A vampire killing kit might not seem like the most obvious item for your gift wish list but it’s the latest must-have possession.It has been claimed the cases of creepy instruments were once used by real life Dracula hunters. And they don’t come cheap – ‘authentic’ kits dating back to the 17th century can sell for tens of thousands of pounds.
The 19th century had some wild beliefs about medicine, unlike our modern, enlightened era where science teaches us that food is impervious to harm until the sixth second it lies on a dirty floor. Tuberculosis (then known as consumption), was thought to be caused “by the deceased consuming the life of their surviving relatives.”
Dracula, one of Gothic horror’s most memorable monsters, was born not in Transylvania but in the West End. More than a century later, the vampire is to return to the London Library in St James’ Square, where Bram Stoker researched the iconic novel while working in the nearby Lyceum Theatre.
The answer, of course, is room service. I just spent a weekend at the annual South Carolina bar conference getting my required continuing legal education credits. Even though I don’t practice anymore, I still keep up my license. This was my tenth year going, and two things have remained constant:
Once male lawyers from South Carolina reach a certain age, they start to sound exactly like Foghorn Leghorn.
The dudebroz wearing bow ties need to stop trying so hard.
It was in Myrtle Beach this year, which is nice, except for the fact that it’s January and everything is closed. Also it’s cold. Because, you know, January. So what’s there to do when not attending riveting seminars such as “Navigating Overlapping Law Relating to Employee Leave and Benefits” or “Ethical Issues Under the South Carolina ADR Rules Standards of Conduct For Mediators”? You make the weekend a writing retreat.
I mentioned in a previous post that writing the latest Dreadful Penny novella has been a challenge. Legend Trip is supposed to complete the current story arc, but I reached a point with it toward the end of the first draft where I just wanted to trash the whole thing.
Every writer I know goes through some version of this. You get to a place where you’re convinced you’ve been wasting your time, that your current project is garbage, and you don’t know why you ever had the audacity to call yourself a writer. But that’s just something you have to work through, because the next stage in the process is realizing the stuff you wrote isn’t half bad and maybe some of it is salvageable. This weekend I started the salvage operation. I’m excited again for this project, and I actually had some fun doing revisions.
Also, I may or may not have spent the five minutes I was supposed to be meditating during a seminar on wellness and mindfulness looking up herbs used in hexes. Because, you know, writer.
Greatest, perhaps, feels like an expression to apply to Dracula. After all, he essentially amounts to a murder monster who feeds on the blood of human beings, either killing them or turning them into a monster themselves. Respect, however, must be paid. Dracula has undeniably contributed some incredible, wild, and bizarre moments to the Marvel Universe.
HAMMER films hit pay dirt when they unleashed their bold and bloody reboot of Dracula in 1958 but by the early 70s their dealings with Bram Stoker’s most famous gothic creation had pretty much run out of juice.
Frantically scrambling around for new veins for the Count to sink his cinematic teeth into, they decided that bringing him bang up to date was the way to go. Dracula AD 1972, their first attempt at doing just that, proves they were sadly mistaken.
I’ve made it a goal to try to be more organized this year in my life in general, and that includes my writing. Through what amounts to now decades of trial and error, I think I’ve devised a system that works for me. For some of you this may still be a little too messy and chaotic, but it reflects how my brain works. Your mileage may vary. So here’s what I use:
iCalendar. It’s basic, it comes preinstalled on every Apple device, and it syncs across all of them. I use iCaledar to keep track of appointments, the kids’ schedules, and any other event. I don’t need lots of bells and whistles for this, though you can set reminders, enter addresses (It interfaces with Maps.), and add other information if you want. If I’m out, it’s easy to pull out my phone and add something quickly. Also, I can color code events by work, home, travel, writing, or the kids, so when I’m looking at an overview of the week or month, I can easily see where everyone is supposed to be.
Pinterest. Yes, I actually use this to help keep organized. It’s not all about mason jars, burlap, and twine. I have a board of workout ideas, and another for clothes I like, but I also have inspirational boards for my writing projects. Check out the one for Daughters of Shadow & Blood. I also have one for Dreadful Penny full of all things 1972. Pinterest can also be an excellent research tool for all things visual. Need to know what the inside of some cathedral in Europe looks like? I can almost guarantee there’s a picture.
Evernote. This is where the bulk of my writing organization goes. I do the bulk of my writing research online. Evernote helps me keep track of all the websites, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, and other resources I find so I don’t lose track. It also helps me keep track of my writing expenses. One of the great things about Evernote is that your account comes with an email address, so you can forward emails directly into your account. From there you can sort it however you like, and you’re not using your email inbox as your to do list, which is what I was doing before. Evernote lets you sort things into notebooks and add tags as well. It’s also great for organizing travel. You can put hotel reservations, flight info, car rental info, and itineraries all in the same notebook. The other thing you can do is create a specific link for your notebook, and if it’s related to an event, you can drop that link into iCalendar and access everything directly from there.
Bullet Journal. Don’t know what a bullet journal is? Here is more than you will ever want to know. This is actually the third year I’ve tried to use a bullet journal. Twice I’ve failed to maintain it, but I’m hoping this year to stick with it. Since I have iCalendar and Evernote to do the heavy lifting on my scheduling and research respectively, I’m using the bullet journal to focus almost exclusively on my to do list and things that are just easier to keep track of with a pen and paper than a note on my phone, like quick story ideas, or book sales at a convention, or how many miles I ran on the treadmill. I try to keep it minimalist. No “doodles” of flowers that look like Vincent van Gogh himself drew them or fancy calligraphy. Also, one other modification to the traditional method is that I have weekly spreads instead of daily ones. Part of what didn’t work for me in the past is that found it tedious to copy to do items from one day to the next. I realized that I don’t really have a lot of things on my to do list that have to be done on a specific day, so it’s much easier to list things out by week.
That’s about it. So what about everyone else? How do you keep yourself organized?
There isn’t anything intrinsically Southern about this song performed by Tyler Ward and Alyson Stoner. It’s a version of “The Hanging Tree” from the Hunger Games movies, but the mood of this song and video is so Southern Gothic, I use it as inspiration for the Dreadful Penny novellas.
Everyone faces the same steep learning curve when it comes to writing genre fiction. There are a lot of moving parts in a science fiction or fantasy story, and they all take tons of practice to master. The good news is that everybody, even novices, already has things that they’re good at—like you might have a knack for snappy dialogue, or a proficiency at worldbuilding. The bad news? The things you’re good at could become traps, if you rely on them too much.