Vampire Tampons

SA_REVISED.indd I get mail. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s a genuine question, or someone who thinks they’ve found a plot hole and wants to gloat, but I’m pretty sure this is the former. Reader C.A. writes in:

Subject:
Hi

Message:
Hi Lili,
I’m a huge fan of your books, and I know you’re crazy busy so if you can’t reply I’ll just make up my own answer to my question. But something’s been bugging me for while about the Strange Angels world. What happens when a svetocha gets her period? If the djamphir smell the blood, how does everyone deal with it?
Anyway, thank you so much for writing that series. For the record, I loved the ending. I finished the series when I was around the same age as Dru, and having the girl be the most important one in the story was something I really needed at the time.

*Reader C.A.’s full name redacted*

First, dear C.A., I am so, so glad the ending gave you something you needed. That is important to me, and it makes the fighting I did for that ending all worthwhile.

Now, on to the menstrual cycles of half-vampire girls! I am happy (is that the word?) to say this is something I thought hard about. When the first physiological changes begin to happen to prep Dru for blooming, her blood started getting the happy stuff that drove the boy djamphir crazy. The problem comes, however, only when enough of the blood hits the air. (I tried to ask Dru about the exact chemical reactions in the oxidation, but she doesn’t like chem.) A nosebleed, for example, is right there on the face, exposed to air the second it shows up.

Menstrual flow is tucked into a different bodily space. Also, it’s a sloughing–most of the time it’s old blood and tissue, instead of straight from the vein. It’s not quite as potent as, say, bleeding from a laceration. (Except ritualistically, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Except near the end, when there’s a trickle of fresh blood because the walls of the uterus are raw.

The menstrual cycle is some fascinating shit, let me tell you.

So the solution is: tampons. Svetocha tend to have irregular cycles before they bloom, and Dru had a bit of amenorrhea due to the stress of killing her zombified dad and running for her life, so it didn’t come up often. The Kouroi don’t go into the girls’ bathroom–that’s how Dru could be attacked in the shower scene–and as long as she’s a little conscientious, it’s largely moot.

Plus, Nathalie, like a true werwulfen friend, could tell Dru if she was, you know. Leaking. Or about to leak. Or bring Dru her homework for a couple days if necessary. The small wastebaskets for such products in the girls’ loos at every Schola had an ingenious method of sealing each, um, little package, sort of like a Litter Genie.

There was a scene where Nat had to tell Dru to button up and they would talk while Nat stood guard at the stall door, but it didn’t survive the revision process. It’s a pity. Along with trying to force me to give Dru a romantic ending (when she clearly did NOT need one) the publisher also got kind of weird about her menstruation.

I could go on, but I suspect it would be uninteresting. Suffice to say blooming, as a component of puberty, is a messy and uneven business, dependent on several hormones and other processes within the svetocha‘s body. (I also won’t go into the uses Anna put some of this knowledge to.)

So…yeah. I spent a significant amount of time, while writing YA, thinking about half-vampires wearing tampons. You’re welcome.

The Thaw Begins

Alice Glass, Crystal Castles The melt has started. Our snowpocalypse has been of short duration. I’ve enjoyed having the kids home, but I’m also looking forward to going and rescuing my computer from the ice-locked city. I miss my faithful brute servant, even though this one is perfectly adequate it’s not as nice. (I should probably refrain from saying that until I’ve got the other one back and it works, but living dangerously, thy name is Lili.)

I did go out in daylight and found out what was making the heat pump sound like a badly loaded washer. It was simply a little ice–moisture whipping off the fanblades that froze as part of the thaw-refreeze-thaw-refreeze thing we’ve had going on since yesterday. A few minutes with a pair of screwdrivers got the grill open and the ice knocked off…and once more, glorious heat. I am feeling particularly victorious because this all happened before coffee. FEAR ME.

The Facebook fan page has been seeing some action lately, too. In particular, lots of people are still asking me about the ending of Reckoning. Normally I simply point people at this post, when they ask. Very rarely, I respond to other questions.

One Reader in particular on the Facebook fanpage had this to say:

I get when people want to know who Dru chooses, which, sure would be great, but that’s not why it felt unfinished to me. I kinda feel like the ending was punking out, or unable to deal with the fallout of from fans swinging either way and so just going for the safe road in the middle. For me it’s not about knowing who she ends up with it’s about the lack of development of their relationships, you feel like nothing has changed and she hasn’t grown up at all. Right up till the last pages there is still the same old stuff about how she feels strongly for both, same old indecision, none of the winding down toward the farewell of characters. It’s like she still has no self-awareness or idea of what she wants.
Why would it have to be either? Why wouldn’t the relationships be able to develop in different directions? Maybe it’s neither for good, but we never see any of that developing.

It seems kinda cruel, perpetuating the love triangle and the imminent decision the entire way throughout a 5 book series only to end with no resolution.
Hooking up with one and then the other, and then getting mad when they hate each other. All it did was make me disgusted with the character (who I had loved up till this point). She doesn’t have to be built around who she decides to be with but making her a cruel and selfish game-player completely disregarding the consequences of her treatment of people didn’t make me think she had grown up at all. Seemed less like Dru and more like Anna…I know too many girls like that, they’re not true blue and we got a certain name for them where I’m from.

And why would that decision define her, is she really that two-dimensional? Surely women can still be their own person and grow regardless of the relationships in their life?

And considering the critique of her options, hey, they’ve both got problems but in the real world no one’s perfect.
There’s a difference between unanswered questions about intriguing matters of the story and failing to address something that was a pretty major thread, leaving it unresolved. To be honest I stopped reading fiction after I finished this series when Reckoning came out, not on purpose, just happened…. Thanks while it lasted.

I figured I’d post my reply here as well as in the fanpage thread.

What an interesting viewpoint.

While I was writing, sticking to a “safe middle path” was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I thought often about how Dru, as a teenager, was abandoned and thrust into several life-or-death situations that certainly confused and possibly traumatised her.

As a sixteen-year-old who openly admits she hasn’t dealt often with the “boy situation”, I think she acquitted herself rather well. Especially since there was the not-inconsiderable problem of her trying to protect Graves–and maybe not wanting to piss off Christophe, who was a good protector. Between the two of them, no wonder a teenage girl struggling with grief and abandonment ends up confused. Many adults could not have handled the situation any better–in fact, I think often an adult would have done worse. (I’ve SEEN adults do much, much worse.) As for calling her a “cruel and selfish game-player,” well, if you’d like to believe that of her, you are free to. That’s not what I saw when I was transcribing her story at all. *shrug*

The decision between Graves and Christophe does NOT define her, either to herself or to me as the writer. I did not leave the major plot thread “unresolved”, I simply didn’t resolve it in the standard way we’re told such situations have to resolve in fiction/song/movies.

Thank you for reading.

I think that about covers it. In the end I have no control over what Readers get out of the book, or what they put into it. The only thing I take a bit of exception to is the accusation that I “punked out” or took the middle safe road. I had to fight for that ending. I had to dig my heels in and wade into the fray for it, because I believed so strongly it was Dru’s ending, it was the right ending. I took that route in the face of immense pressure from several quarters to have Dru “end up with a boy” instead of where I knew the story ended–a girl sitting with her best friend on a window seat, watching the night come in. Still, Readers don’t see that sort of behind-the-scenes pressure, which may be a good thing. It allows them to engage with the book, to project into and get things out of it that they need, which is the whole point.

photo by: chriszak

Scattered! And questions.

Well, hell.

The weekend was a blur–the Princess had her first-ever high school dance, which was the culmination of months of planning and prep work. (Nothing like a reluctant teenage girl who hates shopping but is determined to do it for an event, OMG the back-and-forth…) Unfortunately, I was feverish and nauseous for most of it, because she brought home a stomach bug on Friday, one that she fought off successfully until after the dance, but of course I did not. Oh, and did I mention the two batches of proofs that had be be turned around and overnighted so they could reach New York by today?

I was cranky while proofing, and I think this is the only time in my life I’ll be returning proofs I’ve had to clean A Splatter of Stomach Fluids from. (TMI, I know.) I’ve already apologized to the production department in question. I think an offering of booze to those hardworking elves this Yule would not go amiss this year, too.

A lot of you have been writing about two questions, so I’ll address them here:

* Will you ever write another Strange Angels book? We don’t know who Dru ends up with! I’ve gotten sixteen of these emails in the last two days alone. My answer: no, I am not writing another Strange Angels book, Dru’s story ended where it should. And honestly, why does Dru have to “end up” with anyone? A teenage girl’s life is not about what boy she “ends up” with. It’s about how she survives and grows up, which doesn’t have to include a boy of any kind. So, my dears, no. I will not be writing any more Dru in the foreseeable future.

* What about the next Steelflower? One of my projects for the year was to assess whether I could afford to spend the time to write the next in Kaia’s adventures. Sadly, I cannot. If you want to know the absolute truth, my dears, e-piracy has killed Steelflower. I literally cannot afford to invest the time in another Steelflower book and have it be torrented the day it comes out. I am incredibly sorry, but I have kids to feed, and this is an effect of e-piracy you don’t often hear about. I have done the math every way I can think of, and it just ends up with a loss of working time for me that I can ill afford. I am answering this question directly here partly so you guys can have a definitive answer to this question (I love Kaia too and wish I could write more of her and her crew!) and partly because I am saddened that I even have to say this, because e-piracy is so rampant and the costs of it so huge to content creators–and so many people who engage in e-piracy feel so incredibly entitled about it, and so many other people, even people whose opinions I otherwise respect, think the costs are invisible or not worth mentioning.

*sigh* And now it’s time for me to go back to the Cinderella story and get some work in to make it a reasonable first draft instead of a sloppy, nasty chunk of zero draft that stinks on the morgue table and needs serious stitching and padding before it’s a pretty corpse.

Oh yeah, my mood is great today. *snort* Catch you later, chickadees.

Over and out.

photo by: Horia Varlan

Choosing Herself

Victor Bezrukov / Foter

From my email inbox:

Dear ms. St. Crow,

I just finished reading Reckoning and was extremely curious about why Dru decided to not choose between Graves or Chritophe, I’m a little perplexed since I was in suspense about which boy would win Dru’s heart the whole series, and found myself heart broken when she decided not to choose. The reason I’m dumbfounded is that the cover says it’s the last book of the series, a unique way to end the story, but the question has been bugging me a lot.

Thank you for your time.

*name redacted* (from email)

And my reply:

Hello *name redacted*,

Thank you for reading my books.

I get this question a lot. My answer is: why does Dru have to choose, why does she have to “end up” with someone? A girl is not defined by who she is “with” or who she “ends up” with. Graves and Christophe are both pretty terrible boyfriend choices, for different reasons–Graves is broken, both by abuse and by Sergej, and no matter how much Dru loves him she can’t fix him. He has to fix himself. And Christophe is far too adult (despite being djamphir) for her, not to mention he doesn’t give her the information she needs to make informed choices. Dru may eventually grow further and decide to engage with Christophe on that level, but at the moment she has made the decision to put herself first. Which is something I think a lot of young girls may not do.

A girl or a woman is not defined by who she’s dating. A girl or a woman defines herself, and it would have been unconscionable for me to make Dru’s story all about who she wants to kiss next. Dru’s story was about growing up and surviving, and while kissing may be a (sometimes pleasant) part of that, it isn’t the only or even the most important thing about finding out who you are and, as her Gran would say, “where ya iron’s at.”

I am sorry you were heartbroken. Dru was too, and since I suffer with my characters, so was I. But Dru is stronger than that–she survived Sergej, which means little things like deciding not to date anyone for a while kind of lose their sting. In the end, I think she made the right choice–to take care of herself first. That’s a difficult choice for any young woman, and some of us never master the trick of it.

I hope this helps, and thank you again for reading,

Lili St. Crow

I still believe with everything in me that Reckoning‘s ending was the correct one. (I do not think I shall ever be convinced otherwise.) My private titled for Reckoning was actually Sacrifice, because it was the book where Dru made the decision to give up her own life if she had to (when she tells Dibs to go ahead with the transfusion) to buy her friends just a little more time. For me, that will always be the correct title–and Dru choosing as she did, the right ending.

Over and out.

Reckoning Release!

Weren’t we just here, where I tell you how nervous release days make me? It seems like we were just here. *blinks*

I am proud and happy (as well as knocking knees with fear) to tell you that Reckoning, the fifth and final in the Strange Angels series, is officially released!

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha – rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires – the worst is yet to come.

Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is her survival really worth the sacrifice?

Now available at Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, BooksAMillion, Powell’s, the Book Depository, and Amazon!

I am sad to be saying goodbye to Dru. From the first moment I saw her standing in her kitchen, staring at the back door while a zombie’s fleshless finger tapped against the glass, I’ve known that she would grow up and continue on. It’s very bittersweet, but I’m proud of her. She’s learned a lot along the way, and through it all she’s remained that same smart, driven, incredibly loyal girl. Growing up is never easy–it’s even less easy when there’s vampires looking to tear your head off and betrayal lurking around every corner.

But I think she’s done just fine, and I’m glad she has exactly the right ending.

Now I’m going to go be a puddle of frayed release-day nerves. See you around.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Strawberry Autumn

This morning’s run was wonderful. I felt like I had little wings on my feet. Every once in a while, everything clicks and a good run comes along. It’s like a perfect day of writing. It keeps you coming back for more and enduring the days when it feels like peeling one’s own skin off in strips.

I am full of pleasant thoughts today. You’ve been warned.

However, the predawn was incredibly foggy, which made me think of Stephen King’s Strawberry Spring. Which led me to thinking about Springheel Jack. Along with plague pits, you can tell I’m working on the next Bannon & Clare. (Their first adventure, The Iron Wyrm Affair, is in revision now.)

I was planning what I’d do if Springheel Jack suddenly appeared in the fog, and perhaps that gave me some extra speed. “Be prepared” is not just a Boy Scout motto.

Let’s see, what else? I’m glad you guys are enjoying the Squirrel!Terror serial. When Neo recovered, things got incredibly interesting, but I am not going to write that for a little while. Here, instead you can have a peek at the first chapter of Reckoning, which is due out soon. I am excited and sad all at once–excited to share the culmination of Dru’s story, and sad to say goodbye to her.

I’m incredibly interested in and excited about Glitch right now. It’s sort of like Animal Crossing for grownups. (Although Animal Crossing is nice too.) It’s like WoW without killing, which can be a relief. (Sometimes, though, I just want to get a glass of wine and murder some pixels.) I like the idea of a game where you water plants, pet animals, build and cook things, and basically learn to be cooperative. It balances out my antisocial tendencies. *snort*

I’m very boring right now. I had some unpleasant news that knocked the wind out of me not too long ago; my writing partner, who is always full of good advice, has been reminding me to plan for what I’m frightened of instead of just thrashing about in fear. The planning certainly seems a more productive use of one’s time, plus it provides an feeling of control. That feeling may be illusory, but it certainly helps. So I’m retreating into my shell for a wee bit, a process that is probably helped by the fact that a nice cool autumn is setting in and spending time curled up in the house is not only soothing but pleasant. I tend to be a winter writer, anyway–my most productive seasons are the ones with filthy weather.

Ach, I’m nattering on. It’s Wednesday. I seem to have lost the knack of Wednesdays.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.