The Quiet Beauty of San Miniato al Monte

Last week, it seems like yesterday, and it seems like a hundred years ago, I was at San Miniato al Monte monastery and cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The church was built in the year 1018 with no power tools, and workers who no doubt couldn’t even write their own names. It is beauty from a dark time.

It was an unexpected, moving, and beautiful find.

We (my husband, children and I) expected to find an old monastery at the highest point in Florence. We did not expect to find the huge cemetery surrounding it.

There was not enough time to spend there. I could have spent a week looking at the hundreds of touching statues that spoke of memories, but there by those who loved and those who lost their hearts. So many dates were from the 1940’s. So many were children.

The ghosts lurked far from us, watching us walk through the rain. More than anything we could feel the love and the loss. It is a special place where those who are no longer remembered by anyone now living, are still touching our hearts and souls.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman




I’m in Northern California, in the Sacramento area to be exact. We’re 75 miles south of the now famous Oroville Dam and spillway. I’m watching the lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers near my house become fuller than I’ve seen them in years.

When it gets wet like this I wonder about some of the lesser enlightened of the Vampire community. I usually don’t worry about the weird, anti-social, old fashioned Shadow Creepers, but you know, I kind of wondered about them lately.

I was driving downtown and stopped by the old Cemetery. I saw one damp Vamp sitting on the step of a mausoleum with an old black coat pulled tightly around his pale body.

“You need to get into a real house. Nobody lives in crypts anymore. It isn’t dry, much less safe,” I said to him.

He looked up with sunken black eyes.

“I bet you haven’t eaten in weeks,” I continued. I wasn’t going to scold him. “Months? Come. I’ll give you a ride to a safe place where you can stay until we can find you a real home.”

He spoke in a harsh whisper, like someone who hasn’t spoken for a long long time. “May I bring my friend? She is also one of us.”

I told him of course he could. Out of an empty hole in the crypt he helped a small woman in an old fashioned black dress. She was soaking wet, and was ashen as someone who’d been dead after a long tragic illness.

They were quiet in the car as I drove them to the large old house downtown. It is the safe house for long lost souls of the night. It is a place they can find a haven, and get the help they need. These two were not the kind of nasty undead you find under floorboards waiting like a spider waits for a fly. They were like homeless teens who’d been kicked out of their homes because mom found a new boyfriend. They were lost and living in a flooded out and long forgotten crypt, surrounded by long forgotten bones of the Victorian dead.

They’d lived in the crypt since the 1880’s. They’d more or less skipped the 20th century, just coming out at night long enough to find food from the neighborhood movie house, and from the transient population. Sometimes they’ve venture out to the beautiful homes of the living, only to return in sorrow remembering what they’d lost.

I left them at the safe-house. She was in jeans and a sweater with a purring cat on her lap, and a goblet of hot mulled blood in her hand. He was looking hopeful, amazed that someone would help them. They’d been lost for so long.

Thinking about a million bible verses related to helping others, I decided to skip it. Sometimes you just do something because it is what you do, and that is it.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Stay dry. Stay safe. Stay loved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman



Musings on Quiet Time in a Public Place (with Coffee, Rain, Math and Vampires)

Saturday means coffee, and math. My seventeen year old daughter Clara meets with a friend at a local coffee place to figure out math. I write and wait for things to happen.

It is Saturday so I check other blogs like Evil Squirrels Nest (Saturday Squirrel), The Secret Keeper (Vincent Van Gough), and J Mounts Written In Blood (Saturday Short Film). Every Saturday. Every single Saturday. Hey, even unscheduled scattered Vampires like me have our routines.

It is a place where they roast their own coffee. My daughter was able to smell the ground beans before her drinks was made. Two men sit at a table next to me. One is working a crossword on his iPad, the other is doing the crossword on paper. They’re talking like old friends do.

The Coffee Works is a block from my husband’s business, and not far from my brother Aaron’s house. Even in the pouring rain people come in and out. They gather here for warm drinks and good karma.

A few minutes ago I saw Austin Durant, Aaron’s friend. I guess I could say he is my friend too. He is a Vampire Hunter, but not of my kind. He rids buildings of the dried up creatures who sleep under floorboards and between walls. They’re the dusty husks of people who have since moved on into the light, with only their confused and hungry bodies remaining. Anyway, Austin also teaches history the local university, and restores old buildings.

I saw Austin in line and waved. He gave me a smile and headed over to my table after he got coffee.

“A lot of Vampires are out today,” he said, looking around. There were about five of us in the place, but nobody but the Vampires, Austin and I knew it. “How are you Juliette?”

“Good. Clara is meeting with a friend. They’re doing math stuff. I’m just writing. You know Vampires and coffee.”

We chatted a bit more, you know, the usual small talk. Then when he said he had to go I said, “be careful out there.” He knew I wasn’t just talking about the traffic.

But traffic is bad. I live in a place where it hardly rains. Now it is pouring and will pour for the next week. Since we’ve had a drought forever nobody knows how to drive in the rain. Still, I love the rain. I love sitting next to a window and reading or writing.

As I was rummaging through my computer bag my brother Aaron pulled up a chair next to me at my table.

It was great to see him. He is usually so formal and serious, but today he was in jeans, with a flannel shirt, and his hair sort of messed up with the wind and rain. He invited me over for Christmas evening festivities. We made no jokes about him being both a Vampire and an attorney. We didn’t even talk about being Vampires, just like we didn’t talk about a lot of things that would interest others if they imagined Vampire siblings talking over coffee on a Saturday morning. We just talked about our families, Christmas lights, our dogs, and books. Aaron and I always get to books.

After Aaron left, Clara was still working on the math. I find myself, no, take that back – I allow myself to think of what I will write next, and what I will draw next. There are so many things I need to tie up, that get in the way of what I need to do.

I wonder about my husband Teddy down in the Delta today selling a yellow Porsche from the late 50’s. It is a beautiful car but it is time to find it a new home. I watch as two guys roll a recycle bin down the sidewalk. There are fewer cars than normal, and almost nobody on the usual busy sidewalks. I hear the people at the table behind me. There is another woman named Juliette. I wonder what her blood type is. Hey, I’m a Vampire. I think about those things. I can’t help it.

On the way here Clara and I talked in the car about how toddlers are like dogs. They try to understand but they just don’t always get it. We laughed about how toddlers will go stiff as a board if they are put somewhere they don’t want to sit, or are picked up when they don’t want to be picked up.

It is those random thoughts and memories that are sometimes more important than the big things going on in the outside world.

I told Clara that people keep asking me, “What will you do when she goes off to college. You’re so close. How will you manage?” They never ask is Clara will manage, because everyone knows she’ll do great.

Clara said, “It isn’t like I’m going to suddenly not want to be around you or Dad.”

We’ll always be close. We’ll call. We’ll text. We’ll know that we are always part of each other.

I’m now sharing my table with a senior couple who came in for coffee. They just left, but I’m glad to share. Someone else took one of the chairs. I’m glad to share. I’m glad to see so many people in this place who are part of each other. They’re also part of the community we all belong in. There is a small old man with a Santa beard. There are students and study groups (not just my child), there are young and old people together. After over an hour the old guys are still working on their puzzles and talking by the window.

Hey, I see my friend Adam, photographer, and Werewolf coming in. I motion for him to come sit with me. Alright. Have a good Saturday everyone. Adam and I will have more coffee and I’ll treat him to a berry scone. Hey, Werewolves like scones. My dog likes scones.

I’ll be posting a few Christmas stories later today. Have fun and keep checking back.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Trying to Believe

Oh what is this water falling from the sky? Rain maybe?


“Do you remember Douglas and Cassandra?”

“Vaguely,” I said to my husband. “What did they do this time?” They were famous for pulling stunts and living dangerously close to being found out.

“They left.”

“Left? Oh. When?”

Doug and Cassie had been Vampires since the early 1930’s. The last of their children has passed away from old age so they decided to end it. From time to time it happens. Maybe more than any of us would like to admit. It didn’t surprise me. They’d never been happy with their choice. No kidding. They’d been party animals who decided to become Vampires after (yes after) their kids were born. Bad choice. They had no idea what they were getting into. Kids change people. Becoming a Vampire with three children at home at the same time is not a good idea.

I barely knew them, but it was still a shock, but then again it wasn’t. After sitting in the back of the memorial service for their 89-year-old son, their youngest child, they decided to move on too. Doug and Cassie crawled into a crypt they’d purchased decades before and sealed the door.

I won’t say that I started to think of my own choices. These days I’m beyond thinking about any choices I’ve ever made in the past. One can only think of those sorts of things so much before feeling rather stupid.

What I was thinking about was how to write the transition pages that would tie a book I’m writing all together. I was thinking of bringing my old dog to the vet for a bad leg. Down under the basement of an empty Victorian building my brother and I own I was looking for some of my old drawings I thought I’d left there about a century ago.

My friend Adam (a Werewolf and brilliant photographer) dropped by. I’d told him I’d be there.

“What do Werewolves do when they get depressed or feel regret for being what they are?” I don’t even know why I asked him that. I guess just the mood of the night.

“We howl at the moon. I don’t know, drink, pick up women, chase cats…take drugs, sleep, rip flesh, you know, the usual. What brought that on?”

I shrugged. Adam stepped closer. “What do you do when you get depressed Juliette?”

“I have no idea. I don’t get depressed.”

We ended that conversation as quickly as it started and moved on to general gossip about people we know.

I pulled out a file of sketches and spread them out on the table. Adam looked them over a bit. Then he edged closer, his shoulder touching mine.

“Remember how we were before I knew you were a Vampire?”

“Before I knew you were a Werewolf,” I said. I didn’t add before you almost ripped my throat out.

“Do you believe things happen for a reason?”

“Not really. I mean sometimes. Right now I’m trying to believe it. I’m trying to believe in the impossible.”

“What is the impossible?”

“I am. Everything.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I believe.”


We went to breakfast, more for him than me. Then I took my daughter to school. On the way we talked about a boy in her school who’d come from Africa. His parents were wildlife naturalists. His mom passed away. They lived here now. Then we talked about the world economy and endangered species and phone chargers and roller skating.

Conversations are like rain the way they just fall. Crap, that was a line out of a really bad movie. I can’t believe I even wrote that.

In a bit I’m taking the dog to the vet for a limp, then for a few hours I am on my own, and trying to believe.


~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 



Vampire Maman






It Was a Dark Stormy Night – Kids, Vampires and Thoughts On Life


If you’re a parent don’t assume anything about people without children. They aren’t like the Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the Witch in Hansel and Gretel.

Note: My husband Teddy always has a point to make about that Witch. What would you do if a couple of little urchins come to your home and start tearing it apart and eating it? It wouldn’t go down well.

It was a dark stormy night last night even in my drought stricken universe (California.) The captain and his crew…just kidding.

The kids were discussing the fact that Presidents (as of the United States of America) have speechwriters. My teens are of the opinion that if you can’t write your own speech you aren’t qualified for the job. Presidents have always asked for advice but blame it on Harding for having the first guy hired for the job.

The rain was pounding on the roof. There was a knock on the door. But wait…who could it be?

On my front porch stood my  brother Max and his partners Pierce and Mehitabel. They’re not just friends. They’re the Vampires who hunt Vampire Hunters. They’re the Vampires who hunt rogue Vampires. They’re the Vampires who kick ass and make no excuses, no regrets, no turning back on any situation.

Of course we said they could crash at our place for a day after a messy job taking care of some rather unsavory characters both human and non-human. It is what they do.

Pierce was the first to come down after cleaning up. He is one of those tall lanky guys with mismatched features and long hair that is attractive in spite of himself. He always has a smile and a story. When Garrett was born Pierce was one of the first to meet the newest member of our community. From then on he always treated the young ones, all of them, as members of the community on equal standing. He loves to tell them stories, teach them things, explain how the world works. In turn the kids make jokes with him that they wouldn’t dare make with other friends. When my daughter was in 6th grade she told him to pick her up from school in his van and yell “Hey little girl want some candy?” Among his charms, Pierce is a bit OCD (he’ll be the first to admit it) so he’ll straighten things out, straighten up crooked pictures and fix odds and ends around the house that we keep meaning to get to.  Of course everyone likes to mention his liberal use of four letter words. That is the Pierce we know and love.

Mehitabel came down a little later like a shadow drifting down the stairs. It was the first time she’d been over to our loud house. She is quiet, at least since she doesn’t know us well. Max and Pierce have known her for years.

I handed her a goblet of mulled wine and blood with nice aromatic spices. I mentioned the noise from Pierce and the kids (not to mention the cats who were screaming for food and attention.)

She smiled at me. “I like it. You know, getting in my family fix.”

As Vampires we’re generally polite and always keep our filters in place. We never ask anyone why they do or do not have children or how many and why or why not. We just accept it. If someone wants to share information then we let them. No rude questions about why one does not look like their child or why they’re alone with no mate. Our lives are our own and we give everyone credit for making their own choices. We let people deal with their lives without having to deal with rudeness. Life can be difficult enough without having to answer for everything.

Of course we’re curious. Of course we want to give advice (which we do when it is needed) but we don’t act like children. And we teach our children not to act like that – we teach them to use their filters and think before they say things. Sort of like the five second time delay on programs like the Oscars. We always try to keep our own time delays in mind.

Max, my alpha Vampire brother soon came down to join us. His arm was bandaged and bruises ran up his neck. Now that is something I had to ask about.

It was the usual grim tale of Vampire Hunters going after the wrong people, Werewolves to be exact. Nerdy Werewolves at that. Going from a couple of Geeks to a couple of Golden Retrievers so to speak doesn’t always help when you have six guys with guns and silver bullets after you. Yes, even Werewolves are sometimes rescue dogs (a little Vampire humor there folks.)

We discovered that Mehitabel never went to school as a child. Pierce had gone to a boarding school that was attended by a dozen other Vampire boys. Garrett and Clara told them eye opening tales from school this week. A teacher was fired for sleeping with a student. A group of students were suspended for calling a teacher a whore and taunting her until she was in tears (I think they should have been expelled.) Some Seniors had to retake a class they’d done poorly in as freshmen even thought they’d already been accepted into good Universities – long story about the insanity at school. Like I’ve said, they go to one of the better schools. It surprised even our hardened Vampire friends who thought they’d seen it all.

We talked about movies and what Vampires would be at the Oscars. We talked about TV and music and more music. The kids showed everyone funny YouTube videos. I told everyone a bit about my writing and art. It was just nice.

Eventually I had to send the kids to bed and the rest of us stayed up and talked more. Then one by one as the wee hours of them morning came close to sunrise my guests went up to bed. We can sleep a lot here since we turned the large attic into a couple of guest rooms and a sitting room.

After too few hours I was up to make coffee then wake my children for another day at school (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, really.) I let Teddy sleep knowing he had a long day ahead.

Pierce was in the kitchen drinking Zen tea and reading Bad Monkey.

“I downloaded and read your WPaD anthologies. I love them,” he told me. I love a man with good taste in literature. We talked books for a bit and it was time to roust my zombies, I mean teens out of bed.

I could hear Oscar the cat scratching to get out of the room where Max usually slept. My brother was asleep curled around Mehitabel who slumbered only as a bone tired Vampire can. He says he could never have a romantic relationship with her but he can’t stay away from her. She is always there for him, not just on a physical level but there is something almost mystical about their connection. One day he’ll lose her to someone else, but she’ll always think of him. They’re so stupid, especially Max.

They’d make pretty little Vampire babies together but I’d never tell either one of them that. Vampire babies are rare as it is so I’m not one to hold my breath over it.

When you’re older you don’t care who has kids or who doesn’t. It isn’t a contest or a prize. As a parent and someone who blogs about parenting I get so tired of the “kid vs kidless” debate. Sure there are a few fucktards on either side of the fence who act like trolls either way, but hey, there is no fence. We’re all friends – big and small, old and young, kids and adults. Behave well, be nice, be considerate, be understanding and all will be well. We’re all Vampires (or whatever you are.)

Have a good weekend everyone, and hug your kids, or any kids you like (even if they’re grown.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman


Click here for about the WPaD books. And more on writing.

Rain and Frogs

It is dark as dark. Pitch dark.

The rain is coming down. The wind is howling through the trees.

And the frogs in the seasonal ponds are singing up a chorus to rival the Mormon Tabernacle or even Chanticleer! One of my goals in the next year or two is to see Chanticleer the amazing orchestra of voices from San Francisco. In the meantime I have the songs of the frogs – the calming soothing frogs of night. The frogs that Vampires, who seek the dark and quiet, love to hear.

Oh frogs we love thee, water born angels, sprites of the night.

In most parts of the world frogs hibernate when it turns cold. Here they thrive. The big ones are under our front porch. The little ones are in the ponds and creeks.

In the summer when it is dry they are quiet. The ponds are gone. The creeks are more or less dry. They could go down to the lake and ponds at the bottom of the bluffs. I imagine them walking in single file down to the lake, a half mile, single file on the dusty dirt paths. Tiny brown frogs, quietly determined to make it down to the lake, to the water where they’ll live until the first rainfall of Autumn comes again.

We like our frogs indeed.

We like the dark.

We like the trails when it is dry because of the mountain bike guys who ride at night. They stop and visit. Their ride always makes them tired. We never tell them that it is because they just spent a half hour with a couple of Vampires and their children. But it is all good. Everybody gets what they want – and the riders don’t know it. They’re unaware of who we are – they only know how good they feel after we leave them and how happy they are to hear the music of the frogs. They only feel the joy of riding with their lights under the night sky, on the dirt paths, down to the lake where the frogs spend their summers.

There are so many stresses in life for all sorts of creatures. It is a wonderful thing when we can spend time just enjoying the diversity of life and the songs of each other.


Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Rain and Frogs