All Hallow’s Tag: My Ex is A Vampire!

NaNoWriMo starts soon. By the time you’re reading this, it’s already Day 1. I decided that I want to start NaNoWriMo off by talking about my project. The best way to do that is to do the All Hallow’s Tag again!

The rules are:

#1 – Provide a BRIEF description of your novel before starting.

#2 – Don’t use the same character for more than 3 answers.

My project for NaNoWriMo is called My Ex is a Vampire, the first installment of a young adult urban fantasy/paranormal series called Tales of the Vocati. The Vocati are humans gifted by the fairies to fight and kill vampires and other evil creatures that lurk in the night. My Ex is a Vampire centers on Jane and Andy, two members of the Vocati. Jane is a student who’s practically perfect in every way. Andy is a delinquent who seems to be nothing but trouble. The only things they have in common? They love to fight vampires, they fight well together, and their exes have become vampires. How will they take their exes down? That’s what I’ll find out this NaNoWriMo.

Here we go.

  1. It’s Halloween night! What is your protagonist dressed up as?  There’s an actual chapter in My Ex is a Vampire that centers on Halloween. Jane dresses up as a girl from the Regency era and Andy dresses up as an aristocratic vampire, also wearing Regency clothes.
  2. Who in your cast refuses to dress up and shows up at the Halloween party without a costume? Susanna, Andy’s fairy godmother, is one of the few characters who chose not to dress up for Halloween. Susanna seems like your typical housekeeper and she has a very demure look, but she had a very harsh life, growing up during the Marcos era in the Philippines. It’s hard for Susanna to have fun.
  3. Which character wears the most outrageous costume, and what would it be? At the moment, I’m picturing Donovan, one of Jane’s best friends, dressed up as a clown. He wouldn’t be a scary clown, a la Pennywise or Joker, but more of the typical fun circusy clown. Donovan is very outgoing with a great sense of humor and his senior superlative will be “Class Clown,” so the costume totally fits.
  4. On Halloween, werewolves, vampires, and zombies are on the prowl. Which of your characters gets caught in their clutches, and which creature do they subsequently turn into?  Zombies don’t exist in My Ex is a Vampire, but vampires and werewolves do. Jane’s boyfriend, Conner, and Andy’s girlfriend, Katherine, both get turned into vampires in this novel. Hence the title.
  5. Who wins the contest for best costume? Although there’s not a costume contest in my novel, I think Leticia would definitely win this. Even though Leticia is introduced as your typical high school cheerleader mean girl, she is also Mexican, so she would dress up with a sugar skull painted on her face and a beautiful traditional Mexican folk costume a la Coco. Leticia sees this as honoring the culture she comes from, especially since she also celebrates Dia de los Muertos.
  6. Who hands out toothbrushes to the trick and treaters? Principal Mallory, without a doubt. Principal Mallory is the beleagured principal who tries to keep a handle of the craziness that goes on in North Austin High School, where my characters all go. (The story takes place in Austin, TX.) Principal Mallory is all about order and discipline, so she would hand out toothbrushes to remind everyone to take care of their teeth.
  7. Which two of your characters decide to pair up and do an angel/devil costume together? As surprising as this may sound, Jane’s parents choose to dress up as this for Halloween. Jane’s mom, Bethany, chooses to dress as an angel because it’s an easy costume to wear and she’s a very warm, friendly person. Jane’s stepfather, George, would dress like the devil because he has a very mischievous, deviant past. It also contrasts to his usual bookish, introverted personality.
  8. Someone is too scared to even attend the Halloween party. Who is it? The most likely candidate for that is Tamara, Jane’s other best friend. Although Tamara usually hangs out with Donovan and Jane, she comes from a very traditional Jewish family and they don’t celebrate Halloween. She’s scared of her parents’ disapproval. 
  9.  Who overdoses on Halloween candy and ends up sick? Jane’s younger sister, Gabrielle. Although Gabrielle is a dancer, she also has a sweet tooth that’s the size of Texas. She loves chocolate, sugar cookies, and any and all sorts of candy. She really acts like a kid on Halloween and will probably wake up with a stomachache the next morning.
  10. Which character is most likely to place a curse/hex on someone and who would they curse? Desdemona without a doubt, given that she is the main villain of the novel. Desdemona is a vampire from the Regency era who has spent the last couple centuries trying to regain what she lost: her lover, her old lifestyle as the owner of a successful brothel, and her vampire family. If she was able to place a curse on the Vocati who killed her lover, she totally would have.

I hope this has intrigued you about my NaNoWriMo project. Feel free to add me as a buddy by clicking on the link here.

Eve The Awakening-A Book Review

I discovered Jenna Moreci while browsing for writing tips on YouTube. She’s snarky, funny, and intelligent when it comes to knowing what makes a good story. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I ordered a copy of her debut novel Eve The Awakening. My copy is autographed!

So what is this novel about?

In the distant future, humanity has discovered a type of mutant that they call “chimeras” or “chimes” (pronounced kime, rhymes with lime). Evelyn Kingston was a girl whose chimera powers manifested after her parents died in a traffic accident. Over a decade later, the world is now dealing with Interlopers who are hunting chimeras and causing destruction for reasons unknown. Wanting to get away from it all, Evelyn goes to college at Billington University. Of course, not everything there is what it seems to be.

I love this novel. It’s not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad.

First of all, I love the world they live in. It feels like something out of the Marvel comics, with chimeras being Moreci’s version of the X-Men. Even as Eve adjusts to life in college, there is always a tension lurking under the surface and by the time I got to the last few chapters, my nails were bitten down to the quick. Chimeras, based on what Eve has shown, are powerful, but not invincible and the Interlopers are equally intimidating, but thankfully not overly powered. Even though I know Jenna hates setting up places, I could easily imagine Billington and all the other places Eve went to, as well as all the fight scenes.

Most of the characters are compelling as well, especially Eve and Jason. I understood Eve as this skeptical loner who emerges into this new role of being a leader against the Interlopers. Jason is equally endearing because he’s sweet and considerate and the best guy to have fighting by your side. The romance that develops between them is genuine and thankfully undeterred by love triangles and stupid misunderstandings.

The supporting characters are definitely unique, with their own distinctive voices and plenty of diversity. My favorite side character is Sancho, btw. Filipino firecracker.

The entire story had me hooked from beginning to end. There are seriously no “filler” scenes. In fact, in spite of the fact that the book is over 500 pages long, I was left wanting more. The story is driven by both character and plot and the underlying tension, as well as the wonderful relationship that Eve and Jason have are basically the fuel that drives it.

Now I said before that this novel isn’t perfect. There’s no explanation for why exactly chimeras are considered the scum of the earth and the reason why Billington is set up doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, especially considering the people they hire to be their teachers. If the founders were pro-chimera, why hire people who are anti-chimera and accept students with anti-chimera views?

Eve initially checks off a lot of boxes on the Mary Sue Litmus test: meaningful name, gets special treatment,  is described while she looks at herself in the mirror (even though this novel is written in third person), and doesn’t get along with other girls. Aside from Eve, most of the female characters are two-dimensional. They all start out hating Eve or being fake. Madison especially didn’t make sense to me. What exactly were her motivations in this story? I knew her purpose to the plot, but her motivations were all over the place.

Regardless of the flaws, I still recommend Eve The Awakening to fans of sci-fi and comic books, especially if they are fans of X-Men, Buffy, or Agents of SHIELD because there are a lot of elements of all three things here. I especially like how Jenna wrote out the third act of the novel. She was able to play around with a very familiar movie trope and still have you going “That sneaky *bleep*!”

If you are a writer, check out Jenna Moreci’s channel on YouTube. If you’re interested in the book, click the link here to get it on Amazon.

Shadowmancer: A #ThrowbackThursday Book Review

I first read Shadowmancer back when I was in middle school. On the surface, it seems like this novel that takes place in a sleepy little English countryside fishing village would be the last place for an 18th century apocalypse to occur. In fact, Shadowmancer is similar to the gospel of John or the book of Revelations in its rich complexity and imagery. There are layers upon layers of metaphor and subtext as shown in this passage:.

The sky grew darker and darker and the full moon was blotted out by thick black cloud as streaks of lightning flashed from sky to sea, exploding in the water. A lightning sword hit the ship. The mainsail cracked, then crashed to the deck, sending startled crewmen bolting from their hammocks.

As they rushed on deck, another sail crashed down, splitting the deck in half and sending shafts of splintered wood into the air. The ship lifted and dropped with each wave; a crewman was thrown through the air and into the cold sea, never to be seen again.

“A direct hit,” shouted Demurral, laughing and rubbing his hands together in glee at the sight. “One more strike and the Keruvim will be mine.”

He raised the statue into the air and chanted more magic. “Wind, hail, lightning, thunder and wave.” The sea rose at his command, each surge growing higher and higher. Breakers like black fists smashed against the ship, almost engulfing the vessel.

Two local villagers, Thomas Barrick and Kate Coglan join up with a mysterious African man named Raphah to stop the main villain, Vicar Obadiah Demurral, from destroying the world. Demurral rules over the local villages with an iron fist, but the power he lords over the villages isn’t enough for him. He dabbles in dark magic that gives him the power to raise the dead, creating creatures called the Glashan, and steals the Keruvim (the MacGuffin of the story) with the hopes of using it and its other half in a ritual that will bring on the apocalypse.

Thomas starts out as your typical village street urchin. With his father dead and his mother in the hospital, he calls the vicar out on his hypocrisy and greed, lamenting his own poor status. He gets pulled into the action when Raphah rescues him from drowning. Although he is uncertain, Thomas is resolved to help Raphah on the mission to get the Keruvim back from Demurral. A young village girl, Kate Coglan gets thrown into the adventure when she tries to kill a Glashan, a zombie that Demurral raises from the dead, using the power of the gold Keruvim.

Raphah, the mysterious African from Cush, arrives in this small English countryside village to get the Keruvim back to his people. He’s the oldest of the trio and helps exposit important information regarding the dark magic and otherworldly creatures shown in this story. Prejudices towards Africans are prominent and he even gets branded as a slave, but his determination to do God’s will makes him a compelling character.

What makes Shadowmancer compelling to read is the attention to detail and the overall atmosphere. Whenever I open this book, I find some new detail I missed, another piece of the puzzle that adds depth and it entices me to read the book again in search for more. Most of all, I love why this book was written. In an interview with Christianity Today, GP Taylor said:

“I was out there talking to a church group about the threads, the dark and sinister threads through children’s literature. At the end of one of these nights, this woman came up to me and said, I think you should write a children’s book, but have the main theme of a God who’s triumphant. On the way home this stuck with me.”

Shadowmancer is a complicated, challenging read that fantasy fans will definitely find intriguing because of its dark atmosphere, threatening villain, and the timeless storyline of three unlikely heroes who, despite overwhelming odds, help to defeat the dark forces that were bent on destroying their world. I recommend this book for fans of dark fantasy and young adults who love a good Gothic atmosphere.

Flannery O’Connor “Revelation” – A Short Story Review

Fun Fact: Flannery O’Connor’s birthday is on March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation. To honor one of the most well-renowned Catholic writers, I want to talk about my favorite of her short stories “Revelation.”

“Revelation” is one of the last short stories that Flannery O’Connor wrote. It was published in 1965, one year after she died. While “A Good Man is Hard to Find” may be the most well-known story from Flannery O’Connor, but I think “Revelation” is my favorite as it’s the most straightforward parable.

The reason I call “Revelation” a parable is because it reminds me of the biblical parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. Only in this story, Ruby Turpin is the pharisee and Mary Grace is the tax collector. Like the pharisee, Ruby Turpin has a very high opinion of herself and a low opinion of everyone else. This is shown as she sits with her husband at a waiting room in the doctor’s office.

The office is crowded with a lot of patients. Ruby condescends to make conversation with a stylish lady who’s sitting nearby. Mary Grace, the daughter of the stylish lady, is described as a fat eighteen or nineteen year-old girl whose face was “blue with acne” and wore “Girl Scout shoes and heavy socks.”

The story is implied to take place during Flannery’s time in the early 60s, as Mrs. Turpin refers to African-Americans as “n*****s” and refers to them picking cotton. However, African-Americans can own property, as Mrs. Turpin thinks about “a colored dentist in town who had two red Lincoln’s and a swimming pool and a farm with registered whiteface cattle on it.” As far as Mrs. Turpin’s mind is concerned, though, she might as well be a southern lady in Gone With The Wind, as she has African-Americans who work on her property.

As the conversation gets more racist and politically incorrect, Mary Grace’s rage slowly builds up to a boiling point. Her mother calls her spoiled and ungrateful, the kind of person who “can never say a kind word to anyone, who never smiles, who just criticizes and complains all day long.” (Sounds like most of the college students on Tumblr.) Finally, when Mrs. Turpin does her very boastful “prayer of gratitude,” she gets a textbook thrown at her face.

The girl raised her head. Her gaze locked with Mrs. Turpin’s. “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog,” she whispered. Her voice was low but clear. Her eyes burned for a moment as if she saw with pleasure that her message had struck its target.

Although Mary Grace gets sedated and taken away, her message lingers with Mrs. Turpin throughout the rest of the day. She tries to use the people around her to bolster her ego when she returns home, but to no avail. Finally, at the end of the day, she complains loudly to God, questioning Mary Grace’s words. She receives a vision of a parade of people in white entering Heaven. However, she sees that the people she looked down upon were the first in line while those like her walked towards the end.

“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”-Matthew 20:16

Dracula: The Brilliance of Mina Harker

So I did a lot of reading during my four-day vacation in Florida. One book I read was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Taylor Marshall put the book on his list of his favorite Catholic novels other than Lord of the Rings, even though the book isn’t written by a Catholic.

I loved the book from beginning to end, but the one thing that sticks out at me is the character of Mina Harker, nee Murray. Despite of the way she was portrayed in adaptations and how she’s perceived in various literary analyses, Mina had all the makings of a modern woman even within the timeframe that the story was set in.

At the time that Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, the women’s sufferage movement was on the rise. Many people see Mina as the ideal Victorian woman, who was devoted to her fiancee and whose actions centered on pleasing him. Lucy, on the other hand, seemingly represented the progressive woman who charms many men and later turns into a vampire who goes after children.

However, there are many instances in the novel where Mina is proactive and takes action instead of just reacting to what’s going on around her.

If anyone was the real Damsel in Distress, it’s actually Jonathan, who almost falls victim to Dracula if not for a chance escape. His story takes up four chapters of what can be considered prologue.

When the novel shift’s to the letters and journal of Mina Murray, it establishes that she is a schoolteacher, which wasn’t something Victorian women normally did unless they were working class. Jonathan is an attorney, which puts them about the same class as Jane Austen was in her lifetime, meaning that Mina didn’t have to work for a living. She also studies shorthand and keeps up with her fiancee’s studies. It doesn’t sound like a modern thing to do, but being on equal terms with your marriage partner is actually a proto-feminist concept, dating back to when Jane Austen wrote about its importance in Pride and Prejudice.

Mina comments on articles about the New Woman and admits that while she may disagree with some aspects of that idea, her life is very similar to other aspects. I see that at Mina creating her own definition of feminism, even at a time when it was still in the process of becoming a reality. Later on, when Lucy starts sleepwalking, Mina is the one who keeps an eye on her friend. She keeps Lucy from sleepwalking.

In the edition of Dracula that I own, the introduction speculates that Lucy represents immature love in the sense that she acts like a player and goes between emotional extremes, never finding balance. Mina, however, is more emotionally composed. She still feels things, but doesn’t take things to extremes.

When she gets word about Jonathan’s whereabouts, she essentially comes to his rescue and nurses him back to health. Then, when Van Helsing comes into the picture, she gives him Jonathan’s journal in the hopes of furthering his research on Dracula. She takes notes and helps Van Helsing, Quincey, and Jonathan.

In a typical “Victorian Values” novel, keeping Mina out of the loop would’ve been better for her, but it actually made things worse because Dracula takes advantage of the situation and attacks her. He drinks from her and forces her to drink some of his blood as a way of controlling her.

To quote my friend Cordelia, who is a huge fan of Mina Harker, “Seriously, book can be renamed ‘We decided to hide things from Mina in order to protect her and now we are REALLY screwed until Mina saved us.'”

Although she can’t touch holy items and becomes scarred when Van Helsing places a communion host on her forehead, Mina refuses to stay a victim. She takes advantage of her psychic link with Dracula in order to find his location.

Tl;dr: Mina Harker is awesome and any movie that portrays her as a screaming damsel in distress who falls over her feet for Dracula won’t do her justice.

Coming This Summer: Dissonance by Mariella Hunt

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Fifteen-year-old Allie Grant lives crippled by her illness. Though kept in isolation, she’s never alone: A spirit named Song lurks in the silence of her bedroom.

When Song reveals its dark nature on the night of her recital, the show ends in tragedy. Verging on death, Allie’s taken in by an uncle she’s never met.

Julian claims to be a Muse with power over music and answers that’ll heal her. The cure she needs is rare, requiring of him a difficult sacrifice. Allie soon suspects her uncle has a secret that’ll turn her world around.

But with days left to live, she might fade without learning the truth…like the finishing chord of a song.

————-

About the Author:

Mariella Hunt is a writer with a strong love for coffee and guinea pigs. She likes using big words in everyday speech, and keeps journals of quotes from the greats.

Most days you’ll find her on a well-loved armchair, reading–or working on one of her many projects. As she cannot stick to an outline, she rewrites way too much.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Mariella Hunt

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From her website:

Mariella Hunt is 20 years old and lives in the Treasure Valley. She writes fiction and reflections on the Catholic faith.

She has been featured on TeenInk Magazine, with a poem published in their July 2013 edition. She also guest writes for Ignitum Today and for Stephanie Kehr.

Mariella is currently in the process of publishing her first novel Dissonance.

She summarizes her novel thusly:

A mysterious ailment dooms Allie Grant to permanent confinement. It limits her contact with other people, but doesn’t stop her from getting away to chase a song no one else hears.

When Allie’s recital ends in tragedy, she’s sent to live with Julian, an uncle she’s never met. He claims to be a Muse with surreal affinity for the arts–and answers that could heal her.

Allie learns quickly there’s more to this man, who despite his haunts has a world in his hands. As they struggle with demons together, tragedy gives way to truth that will set both of them free.

1) Where did the idea for Dissonance come from?

It came from the ocean. Five years ago I was visiting Peru and fell in love with the sea; this fascination became a story about mermaids and sirens. Somehow as I’ve edited over the years, the storyline took a total change and now it’s about Muses. I don’t know how that happened…but that just shows how much life a story can have.

2) Are there any Catholic elements in this story?

There’s an abandoned cathedral but it’s only there to illustrate the eccentricity of the man who owns it. Really, I didn’t go out of my way to pluck religious elements into this story. I think there are traces of Catholicism in how I tried to make family important, a priority over all things. Anything else is just coincidence that fit well with the story.

3) What kind of stories do you like to read?

Lately I’ve taken to reading a lot of literary fiction and YA to review, but I have a definite soft spot for classic novels. They’re timeless and they have a strange magic to them.

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Mother Mary has kept me calm all this time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the details for publishing are finally settling down on May, the month of Mary! I had planned for a December release, but God proved to me that even manuscripts are part of His plan and not mine.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

For your book to be any good, you’re probably going to rewrite a lot. Don’t let the years discourage you, but be prepared to think you’re done and then realize it could be better. I promise there’s a point where you eventually feel satisfied with the plot.

Dissonance will be coming out soon! I’ll keep you posted on it.