Happy 5th Bookversary to my novella The Recruit, which was my first foray into writing a paranormal story. I’d taken the plunge away from strictly contemporary a few months earlier with my light fantasy novelette, The Contingency Plan, but this was the first paranormal.
Darn…now that I think about it, I suppose my short story, Moving On (included in Snapshots), has a ghost in it, so perhaps not technically the first, but it still feels like it is.
Anyway, The Recruit is about a vampire faction. Although I’d read/watched a few vampire books/movies, it’s not my usual go-to. I’ve still never read/watched many of the popular ones, and don’t necessarily want to.
But I’ve read/watched enough (plus I don’t live under a rock), so I had a general feel for most of the “rules,” but I decided to make up my own since it’s not exactly like those rules are set in reality, and I did know that they varied a bit from one story universe to another, so why not make up my own universe to fit the story I wanted to tell? I figured the big two that basically define what a vampire is (immortal/drinks blood) had to be part of it, but anything else was optional.
The Recruit reads much like a contemporary story in that it’s set in an unnamed large city in an otherwise “real” world that happens to have vampires that nobody outside of them knows exist. My vamps integrate as much as possible into society. They’re immortal, although they can be killed. The older they get, the stronger their self-healing abilities and ultra-sensitive senses (hearing, scent) get. Their eyesight is corrected upon turning, but doesn’t continue beyond that.
Also, they do need to drink blood to survive and can’t consume regular food anymore. The story addresses how they manage to get that blood without harming people, and how they are able to slide under the radar of modern society as immortals.
That’s the bulk of what’s different about them. Lore is explained away as assumptions made back in the old days:
“Tilting his head to the side, Albert raised a single eyebrow as he continued to gaze at Phillip. “Not the usual reaction. Intriguing, though. You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Please,” Phillip scoffed and gestured toward the bright sun overhead.
“Ah. I see. I haven’t burst into flames. You’ll find there are many so-called ‘facts’ of the lore that are pure myth. This one came about, I suppose, because often times in the past we had no choice but to feed on living people. We were fugitives slinking about under cover of darkness, so the belief that we couldn’t come out during the light of day spread.”
Phillip stilled. Albert was really going to pursue this story?”
“This is…” Phillip blinked. Everything Albert was saying seemed contrary to every story he’d ever read, or movie or television show he’d ever watched about vampires. “This is unreal. I can’t get visions of ‘hunters’ chasing after vampires with wooden stakes out of my mind, but you seem so…normal.” Nice, even.
Albert shrugged as if they were two friends talking about last night’s baseball game. “The wooden-stake-to-the-heart myth came about because it does kill us, and wooden stakes were what was readily available when that particular belief started. But in fact, a metal stake will work just as well. Or a bullet, or a knife. Two-thousand-year-old vampires are rare. Eventually something happens, either accidental or otherwise. Especially in the old days.”
As when I first wrote The Contingency Plan intending it as a standalone, low-drama, meet-cute, but it later turned into a rollercoaster of kidnapping and amnesia-filled drama in the fuller Plans Trilogy, the same thing happened with The Recruit. It was meant as a novella with a little bit of drama that was overcome without too much trouble. But it stuck with me (I really liked the world I’d built), and eventually I decided that drama wasn’t as resolved as they’d thought it was, and it comes back to bite them in the bums in The Choice.
Will The Choice be the end of the series? I don’t think so. I’ve been brewing up an idea for The Journey for years now (the gist of that story is hinted at in The Choice), but it’s looking more and more like it might be the same universe, with glimpses of Albert and Phillip/Neil, but would feature new main characters. We’ll see.
Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.
Phillip Brewer has weeks to live—if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?
When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?