Friends, Vampires, and Friendly Vampires

Staked! Offical Cover It’s not that I don’t like vampires per se.

I love Dracula, both in Bram Stoker’s original story and Bela Legosi’s iconic movie portrayal.

And I really liked Anne Rice’s “Lestat” series, right up through the fifth book, “Memnoch the Devil.” After that, Rice started writing full-blown backstory novels for every D-level side character — probably to fulfill her contract. The series became (for me) repetitious, predictable and — dare I say this about creatures who must drink blood to live? — dull.

But I absolutely loathed Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight”.

The book is terrible — a thin, unbelievable story (as if any vampire story is “believable”) about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. It is poorly written, filled with one-dimensional characters, and tedious. Blech!

The movie, if you can believe it,  is worse — fleshed out by the teen-age angst-y mouth-breathing Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, whose acting is so bad that, to call it “wooden” insults wood.

That was my frame of mind about six years ago when I first met Denise Baran-Unland.

She is the co-founder of the WriteOn Joliet writers group. I had just written the first chapter of an as-yet unfinished novel. Fiction is not my forte and I desperately needed some guidance. My wife read about this group and suggested I attend a meeting.

I went. Denise introduced herself as the author of “Bryony”. The book, she said (with others both in process and mapped out ready to be written) is about — wait for it — a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire.

It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine the thoughts that I thought…”Twilight” sells a gazillion copies, becomes a successful movie, and now everyone who can bang a keyboard is writing teen vampire love stories.

Boy, was I wrong!

This was not the first time I had (literally and metaphorically) misjudged a book by its cover. However it was, by far, one of the worst.

It’s funny, but wise women have often pulled me back from the edge of my own arrogance. Usually it’s my wife. Sometimes, one of my daughters.

In this case, it was Denise.

I share this to introduce Denise Baran-Unland, one of the best writers I have known. She has also become a good friend, editor, sounding board and creative confidant.

Her “Bryony” series shimmers with creative plotting, brilliant writing, fully-drawn, complex and interesting characters and true human (not to mention vampiric) emotion.

Denise’s voluminous writing — she is a cottage industry unto herself, with several series, spin-offs and side projects — evokes awe and admiration for its pure creativity, and envy for its amazing skill.

Yet another of her never-ending list of her promotional ideas is a “Blog Tour.” Simply put, several hosts will publish something that Denise has specially-written for the host, on their own blogs.

Look for the fourth installment of the Denise Baran-Unland 2018 Blog Tour here, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I don’t know if Denise is a vampire herself. Could be…I mean, she really seems to know her stuff.

But whether she is or isn’t, she is one heck of a writer, and that’s all that matters — at least until the sun goes down…

Here’s a little more information to acquaint you with Denise Baran-Unland:

  • Favorite color? — Blue. As in royal or cobalt not sky or powder.
  • Least favorite kind of food? — Eggs. They’re completely disgusting in every way: texture, smell, taste…
  • What music do you listen to when writing? — No music when I’m actually writing, too distracting. But for mental writing, a certain song or musical selections will unlock my thoughts. In fact, not until a chapter has its theme song am I able to write it. The song often (and usually) has absolutely nothing to do with the chapter. But once I have it, I can listen to it thousands of times until the chapter is completed. Then I go off it and can’t stand to hear it anymore – until editing time. I’ll listen to it, and the entire chapter springs up.
  • Why vampires? — I’ve asked myself the same question, and I don’t know. It’s an interest that goes back to childhood, and it’s not all vampires, usually vampires who appear in literature before the 20th century. I’ve tried analyzing it. Perhaps it’s a combination of midnight, moonlight, and mysterious with a dash of vintage and erotica.
  • Favorite vampire in literature/cinema? — Literature: the tie goes to Carmilla and Dracula. Carmilla because of its shadowy uneasiness; Dracula because of its complexity, both in story construction and its roots in history and legend. Cinema, not so much. I do like Christopher Lee in “Horror of Dracula,” but I overall prefer reading about vampires to watching them in film. Mental pictures are generally more satisfying.
  • Finish this sentence: “If I ruled the world, the first thing I would change is…..” — Disrespect. Few things make me really angry, but disrespect always does. I mean, why can’t we all be nice to each other, even when disagreeing? The world would truly be a better place.
  • Biggest aggravation — Clutter of all kinds
  • How do you fight writer’s block? – I go around it.
  • Top three literary inspirations? – So many! However, for the Bryony Series, Ruth M. Arthur, Patricia Clapp, Daphne Du Maurier, and Taylor Caldwell. Yes, I know that’s four.
  • Three historical or literary figures you’d invite to a dinner party? — The above four. I’d love to share my admiration of their work and hear their feedback on mine.



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