Everyone Looks Better, I Wish

In the latest “Vampire’s Little Black Book” series, Will, the main character, jokes that “everyone looks better undead”. That phrase became the title of my new short story in which Will assists a newly changed Lycan. The good looks of the freshly turned male model do not go unnoticed by Will’s vamp cohort, Anna. In their world, the transformation to undead life is a ticket to not only eternity, but increased beauty as well.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be bitten just once and have all your perfections gone? But we don’t always have that option, unless you can afford a pro makeup artist or some pricey surgery. So what do you do when treatments and regular beauty days are out of your reach?

The answer is a choice, but you might not like either answer: accept what you see in the mirror, or do what is necessary to change it.

Recently I had one of those cringe inducing experiences that made me even more aware of our vanity or on a more basic level, the need to be accepted. This is a bit more personal, but please, hang with me for a while here.

A group of people came into the retail store where I work to try on some costumes. One young woman had picked out several pieces that were junior sizes and one plus size. These were the kind of costumes that basically fit a stick. She however, was a bit more than a curvy girl, so to speak. Now, I don’t judge. I am not a thin woman. In fact, my weight has gone up and down over the last twenty five years. I’ve gone from being super fit to borderline morbidly obese and back again. People will judge you no matter how you look. I learned to get over it. So I handed her the selections with a kind smile and tried not to worry.

She first tried on a deluxe princess costume that retails at over $225. I was respectful, didn’t say anything, until she complained loudly to her friends that not only was the costume it too tight, but she couldn’t figure out how to get it on.

I gently suggested that she try something else; that the brand of designs she had chosen were cut very small, which is absolutely true. I would not sell one of these garments to just make a sale to someone it didn’t fit. I just prayed she didn’t ruin the piece.

When the second small cut costume didn’t fit, I offered up the plus sized costume. I honestly don’t know if it would’ve fit her, because she didn’t try. Instead she left the fitting room without a word.

Please note: in no way did I bully this young woman. I didn’t use the word fat, which would’ve made me a hypocrite. I tried to be as kind as possible when suggesting she find a plus size, I didn’t raise my voice and I didn’t harass her. When she left the fitting room, I instantly knew that there would be trouble even though I was only doing my job. Sure enough, the next day, one of the guys that had been with her, called the company to complain for her and of course I had to listen to a small reprimand from a manager. His calling immediately told me that this woman was feeling badly enough that she was too embarrassed to do it for herself. Fortunately the manager understood my predicament and nothing further was said.

At first I questioned whether I’d done the correct thing. I’m an adult; I don’t feel the need to torture anyone on purpose. But after a few moments I realized I can’t fix how she felt about herself OR how she felt others perceived her. This brings me back to the choices we have to make in regard to how we feel about our looks and how we handle others reactions.

I wish the world was a more loving, thoughtful place. And having been in her shoes, I know how it feels to not have your pants zip up without a muffin top spilling over or maybe not go up at all. To have other people stare at you because of your size. But in this world of unrelenting wild opinions from a 24 hour cycle of endless forms of media, it can be a challenge to filter out a genuine honest opinion from the “someone” who has out for you. Or even worse, there’s the trolls who just want to start a war because they just feel like commencing a landslide of unhappiness. And more than likely, they blister others because they don’t like themselves.

I wanted to tell this young woman to learn to love herself, grow a thicker skin, and own it or change. The options aren’t easy. Anyone who has been a minority, has had gender/sexual orientation issues, been disabled or is in any way different from the “norm”, has been down one of these well-worn roads.

If you can like who you are, “forget the haters, cause only God can judge us” as Miley sings, you will be rewarded with unyielding confidence. Some will stare. Dare to smile back at them. People will say rude things; they don’t know you. Ignore their comments and only let positivity into your wonderful brain. Happiness is your best defense. Find others like you. There is empathy and strength in numbers. It won’t be easy, but with time and practice people will see your beautiful soul and not the shell of a body that carries it. Recognize constructive criticism. This is a dodgy one. Someone could be looking at your chest because you spilled a few bits of your lunch on it. Your fly could be down. A dress might be way too tight for the office. When someone corrects you in these kinds of situations, be grateful. The suggestions probably come from someone who genuinely cares.

Or you can change. But if you decide to go that route, do it for yourself. Don’t do it to attract someone you have a crush on. You’ve invested in yourself. Don’t blow it on anyone that’ll waste your time. This choice could be hard too. You might spend hours working out and dieting to get thin. You might get surgery that could be painful or have a long recovery time. You might have to save money and work two jobs to get a procedure done. People might try to talk you out of it; they may have liked the old you for nefarious reasons. And once you’ve reached your goal, whether you get a nose job, lose fifty pounds, or get breast implants, you’ll need to adjust to the attention. Some may not recognize you. You might be invited into groups that really aren’t that cool after all. Just know to be true to what you want to be, don’t continue to be swayed by others. They’ll just find something or someone else to pick on.

There is actually a third choice available, the worst one, which is to do nothing. Yep, to have no desire to accept who you are and/or don’t choose to change your “in the now” to a pleasurable place to be. Keep in that negative frame of mind and your life will be hell.  You’ll draw fake friends, users, abusers and the like. This small incident really got me thinking and of course creating. The next day, I did a whole series of masks with a variety of different emotions behind them. I’ll debut them with another blog shortly, but here’s a sample to hold you until then.

Iconic image of how a hero "should" be.

Iconic image of how a hero “should” be.

But for now, life is what you make it; it’s too damn short to be unhappy. It is not wrong to like yourself. You will be a better human being because of it. I do a lot of costuming, and cosplay, then share with anyone who’ll look or listen. I don’t see it as vanity. I make art, throw it on me, photograph it and in the process create more art. I’ve used self-portraits for the covers of my books. In the last couple years in working on mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com, it’s been a great adventure. I actually forget the negative parts of me. The true beautiful soul rises to the surface.

I wanted to tell that young woman in the fitting room to come back, try on another item that fits her size and wear it proudly. I hope she gives herself another chance at acceptance, to stand strong and be herself. Spread your wings and fly darling. I hope we all do.

Thank you most kindly for reading,

-Victoria

The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

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33 or 28 Forever

As I prepared to release the latest installment of The Vampire’s Little Black Book on Amazon, I was shocked by the sudden death of one of my coworkers from my “day” job (thus my delays, sorry). Dominique Hardin was our receptionist. After a while, she was recruited to be my part time assistant. I taught her the basics of TV commercial order entry and she picked up on it really well. She was kind of still in that club kid phase, but I didn’t judge her and for that, I am eternally grateful. I really miss her, especially after a hard week at work.

I got to know Dominique better after training her. She was a model and actress. She’d done runway shows, photo shoots and a short independent film.  She’d dated a nationally famous rapper and a St. Louis Rams player. She’d earned the nickname “Stage”.  She had contacts in Atlanta and had hoped to move there by August 1st. A relative of mine works for a large national company with a branch there. I tried to get her a temporary “day” job until her contacts could come up with acting work for her. But some things fell through and she was stuck here in St. Louis for a while longer. Her deadline to leave town passed. I wish to God I’d been able to help her get to Atlanta.

On August 18th, around 4:30am, in East St. Louis, near “the dead man’s curve”,  Dominique, her cousin and a friend was headed to a strip club to celebrate a birthday. A minivan crossed the center line and collided head on with Dominique’s car. When they were hit, she was thrown into the backseat. She and the driver that hit them, were killed on the scene.

Much later that Sunday night I received the horrible news from my manager. I think I repeated “what?” about ten times. I cried for about an hour after I hung up the phone. She would be forever twenty-eight.

If you could pick your “forever” age, what would it be? Will doesn’t get to choose thirty-three. However, I think it’s a good age to be. You’ve made it through your twenties alive with a little wisdom and probably most of your health. And you’re not too old to have fun. I decided to create Will at this age for two reasons.

I liked my own thirty-three for the most part. I had my first house. I created a stunning piece of art in the garage. I continued building my art business. I discovered some really good music, especially Chris Botti. The atmosphere of his music helps me write. I had a fantastic garden. And I made a somewhat hilarious effort to meet Mr. Right after a local paper made my single’s ad the featured single of the week. I was the “curvaceous cutie”.  But that’s another story.

The second reason? I’m a bit superstitious. Three is a lucky number for me. It’s the holy trinity. And thirty-three is luck twice over. I also bet on it when I play roulette. But back to Will.

This is definitely one of the more melancholy stories of Will’s journey. He has the chance to give someone eternity on earth, but will she take it? Would you?

I am stunned at how oddly the completion of this volume coincided with Dominique’s passing. My own emergency surgery just a few weeks prior, made me more conscious of my mortality.

I need to continue to create and live life to the fullest; to share my art, to pursue my dreams. To de-clutter and move from the past, let my old stuff be someone else’s new. I continue to purge and sell off stuff I’m just not using or don’t need. I recycled or threw out old love letters from the last boyfriend. I recently went through my art closet and am selling almost everything through etsy, flea markets, my website or at a couple local shops and galleries, keeping only the most personal pieces. Art is meant to be shared.

I will be forty-five on October 5th this year. I don’t feel my age except for the remnants of some old injuries. Honestly, I never want to grow up. Emotionally, I want to always have the happiness of a little kid inside me. I like myself more than I have in a long time. And thank God for good genes and artistic make-up skills, I don’t look my age either. I’ll expand on this in my next blog. But meanwhile, I remind myself that time is short. I don’t feel the need to be frozen in time, but I am doing my best to sanely live in the now.

My character Will is thirty-three forever due to supernatural forces. Dominique will be twenty-eight forever in my heart due to a terrible accident. God bless you “Stage”; you’re now a star in the heavens.

“33 Forever” the latest installment of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series will be available on Amazon/Kindle by mid-October. Patrick Renfrow has been cast as the face of “Will”.  I think you’ll want to get to know him too. A free download period for the whole series and online store will come around Halloween. Be sure to follow me on Facebook at The Countess, the Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc or Twitter @TheCountessSP for more details. And please follow this blog. I only post about once of month so you won’t get over notified.

Please take care and be safe.

I’d Sworn I’d Never Write About Vampires or a Pleasant Distraction

Rings
I’d sworn I’d never write about vampires. Really, I thought they were overdone. I’m not a Twihard but I’m not a Twihater either. I liked Interview with the Vampire; I even liked the movie. I haven’t read the Anita Blake series by Laurrell K. Hamilton, but I think that I should. I hear it’s a good series.

So imagine my surprise when a vampire story swirled around my head as I was working on my Steampunk novels this past winter. This single vamp became a pleasant distraction as I wrote the third draft of “Strax and the Widow” (soon to be self-published on Amazon). I didn’t want to write a whole book about this vampire, at least not all at once. I had plenty of sci-fi/fantasy inspiration, but I wanted the character to be sophisticated, a bit more unique, and most of all, very human despite being undead.

Will, my handsome vampire, has been around the block and more than just a time or two. He’s lived for hundreds of years and has a cache of conquests that fill his “little black book”. His memories and trinkets provide the storyline of “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series.

But despite his escapades, Will isn’t cavalier or jaded; well he hasn’t been for a while anyway. He’s been burned, yet he’s also been the fire starter (in between the sheets too). Ultimately, he’s alone and doesn’t want to be. He’s found and lost a real love which has fueled the hunger to find it again. Through time he has passed are millions of women. Will he ever find “the one”?

Get to know Will; he might be interested in knowing you too. “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series is on Amazon/Kindle.
Please “like” my fan page The Countess Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc” on Facebook. I currently have a “Likes” contest. Like the page and have a chance to win some nifty things like the rings above.

Cheers!
-Victoria