More fun news to come, so stay tuned!
This weekend marked the beginning of the Vampire Tours of San Francisco’s Summer of Love 50-year anniversary walking tour, and Jane the Hippie Vampire was there to help celebrate. The tour covers one block of Nob Hill, a gorgeous part of San Francisco located a few blocks from Chinatown. It begins on the corner of Huntington Park, across the street from the beautiful Grace Cathedral, and then moves to a few locations with fascinating histories of intrigue and secret underground tunnels.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with “Mina Harker,” the tour guide, and we really hit it off. She had tons of history on San Francisco, and she has similar tours in several locations across the country. Like Jane, she has fond memories of the Summer of Love, and was excited to celebrate its anniversary in San Francisco. The event was a lot of fun, and I would encourage anyone who enjoys walking tours to help continue the celebration. Mina has decided to extend the hippie vampire dress-up contest through the summer, so go out wearing your hippie vampire finest for a chance to win one of Jane’s adventures—just recently made available in print.
More fun news to come, so stay tuned!
It's that time again! All month long, horror writers will be celebrating Halloween by giving away all sorts of goodies. Stop by https://www.facebook.com/31daysofhell each day for something new. For my first offering this year, I'd like to share a fun-with-cliches horror short I recently wrote. Enjoy!
Once in a Blue Harvest Moon
After all the hard work he’d put into the place, he should at least be able to enjoy the show. No one did Halloween quite like Lance Young, and he raised his own personal bar each successive year. This year, however, the muses who’d left him particularly inspired had also inspired a force much more menacing, pressing it to put its hand in the pot and give it a good and tainted stir. While the local youths screamed and pissed their pants and ran from his property in delighted panic, the esteemed Mr. Young crouched in his cellar a confused mess of disbelief and raw horror.
He could hear the specters nearing once more, seeking him out. Where else was there to run? When he eyed the short stacks of boxes, the broken antique cabinet he’d been meaning for far too long to refurbish, the cobwebs collecting dust overhead, the realization that he’d cornered himself in a place devoid of hiding spots hit him like a shock to the chest. They’d corralled him, directed him there with purpose so he’d have no escape. Did he dare make an attempt at breaking past them?
Did he have any other options?
The slam of what sounded like a dozen fists hitting the attic door made him jump. Why he’d bothered to take cover behind a few boxes, he didn’t know. There was no logic to the act. People did irrational things, stupid things, when put under that kind of stress. Sometimes, the body just went on autopilot, all reasonable thought stalled regardless of the consequences.
The hands slapped and knocked against the sturdy wood as if the physical barrier might actually hold them back, but Lance knew it was all for effect. They could slip through it any time they wanted, and with much less effort than it would take to break through. Their movements waned, the clamor behind the door going fainter, and finally they went silent.
Then the faint red glow took hold.
Lance peeked around the stack of boxes, still crouched in an attempt to make himself as small and undetectable as possible, struggling to keep his breaths slow and steady while the door absorbed the demonic energy. It took time, he’d found, for the specters to transform their physical features into the ethereal ones, which could permeate and pass through the doors and walls—and it took just as long for them to pry their ghostly forms back out. Once back in the open, though, they were able to take on the various physical forms of his nightmares, each just as capable of causing bodily harm.
Lance had the gashes to prove it.
Luckily, he’d been quick enough to pull away just as the creature reached him. It could have been much worse; it had raked open a row of lacerations just deep enough to make the injury look worse than it was. Ruined a good pair of jeans, but at least he still had a functioning leg. Had he been a second slower, the outcome would have been much more dire.
The red glow permeated into the adjacent walls then spread outward in all directions like a ring of hellfire. The first of the faces peeked through the unfinished wooden surface, grimacing with the effort, still migrating toward him within the expanding wave of ectoplasm. Their eyes were hollow and black, unblinking and wide, and their mouths contorted and sneering while they moaned their dirges of the damned.
When one noticed him, they all did, and those empty eyes fixed on him while they wriggled their hands free, then their arms, some of them hanging from the rafters while others stripped themselves from the nearby walls.
Some of the ones dangling overhead saturated the cobwebs, soaking them in red. Crimson spiders slipped downward along glowing silken strands, taking their time. Apparently, they too liked to savor the moment, drinking in his horror slowly, drawing out the experience. He understood their perspective. Evoking genuine fear took a special kind of talent, but it was also a means to a very satisfying end. Doing so for the sake of entertainment was one thing; torturing a soul with the promise of certain death was an altogether different beast.
People had a good idea of what to expect when they came to his house, and they subjected themselves to his handiwork willingly. Fabricated fear—which one expects when watching a horror movie in the dark or moving through an attraction such as Lance’s yard—was all in good fun. When the night was over and all was said and done, everyone knew there was never any haunted graveyard or werewolf or mummy popping out if its sarcophagus. Not really.
That he got off on their screams didn’t make him a bad person, although he did often wish there were a way he might keep the fun going year round. One Halloween night each year always felt so fleeting. Granted, the preparation exhausted him to no end, even more profoundly now that middle age had taken hold, but it was always worth it to see a tween girl reduced to tears or a family looming just beyond, mom or dad pushing a child dressed as Superman or Batman to make use of his superhero strength and brave the house of horrors just long enough to snatch a bar of jumbo-sized candy from the cauldron sitting so innocently on the front porch.
But to get there, they would need first to pass through the creaky iron gate that swayed and clamored despite a notable absence of wind. From there, they would need to trudge across a misty graveyard. Lance had made each of the gravestones himself, carved them out of blocks of dense, heavy wood then painted them to look like aged marble. Two dozen in all, the markers gave an authentic experience. The dry ice he’d packed into their flower holders (seemingly smaller than they actually were, the larger part of each receptacle hidden underground) created a ground-level fog that spanned well beyond the graveyard.
Between the graveyard and the Victorian’s rickety veranda, an old oak tree supported the hanging bodies of three surprisingly realistic witches. Each of the women, also products of Lance’s artistic skill, wore flowing black skirts, striped leggings, and pointed hats that inexplicably clung to the tops of their heads. Their skin was unnaturally white with a tinge of green, their necks twisted in impossible angles, and their swollen tongues lolled out of their mouths. Lance had rigged them animatronically to start kicking and grasping at the air whenever anyone crossed a motion detector. They were always good for a scream.
Opposite the tree, something with claws was just barely visible from within a bush. Along the house’s exterior, a projector created the shadowy images of bats and, every once in a while, that of a man transforming into a wolf and running toward the graveyard. A Dracula-like vampire swooped over anyone brave enough to get to the front steps, where files of creepy, ambient music played through speakers hidden behind pots of writhing mutant Venus’s flytraps with leaves big enough to catch and hold a human child.
Lance had wrapped himself head to toe in gauze, offering the final surprise to those lucky few who reached his candy cauldron. The plan had been for him to lie in a sarcophagus, fashioned lightweight for easy exit. A camera fixed onto the front porch provided live feed to his tablet, so he could thrust aside the lid and pop out at just the right moment.
No one made it that far. He waited for over an hour before he decided he couldn’t handle the confinement any longer.
He fell into a panic when the lid refused to budge. Could someone have crept up there and done something without the camera catching it? Ghosts, he thought with a chuckle.
His amusement dissolved, however, when he made a few good attempts at forcing the lid. “Hey!” he yelled, slapping the stone-painted wood. “Anyone out there? Help!”
It must still have been tacky when he’d shut himself in. The sarcophagus became an actual coffin within his mind, and he’d been buried alive. If the thing had been painted shut, was there even a decent air exchange in there? Was it possible for him to suffocate in this stupid decoration?
For a moment, anger beat out fear. This had officially ruined his night. Even if someone happened to get to the front porch, how could he enjoy it now? Life could be a bitch—he knew this—but to knock him down during the one night he truly shone was just plain sadistic. Someone upstairs (or maybe downstairs?) was having a nice, cruel laugh at his expense.
He spent at least twenty minutes throwing every possible body part against the lid, until finally a good kick loosened the lower half. Cool air came rushing through, and he took it in with long, satisfying breaths. His mind clearer, he was able to hear the random squeal and scream. The taste of freedom and the sounds of victory inspired him to try giving the lid a punch, and he withdrew his crumpled hand with a whimper. He resumed kicking, fury fueling his determination, and finally threw the lid aside.
As soon as he sat up, he could sense something was wrong. He looked around, noticed the nearest attraction, the Venus’s flytraps, one of which stood only a few feet away. One of the pronged leaves had been triggered and now held something large in its trap, an action Lance hadn’t set them up to do. Whatever was inside it—a dog or a cat, maybe, which in and of itself was enough to elicit a shudder—it raked and pressed against the inner surfaces in a futile attempt at an escape.
Why would someone go to such lengths to catch an animal and secure it in there? Even more, what kind of person would think of doing something so cold? Lance noticed a fleeting shimmer of red rush across the plant, a faint sheen that appeared when he viewed it at a particular angle. Upon closer inspection, he could confirm this was not the plastic conversation piece he’d placed there. This was a live plant, but just as large, and while Lance had heard stories about carnivorous plants growing large enough to devour their keepers, they were far from real. The largest leaf a living Venus’s flytrap could produce might span an inch or two at the very most. This was impossible.
Allowing a suspension of reality dictate his next move, he went for the leaf and tore at it from its prongs, which had threaded together to enclose the terrified animal. He succeeded in creating a small tear, just large enough to see that the plant had somehow snagged an opossum. A beady eye poked through the tear with hisses following, and the animal even snapped at Lance when he ignored the warning and worked a little more on the thick leaf. He backed off just as the plant seized his legs with a lower trap, and he dropped to the whitewashed wood beneath him while the opossum tore the rest of the way free, used his back as a landing mat, and then skittered off into the night.
Certain he was in a nightmare, gave himself a forceful pinch.
Hurt like hell.
Almost as much as the sudden squeezing across his legs.
He kicked at the tough membrane, finding that tearing at it from the inside was far more difficult than destroying it from the outside. He grabbed hold of the prongs while the thing did its best to suck more of him in. It had him by the hips, about as far as it could swallow him, before he was able to disable it. By then, another had snapped at his head, prongs digging into his throat and the leaves themselves blocking his vision. He pulled and tore, the prongs meant to trap its prey inside leaving lacerations across his face when he managed to slip free. He scuttled backward, the thing snapping with its remaining traps, just out of reach.
He took a moment to catch his breath, looking around to ensure none of the other plants were close enough to come at him from another angle. He sat, dazed, taking in the unbelievable sights on either side of him with as much awe as he had fear. Was it possible this was a gift for all the hard work he’d put into his yearly production, a blessing from whichever deities had appreciated the extra attention?
If so, he hoped the plants would take care of the rat problem, but not rid the area of local toms. He wouldn’t tolerate pet eaters on his property.
Lance eased back to his feet and left the veranda when he noticed the witches’ movements were flailing out of control. He made his way to the tree, nauseating weakness threatening to take him back down the moment he got a close enough look. All three were alive, but just barely. They kicked and retched, unbound hands thrashing uselessly in attempts to gain hold of the ropes and ease the tightness around their throats. Their faces were varying degrees of blue and red, and their tongues had swelled to unreal proportions. One had bitten part of hers off, blood streaming down her chin. Another had lost all hold of her bodily functions.
The ropes hung too high for Lance to reach from the ground, and his first thought was to run to the shed for a ladder and pruning shears. “I’ll be back!” he tried to assure the three before taking off toward the back of the house. He only got as far as turning the corner when a barrage of bats whisked by, little webbed fingers brushing across him from every angle, tiny rodent fingernails snagging on the rags and gauze secured around his body. Screeches filled his ears. The wind from flapping wings fanned his face. He crouched to protect as much of himself as he could while he slapped the creatures away.
He looked up when the swarm had passed, a strange thrill overcoming him when the animals crossed the sky in a perfect arc, constructing a picturesque line of silhouettes against the light of the full moon. Lance felt between a few layers of gauze for his cell phone and snapped a handful of pictures for social media fodder.
A growl emanated from a patch of bushes nearby. Lance turned, camera still aimed and shooting, while the animal darted out of the bushes, a fiery red sheen glistening across its coat. It went straight for Lance, who jumped the veranda railing with about as much grace as a swan out of water, landing flat on his back. The wolf tried to reach him with a lunge straight through the wooden slats, managing to break through far enough to get its head stuck, buying Lance enough time to jump to his feet and make a split decision: Continue his dash toward the shed or head for the much closer front door?
The witches were still kicking and coughing, but Lance suspected at this point that they would continue to do so no matter how long they wound up hanging there. Real or not, their suffering had been placed there for a one-man audience, and whatever had it out for him was willing to use every prop at its disposal. His stomach tightened when he turned his back on the hanging women, but he had no real choice. He’d never outrun the werewolf, and the railing holding it back cracked and gave a little more with each passing second.
He rushed to the front door, two Venus’s flytraps snapping at him along the way, then engaged the deadbolt as soon as he had it shut behind him. After taking a few moments to regain his bearings, he moved to the nearest window and peeked out as discretely as he could. The werewolf slammed into the pane, nails scraping down the glass with chalkboard pitch.
Lance’s first thought was to cross to the backdoor and flee from there, but now that the wolf was on the veranda, it would likely be halfway around the house by the time he had the door open—and little chance he’d outrun the beast again. Instead, he backed to the staircase, his thoughts already gravitating toward all those times he’d watched idiot protagonists in horror films opt to hide upstairs: Who in his right mind would go up the damn stairs?
He turned the corner as soon as he reached the second-story landing, then stopped and peeked down the stairs when no additional attempts against the window came. Had the thing given up so easily? Or might safety actually lie within these walls, the uninvited proving incapable of crossing its thresholds? He watched, waited.
The moment’s relief made him realize how weak his legs had become, and he slumped down with his side to the wall and one foot on the highest step. He wiped the sweat from his face and laughed—at the insanity that had taken hold of the evening, at his desire to slip back into disbelief and return to his post, at the thought of having faced something truly supernatural and lived to tell about it.
Then he first noticed the glow. It began on the wall between the window and the door, a small spot at first, almost dismissible. It expanded swiftly, however, and soon it looked as though molten lava had oozed in through invisible pores, taking up half the wall. Lance considered the possibility that this demonic force had opted to burn down the house, but he didn’t smell any smoke and didn’t see any actual flames.
The music he’d set to play out front turned inward, the walls taking place of the speakers, so that the chilling dissonance of pipe organs, violins, and bass drum emanated from the house itself. Lance could feel his heart move into synch with the drum, throbbing painfully against his chest. Another rush of sweat beaded down his temples and across his face. The beat picked up, and so did the thump, thump, thump thrashing through the core of his body. His hands trembled, also slick with sweat.
The mass of red began to migrate, shifting and writhing, from the wall to the floor, and Lance sat transfixed while it made its way up the staircase. Whatever this was, it knew he was there, and it had decided to come for him. His mind said run, but his limbs refused to heed him. Perhaps a sick fascination had taken hold, some desire to see what would become of him once the glow finally reached his body. Maybe it was something even more primal than that; the evil craved him, and he craved it back.
His mind became a battlefield while he watched the anomaly near. Get up … no, stay. Fight it … no, just give up. Do something, damn it … no, see it through.
The mass slowed when it reached just beyond the halfway point, the steps glistening in lava red. When the first face broke free, with those empty black eyes, pale skin, and gaping mouth, Lance backed up. He slammed into an adjacent wall, almost surprised to hit another barrier so quickly, and he stared, stunned, for another moment as the first one’s head emerged. The thing mumbled and moaned while it worked on its freeing its hands, poking the tips of its claws through first. Its movements suggested that whatever this thing was emerging from, it had to feel akin to sloshing through mud.
At least he had that much going for him.
Two or three more faces pressed through, turning the otherworldly surface into a writhing mass of eyes and mouths. Though they too found the transformation from ectoplasm to physical form a slow endeavor, all of them would eventually emerge—however many of them there were—and then they’d all be on him.
A fresh wave of adrenaline hit Lance, and he shot to his feet and ran down the hall. He stopped when he reached the attic door, making the split decision to pull it open and deploy the ladder. By the time he was ready to climb, one of the creatures had freed itself of the floor and came dodging toward him, claws at the ready. It stood about four feet tall, but it had an incredibly long reach due to a set of ten-inch claws. Other than its eyes and mouth, the creature was a vaguely human mass of ghostly white skin with a translucence that exposed the branching streaks of red veins pulsating down its face and through its lanky limbs. It resembled nothing Lance had set out in his yard; this one had come purely out of his own personal stock of nightmares.
Lance scrambled up, but a lunge and a swipe was enough for the thing to graze his calf. He pulled himself up. The creature caught the bottom rung while he retracted the ladder. Another one came bouncing behind him, just missing the ladder and opting instead to grab hold of the first one’s legs. The ladder shot back down, knocking the creatures off, and in another quick move, Lance had the ladder up and the door closed. He threw over a nearby chair, laying it lengthwise across the doorway, and tied the weighted chord to a rung in the back support to prevent his pursuers from yanking the ladder back down.
With the new barrier between them, he’d bought himself another few minutes, but those few minutes passed quickly and his options remained few. Ectoplasm saturated the doorway. One of the nearer creatures had nearly solidified, its feet all that held it back. Two others were out up to their chests, and nearby movement suggested even more of them were on their way.
Lance went for the attic window, grabbed the first solid object within reach, and tossed it through the glass. The shatter’s high pitch caused even the creatures to pause a few seconds, but Lance moved quickly, knocking out a few lingering bits with a bunched-up sheet before hurrying through. The roof was much steeper than he’d expected, and he slid a couple of times, each slip taking him a foot or two closer to the edge. He headed toward the giant oak tree, his movements growing a little more calculated with each near-fall.
By the time he reached it, his feet had nearly reached the gutter and three of the creatures were on the roof with him. Although their movements were more nimble than his, Lance had loosened several of the shingles, leaving them with an unsteady surface to cross. He found a solid branch, tested it, and then began his descent. He’d climbed this tree numerous times back when he was a kid, and the big oak was one of the easier trees to get down. He only had to slide down a few portions of trunks, the most nerve-wracking part, his feet nearly missing only one of the lower branches. One miss, one moment of lost balance, and all the remaining branches would serve only to break his fall.
He wanted to kiss the ground when he finally reached it, but there was always a chance the werewolf was around, and the sight of the still-writhing witches sent him on a dash for the wrought-iron gate. He stumbled through the cool, knee-high fog, both relieved and disappointed that he couldn’t spot anyone else there. He brushed into one of the headstones, its unexpected weight and sturdiness throwing him. He stopped long enough to feel the marble with his fingertips before continuing his retreat.
An unexpected bump in the grass tripped him and sent him diving. He slid into the grass, almost far enough to hit his head on the next stone ahead. When he got to his knees, he noticed the red glow beneath him. He looked all around, his head spinning at the dizzying view of red swallowing the cemetery.
A hand, crusted with dirt and slime, broke through the grass and grabbed him by the ankle. He grabbed at it, searching for a weakness, any angle he could twist or hit the digits to make them ease their grip. Another set of hands broke free and locked around his calf while he still fought to free himself of the first. Another found a handful of gauze and latched on with a supernatural strength that somehow defied the degree of rot that had eaten it away, its other hand digging at the earth. More hands punched through nearby, all focusing on pulling up the rest of their bodies rather than trying yet to reach their prey.
He watched helplessly while the creatures emerged and lumbered toward him. “Zombies … how fucking predictable.”
One reached him, then another. They had him on the ground, and another half dozen jumped in. He screamed at first while rotting jaws tore away strips of his skin, each of them ravenous to get its fill.
Very soon, however, the screams evolved into fits of laughter.
Tears ran along the creases of his wide, transfixed eyes and a giddy calm washed over him. “I’ve truly outdone myself this year.”
No longer did his thoughts cling to questions about how this madness had come to pass, but rather the awe of accepting and understanding his place in it all.
Now for the contest: It's simple, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Halloween tradition for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card. Good luck!
Between now and December 20, go to Goodreads to enter for a chance to win a copy of my recent release, Aftermath: Beyond World-Mart.
Aftermath picks up right where World-Mart left off, beginning with the end of civilization. Readers who enjoyed World-Mart, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, Orwell's 1984, and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 will enjoy this last installment of the World-Mart trilogy. Thanks for entering--and good luck!
Today's the final day of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you've enjoyed the last ten days, and I hope you've been able to add at least a few good books to your TBR pile.
Following is an excerpt from my new release, Jane the Hippie Vampire: Dazed and Confused. Leave a comment for a chance to win an electronic copy of the novella. Also, make sure to stop by other participating blogs (the list on the right) for a chance to win some other great prizes.
A slim, uniformed woman with dark, wavy hair and olive skin came around to the shoulder. “Hey, whatcha doing up there?”
Jane glanced down the steep cement incline, apprehension turning into sleep-deprived, hung-over irritability. “I was trying to take a nap.”
“Do you think that’s very safe?”
“Safe as any other shady spot in the middle of the Nevada desert. We’re in Nevada, right?”
The officer pursed her neatly painted lips. “Come on down, sweetie. How old are you? You out here on your own? Gosh, where are your shoes, child?”
Jane gathered her hat and shouldered her backpack and made her way down to the shoulder. She did her best not to cop an attitude when she asked, “I’m just passing through. Can you give me a break?”
The officer—Lieutenant Flores, according to her badge—motioned down both directions. “This is a pretty desolate highway. If someone were to come by and decide to do something terrible to you, there wouldn’t be anybody out here to stop them. Do you really want to take that chance?”
“Got any I.D. on you?”
“Lost it a while back.”
Flores went quiet in contemplation, maybe even considering taking the opportunity to search her bag, then let out a heavy sigh. “Hop in. I’ll give you a lift.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“No, you’re not. Get in the car.” Flores opened the front passenger door.
Jane looked around, considering her options, and then slunk into the seat. The front door usually indicated the detainment would be minimal if any, and Jane was too tired to press her luck. She dug into the bag for her sunglasses, which only offered slight relief in her current state.
It just had to be a drunk guy….
The officer got in, snapped at Jane to buckle up, and then pulled back onto the freeway. “So, how long has it been?”
“Since you ran away from home.”
“I don’t know.” Oh, about fifty years….
The officer nodded. “Kids these days have it rough. I get it. I’m not going to presume to understand what brought you out here. I’m not the judgmental type.”
“Well, I appreciate that.”
She shifted her glance to Jane, keeping her eyes only partially on the road, looking intent on gaining and holding her attention while she added, “Still, it’s my job to—oh, shit!”
The tires screeched, smoke clouding alongside the car, as the woman stomped down on the brake petal. A lanky man rolled up the hood, crashed into the windshield, and flew over the car before the officer was able to bring the car to a stop.
Both sat, stunned, frozen for a moment while the situation registered. Jane had seen the guy about a millisecond after the officer’s startled explicative, and it was likely the woman had barely caught him in the corner of her eye before she snapped her attention forward. What had he been doing out in the middle of the road? Suicide, maybe?
“Wait here!” Flores jumped out, radioing in the accident, and ran to the body now lying still in the middle of the road.
Jane watched through the rearview mirror, just as stunned, wondering if she should disobey the woman and see if there was anything she could do to help. Yeah, stagger around in the sunlight and dry-heave a little—that’ll be loads of help….
The officer kneeled beside the man, searching for a pulse, her face going desperate. She returned to her feet, a hand going to her shaking head, then she stepped back a few paces, looking ashen. She rushed back to the car, opened the trunk, and started lighting flares at an angle along the lane.
When she’d set the second one, the man sat up.
What the heck?
Flores froze for a second, dropping the remaining flares. A hand went to her mouth, and she went yet another shade paler.
The man stood, his movements mechanical yet unsteady, then he began to shamble toward the shaken woman. She backed away to match his steps. “Stop right there!” Jane could hear her yell.
Jane turned around for a better look. Was it possible the officer had come across two vampires in one day? If so what on earth was he doing running blindly into the road—in the middle of such a bright, sunny day, no less?
He definitely wasn’t among the naturally living.
Flores circled around him, again commanding him to stay where he was. She pulled her gun, backed toward the car, fired a round.
The man recoiled but did not fall back, instead lunging forward, arms reaching.
The sound of another gunshot made Jane wince.
Flores made a dash for the car, the man just behind her. She shot again, slowing him just enough to allow her the time to get in the car and lock the doors.
Both women jumped when the man slammed his body against the driver’s side window. Thick, black ooze ran down his chin, and his eyes were so bloodshot not a speck of white showed around his foggy, dilated pupils and nearly nonexistent irises. A gurgling moan emanated from his gaping mouth while he snapped at the glass, leaving a gooey, black film behind.
“What is that?” Jane asked, not expecting an answer.
The officer gave off a nervous laugh. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a zombie.”
The man belched, and a wave of black mucous poured out his mouth. He grabbed at the door handle, tugging desperately.
Thanks for stopping by! For even more prizes, including a chance to win a fully loaded Kindle Fire, check out the 31 Days of Hell on Facebook. More info, as well as my guest post on October 26th, can be found here. I'll be giving away a signed copy of Revival, a signed Revival poster, refrigerator magnets, electronic copies of each of the Jane the Hippie Vampire books, and more! Hope to see you there!
Their roots are so different—one stemming from the superstitious fears of peasants during times of plague and the other from slaves made by poisoning and cutting out the victims’ tongues—but both have evolved so much, even just over the past few decades. Even more, there has been a strange weaving between their individual mythos, turning each into a varying display of horror, mindless creature, and humanity in its most primal form.
The first vampires I remember were in the Hammer films, with Christopher Lee turning an array of bouffant beauties into hissing vixens. I loved those films, as cheesy as some of them were. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was excellent, but Christopher Lee added an even deeper sensual tone. In contrast, the first zombie film I remember seeing was Night of the Living Dead. George Romero forever altered the course of the zombie with that movie, pulling it from its African and Creole roots, transforming the buried alive into the walking dead.
From there, “undead” took on two meanings: vampire and zombie. Both are a plague upon humanity, that which consumes human lives in order to survive itself, but they also became symbols of human nature in its most basic, animalistic form. It’s not surprising that, on a similar note, vampires took on the sensual role they did; what is surprising is the fact that both vampires and zombies have been the basis of their own erotica subgenres.
Turn me on, dead man….
The similarities modern zombies have with vampires isn’t at all surprising, however, when you consider the source. Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, in which a pandemic bacterial infection has reduced the world’s population to rabid, vampire-like creatures, was the inspiration behind Night of the Living Dead. Romero simply turned them into mindless corpses.
Considering all they have in common, it was only a matter of time before zombies found their way into my Jane the Hippie Vampire series. Of course, the subgenres would have crossed eventually anyway—Jane encounters some kind of supernatural force in nearly all of her stories—but Dazed and Confused, I think, offers a nice blend of Matheson and Romero, a fitting case study of the men behind the monsters.
Stop by tomorrow to read an excerpt from Jane the Hippie Vampire: Dazed and Confused. Want a chance at a free copy? Leave a comment, and I’ll throw your name in the hat.
About Dazed and Confused:
She’s broke and homeless. She’s a vegetarian. She’s undead.
Jane has had one hell of a time ever since she bumped into the wrong guy during the Summer of Love, but she’s taken it all in stride. Wandering from town to town, she seeks out the needy and the broken in hopes of breaking the curse that’s left her bloodthirsty and forever seventeen.
In this fifth novella in the dramatic horror series, Jane the Hippie Vampire, Jane stumbles upon a small, secluded town in the Nevada desert, where the simple life seems to have its residents in a rut. When patient zero of a biological weapons test stirs up some action, Jane finds herself amidst a whole different breed of undead—and in the middle of a war zone designed to leave no witnesses behind.
It's day eight of the October Frights Blog Hop, and today I have an excerpt from Flower Power, a novella exclusive to Jane the Hippie Vampire, Volume 1: Revival. If you like the excerpt, be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Revival.
Jane Stared ahead, suspicious of what she perceived to be sitting across the table. She’d experienced countless acid flashbacks over the years, a result of her excessive “experimentation” back in the ’60s. Back then, the acid was more potent; Jane had last fried about twenty years ago, and the trip had been more like that of a handful of weak magic mushrooms than a tab of LSD. They just didn’t make anything the way they used to back in the day. Except doobage. The kind weed that went around these days was more potent than ever, but it was also ridiculously overpriced.
She blinked hard, hoping the apparition would disappear if she gave it a few more seconds. She’d had a peaceful evening, and she intended to keep it that way. She sat in a quiet diner, sipping at a delightful mocha latte and picking away at a fresh slice of coffee cake. Beyond her and the miniscule staff, the place was empty. After the week she’d just survived, she welcomed the solitude. Sitting across from her in the booth was what appeared to be woman in her mid to late thirties with long brown hair and bright green eyes, her body just transparent enough to create the question as to whether she was actually there. Jane knew better than to take anything at face value, though, since appearances meant little when it came to supernatural forces—if that was indeed what this was.
It’s always something, she thought, shaking her head.
“Please, I need your help,” said the ghostly figure.
Jane looked around, ensuring no one was around to see her talking to what surely would appear to be thin air to all but her. “Do I know you?”
“No, but we have an enemy in common. I’m sure you remember Holly Grimshaw.”
Just the mention of the woman’s name caused Jane’s body to go tense. Yeah, she remembered that bitch, all right. If this was a flashback, it was proving to be one bummer of a bad trip. She cleared her throat. “What about her?”
“I’ve discovered a binding spell that will bar her from the astral plane, but I need someone she won’t be expecting to get close enough and catch her by surprise.”
The chance to put Holly in her place was tempting, but Jane knew better than to drop everything and go in blindly. That’s how people fell into traps, and she’d had more than her share of unnecessary run-ins as of late. There was also a more pressing question: “And how exactly did you find me?”
“Holly has feelers extending in several directions, lines thrown out in anticipation of various people’s return to her region. They only extend so far, but the connection, however distant, remains. For someone like myself, who can transcend physical location within the astral, those feelers appear more like tethers.”
While little about the astral plane made sense to Jane, she did know Holly’s presence spanned as east as Death Valley and as north as Sacramento. Just setting foot beyond those boundaries would open Jane up to a mind screw that made an LSD trip look like a leisurely stroll through a tea garden. For that reason, she’d sworn off all of Southern California, too concerned with being pulled back into that terrifying void should she press her luck. If what the apparition said was indeed true, she’d been smart to leave well enough alone.
“So, will you help me, Jane?”
It even knew her name; that was unsettling. She’d need more than a stranger’s word to throw herself back into the lion’s den, so instead of responding, she asked, “How do you know so much about me? Did you pull all of that from the astral as well?”
It shook its head. “My talents extend beyond astral travel.”
As far as Jane knew, her own supernatural abilities were nearly nonexistent. She was a far cry from the vampires of folklore and horror fiction. Beyond her lack of ageing and her superquick healing, she had nothing to bring to the table. She considered her words then finally replied, “Well, even with the astral travel alone, you’ve got a hell of a lot more talent than me.
I’m not sure what you think you know, but I barely got away from Holly with my life the first time she and I crossed paths.”
“I know Holly hates you with a passion, and I know she doesn’t have any idea I’ve found you.”
Jane sat back, crossing her arms. “I’m still not really clear on why you’re doing this. Why come looking for me? What’s in it for you?”
The apparition’s face went tight. It looked down for a second or two before looking back up into Jane’s eyes. “She killed someone very dear to me. She’s a petty, spiteful person, and she’s far too dangerous to be allowed to continue wreaking havoc wherever she damn well pleases. She needs to be stopped.”
Jane couldn’t argue there. Her own experience with the woman had been nightmarish. No human being should possess the kind of power that woman exhibited, the least of whom being as pathetic of an excuse of one as Holly.
Jane leaned in, offering a show of interest. “Okay, so let’s say I agree to help you. What are you going to do to keep her off my back before I have a chance to even get there?”
“You wouldn’t be traveling to me; I’d be traveling to you. We could do the ritual from the safety of your current distance, use your tether as our line to her and take her by surprise. If she attempts to pull you in, I can ensure her hold remains weak.
Stop by tomorrow for my October Frights Blog Hop post, Vampires v. Zombies, and make sure to check out other participating blog's posts (the list on the right) for chances to win some great horror-themed prizes.
October always brings out the moviegoer in me. I love good horror (and some not-so-good horror), and Halloween is a great excuse to do a bit of binge-watching down memory lane. Of course, nearly all my favorite horror movies involve vampires, the perfect classic movie monster. They’re so visually versatile, and the subject matter allows for so many different creative directions.
Although there are so many great movie vampires (just the Dracula movies alone could drive an entire blog post—or maybe even an entire book), I’ve narrowed down my list to five films that will always remain among my favorites.
The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys came out when I was twelve, and I was so taken with the movie I felt compelled to write a sequel to it. A fun mesh of horror, humor and sex appeal, the story was geared toward my generation—and it became an immediate pop culture icon. Sleep all day. Party all night. It’s fun to be a vampire…. What young girl my age wasn’t taken by David and crew’s expressive and carefree lifestyle? They made bad look good. Complete with a phenomenal supporting cast including Dianne Wiest and Edward Herrmann (and, of course, the heartthrobs of their generation, the Coreys) The Lost Boys had all the makings of a cult classic.
Near Dark, in my humble opinion, never received the respect it deserved. It was a b-movie with a b-cast, but it had a fantastic script and was executed masterfully. The few people I know who’ve actually seen it agree: It’s the perfect combination of gritty horror and existential philosophy. Lance Henriksen does a particularly fine job playing the role of the cold and creepy vampire “family” leader, Jesse Hooker. Why it was a box-office flop is beyond me.
Shadow of the Vampire
I’ve never seen a movie starring Willem Dafoe that I didn’t love, and Shadow of the Vampire, a fictionalized account of the making of the classic horror (and Dracula rip-off) Nosferatu is no exception. The concept is brilliant: The director, played exquisitely by John Malkovich, happens to find an actual vampire to play Count Drac… ahem… Count Orlok—convincing the rest of the cast that the man is a “method actor” who must stay in character (which includes only coming out at night, in full make-up, of course) during the entire shoot. Of course, the crew members start dropping like flies, but that doesn’t stop the dedicated director from completing his masterpiece. This movie is filmmaking at its finest, a must-see for all horror fans.
I had low expectations going in when I saw this movie—which bases its vampire-“lycan” feud on that which was introduced in the ’90s live-action role playing game Vampire: the Masquerade. It turned out to be quite the gem. The acting is excellent, the script solid, and the depictions of the two “clans” artfully displayed. The first sequel, Underworld: Evolution, is just as good, although I must say I lost interest with Rise of the Lycans.
Let The Right One In
Juxtapose children with anything creepy, and the creep factor multiplies at least tenfold. In the case of Let The Right One In, this factor is doubled: A very old vampire trapped in a little girl’s body (with also, seemingly, a fitting mindset) pairs up with a little boy who is primed for grooming to be her next keeper—a job that entails being a serial killer, hunting and exsanguinating people on a regular basis to satisfy her hunger. The characters’ feelings of detachment from society allow us to feel sympathy for both, despite some of the gruesome acts performed on the vampire’s part (and how disposable she proves her current keeper—who’s obviously been with her for decades, ageing alongside her forever youthful self—is to her). The story is extremely dark, bittersweet, and as haunting as they get.
What’s your favorite Vampire movie and why? Leave a note in the comments for your chance to win an electronic copy of Jane the Hippie Vampire, Volume 1: Revival. Stop by tomorrow for an excerpt from Flower Power, which is available exclusively in Revival, and be sure to check out other participating blogs (the list on the right) for chances to win other great prizes.
About Flower Power: She’s broke and homeless. She’s a vegetarian. She’s undead.
Jane has had one hell of a time ever since she happened upon the wrong guy during the Summer of Love, but she's taken it all in stride. Wandering from town to town, she seeks out the needy and the broken in hopes of breaking the curse that's left her bloodthirsty and forever seventeen.
In this volume-exclusive episode, Jane teams up with an astral traveler in order to banish a dreamwalker from her past—and in the process, she must confront her greatest nightmare.
Today, for day six of the October Frights Blog Hop, I have an excerpt from Jane the Hippie Vampire: Hair. Leave a comment for a chance to win an electronic copy of the story, and make sure to check out posts in other participating blogs for chances to win other great prizes.
Jane rolled her eyes and let out a heavy breath as she zipped up the backpack and brought it back to her shoulder. “Give me a break, will you? As soon as you cut me loose, I’ll be gone—out of your hair, man. You won’t ever see me again. I promise.”
She turned slightly and watched in silence while a purple dog ran across the road. Oh, lovely. Perfect timing for an acid flashback….
The air went liquid, and a kaleidoscope of various shapes and colors streamed and rippled all around her. She tried to remain lucid and focused, doing her best to keep the distraction to herself, but the men’s faces appeared to be melting and she held back her horror with great difficulty. Then, as suddenly as they’d come, the colors and distortions faded and reality phased back into place.
The dark-eyed cop fumbled for his handcuffs. “We’ll have you on your way as soon as we get you processed down at the station.”
“Excuse me?” She felt her palms go sweaty, post-traumatic flashbacks of her imprisonment and torture decades ago prompting a sudden and overwhelming sense of panic. Her lungs became heavy, her sight blurred. She fought the impulse to turn on her captor despite the gun, give in to her hunger, let her dark instincts take over. She couldn’t lose her wits, though, not now.
“Can’t have your kind wandering through like this. For all we know, you’re a felon tryin’ to lay low, and we gotta—”
She darted away as soon as he went for her wrist. No way in hell she was going to spend the night behind bars just because the local heat had a problem with her free-living lifestyle. She headed for the forest, the policemen right behind her.
“Get on the ground!”
She continued to run, unwilling to expend the energy it would take to respond. She knew that, as fast as they might be, she’d be faster. She could hear by their footfall that the gap between them grew with each step. Still, one slip and they’d be on her. One slip and they’d have her face pressed against the ground and her arms behind her back. Just one slip….
The voices now came from a good twenty yards away, and they were growing winded. “Stop now!”
She rushed through the trees, springing over erupted roots and past large rocks. Moving through the forest made her feel wild, more connected to the earth. The trees watched over her. The birds and chipmunks cheered her on. Her hair sailed in the wind. Each time her feet hit the layer of pine needles, she felt more grounded.
They were nowhere near her, their last demands for her compliance filled with frustration and defeat. She would need to stay off the main roads as much as she could, as there would be eyes watching for her in the days to come. For the moment, however, she was safe.
She slowed her pace, her empty stomach beginning once again to gnaw at her. Those officers didn’t know how lucky they were to have lost her. Had they put her in a desperate situation, there was no telling how much longer she would have been able to remain in control over herself. The berserker frenzies that took over, sometimes when she least expected them, made her a danger to anyone unfortunate enough to cross her. Killing cops, even jerks like those two, was bad karma, and she already had enough of that hovering over her head.
She stopped and turned at the sound of a terrified cry followed by gunfire. Screams echoed through the forest. A few more shots rang out. More screams. The cops, easily a half mile behind her, had crossed paths with someone or something that wasn’t intimidated by uniforms and firearms. It had to have taken them by surprise while they’d still been in pursuit. Had the timing been different, it might have been she who’d been under attack, and that was a shame. Self-defense was always the best way to go about killing prey, and she was hungry enough to eat just about anyone.
The last people she wanted to see were those two cops, but still she backtracked. She was on a mission to redeem herself, which meant she didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing her good deeds. If they needed saving, she’d do what she could to save them. She might even get a good meal out of the feat.
If only she could be so lucky.
Stop by tomorrow for my next feature blog post for October Frights Blog Hop, My Favorite Vampires.
Back when I was in high school, about a million years ago, the “goths” were the misfits. My twin sister ran with the crowd, nearly all of whom wore black clothes, cake makeup, and “Doc” Marten boots, smoked cigarettes while hanging out at Denny’s, and listened to the musical musings of Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, and The Cure. Amidst that gloomy backdrop was a single rainbow: the vampire hippie.
I don’t remember her name, but she was such a paradox. She wore flowers in her long hair, Birkenstocks on her feet, and tie-dyed clothes. She belonged to the goth group, but she was so … colorful. Cheery. Perpetually stoned. Groovy, man.
As an outsider—to all cliques—I found it so interesting that someone could stand out so much yet still mesh so well. The girl fascinated me. She left such a lasting impression, she ended up inspiring an entire novella series.
The contrast between hippie and vampire had, I felt, the makings for a wide spectrum of creativity and expression. The dichotomy of colorful and dark, vegetarianism and bloodlust, youth and years … ended up coming out as a mesh of horror, drama, and dark humor. The series, as I describe in the introduction for Volume 1: Revival, initially came to me simply as the title.
Beyond revolving each installment around a hippie who’s been a vampire since the ’60s, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with her story. Initially, I’d hoped for a more lighthearted counterbalance to all of the dark material I tend to write, although I did want to include some elements of horror. As I developed Jane and decided her story needed to unfold as an episodic series of novellas and novelettes, I opted to use a few dark, dramatic television series as my model: As in Kung Fu (1972-1975), Jane is haunted by her past and often falls into flashbacks in order to make sense of her current trials; much like in The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), Jane wanders from town to town, ever struggling to keep the monster within her at bay; and similar to Forever Knight (1992-1996), Jane seeks an end to her plight and secretly hopes that, if she does enough good in the world, she’ll eventually find redemption.
I realized early into writing the series that it was going to end up far darker than I’d anticipated. Jane’s past is riddled with horrors that she struggles to come to terms with even fifty years after the fact. Homeless, ever wandering, she often appears only to add to her burden with each new town she passes through. As good of a person she strives to be despite her nearly constant blood lust, she seems to attract trouble at every turn. The following “episodes” offer a small window into a world of supernatural creatures living right under our noses, a hidden and ongoing battle between good and evil, and the lives forever changed after getting caught in the crossfire.
I can say I managed to create a body of work that is unquestionably unique to my portfolio, the series having ended up more drama than horror. I must qualify that, however, with a very clear disclaimer that the stories within this collection are also notably dark and contain bits of extreme horror that some readers might find extremely disturbing.
What are your thoughts about Jane? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Jane the Hippie Vampire: Hair, and stop by tomorrow for another excerpt.
About Hair: She’s broke and homeless. She’s a vegetarian. She’s undead.
Jane has had one hell of a time ever since she bumped into the wrong guy during the Summer of Love, but she’s taken it all in stride. Wandering from town to town, she seeks out the needy and the broken in hopes of breaking the curse that's left her bloodthirsty and forever seventeen.
In this third novella in the dramatic horror series, Jane the Hippie Vampire, Jane goes south for the winter, hoping to find reprieve in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A supernatural stalker of the shape-shifting variety has different plans, however. Will her new-found ally—a park ranger with secrets of his own—and his redneck family be enough to save her from a fate worse than undeath?
Welcome to day one of October Frights 2015 and 31 Days of Hell!
31 Days of Hell: Starting today, each day will be assigned one of over thirty horror author. The Main Pub Page will announce where to go, you visit them throughout the day, and then the next day there will be another author. This will continue on until October 31st when all Hell breaks loose, and all the authors, fans, designers, publishers, etc come together to “horde” the page with cool stuff! There will be tons of prizes including a Kindle Fire loaded with horror books!
Featured guest include Dean Samed, Horrific Tales Publishing, AZT Publishing, Tagnarok Publications, Winlock Press, and Arm and Toof Podcast. The event will also feature Joe McKinney, Scott Nicholson, Mark Tufo, Armand Rosamilia, and more!
2015 October Frights Blog Hop:
Between today and October 10th, stop by and leave comments for your chance to win one of a handful of prizes:
Since this is a blog hop, be sure to check out the other participating blogs (the list on the right) each day for even more chances at winning a prize.
ALSO, October is also Vampire Books for Blood Month! Buy a participating book, and proceeds will go to the American Red Cross.
For the entire month of October, all royalties I receive for sales on Jane the Hippie Vampire, Volume 1: Revival will go to the Southern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross.
Make your contribution today:
Check out to http://www.vampirebooksforblood.org/ for a list of participating authors.
Leave a comment for your chance to win an electronic copy of Jane the Hippie Vampire, Volume 1: Revival.
Stop by tomorrow for my first October Frights blog post: Vampires and Sex.
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