Sunday, June 26, 2011

Untitled: a.k.a Circle Entry for June

Cassandra towered over the still body, gazing down at her hands with mild surprise:  the blood on them was already dry.

She dropped her hands to her sides, allowing her eyes to see the body for the first time since she lost control. Blood had spilled from him, leaving a red pool around his body. It has started to seep through the gaps between the wooden boards. Raising a foot carefully, she hesitated, and then prodded him roughly between the ribs with her big toe. He remained motionless, his lifeless eyes fixed on a painting on the opposite wall.

Cassandra remained standing, shaking, in the pool of blood. She shook her head disbelievingly at the sight of it; did humans contain this much blood? Did they bleed this much from a single wound? It had been a long time since Cassandra had murdered.

Dropping down beside him she could see a wound on his neck. Pulling the neckline of his tee-shirt down, she saw two deep punctures on the vein and teeth marks surrounding the wound – as she had already expected. She knew what she was; she had killed before enough times to know. She studied his face where the ghost of his last desperate scream was still etched upon it. It looked as though she had caused him pain. She hoped she hadn’t, she truly had loved and cared for the dead body that now lay before her.

Cassandra lowered her head so her lips were barely inches from his ear, her golden hair falling into the bloody pool around him. ‘I’m sorry, love.’ She smiled adoringly at her husband. ‘I loved you, but you could never have me,’ she said, speaking softly, gently running fingers through his damp hair. His scalp was still warm. ‘Not really. I think you knew that.’

Ecstasy was coursing through her body, flowing through her veins like adrenaline. A smile played on her face as she gazed down upon his lifeless body. ‘You did taste good, though.’

The backdoor squeaked open and Cassandra’s head snapped up. A blunt tap sounded against the titled floor and echoed throughout the kitchen every half a second or so. Cassandra cocked her head to listen for the intruder, but all she could hear were the police sirens drawing nearer, roaring through the streets. Cassandra closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, the intruder smelt like stale smoke mixed with Old Spice; he smelt like familiarity. She knew this man and he wasn’t human. It wasn’t the police. Not yet.

She opened her eyes and lifted them to meet the intruder’s calm gaze. He remained in the kitchen doorway studying her for a moment, leaning heavily on an ivory topped cane, before his dark eyes fell to the broken man lying beside her. ‘Cassie –,’

‘I’m not coming with you,’ she told him tersely, placing a hand on the floor, ready to propel herself up in the event of an attack. Cassandra focused her hearing but could not hear the others, his dutiful entourage, in the house.

The stranger looked up from the bloody corpse, his face blank. ‘He won’t be the last, Cassie,’ he said, stepping through the door, his cane clicking on the wooden floor. ‘You can’t control your urges –,’

‘I haven’t killed for the past three years, Reuben. The gaps are becoming longer –,’

‘This isn’t a game,’ snapped Reuben, his hand white knuckled on the cane. ‘You need blood to survive. It’s simple scientific –,’

‘We don’t need human blood, not all the time. I have proven –,’

‘All you are proving is that you can singlehandedly tear down everything we have built,’ barked Reuben, drowning out Cassandra’s argument. ‘There are some humans who already know about us and openly murdering them will only lead them to us – to you.’

‘I’m not doing this on purpose,’ Cassandra whimpered, tears springing to her eyes. ‘I’m not.’

The edges of Reuben’s eyes softened slightly. ‘I know.’

Cassandra titled an ear towards the street. ‘The police are coming.’

‘I know.’

Cassandra sniffed. ‘What should we do?'

Reuben cast his eyes over the room once more. ‘Helicia is waiting in the car to clean up but you, Cass, have two choices: you can come home or,’ – Reuben faltered. Cassandra continued to kneel, waiting patiently for instruction, staring up at Reuben. The older vampire closed his eyes and continued, ‘or you can keep pretending to be human.’

Cassandra leapt up from her position beside her wounded husband. ‘Do you mean that?’

‘You have to promise me that you’ll live right, that you’ll feed when necessary.’

‘Of course, I will – I do!’

Rueben watched her eager face intently. ‘There are no more second chances, Cass. The council are running thin on tolerance. You run the risk of exposing us to the humans and the council will execute you if this behaviour continues.’

‘I’m sorry. I promise it won’t.’

Reuben hesitated then reached out for Cassandra’s still bloody hand. ‘I’m worried about you.’

‘I know,’ said Cassandra, taking Reuben’s outstretched hand. ‘Don’t be.’

He squeezed her fingers gently and smiled kindly. ‘You need to go, the police are coming.’

‘Thank you. I promise this is the last one,’ Cassandra said, pushing herself up onto her toes and lightly kissing Reuben’s cheek. ‘I’ll invite you out for golf soon.’

Reuben snorted in spite of himself. ‘Listen, keep your head low and don’t do anything stupid,’ he warned. He took her by shoulders and held her at arm’s length. ‘Lose your clothes as soon as you can, they’re covered in blood. Stay hidden and don’t contact anyone for a while – do not ring the house. Wait until we’ve sorted this out.'

Cassandra nodded. ‘Okay. Thank you.’ Cassandra reached up and threw her arms around Reuben’s neck. ‘Thank you.’


Cassandra uncoiled her arms from the older vampire’s neck and smiled briefly before darting past him and into the garden.

‘This is your last warning.’ Cassandra heard Reuben remind her as she vaulted effortlessly over the fence and disappeared into the city beyond.

Helicia promptly appear at the backdoor. She brushed past Reuben and into the living room, casting her amber eyes over the ruined room and resting finally on the body. She clicked her tongue impatiently and without turning said, ‘She’s more trouble than my grandchildren. You can’t protect her forever.’

Reuben sighed. ‘What else can I do? We brought her into this.’

‘Didn’t you execute kids like her, back in the old days?’

‘Please Helicia,’ Reuben implored, gesturing around, ‘the police are almost here.’

‘She’ll only do it again, you know she will.’ Helicia glanced over her shoulder at Reuben. ‘She’ll be the end of us and I hope, for your sake, the end doesn’t come in my lifetime because I don’t know if I’ll be able to forgive you. The humans will hate us and they will hunt us, you know that. Lua would want you to do the right thing.’

‘And you think she would want me to murder Cassandra.’

‘She would want you to protect your family.’

Reuben pursed his lips and said nothing. The pair watched each other silently, each waiting for the other to continue the debate as the screaming sirens rolled closer.

‘The police will be here shortly,’ said Reuben finally, waving his free hand at the abandoned corpse. 'We don’t have time to discuss this.’

Helicia nodded curtly. ‘If you insist,’ she said, turning to the lifeless human, rolling up her sleeves to begin the ritual.


  1. Hey sugar,
    I really enjoyed this piece. It reads like the opening to some classic vampire fiction. I'm going to sound like John here, but I definitely think this piece is worth extending. I want to read more about the 'ritual' and about the politics of the vampire council and about Cassandra's exile and her previous relationship with her human husband. This piece would make a wonderful opening chapter for a longer piece, maybe even a novella. There are a lot of interesting things being glimpsed at here, and there's huge potential for more!

    The description is wonderfully crafted; you have a good mix of sense impressions, particularly in the opening few paragraphs. I particularly liked the paragraph that described the sounds of sirens juxtaposed with the smell of the head vamp (I assume he's pretty high up anyway?) In order to improve this, I think you should focus more on the smells of the flat. Focusing on what Cassandra can smell will not only give a more vivid impression of her surroundings, it will also emphasise her inhuman nature as your protagonist.

    My favourite line is this: 'She studied his face where the ghost of his last desperate scream was still etched upon it.' It conveys so much about a murder which the reader has not seen, which really makes the reader want to learn more about what has happened.

    There was only one thing in the piece that I didn't think worked particularly well. In the 12th paragraph Reuben says 'You are a vampire and you need blood to survive. It’s simple scientific –,’ This exposition feels a little bit clumsy to me. If you were to remove the phrase 'you are a vampire' so instead it reads: ‘This isn’t a game,’ snapped Reuben, his hand white knuckled on the cane. ‘You need blood to survive. It’s simple scientific –,’ I think that might work better. As a reader, I prefer not to be expressly told the nature of a character, and I think the 'you are a vampire' part of this sentence could be cut without leaving the reader in the dark. Give your readers pieces of the puzzle, but let them work it out for themselves. The exposition is unnecessary.

    Other than that minor thing - which is really only my preference - I thought it was very good indeed. I can't wait to hear more from Cassandra in the future!

  2. Nicely scripted piece. Like the jarring start and the inhuman attitude of the characters. Definitely felt like a piece of a much greater story, enough questions raised and left that I want to know more.

    I think the piece could have done with more description of the surrounds, even in just broad strokes. Maybe that's just my attitude as a writer/reader, I like to have a setting in mind for the characters to unfold in.

    The caring nature of Reuben worked well against Helicia's robust scorn, setting up tensions that would be a good platform to extend on. With regards to Cassandra's characterisation, the fact that whilst she's so keen to have a 'normal' life, she still had a definite detachment to having killed her husband. It felt more like she was playing a game (as Reuben points out), it might have been more satisfying to have more evidence of her warring natures (the desire for normalcy vs her thirst for blood), either as capricious or as desperation. That's just my interpretation however, and further writing may well prove me wrong.

    I really liked the line 'Cassandra uncoiled her arms from the older vampire's neck', a nice little touch, just the use of uncoiled made me feel her alien-nature, and the lithe sinuousness of uncoiled against harsh k of neck made me re-read it several times.

    Good pacing throughout, and as I said, I enjoyed the abrupt right-into-the-action start, swept me right into the story. Definitely interested to see the progression of the story.


  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. Have amended text in the 12th paragraph.

    Leanne: Well, this kind of is the beginning of something that I started a few years ago but there's nothing else written for it. :/ I would like to expand it, it's been sitting in my head long enough that I might as well get it together and write it. Procrastination, FTW.

    I am going to go back and ammend some of the action - or lack of - that takes place with Cassandra and give her some more characterisation and add smells, describtions, etc (when I'm not sneezing into the screen every 30seconds!). :)

  4. This is obviously part of a larger story; a good introduction of characters, sense of story arc, moral struggles.

    I dont get Cass. Her apparent love for her hhusband contasting with the poke of her big toe. The way she's horrrified by her actions yet is quick to say goodbye ‘I loved you, but you could never have me,’. The way she reacts to Rueben, then does a 180. She is full of contradictions, and this is brilliant. Not just some vampy seductress, but has the strengths and instincts of a killer, and the human emotional fragility. Strangely endearing yet Trouble.

    This is a genre that has been done to death (pun intended). I love vampires. BUT I love reading originality. The humanity you show in yours is heading that way, the 'family', mentions of children being part of that (Yes i got that Helicia isnt a vamp). A vamp with a cane, mmmmmm. Vamps that play golph? Yes!

    But 'the council'? There is always a council, as we havent yet met your's I will hold back on judgement. The accidental kill, and vamp who-wants-to-be-human-lives-outside-of vampire-world-doesnt-drink-blood is pretty much an arch type. Be wary.

    Some niggles:

    Blood would still be tacky if his scalp is warm. The later you say wounded. Wounded implies alive.

    Cassandra and Rueben are very typical names for vampires.

  5. I used to love vampire stories and maybe I ought to still, considering the inherent drama that can be wrung out of them.

    Problem is, I can't think of an original slant on them, I'd be forgiving if you can't either. However if you intend to do more for this (surely a longer piece, yes?) persevere until you chance upon a scenario and/or characters that you feel only you could write, cos THAT'S where your story lies. Everything I've ever written began as something else and done better by my influences, so don't feel bad about ditching your initial drafting or concept once more development sets in.

    I figure that the main thing this has going for it are the contradictions in Cass' character. Are they conscious choices or have you not worked her out yet? I hope the former! Having said that I LOVE throwing a half done character into the mix to see how other people see them. THEN I figure out how to justify their 'conflict' and round off the edges (Spiderfingers, Object Girl and Gaia being a few of my own sketches that benefited from The Circle's commentary). I hope you're prepared to do that if Cass isn't supposed to have conflict of that nature.

    On the very plus side, I like how you've taken on board Leanne's advice in that you've gone for the subtle approach regarding the use of the word vampire. I'd say go a step further and omit the other uses of it as the word is just so damn loaded, it will immediately cause the reader to 'expect' certain twists and scenario's already coupled to the genre. Omit the word to 'own' your story more I say ;) Dump the vampire to save the vampire!

    I'd say that this piece could do with a once over in terms of set description and time/period specificity.

    The council idea I wanna comment on but only when I know more about it. What I do want to ask is a question: What is driving you to write this story and how is using the vampire genre best suited to that drive? I have to ask as it is a very popular genre at the moment and i want to know why you'd choose to write within it.

  6. It is very difficult to find a new angle for the vamp story, this much is true. But I certainly wouldn't be discouraged by Ashley and John's comments re:originality. If this were the opening to a longer piece with more complex ideas in it (maybe the vampires are actually aliens? Perhaps vampires are hunted and eaten by humans as a delicacy, hence reason they have to stay hidden?) I think it would work well.

    There's also a lot to be said for 'staying true to form and genre.' I once attended a publishers' conference where a woman did a talk. She said the best way to get published was either to be radically original, or comfortably conventional. Sticking to genre conventional or going in a completely bizarre direction are the only two sure-fire methods of success in terms of getting published. It was an interesting argument. I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on it...

  7. I hope that my comments were not overtly disparaging as they (I'm sure I can speak for Ashley) were intended to deconstruct the story for its greater good/health.

    WOW! And at last we have a dialogue regarding the do's and don't of publishing.
    Who am I to say what publishing houses want since my field of expertise is in writing stuff that I've only sent off a handful of times! Yeah, my focus is strictly upon the getting better and maintaining the improvement side of writing. Ignore the grammar in that last sentence.

    O.K, my thoughts (you just know I've got a few ideas that i have to share about publishing right):

    I think a lot of people that write are arguably readers so caught up in a style that's moved them that they fancy giving it a go themselves. The dishonesty of writing so close to convention is that the 'novel' is anything but. Why not challenge oneself? Can somebody honestly tell me that writing conventionally is a great way to introduce new ideas? It has been, but then contemporary audiences desire more - even your teen audience is so aware of conventions that they'll out grow the latest fad of vamp lit and move onto something more inspired. I'd say it's great to learn that way, but to ask others to buy into something overtly conventional runs the risk of carving out a career of 'plane literature'. WE DON'T NEED ANYMORE STEPHANIE MEYER'S!!!

    Phew, rant over. Or is it?

    Literary art can be just as damaging/false especially when the writer hasn't a clue of what they're doing - often leaving the audience out of the equation upon the drafting/editing etc. So, getting published, it's a question of intention isn't it? a way of communicating to the publishing house that yes, this writer knows themselves and the subject well enough to convince others to want to discover their point of view on it. Intention, which in terms solves the conundrum of divination or style: What do you want to tell the world about your understanding of it? What's the best way to do that?

    Hope these postulations meet eager eyes. Carla, Leanne, Sim, Ash...your thoughts please. Reach out and touch somebody's hand, make this world a better place, if you can.

    Sorry. I've got Diana on the brain.

  8. I cant comment on the publishing side, as i have little experiance (gnashes teeth). Undoubtably, as with any product, catring to the mass market wil increase sales. However, this is WRITING we are talking about.

    It depend on what sort of writer you want to be. Do you wanna make a wad of cash, be a household name, have your books made into movies, but know that really; anyone who really reads, has any sort of literary awareness uses your name as the pun to a bad joke. (Steph Meyers, Dan brown,,,,dare i say it even Rowling to a certain extent)

    Or do you wanna be a slow burner, known as HOT in the genre you write in? But one that takes time to build a following.

    Or a writer that is known for breaking boundaries, or re-inventing the genre...

    Or one who is know for their contextual accurateness and is oft qouted...

    Or the one whose books lurk in dingy charity shops but change people lives..

    Or the one who is clever. Using the assumtions that go with a genre as a foil..

    See how many, much better, possibilities there are? Why settle for trashy cut and paste ideas?

    And Im not saying dont do Vamps, I fully intend to do vamps (I have two ideas one from when i was 15 another that will be set in the world you guys know). Just do them your way, make sure its about your voice, your ideas, your plots. Dont just do the vegan vamp becuase thats whats done.

    I think te easiest way to revamp ( I know...) the genre is to do a story thats plot driven rather than character driven. Pretty much all vamp books are about being a vampire, with a plot designed to showcase/test their vampyness. Interview with a Vampire vs From Dusk Till Dawn.

  9. So you're saying decide what kind of reception you wish to have rather than figuring out what you want to say? Isn't that a dangerous beginning? Hahahahah, erm, yeah. Funnier in my head.

  10. lol revamp.

    Yes, I found the talk particularly dispiriting, as the woman basically said that in order to get ahead you need to stick to the genre conventions. As Ashley and John both said, it all depends on whether you're in it for the cash or for the creative experience. I don't know if it's been apparent, but I've been using the circle to test out new voices, genres and styles of writing, that I may not have otherwise had the confidence to try. This group is really helping me to spread my creative wings and embrace originality in the headlock it deserves.

    In the end, it's important to write stories that you believe in (wow, that sounds a lot more 'disney magic' than I meant it to.) I think if you can create a narrative in this way, it will be compelling to the reader, whether it defies all conventions, or whether it is familiar and comforting like a much-loved vibrator.

  11. See, this is what its all about. Comments like this is why the Circle means a lot to me and will i hope for a few more years to come. Can't remember who said (may have been a creative lecturer at Berwick on a YOUTUBE clip, actually I'm sure it was there) it but I like the sound of it.

    ADVICE: Don't stay in one writers circle too long, otherwise it's impossible to produce something without

    a) people having preconceptions

    b) you playing to their fancies

    I don't know what I'd do without you guys but I'm sure at some point (and I'm thinking years now) I'd submit on semi-regular basis, just to give you guys a breather and myself time to accumulate more experiences. I'm typing aloud here but hey, what say you guys?

    Also, what do you think of say having a rule, that if we become ten strong ACTIVE members for at least half a year, we chat about pooling economic resources together to self publish. Yes, I've been researching and doing my homework. Form a super team anybody?

  12. I think it would be an interesting idea. I'm certainly up for doing it. But how would it be executed? Each of us writing a short story on an agreed theme? There has to be some sense of cohesion with a collection like that I think. Or we could create a character and have that character appear in each of our own stories? There are many possibilities. It would definitely be an exciting challenge!

  13. WOW! Didn't think anyone would be up for that kind of madness apart from maybe Sim! I like the idea of an overall theme and as for a shared universe? A literary bonkathon? Might be possible...we have to get used to each other first and THEN, we can put something together. I'm SO looking forward to this! Reminds me of when I used to promote bands and got em to cut out the promoters so we could keep ALL the money;)

    Great PR as well!

    Anyone else reading this? Why the fuck not? Give us your opinions please x

  14. Totally. We had chatted about this before. Definately need a concept/theme for us to work with.

    Start a post about it in the Circle page. We can pop out ideas till we find something we are alll interested in/could inspire us.