Undead @ The Empty Glass – Daughters of Darkness

For the uninitiated: “Daughters of Darkness” is a conversation between my neophyte self and a centuries-old immortal discussing (what else?) living forever on blood in the dark. Nancy hates that I keep doing this, yet she keeps agreeing to it… go figure.

Nancy: What forsaken place have you dragged me to this time?

Janiss: It’s called “The Empty Glass…”

N: As it says on the front. I can read, Janiss. Why here?

J: Just to change it up a little, plus they’re open past midnight.

N: Lucky us. There’s no karaoke, is there? I’ve murdered for less.

J: Oooh, such a tough Vampire! No, just “open mic night.”

N: It’s awfully small and too few exits.

J: It’s intimate. Are you already plotting your escape?

N: That depends on what the next singer-songwriter is about to inflict upon us.

The bartender brings the drinks we’ll barely touch.

N: (showing interest) What’s yours?

J: Woodchuck hard cider.

N: (dabs her finger in my pint glass and touches it to her tongue) Fruity. Barely alcoholic.

J: As if that made any difference.

N: Let’s get this over with. What’s the topic?

J: Vampire bloggers…

N: You’re not still commenting on that “mother succubus” blog, are you?

J: (smiling) Juliette’s blog, yes. “Musing’s of a modern Vampire mom.”

N: She’s not a real Vampire.

J: (shrugs) You don’t know that.

N: You have to have children to be a mom.

J: You had kids and you’re a Vampire, so what?

N: I gave birth before I was turned. Dead things don’t grow inside of dead things.

J: And yet two corpses are sitting at a table in the state capital of West “By God” Virginia pretending to drink while listening to… whatever that song is.

N: It sounds vaguely like the Ramones.

J: (gasps) You’ve heard the Ramones?

N: (trying not to smirk) I saw them live in Cleveland. They were touring with Iggy Pop. Late seventies. “Blitzkrieg Bop” sounds better when they perform it in person.

J: I’ve… got nothing.

N: So back to your living dead mom…

J: I like her. She’s sweet. She’s the kind of Vampire I try to be.

N: You mean a pretend Vampire?

J: “Character is what you are in the dark.” It’s a blog and she’s a writer. She tells cool stories, like her “Vlad’s Diary” series. And she takes care of her elders, even when they’re a bit confused about things now and then.

N: They’re Vampires too?

J: Of course.

N: Look, I know it’s fun to blur the lines like Stoker and Rice playing with the whole out-and-proud bit, but we survive upon mortal human blood. No matter how entertained people are by the idea of it, blood drinkers aren’t going to suddenly become acceptable, even if the Japanese invent TruBlood. I also don’t need to remind you how outnumbered we are.

J: It’s a spycraft thing. If people are watching for someone trying to not to be seen, don’t. Juliette’s sincere, and I like her idea of a Vampire family. Confidence works. If you look like you belong, no one thinks twice about it.

N: (smiling) I can’t remember ever being so naïve, and that’s coming from someone who remembers everything.

J: I still don’t see the harm. I work the night shift —

N: Which you don’t have to.

J: — and I’m very good at drawing blood.

N: Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. So why are you dredging this up again?

Continue reading “Undead @ The Empty Glass – Daughters of Darkness”

“Pride and Proper Nouns” – Vampire Verisimilitude

This bit of insight was inspired by my friend Juliette. She’s a bit of a blogger, writer, and an immortal herself, so check out her web page at Vampire Maman.


Belonging is important to social creatures, acceptance as part of the group. I say “THE group” instead of “A group” because it implies a particular group. As anyone reading this can well imagine, one has a sense of pride when it comes to being accepted.

The same can be said, I believe, for Vampires.

Did you catch it? I capitalized the “V” — and I’m using that from now on. Juliette does, but it never dawned on me why she did before until I seriously thought about it.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureVampires aren’t evil by nature. Sure, we have a predisposition toward predator behavior, but what carnivorous creature in creation isn’t capable of killing? We’re also the most threatening to one another, but with effort and a few rules (thanks, social media!), many of us can get along fine…especially when we’re not in the same room.
Continue reading ““Pride and Proper Nouns” – Vampire Verisimilitude”

“A Fifth of November” – Vampire Verisimilitude

November is an interesting month for me.

My birthday is the fifth, so I turn twenty-seven today — or I would if I were still alive.

(Before you ask, yes…my dad taught me the “Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November” rhyme.)

VampireCupcakesSpeaking of being alive, the concept of “life” has become fluid for me. I was told vampires simulate life (breath and heartbeat) so we can better lure in our victims, but I also consider the source (Ian was an ass). Although I can always feel it coming, I’m still not used to the sudden lurch of my heart stopping at sunrise.

November was also the month I was “turned,” a word that sounds better to me than “murdered.” I get that now; I’m still here even though I’m physically different. Another immortal once told me I was lucky in one respect: being turned at so early an age may have cheated me of a full life, but it afforded me the luxury of pretending to be alive as my actual self a while longer.

Continue reading ““A Fifth of November” – Vampire Verisimilitude”

Happy Halloween: Beggar’s Night

It’s almost here: Halloween.

No bait-and-switch angst today, just a fun idea. A throwback, if you like.

(“Can’t we have a little of the angst?” “No. Shh! I’ve been a stick in the mud in previous years; I’m done with all that.”)

We’re all-ages here at Cedarcrest, young and old, with many an All Hallow’s Eve tale to tell.

Once upon a time, some of you called it “Beggar’s Night.”

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureFor those celebrating, I’ve heard all kinds of stories about you little gremlins and your so-called harmless pranking. One of you titled yourselves “The Goblins of the Season.” Moving furniture off of porches, throwing rotten tomatoes or fruit, eggs and toilet paper. Little hellions all! Parents ignored this as long as it was kept to certain level; there were lines you knew not to cross.

The best part sounded like keeping your secrets each year, with each other or from each other.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween: Beggar’s Night”

“The Happy Post” – Vampire Verisimilitude

Yes, I’m late with the post. Timothy pointed out that there was a lot of doom and gloom here; guilty as charged. So I scrapped the one I was working on. You wanted honesty, right? I admit it: I’ve been venting.

So he asked me THIS question: since becoming a vampire, what makes me happy?

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureI could say “feeding” since it has become a priority, but that’s less happiness or more satisfaction. Human contact is more important than you’d think, holding someone and having them hold you in return; I think I’ve always enjoyed a good hug (yes, I’m a hugger). But the question was specifically since becoming a vampire.

I’m going with “living without fear.”

Hear me out.

Continue reading ““The Happy Post” – Vampire Verisimilitude”

“Offending Immortals” – Vampire Verisimilitude

I have met a handful of other immortals (read: vampires). Here’s a secret that isn’t a secret (with apologies to Danny Trejo): vampires don’t text. Or blog. Or out themselves on social media. Right?

Also: am I an obnoxious twenty-something? Yes or no? Am I at least a well-meaning obnoxious twenty-something?

Damn it.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureI got stuck with this job because of the obvious perks. I love our residents, but this wasn’t my big life plan. I didn’t ask to be turned into a vampire at twenty-two all because two centuries-old bloodsuckers decided to take their rivalry to the next level and both wanted a pawn to play with.

Okay, that wasn’t fair: at least Louisa had planned to actually ASK me, but I still would have said no.

Where’s all this coming from? Let’s start at the beginning.

Her name is…well, let’s call her “Jules.”

I love the Internet. I enjoy social media. I wasn’t much of a thumb-clicker in college, but distractions are welcome when I want to step outside of my life into those of other people. Social media makes it easy; everyone wants to share their joy and pain and political opinions and whatever. Most of it is crap or look-at-me and too much of it is poorly written at best. Seriously, kids: you’re not the Vampire Lestat or 8000 years old no matter how many times you say “you don’t know me.” I can say with 99.9% certainty you’re neither a vampire nor an immortal.

Jules was different. Yes, I know she wasn’t really a vampire…but I wanted to believe she was. There was truth in her words, as if her mask was transparent or at least translucent. It felt real and it felt wonderful. Pleasure, pain, triumph, disappointment, all that stuff. There was a comment button, so I clicked and responded. Jules has created this wonderful vampire life for herself with rules and everything – with perfect consistency – and one so much more idyllic than my own. Children, for example, walking in sunshine and having supernatural friends.

I…may have overstepped.

Real vampires don’t do this unless they are sure no one believes them. It’s too dangerous. We’re all being watched, trust me. But the ones that could be real aren’t the ones proclaiming you must accept them and whining when you don’t. They’re the ones who are being honest and coming from a place just under the text, between the lines where so much isn’t said.

I responded. She believed me. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I was just playing along.

While I wasn’t hiding it, Jules found my contact info and sent me a personal email. I was worrying her and some of her other readers.

I meant no offense, but that’s not an excuse, is it?

It gets worse. She said she thought I was “an obnoxious twenty-something who stayed up way too late at night…(probably) a recent college graduate.” Mostly true. “Someone who also wrote from a vampire character point of view, who liked to leave comments on other vampire related blogs…more often than not bugged the jeebers out of me.”

That hurt…and I deserved it.

Fine, I guess I can be obnoxious. I’m still growing up and I should be able to use that as an excuse, but I was trying to relate with my own experience. How am I supposed to say, “Hey, I’m a vampire too and I’m jealous of your kids!” It would be even worse if Jules truly understood the reason so-called nice vampires avoided children.

And now I’m whining. My failure is complete.

Don’t shut me out, Jules.

I’m sorry.

~ Janiss

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

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Ending Violence”

Janiss here, and a bit earlier than usual. I’m answering my own question tonight: “How can we stop mass shootings?”

I wish I could talk to each and every one of these intended shooters beforehand…all of them.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureCall me, text me, email me, knock on my door, whatever; just get to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. Believe me; you do not want to know what taking a life feels like. And if you’re so dead inside you cannot empathize with ending the existence of another, you deserve to be put down.

You read that right. Destroyed. Killed off. Permanently removed from society.

I’m not talking about soldiers in wartime (we’ll skip my conscientious objections for now). I’m talking about the premeditated planning to murder the innocent.

Yes, I’m a vampire: an alpha predator, a near-perfect killer. I won’t tell you I can’t flip a switch and commit murder because I damn well can…but I won’t. I save that rage for those who lack the capacity to feel anything for anyone else, and only when someone else is in danger.

There’s a difference between a person who believes they have no choice but to kill and someone who delights in causing suffering, who feels righteous taking innocent lives. These aren’t acts of terror; they’re acts of evil.

I’m not 100% Country Girl, but I understand you need guns on a farm. Firearms are necessary to protect against local wildlife when you live outside of the city, places where your nearest neighbor is miles away and the police aren’t going to get there in time…ever. And let’s not delude ourselves; as long as there’s war, weapons designed to kill large groups of people will also exist no matter how many bans or restrictions you place on them.

All you need is love.

Fine, laugh now…get it out of your system. But if we all started connecting – really connecting – and offering a lifeline of understanding to one other, this kind of thing not only wouldn’t happen, it simply couldn’t.

Love thy neighbor.

Yes, me and my silly dreams. It’s all easy to say when you’re safe and surrounded by friends, but what if you aren’t?

We have to find a way to make the fear and anger go away. It can’t be one charity or a fun run or whatever-awareness month. It has to be everyone, all the time, making allowances to give to each other. We have to help each other through the anger and sadness and just everything.

Maybe I’m completely naive, but I know what it means to go on when you’ve taken an innocent life, no matter how accidental you tell yourself it was or that you didn’t mean it.

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I don’t want you to become my worst enemy, either.

Put down your bombs, your guns, and your knives and just talk to someone…or become the person someone can talk to.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

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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