Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Vampire Bits

Like the werewolf, the vampire's mythology has been eclipsed by pop culture.

For starters, sunlight does not destroy vampires. the vampire of myth had no problem with daylight. Neither did Dracula for that matter. While he did sleep in a coffin during the day, he is able to go out in sunlight, but his powers are limited. There are other famous vampires such as Lord Ruthven, Varney the Vampire, and Carmilla that were active during daytime too -- although they do prefer the night. In fact, vampires didn't even start dying by sunlight until 1922 in the silent film Nosferatu.

The crucifix, another mainstay of vampire pop culture, has no roots in vampire mythology either. It wasn't introduced until the novel Dracula.

Stakes, however, do play a part in traditional vampire myth. They was usually made of hawthorn, aspen, oak, or juniper and were used to pin the vampire in its grave, traditionally through the heart. However, the stomach or in the back was supposed to have been just as effective. The stake didn't kill the vampire alone though. After it was pinned in its coffin, the vampire was either burned or the head was severed and garlic was stuffed in its mouth.

So yes, garlic also has a place in vampire myth. It wasn't just protection against vampires though but witches and demons too. It was worn around the neck and hung in a house. It was rubbed around doors, windows, and chimneys. Even livestock were rubbed with garlic in order to protect it from vampires.

Creating a vampire had nothing to do with a bite either. Someone could become a vampire through a number of ways, such as an animal, usually either a dog or cat, jumping over their grave or dying of a wound that wasn't treated with boiling water.

Vampires in mythology weren't pale,  skinny and sexy either. They were dressed in their funeral shrouds and bloated and red-faced. Dracula wasn't even the first vampire with sex appeal either. See Lord Ruthven, in The Vampyre by John Polidori, who was based upon the poet Lord Byron -- Mr. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.

Last but not least, vampires could be living as well as dead. These vampires were usually born with some deformity like a caul, a membrane of amniotic fluid, covering their head or possessing a full set of teeth or a spine that resembled a tail. They were said to prey on other living people using magic, such as the evil eye or psychic attack. In Romanian lore, a pregnant woman who does not eat salt risks giving birth to a living vampire. the seventh son of a seventh son or the seventh daughter or a seventh daughter was also destined to be a vampire as well.

I did my best to eschew vampire pop culture cliches when creating the vampire citizens of Welcome to Harmony and its follow-ups. In fact, I steered clear of vampire myth as well and tried to come up with my own version, more or less.

My vampires (Nikolas, Julian, Patrick, and Rolfe -- More will be introduced in the upcoming Bloodties.) are bloodsuckers, but they feed specifically on a victim's life force, for which blood happens to be the vessel. They're living dead. The life force they ingest keeps them in a state of pseudo life -- keeping their organs and other systems functioning.

They can live a long time. Nikolas is somewhere between 500 and 600 years old (I mean, let's face it, wouldn't you lose track at some point or at least stop counting?). The downside to this is if you are turned into a vampire at a young age, you'll stay that way until you die -- something Julian and Patrick both have to deal with in Welcome to Harmony and later in Bloodties. Garlic and crucifixes have no effect on them either. To kill them, they must be decapitated or their heart must be punctured (which if you think about it, will kill just about anything).

They're more serpent like, a nod to a lesser known story by Bram Stoker, The Garden of Evil aka Lair of the White Worm. When they turn a human, they inject a venom into them that kills them but brings them back as a vampire. They also have a natural charm, similar to the way some snakes mesmerize their prey before killing them.

They also morph too. I couldn't resist adding that little touch. They can appear normal, in order to fit in with humans, but when they attack the fangs come out, along with black talons and red orbs for eyes.

That's all I can manage for now. I'll do my best to get this blog out once a week, but I'm not making any promises (working full-time as a teacher does take its toll on body and mind).

Don't forget that Welcome to Harmony is available for sale at Amazon and Barnes and as well as all other online outlets.  Getting it onto the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble store got derailed for bit, thanks to an unexpected shift in staff -- but still remains a possibility.

And the next Harmony book, Gwen Gladstone, is reaching the end of the rewriting stage and should come out in spring -- early summer at the latest.

Ta for now,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gwen Gladstone Chapter Two

A friend of mine recently told me that I should be posting on my blog at least once week. I haven't even been coming close to that. Oh, well. Maybe it's time to start putting some more energy into this.

The rewriting process for Gwen Gladstone has been going well. I'm having it beta read by some fourth-sixth graders and an English teacher I know. So far, the responses have been great. It looks like I should have it ready for publication by spring, as planned.

In honor of that, I will post one last chapter of Gwen Gladstone on my blog. From this point on, and for the predictable future, my further entries will be original works much like Werewolf 101 and Werewolves: Do They Live Among Us? Those seem to have been really popular.

Chapter Two

Grandma and I returned home to our haunted house. I called it that, because Mom’s presence, her spirit, lingered there. Even a year later, I’d turn a corner and expect to see her sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, watching the news or in the kitchen making dinner.
Next week would have been her fortieth birthday. As usual, we’d visit her grave, bring flowers, maybe even light a candle. I liked the idea of honoring Mom on the day she was born instead of the day she died.
Grandpa Jim – Grandma’s husband – was buried in the same cemetery so we’d see him after that. He died a year before Mom did. He was only sixty-five and a health nut like Grandma. He exercised and ate right, was in perfect health, just like her. But he still developed an aneurysm. I swear, it was like our family was cursed or something.
I headed up to my room, which had gone through a lot of changes since Mom died. For starters, all the Katy Perry and Beyonce posters were history. In their place, I put up posters of these bands from the 80s I’d been getting into. The Cure, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen. Real dark, depressing stuff.
I painted the walls too. Not like with a roller. But pictures. All the crazy stuff I’d been seeing in my head and feeling in my heart since Mom died. My room looked like Hell now, literally. Or at least how I imagined Hell would look like. With spires of blue-black flames swallowing the faces of tortured souls. Oh, and don’t forget the demons. There were lots of those.
Dad had been away on one of his business trips when I started doing that. When he got back and saw what I’d done, he flipped out big time. Grandma was able to calm him down though. At the time I was seeing this counselor, who encouraged art therapy, so Grandma convinced Dad this was a good way for me to vent and reminded him we could always paint over it later. He backed off after that and would even tell me how cool my pictures looked sometimes, even though his jaw made this weird clicking sound every time he did.
I know I promised Grandma I’d go back to therapy and start taking my meds again. Even though I knew they wouldn’t work. And as far as therapy went, all the different counselors I saw, they all had the same thing in common. Eventually, they all wanted me to confront my demon. Whenever I felt him coming, they wanted me to not do my ritual. To just let him come. In order to prove he didn’t exist.
And I knew my demon wasn’t real. Only every time I told myself that and tried to face it, I couldn’t. I’d get scared out of mind.
I stretched out on my bed, just wanting to rest my eyes for a few minutes. When I woke up, the sun was setting. Dad was due home tonight from his latest business trip, to Portland or Seattle or someplace like that.
Grandma had probably picked him up from the airport already – which meant he probably knew about me getting suspended. I sat there for a moment before heading toward the door. Instead of waiting for him to come to me, I might as well just get it over with.
Halfway down the stairs, I spotted Dad and Grandma in the living room. Dad was still in his suit. His suitcase and laptop sat at his feet. He was usually pretty worn-out from his trips. The last thing he wanted to deal with when he got home was me getting in trouble at school. Again.
At that moment, my courage fled, and I started to head back upstairs. Too bad for me Dad just happened to turn in my direction.
“Well, speak of the devil,” he said.
Oh, well. So much for a quick and sneaky getaway. I walked into the living room, Dad scowling at me the whole time. Grandma stood back. I couldn’t quite get a read on what she was thinking.
“I heard about what happened at school today,” he said.
“Yeah? And?” I replied.
Dad’s eyes popped with anger. Grandma frowned at me, over his shoulder, so I decided to dial down the attitude a bit.
“Sorry. I’m – I’m sorry.”
Dad settled down. “Your grandmother said you two talked after that. You said you were ready to make a change. Go back to therapy. Start taking your meds again.”
I stared at the floor then back at Dad and nodded. He managed a weak smile.
“Well, at least something good has come out of all this,” he said. “I want you keeping up on your schoolwork this week.”
I nodded yes, waiting for some insane punishment to be handed down. Dad checked his watch. He grinned and headed upstairs with his suitcase. Wait. Was that it? Do your homework. That was the only punishment I was going to get?
“I put a roast in the oven, Craig,” Grandma called after him. “It should be ready in a few minutes."
“That’s okay. You and Gwen go ahead and eat. I’ll make myself a plate later.”
Grandma and I watched him disappear up the stairs. What was going on? Last time I got detention, Dad took away my iPod and laptop. I get suspended for a week, and he barely even blinks.
Then again, he had been acting pretty strange lately. He was going to the gym on a regular basis, buying new clothes, and when he was home, he’d disappear into his room for hours. I turned to Grandma. For some reason, I got the idea she knew exactly what was going on with Dad.
“Why don’t you go set the table,” she said as she started up the stairs.
I stood there until Grandma was out of sight. I was in enough trouble already, being suspended from school and all. I should have just gone and set the table like I’d been told. Instead, I headed upstairs. I had to know what was going on.
I peeked around the corner to see Grandma standing outside Dad’s bedroom door. They were having this intense conversation. I was trying to be quiet so they wouldn’t hear me, but to be honest the two of them were so absorbed in what they were saying I could have stomped around like a mad elephant, and I doubt they would’ve heard me.
“Craig, you can’t keep putting this off,” Grandma told Dad. “You’re going to have to tell Gwen. The sooner the better.”
 “You know how she’ll react.”
 “Tell me what?” I said, cutting in.
 Grandma and Dad whipped their heads my way.
 “Gwen, I thought I told you to set the table,” said Grandma.
 I placed my hands on my hips and stood firm. “Excuse me, but I figured this was slightly more important. Now what the heck are you two keeping from me?”
Grandma gave Dad a cross look. He nodded and then faced me. He took a breath to steady himself before he spoke. “Do you remember that convention I attended in San Francisco in April?"
I crossed my arms. “Yeah? So?”
Dad’s face lit up. A smile crept across his lips. “I met someone there. Her name’s Victoria. Victoria Weatherly."
My arms tightened around me. I did not like where this was going.
“We spent a lot of time together during the convention. Since then, we’ve been talking a lot on Skype.” Dad smiled, the way he used to smile for Mom. And only for her. “I like her, Gwen. I really like her."
My stomach tightened up. I couldn’t breathe. All I could think to do was run to my room.
“Gwen. Gwen!” Dad called after me. “See. I knew she was going to react like that,” I heard him tell Grandma.
She said something to him, only I couldn’t hear it over the sound of me slamming my door as hard as I could. I crawled onto my bed and clutched my sheets. Before I knew it, I was crying. Dad had met someone. Mom had been dead for barely a year, and he met someone. He was already moving on. How could he do that to her?
“Gwen?” Grandma peeked into my room. When she saw me crying, she hurried to my side. “Oh, Gwen. Honey.”
 She reached for me, but I pulled away. “You knew, didn’t you?”
 Grandma had a very guilty look on her face. “I found out a couple weeks ago. I could tell your father had serious feelings for this woman so I told him, then and there, he needed to say something to you. He promised he would. Only he kept putting it off. I’m sorry you had to find out like this."
“Aren’t you mad at him?”
“For what? Meeting someone? Gwen, you knew this had to happen eventually.”
I twisted my sheet in my hand. “I guess. But it’s not right. It’s too soon.”
Grandma played with my hair. “When would have been the right time? Next year? The year after that? Ten years? Never?”
I sat up beside her. That last one sounded pretty good.
“Gwen, do you think your mother would want your father to be alone for the rest of his life? Don’t you think she’d want him to fall in love again? To be happy?”
“I can’t believe you’re playing the Mom-card again. Twice in one day.”
Grandma grinned. “It worked so well the first time.”
I managed a smile. She did have a point. Mom wouldn’t want Dad to be lonely. She’d want him to meet someone else. I didn’t like it. It was going to take some getting used to. But I’d try my best.
Dad knocked then pushed my door open enough for him to slip through.
“Everything okay in here?”
I glanced at Grandma then at Dad and said, “Sure.”
Grandma smiled and rubbed my back.
“You off to talk to Victoria on Skype?” I asked. Unfortunately, it came out a little more snarky than I intended.
Dad slid his hands into his pockets. “Yeah, um, about that. The reason why Victoria and I wanted to talk today was because – well, she’s coming for a visit – this weekend.”
I shot to my feet. “She’s what?”
“She’ll be here on Friday,” Dad continued.

I turned to Grandma, who looked just as shocked as I did. She shook her head at Dad. “Brilliant, Craig. Just brilliant.”

That's all for now. If you're still interested in the story, Gwen Gladstone A Tale from the Town of Harmony should be available for sale in spring at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 
I've actually already started the third Harmony book, which will focus on the  town's vampire population. In honor of that, my next post will be entitled Vampire Bits.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gwen Gladstone Chapter One

Well, I almost made my once a month goal. Maybe I'll do two posts this month to make up for it. I've begun the rewrite for Gwen Gladstone, the second of my Harmony books. So far, it's going well. If all goes well, this draft will be finished by the late December/early January.

In October, I posted the Prologue of Gwen Gladstone. This month, I thought I'd post the first chapter.

Chapter One

The Demon’s breath blasted the back of my neck. The tips of its claws danced along my skin. Its hoarse voice whispered in my ear.
I'm coming to get you, Gwen. I'm coming to get you.
My heart raced. I shut my eyes and made circles with my finger on my desk, first to the right, over and over, then to the left, over and over. This little ritual of mine was my only protection against him.
Slowly, the Demon faded away. I let out a sigh of relief.
“Gwen?” a shrill but familiar voice called out.
I opened my eyes to see my math teacher, Ms. Files, looming over me, flashing her wicked witch smile. “Earth to Gwen Gladstone. Are you there, Gwen Gladstone?”
Everyone in class laughed. I glared at them then at Ms. Files. She had a reputation for being one of the meanest, nastiest teachers at my middle school.
But next to my Demon she was nothing.
She pointed a bony finger at the Smart Board. “Perhaps you’d like to answer the question I posed to the class.” 
She was already smirking, waiting for me to get it wrong. I just grinned and crossed my arms as I leaned back in my chair. “Do we really have to go through this tired little act? You know I wasn’t paying attention. You know I don’t know the answer. Is your goal then to embarrass me? If it is, then that’s not very mature of you. I thought as an adult and a teacher you were supposed to act as a role model to us impressionable youth.”
Ms. Files stammered then said, “Excuse me, young lady?”
“I know your life must be pretty much suck, seeing how you teach seventh grade math, but do you really have to take out your frustrations on your students?”
By then, everyone in class was speechless. They watched me and Ms. Files, wide-eyed. Half of them looked like they were ready to cheer.
“Young lady, I’ll have you know math is a very important subject. You use it all the time.”
“The basics, maybe. Addition, subtraction, multiplication. I’ll even give you division. But then again, who doesn’t have a calculator on their phone these days? As for the rest of it? Algebra? Geometry? What use does any of this garbage you’re shoving down our throats actually have?”
“It’s not garbage!” Ms. Files answered in almost a high-pitched squeal. She glanced around the room as if she expected someone, anyone, in the class to back her up. “Math is about structure, logic, and reason! Everything this world is based on!”
I laughed. “I used to be like you. I used to think this world made sense. That it was logical, and there was a reason behind everything.” I narrowed my gaze. “Then a drunk driver plowed into my mom’s car, killing her. And since he was only sixteen and didn’t have any priors, he got to plead out. He got four years. For killing my mom. Four. Years.”
The kids in class looked real uncomfortable now. Some reached for their phones like they’d just got a text. Others stared at their books, like math had suddenly become interesting.
The color drained from Ms. Files’ face. She was already pretty pale to begin with. Now she was practically see-through. Her bottom lip quivered like she was about to cry. She was shaking when she pointed at the door.
“To the office! Now!” she screeched.
I shrugged and started packing my things. I took my time, really milking it. Ms. Files stood there, trembling, getting madder and madder, the longer I took. When I was finally on my way out the door, I smiled and waved at her.
“See you tomorrow!”
Ms. Files groaned and leaned against the Smart Board like she was about to collapse. I took my time, heading across the quad, to the principal’s office. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed I had an audience. Stephanie and Melissa.
“If it isn’t Gwen the Ghoul up to her usual weirdness,” Stephanie started. “Careful. Don’t get too close. You might catch whatever she’s got.”
I didn’t say anything. I just stood tall and kept walking. I refused to let them get to me anymore.
“Nice clothes,” said Melissa. “Even better hair.”
They both laughed and high-fived. Gwen the Ghoul was a reference to my new look. I used to have long blonde hair and dressed in whatever trendy label was popular that week. Now my hair was cut short and dyed black. I wore black clothes every day, along with calf-high Doc Marten boots. I wore black make-up and was always decked out in silver jewelry, skulls, pentagrams, stuff like that. I guess I wanted everything I felt on the inside to show on the outside.
As I came around the corner, I noticed Meghan on her way to meet Stephanie and Melissa. The three of them coordinated these little trips from class each period so they could meet in the girls’ bathroom to hang out and gossip – like they didn’t do enough of that already.
I couldn’t believe I used to be like them. Still, I had to give them some credit. After Mom died, they were there for me. They gave me a lot of support. Later on, I don’t know, but the whole senselessness of Mom’s death made me look at the world differently. All those things I used to care about like clothes, MTV, Facebook, Twitter, ragging on people we thought were losers – even if they were supposed to be our friends – none of that seemed to matter anymore.
Things got even worse when I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There weren’t any of the obvious symptoms. I wasn’t washing my hands a billion times a day or turning the light in my bedroom off-and-on a bunch of times either. According to the shrink who diagnosed me, my OCD was centered on superstitious fears and covert rituals. Out of nowhere, I’d get this feeling of impending doom – like a Demon was coming to get me.
And my friends, my good ol’ BFFs, the same ones who were there for me after Mom died, who I’d known since elementary school, who I thought had my back, were embarrassed by my little rituals, the things that kept the Demon at bay.
They started keeping their distance. They wouldn’t have anything to do with me anymore. Next thing I knew, they were trashing me on Facebook and Twitter and sending me nasty texts all the time.
I pretty much kept to myself now. Not even the freaks at school gave me the time of day. I didn’t blame them either, not after the way I treated them when I was still hanging out with Stephanie, Melissa, and Meghan.
I sat in the office, in one of the ugly chairs near the secretary’s desk, with my earbuds in, listening to my iPod, while waiting for Grandma to show up. She was the one who came to school when I got in trouble.
Dad would always find out about it later. He was hardly ever around anymore.  He was this big-shot IT consultant. Businesses from all over the country flew him out to overhaul their systems. Ever since Mom died he’d been throwing himself into his work. He traveled at least once a week now.
Enter Grandma. A month or so after Mom died, she sold her condo and moved in with us to help take care of me. And let’s just say I’ve kept her pretty busy.
She finally arrived and looked like she came straight from the gym, in her sweats and sneakers, with her long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail. As she approached, she gave me this tired frown – as in tired of me always getting in trouble and her having to keep coming to school to get me.
Mr. Warner, the vice-principal, was ready for us. He was okay – for a school administrator. He never yelled or made me feel like a bad person or anything. He liked to say he disciplined the behavior and not the student.
“We meet again,” he said to Grandma, half-joking, as he shook her hand.
“I’m down here so often I should have my own parking space.”
I chuckled. The looks I got from Grandma and Mr. Warner told me that was a big mistake. Grandma turned away, shaking her head. We followed Mr. Warner into his office and sat in the two chairs on the other side of Mr. Warner’s big boat of a desk.
Ms. Files had apparently talked to him already, because he went ahead and filled Grandma in on what happened – from Ms. Files’ point of view. Grandma let out a long sigh. I shrunk in my seat.
Mr. Warner swiveled his chair towards me. “I’d like to hear your side of the story, Gwen.”
“I had an OCD attack during another one of Ms. Files riveting lectures, so I didn’t know what was going on. She then tried to embarrass me in front of the class, and I wasn’t going to put up with it.”
Mr. Warner grinned. “As usual, I appreciate your honesty, your directness.”
“Excuse me,” said Grandma cutting in. “But I thought all of Gwen’s teachers knew about her condition.”
“They do,” he said.
“Ms. Files isn’t exactly known for her warmth and compassion,” I added.
Mr. Warner didn’t bother arguing. I had a feeling he knew I was right.        
“I’ll speak with her,” he said.
“I don’t want anyone feeling sorry me.”
“I know you don’t,” said Mr. Warner. “Just let me do my job, okay? And unfortunately, that means I’m going to have to suspend you from school for a week.”
Grandma leaned forward in her chair. “What?”
“I’m afraid it’s policy. Gwen has racked up quite a collection of referrals.”
“Do I get a trophy?” I asked.
Grandma gave me a look. She wasn’t angry. Just disappointed.
Mr. Warner’s secretary drew up the papers, and Grandma signed them. Before we left, she insisted we stop by my locker to pick up my books. My teachers posted their homework online, and Grandma promised Mr. Warner she wouldn’t let me fall behind. We walked through the halls. Grandma hadn’t said a word since we left the office.
“I’m getting the silent treatment, is that it?” I asked.
“I’m just trying to figure out what to say to you.”
“Look, I’m sorry. It’s just Ms. Files –”
“I understand she’s not the nicest teacher in the world. But the way you reacted, all you did was make it worse.”
I apologized again. This time I actually meant it.
Grandma stopped short. “Gwen, do you think your mother would want to see you acting like this?”
“I – That’s not fair.”
Grandma crossed her arms. “Well?”
My throat ached. I bit my bottom lip. Grandma rested her hand on my cheek.
“Sweetheart, I know you miss her. So do I. I know this last year hasn’t been easy for you. Your OCD. Your friends abandoning you.”
“Nothing makes sense anymore. It all seems so pointless.”
Grandma frowned. “Gwen, you know I don’t like it when you talk like that.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not planning on doing anything stupid.” I sniffed back a tear. “Fine. I’ll go back into counseling. I’ll take my meds again. Whatever you want. I’ll do it for Mom.”
Grandma gave me this sad smile then continued down the hall. “I think your mother would rather you did it for yourself.”

So there's Chapter One for ya. I'll post Chapter Two in a couple weeks (for you handful of people who are actually reading this blog).