Best book title ever, wasted: The Traveling Vampire Show.

Since I had my dream, about a hypnotist clown working in a traveling haunted house, I’ve repeatedly caught myself outlining a new novel inside my head.

This is not a good thing. I was warned that this would happen:

From Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers, Chapter 20 —

 “When you’re working on your book, you will undoubtedly be tempted by Fresh Start Sirens. Gorgeous, tantalizing new book ideas will arrive, making juicy promises. These new ideas are going to pop up, assuring you a baggage-free new beginning. They want to lure you away from your existing project, those boring bad days of writing month after month, no end in sight. The Sexy New Book idea always promises it will never be difficult; it will never be a burden. It says it’s way, way more publishable, plus more fun. It whispers, Take me now. I’m all yours.

When this happens: Run. Run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do no get involved with this book!”

I remember reading those words, many months ago, and thinking there was no way I would ever feel the urge to cheat on my beloved baby-witch, Lizzy.

Lately though, Lizzy has been a bitch.

This clown on the other hand – with his smeared greasepaint and his insecurities – is seductive. I’ve been imagining a world in which he could live – a world populated by tattooed, pierced prop artist / roadies, and an acting troupe made up from self-identified vampires, their consenting blood dolls, militant pagans, and other societal drop-outs. There’s a middle-aged, asexual couple with fluid gender-identities too – I think they design the special effects, create the makeups and manage the books. I am in love with them all.

I never have trouble coming up with characters. When it comes to plot, though, it’s a different story. Where’s the conflict? What’s the story arc?

Which brings me to The Traveling Vampire Show. I am pissed off by it’s very existence. The title suggests a brilliant premise – one that encapsulates conflict. We all know carnivals and traveling troupes are creepy. The idea that such a show could conceal real monsters behind nothing more than gel lights and face powder is stunning. The book should write itself.

Years ago, I bought the promisingly titled paperback, rushed home, slipped into a hot bath, and started reading. I vividly remember throwing the damn thing across the bathroom an hour later, thinking: “I could write a better book than THAT!” (‘Turns out that doing so is harder than I thought it would be. I should take this opportunity to offer up a sincere apology to Mr. Laymon, may he rest in peace.)

Even then, I knew I was furious because Richard Laymon didn’t allow the book to write itself. Instead he imposed a graphically violent, verging-on-pornographic, coming-of-age story on it, forever ruining the best title ever conceived.

So now I have my hypnotist clown, and I know he is perfectly suited to being a monster keeper, but his story is stillborn. It doesn’t matter that I want to write The Traveling Vampire Show. It’s been done. And done well enough, by an author famous enough, to win a Bram Stoker award. (How that happened is beyond my ken.) Oh, and it looks like there’s a movie version in production too.

But, I guess, that is a good thing. Because I have to put aside my brown-eyed hypnotist anyway, so that I can crawl back to Lizzy, with declarations of faithfulness on my fingertips.

Maybe I could give him a cameo.

carny photo from Library of Congress

11 Comments on “Best book title ever, wasted: The Traveling Vampire Show.”

  1. Hunter Shea says:

    LOL! The very aspects you hated about that book are the things that made Laymon a legend. I do know he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but damn did he have a big following, especially among horror writers. Read his One Rainy Night. That is awesome.

    • (Catching up on comments tonight.) I fear I am going to suffer for posting my true feelings about Laymon – I have become aware, since you commented, that you’re right: horror writers love him. I’ll give One Rainy Night a go … perhaps it will save me to post a good review.

  2. Just goes to show that what you think is damn fine writing may not arouse your reader. A difficult challenge to wrestle with for any aspiring writer. Good post. I have thrown a soggy book across a bathroom floor on many occasions.

    • (Catching up on my neglected comment-answering – sorry it took me so long to get back to you.) Since I posted my rant about The Traveling Vampire Show, I have become ruefully aware that Laymon has a big following among horror writers. I’ve been advised to give One Rainy Night a chance, which I intend to do.

  3. wren08 says:

    Maybe you could jot down the particulars of the story in a notebook and get back to it later after you finish with Lizzy? When I was still writing, I used to do that… except for the occasional short story that I dropped everything (even things like eating, sleeping and so on) to write. Sometimes they even got written.

    • (Catching up on my neglected comment-answering – sorry it took me so long to get back to you.)
      I’m keeping my hypnotist clown in the back of my mind. What I really want, though, is to fall into that wonderful must-write-like-crazy state that you mention. I miss it.

  4. In 1970, Hammer Films released the movie, Vampire Circus, which may be an even better title, and surely makes the Traveling Vampire Show seem not so original as far as titles are concerned. A couple of rearranged and changed words and your ideas should posess an equally stunning title for your creations to come come to life. Also, I often find myself writing two stories at once to keep the creative flow going. It often helps both stories.

    • This was the most awesome comment! (I’m catching up on my neglected comment-answering – sorry it took me so long to get back to you.) I did not know about Vampire Circus. Now, of course, I have to hunt it down so I can watch it.

      Thanks for reminding me that you can’t copyright a title. Your comment led me to check the situation out a little more thoroughly. Someone named PrincessMikey, over at, posted this:

      “MANY books have the same title; it can be very confusing. For example, there’s
      Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston
      Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
      Book of the Dead by Tanith Lee
      Book of the Dead by Robert Richardson
      Book of the Dead by Ashley McConnell

      And that’s not even counting the “Book of the Dead” which are Egyptian papyri. It’s fairly common, really. You can’t copyright a title. So call it whatever you please.”

      The Traveling Vampire Show, obviously, is just too famous in the genre for me to take it, but there is hope 🙂

      • You can’t copyright a title but you can trademark it, especially if it is synonymous with your work. There will never be another book called Hellraiser, because I am sure Clive Barker has trademarked it. There will never be another book/story called Carrie, or The Shining either. Movie and film companies automatically trademark thier titles as part of thier budget. So, its a bit tricky. Opting for just one different word or rearrangement of the words in the title would be better than pushing your luck.

  5. Hmm. I’d been following your blog but hadn’t seen any updates in my reader forever. Just clicked on your link and found I was somehow unsubscribed. You know what I’m thinking?


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