It’s almost one week until Ravenous is released!
Have you pre-ordered your advanced copy at the special price yet?
As we count down the days until release, some of the contributors wanted to share some further insight into their stories and tempt you with a peek.
Today R. Michael Burns tells us more about “The Eyes of a Stranger.”
ON THE EYES OF A STRANGER
Here’s what I like most about “The Eyes of a Stranger”: there’s some nice thematic symbolism in it that came completely without me planning it. Without getting too much into the specifics (because you might want to read the story sans spoilers), the tale started out as a sort of vampiric cat-and-mouse, but became something of a meditation on the beauty of impermanence. But when I wrote it, I didn’t know the theme, just the characters and what they were going to do. I wrote the first scene, where the two meet at a performance art show in a darkened loft, because the visuals struck me so vividly. When the two encounter one another, the unnamed woman speaks enthusiastically about how the beauty of performance art lies in its ephemeral nature.
I had no idea when I wrote it that my character was expressing what the story was all about, that she was essentially explaining the symbolic significance of the performance art show.
It probably seems obvious now, but in the midst of putting words on paper, I didn’t see it.
Happily, I caught it on the first rewrite, which gave me the chance to play with it a little, to give the story a nice sense of coming full circle without – I hope – clobbering the reader over the head with it.
This doesn’t always happen, but I love it when it does. In On Writing, Stephen King says that starting a work of fiction from a theme is almost always a recipe for bad fiction. The best thematic stuff, King suggests, arises naturally from the story, from the characters and events. I couldn’t agree more. Still, it’s rare that a theme reveals itself so clearly. It’s like stumbling over a golden nugget you didn’t even need to dig out of the ground.
As an English teacher, I talk a lot about symbolism, of course, and students always seem to doubt that it’s really there, that writers really think that way. The truth is that many of us do – but not always in a way that we’re aware of. Sometimes it’s obviously deliberate, like the green light in Gatsby or literally anything by James Joyce. Sometimes it’s really not there – or at least, the author never intended it. (I seem to recall Elmore Leonard saying he never used symbolism.) But sometimes – often the best times – it shows up on its own, unbidden but lovely. And if the symbolism in “The Eyes of a Stranger” seems obvious to you, all I can say is that when I wrote the first draft, it wasn’t at all obvious to me.
I’ll admit, too, that I’m fond of this tale because it was my first paid sale, a good long time ago. I’m an October child, and growing up my birthday parties were almost always Halloween-themed, so the spooky and macabre has always felt like a part of me. I developed my love of vampires with Hammer’s various Dracula films, with the wonderful (and mostly silent) Christopher Lee as the titular vamp. Then along came the TV miniseries of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot which scared little me in a way I truly, deeply loved. The scene where undead Danny Glick floats outside his buddy Mark’s window, scratching at the glass and pleading for Mark to let him in, still creeps me out. When Lost Boys made its debut, I felt like I had the best of both worlds – vampires that were sexy and scary, that could be threatening and still maintain a sense of tragedy, all in a wickedly funny film with what may be the single best last line in movie history. All of which is to say that it was only natural that I would write a vampire tale or two. I am mighty grateful to Dreams of Decadence’s Angela Kessler for having bought three tales from me (including, as I say, my first paid publication) – and to Ariel Jade for making me a part of Ravenous. I hope that you, should you choose to read “The Eyes of a Stranger”, will get half as much satisfaction out of it as I did.
Excerpt From “The Eyes of a Stranger”
I watched her across the crowded studio, and I knew — I felt it as I never had before. She was the one I’d sought. The one. After so very many years.
Heavy bass thumped like muted thunder, as though the room were a beating heart, and all of us in it the blood being pulsed from chamber to chamber, while on stage the artists danced and flung their paints. The fluorescent colors glowed in bright splatters on the white plaster walls and on their naked bodies; the intense black-lights made their skin look dark as rich brown soil. The show was strange, fearsome and weird and wonderful, the artists beautiful, dazzling specimens of man and woman. But my gaze kept wandering, creeping out among the spectators, finding its way back to her.
About the Author
R. Michael Burns is an October child and Colorado native who taught English in Japan for the first half of the 2000s. He has published nearly three dozen short stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as well as the horror novel Windwalkers. He currently resides in the deepest, darkest swamps of north central Florida. Find him online at www.rmichaelburns.com.
Dark. Brooding. Tortured. Sexy.
Vampires are a mystery, morphing through history from maligned villains to sparkling saviors and back again. They can be the ultimate bad boys, the supreme seductresses, or the evil monsters. They fascinate and repel us at the same time. What other creature can steal into your bedroom in the depths of the night to stalk or protect? What other ancient being is so accessible yet so powerful? What other enigma is desired as much as feared?
Cross the threshold into a world of insatiable heroes and voracious heroines. RAVENOUS explores saucy, sexy, and sweet tales: of forbidden vampire/vampire hunter love, vampire threesomes in space, kink as only a vampire could enjoy it… and so much more.