William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Amish Romance Meets Teen Vampire Fiction

In a Books-A-Million in Lakeland, Florida I happened down an entire row, yards and yards long, of Amish Romances, a genre I had heard of but scarcely believed existed. Each book featured a bonneted woman staring pensively into the middle distance, her face hovering over a farm on which a horse and buggy are seen driving away.

But to get to that row, I had to pass through an aisle of Teen Fiction—hundreds more titles, each evidently staring a vampire-as-superhero-slash-seducer, Twilight style.

As I thought about the popularity of all these books, it hit me: a new genre, which must be a publishing sensation.

Vampire Amish!

And so I preview for you today, the opening scene of my forthcoming novel: Lancaster County’s Dark Secret.

———————————–

Jacob Burkholder glanced at his schedule and double-checked the room number for his first period Chemistry class. The teacher was Mister Harding, who, rumor had it, was Harrisburg High’s easiest ‘A’.

Jacob needed a soft class because this was his first semester in an actual, public school. One that was more than just a single room and shared by children of all ages, that is.

This was because young Jacob was Amish. He was sixteen, out living among the English on his rumspringa, the time of youthful rebellion where Amish young men and women decide if they want to remain part of the fold or forever leave it behind. Whether they would accept the Baptism or renounce the Order and be forever sworn to secrecy.

Jacob knew he would soon have to make the choice. He was thinking about this intently, so distracted that he walked right past his room and into an open locker door.

“Hey, look out, freak” said a burly jock named John Prangle, pushing Jacob against the wall. Prangle’s three friends laughed. “Learn to watch where you’re going. You trip on these clothes of yours?” He grabbed Jacob’s shirt. “What’d you do, make this yourself? Stylish.” He laughed and the four went into the room.

Steady, Jacob thought to himself. Let it go. He knew even though he had not yet had the Baptism that a flick of his wrist would have sent Prangle sprawling to the floor. But then they would know. The Order would know. They would somehow find out. They always did.

He let the moment pass, but in his anger he had unknowingly ground the pencil he was holding to dust. He held up his hand and let the yellow sand slowly pour from his fist. He allowed himself a slight smile.

It was then he heard what no other ear could have. A small gasp, filled with longing.

It came from Isabella Springer, who stood in the doorway of the biology class. She had watched the entire incident without fully comprehending what had happened. She saw Jacob sprinkle the pencil dust, but that was not, as Jacob mistakenly thought, what caused her strangled cry.

It was seeing Jacob for the first time that forced her sharp breath. She had never seen anybody who had looked like him before. He is beautiful, were her first thoughts. It was true she had known other boys who were handsome, but never before had she beheld such raw, unadorned physical perfection. His features glowed. It caused her physical pain to look at him; yet she couldn’t remove her eyes. He is too beautiful.

Jacob returned her stare when the attendance bell rang. Several late-coming students pushed past them into the room. Jacob followed, avoiding Isabella’s gaze as he did, not trusting himself to talk. Isabella’s throaty, soft moan was still echoing in his head.

What Jacob didn’t know was that Isabella was also new to Harrisburg High. This was her first semester since she had moved from a suburb of Philadelphia. It was just six months ago that her parents died in a car accident in upstate Pennsylvania. The police said her dad had been drinking, but she didn’t believe it. She never saw her father have more than one beer a night. Isabella lived with her maternal grandmother now.

In the classroom, while sneaking a look at Jacob, Isabella accidentally pushed her folder into a glass beaker, which crashed to the floor and shattered. Mr Harding hushed some boys who started laughing, and then went to the closet to fetch a broom.

Isabella leaned down and began pushing the broken glass into a pile with the edge of her folder. As she did so, a shard caught her on the finger, cutting it. “Oh!” she said.

Jacob’s attention immediately riveted on Isabella. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, barely suppressing a moan. He was starting to feel his face turn hot and red. He couldn’t take much more before…

He stood up and bolted from the room, crashing into Mr Harding who was returning with the broom.

“Ha! Look at the pansy run,” said John, “Scared of the sight of blood!” He and his crew laughed.

Isabella’s eyes followed Jacob out. After he was gone, she held up her finger, which was still bleeding slightly. “He’s not frightened.”

Somehow she knew.

———————————–

If you want more, have a publisher contact me. This story simple cannot lose.

It’s national Pass On The Briggs month here at wmbriggs.com. If your interpretation of this phrase is on the generous side, email a link of this page to a friend who hasn’t been here before. The best kind of friend is one who has need of a statistician and who has a lot of money.

15 Comments

  1. Nope. Nice start, but you need to add a few more thematic items, such as: space aliens, global warming, spies and counter-spies, beach volleyball, iron chef recipes, bodice ripping, 3-D effects, NASCAR, Victorian sexual repression, and the incipient insanity of mathematicians. Then you might have something. Also, don’t bother to write a complete novel — just a screenplay will suffice.

  2. Hey, if this kind of thing appeals, then what about Dave Hitt’s free podiobook: ‘Blood Witness’. From the blurb:

    ‘Catherine is a 1500 year old vampire. (She’s really 1800 but she lies about her age.) Chris is a high school senior. She is a blood sucking creature of the night. He is a Jehovah’s Witness. Together they uncover a danger that threatens the existence of every vampire, and the only solution is to break the One Law that binds them all.’

    Dave is a former JW and has a really nice podcast manner in his Quick Hitts podcast. Link:

    http://bloodwitness.com/

  3. Also, add a few zombies — but with a new twist: Zombies with rudimentary, or slightly more, awareness so they can get along & talk with people and control their cannabalistic cravings for living flesh much like vampires can with blood (at least to some point). Such a creature would fit right in any Amish neighborhood & local high school.

    And when the vampire happens, unwittingly, to bite a zombie & sucks up the congealed goo that used to be flowing blood…goo that clogs the tubes in the vampire’s fangs making further ingestion via that route impossible until the goo is cleared (assuming it doesn’t solidify into some sort of cement)….well, you can just imagine the possibilites all this could lead to….

  4. Sigh, sadly when I go in to browse the science fiction and fantasy books, it seems that 3/4′s of them are vampire stories which has gotten quite trite and tremendously boring to me. Hope this current trend will end and authors will start coming up with something original.

  5. Lakeland? What were you doing down in my neck of the woods?

  6. Briggs

    29 March 2010 at 9:07 am

    Hilfy,

    Tigers! A week’s worth of Spring Training. My parents have a place there.

    Ken,

    What do you think happened to Isabella’s parents?

  7. RE: “What do you think happened to Isabella’s parents?”

    RESPONSE: Beats me.

    If I were writing a book I’d follow Steven King’s approach which, based on my recollection from hearing his audio book, is something like make it up as you go along & decide when you get there (don’t waste time, or at least very little at most, with a plot…as I recall). Mark Twain (S. Clemens) said something similar regarding how he came up with Mark Twain & Huckleberry Finn that went something along the lines of, ‘when you turn a couple of free-spirited boys loose in the pages there’s no telling what kind of adventures they’ll have.’

    Twain also noted that the best time to start writing something was when one had finished writing it, at that point the ideas & thoughts were clear & it was thus a good starting point.

    S. King also, now that I happen to recall it, disagreed completely with the pervasive high school advice to ‘write about what you know,’ observing that if one wanted to write about a killer that disposed of his (or her) victims with a wood chipper this was not helpful.

    Which gets us back to Isabella’s parents…perhaps there’s an Amish wood chipper in their past and/or future…finagling a wood chipper into an Amish country scene (with thier aversion to power tools, etc.) would be a real coup. Maybe just casually aim for this target, whatever it is, and you’ll really be onto something.

  8. Briggs

    29 March 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Ken,

    Well, it’s zombies all the way for Isabella’s folks. Amish slave zombies to be precise. I would have gone with werewolves, but they’re so 2009.

  9. Intercourse, Pennsylvania

  10. Doug: Sigh, I knew that would come up, so in the spirit of this post:

    Remember to get to Intercourse you first have to go to Mt. Joy and of course after Intercourse you reach Paradise.

    Briggs: When did you visit my High School? You didn’t need to change the name to Harrisburg (which isn’t in Lancaster County or that close) to protect the innocent, since we farmboys and girls learned the birds and bees at an early age. Slightly Proud graduate of Octorara Area High School (which sits near the Lancaster/Chester county lines and in the middle of a bunch of Amish farms).

  11. RE: Well, it’s zombies all the way for Isabella’s folks. Amish slave zombies to be precise. I would have gone with werewolves, but they’re so 2009.

    COMMENT: No doubt, werewolves ARE so passe’ — and one doesn’t want to overburden the story with too many species…

    Zombies definately fit well for Isabella’s antecedents — especially with their thigh goo-blood they’d be immune to the physical effects of getting bit while still being susceptible to the hypnotic charm a vampire can exude. The last lines, where Isabella’s finger bled “slightly” could indicate she’s a zombie too, a human/zombie hybrid of some sort, or entirely human. The story, thus far, could accommodate any of that or related variations. Best to keep us guessing & keep making it up as you go along.

    According to the Zombie Survival Guide zombies result from some virus. Ditto for vampires (per the old Dark Shadows TV series– remember Barnabas Collins & the Doctor who saved him, eventually, via blood transfusion). So there’s all kinds of possibilities for viral mutations & a smorgasboard of resulting effects paralleling China’s pigs & chickens causing annual influenza outbreaks. The older folks who’ve been around for some time might have different traits, from different viral strains, than the young-uns. This could be fodder for the sequels to come…or…just a clever way to cover seemingly logical fallacies or inconsistencies in the story.

  12. That remark, above, was supposed to be “thiCK goo blood” not “thigh goo blood.”

    Wasn’t penecillian discovered like that bit of writing error above…some contamination landed, like a misplaced keystroke, in a petri dish that was left out and presto, anti-biotics!

    But, with a babe like Isabella in the story, “thigh goo blood” might just be the ticket to some good bit of storytelling!

  13. Unless you get lost, in which case you find yourself in Blue Ball.

  14. Obviously Doug has spent alot of time in……. the Lancaster County area to know that one to go along with the others, however always remember Doug that Bird in Hand is the way to get out of Blue Ball.

  15. RE: Lakeland
    At least it’s warmed up a bit down here. Boy, what a cold winter. Just make sure and skip the Steak and Shake on 33, they employ surly waitresses.

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