Secret Lives and Private Stories

There was a room full of books in the back of the Elder’s farmhouse. The adults would be gathered and I’d be back looking at the pictures. I couldn’t read well so I looked at the pictures and imagined what the words might be.

The volumes, old even then, held years of uncommon history, adventures, tales of people who lived lives that seemed far more exciting than mine. But I knew, that one day I’d be living the life of one of those people in the books – those books I could barely read.

During one of my girlhood book searches I found a large Bible. There were a lot of words in fancy lettering. What I remember was the pictures. There was a picture of a group of naked men building something. I made out the word Noah and knew that was a man who built the ark and gathered up animals. The story made no sense to me to begin with and now seeing a bunch of naked men doing construction work made even less sense. Wasn’t it uncomfortable to be sawing and hauling lumber completely naked? They didn’t even have shoes. I asked my brother Valentine about it. I think he was 6 or 7 at the time (about a year older than me.) He told me that it was hot in the Holy Lands. It was hot so they took off their clothes and built a giant boat. It still made no sense. It made no sense that books were filled with pictures of naked people no matter what they were doing. Nobody went around naked where I lived. In fact they wore too many clothes in the world of our childhood.

Years later I did read the books in the Elder’s farmhouse (and many more) and marveled at their content. In the dark of the rooms on hot summer nights I’d read for hours on end, escaping into a world of another century.

In town I’d go to the book shop and buy popular fiction, cheap novels that would take me to places of romance and lovely girls in swishing dresses who held tight to their virtue, least they be ruined forever by a handsome man with a dark and evil heart. Then on occasion I’d find something more frightening than losing one’s virtue. I’d read tales of disasters, prisons, insane asylums and Gothic horrors and mysterious strangers. I thrived on that. It was nothing like the books of today, but those stories influenced the stories we now read (and write.)

Stories weren’t limited to books. I’d always find a corner in a room full of adults who’d talk into the night about everything they’d ever done and who they’d done it with. And if they weren’t telling their own stories they were talking about somebody else. I’d listen, quiet as death, imagining I was unseen by the grownups.

When my brothers and I were small my mother would read books to us using voices and accents for characters, then a slow steady voice for the narration. On alternating days my father would tell us wild tales he’d make up on the spot and keep us laughing. Each story also came with a song. We were surrounded by stories and worlds other than our own.

There came a time when I could read more complex books (around age 11.) In an elaborately embroidered canvas bag (my own stitching) I’d carry a well worn and repaired copy of Jane Eyre. I’d imagine myself in her place. The story in my mind would change as I read the story on the pages over and over. I’d tell the brooding Edward Rochester that I didn’t care if he had a crazy wife. I’d save him from the fire. I’d turn him into a Vampire and we’d roam the hillsides forever and lay under the moonlight in fields of fragrant flowers. Or I’d leave him alone and make my way to America with my new found wealth and marry a rich man in New Orleans. I’d burn down my old school. There were 1,000 different versions of the story in my head, but I’d always go back to the original version. To this day I’ll still find myself in Jane’s shoes as I walk the dog in the meadows and oak woods near my home. The gentle winds through the trees transport me to another time, in a huge skirt with hair I’ve unleashed from my constricting bun flowing down my back.

As you can see it doesn’t take much to get my imagination fired up or much to entertain me.

I’d do the same with many other books over the years. Everyone in my family and all of my friends devoured books. I have to admit that when Dracula came out we all had to get copies. We read and shared what we read. Books circled around and around.

As learned to read I began to write. Not well at first, but in earnest. I’d write innocent silly stories typical for most kids. I’d write poetry and draw pictures to go with it. I’d write plays and find others to perform with me.

From there I discovered real romance and love letters. Everyone wrote letters then. It was a daily activity as well as an art form.

Over the years plays were produced, poems were written and mixed in were sketch books filled with illustrations of yet unwritten stories. Then I stopped.

I was just struggling to find myself, or at least find some sort of direction. A lot of us go through that. The thing I remember that stands out in a weird sort of way was how men I met would almost become angry at me for not being creative. More it was that i isn’t being creative for them. Then again, few of them added any value to my life. Not back then.

My writing then was one of my secret lives. My stories were private. It was the person inside of me that I didn’t share.

I always read. I never stopped creating stories and keeping notes on paper and in my head.

After I became a mother those memories of childhood came back, along with memories that spanned several centuries.

Then I started to write again. It started out as a story for a friend… and ongoing tale… just for fun. Now it is my heart and soul.

We all need something that fills our hearts and soul. It doesn’t have to be writing or art. I’m the only one in my family who is creative that way. One of my brothers is musical. The rest have other passions.

I think back to what I used to write. Then I look at the writing of the children in my life (now teens.) I marvel at the sophistication and complexities of the stories they write. I’m amazed how mature their words are compared to what I was doing at their age. I hope I’ve been an influence. Or maybe they’re just more mature souls than I was at their age. I’m so proud of them.

I continue to write because I’ve found a measure of success that feeds my ego. Yes, I’ll admit it. Mostly I write because I have stories to tell and face it…. I do this because it is fun. Yes, FUN. Really really really fun.  And it is mine. Of course I want, and try to entertain you too.

We all need to find something that we sense is our own, even if it starts with a book with words you can’t read and pictures you can’t understand. Your brain will make it all come together and it will work. Eventually it will all work.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This post was first published here in March 2014

Juliette’s Book Club: Free Books for the Holidays and the Pandemic

A lot of us are staying in a lot more these these days due to the pandemic. Luckily we can always escape into a book or a short story. Winter is also here which means more curling up with a book while the storms blow outside. All of these books and short stories available for FREE but only for a short time so act fast.

Check out the listings below and get your copies before the offers run out! Links to the books are below the listings. Make sure you scroll down through all of the listings here. You might have seen some of these before, but I know you haven’t seen all of them.

You’ll find everything from heartwarming holiday tales, to horror, to mainstream fiction. There is something for everyone.

If you like anything you read please leave a review on Amazon.

The downloads listed below are free but most of these books are also available in paperback editions. If you happen to miss the FREE dates for digital downloads these books and stories aren’t expensive and well worth reading.

Goin’ Extinct Too – Apocalypse A Go-Go!

By WPaD

How could the world end? The possibilities are endless:
A global pandemic (obviously), aliens, evil politicians, zombies in one form or another, or even … rogue sex robots? (wait-what?) are just a few of the ideas we came up with.

WPaD’s second volume of apocalyptic tales will shock, entertain, and tug at your heart strings. A must-have for any fan of dystopian fiction.

When we began work on our second apocalyptic anthology in early 2019, long before the world had ever heard of COVID-19, we never would have dreamed that toilet paper and hand sanitizer would become symbols of the apocalypse.

The pandemic pushed our release to a later date than anticipated. We assumed readers had more important things on their minds and might not be in the mood for apocalyptic fiction at that time. The lockdown allowed our writers more time to write, resulting in a larger collection of stories than originally anticipated. The backdrop of the pandemic colored the mood of some of the pieces, as you will see. We think of this book as the Extra-Big Bonus Pandemic Edition, written in a reality stranger than fiction.

FREE Nov 30-Dec 4

USA

Canada

UK

Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury

By WPaD

Experience the holidays through our eyes… the magic, the memories, some warm and some bittersweet… in this treasury of holiday-themed stories and poetry from the writers of WPaD.

FREE Nov 30-Dec 4

USA

Canada

UK

Tinsel Tales 2: Holiday Hootenanny

By WPaD

It’s a Holiday Hootenanny! In this anthology, you will find more than just Christmas stories. WPaD is proud to present our favorite fiction from holidays all year round, from Halloween to Arbor Day, ranging from sentimental to a bit on the dark side. An entertaining read for any season.

FREE Nov 30-Dec 4

USA

Canada

UK

Just One Kiss: A Short Story

By Mandy White

The day her brother tore his own head off and didn’t die was the day Johanna first suspected that all was not right with the world.
A teenage waitress and her sister find their world turned upside down when men start behaving strangely, trying to woo every woman they see, spouting lines from old romantic movies. But it isn’t all love and romance; the men have been infected by an alien virus that makes them tear off their own heads and implant alien eggs into women. All it takes is a single kiss…

FREE Nov 29-Dec 3

USA

Canada

UK

Halfborn

by Soleil Daniels

It should have been simple. Easy.

She had done it a thousand times. A flick of the pocketknife. A slice from the blade. A trickle of hot blood on her tongue. Filling her mouth. That is how it should have been.

Instinctually, it was both . . . Oh, so simple as she pounced on the man across the room from her . . . and unbelievably easy as her teeth sliced into the side of his neck.

But it was different.

Animalistic.

And that bite would change Coral’s life . . .

Forever.

Note: Halfborn is for mature readers only. It contains violent and sexual content. These are not vamps for the kiddos. They bite, kill, and do very adult and monstrous things.

Download it now!

Matriarch Series

by Kevin Ranson

Words Take Flight Books’ Cyberbook-Monday “Matriarch” Special
Need a new e-read to help you to de-stress through the holiday season? Words Take Flight Books is offering Cyber Monday specials on the Kindle editions of some of our best-selling titles, including Kevin Ranson’s “The Matriarch” – the five-star debut novel in his namesake “The Matriarch” vampire chronicles. But shop early – this Cyber Monday countdown deal starts at $0.99 at 7:00 am on November 30 until it reaches its normal price of $3.99 at 7:00 am on December 1. 

Find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Matriarch-Vampires…/dp/B00CE2HE42

The Dark Side of the World:
A Short Story

By Mandy White

Humans evacuate a dying Earth to start over on a distant planet. When familiar social patterns emerge, it becomes clear that they have learned nothing.

FREE Nov 30-Dec 4

USA

Canada

UK

Exceptional Liars

By Marla Todd

Excerpt from “To Elizabeth With Love.”

This book was written as a love letter to my wife Elizabeth Hobbs Atkinson. She was brutally tortured and killed by a man who had once been my friend. Her body was never found, but her legacy of love will still be here.

From the day Liz vanished I prayed for her return and for hope. The day she was pronounced legally dead I lost all hope and thought I too would die. Only my faith in God and the love Liz and I shared kept me from going off into a black abyss of hopelessness and grief.

My comfort comes from my faith and my knowledge  that Liz is in a better place.

~ Gregory Atkinson

“Son of a bitch.”  I put down my glass of wine and threw the book across the room.

I’m surprised the bastard hasn’t been struck by lightning. What a crock of crap and lies. Any poetic justice of my situation had gone down the drain at that moment. Greg is walking and talking and writing bestselling books about me and about our marriage… and I’m still dead… saved by a serial killer, no less. God save me and have mercy on my soul and on that abusive lying son of a bitch Gregory Atkinson. May he rot in Hell. But he did get his wish. I am in a better place. A much better place.

_________

Alex Goldstein has a thriving law practice with his wife Tasha Alexander. Life is is good. Well, except for the fact that he drinks too much, and his wife regularly cheats on him. To keep his mind off of his problems Alex writes about by serial killers. His most recent obsession is The Killer of Virtue.

Liz Hobbs is born into a large family of sneaky manipulative children with an unhealthy fear of God only ranks second to the fear of their narcissistic parents. Unfortunately she falls in love with Greg Atkinson who is far more sneaky and manipulative than she could ever imagine.

After misreading the phone number of a women’s shelter Liz ends up in office of Alexander and Goldstein. Alex helps her build a new life as his own life falls apart.

Exceptional Liars is a roller coaster ride of a book – full of unexpected twists and turns, witty dialogue and interesting characters.

Exceptional Liars was written by my writing collaborator Marla Todd. 

As my friend author Mandy White said: I’ve read this book, and it’s a phenomenal story. It’s part drama, part thriller, part romance, and maybe a bit fantasy, for anyone who ever wanted to escape their life and start fresh. I highly recommend it. Read it!

FREE Nov 30-Dec 4

US

Happy reading! Stay safe. Wear a mask. Discover new authors. Be kind. Hug your kids. Check in on those who might need extra help and on those who are alone.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Juliette’s Book Club: Halloween Horror

Halloween is only a few weeks away. You might not be able to go out and party this year, or bring your little monsters out on the streets BUT you can stay home and scare yourself silly with some scary hellish horror stories.

Today is a pretty scary day at my house. I’m cleaning carpets which means I don’t have time to write up every single book so I’ll give you the covers and you can check it out on your own. These are books I’ve read and recommend. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

Yes, Vampires do clean their carpets.

Have fun. Stay safe. Be scary.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Yes, there is one in here that isn’t horror but it is a real horror that such an insanely bad story became so popular. Guess which one. Bahahahahahahahahah!

Online Party and Live Short Story Reading

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My friends Jon and Brian are having a Book Launch Party and you’re invited.

I’ve been to their events before and it is well worth the time.

This is a benefit (donate what you want to, if you want to) for Project Open Hand.

Project Open Hand’s mission is to improve health outcomes and quality of life by providing nutritious meals to the sick and vulnerable, caring for and educating our community.

Our vision is for a healthy California for the sick and vulnerable through nutrition.

Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors. Our food is like medicine, helping clients recover from illness, get stronger, and lead healthier lives.

Every day, we prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain our clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging. We serve San Francisco and Oakland, engaging more than 125 volunteers daily to nourish our community.

Jon’s readings are always a joy. Brian is always fun. Special guest Maureen Kadish Sherbondy will also join in the festivities. Set aside some time for yourself during the pandemic and get a positive mental charge right from the comfort of your own home. You won’t even need to wear your mask.

Yes, something is happening in August 2020 that isn’t a disaster.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Juliette’s Book Club: An Eclectic Mix

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Forgive me for the fuzzy photo in the early morning light. Then again sometimes everything seems fuzzy in those wee hours when the only things up are birds, garbage trucks, and coyotes. Oh yes, and cats. My cats had a serious case of the zoomies this morning. They must have sped like lightening up and down the stairs and hallways of my house at least seventy five times. The neighborhood yappy little shit for brains dogs have also been shrilly barking for over an hour while their owners sip their coffee cluelessly not realizing how much everyone hates them. These people also flood the gutters. 

Most of us have that stack, shelf, or bag of books we are going to read next. Mine is quite the mixed bag right now, but an interesting bag. You know, it is like when you go to the grocery store and find yourself with a bag containing a bottle of wine, a sponge, apples, dog food, aluminum foil, and coffee beans. A mixed bag.

Right now I’m reading Masked Prey by John Sanford. It is a Lucas Davenport Novel. I’ve been reading this series since Rules of Prey came out in 1989. Like most longtime readers I’ve seen the characters grow, grow up, and adjust to changing times. I love these books. Last night I was telling my husband that I appreciate a writer like John Sanford who can write believable characters be they male, female, children, teens, young, old, of any racial, cultural, or other background. Great characters and great dialogue make his stories worth coming back to.

 

On my Need to Read Next list are the following books: 

The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy

My daughter gave me this book for my birthday. She said it sounded like something I’d like to read. It is a long book – 672 pages. It should be quite entertaining and extremely interesting.

The official description: The internationally acclaimed author of the L.A. Quartet and The Underworld USA Trilogy, James Ellroy, presents another literary noir masterpiece of historical paranoia.

In this savagely audacious novel, James Ellroy plants a pipe bomb under the America in the 1960s, lights the fuse, and watches the shrapnel fly. On November 22, 1963 three men converge in Dallas. Their job: to clean up the JFK hit’s loose ends and inconvenient witnesses. They are Wayne Tedrow, Jr., a Las Vegas cop with family ties to the lunatic right; Ward J. Littell, a defrocked FBI man turned underworld mouthpiece; and Pete Bondurant, a dope-runner and hit-man who serves as the mob’s emissary to the anti-Castro underground.

It goes bad from there. For the next five years these night-riders run a whirlwind of plots and counter-plots: Howard Hughes’s takeover of Vegas, J. Edgar Hoover’s war against the civil rights movement, the heroin trade in Vietnam, and the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Wilder than L. A. Confidential, more devastating than American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand establishes Ellroy as one of our most fearless novelists.

 

My Sister. The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

I was looking forward to reading this book just because of the title. It is described as darkly comic. Unfortunately it slid under the couch and was hiding there for months until my husband was moving furniture around about a week ago.

The official description: NOMINATED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR MYSTERY/THRILLER
FINALIST FOR THE 2019 WOMEN’S PRIZE

Korede’s sister Ayoola is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead, stabbed through the heart with Ayoola’s knife. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood (bleach, bleach, and more bleach), the best way to move a body (wrap it in sheets like a mummy), and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

 

A Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron

I love dogs. Everybody I know loves dogs. Dogs are great. My mother gave me this book. The paperback book I now have looks like it has been read by a dozen people, and probably has. I’m looking forward to this light and heartwarming tail (pun intended.)

The official description: This remarkable story of one endearing dog’s journey home after she is separated from her beloved human is directed by Charles Martin Smith and stars Ashley Judd, Edward James Olmos, Wes Studi, Alexandra Shipp, and Jonah Hauer-King. W. Bruce Cameron and his wife, Cathryn Michon, wrote the screenplay for the film.

With four hundred miles of dangerous Colorado wilderness separating one brave dog from her beloved person, Bella sets off on a seemingly impossible and completely unforgettable adventure home.

A Dog’s Way Home is a beautifully told, charming tale that explores the unbreakable bond between us and those we love. This is a fantastic and exhilarating journey of the heart that brilliantly speaks to the incredible power of love and resilience of spirit that tie us together–making it a perfect gift for everyone who’s ever loved a dog.

 

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

I’ve had this book for a couple of years and have no idea why it keeps getting put to the bottom of the pile. The description is super interesting. It will be read before the summer is out. This book might just be one of those tales you can’t forget because it is that good. I hope so.

The official description: From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation’s most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between.

The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.

 

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Normally I do not have the patience to write book reviews other than saying, “WOW I LOVED IT,” or “I threw it in the recycle bin before I hit the first hundred pages.” My hope is that you go through my to-read pile and go through your own to-read pile. Then read, share, and leave a good review online if you like it.

Happy Summer Reading!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Reading and Writing: A Good Story

Let’s talk about reading and writing.

My sister-in-law Verity recently threw a stack of books into the recycle bin. That is a habit she got from me. If a book is too stupid/bad/boring/offensive to finish then why risk someone else wasting their time on it? Just throw it out.

Her reason for the latest toss out was, “I hate it when favorite male authors get old and decide to write sexist drivel about older men with hot young things, or two guys in competition over the same hot young thing. What is up with these authors? They used to write the best books.”

We talked some more and decided that this is not the rule. Most male of our favorite authors we read are on their mark. They still write witty characters, and if anything else their female characters have become more realistic, believable, and entertaining.

Another thing we decided gets a book into the recycle bin is when authors (usually female) start writing about either weak female characters who are always victims, or characters who are so snarky towards the poor smitten male characters that we’re shaking our heads and thinking what the hell is wrong with these people?

Books, like real life, should be populated with a variety of characters. With so many variations and personalities why depend on cliches?

I see that a lot, cliches, in online writing groups. Those who want to be writers ask questions about such things. They often don’t realize that they just need to write in their own voice, or the voice of their characters. They struggle with trying to describe something on paper, when all they really need to do is open their mouths, say the words out loud as if telling a friend, then write THAT down.

The same goes for writing dialogue. Be natural. Be real. Listen to how people talk to each other in real life. An author should be like an actor and get into the character, and even become the character they are writing about.

I had to admit to Verity that I am not the best at editing, but sometimes I can tell a good story. I’ve also read thousands of books over the years. I love a good story. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my favorite authors (both indie and mainstream) who can write a good story.

What I love about bloggers is that they tell good stories. Bloggers write like they talk, and boy do they talk. Blogs are usually so spontaneous. It makes me happy, even when the subject matter is deep and depressing. I’m happy because it is fluid, entertaining, and as if I’m right there with the blogger. It is that intimate voice that I love so much. There is also the interaction with the readers that is so rewarding as well.

My advice to people who’d like to dip their big toes into writing and see how it feels is to blog first. Why? It is good practice. You can write whatever you want. It is totally yours. You can try things out. You don’t have to worry about rejection. Blogging has a built in community – believe me, you’ll find it, or it will find you.

Verity went through a bag of books I brought her and found something new to read. I gave her recommendations for books to download too. She’ll find something she likes. There are so many good books. As much as we all complain about everything it is nice to know that we live in a world with so many wonderful story tellers.

And speaking of wonderful story tellers… I can’t go without saying something about the new anthology from WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) Goin’ Extinct Too! Apocalypse A-Go-Go. Nineteen authors share their stories, essays, poetry, and visions of a sometimes grim, and sometimes hopeful future. You decide, and if you like it leave a nice review.

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What are your pet peeves about books, story lines, and characters?

What do you like the best about your favorite books or types of books?

What makes you dump a book into the recycle bin?

What makes you keep a book and want to read it again?

Any other thoughts on the subject?

Did your cat do anything cute today?

Let me know. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Social Distance. Read a book. Stay safe.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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