was watching the new Man of Steel movie the other day, the struggles of Clark Kent (aka Superman) reminded me of another fictional character who is especially close to my heart—my own vampire James Wentworth. But what could Superman have in common with a vampire? After all, he’s Superman.

The new Man of Steel movie, or at least the first half of it, is about how Clark Kent struggles through the world knowing how different he is from the humans around him. How does he adapt to those differences? In the film, Clark becomes a wanderer, directionless, hopping from job to job without any real goals, not too sure where he belongs. He overhears conversations he may not want to hear, and then what does he do with the information? How does he stop others from doing bad, and how does he protect those around him without alerting everyone else that he has special powers?

It’s the same struggle James deals with, particularly in Books One and Two of the Loving Husband Trilogy, Her Dear & Loving Husband and Her Loving Husband’s Curse. James is a vampire with extraordinary strength and superhuman senses, and he knows he needs to hide the truth of what he is, that he is undead among the living, to get through his nights without being run out with torches and pitchforks, or whatever it is they would use these days. Unlike Clark and his Kent family, James doesn’t have to speculate about what might happen when humans are confronted with things they don’t understand. James has seen it, he’s lived through it, from the Salem Witch Trials, to the Cherokee expulsion on the Trail of Tears, to the internment of thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II. He knows all too well how madness infects people when they’re confronted by something new or confusing. So James has kept himself in the darkness, literally and figuratively, wanting to remain part of the human world yet holding himself aloof from it for fear of the hysteria the knowledge of vampires would bring. Both Clark and James are afraid to be themselves. Yet they want to blend in. They want to seem like everyone else.

What is the right thing to do? Is Clark’s adopted father, Jonathan Kent, right to tell his son to wait until the time was right to make his mark on the world? James would be perfectly happy never making his mark anywhere but in his university classes with his students or at home with his beloved wife Sarah. He doesn’t feel destined for greatness, as Jonathan believes Clark is. James doesn’t want the spotlight. All James wants is to help others as quietly as he can and live in peace with his family. In the end, in Book Three, Her Loving Husband’s Return, James makes a great sacrifice to get the life he’s always wanted. Clark has to sacrifice as well as he comes to terms with his destiny as Superman. And also like Superman, James’s struggles only increase as others discover who and what he is.

Both Clark and James are afraid to be themselves for fear of what others will say. Their coming of age stories about how they learn to make peace with their places in the world can be understood by everyone. We are all different in one way or another, which is why coming of age stories are so important—they remind us that no matter who we are we can find a meaningful place for ourselves if we’re willing to try. Whether you’re an alien, a vampire, or whatever you happen to be, you can make peace with yourself and your place in the world. That’s a lesson we all need to learn.