And That Will Be the Story of You and Me
Updated: Jun 19
The Young Blood Triology has a long history, much longer than most other books I've encountered, at least in terms of development from initial conception to finished product. Whenever I read or hear people saying something like, "I worked on this book for three years!" all I can think is, "That's cute." For me, it was almost 40 years.
It began in June 1983, about a month before my ninth birthday. I wish I could remember the exact date, and if I could ever find out what that was, I'd celebrate it as a personal holiday. I remember writing on my calendar in all caps the words "BEST DREAM" sometime in the middle of a week, but sadly, that calendar is long since lost. I didn't yet have a journal; that started in September, and I used my calendar as a sort of precursor to that, noting things that were important to me. The dream itself was the indirect result of some oral surgery I'd gotten the day before in which some upper teeth were removed, something to prepare me for getting braces later on. The absence of those left a somewhat jagged, slightly curved edge on the remaining, neighboring teeth, which I kept feeling with my tongue. The sensation, I decided, was what I imagined having a vampire's fangs would feel like. I had only a passing interest in vampires at that point in my life, not really into them any more than the other spooky, scary monsters that children are exposed to and entertained by. But that night, all of that changed.
Through some combination of the strange feeling in my mouth, my notion that it made me feel like a vampire, and maybe even the presence of residual anesthesia in my system from the surgery, I had a vivid dream in which my friends and I became vampires by drinking a special potion. There were other parts of the dream prior to that, including all of us running along a blacktop in some relay race. Afterwards, the potion was there, we drank it, and I reached up with my finger to feel for my right fang, letting out a small "Ow!" as I felt its sharpness. I woke up at that point, having performed the same action in real life.
The next day, I began writing my first book. I had written short stories prior to that, mostly derivative ones based on what I'd seen on TV or read on my own, but this was bigger than anything I'd ever done. In truth, The Vampires (and its sequels, with equally imaginative titles like The Vampires Are Back) wasn't that much better, not even a proper book. But for an eight-year-old, it felt pretty impressive. By 1987, I'd written a total of ten volumes, swapping out some of the characters as my real life friendships changed over time. My writing improved, helped by some great teachers I had along the way who encouraged me to keep going. Only one of them ever saw some of my original manuscripts, though she must not have been paying close enough attention to become concerned that I was actually writing about children going around murdering people. I didn't see it that way, either; it was just a good guys vs. bad guys tale, but twisted, with the protagonists being the vampires, the antagonists the helpless humans and other supernatural beings they encountered.
Once in my teenage years, I began revising these stories, first in minor ways and then doing full rewrites to try to make them better, more realistic. The ten short stories were condensed into four actual novels with new titles, the idea having always been to one day get these published. In my senior year of high school, having already read Dracula for the first time (of many) the year before, I read the first three volumes of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, which made me resolve to make my own books even deeper, more introspective, and adult. I was growing and maturing as a person and as a writer, and my stories were doing that with me.
Further improvements continued throughout my first couple of years of college. I let friends read some of my writing, and while it was complimented, in retrospect, I can safely say that it still wasn't all that good. Or rather, it was pretty good for an 18-year-old, but in the bigger picture, not so much. I still cringe when I read things of mine from back then, but I can also see that some of the ideas were good and just needed to be handled better. And I had no shortage of ideas: In addition to the four existing books, I'd been planning for there to be a fifth, one that pushed the action forward past 1987's events and truly examined the fallout from the vampires' actions.
But from 1994 onwards, things slowed down tremendously, at least as far as this project was concerned. Some of that was writer's block, but a lot of it was just life, growing up and learning how to deal with the rest of the world, the adult responsibilities and relationships. I would still get ideas for ways to improve upon my stories if I could ever get back to them, and I'd write these down but never actually sit down and write the damn books like I wanted to. That went on for a decade and a half, resulting in hundreds of pages of ideas, many of them contradictory, and not all of them good.
I found that I needed to strip things down to their core elements and start over from scratch, only retaining the best and most workable aspects of the story. This included a complete restructuring of everything, the basic ideas from those first four books forming Parts One through Three of a single volume, now called Young Blood, with Part Four being that elusive fifth book that, prior to this, had only ever existed in my head. Over time, this expanded, adding two new volumes to follow afterwards, making a trilogy.
There was a lot of "I think I'm just about ready to write this…" going on, and I wrote a few passages here and there over the years when they would come to me, mostly philosophical musings of the narrator or bits of dialogue between the main characters. I even wrote an entire chapter, a pivotal confrontation that would take place in what would eventually be Book Three. Things felt right, and real, and when I shared these excerpts with people, the feedback was positive. The moment I was finally ready to truly begin was when the very first line of Young Blood popped into my head the morning of October 7, 2009:
I made my first kill at the age of eight.
From that point on, I knew it was time to keep going. The first draft of Young Blood was completed in March 2012, with Books Two and Three following soon after, finishing in May 2015. I'd already decided by this point to self-publish; I knew that these books were too long and non-traditional for commercial publishing. And I sure as hell wasn't going to let some company tell me to change things, to stomp all over my life's work. This was my story.
For the next few years, there was the slow process of getting feedback from beta readers, refining things even further over the course of two more drafts. In early 2018, I decided to record everything as audiobooks. Having worked in radio in a previous career, I thought that would be easy, but it was anything but, for reasons I may get into in a future blog post. But I still enjoyed the experience, and the best thing about it was that it wound up doubling as the fourth and final draft, and it amazed me how many mistakes had crept through up until that point (including a cross-volume continuity error), slipping past me and the other readers. Recording wrapped up in 2020, with some subsequent tweaks here and there, plus finding someone to do the theme music, which was its own ordeal.
Finally, 2022 was when I started putting things out, well, once I figured out just how to format things for both print and ebook versions, then how to go about publishing. I owe a huge debt to the many YouTubers who put up extensive tutorials on all aspects of this, including the audiobook side of things. And while Book One officially launched in June, it's still been an ongoing process, figuring out what works and what doesn't, including marketing, one of my least favorite aspects of this whole process. But I don't have many regrets, if any. Even the mistakes made along the way were important lessons. Sometimes you have to do things wrong in order to learn how to do them right.