29 December 2011

This Bloody Sterile Promontory by Doyle, 2011

Filed under: Fiction, First Lines — ktismatics @ 10:19 am

Their giggles and the click of their delicate heels foreshadowed their arrival.

That’s the first sentence from daughter Kenzie’s third completed novel, which she wrote in its entirety in November as a participant in National Novel Writing Month. The title cites Hamlet’s soliloquy from Act 2 Scene 2, with a crucial word added to signal vampiric intent. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful and accomplished novel, excellent to the point where I’ve gone from pride in the kid’s achievement to admiration and even envy at the writing. Here’s a scene from the end of Chapter 1.

“Good evening again, Miss Elizabeth,” he bowed his graceful head toward Beth, “Miss Francisca.” He fixed her again with that gaze that was not intense but was somehow incredibly captivating.

He stood with them, and continued the conversation he had been having with Francisca in the other room. He was still overwhelmingly personable, and it seemed impossible that he had ever conversed with anyone who did not feel they had somehow improved as a person after talking to him. His languorous smiles were unrivaled by any expression either girl had ever seen, they decided separately.

“I believe I’ll take some air in the garden,” he announced suddenly. “The champagne, I’m afraid, is making my head spin.” Neither girl had seen him take any champagne, but they did not give the explanation a second thought. “Would either of you care to join me?”

“Oh, I shouldn’t,” said Beth, casually annoyed. “I just know Georgia will be looking for one of us soon.”

Francisca was not so concerned with Georgia, and replied, “Yes, I think a stroll would be wonderful.” Beth observed the way neither took their eyes off the other, and let them go, strangely pleased.

It was dark in the neatly kept garden, as it was illuminated only by the dazzling mansion. This too was beautiful and pristine, even in its difference from the party. Mr Fenmore and Francisca strolled between trees and flowering bushes, next to classical white benches and statues, still conversing. There was something so easy about the dialogue that passed between them, and Francisca felt that surely this was what she had always thought to be an overly romanticized notion, rather than something real. It occurred to her that there was no one in the world she trusted more in this moment than the refined young gentleman by her side. For this reason, it did not occur to her that it was anything but enjoyably ordinary when he placed his hand on her arm – which resulted in shivers coursing through her – and lightly directed her toward one of the little benches that was dark and far away from the mansion.

“I apologize if I seem forward,” he said, unexpectedly nervous, “but I think I ought to tell you. No, I owe it to you to tell you.” He paused, and she leaned toward him, anxious and anticipatory. He continued.

“I would intend to pursue you. As would a suitor. I would not, of course, be so direct about it…it would be terribly uninteresting if I were to remove all the thrill of uncertainty so soon.”

Her heart pounded loudly, and opened her lips as if to speak as her brow contorted to express confusion and disappointment. It took a moment for her to finally vocalize the word, “ ‘would?’”

Mr Fenmore looked away, clearly frustrated with himself. “I am telling you this because I wanted to assure you of my feelings for you established tonight. But I also feel that it would be improper for me to hint at such sentiments while being unable to pursue them. It would be cruel to you, would it not?”

“But this is cruel to me! Why can you not?”

He stared into the black hedge across the path from them for an enduring few seconds. His face moved slightly a time or two before settling into an expression of determination. With a for-him unusual sentimentality in his eyes and a soft smile upon his finally fully open lips, he breathed, “You smell of tangerines.”

The urges to lean forward to him and recoil in horror kept her immobilized, eyes wide.

“O-open your mouth,” she stammered quietly. He fixed her again with that inescapable gaze for a moment before obliging. She stared.

“I did not know – I did not know that you – that what you are even existed.” It was not an exclamation, merely a statement.

He slowly closed his mouth again, still watching her intently. “This is why I needed to warn you. There would be – well, it’s terribly implausible, and far too early, of course…but…”

She raised her eyes again to meet his. “What do you mean?”

He hesitated. “I cannot lead you on, as we are so different. But surely you feel what I do?”

She nodded. “Yes…yes, I do.”

He sighed and closed his eyes briefly in relief. “We would have to be more similar, if we were to attempt a romance. I cannot return to what I was – what you are – but there is a way. You understand.”

She could hardly breathe.

“It does not hurt,” he was no longer looking at her, but staring through the hedge, into the past. “It is, in fact, quite surprisingly enjoyable. Both the initiation and the experience.” He looked back at her suddenly. “Shall I continue?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“The only unpleasantness is at the split second at the start, which feels only like a pin prick to the throat. But then it becomes otherworldly, pure perfection. Make no mistake, it requires that you be drained almost completely, and you will be weak. But then…then you replenish yourself by drinking from me. And then, my dear,” he leaned forward, “we have an eternity of beauty.”

She gravitated forward until they could feel the energy from each other’s skin.

“Dare I ask?” he murmured.

“Dare…and I will say yes.”

“Will you join me, my Francisca?”

She managed only to exhale a confirmation before he was at her throat. He kissed it lightly twice, one hand supporting the back of her head, before piercing the skin with the sharp points he had concealed all night. She made a small sound of surprise, but immediately relaxed, eyes closing, and placed a hand to his hair. Her strength left her, but it was marvelous, just as he had said. Eventually he was all that kept her from collapsing, but she was light-headedly ecstatic to be in his power like this.

Finally, when her heart had slowed almost to a stop, he pulled away and looked back at her. He rose and lay her down on the bench delicately, crouching beside her as she stared back at him, smiling with her eyes unfocused.

“My dear, you could not have made me happier,” he told her, but his voice was different now than it bad been moments before. He ran a finger lightly over her forehead to brush a lock of orange hair out of her face before standing and turning away. She wanted to object, but her mind was blurry and her face numbing.

His form receded cheerfully, smirking slightly, into the darkness. Her field of vision restricted gradually, heart growing fainter, until blackness prevailed and the weak fluttering stopped.

He wiped a stray drop of blood from his cheek disdainfully.


  1. ‘Enter freely and of your own free will’. She has got that right, indeed the whole passage has a nice elegent restrained feel to it to balance the creature’s vile thirst. “I do not sup” it says in the manual and she alludes to that also. Excellent.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 29 December 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  2. The vignette gives us a surprise twist at the end too, without breaking the mood of the scene. And there has been no editing done: it’s a first draft, written at the pace of 3,000 words a day over the course of 25 consecutive days while going to college full-time. Her method is to envision the characters and story and specific scenes in considerable detail over a period of months, so that when November 1st clicks over on the calendar she’s ready to roll at full speed.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 December 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  3. That seems like altogether a better plan, expanded to full life scale, than post grad writing courses, pace Prof. Mickey. Flair and talent must never be restricted by what constitutes the current template of the good story or novel.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 30 December 2011 @ 6:56 am

  4. I agree, but who is Prof. Mickey and what does he advocate?


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 December 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  5. prof mickey runs the poetry section of the MA in writing.  I mentioned him re Colm Toibin’s reputation. He’s a published poet himself.  I’m not sure what he thinks of these courses, it would be tactless to inquire.  If you’re a writer you need a gig.  The only source of his poetry I can find is at


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 30 December 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  6. The poems sound good, and I would presume that each piece is carefully crafted and finely tooled, but then Prof. Mickey’s improvised chatter between poems sounds good as well, similar in tone and sensibility to the poems themselves. This I think is a good thing, though I can imagine the poet deeming my compliment a dismissal of his artistry.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 December 2011 @ 8:45 pm

  7. Mickey does a lot of these readings so his interstitial rap is part of the performance. That was from ’91 which indicates how webshy he is. He likes invisibility amongst the people who set his antennae fibrillating. His work is just the snail trail from being a poet.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 31 December 2011 @ 2:14 am

  8. Visual aesthetics are in play in the book. Another excerpt from Chapter 1 — at the party, the vampiric dandy speaks:

    ” – merely describing most people’s unfortunate lack of appreciation for some of the less saccharine elements of the arts. It is a terrible shame when people refuse to admire a painting of a delicate youth because he seems unhappy, and would rather waste their time with tedious scenes of wholesome peasants. I, for one, would much prefer to see Mr Caldwell,” he nodded toward the man to his right, “or Miss Francisca immortalized in any state of disarray than to see someone all together too healthy and – dare I say – earthly presenting a decidedly one-dimensional vision of contentment. But perhaps I am being too cruel to my agreeable companions,” he apologized, though no one, least of all the two people he had mentioned by name, looked at all scandalized.

    …and in Chapter 3:

    “Lucia thought with some amusement that Soren’s coloration was actually quite similar to that of the city, with his nearly white skin and hair, pale blue-grey eyes, and, at the moment, light grey overcoat. Viktor too resembled the city, but in more dusty browns, perhaps, than Soren the idealist. She smirked into her shoulder when she considered her own color scheme: the black hair, black lace, darker greys, and especially the deep green jewel at her throat. So very unnatural.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 January 2012 @ 2:13 pm

  9. I should perhaps note that the three color schemes from the last excerpt refer not to vampires but to mortals, although Lucia’s attraction to the dark and unnatural would seem to position her for future transformation. Here’s the narrator peering into Lucia’s mind at the beginning of Chapter 5:

    She immersed herself completely in books when she read, music when she listened, art when she looked, and others’ anecdotes and problems when she conversed. She was told by nearly everyone with whom she spoke that her attentiveness was appreciated, and she was glad, but could not help but feel that she was deceiving them, since she only thought about them to avoid thinking about herself.

    In reading a passage like this, written by someone I know, I’m tempted to infer autobiographical revelation. I’ll resist the urge to ask the author, in part because I suspect that it’s not true in this case. Even if it was, there remain the matters of self-awareness and verbal externalization and aesthetic sensibility if one’s subjective reflexivity is to be transformed into fictional text. “So very unnatural.”


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 January 2012 @ 8:56 am

  10. “So very unnatural” to transform nonfictional characters into fictional ones. Their own subjectivity is objectified by the writer, the text, and the reader, in a sense killing them. But these dead subjects are given new life as fictional characters; they are made immortal, persisting forever on the page. They return eternally whenever someone reads them, and so from the page the fictional characters lure the unsuspecting mortals into their fictional world, drawing their lifeblood from the reader’s attention and desire. Fictional characters are undead, and the fiction writer is the vampire who makes them. And of course the author achieves immortal-undead status in the process, at the expense of his/her characters and readers.


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 January 2012 @ 6:02 am

  11. An anonymous commenter on CPC put up the hilarious Puttin’ on the Ritz clip from Young Frankenstein. The Doctor’s created character performs entertainingly, if a bit unnaturally, to the delight of the audience. But the illusion of fictional reality is fragile: the audience can turn against the creator and his creation in a heartbeat. Audience response transforms the author’s creation into a monster and the author into a flop.


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 January 2012 @ 6:33 am

  12. indoor jungle gym

    This Bloody Sterile Promontory by Doyle, 2011 | Ktismatics


    Trackback by indoor jungle gym — 22 June 2019 @ 9:01 pm

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