Originally this next entry was going to be about Game of Thrones, the differences between the book and the television show, and how much of a bamf Catelyn Tully Stark is for mother’s day, but eyeballing the promos for episode 5, I’d like to wait. I figured, since this blog is in equal parts about my love of reading and writing as it is about more visual (and visible) forms of nerdery, it would be a good time to talk about Talitha Cumi. Yes, this entry is the Lisa Simpson (“Springfield’s answer to a question nobody asked!”) of blog entries.
Talitha Cumi is my first novel, about a vampire who is alive during the time of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and Judea. Though I’d started a number of novels before, about a super prepared couple facing down a zombie apocalypse and about an infestation of angels who destroy their earth with the single-minded devotion to an absent God, this was the one that went the distance. Aside from the glib answer of cashing in on a current trend in novels, one that will no doubt be long buried (get it, har har), Talitha Cumi sparked out of two things:
1) my biblical studies degree. During my brief stint as an amateur theologian, I did a handful of exegeses on various Old and New Testament texts and I realized that the Gospel of Mark was my favourite: short but dense, like a good shortbread cookie made with real butter. One passage particularly stands out, because it’s so coy and such a puzzle. During the passion of Jesus, where he is arrested in the garden, the narrator relates that one of Jesus’ disciples is caught by the soldiers but tears away, leaving his robe behind in the hands of the bemused guard and scarpering off naked. This man is never mentioned before, nor after this incident. First of all, why didn’t anyone tell me before the Bible is this hilarious? Secondly, this incident makes for a very good place for an original character to be born. And thus, Nikos, vampire disciple, fleeing before dawn comes.
|In addition to crafting a bitching drink for a summer day, Bellini did some painting on the side.|
2) Buffy the Vampire Slayer: to be fair, I have only seen a handful of BtVS episodes. Angry nerds and Whedonites, line up to the left please. So all I know about this was relayed to me by a friend, who insisted that at one point, Spike jokes about this very thing:
If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there it would’ve been like Woodstock. I was at Woodstock. I fed off a flower person and I spent six hours watching my hand move.
Oh Spike, of course no vampires were there for the crucifixion. It was daylight, you silly vampire. But the solar eclipse that happened offered some interesting possibilities, so off I went.
Talitha Cumi follows a bored young (relatively speaking) vampire named Nikos who is traveling through Galilee from parts unknown. While passing the evening with some Roman soldiers, he encounters two young women named Martha and Mary, traveling with a young Jewish teacher and a number of men and women. He doesn’t think much of it until he runs into them again and again.
Jesus’ band has ever been a group of outcasts, women, widows and lepers. Why not a vampire? Nikos has no interest in joining the charismatic young teacher, content to stay one or two steps ahead of his murderous maker until circumstances force him to meet up with Jesus. And once there, he finds he doesn’t want to leave Jesus’ side – or at the very least, Martha’s.
For something that started as a joke, writing Talitha Cumi has been an exercise in discipline and exploring the boundaries of my own studies and faith. I was surprised and pleased to find that the practice of imagining the minute details of a scriptural passage was a form of monastic prayer. And indeed, very surprised when the sample passage given to me to practice with was the passage from John where Martha admonishes Jesus for lingering too long and allowing her brother Lazarus to die.
It was interesting too, to imagine the groups and people that surrounded Jesus. We know of the usual suspects: Simon Peter and Andrew; James and John, the “sons of Thunder;” Judas, of course; to a lesser extent little John or the one whom Jesus loved and ‘doubting Thomas’. Also, though, where people who knew Jesus well enough to consider themselves his disciples – Joseph of Arimethea, who gave up his costly tomb; Nicodemus the Pharisee, who could only visit Jesus under cover of darkness (hmm); Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus over whose body Jesus wept; Joanna and Mary Magdalene, women cursed with demons whom Jesus cured. Even in a story about outcasts, there are those still more outcast than the outcasts. I found in storytelling, I was gravitating towards telling their stories, and thus Nikos gravitated towards them too.
I’m about 60% of the way complete with my first draft. Not as far as I’d like, and yet farther than I’ve ever dreamed. Though I’d love dearly for this story to be as far reaching as possible via publication, because I do think it’s a good story, fun, kind of painful and worthy of being read, just to complete it would be my dearest wish.
I’m pretty open about discussing plot, character studies, ideas, etc. because I mean, I can’t really spoil a lot of the big ticket items (spoiler alert: jesus is alive trololol) so if there’s anything you’d like to know, ask in the comments.