Mythology is the screaming baby of our collective imagination. It explains our creation, why the dark separates from light, names Gods that control everything from underpants to tidal currents and gives us things to be afraid of in the dizzy moments before we shove off to sleep. Vampires and werewolves are tropes of that joint mythos, older than the world Super Powers. Some say book publishers and authors have ridden these creatures, among others, to the bank one time too many. They’re played out, boring, and any writer who employs them is simply piling on to cash in. If you ascribe to that belief, you’re not wrong, but you’re also missing the point.
Readers Control the Market, not the Writers
Publishers buy manuscripts largely based on what readers are buying and what might be popular in the near future. Story and quality on the page (sad as it is) runs a distant second to demand. Readers started gobbling up young-adult fiction with vampires and werewolves as central characters – no names, but you know what they are. The result? A boom in the urban fantasy and paranormal romance sections of book stores around the world.
No one belted 200 million people down and forced them to read about teenaged vampires and werewolves mucking about in the Pacific Northwest. People read what they want, and they buy what they want. If you’re in the camp that’s complaining about all these supernatural creatures clogging up the bestseller list, blame the buyers, not the suppliers.
There are 7 billion people on the planet. The total number of books involving werewolves on Goodreads is 496. Are those the numbers you would associate with a genre that’s been beaten to death? Considering the entirety of the werewolf canon wouldn’t fill up a gas station bathroom, I doubt it.
A comparison and a history lesson: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 4 novels and 56 short stories starring his titular character, Sherlock Holmes. The author tried to get rid of Holmes, killing him off in The Final Problem along with arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. Readers went insane at Holmes’ loss, and despite Conan Doyle’s desires to engage in “more serious work” he ended up resurrecting Sherlock. The readers weren’t complaining. They wanted more, voted with their wallets and the author provided – sound familiar?
Supernatural Creates make the Best Antiheroes
Misanthropic doctors aside, very little beats a supernatural creature when it comes to the ideal antihero. They’re conflicted by their own nature right out of the box. For werewolves, they’re battling some sort of killing rage, while vampires must manage a never-ending lust for blood (and Anna Paquin). That seemingly so many writers have imbued their characters with these traits is a testament to how well they generate friction on the page – and they’re infinitely customizable.
The nature of myth shifts and writers have taken it upon themselves to craft their own “rules” for the supernatural characters appearing in their works. Some allow their vampires to walk in the daylight, while others never allow them to possess functioning carnal appendages. No two are alike, and that makes it entertaining. Something becomes old and tired when it transgresses into the formulaic, the predictable. This genre is alive and molting with each new publication. Every new writer dipping a toe into the pool adds their own ripple. That should keep things from getting too stale until the next seven-part series starring a young female protagonist with unearthly powers rockets into the sales stratosphere.
Playing bodyguard to crusading reporter David Hastings would totally ruin Leon’s peace, especially since Hastings has hired killers on his trail, pros who know how he takes his espresso in the morning, and where Leon lives.
The payoff, though, would fill up Shauna’s empty college fund, and in a battle between opportunity and ordinary, money wins. He just has to keep Hastings alive long enough to cash the check.
If only he didn’t have to save his daughter, too.
As a budding wolf, she’s piqued the interest of a local pack Alpha — one Leon knows will steal Shauna right out from under him the first chance he gets.
Leon isn’t about to give up on his daughter or Hastings, and will fight for both longer than it took Demos City to see werewolves as equals to humans.
He can only hope it doesn’t take a thousand years.
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Here's an excerpt from Crossroads:
Breaking a beer bottle over someone’s head rarely knocks them unconscious. Oh, it’s going to hurt like hell, probably make a good-sized gash in the scalp but hardly ever just a quick dose of shut-eye. What they’ll end up with is a wound that looks a lot worse than it actually is. The best an opponent can hope for is the element of surprise and the moments of disorientation that the hit causes. If the bastard is serious about it, he can use the jagged edges of broken glass to do some real damage. A shame this isn’t a Western. When a beer bottle connects with a cowboy’s head in one of those old movies, he hits the floor in a few seconds.
I’m not a cowboy. I’m something else.
“Gray! Watch out!” Jenny shouts from behind the bar, but I already know Frank is coming. Guy lost his job last week—ten years as a call center supervisor. He’s been in here every night since. Now he’s drunk enough to think I’m the reason his company shipped his job off to the Philippines.
It’s taking him forever to swing that damn bottle at me; I’m getting bored.
He’s harmless on most nights, talks a lot about how he’d like to blow up his old work, but ends up passing out in his car. People in front of me are pointing and shouting over the din of music and bar talk, obviously trying to warn me. It’s the whiskey’s fault Frank is coming after me. That doesn’t mean I can make an exception. Everyone in here knows the rules, knows what’s coming.
The bottle connects with the back of my head and shatters. I don’t move. Broken glass sticks in my hair, even draws some blood. I let the pain run down my back along with the cheap beer and hold my breath until the shouting sting fades to a grumbling throb.
Yep—hurts like hell.
“Fuck you, Leon!” Frank shouts. His breath is acrid and brimming with rye as it washes over my neck. Its scent tells me how much alcohol is in his blood. In all the movies Frank has ever probably seen, it’s only supposed to take one hit, so I know he’s is waiting for me to fall down. In fact, he’s probably praying I fall because no way he’s got a next move planned.
A bar that was roaring with life a moment ago is all spectators, front-row seat types. Most everyone in here knows me, knows what I am. Frank does, too; it’s why he needs to quit the whiskey. The pool tables are quiet. No one’s playing darts, not even bringing glasses to their lips. There are no footsteps on the hardwood floors. The customers are all a mixture of bloodlust and pity, waiting to see what my first move is going to look like. The bell sounds in my head as I turn around.
This is the fun part of my job.
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