Monday, August 25, 2014


138,000 words
YA Supernatural Hotel Management
This morning at 5:45 a.m., a man staggers in through the automatic, smoked-glass doors. I look up from the months-old “Scientific American” I’m reading to kill the last hours of my shift and note that he looks pale, sullen, and haggard. I slide the magazine under the counter and take a better look at my customer as he staggers toward the desk. He looks old and yet preserved, sort of handsome but also kind of wrinkled. Well groomed too, with not a hair out of place, and well dressed but not, to be honest, snappily dressed: a gray suit with a dull blue tie. It’s the kind of outfit a regional salesman would wear. Seriously, you would not pick this guy out in a crowd. You’d just guess he’d been driving all night from one sales meeting to the next.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. It’s not drunk.

Yep. Definitely looks like one of ours.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Have you got a room, mish?” our man slurs and puts his hands on the rim of the counter to steady himself. His very neat, clean fingernails point towards me as he grips. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s part of the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing so I have to give him the once over. Random drunks can be a problem for us; they don’t always see our usual discouragements.

 “What are you looking for exactly, sir?” I prompt.

He has to say it or he can’t come in.

There’s a long anxious pause. My prospective guest is now gripping the countertop so tightly that his nail beds are turning whitish gray where the pink flesh should show through.

“Rest and feed,” the man answers, fishing the words out of some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them heavily out on the counter. This is the good answer; it’s the other part of the code, the part he missed originally. I usually prefer to hear “rest and feed” before I see the two knocks. Doing it backwards is bad sign. It means he’s starving.

It means he’s desperate.

Keeping a careful eye on my guest, I check the books on our availability, tapping at the keys on the computer. I’m pretty sure he’s okay, but I still have to check. “Have you stayed with us before, sir?” I ask, making the effort to look up and smile.

“Twice,” he grunts and his whole upper body jerks to one side.

“Under which name?”


I type that into the program. Now comes the fiddly work. We keep records, but we change all the names every few weeks. To get back to this man’s original records, I have to decode and recode several times, reloading older decoder sub-routines. Nothing’s fancy in our system but the processing takes time. I tab through various sub-programs in our tracking system and realize that it’s been so long since Mr. Gleeson stayed with us that it’s going to be a long search. All the while, as the computer chugs along and I type in passwords to unlock older versions of the books, our man’s getting more shivery and ashy looking. I reach down, as subtly as I can, and take the safety off on my taser. There’s a Glock mounted under the desk too, but it doesn’t do to shoot a guest. As Dad says, “Thieves can take a bullet, guests not.”

I’m not that good with the handguns anyway. Rifle suits me better.

“Could you possibly tell me when it was that you were last with us?” I ask gently. Even if all the power is on my side right now, I still need to be polite. It will make the process faster if he can remember and that’ll make us both happy. Mr. Gleeson makes a guess for me. I use it to reference back and it still takes me seven more minutes to finally find him. He’s suffering all the while, trembling more obviously as he leans on the counter for support. He isn’t being pushy or rude, it’s just that the clock’s ticking toward dawn and he’s clearly starving. God knows how far he’s had to drive and where he’s been hiding during daylight hours. Vampires can go a fair time without blood, but the sun is toxic. Forget the other stuff too: the fangs, the thing with mirrors, the flying, the mind control, garlic, crosses. That’s all embroidery and myth. All that’s real is hunger and burning and living a long, long time. Those, and an aversion to wood in the heart.


Mr. Gleeson’s record finally comes up. “I have you,” I tell him sharply and he relaxes, loosening his grip on the counter. I relax a little too. “I’ve got a room on the dark side of B building, north facing, bottom floor, will that be acceptable?” We’re not full at the moment so I’ve given him a free upgrade. It’s okay, once the sun’s up we won’t get any more of his kind. The man nods, a drunken head bob. Like I said, a hungry bloodsucker looks exactly like a drunk in most lights, although what they’re suffering actually closer to oxygen deprivation.

“Will you want a meal now or later?” I ask delicately.

It’s no great surprise when he answers, “Now please,” and shudders with expectation at the thought of feeding. Now I’m sure he’s not drunk. In vamp terms he’s “light”, meaning starving. I need be wary of him in this condition; sometimes they’ll lash out with the last of their reserves. Sensing that I might need help, I ring the bell for Chuck and, while we wait, I give J.J. a call.

“Goddamn Jesus!” he answers the phone directly out of sleep. He says it loud enough that I’m pretty sure Mr. Gleeson could hear him too, the lord’s name in vain all clipped and crackling through the line. I make an apologetic face at Mr. Gleeson. People don’t think vamps have faith, but all the monsters I know are simply humans with a condition. There are as many believers among the Other as there are among the normal human population. That’s the thing about Others: humanity’s intact, it’s just the needs and capacities that have been altered.

“Delivery in 211B,” I tell J.J. “The works.”

“Goddamn,” J.J. repeats at lower volume before hanging up on me.

I nod reassuringly at our guest, who tries to smile but ends up twitching. If he had enough moisture in his body he’d be sweating now, but he’s just getting more pinched looking. It’s still amazing to me how much a vampire body can shut down as it starves. They sort of shrink into themselves and tighten as they get to the end of their internal supplies, like mummies unwrapped.

Chuck arrives with the brass luggage cart, a thing of beauty my dad bought third hand from the liquidation of some deluxe Kansas City hotel and had brought west by a guest with a pickup truck. We got a huge back-up supply of linens in that sale as well. Economic downturns can be good for small businesses if your clientele is specialized enough. Money always trickles in for us and we’ve been refurbishing with the good stuff from all the fancy places that have closed.

“Can I get your bags, sir?” Chuck intones greasily.

And the man collapses onto the cart.


  1. It "doesn't do to shoot a guest"...
    Love that line, and love this intriguing start to the book. Makes me want to know what's going to happen next so I think we have a winner here. Can't wait to see it in print! On the down side... Don't shoot the guests, sure, but perhaps the author could take a couple of pot shots at the overkill of adjectives, esp. in the opening description of Gleeson. They tend to bog down the action. Did i say overkill? No wait, ignore that. Vamps probably love overkill. Or not?

  2. I love this one! The blase, almost bored tone of the receptionist makes me want to read more of what her everyday life is like when it's commonplace for starving vampires to stumble in. And I disagree with NEEDSer above: I don't think the adjectives are overdone. They help me visualize the scene.

  3. Love it. Can't wait to see what the guy gets for room service...

  4. What a cool twist on vampires! It has a unique voice, and I enjoyed reading. I think this scene really gets going after the first page, and I wonder if the first paragraph could be trimmed just a bit to get us there faster. Best of luck to you!

  5. Cool concept! I liked the details you wove into the story, and the guy collapsing at the end of the excerpt was a great place to end. I agree that the opening description of the guy is a little overdone, but only in the sense that I wanted to get to the story faster and I felt like that first paragraph was prolonging it.

    Good luck!

  6. I really like this concept, and the voice! You've done a great job giving us the setting and details of this world without a huge info dump.

    I also thought there was a bit too much description right at the beginning. This may just be me, but I got the impression the narrator was older (an adult rather than a teen) at first. I think it was the way Mr. Gleeson is described -- the phrase "note that" seemed older than a teen, and deciding he looks like a "regional salesman" rather than just a salesman felt like something an older character would distinguish. It could also have been the "Scientific American" magazine -- a great detail, but I don't know many teens who read that, and the voice in the rest of the piece didn't strike me as the type of teen who would. But again, that could just be me.

    Overall, I love the concept, and I'd definitely read on. Good luck!

  7. I really enjoyed this too. A vampire who more resembles a homeless person than a heartthrob or a genteel creature of the night is a welcome change!

  8. The premise is amazing, probably my favorite of the entries I've read so far! (Though, I'm probably biased. My piece--NOBLE VIRTUES--is vampires, too ^_^) Just from this little bit, I would definitely read on. I do, however, want a hint of what the big problem is, the thing the protagonist is going to have to solve or prevent or fix, and a bit more of who she (?) is as an individual. Aside from seeing the end of her shift, what does she want? What is she working toward?

  9. I also like the description of the guest, especially as the reservation process wears on. I agree with the earlier commenter that the narrator feels older, perhaps a recent university graduate. I don't think teens are allowed to work a graveyard shift (as it were).

  10. I love the tone/voice, and I love how you parcel out the details/surprises. Really compels the reader to read on. Don't read much YA, and don't know the vampire genre, but this seems like a nice new twist - I'm interested in reading on, and you've done a great job of setting it up so that I'm *not* eye-rolling to myself ("oh, not another vampire story").


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