Eyes Like Blue Fire hasn't exactly been a big success and while that sucks I am making an effort to see about improving the book overall and rereleasing it after I sort out the bugs. It was my first book and it was originally written in high school, I had very little luck getting folks to read it back then and spent a lot of years looking for proofreaders and editing it myself. I probably took way too long fussing over it and the lack of readers added to my anxiety over it's quality but with little changing on that front all I could really do was rewrite and edit it until I felt I had something solid I could submit. That 2nd rewrite actually had me invested and encouraged enough to start it's sequel Cool Green Waters in 2002 which I knew to be a better book because of everything I
I'd learned rewriting ELBF. I got about halfway into that and then went back to working on Other Dangers in fits and spurts.
ELBF was the one book I finished and the one I was most insecure about. It didn't help that most of my friends were guys and that as guys they really didn't get my attraction to the gothic romance elements that are the base for the gothic horror in ELBF. If you've ever read any of ELBF you'll note that in the beginning it's centered on Katja and her struggle with love and it's complications in her past. Well eventually it does move on from those initial romantic elements to deal with some very dark horror elements that Katja must face to get to a new place in her life.
The fact that ELBF is neither completely horror or paranormal romance makes it a bit of a pariah in both genres. In paranormal romance it's an outcast because the horror elements are very dark and bloody, neither Katja nor Raven fit the stereotypes of the genre (Katja is the hero but a very reluctant one while Raven isn't a musclebound badass with no weaknesses), while there are action sequences these scenes do not make up the bulk of the novel, and while the romance is important to the plot it isn't the overall focus. In horror it's an outcast because it has strong romantic themes, the horror elements aren't the overall theme and the goal is not to scare as much as to convey the emotional and personal change that needs to happen for the lead characters.
ELBF was written before PNR had really had it's big rise to fame and it was never meant to be a part of this genre despite the fact that it's the only romance genre that's approached vampires and I knew it was never going to be a straight up horror novel. Still people pick it up thinking that is one or the other of these genres and then either find a pleasant surprise in it's differences or write it off because it has elements of the opposing genre (another reason it's been difficult to market. I've had it attributed to PNR like Twilight and Vampire Diaries despite the lack of similarities and written off because it doesn't suit the tropes of the genre of their choice. The animosity between the two genres due to such novels creates a bit a of shutoff and rejection point in some readers. )I never meant the book to be a genre stereotype. I wrote it to for what it was and what it was meant to be.
ELBF was written in my Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite days. I was lonely and I was struggling to understand myself as a person. I was Katja and I was Raven I wanted to find myself in the eyes, the heart, and the touch of another human being so badly that I couldn't see how inherently flawed that outlook was. I dwelled on my past and all of it's pain refusing to let it go and try to face my future and the being I could be. I couldn't see past all of these personal tragedies, these flaws that I'd pasted up all around me. Completing that first draft was one of the few really brave things I did in those days. I was and in many ways still am an introvert. I had few friends and the friends I had were not always going to be able understand where I was coming from because even I didn't understand it for a very long time. It is no wonder then that the original book and I suppose the current version are still colored by that outlook. It made many transitions over the years I reworked the novel but in the end the book is still about coming to terms with ones past and choosing to move on to the next thing.
Let me try and explain the book as it is. Please be aware there will be spoilers ahead if you haven't read ELBF.
The first part of the novel focuses on her past because it's exactly where Katja's focus has remained for the majority of her life up until the point at which she meets Raven. In that past we meet Sebastian who colored her view of the world by being her first love, Sabine the daughter they had and lost which became a symbol of her hopes for the future, and of course the very flawed Anton Freneau. Anton really is the idealized partner a young woman seeks before she knows what she wants. He rushes in to rescue her from the tragedy of her mortal life only to fail her because he can't deal with his own issues. She isn't able to let him go because he was the person she pinned all of her hopes and dreams on without realizing that his promises were as flawed and impossible as Sabastian's not just because he is unable to fulfill those promises but because Katja hasn't come to terms with herself as a person. Anton is so incapable of facing his own issues in fact, that he forces Katja to do the worst thing she has ever done in her life and instead of taking responsibility for his flaws dumps all of that onto Katja who doesn't even know all of it has become her debt in life. Full of regret and refusing to move on Katja creates a loop of memory and loss that she relives while physically going out into the world and acting without much thought or consciousness for her actions.
When she meets Raven it's a strange experience because her mind is focused on Anton and Raven himself is focused on his own lost love Kathryn. Now some of this similarity is meant to be clearly in their minds and is meant to be read that way but some of that is actually there because Raven based his ideal partner elements on his ideal of what Katja was when he was a child (he only knew her through a painting and at a time of great conflict in his life) and according to what we understand of Anton's actions he placed a bit of his soul in Raven's family line. In this first meeting they're seeing what they want to see in each other and as a result things go much farther than either has intended and Katja runs. She runs because she hasn't moved on from her past and because she isn't really ready to confront the reality of her ideal partner in a man like Raven who isn't without flaws but is far more evolved in personal development. Raven mourns her loss because he struggles to feel grounded in a life that has had very few really solid people and she offered some sense of that solidarity by embodying both Kathryn and the base ideals he's been seeking his whole life. Their interaction over the distance is colored by this and their own evolving relationship with their pasts. This is where Marie comes in.
Marie Gaston is the horror of Katja's past balled up into one big nasty nightmare of a person and she is all of the things Katja has chosen to ignore so that she can dwell on the things she would rather see. She (and all of the other characters who are also damaged by their pasts) must face her in order to claim her future with Raven and the person she would be if she were to move on. Marie doesn't come into the novel as it stands until about a third of the way into it because (as in life) it isn't until Katja's confronted with a new path and romance with Raven that the elements of her past that could do the most damage rear their ugly head. It's also about this point that our other villian Trudeau comes in. Trudeau is Raven's personal demons and dreams attempting to offer him a distraction at the same time as digging open old wounds. The pair of these beings together are causing Raven serious damage in order to damage Katja and her potential future. we also meet Zero at about this point and he's Katja's confidence and a sort of conscience trying to tell her that Anton's life was a lie and that it's poisoned all of the people he's touched. Zero's role is to get her focused on addressing her problems and past so that she can be the person she needs to be to battle and overcome our villains.
Raven plays the role generally given to women in these novels not just to switch up gender roles but because he's actually an extension of Katja coming under attack and therefore not capable of facing the threats that have far more to do with Katja than himself. He's sort of a barely begun dream that doesn't have the strength yet to rescue her or himself from the threat. He is also representative of the aspects of masculinity which are not about battles and strength but emotions and the confusion they cause. These aspects get far less focus in novels than they should precisely because men are more often translated as "the strong one" and the one that has to attack the evil in order to fulfill his gender role. The truth is that men are not always the ones who are strongest and they deal with emotional turmoil just as much as women do. Raven is a more emotional side of the masculine and therefore not the stereotype.
Ok that's a lot I'm sorry. Anyway the point is that book is about facing up to one's self and one's past. It isn't supposed to be a straight up romance novel and it isn't just about the horror these characters face either. It's about the personal journey of one woman and the people she affects as she takes that journey. The opposite is expected of it and I'm having to work out what I can change about the current book to make it more marketable without sacrificing the entirety of the story or huge chunks of the point to do it. I'm hoping my friend can help me see the bits that need work (for whatever reason) and perhaps the 2nd version will do better. I guess it boils down to wanting all of that work to have been all it needed to be it's best. It makes me anxious about my other writing despite the fact that this is my only work (with the exception of CGW of course) that has these sort of niche elements. everything else I've written might have genre bending elements but nothing I can see causing those pieces to be as hard to find readers for as ELBF has been. I suppose one could say that making this my first book means that I've always gone about things the hard way...anyway I'm a tad frustrated but still determined to see this book through. For the moment my focus is going to be on Apocrpyha and seeing that to market and perhaps working on Other Dangers if I can't work on CGW as a result of that frustration for the time being.
I have Jodie, that fantasy story with the boy and his mother, a couple of YA books, the novel about a farming couple and their farm going all Lovecraft and a few other books to complete as well. I suppose that's another reason I want to be done with ELBF I spent so much time working on it or not at all that there are so many other projects backed up as a result. With luck all of out personal issues will play out to a positive end and that will allow me to relax too. Anyway now that I've gone on forever, I hope that things are good with all of my readers and those who follow me because they know me in person or online. I want the best for so many people.