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Parting Notes for The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

October 1st, 2017 No comments

*** Note: This blog is about my series, THE VAMPIRE’S HOUSEKEEPER CHRONICLES. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, the first novella in the series –EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE – is currently FREE on Amazon and most major book retailers. I’m totally not biased, but I think you should really check it out. ***

Last week, I sent out copies of SHOWDOWN WITH THE SUPERNATURAL HUNTER to my beta readers. Now it’s just a waiting game, and a I-really-hope-you-don’t-hate-it game. Sending out a vulnerable little draft into the cold, harsh world of critiques is always a nerve-wracking process, but I felt separation anxiety even more deeply this time.

Showdown is – at least for now – the last novella in the VAMPIRE’S HOUSEKEEPER CHRONICLES. It was allllll the way back in the ancient days of 2011 when I whipped up a fun little vampire story for my sister as part of our constant, back-and-forth emailing. My goal was simple. I wanted to write about a vampire who was not young, not handsome, and who did not sparkle in sunlight. Furthermore, knowing many seniors who still struggle with how to understand things like email and phone apps, I always believed that vampires must face similar challenges. If an 80-year-old is completely out of their depth with technology, slang, and culture, how about a 200-year-old? From these thoughts, Nathaniel was born, and it has been a joy writing about my cranky, stick-in-the-mud vampire ever since.

Nathaniel, The Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Not so sparkly, but I love Nathaniel anyway.

What truly surprised me is how much I enjoyed writing from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Deidre. Like Nathaniel, Deidre was hatched as an anti-heroine of the vampire genre. Not that she was evil. Worse. She was average looking. Unlike the Bellas and Elenas of the world, Deidre was overweight, self-doubting, and living a relatively mediocre life (before she met Nathaniel, that is).

Deidre from the Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Just another day in Deidre’s world.

When I scribbled down that very first story, EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, it was just meant to make my sister laugh, but I enjoyed the characters so much, that I wrote another story for my sister, what would become THE VAMPIRE HUNTER COMES TO CALL (now part of the first novella in the series).

I kept writing the stories, not because they were huge sellers (trust me, they weren’t), but because it was a lot of fun. The amazing thing is that with each story, Deidre’s world grew. We met Dex and Sloppy Joe. Then Drew, who would become Deidre’s best friend and love interest. Next up was the bingo crew (Carl, Lenny, Polina, and Rick), and finally, Hunter, the loveable, overachieving vampire apprentice. As Deidre’s world got richer, it also got more complex. The last two novellas – APPRENTICESHIP WITH A VAMPIRE and THANKSGIVING WITH THE WEREWOLVES add interesting themes beneath just the daily weirdness of Deidre’s life. I think that you’ll find that Showdown brings this dynamic to a whole new level.

THE VAMPIRE’S HOUSEKEEPER CHRONICLES always played a second fiddle to the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. It was much more light-hearted and not as deep or complex as my primary series. I would write VHC stories and novellas between drafts of GWBW.

However, VHC was always a joy to write, and I am really proud of how the series has evolved. I personally believe that APPRENTICESHIP WITH A VAMPIRE is the best thing I’ve ever written to date. I’ve really enjoyed getting messages from fans about how the series has made them laugh.

Deidre, in many ways, became a true hero to me. Her struggles – to lose weight, to find love, to achieve balance in her life, to get the ghosts to stop animating the furniture, and to keep her ficus alive – are real (well, except for the ghosts and the furniture run amok). Deidre’s struggles aren’t sexy. Explosions aren’t involved (though there is always a chance of ectoplasm, which never comes out). But that doesn’t make her struggle less real or less worthy.

SHOWDOWN WITH THE SUPERNATURAL HUNTER will be available soon. (The goal is to release it right around Halloween). I hope you enjoy it as much I enjoyed writing it. I hope it makes you laugh and that the characters – Nathaniel, Deidre, Drew, Hunter, Sloppy Joe, and Dex – feel like your old friends. I am sad to let this series go, though excited about the big science fiction monster that I’m still writing. I am considering starting up a new novella series in the vein of VHC. Something fun, light, and quirky to give me a break and add some laughs to offset my bigger, more serious novels in the works.

And of course, vampires live for a long, long time, so maybe one day I’ll come back to the world of the VAMPIRE’S HOUSEKEEPER CHRONICLES.

All the Nathaniel and Deidre You Want in a Single Collection

October 6th, 2014 No comments

Announcing: The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, Volume One

Get It Now

Cover, The Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Stay strong Deidre!

Deidre finds herself out of a job, out of luck, and out of time. The rent is past due, and the list of her employable skills is smaller than her checking account balance. Hope comes in the form of Betsy Riddle of the Bullseye Employment Agency who gives Deidre one shot at staying out of a fast food restaurant uniform. A mysterious gentleman with certain “peculiarities” is seeking a housekeeper. Deidre squeezes into her only nice pair of slacks, tames her wild orange hair, and starts off for the job interview that will either change her life….or end it. Thus begins Deidre’s hilarious adventures as the housekeeper of a cranky vampire. Nathaniel is unliving proof that  tempers don’t always sweeten with age. He stubbornly clings to his gramophone, insists on wearing a cape to meet guests, considers the television to be “witch magic,” and gets murderous when his prune juice runs low. The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, Vol. 1 includes five  fast-paced and humorous short stories and a novella that follow Deidre as she struggles to keep on the right side of her boss’s fangs, clean a haunted mansion where the walls bleed on a daily basis, and catch the eye of a certain hunky wereferret. Filled with a kaleidoscope characters from inept poltergeists, smelly zombies, chatty ninjas, obese werefrogs, and senior citizen vampire hunters…this series has it all! Each story builds upon the last, adding more laughs, more action, and more adventure to Deidre’s world. Deidre is an unlikely, enjoyable, and very human heroine who proves that being a vampire’s housekeeper doesn’t have to suck.  Don’t miss out on a single story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles  series with this great  collection.

Get It Now

Why I Wrote A Series About A Cranky, Old, Unattractive Vampire — Behind The Scenes With The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

September 17th, 2014 No comments
Nathaniel, The Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Not so sparkly, but I love Nathaniel anyway.

I am getting ready to compile all the short stories in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series into a single collection, and I thought readers might be interested to learn where the idea for this series came from. I’ll ruin the surprise – it was Twilight. But here’s the full story…

Vampires had it good for a couple of centuries. They inspired fear, pants wetting, and lots of running around and screaming like a boob. They were cruel, deliciously vicious, and powerful…and then Twilight came along.

With this single book, vampires left the realm of nightmares and became squarely lodged into the stuff of tween girl daydreams. CW’s Vampire Diaries has only thrown gasoline onto the tragic fire of hunky, sensitive, and people-eating free vampire mythology.

My sister and I email each other back and forth every day, because apparently email is our crack. About two years ago, my sister headlined an email with this complaint: “I hate that vampires are all total wusses now!”

My response was, “If you were over 100 years old, why in the world would you want to spend your immortal afterlife in high school?”

How could a 100+ year-old vampire not get bored out of his mind and fed up with all the stupid dramatics of high school? There are obvious physical reasons why a vampire might be attracted to a high school girl, but what could they possibly talk about? [Insert joke about how talking isn’t necessary for certain activities].

“And how would a vampire even be able to keep up with the times? I just learned how to use Siri, and I was born in the last century,” I wrote to my sister. “How could someone who grew up with steam engines and telegraphs understand iTunes, texting, and the resurgence of Weird Al Yankovic?”

Thus an idea was born…an idea to write about a vampire who was not handsome, not sparkly, not fascinated by the vacant minds of high school girls, and who definitely could not flawlessly keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation.

For the next couple of days, I started each email to my sister with an ongoing story of a luckless college grad who finds herself out of a job and lacking in useful job skills. When she goes to an employment agency for help, she is sent on an interview for a housekeeping position at a haunted mansion where her perspective boss…isn’t exactly a vegetarian.

Deidre and Nathaniel were born. That first story was completely random, a little bit of cheek that stemmed from my desire to write a different type of vampire. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the story fulfilled another need I have always wanted to explore as a writer – writing a different type of protagonist.

Deidre is so far from the wispy, damsel-in-distress Bella, that she might as well live on a totally different planet. Deidre is overweight, self-conscious, funny, loyal, and pragmatic. She sees the world with a wry sense of humor and a certain stoic acceptance of her messy and chaotic existence.

That first story was such fun to write that I kept the narrative going into a second chapter, which would eventually become The Vampire Hunter Comes to Call. About the time I finished up the third installment (eventually Duel with the Werefrog), I realized that I really liked Nathaniel, Deidre, Dex, and Sloppy Joe (who was originally named High Man until my sister pointed out the similarity between his name and a certain part of the female anatomy).

The stories needed a lot of polish from their original email serial form, but with a little elbow grease, Deidre’s world started to come to life (or afterlife). I loved writing the first six stories in this series. With each story, Deidre’s world got a little bigger and more complex. Over the course of the series, Drew has turned into a reoccurring character, as have Nathaniel’s bingo buddies.  I’m excited to introduce a very intriguing character – Hunter Gulliver Graves – in the novella that completes the first volume of this series. (Apprenticeship With A Vampire is now available!) I love all the silly and improbable situations Deidre finds herself in and all the jokes the ghosts play on her. However, I believe each story also contains a little bit of Deidre wisdom tucked beneath the top layer of humor. I hope readers get this and enjoy a story that can be both silly and a tiny bit serious at the same time.

The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, Volume One will launch on October 1st, so if you haven’t tried the series yet, get ready for this very non-Twilight vampire series.

Who Can’t Use More Grouchy Vampire In Their Life? J Bennett Publishes “Death in the Family”

March 13th, 2014 No comments

A New Short Story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

Post Update: The short story Death in the Family has been bundled into a two-part novella, When Vampires and Ninjas Collide, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com 

Nathaniel has been grumbling for some time that I haven’t been writing about all his thrilling adventures, prowling the night, sipping his prune juice, and driving his poor housekeeper, Deidre crazy (which is technically allowed in her employment contract, btw).

 

Well, here we go. I’m happy to announce that I’ve just unleashed…er, released a new hilarious short story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles. You can read all about Death in the Family below, but before you do, here’s a cool quickie announcement:

 

The Story Will Be Discounted To $0.99 On Amazon Until Friday, March 21st

 

That’s right, I want to reward Nathaniel’s most loyal fans with a price even that penny-pinching vampire couldn’t refuse. After the ten days are up, the story will go to its intended price of $1.99. Click the image above to immediately go to Amazon.

 

Okay, here’s the short story blurb. I think you’ll like it!

 

Some Family Feuds Last Beyond The Grave…

 

Life as a vampire’s housekeeper is rough. Try cleaning a haunted mansion when spider webs reconstitute every hour, or keeping a positive outlook when the ghosts put tarantulas in the morning coffee. Then there’s the boss, who gets a little savage when his prune juice runs out.

 

Deidre’s life is no walk in the park, but with the impending arrival of Nathaniel’s sister, things go from crazy…to crazy plus some extra deadly fun thrown on top.

 

Tiffany arrives in high fashion, amazing curves and sharp fangs on full display. Her posse includes a zombie husband who smells like the city dump is his bathtub and a chilling ghost. As Deidre struggles not to burn dinner, impress Drew (hunky wereferret with a capital H), and stay one step ahead of an insane ghost who delights in dropping chandeliers on heads, she discovers Tiffany has an ulterior and vengeful purpose for her visit.

 

Nathaniel has put on his very best cape just for this story. (He does love his capes!) Join him, Deidre, Drew, and a growing cast of colorful characters in this new and hilarious short story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series. Can Deidre stop the powerful, evil, not-even-fair-how-good-she-looks-in-skinny-jeans, Tiffany? Or will Nathaniel learn that death can’t solve all family disagreements? Find out!

 

Here’s what readers are saying about The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles Series:

 

>>> “A very funny short story that gives reading about vampires a delightful and refreshing twist.”

 

>>> “Although undead, Nathanial is a fresh take on the genre, and the Chronicles are quite enjoyable.”

 

>>> “I would recommend this short story to anybody who is tired of chick-lit vampires and appreciates a large amount of wry sarcasm.”

 

###

 

Don’t forget that Nathaniel has plenty of other adventures available. If you haven’t read about Deidre’s infamous job interview, Nathaniel’s not-so-nice vampire hunter visitor, or his duel with a werefrog, check out those stories in Employment Interview with a Vampire. This may just be my completely biased opinion, but I really think each story gets better and better.

Does Facebook Advertising Work For Authors?

October 15th, 2012 No comments

 The Epic Journey of $250 and a Grumpy Vampire

 

Nathaniel is not exactly a tech-savvy vampire. He still fervently listens to his gramophone, staunchly insists that the nineteenth amendment is just a trend, and believes the computer is a portal of damned souls.

Nathaniel

Despite his severe anachronistic nature, I’ve decided to launch Nathaniel to the Internet masses in a big way. And by “big way”, I mean a very small and limited-budget sort of way.

Background

At the beginning of this month, I launched the third short story in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series, which stars Nathaniel, his long-suffering housekeeper Deidre, and a host of other amusing characters dead and otherwise.

The series is – in my oh-so-humble opinion – pretty damn good (And Funny!), and I’d like more people to give it try. Not such an easy task as many fellow writers know all too well.

So how to make Nathaniel stand out?

I’ve made sure that he’s always in his best cape for each story, has got his suspenders in place, and that his cravat appropriately fluffed. I’ve even priced each of his stories at just $0.99 so the barrier to entry is as low as Amazon and Barnes & Noble will allow.

As the approach of Halloween grows nigh, I’ve realized the time has come to do something so big, so bold, and so brash with my short story series that even the dead will crack open an eye and take notice.

Unfortunately, my writing marketing budget isn’t exactly ready for big, bold, and brash, so what I’m going to do instead is drag Nathaniel’s coffin over to Facebook and see if anyone will say hello.

I’m writing this blog post publicly detailing my mini-marketing campaign, because I don’t think I’m the only one in this little boat called “Hey, Check Out My Writing. No, Seriously, It’s Good”.

So here’s what I’m going to do:

The Power of Free

The first big step I’m taking in this marketing campaign is to price the first short story in the series, Employment Interview With A Vampire, for FREE.

What’s better than FREE?  (Answer: lots of money, but FREE is still pretty awesome)

Employment Interview With A Vampire offers big laughs, not one iota of fright, and a very tragic lesson for Mormons that not every huge, creepy, spider web-infested house is ready to embrace The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . I know that readers are bombarded with choices and that they all already have a big list of favorite authors that they’re loyal to, but I’m hoping FREE is a big enough enticement to get some of them to give Nathaniel a chance to strut his cape and suspenders.

Unfortunately, FREE isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t allow authors to price their works for free unless they sign up for special programs that allows them to price their works for free for a very limited time in exchange for exclusively placing the work with Amazon or Barnes & Noble of a specific length of time (90 days for Amazon).

Since I don’t think it’s a good deal to get five days of FREE in exchange for publishing exclusively on Amazon for 90 days, I’m trying FREE a different way. Specifically, I went to an online publisher which lets its authors price their works however they want, including FREE.

Thanks Smashwords.

So now Employment Interview With A Vampire is FREE, but I still need to find a way to tell readers about it.

Nathaniel Takes On Facebook

In Nathaniel’s time, a dollar could go a pretty freaking long way. Not so much today. Can’t exactly buy a billboard or a national television campaign with a few nickels. Luckily for us non-wealthy persons (aka all writers everywhere), the Internet came along, and advertising became relatively cheap again.

 

In my case, I’m going to bet $250 on Facebook that I can get Nathaniel and Deidre some publicity. This isn’t chump change for me, so it’ll be interesting to see if I can accomplish two important goals:

  • Increase the following on my Facebook page (which currently stands at a paltry 54)
  • Convince people to visit Smashwords or my website to give my FREE Nathaniel story a try

Facebook gives advertisers a pretty big bang for their buck. Facebook users gleefully tell Facebook every single thing about themselves, including their hobbies, favorite movies, where all their tattoos are, etc…, and then Facebook gleefully takes all that information and hands it right over to advertisers who are pretty dang gleeful about it themselves. All of this data lets advertisers focus their campaigns to an extreme level so that they can advertise to those who have already self-selected themselves as the most likely customers.

For my campaign, I’ve developed three different Facebook ads that I’m going to show to two very specific audiences: readers who like humor, and readers who like vampires.

One of the coolest things about Facebook advertising is that I can get immediate feedback on the campaign every time I log into my account. That means that I can tell what’s working and what’s not and make changes in response to what’s actually happening on the ground.

The Campaign

Employment Interview With A Vampire is already FREE on Smashwords and on my website. The Facebook campaign launched on 10/14 and will run through Oct. 31st. I’m committed to recording the results on this blog so that other authors can learn from my experiment. Sometimes I feel like marketing for authors is one big crapshoot, especially for those of us on a tight budget. It helps when we share our experiences, even those that fail spectacularly.

 

If you want to know how it all turns out, come back to this blog for a visit in early November, and I’ll post everything, even if I don’t get a single download for my free short story or a single new Facebook “Like”. Also, feel free to share this and my follow-up post with your writing community and contacts so we can all learn from each other.

Let me know if you have any questions/suggestions about the Facebook campaign, and I’ll try to answer the best that I can. It’s been a bit of a struggle to try and figure out how to do everything. I think I’m starting to understand why Nathaniel is such a big fan of his gramophone and telegraph.

An Early Halloween Treat – New Short Story By J Bennett

October 7th, 2012 No comments

Nathaniel and Deidre are Back in Duel With The Werefrog

Blog Update: Duel with the Werefrog has been bundled into a three-part novella, Employment Interview with a Vampire, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

It’s all fun and games until someone starts a werefrog rampage

Now that we’ve officially entered the spookiest month of the year, I’m really excited to announce the launch of a new short story in my satirical vampire series, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles.

 

Duel With The Werefrog – Summary

When salacious 70-year-old gold digger Silvia starts batting her astigmatic eyes and flashing her pearly dentures at Nathanial over bingo, Deidre knows she needs to convince her smitten boss that Silvia is nothing but trouble.

 

When Nathaniel accidentally espies Silvia laying her charms on a neighboring obese werefrog named Henrick, Nathaniel vows vengeance. There’s only one way to uphold Silvia’s honor. Nathanial challenges the werefrog to a duel.

 

Join Deidre in another adventure as she burns dinner, ducks bullets and tries to protect her vampire boss’s undead heart even as her own might be in jeopardy courtesy of Henrick’s handsome nephew who has secrets of his own….

 

Another hilarious addition to The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series by J Bennett. (Approx 8,300 words)

 

Thanks for your support of the world’s grumpiest, most crotchety vampire!

Did Tim Burton Just Steal My Idea?

April 15th, 2012 No comments

As some of you may know, not know, or know and not really care all that much, I recently released a satirical short story called, “Employment Interview With A Vampire”, featuring a severely anachronistic vampire named Nathaniel who struggles to adapt to the current century.

Cover of J Bennett's short story - Employment Interview With A Vampire

A while ago, I went to see The Hunger Games in theaters. There I was, eagerly anticipating some delightful child-on-child violence when I was accosted by a preview for Dark Shadows, a new Tim Burton film featuring, you guessed it, an anachronistic vampire struggling to adapt.

Coincidence?

Check out the trailer and then come back.

The trailer features a scene where Burton’s anachronistic vampire, Barnabas (played by Johnny Depp) sees a television for the first time and exclaims “what sorcery is this?”

Compare that to a specific line in “Employment Interview With A Vampire”:

“I demand tea each noon when I arise,” Nathaniel says, “and I expect you to learn the magics of the television so that you can bespell the TiVo to show Law & Order at my whim.”

A little too similar if you ask me.

There are certainly some differences between my story and Mr. Burton’s upcoming movie. The main characters have different names and Dark Shadows takes place in the 1970s, but couldn’t these variances also be the small tweaks someone might make who is attempting to cover their trail? Like a schoolchild copying his best friend’s essay and changing a couple of words here and there so the teacher doesn’t notice.

Now, I can already hear the naysayers (possibly in the pay of Tim Burton) who might suggest that Tim Burton is not the villain but the victim. According to Wikipedia, that bastion of truth, filming for Dark Shadows, began in May, 2011, a full ten months before “Employment Interview With A Vampire” was published in March of this year.

 Could it be that I stole Tim Burton’s idea and not the other way around? All I can say is that anything can be bought, or actually freely changed when it comes to Wikipedia.

Of course, even with the similarities between my story and Dark Shadows, would Tim Burton, an incredibly successful producer, director and writer stoop so low as to steal a story idea from an unknown writer? The very idea seems ridiculous, but nevertheless, I did some digging into Burton’s past. Accompanied by a peppy montage melody, I typed away at my computer, pulled books off the shelf at the local library, looked through old newsreels, scribbled notes, rubbed my eyes, tapped my pen against my lip as I struggled to make connections and…finally, gaped in shock as I revealed Burton’s dark and dirty secret.

woman studying

Accurate depiction of me in the midst of a hardcore research montage

What I discovered was this: Three of Burton’s past blockbuster movies, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow were all direct rip offs of little known books. In all three cases, Burton didn’t even bother changing the name of the title or the names of any of the main characters.

Like me, I’m sure you’re incredibly disgusted by this scandalous revelation. I just can’t imagine for the life of me why the whistle hasn’t been blown on Burton until now. My only theory is that Hollywood protects its own. Also, I’m pretty sure Johnny Depp is in on the whole thing.

So, did Tim Burton steal my brilliant anachronistic vampire idea? Perhaps we’ll never know. All I can say is that given Burton’s seedy past, nothing would surprise me.

And Mr. Burton, if you’re reading this, don’t think you can shut me up. Sending Johnny Depp over with flowers in chocolates probably won’t change my mind about speaking out against you…though maybe you should send Johnny over anyway just in case. Make sure he doesn’t forget the chocolates.

P.S. For all of those interested, Tim Burton did take the idea for Dark Shadows from someone else…just not me. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on a gothic soap opera from the 1960’s also called Dark Shadows, which Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have mentioned being huge fans of. The film rights for the property were lawfully acquired by Warner Brothers after which Tim Burton was brought onto the project. The movie opens in theaters May 11th.