Vampire Verisimilitude: “Guns and Survivability”

Janiss here. Happy Sunday!

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureTimothy inspired this week’s revelation when he said, “You do remember we employ a trained team of vampire hunters led by a vampire, right?” It’s true and it’s hilarious, but as ridiculous as it sounds, it also makes perfect sense. To keep Cedarcrest safe, we watch for others of my kind…other immortals. Some can be dealt with and others pushed back; some can’t be left alone and it’s irresponsible to leave them be.

Ambassadors of mostly good will.

This brings me to today’s point: a few of you worry about me, and your concerns are appreciated.

As many of you know (especially the ones who’ve borrowed titles from his personal library), Timothy is our resident pop culture bloodsucker expert; he collects and avidly watches all manner of vampire TV shows and movies on the subject. In the name of entertainment, screen vampires have progressed from hideous monsters to misunderstood blood-drinking romantics. I can relate to both sides – forever bored seeking new goals and distractions, and hey, you gotta eat – but is anyone else amazed with the sheer number of imagined ways a vampire can be easily destroyed?

Look at the Underworld movie series. Selene is a serious badass “death dealer” in a war with werewolves slinging automatic pistols, submachine guns, and both silver and UV ammunition. While slow-motion gunfire is incredible to watch, vampires heal fast…REALLY fast, not to mention stakes don’t turn us to dust and neither does sunlight or UV bullets. Online sources provide a more believable reason for these ideas: for ease of storytelling, because vampire slayers don’t have time to hide slain bodies, evade the cops, and keep the action moving.

What I’m trying to say is we’re damnably hard to kill.

I have to laugh when I see vampires trying to kill each other with Heckler & Koch MP5K submachine guns; this appears to be a favorite because these weapons have been around for fifty years and can be crazy modified. The problem: you could empty two thirty-round clips of 9mm ammunition into a single pissed-off vamp and not even slow them down, even if you knew exactly were to shoot them (no, I’m not telling you where our weak points are). Coupled with a freakish ability to anticipate an attack and dodge most of that incoming lead, you can see why it’s laughable.

You want to know what does work? Numbers. One vampire being attacked on multiple fronts can’t dodge every attack, and every successful hit is a distraction to the next one. A smart bloodsucker will seek to escape no matter how badass they think they are; a cornered vampire is a trapped vampire, and while it makes them deadlier, it also makes them much more vulnerable.

Having friends is your friend.

The whole lone-wolf vampire assassin (see what I did there?) armed like Matrix Neo with sunglasses and a long coat makes for great cinema but is impractical at best. We’re VAMPIRES, for God’s sake! We blend in, make suggestions, and lure you in. For all of the amusement it provided, the movie What We Do In the Shadows nailed it: we’re the bait, but we’re also the trap. Forget the night clubs; you’re safe inside. A girl walking alone at night, a homeless person where they shouldn’t be, or an elderly man sitting at a bus stop long after the line has stopped? Go the other way, my friend.

If someone just needed to put down a vampire with sheer bullet damage – one single solitary vampire – here’s a free script suggestion: lure them into the bottom of an abandoned missile silo, have a TAC team riddle them with enough bullets to bleed them out (assuming they didn’t bring a snack with them), and then seal it up the top, preferably with concrete. The vampire may not be permanently destroyed, but it also won’t be going anywhere…forever.

Seriously, Hollywood: enough with conventional gunpowder weapons for hunting bloodsuckers.

Gunplay is a male-empowerment, vampire-slaying fantasy that’s going to get you killed… or worse.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

Special thanks to Eric for pointing out correct weapon types and editing for acronyms.

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
Twitter @JanissConnelly
Instagram @janiss.connelly

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Very Happy Meals”

One of my questions this week was, “Can you cook?”

My first thought was, “Huh?”

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureOf course I can cook. Mom insisted. I just can’t eat any of it anymore. Vampires can taste – we’re very good at tasting – it’s just that we can’t digest food…and yes, like an idiot, I’ve tried. Let’s just say I don’t use the facilities the way I used to and what goes down must come up through the only orifice it still can…violently.

Truth to tell, I hated the idea of cooking – I just wanted my food NOW – but it taught me things I later learned to appreciate. My mom is very domestic – the hostess queen – and she thought I should have those skills. No dust bunnies, no cobwebs, and crumbs were strictly forbidden.

But going back to cooking: it’s food, yes, but it’s also art and planning.

Cooking to me used to be deciding what kind of cereal to pour into a bowl. It was orderly: cereal first, add milk, and as my dad used to say, “You’re not floating a battleship.” Did extra milk make cereal taste better? Or making toast. I was the toast master.

Mom fixed all that. She asked what I wanted to make…anything at all. I used to like Happy Meals, just a simple cheeseburger and fries with a Coke and a toy. You ordered at the counter, waited for what felt like an eternity, and got your colorful box. It was like unwrapping a present for dinner…hey, I was seven, okay?

She agreed we would make homemade Happy Meals but without the pretty box and movie-themed toy. We got everything at the store late one Saturday afternoon before coming home and unpacking it all. My mom sat in her favorite kitchen chair and informed me she wasn’t going to help: making dinner for the family was on me.

Okay!

“Cooking,” she said, “was about both taste and timing.” If each ingredient tasted good separately, the final dish will be better when everything is combined; spicing the meat was especially important. So why did we have to start the fries first? That was the timing part. If we didn’t start the fries baking before we made the burgers and buns, they’d be cold before dinner time instead of fresh out of the oven. It made sense, and cold fries sucked.

After the oven was warmed up and the fries got to baking, mom said we had some time to go over the plan for the burgers. She directed me to set out spices for the ground beef and got the buns ready to lightly toast. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, cheese, and those dehydrated minced onions; everything was ready to go. She instructed me on how to set the heat, a light buttering on the inside of the buns to make them crisp as they toasted, when to turn the patties, and so on. There was also a lot of handwashing involved.

No, it didn’t look like McDonald’s when it was done. It was better! It looked better, tasted better, and pre-ordered Happy Meals just didn’t seem as special after making one for myself. Sure, it took almost an hour instead of three minutes, but then I got to clean up the kitchen with dad’s help and that was fun, too.

Nowadays, I’m back to placing orders: a pint of blood…drawn from five donors that’s combined into a warm mug that someone brings to me. “Five minutes fresh” as Eric likes to say. I once considered watching the drawing process, but I imagined it would be like seeing a cow bleeding instead of being milked. Still, it’s provided with love, and I swear I can taste that.

Three magical little happy meals a night, each served in a special cup just for me.

But I do miss cooking for myself.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
Twitter @JanissConnelly
Instagram @janiss.connelly

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “What makes a good immortal?”

You ask questions; I try to answer them – I make no other promises.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureMr. Johnson asked, “How do you know someone will make a good vampire?”

Great question…possibly the toughest one I’ve been asked.

The short answer is: nobody knows for sure.

A quick point of fact: if a vampire chooses to make a mortal into an immortal, it’s not guaranteed to work. Forget all that zombie movie bite-equals-undead stuff; even an intentional transformation comes with risk: you could die…period. Well, you WILL die – it’s part of the process – but the whole coming back bit is not a for-sure kind of thing for all those Carly Rae Jepsen fans who really, really, really, really, really, really want to be a vampire, too (GOD that song is annoying).

Got it? Good. Moving on.

Now, I’m making a bit of an assumption here: what’s the difference between a good and a BAD vampire? I don’t mean angelic vs. demonic but actual survivability; what makes a SUCCESSFUL vampire? Can a newly turned vamp survive, thrive, and cope with their own existence? I’ve compiled a brief list of traits I’ve seen that seem to be true – although to be fair, I only have the opinions of three immortals including myself.

Survivor’s Sense – You have to WANT to live, so to speak. The first thing you’re going to get hit with is PTSD, because becoming a vampire isn’t easy. Even if your mind didn’t have to endure the transformation, your body is going to feel the trauma, and then your head will be bombarded with so many sensations that it feels alien. What you want to do and may actually do – rip into the first warm body full of delicious, desirable blood – is horrific no matter how evil you think you are. Whether you commit this initial act of destruction or not, you’re going to become suicidal; it feels like a perfect solution and one you have to get past quickly. A vampire with a death wish is eventually going to find a way to do themselves in; fortunately, we’re pretty resilient and damnably hard to kill…especially without knowing the rules.

Investigator’s Sense – Speaking of rules, you have to be willing to learn them; research is your friend. Vampires compete with each other for the same stock – never mind there being plenty to go around – so they keep secrets…LOTS of secrets. Some of these reveal themselves: blood lust, aversion to dawn, appearance in sunlight, being staked, and so forth. You’ll want to know about as many of your weaknesses as you can and how to avoid them. Some sires educate their fledglings while others abandon them, often observing from afar for their own amusement. Have I mentioned I’m NEVER going to do this to or for anyone EVER? And happily there’s no Vampire Academy option, either (see what I did there?)

Warrior’s Sense – Shutting yourself in is a bad idea; it’s avoidance. You have to feed yourself, and even if you’re lucky enough to have a sire who gives a crap, they can’t feed you with your own blood. So unless you intend sleep your immortality away, you have to eat…but you also have to protect yourself and possibly even those who provide for you (I’ll say “willingly” here because I consider that the better option). No, you don’t rise from the grave with the Shaolin martial arts skills of Master Shifu (thanks, Buffy) and forget all that pacifist Gandhi stuff; you need to know how to fight and use your speed and strength to not only destroy but subdue. As much as I hate to even think this, you can’t remain defensive at all times, either; sometimes you have to draw a line, look over it at your potential enemy and make damn sure they know crossing it isn’t free. When someone wants something you have or doesn’t want you to have it, there’s going to be blood and you can’t back down from it.

To reiterate: you shouldn’t go around starting trouble, but you had better be prepared to fight regardless.

So: think you have what it takes to become a vampire?

This isn’t the destiny you’re looking for…move along.

~ Janiss

@JanissConnelly on Twitter

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Life is But a Trope?”

Me again.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureDo you know what a trope is? It’s a fancy word for a cliché, any common or overused theme or device – like zombies, for example.

Or vampires.

Prior to my employment here at Cedarcrest Sanctum, I had no idea how much vampire media stuff was out there. Television, movies, books, fan fic, erotica, crossovers, hybrids…wow. With so many creative people online these days, it’s as if every possible vampire idea and angle has already been covered; there’s nothing new.

(Note: It has been pointed out to me that a trope isn’t precisely synonymous with cliché, but it works for the purposes of what I’m going on about, okay? Stay awesome.)

Timothy collects movies and TV shows; I’ve watched everything he has. It doesn’t take long before familiar themes keep popping up: the sliding scale of vampire friendliness, our vampires are different/your vampires suck…almost SIXTY bloodsucking tropes just on TVtropes.org alone.

I can relate to more than a couple of them. I’ll go so far as to say I’m even JEALOUS of a few. Surviving on pig’s blood with a little otter added for taste? I’m in; it beats the hell out of keeping a living source of human-only blood close by. Glittering in the daylight? If it meant not feeling the earth pulling me back into a grave or punishing me as I resist, I’d wear a club-worthy silver-sequined romper out during the day and carry a disco ball under one arm. Also, no one has ever described my bite as “a kiss.”

But it’s not the superpowers or weaknesses that fascinate me.

It’s the emotion.

Maybe that’s what makes people wish they were vampires, want to become one or identify so closely with them. Simply put, vampires are blood-fueled powerhouses cursed with eternal loneliness because they used to be human. You could call it a metaphor for becoming rich or a being a celebrity; it’s also like having a genetic or contracted disease with special requirements to keep you going from day-to-day.

This was the thing hinted at by Bram Stoker in Dracula, the curse of everything passing you by, the eternal yearning for the life that was. I can’t relate to any of that since my parents are still alive; maybe I just haven’t been a vampire long enough yet. Will I become a villain? Will I stop caring about humanity and just take what’s mine until everyone is dead or someone destroys me? All the tropes.

It should surprise no one I find myself relating more to the vampires than the humans, but I also find myself trying with difficulty to remember my own point of view from when I was alive. Weird, right? I understand the craving now, the need for blood, feeling every cell in my body screaming for it while my mind tries to shortcut around every reason not to drain the closest mortal within reach. It’s monstrous. It’s Angel and Spike. It’s Daybreakers and 30 Days of Night. It’s Jerry Dandridge and Damon Salvatore.

Even in the worst of these books and shows, vampires are too often the outcasts even when they’re the king or sheriff. “Make me into a vampire,” their victims beg, practically a form of suicide except they believe something better awaits them afterward…something, yes, but not what they think. No one can explain it; you have to feel it. Vampires are land sharks; we don’t hunt in packs like wolves. It’s every bloodsucker for themselves and you have zero desire to share!

Nothing’s EVER easy.

The lives of mortals are filled with gathering the necessities of life – just like vampires – and time left to spare should be treasured. Becoming a vampire is like becoming a criminal, working in opposition to the way the dominant species on Planet Earth has decided life should work. You read that right; vampires may be the top of the food chain, but humanity still crawls over 99.999% and they tend to take exception to creatures that outlive them by feeding on them. Vampires can’t shut themselves away because they have to stay close to what they need to survive, and if you eat everything in sight, the minimum you’ll have to do is venture father outside of your safety zone to get more and hope no one knows you’re coming.

If you plan to survive eternity, you have to be smart. Stupid vampires are destroyed by smarter vampires, not stronger ones.

More than a few of those stories get that right.

So is my life nothing more than a trope? A cliché? A series of pre-ordained events already thought out?

I don’t believe that. And neither should you.

Maybe for Halloween I’ll find a tacky chair to call my throne, slouch in it wearing Rocky Horror red lipstick and a corset while all my guys crawl around in front of me, half-naked like a bad Magic Mike sequel…just before Dracula appears to challenge my authority for daring to sparkle brighter than him. I wonder how many tropes I could cross off my list acting THAT fantasy out?

And more importantly: who would I get to dress up as Drac?

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

@JanissConnelly on Twitter

(Note: Yes, it appears that my favorite cherry-red trench does fit the Badass Longcoat trope, but in my defense, I usually wear it buttoned-up and belted like Bogey from Casablanca. And FYI, Carmen Sandiego ALSO wears a super-brimmed red fedora, a turtleneck under her turned-up collar, AND notably hangs out with Waldo…so there.)

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Do you sleep in a coffin?”

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureJaniss here again, and with a new question. Do vampires sleep in a coffin, me specifically?

We’re going there, huh?

This is actually two questions. First of all, vampires don’t sleep – much to my surprise – and I have confirmed this with other vampires. No sleep, nada, nothing, zip. It’s more like rest than sleep. That feeling you get right when you wake up and try to go back to sleep but really can’t? It feels like that coupled with staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. Did that make sense?

Pink Floyd invented a great phrase for it: “comfortably numb.”

Let me start again. When the sun is up, when sunlight is touching the ground, vampires stop simulating life the way we do at night. We feel undead, like the actual living dead, as if you’re dead and can still feel it. The heart stops – a damnably freaky feeling – and you stop breathing reflexively. It hurts but it also feels wrong; you crave the earth, wanting to be interred, as if you belong there. Once you’re in, all that weird goes away and then the numbness comes about. We can feel the sun moving across the sky, even at night when its hidden. Make no mistake: we know instinctively when the sun rises and sets.

Now, back to the coffin thing. No! In fact, we prefer the cold ground and to be in as close contact with it as possible, and completely below the surface of the ground. A few of those old movies got it right: going after a vampire during the daytime seems like a good idea, but disturbing one while they’re interred isn’t going to catch them unaware…it’s going to piss them off.

So, to recap: I don’t sleep in a coffin because I don’t actually sleep. Even if I’m resting, it still isn’t inside of a coffin. And no, I don’t give tours of my crypt, Mr. Johnson.

Great questions! Can’t wait to read the next one…mostly.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

@JanissConnelly on Twitter

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Never tell; it’s better this way.

It’s okay. We understand. Please remain calm.

You’ve reached your destination but can’t seem to remember all the turns you took before you arrived. Perhaps you’ve misplaced your car in a familiar parking lot – just after nightfall. Have you ever forgotten why you came into a room?

Finding money in an old coat or purse is always seems like a good thing, even without any recollection of putting it there. Maybe you’ve noticed a mysterious wound healing on your arm or shoulder – or perhaps found a spot of blood on your clothes. Have you?

There is a chance that – even if it’s only the smallest possibility – you have recently crossed paths with a VAMPIRE.

Hilarious, right? You’ve been assured there’s no such thing.

Even if there was, would it really matter to you? A creature that takes only that which is required out of desperation, leaving no unpleasant memory and perhaps granting some small boon in return. An extra twenty in your pocket for a moment’s confusion? Honestly, now – nothing has been stolen that you’ll miss or can’t get back in a day or two; mortals are blessed like that.

You should also keep such ideas to yourself. You never know who you might be talking to.

Perhaps the encounter was by chance, an immortal just passing through your neighborhood. Then again, maybe it’s someone you know, even a person who watches over you. It could even be someone new in your life…or an individual that you feel you’ve known forever.

Don’t try to guess who they are. Don’t watch to see if they slip up. Don’t confront them if you think you know.

If they feel threatened, you still won’t remember anything…or ever again.

Trust us. It’s better this way. Life will continue.

You want that, right?

NEVER TELL.

If this isn’t warning enough, learn more before it’s too late.

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Book III Out Soon, But Second…

Spread the word.

Please copy and share this anywhere you’d like; we here at Cedarcrest Sanctum appreciate your continued support.

The Matriarch: Changeling is slated to drop by the end of June 2015 on Amazon.com in both print and eBook. If you haven’t reviewed it on Amazon and enjoyed it, any kind words are welcome.

The answers are coming…along with a whole batch of new questions.

2015GuardiansBaseAdBlock

Book III Out Soon, But First…

Spread the word.

Please copy and share this anywhere you’d like; we here at Cedarcrest Sanctum appreciate your continued support.

The Matriarch: Changeling is slated to drop by the end of June 2015 on Amazon.com in both print and eBook. If you haven’t reviewed it on Amazon and enjoyed it, any kind words are welcome.

The answers are coming…along with a whole batch of new questions.

MatriarchAdCard2015

The Matriarch: Changeling

As the third book enters the final phase before publication, the official title has been revealed:

The Matriarch: Changeling

A Facebook event will be take place on Friday, February 13th, 2015 along with a contest to win one of three signed softcover copies of the new book upon publication.

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Join us there for a bit of fun, a few excerpts and trivia about the series!
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