2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality – Nonfiction Adventures

2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality With Four Nonfiction Adventures


Today I’m featuring a quartet of absolutely wonderful books that will suck you into adventure, mystery, and places you’ve never imagined you’d be. You’ll meet a colorful, dangerous, interesting, lovely, and witty characters. Best of all it is all true.

Good nonfiction is a wonderful thing. I think about some of my favorites that I could read again and again and again. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is an autobiographical work by Edward Abbey is one book that should be on every book list and every book shelf. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez moved my soul. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson made me think and also made me laugh almost unlike any book I’ve ever read.

Copies of these books, even those now out of print, can be found in libraries, on Amazon, B&N, eBay, your local used book store, and other online outlets. If you’re having trouble finding any of them let me know and I’ll help you look.


Attending Marvels – A Patagonian Journal

By George Gaylord Simpson

In 1930 George Taylor Simpson traveled to Argentina, was shot at, had a few exciting adventures, finally made his way to Patagonia, and dug for dinosaur bones.

This is on my list of top ten favorite books ever. Simpson will charm you, enlighten you, and inspire you. Attending Marvels is a marvel of a book. Look it up. Find a copy. Read it. It isn’t a long book so it is perfect for summer reading.


The Lost City of the Monkey God

By Douglas Preston

Years ago I read a book called Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Then I read Reliquary. THEN I read one of my favorite books by the pair, and favorite books by anyone – The Cabinet of Curiosities. Like many I was hooked on the adventures of Agent Pendergast and the many other characters Preston and Child created. I can’t wait to read their next book which involved the Donner Party.

A few years ago I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. It was about American student Amanda Knox who had been accused of murder in Italy. This was my first test of nonfiction by Douglas Preston.

I was so excited when The Lost City of the Monkey God came out. Unfortunately half way through the book I lost The Lost City of the Monkey God. Fast forward to this year and I found it. I will finish it next week while I’m on a road trip.

But what is this book about?

In 2012 Preston joined a team of scientists to find The Lost City of the Monkey God, The White City, in the Amazon jungle. The story covers stories of explorers, interesting characters, snakes (this will scare the jeebers out of you), rain, rain, rain, amazing discoveries, bugs, and a mysterious illness. Oh, I forgot, TECHNOLOGY. Finding a lost city in a jungle is no small task. Take my word for it. This is a fun book.


Eldorado – Adventures in the Path of Empire

By Bayard Taylor

I love this book.

In 1849 a young reporter (and poet) named Bayard Taylor left New York, traveled to California by the way of Panama (pre-canal), and wrote about it. He wasn’t looking for gold. Taylor was looking for stories. With brutal honesty, detail, humor, and an eye for detail he covers everything from the journey to California, to life in the mining camps, the new and growing cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, Volcanos, Rain, Society in California, robbers, a trip to Mexico, and more.

This is a brilliant first hand account of the California Gold Rush unlike anything you thought you knew about one of the most amazing events in the history of the world.


Empire Express – Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

By David Howard Bain

This year is the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Empire Express was recommended by a docent at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA. Believe me, that if a docent from the California State Railroad Museum recommends a book it will be good.

Empire Express is over seven hundred pages and covers a lot of territory. I haven’t read it yet, but what I’ve seen (thumbing through it) looks great. I know this book will be as exciting as the big personalities it covers. It is an adventure, a social history, a story about dreams, heartbreak, triumph, and how the United States was forever changed.


No matter what you’re interested in, or what you like to read, I encourage everyone to try something new, go out of your comfort zones, take a chance, and seek out new adventures through books.

I’ll be back next Monday with more 2019 Summer Reading.

If you have any suggestions for non-fiction books please leave them in the comments. Please share!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.




Dark Days, Ghosts, and Inspiration


Coffee with Vampires, Ghosts and Poe

I’ve been having a bad case of Empty Nest Blues lately. Yes, even without any kids in the house, or kids almost out of the house, I can do anything. Right? Yes, but like everything else it is always complicated with me. As I brooded about my lack of brood and lack of inspiration my brother Val stopped by for coffee.

As I filled the French Press with hot water, Val grabbed cups and poured in a shot of blood and half/half in each cup. He put two packages of Equal in his, one in mine.

“Dark day?” He asked.

“I feel frozen. But I’ll be fine. Tell me about your sorry existence.” That was a joke. Val has a lovely existence, especially for a Vampire.

We sat and talked about a lot of things. I thought about being inspired to be inspired.

I poured more coffee into my cup and posed a question to my brother. “What if Edgar Allen Poe had lived. He died in 1849, so he might have heard of the gold find in California. What if he’d live and come to California? What if he’d continued to write and eventually met Bret Harte and Mark Twain? What if he’d met Lotta Crabtree? What if he’d met us?”

“Imagine him on the ship with our parents. That would have been fun.”

“Poe would have loved them.”

“He would have ended up becoming a Vampire. Mom would have made sure of that.”

“Maybe,” I said. “He was so odd and broken, but he shouldn’t have died. I think he was murdered.”

“That’s the rumor.”

One idea leads to another, and I make mental notes for stories, books, and artwork that I think a lot about and might someday create, or finish, or forget. The thought is depressing, or exciting depending on who is thinking it. If I’m thinking it right now it seems vague and somewhat depressing, and impossible, and overwhelming. Tomorrow it might be another answer.

As we talked, and my mood brightened and became more hopeful, Val and I looked out the window into my back yard. We could see the ghosts, Nigel and Mary by the fence. They were dancing to music we couldn’t hear. Being ghosts, dealing with their own deaths, and murders, had taken a toll on both, but they pulled themselves out of their own broken fog and made a life after death for themselves. Love will do that. Don’t get me wrong, Nigel is still a major asshole, but sometimes I see that light I know he had when he was alive. Like with Poe, I wonder what he would have achieved had he lived. He’d be fifty-eight now, had he not died in 1986.

Nigel looked up at us and waved at Val. Then he looked at me. Our eyes locked, and he flipped me off. Then Nigel and Mary vanished, as she continued to dance, and he glared at me.

I can relate to the songs and dances of the broken. These are not all sad songs. They’re just songs of those who have maybe had more complex paths to wander along.

Val had always been along my path with me, but we’ve taken side trails alone.

But like with my brother’s visit, I always circle around and return to the joy and love of my family, my friends, and of my imagination.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman


don't be a ghost






Short Story Sunday: Dust and Desire (the Austin and Elizabeth story continues)

Austin didn’t become a Vampire Hunter because of any personal vendetta or tragedy. Nobody he every knew had been turned into a Vampire or killed by one. He didn’t even believe in Vampires. To Austin Vampire were characters in really crappy Peter Cushing movies that used to play on late night weekend TV.

He had a PhD in History and lectured at a local university part-time along with occasionally publishing articles. But his real business was restoring 19th century buildings, mostly old homes.

While in the basement of a Queen Anne that was built on the foundations of a Gold Rush era house of the early 1850’s he came upon an earlier sub-basement. In a far corner was a box, a casket, ornate with gold flowers painted on the sides. Austin could barely stand but managed to get the lid off.

Inside lay a woman almost perfectly preserved. Her face was sunken but her lips weren’t drawn back like so many mummified bodies. A silk ball gown had started to deteriorate but still held its form. Her hair was done in ringlets and was still perfect except for alight dusting of dirt and a net of cobwebs. Even the rubies in the gold necklace around her neck caught the light of his flash light as if she’d just put them on. No stench came from the box. She’d been down under the ground for too long.

He could tell she’d once been beautiful. Who in the world would have put her here? A lover or husband who couldn’t stand the thought of his true love being devoured by worms. He turned his back, ready to go back to his truck for his camera when he heard a low hissing noise. He turned and shined his flashlight into the face and fangs of his first Vampire.

After a struggle he took her head off with the edge of a shovel. Almost as quickly as she fell her body turned into dust leaving nothing behind except a tattered silk dress and a ruby necklace.

That night as he sat in his own kitchen cleaning his wounds someone came to the door. It was his attorney Aaron Todd. Of course it was a surprise to see Aaron. It was even more of a surprise to learn he was a Vampire.

To make a long complex story simple and short it turned out that Austin had a natural gift for finding things that are a little on the shadowy side such as Vampires and Ghosts. He learned from Aaron that some were quite benevolent, such as Aaron and his kind, and some were quite dangerous and even evil.

That was eight years ago. Since then he seemed to come upon them on a regular basis, either finding them himself or taking care of Vampires others had found.

Most of the Vampires Aaron found underneath old buildings and in mine shafts and crypts were lost souls or those who had lost their souls. They’d for the most part been unwilling converts to the Vampire world, unable or unwilling to make the transition to being creature who prey on humans for blood. They had become like husks who’d given up laying there like freeze-dried beef stew waiting to be reanimated.

On a recent morning he sensed something underneath a house he was working on and called Aaron. The Vampire arrived with his sister, a small woman built like a Victoria’s Secret Model with the attitude of mother wolf. She was the one who crawled into the small space under the house and exterminated the three dried out vermin Vampires. She didn’t even flinch. She even mentioned she’d known one of them in the past. She said they’d forfeited their souls and weren’t fit to exist. Austin suspected she had other motives as well but said nothing. One learns there is a time and place to question those motives aloud.

So those of you following this tale (links below to all of it) Austin went home and thought about Elizabeth, the Vampire who’d become his lover.  He thought he had the upper hand. He wanted to have the upper hand. He needed to have the upper hand on the situation.


Elizabeth came home from a long day, poured herself a glass of wine and put her brief case in a place she hoped she wouldn’t be tempted to go. No work tonight.

She heard a knock. Someone was at the door.

Austin stood on her front porch, hair wet with rain, and a look on his face she couldn’t read.

“I have to know something,” he said.

She took his hand and brought him inside.

“What? Anything.”

“Did you want to be a Vampire? Was it your choice?”

“Yes, I entered into it gladly.”

“Good. OK. I’ll see you in a few days.”


“Ok I will, if you tell me that everything you tell me is the truth.”

“It is. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Austin wasn’t sure if he believed her but he stayed.

Elizabeth wasn’t sure if he was crazy or not but she enjoyed a warm body in her bed and the sound of a beating heart next to her cold quiet one.

To be continued…

For the complete story of Austin and Elizabeth check the links below.

Part 1: The Hunter

Part 2: A Memory of Distant Love

Part 3: Dark Dreams of the Hunted

Part 4: About Those Pesky Undead Folks

Park 5: The Hunt Continues

Part 6: Cold and Warm

Part 7: Date with a Vampire

Part 8: Crawl Space

Part 9: Dust and Desire

Note from the author: This is late for SUNDAY because I keyed it out on my iPhone while at my daughters Artistic Roller Skating Meet – between events. By the way she got first in team dance, second in solo dance and third in figures. So I figured I’d just finish the story up tonight at 10:13 pm which means it is no longer Sunday for many of my readers. Yes, Short Story Sunday means I write the stories on Sunday, usually with no planning, just me, a cat or two, maybe a squirrel barking through my window if the sun has come up yet and whatever pops into my head. Yes, that is how it is done around here. AND…No I’m really not built like a Victoria’s Secret Model because I’m not Photoshopped. I’m real. And I know all about that because I’m an expert level professional Photoshop user. 

Yes and Dust and Desire does sort of sound like a John Waters film but it isn’t.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman