Hi QueerSciFi-ers! Thank you to J. Scott for having me on the blog to promote my paranormal Romance Night Vision (which released today!!) I’m really happy to be here. :)
I thought for my guest post, I’d skip over the Romance part of my writing and focus on the paranormal part. More specifically, the paranormal creatures themselves.
Popular creatures, like vampires, werewolves (and/or shifters), Witches, & Fae, populate most of our paranormal fiction. Ghosts, zombies, demons, angels, and other assorted creatures show up often, as well. But what about new creatures?
In my story, I invented a new creature, which I called a “strige.” I had a few qualities I wanted him to possess, and with a little research I found a legend to adapt. My strige is a type of psychic vampire, feeding off the emotions of humans. The creature I created is both a very literal interpretation of the “emotional vampire” of pop psychology, and a play on the Romanian Strigoi vampire myth. I think he works well as a creature, and I enjoyed working out the details of his skills and limitations.
A few people did ask, though, why did I not just use a pre-existing creature? Why make a new one? My simple answer is that it was more fun, and more fulfilling, to create my own creature.
But also, using an existing mythos comes with a lot of baggage. If I say “vampire,” most people have a very specific image in mind, and feel they already know the creature’s personality and capabilities, to an extent. It also comes with a lot of expectations as far as the story itself goes. We expect a shifter story to be at least somewhat about pack politics or alpha/omega hierarchies. We expect a vampire story to have elements of blood lust and possessiveness. But a new creature carries no such expectations.
So as you might expect, authors invent new creatures all the time. Some work well, others not so much. What is it that makes them captivating or forgettable? And what is it about established creatures that continues to hold our interest? What are the essential elements of a successful creature?
I think it is the duality we enjoy: the dichotomy of humanoid appearance and inhuman nature, a “normal” exterior hiding a ruthless killer. Or maybe it is the fantasy that draws us in, the reflection in these characters of our own desire to be stronger, faster, better?
What do you think? What is it, to you, that makes a character compelling? Do you think there can ever be too many creatures out there in paranormal fiction? Is it better to stick with the standard cast, or to create new beings?
ABOUT THE BOOK
Theron Antonopolis, a strige, feeds on human emotion. In a tranquil suburban neighborhood, his best meals come from a quiet systems administrator who’s become more than a source of nourishment for Theron—Alex Rowler is an obsession. Theron can no longer remain in the shadows. When they meet, any attraction Alex feels toward the sexy monster is overshadowed by his anxiety and distrust of Theron’s supernatural powers. But sensing the underlying arousal, Theron begins courting his human.
As months pass, Theron falls deeply in love, and the need to complete the strige bonding ceremony with his human lover becomes overwhelming. But a permanent commitment is too much, too soon for Alex, and he delays the joining, despite Theron’s insistence they are running out of time. As an unbonded pair, however, Theron and Alex draw the attention of the Midnight Parliament, and the lovers are brought to trial to determine their fate.
STRIGE (STREEG) noun (alternately Strix)
The strige are creatures of myth. Most often defined as vampires, they are sometimes referred to as witches and less frequently as carnivorous birds. The truth is they are none of those things and all of them. The strige are an ancient race adapted from humans and dependent upon them for survival. They hide in plain sight and hunt in the shadows.
THERON SKIRTED the edges of driveways and hedges, always in the shadows. It was easy to stay hidden here, where every house boasted well-maintained gardens. Hydrangea, azalea, and arborvitae hedges provided plenty of cover, and the dark, quiet street held few spying eyes. The thick humidity of the night wrapped Theron like a cloak, heavy and soothing, and held the scents and sounds close around him.
A large oak loomed in front of him. He launched himself at the wide trunk, digging the thin rubber toes of his trail-running shoes into the coarse bark. One of the nicest things about this century was the wide variety of available footwear. Moccasins served well enough, but in Theron’s opinion Vibram soles were superior. In moments he was twenty feet up and crawling along a horizontal branch to find a perch among thick leaf cover.
Settled snugly among the branches, hidden from view, Theron took a deep lungful of warm night air, opening his senses to the lives around him. Someone in the house to his left cried softly, a young person’s tears of self-pity. Likely a teenager in love, and not something that interested him. Across the street joy bubbled out onto the neat lawn of a yellow ranch-style home. Laughter wafted from the open window and two bodies spun past, then back again. A man dancing with his wife in their living room. Sweet, almost sickening waves of bliss floated up to Theron, and he absorbed it, smiling despite himself. Happiness was a good emotion and satisfying, though the sustenance from it faded quickly.
To the right, the house he’d been watching for months sat dark and quiet. Theron cocked his head. Where were his favorite donors tonight? He waited, consuming the pleasure from the dancing couple as an appetizer. An hour later his main course pulled in to their driveway. The one called Alex got out first, carrying a white paper bag. Restaurant leftovers again—these two liked to eat out. The taller man, David, climbed from the driver’s seat and hit the locking mechanism on his keychain, splitting the silence of the empty street with a loud beep. Theron rolled his eyes. Every car and house in this neighborhood could be kept unlocked and no one would steal a thing, not while he lived here. But the humans didn’t know that.
Alex and David walked into their house, and before they lowered the blinds, Theron noted they had stalked off in separate directions. Fighting again. Anger satisfied, though he preferred lust or, ideally, a combination of the two. These men almost always provided him with at least one of his favorites. Theron waited, and soon sharp waves of anger spilled into the night. Harsh words followed, and a door slammed. Theron drew in their anger, closing his eyes in satisfaction.
The voices faded to whispers. If Theron had cared about what they were saying, he would have strained to hear, but he simply waited. Finally the dessert he’d been waiting for arrived—lust. He leaned forward on the branch, soaking up every ounce of the resentment-tinged desire the two men exuded. Delicious.
Theron relaxed in the smooth crook of the oak until the house was devoid of both sounds and emotions. Sometimes he’d stay and feed on their dreams, but tonight he’d absorbed more than enough. He returned home to the plain steel-blue raised ranch he’d purchased two months ago. He spent the night reading, had a dinner of leftover lamb shank and rice at dawn, and went to sleep happy. This neighborhood was most satisfying. As long as no one noticed him, he could stay here for years. The thought pleased him.
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Amelia Bishop lives in New England, just a block from Narragansett Bay, where she walks almost every day of the year collecting shells, sea glass, and random pieces of garbage she considers “treasure.” Amelia believes there is magic to be found in almost anything if you look closely, and delights in revealing the extraordinary hiding within the ordinary. Her stories celebrate the most magical and extraordinary thing of all: love.
When she isn’t writing or walking along the bay, Amelia enjoys camping, hiking, painting, crocheting, cooking, and spending lazy days reading on the beach.