Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ancient Egypt & Blood-Suckin’ Dead Guys

Here below is a Guest post by the commenter you've seen on this blog many times, KimberAn.

As she has mentioned, she has been writing novels, pondering all the advice given by the various professional writers on this blog -- and Lo! now she is a published fiction writer too.

It occurred to me that you might want to hear directly from her about what reading all these posts on this blog has done to help her.  When you read her first novel (and many to follow I'm sure) you may be able to see how, when "advice" is incorporated into a creative work, it really doesn't exactly resemble the advice any more.

So the "advice" KimberAn will be giving her students won't look the same.  But it will no doubt be the same.

Listen to her now.

Guest Post By KimberAn
Ancient Egypt & Blood-Suckin’ Dead Guys

First, a big ‘thank you’ to Jacqueline Lichtenberg for inviting me to guest post for her!

Jacqueline has been talking a lot about world-building lately and thank goodness too, because I have a lot of it to


Part II was posted on November 2, 2010 and Part III on November 9, 2010

After I first created my alien/human hybrids, the Newbloods, for Sugar Rush and made them vampire-like, I realized I had to bring in the mythic vampire, the Oldbloods, too or my blood-suckers wouldn’t make sense.  The trouble is I’ve never been into mythic vampires.  I had to, um, look ‘em up on Wikipedia.

Oh, sure, I liked Jacqueline’s blood-suckers in Those of My Blood and Peeps is my favorite Scott Westerfeld novel.  But, those guys are Science Fiction, you know, aliens and parasites and stuff like that.  Very cool. 

Those of My Blood


Fortunately, I really didn’t have to go into the Oldbloods much in Sugar Rush, except to say they originated the vampire myth and they think the heroine would make an excellent operative for them.  Oh, okay, Brandon, Ophelia’s friend, was an Oldblood too, but he’s not a very good one.  He loves the smell of Twinkies, plays Nintendo DS, and always looks both ways before he crosses the road.  It just didn’t make sense to me that a newly created being wouldn’t go through a childhood and rebel against his society’s norm in an adolescence.  The whole idea of instant-vampire, powerful and sophisticated, didn’t make sense to me.

The point is I didn’t have to do much world-building for the Oldbloods in the first book.

In the next book, Sugar Baby, which I hope to have out by April or so, I really need to get into the Oldbloods because the next book after that is heavy on the Newbloods and, again, the Newbloods won’t make sense if I don’t lay the Oldblood foundation first.  I probably learned that here on Alien Romances a long time ago, but I can’t remember the exact post.

Anyway, I dug into my history books and discovered that you can find the vampire myth in just about every culture on Earth.  The earliest records are in Ancient Babylon, Ancient China, and Ancient Egypt.  When I learned this, I was like, “Cool!  I love those dead guys!”  I can do this.  Yeah, yeah, sure I can.

Oh, yeah, fiction writers have to do their homework.

I read through Jacqueline’s series of posts, World-Building with Fire and Ice.  It’s going to take a while to digest all the wisdom imparted in them, but a couple of things struck me right off.

From the November 11th post World-Building with Fire and Ice, Part II

One is the common belief that there is no Happily Ever After in real life.

The other is that audiences and readers only want to be entertained.

Interestingly, I thought, the same people who hold to these beliefs are the same ones who are baffled by the success of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer (out in Kindle omnibus edition November 11, 2010) and the movies based on them.  My daughter just got me into those stories, so I’m not really an authority on them.

The Twilight Saga (Boxed Set w/four Collectable prints)

I know more about Harry Potter. 

All Things Harry Potter

Although I can’t pinpoint where all the type-ohs and kissing scenes are like she can, I adore the series and all the movies too.

Well, I learned a few things as a book reviewer for four years and a mom observing the Harry Potter phenomena, as well as other successful Middle Grade and Young Adult novels.  If you know anything about child development, for example, you will know that J.K. Rowling totally nailed the emotional needs and perceptions of the average eleven-year old child in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  She didn’t simply play to the child, she *validated* and even *fulfilled* some of the child’s emotional needs.  I watched her interview with Oprah Winfrey a while back and she said that a young person walked up to her in the street one day and said,

“You were my childhood.”

Do you realize what that means?  I mean, okay, this is my opinion based on my Early Childhood education and experience and reading the Harry Potter novels.  But, I believe it illustrates the secret of Rowling’s success.

She didn’t merely entertain the child.  She engaged the child.  And she gave him a Happily Ever After.

And she’s raked in billions of dollars worldwide and now has her own theme park in Florida.

This flies in the face of the belief in entertainment only and no such thing as HEA.

And it proves what Jacqueline has been saying all along.  Check out

Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice posted on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com on November 2, 2010 for these quotes:


Today, projects which would reach vast audiences have to be shaped to exemplify that now institutionalized philosophy.

Audiences are just looking to be entertained, value for a buck. They don't care about philosophy.  It's abstract and irrelevant to the thrill, kick, payoff of the "ending." But when everything you entertain yourself with conforms to a certain philosophy, it becomes an unquestionable truth within the unconscious part of your mind.  It becomes your philosophy by which you make judgments and behave, regardless of what you think you believe or want or prefer to believe.

It's the steady diet that does that.

We "know" the HEA is real and true, it's our unconscious assumption, but not shared by everyone.  The artist, the performing artist, the writer must be able to see the world through the eyes of people who have unconscious assumptions (Philosophies) different from the writer's and explain one reader's assumptions to another reader who does not share those assumptions.

I've said this before.  The artist's subconscious communicates with the art-customer's subconscious directly, and does that best when the conscious mind is directed elsewhere (as a magician points at something to prevent you from noticing something he's doing on the other side).

Philosophy resides in the subconscious and over-rides the conscious mind's decisions (that's why it's so hard to stick to a diet unless your subconscious has decided to do it).  That's why married folk have affairs against their conscious will and desire.  The subconscious rules, and so the philosophy programmed into the subconscious is the deciding factor in the HEA problem and argument.

The method we have to figure out how to employ is the method the publicity and advertising folks who work for politicians are using against us -- our unexamined, unquestioned, unknown-to-us ASSUMPTIONS. A philosophy that lurks within the subconscious, unknown to us, can command our life-decisions -- and determine what fiction we enjoy.


How does that take me to Ancient Egypt and vampires?

Well, in order to engage your reader, you must understand human nature.  Don’t get hung up on what people say.  Watch what they do.  See how they live.  Get behind their eyes.  Keep your mouth shut and listen.

A big chunk of this learning can be found in anthropology, the study of humankind.  Besides my nanny training, my anthropology class in college has been the most useful aspect of my formal education.  I really must look up my professor and thank her.

So, I read Jacqueline’s post, Ancient Egypt & Steampunk ...

Posted on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com on December 21, 2010

...with interest.  I’ve always enjoyed exploring ancient mysteries.  I’ve read all about Atlantis, including Atlantis: The Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly.

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and Other Works by Ignatius Donnelly (Halcyon Classics)

I loved the original Stargate movie. 

Stargate (Ultimate Edition)

I probably would’ve loved the TV series too, but I just didn’t have time to watch it.  I was enthralled by ancient machines on the History Channel (history.com).

History Channel Store on Amazon

It all got me thinking about the origins of my Oldbloods, but also of the other not-completely-human characters in the Sugar Rush stories.  The Newbloods are recent arrivals in my fictional universe, but there are other humanoid species trying to make their way on planet Earth too.

Now, if I had any pride, I’d say I can’t tell you anymore about my world-building for the Ophelia Dawson Chronicles, because it would give away too much of the story.  The pathetic truth is I still have a lot to learn and a lot of research to do and a lot of figuring out of what is what and who is who.  I have a big posterboard tacked to my wall and I jot down family trees and species intermingling criss-crossing time and continents and such.  I jot them down in pencil and I have a big eraser and lots of Advil.  (Note to Self: Buy Post-It Notes)

‘Cause readers are smart.  You may be busy and you may be tired, but you’re really smart.  And I know no matter how hard I try, I won’t get everything past you.

I promise to do my best though.
Kimber An
------------End KimberAn's Post-------------

And you may want to read the Guest Post I submitted to her own blog:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. The funny thing is I keep using what I've learned. Since I wrote this post a while ago, I've realized that the next book in the series, then titled SUGAR BABY, was actually two novels crammed into one. Before, it would've taken me months of frustration to figure this out! So, I surgically seperated the two and renamed the next full-length novel in the series, SWEET BYTES. I'm 9000 words in and really enjoying it. Getting started on the next book in the series after my first publication was a scary idea to me, but, turns out, not so scary after all!

    It was much scarier writing the prequel, CRUSHED SUGAR.

  2. This is really cool. Great job, Kimber An!

    I know reading Jacqueline's posts are making me a better writer and it's nice to know that feeling is shared by someone else.

  3. Kathleen8:26 PM EST

    I enjoyed your post, Kimber. You made a good point about J.K. Rowling. I saw the Oprah inteview, too. It was really interesting,and you said it,"she engaged them.

    All the best, with Sweet Bytes.

  4. Thanks, Miss Sharp and Kathleen!